Before Moira could say a word Erik quickly ushered them all inside her room and shut the door before someone could notice them. He explained what Stryker had agreed to and that while no one knew that Charles was, specifically, here, it should be safe enough as long as he was back by morning. As he was talking Moira was still staring at Charles in shock. Erik explaining this saved Charles the need to—and it's was Erik's insanity, after all; he should answer for it—and left him free to be silent and simply stare back…perhaps a bit sheepishly.
But just as quickly as he'd begun to explain Erik was finished, and he left after mentioning what time he would be back in the morning.
Then Charles and Moira were alone, and they couldn't just stare at each other anymore.
Charles cleared his throat. "I-I uhm…I'm sorry. I didn't know he was going to do this, I—"
"You couldn't read his mind?" she asked, smiling a bit.
"Well…he is a friend now, after all. I don't go about reading his mind without permission just like I wouldn't do that to you or Raven."
"But anyhow, I am sorry for the lack of warning…"
"There's no need to apologize, Charles."
And he looked at her for a moment, and he knew there wasn't. She was just as glad to see him and he was to see her. Moira smiled gently, and Charles swallowed and closed the distance between them to pull her into his arms.
"I've missed you so much, Moira, I—"
It came out in a whisper, and he shivered a little and fell silent when she kissed his cheek and willingly returned the embrace. "I know," she answered after a moment. "Me too." When she let go she sighed. "And I certainly don't mind the surprise; it's just that if he'd warned me I would have had something in here for you to eat. They give all of you little enough during the day as it is, and if we're going to be up all night…"
She was right that sleep was not an option—not if tonight was all they had—but he didn't share her concerns. "I'll be fine, Moira. This is not about that." He let a hand come up to rest against her cheek. "This is about being able to see you." The heel of his hand drifted close to her mouth, and suddenly all he could think about was kissing her.
He let his hand drop, and Moira looked away briefly.
Not now. Not yet. It had been too long.
"Perhaps we should sit down," he suggested, clearing his throat again. Moira nodded quickly and motioned to a small table in the corner. There were only two chairs, but that was all they needed. He let her choose one of them and took the other, and for a long moment there was only silence.
Much too long. It was easy enough to talk when that was all they could do—when they couldn't see each other—but it had been so long since they had seen each other in person that Charles didn't quite know what to do now, and Moira didn't seem to either. Everything that had happened since then only made it seem like longer—like a lifetime.
After another moment or so Moira jumped up suddenly and went to a small cabinet. "I-I don't have any food, but are you thirsty? I have water. It isn't cold, but…" She opened the cabinet and found several water bottles—two or three bottles of cola, as well. She grabbed one of those, instead, and looked at it and then up at him questioningly. "I have these too. I forgot I had these…"
"Uhm…water is fine, thank you…" Water was all the prisoners were given, and after 18 months that way anything else was likely to make him sick. The thought seemed to cross Moira's mind, too, because she grimaced to herself as she put the bottles of cola down and brought two bottles of water to the table instead.
When she sat down she let her head fall into her hands for a moment.
She shook her head. "Nothing."
Charles reached out and squeezed her hand atop the table, and she squeezed back and didn't let go.
"What are we doing?" she wondered quietly. "Even if whatever you and Erik are cooking up…" She shook her head again, sadly this time. "They'll never stop looking for you. All of you."
Then she had come to the same conclusions he had—the ones that had led him to refrain from speaking to her at all, because where could this go?
But still she held his hand, and hers felt good in his—smaller, but warm where his hands seemed always cold now. Moira noticed. She rubbed her thumb over his fingers gently and frowned.
"Your hands weren't this cold before…"
"I've lost weight; that's all." It was simple, really. Smaller body, less body heat. There was a more complicated explanation, and the lack of proper nutrition probably didn't help, but it didn't matter. It wasn't his area of expertise.
Not that his having expertise anywhere mattered anymore. Not when he was locked away.
Moira only nodded, and the frown didn't go away, and Charles didn't know what to do about it. He kept her hand, and when she let her other one rest on the table too he took it, as well, in his own other one. Their fingers twisted together in a heap in the center of the tiny round table.
"I won't see you again until this is over, will I?" Moira asked finally.
Now Charles frowned. "I don't see how, but…well, I suppose one can always hope." He pulled one of her hands up to his mouth and kissed it, because he didn't know what else to do and all he could think about was touching her.
"Can we?" she asked suddenly.
He looked at her quickly, eyebrows going up. "What?"
"I don't know what you and Erik are doing. I don't know anything. I need to know if you really think whatever you're planning is going to work." Moira swallowed. "I need to know if I can hope, Charles. Really hope."
Charles let out soft a breath and looked her in the eyes. "Moira, neither of us would ever have said anything to you if we didn't think so. It may take time, but yes…I think we can hope. I truly do." He winced. "You are right in that it will not change how the government or the general population may feel, but if all goes as planned at least the people here will be free."
They had made the mistake of leaving the chairs too close together, and when Moira bowed her head in near him it was all Charles could do to think straight.
"What about me?" she asked quietly. Will I be free to follow you?
You will always be wanted where I am, Moira. Whether or not it will be wise for you to be there is another matter, he told her truthfully, sadly.
She made a small noise in the back of her throat, and then she was kissing him. Charles had seen it coming, a split second before it happened, but he didn't stop her. Their clasped hands stayed that way but slid off of the table to hover between them as Charles answered her in kind.
He didn't have to answer. She started to stand, and he came with her, and it was easier that way, standing.
Then, abruptly, Moira broke away. The sudden lack of physical contact almost hurt, and Charles let out a heavy breath and had to lean on the table a bit from the weight of it.
She'd turned away, taken a few steps from the table. He could feel that she felt the way he did, but…
She swallowed and looked over her shoulder at him. "After tonight…what then? We go back to before? Where we can only talk to each other in our heads and that may be all we ever have? Where we can't hope for anything else even if this does end?"
Charles made a face, and his chest suddenly ached. "I wish I saw another alternative." He wanted her safe. Coming with them even when this was over would not be safe for her. It wouldn't be safe for any of them, but it would be better than being trapped here like animals.
And if she, at least, could have a normal life, he wanted her to keep it.
Moira nodded weakly in understanding and came back to him, and her arms wrapped around his waist and she kissed him again. He responded, taking her face in his hands, but a moment later she broke off again. She pulled her head away and his hands fell to her shoulders, but she didn't let him go.
"This is not a good idea…"
"I am well aware of that," he breathed. They shouldn't. In the brief period of warning he'd had he had not planned for this at all. It wasn't wise. He'd wanted to see her, but reasoning away anything more would be horribly flawed logic.
And Erik would be laughing if he could hear his thoughts now; Charles was sure of it.
Moira swallowed and pressed her forehead to his. "Charles, I want…" You. "I don't care anymore if you don't. God, I just don't…"
"I am beginning to care less and less," he answered—god, where was air?—and kissed her once more. She hadn't changed from the day yet—those severe clothes…Charles began to push her jacket off, and true to her words she didn't protest. Her arms came away from his waist to let it slide from her arms and to the ground, before she pushed her arms up between them so she could find the thin brown jumpsuit's zipper at his neck.
She made quick work of pulling it down to his waist, and Charles was shrugging out of the arms even as Moira's hands pushed under his t-shirt. Her lips scarcely left his, and now they paused in bothering with clothes to kick their shoes off and out of the way and to let themselves press closer together, because they needed it. Maybe it was only supposed to be for a moment, but the contact was electricity. Charles gasped, and Moira responded by wrapping her arms around him again, her hands pressing into his back under his shirt and holding her closer.
Then she froze.
"Charles…" she sobbed against his mouth.
His head and his being was so full of her that it took him a moment to fight out of the haze and understand that something was wrong. "What is it…?
And then he really felt it—her hands on his back, running over the scars now, feeling them and how many of them there were, and she was crying into his cheek.
"Moira, it's all right," Charles whispered. "It's all right…"
"How is it all right?" she choked.
He didn't know. "I-I'm not the only one…"
Moira buried her face in his neck. "But you're the one I'm in love with."
Charles didn't mean to sob at that, but he did. Damnit, she wasn't supposed to say that. They weren't supposed to think it. Pretending they didn't know it was easier, but oh god right now he didn't care. Gently he tugged her face upwards and their lips met again, more eagerly now even than before, and he didn't care. He wanted her; more than just right now.
But now would have to do for a while. Maybe for quite a while.
Moira pulled him toward the bed and he went, and for one night Charles wasn't a prisoner anymore. He wasn't a captive, or a lab rat, or a mutant, or a mentor. He was just a man.
Thank you, my friend.
Erik heard it just before he slept, Charles's voice in his mind, and he wasn't even sure if it had been sent intentionally because they were the only words that came. There was nothing before and nothing after, but that was more than enough whether Charles had meant for it to get to him or not.
He paused when he heard it, as he made sure his alarm was set early enough that he could get Charles back on time in the morning. When nothing else followed Erik settled down for the night, and he smiled to himself before he closed his eyes.
A hand combing through his hair, soft kisses along his brow and shoulder...a soft voice calling his name and a soft leg entwined with his, and warmth…
The voice still called to him, but Charles didn't want to open his eyes. If he woke it would all disappear, because it could only be a dream.
A second hand on his back, massaging gently but lingering over the lines there sometimes. Kisses there, along the scars, and then a warm forehead against his and a hand at the back of his neck, fingers curling in the hair there and tickling his skin.
Charles made a sound that might have been a laugh if he were more aware, and then there were lips pressed to his and he was suddenly much more aware.
It came back—Erik and Moira and what Erik had done for them.
What he and Moira had done.
Charles opened his eyes as she pulled away to let him breathe, and he smiled at her. But the smile slipped when he realized that he'd fallen asleep.
"Damn…how much time did I waste?"
"We were both asleep…for an hour or so."
"Mmm…" He was on his stomach, and he started to roll back on his side to see her better, and suddenly he was falling off the single bed. Moira caught him just before the point of no return, pulled him back to her and steadied him, and Charles had caught her arms in return and he was laughing now. He winced, too, but that passed quickly. He was sore—it had been quite a while—but it was the pleasant sort of sore, and he didn't mind at all.
"Careful! Are you all right?"
"Fine, fine…" he chuckled. He settled down on his side and Moira settled into his arms, head against his chest. Charles breathed in the scent of her hair and was quite content where he was. He didn't want to know how much time was left. He just wanted to be here.
They stayed that way until morning neared, sometimes talking and other times not needing to, sometimes kissing softly, just together because soon they wouldn't be. Though they tried not look at the clock they knew when time was running out. They could feel the change in the air as early morning came, and the press of their lips together was more fervent, their grip on each other tighter.
Charles didn't regret any of this, but oh god he didn't want to leave.
"Moira…Moira, I love you too," he whispered finally, when they were catching their breath. "I love you…I think I always did…"
It was so easy now; he was so different now then he'd been when he met her…a cheap drunk and a horrible flirt he'd been, then. So young. Not ready for love. Not for this. This he felt in his bones. He'd grown up quickly, here, and if it had made him ready for this then maybe part of him was glad. While at the same time his heart ached that it had to happen this way.
He'd just begun to understand that he could have this, before everything fell down around their heads. He'd realized that with Moira it could be different—not an awful line and a cheap date. He'd just begun to want it. If none of this had happened, if the CIA hadn't been lying to them both…Charles would have learned with her, rather than parted from her. He would have learned through happiness rather than heartache, and maybe he would have made mistakes, but for her he would have made anything right. Maybe they still wouldn't be this far even now, but they would have gotten here in time. He was sure of it.
But instead they had this, and he didn't regret it, but he wanted more. He wanted what could have been.
"I know, Charles," she said quietly. "I know…" Moira kissed his forehead and sighed. "I love you, whatever good that does us…"
He made himself smile weakly, forced out a small laugh. He pulled her to him again and held on, because it was all he could do.
When Erik knocked on Moira's door that morning she called for him to wait, and he wondered if Charles had fallen asleep. But it took more than the moment he thought it would take to wake someone before the door opened, and when he noticed the general rumpled state both of them appeared to be in he understood. His eyebrows went up, but Charles was in his mind telling him not to say a word.
Erik chuckled inwardly. I wasn't exactly expecting it, but it's perfectly normal, Charles.
Charles shushed him silently, his mental voice sounding a little more strained than Erik would have thought it would, and Erik fell silent. He immediately regretted his slightly flippant reaction as Moira and his friend clung to each other in farewell. He looked away, but he knew Charles was kissing her. He knew, too, that Charles forgave him. The feeling was a soft push at the edge of his mind—not words, exactly, but knowledge.
Erik felt awful, then, for having to take Charles away, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
"Did I make a mistake?" he asked hesitantly, once they were out in the corridor and around the corner.
"No," Charles said quickly, and he slowed and stopped. "Not at all. I said thank you, and I meant it."
Then what he'd said last night had been intentional.
"I'm sorry I can't do more…"
"Don't. It's all right, Erik." He leaned back against the wall for a moment, and Erik grimaced when he saw that his friend's eyes were damp above the smile he gave. "That was certainly more than we might ever have had if you had not stepped in, and I'm grateful. Thank you."
Charles wasn't lying, Erik knew. But he was hurting. Part of him was happier, too, but the pain was still there and Erik had never meant for it to be. He supposed it couldn't have been avoided, but he was sorry just the same. He answered in a nod.
A hand on his arm. "Erik…"
He looked up, and Charles smiled at him, more convincingly this time.
"Don't feel badly. You've done a good thing. What else I am feeling now is not your fault."
"But it is Shaw's," Erik growled. "And Stryker's. And anyone else in this country's damned government that condones this place or doesn't fight it hard enough."
Charles's eyebrows went up at the quick change of subject. "Calm yourself, Erik. I would assume that we should be getting back."
Erik let out a breath and nodded wordlessly, and they moved on.