And then he collected himself, looking a little guilty. “Well, at any rate, that was a bust. He’s given up the idea since, I’m pretty sure: it can’t help that he’s losing his hair at a jolly old rate of knots, and never had any chin or cheekbones to speak of in the first place. Pulchritude can substitute for talent in youth: but once your youthful charms are gone, all you’ve got is what you’ve put the work in to hone and polish.”
he touched his hand to his hair again briefly, and to his face as if to smooth out the odd faint touch of wear, time’s kisses. Besides the pallor and shadows of the stress he was under, Erik could discern the faintest traces of ageing. Wasn’t he a connoisseur on the subject? It didn’t detract altogether from his charms: only lent a trace of maturity that had been lacking, a spurious air of wisdom. (Spurious, surely. Erik ought to know that by now.)
“Vicarious satisfaction, then?” Erik diagnosed. “If he can’t hog the spotlight himself, let him at least have the star of the show on a collar and leash, jumping when he says jump, hoops a-gogo? Sharing the red carpet and swagging off with every Emmy, Tony and Academy Award, on permanent loan in his creepy little lair?2
“Erik,” Charles said, and shook his head. He smirked a little, as he said, “You used to be such a nice boy.”
“Yes,” Erik agreed. ‘Then you happened to me,’ he added mentally.