poor_medea: (X-Men)
[personal profile] poor_medea

Please, Moira?” Charles whines into his phone, settling down at a table at the café. “Pretty, pretty, pretty please?”

“Look, Charles, you know that I love you,” Moira sighs. “But what you’re asking is insane. I can’t babysit for a toddler! I can barely handle undergraduates.”

“She’s easy,” Charles insists, choosing to gloss over the first diaper change, the tantrums, the feedings, and the Great Candy Drink Hunt of 2012.

“Don’t even try it,” Moira snorts. “You call me every time after you watch her, remember? I know.

“Please, Moira? I don’t want Erik to have to pay someone.”

“And why can’t you watch her, again?”

“Well…” Charles hedges. He hasn’t quite gotten around to telling Moira about the change in his relationship with Erik.

Mostly because there’s nothing to tell yet. Just the potential for a date that Friday night, if he can just find someone to watch Lorna for a few hours.

“Well, what?” Moira asks suspiciously. There’s a lengthy pause while Charles desperately tries to come up with something to say. It’s clear that he hadn’t prepared well enough for this phone call. “Oh god,” Moira groans after a minute. “You’re going out with him, aren’t you?”

“You know, I’m supposed to be the telepath here,” Charles sulks.

“Please,” Moira snorts. “It doesn’t take a telepath to see that coming. I’ve been worried about you being interested in the kid since you first started watching his daughter.”

“So…will you do it?”

“You think the fact that you’re dating him will make me more likely to babysit? Honestly, Charles … I don’t have to tell you what a bad idea this is.”

“No, you don’t. Because I’ve already made up my mind.”

“Fine, fine,” Moira sighs. “Do what you want, and leave me to bring the whiskey in the aftermath.”

“That’s what friends are for,” Charles reminds her. “Also, doing favors. Like babysitting.”

“I really can’t. I’ve got time in the lab booked all weekend.” Her tone has at least crept more towards apologetic. “Look, just hire someone and tell the kid they’re your friend. It’s practically the same thing.”

“Your social skills are astounding as always, Moira.”

“Thanks, darling. Talk to you later.”

She hangs up and Charles hangs his head. He feels like he’s been waiting for an eternity to get the chance to spend some time alone with Erik, and now he can’t seem to make it happen. Erik won’t let him pay for a babysitter—it’s clearly a point of pride for Erik, one which Charles actually admires—and Charles doesn’t seem to have any friends who will do it for free.


Charles looks up to see Raven smirking down at him, a cup of tea he hasn’t even ordered in hand. He shrugs morosely.

“Still pining for your hot friend?” Raven drops down in the chair next to him, without so much as waiting for an invitation.

“Actually …” Charles says, feeling a light flush spread over his face. He still can’t quite believe Erik asked him out on a date.

“Really? Way to go, Prof!” Raven grins widely. “So what on earth are you moping around here for?”

“I’m trying to find a babysitter for Lorna, so that Erik and I can actually go out on a date that doesn’t involve a toddler,” Charles tells her with a sigh. He adores Lorna, but he wants to get a chance to know Erik, one on one.

“I’m in.”


Raven rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling. “That cute little child? Like you’d even need to ask to get me to watch her. And if it gets you a piece of that fine man, all the better!”

“Raven!” Charles gasps, scandalized.

“Don’t be such a fuddy-duddy,” she teases. “Not when you’ve got such a hot boyfriend.”

“He’s not my boyfriend yet.”

“That’s right. You need to take him out on a spectacular date, and I’ll watch the princess.” She leans closer, smiling conspiratorially. “I’ll have you know, I’m fantastic at dress-up.”

Her shape flickers for just an instant, and suddenly Charles is looking into a mirror of himself, all wide blue eyes, crooked nose, and messy hair. He shoots a panicked look around the rest of the café, but Raven’s already back in her normal blonde form, and no one seems to have noticed a thing.

“Well, you’ll certainly be able to keep Lorna entertained,” Charles says, trying to calm the racing of his heart. He wishes he could be as casual about his mutation as Raven seems to be about hers. His isn’t even visible, and yet it feels like he’s always hiding. “But are you sure you want to do that?”

“I told you,” Raven says fondly, “our kind needs to stick together.”

“I—thank you,” he stutters, surprised. “Is Friday okay for you?”

“Sure thing. Just remember to thank me during your wedding toast.”

“It’s just a first date!” Charles protests as Raven swans away from him, laughing all the while. He takes a sip of the tea she left behind and feels a smile creeping onto his face.

He’s going on a date with Erik.


Oh god, he’s going on a date. With Erik.

Charles stares into his dresser drawer in a complete panic.

He has no idea what to wear. Everything he owns is what Moira deems “academic wear”—and the last thing he wants is to remind anyone that he was Erik’s TA.

Besides, he has it on good authority—again, Moira—that there’s nothing sexy about dressing like a middle-aged professor.

He desperately wants to look nice and appropriate and—if it’s not asking too much—just a little cool on this date. He wants Erik to be glad that he made a move and asked Charles out.

But all he has is a drawer full of cardigans.

He has a suit, of course, but even as sartorially challenged as he is, he knows that’s too much for a first date. He has sport coats and blazers—some with elbow patches—but those are both too dressy and too professorial.

Charles sighs, rubbing at his eyes. He wishes Moira were here to help him, or at least taunt him until he picked something just to make her stop.

He’s decided to take Erik out to a restaurant that’s causal enough that he won’t feel guilty when Charles insists on paying, and that’s on the outskirts of town—close to Erik’s apartment, and, more importantly, further from the university.

He wants to look nice, but not overdressed. Casual, but like he still cares. Mostly, though, he wants to look like he didn’t spend an hour staring at his wardrobe, trying to pick something to wear.

Somehow Charles is sure Erik doesn’t put himself through this kind of torment.

Of course, Erik also has a toddler to take care of, so he probably can’t spare an hour to obsess over his appearance. Good thing he’s so naturally good-looking, then, Charles thinks with a sigh.

Finally he settles on a button down shirt and a navy cardigan that’s slightly less frumpy than some of his others. There’s nothing else for it, he decides. It’s not like he owns other clothes. It’s that or the sweats he wears when he goes running. He does decide to leave the fingerless gloves at home this time, even though the air is biting outside. Moira says they make him look ridiculous, like a hobo-professor.

Charles, frankly, thinks it would be impressive for a hobo to earn their doctorate.

He gives himself one last critical glance in the mirror, smoothing his hair back from his forehead and tucking his shirt tightly into his pants. He looks…like himself, really, but he supposes that’s for the best. Erik seems to like him, anyway.

He bundles up against the January weather and walks down the street to the café. Raven is lounging out front, watching students walk by, but straightens as Charles approaches. She gives him a teasing smile. “Excited, Professor?”

Charles rolls his eyes. He is excited—and nervous. His stomach is churning, a mad feeling of butterflies. But he’s not about to tell Raven that. He doesn’t know the girl that well, but he still knows she’d tease him forever.

“Are you ready to go?” he asks, rather than deign to answer her question. He offered to take the bus out to Erik’s with Raven, to make sure she doesn’t get lost.

“To check out your hot boyfriend again? I was born ready.”

“Hey!” Charles complains, offering her his arm as they fall into step together, and then wondering if she thinks that’s strange. But she just immediately threads her arm through his, leaning close. “Do I have to be jealous?”

“Well, I am quite a catch,” Raven says with a grin. “But I think this one’s already caught.”

Charles turns his head slightly to hide his smile. He likes the sound of that.

They board the bus together, cramming into two narrow seats, Raven giggling and jostling his elbow all the way. It’s fun, Charles realizes. He adores Moira and her cutting wit and sarcasm, and Erik and his wry smiles, but he doesn’t think he’s ever had a friend as carefree as Raven, all teasing smiles and prodding fingers.

The bus pulls up at Erik’s stop and Raven doesn’t even blink at the neighborhood they’re in. Charles scolds himself for being an elitist, yet again, and leads her down the street to Erik’s door. “Thanks again for doing this,” he says earnestly before he knocks.

Raven just smiles. “What are friends for?”

Charles finds he likes the sound of that. Moira’s always telling him he needs more friends, after all. And now here he is, with a new friend and a potential boyfriend.

He raps on the door before he can get too mushy over his good luck. He hears Erik sprint down the stairs and then the door is wrenched open. Erik’s a bit out of breath, and dressed in slim-fitting slacks and a polo shirt that accentuates every line of his torso.

“Well hello, sailor,” Raven says appreciatively.

Erik blinks at her for a long second. “Um, hello?”

“Erik, this is my friend Raven,” Charles laughs. “And Lorna’s babysitter. Also, apparently, a character in a 1940s film.”

“I can do that,” Raven agrees. Her whole form shimmers and suddenly she’s dressed a smart period suit, her hair rolled up against her head and perched under a structured hat. Her features are more aquiline than they usually, sharp and a little sultry.

Erik’s eyes widen.

“Or I can just be Raven,” she shrugs off the disguise, melting back into her standard blonde form.

Erik shakes his head, a wide, toothy grin spreading over his face. “That is one hell of a mutation,” he tells her, admiration and pride evident in his tone.

Raven smiles, and Charles can tell they’re going to get along.

Erik ushers them in out of the cold and up the stairs. “You’re the girl from the café.” He says as he leads the way.

“The one and only,” Raven agrees. “Except Tuesdays and Sundays. Those are my days off.”

Erik laughs as he lets them into the apartment, scooping up Lorna from where she lingers by the door. She sticks her hand in her mouth, narrowing her eyes as Raven and Charles follow him in.

“Hi, sweetheart,” Charles greets her, reaching out to run a finger down her soft cheek. She keeps her eyes on Raven, but pulls her hand out of her mouth long enough to say, “Hi, Char.”

“She’s adorable,” Raven pronounces. “I’m keeping her.”

“Yeah, how about we just start with the next couple of hours and see how things go?” Erik offers.

“Fair enough.” Raven approaches them slowly, a smile on her face. “Hi there, Lorna,” she says gently. “I’m Raven, and I’m going to play with you tonight. Is that okay?”

“Can you say ‘hi’, Lorna?” Erik prompts.

She considers for a long moment, eyeing Raven sternly, before giving her a small, “Hi.”

Raven grins triumphantly.

“She’s had her dinner,” Erik says, setting Lorna down near the coffee table where a stack of her books wait. “So she’s just going to need a cup of milk before bed. There’s some already in a sippy cup in the fridge. You should change her every hour and a half to two hours, and she can have some juice if she asks for it.”

“We’ll be fine,“ Raven assures him. “I’m fantastic with kids. All her other babysitters will pale in comparison.”

“And so modest, too,” Charles adds.

“Charles already gave me his number and your number, and I know how to call 911. We’ll be fine.” She gives Charles a gentle push towards the door. “Go out, have fun. Be young.”

Erik grimaces, but puts on his coat and winds a scarf around his neck. Charles laments covering up that polo shirt, but knows he’ll get to see it again at the restaurant. All the more reason to get moving.

But instead he hovers awkwardly by the door for a moment. Raven’s been an excellent distraction on the trip out, and Charles has barely had a second to panic over the fact that he’s going on a date with the boy he’s been unable to stop thinking about for months. Now the nerves return full-force, along with the horrible pressure to make this a good first date, so that Erik will grant him a second one.

Erik steps up next to him, his eyes softening as he peers down at Charles. And then one of his large hands settles at the small of Charles’ back, and he swears he can feel the warmth of it even through all his layers. “Ready?” Erik asks, voice pitched low, just for Charles.

Charles’ stomach jumps and he nods quickly.

“We’ll be back in a few hours,” Erik tells Raven, maneuvering Charles out the door and into the dim hallway.

“Daddy!” he hears Lorna yelp as the door shuts behind them.

“Come on,” Erik says urgently. “I hate hearing her cry.”

They pound down the stairs, the sound of their footfalls almost masking Lorna’s anguished wails.

“She’ll be fine in just a few minutes,” Charles promises. “She always is.”

Erik lets them out onto the street, into the dim light of dusk. “I know. It’s just….”

“I know,” Charles agrees, resting a hand on Erik’s arm.

Erik takes one shuddery breath and then steels himself. “So, where are we going?”

“Um, this way,” Charles gestures. He’s looked up the restaurant on google maps, printed out the map, and written down the address separately, just to make sure he doesn’t make a fool of himself and get them lost. “I hope it’s okay.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” Erik says confidently, leaning in to speak the words close to Charles’ ear. Charles shudders slightly as Erik’s warm breath puffs over his cold skin. He can’t tell if he's is doing it on purpose, if Erik's flirting or just being friendly, and he shifts nervously on the sidewalk. Erik just smiles at him, though, gesturing for him to lead the way.

It’s been a long time since Charles was on a first date—he likes to think of himself as friendly, chatting to people in line at the grocery store, in coffee shops, and particularly in bars. But he doesn’t get close to many people, and he hasn’t had time to devote himself to a relationship in what feels like an eternity.

And so he can’t remember quite what he’s supposed to do now that he’s on a date. He and Erik walk side by side, closer, perhaps, than friends would, their arms brushing every now and again. Charles wonders if he should reach out and take his hand. He wants to—he’s noticed those hands, how large and sure they are. He’s only seen Erik truly flaunt his power once, but the way his hands twisted in the air, moving as if he was shaping the metal with a touch, was mesmerizing. So he’d like to reach down and brush his hand against Erik’s, to feel the warm touch of his skin, the spark that would surely ignite as they came together. He’d like to reach for him confidently, to entwine their fingers and squeeze lightly, feel the reassuring weight of Erik’s hand in his.

But he can’t remember if that’s the kind of thing one does on a first date, particularly a first date after months of hopeless longing and flirtation, after frustration and disappointment. So he keeps his hands to himself, contenting himself with the way their arms gently bump, the rough wool of Erik’s coat catching slightly on his own winter jacket, the fibers entangling.

The restaurant is quite close to Erik’s apartment, and so Charles doesn’t have to worry about filling the silence until they’re actually seated face to face. He concentrates for the moment on street signs, making sure he doesn’t miss their turn, and guides Erik down a side street to a small bistro. It’s certainly casual dining, but it looks nice enough, and the smell that greets them as they push open the door is almost as nice as the blast of warmth that takes the January chill off their bones. They’re seated by the window, and Charles watches Erik shrug out of his coat appreciatively, admiring the lines of his body while he’s not looking.

“So,” Erik says, folding himself into his seat and picking up the menu. “What looks good?”

Charles hasn’t looked at anything but Erik since they entered the restaurant. “Um, I’m not sure. It all does,” he says, flustered, glancing down at the menu in his hand for the first time since sitting down.

Erik smirks at him, as if he knows exactly what Charles is thinking.

“Mm, Italian,” Erik says, scanning the selection.

“You do like Italian, right?” Charles asks suddenly, realizing he has no idea. He thinks wildly back to the walk here, wondering if they passed any other restaurants. There might have been a Chinese takeaway, he vaguely recalls.

“Yes, Charles, this is fine,” Erik says patiently, with just a hint of teasing in his tone.

“Oh. Um, good,” Charles tries to calm the racing of his heart. He tells himself he’s normally better with boys than this, but he knows that the truth is that he shuts himself up in his career, falling back on the charming professor routine, because it’s the only way he’s entirely comfortable relating to people. The sad thing is, it was easier to know what to say to Erik when he was his teacher.

But Erik is smiling at him fondly across the table, and so Charles clears his throat and tries again. “I think I’m going to have pasta. A huge pile of pasta, covered in cheese, because it’s winter and I’m basically hibernating.”

Erik laughs then, a full, rich sound, bubbling up out of him like it takes him by surprise. Charles flushes, pleased. “I can tell,” he says, pointedly dropping his gaze down Charles’ body. “With that cardigan.”

“Hey!” Charles complains, but Erik’s tone is light, and even though he agonized over picking this particular cardigan for the evening, Erik’s teasing makes him feel warm inside. “This is a very nice cardigan,” he insists anyway.

“Yes, it is,” Erik says, tone going serious. “It brings out your eyes.”

Charles knows he’s flushing, can feel the heat racing to even the tips of his ears, but he can’t help it. He picked the navy cardigan with the vague thought that it looked nice with his blue eyes—his best feature, Moira tells him, when she’s not making fun of his hair or the way he dresses—but he never thought Erik would really notice. “Thank you,” he mumbles to the table.

The waitress comes over to take their order, and Charles has to quickly decide which pile of pasta covered in cheese he actually wants to eat. She notes it down and disappears again, leaving water on the table. Charles thinks it would be nice to get a bottle of wine, but Erik isn’t twenty-one yet, and he may no longer be his teacher, but he is supposed to be a good influence.

Still, Charles thinks it might ease his nerves a little bit.

“So, Raven seems nice,” Erik offers.

“Oh, yeah,” Charles grins. “She’s actually great, isn’t she?”

“Should I be jealous?” Erik asks with a teasing quirk of his lips.

“No … although, now that I think about it, she could probably take on the appearance of anyone …”

Erik arches a curious eyebrow. “Ah. And who would you want to have for one night?”

Charles feels himself blushing, and really wishes he had a glass of wine. “No one but you, for the moment,” he says, even though the words feel ridiculous tripping out of his mouth.

But then Erik’s teasing smirk turns softer, pleased. “I’m glad to hear that.”

The waitress swoops back in with their plates of food, breaking the moment, allowing the flush to recede from both their cheeks.

“Her mutation is incredible though, isn’t it?” Erik continues after a moment, leaning in close and lowering his voice. It always makes Charles sad that they have to be discreet like this—pretending to be just like every other person in the restaurant. He knows it’s for the best, particularly with his mutation. Most people want nothing to do with him once they know he can read their minds.

Which is probably why he hasn’t exactly explained to Erik what he can do.

Charles bites his lip guiltily, looking over at Erik's earnest expression, the wonder on his face as he remembers Raven’s lightning-fast transformation. The image of Erik casually using his power in the café, shaping toys for his daughter, flashes into his mind. He hadn’t cared what anyone—not even Charles—thought of him in that moment. As Erik had put in all those months ago, he was just ‘working with what he had.’

Charles wonders if it’s time he did the same.

He likes Erik. He’s having fun with Erik. But he feels like he’s lying to him, even though he’s strenuously blocking all of his thoughts, being careful not to accidentally eavesdrop.

“All mutations are incredible,” Charles says. “Did you know that’s what I study? I work on the evolution of the X gene.”

Erik smiles. “I … may have googled you a time or two,” he admits. “And read some of your articles.”

“You did?” Charles is so surprised he forgets why he’s nervous. He can barely get Moira to read his work. “Did you understand it?”

Erik only looks mildly affronted. “Yes, I think so.”

“And you’re sure you don’t want to be a biology major?”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Erik laughs. “But large metal structures really…call to me.”

“I’ll bet they do,” Charles’ smile falters. “You know I’m a mutant too, right?”

“Of course.” Erik’s expression darkens. “It’s there in big letter on your university profile page.”

“I know,” Charles sighs.

“It’s a stupid policy,” Erik says, voice gone hard.

“I know,” Charles repeats.

They just look at each other for a moment, across their plates of cooling food. “So, did you want to tell me about your mutation?” Erik asks cautiously.

“I did,” Charles agrees, dropping his gaze to the pasta in front of him. He picks up his fork and pokes at, just to have something to do with his hands. “I do. But I don’t want you to feel weird around me afterwards.”

Erik’s brow furrows. “Why would I feel weird? You said so yourself, all mutations are incredible.”

Charles gives a small shrug. “Some people feel weird,” he offers. There’s more than one reason why Moira is his only close friend. He takes a deep breath, raising his eyes and meeting Erik’s gaze. He looks nothing but encouraging, his strong features softened as he meets Charles’ eyes.

“I’m a telepath.”

He doesn’t pry, doesn’t dip into Erik’s mind, as much as he wants to. But he does watch his face carefully, observing the emotions that play across his features.

The expected surprise is hidden, but the nerves, the slight narrowing of Erik’s eyes, is all too clear to Charles. He feels his heart sink.

“You can read my thoughts?” Erik pitches his voice low.

“Yes. But I’m not.”

“You’re not?”

“I don’t,” Charles clarifies. “As a rule.”

“A rule?” And now Erik’s brow furrows, genuine confusion on his face. “Whose rule?”


Erik’s eyes narrow further. “That’s ridiculous.”


“You shouldn’t limit your power that way,” Erik insists. “I don’t limit mine.”

“Yours is beautiful,” Charles says immediately. It’s true.

“And yours isn’t?”

“It’s … invasive.”

“So is Raven’s. She could take on anyone’s face. I could be her right now, and you’d never know.”

“But—“ Charles falters. It’s true, of course. Raven could use her power to gain almost the same kind of information that he has access to every moment of everyday. But— “It’s not the same.”

“I think,” Erik says, leaning closer, across their plates of food, “that if I practiced enough, I could pull the iron right out of your blood with a single thought. Does that scare you?”

“No.” Perhaps it should. It’s…quite a power. Very different from shaping duckies out of teaspoons. But he knows Erik. He knows he wouldn’t abuse that power. There’s a reason why he has chosen to use it to entertain his daughter, rather than commit atrocities.

Erik sits back, looking satisfied. “And your power doesn’t scare me.”

It’s absurd, Charles thinks. His power scares everyone he tells. Scares them away, to be precise. The ones who stay exact very specific promises about how close he’s allowed to their thoughts. Moira would kill him if he caught even a whiff of emotion off of her. “Really?”

“Really,” Erik agrees. “I—I feel strange, of course, knowing you could read any thought that happens to cross my mind. I’m very conscious right now of what I’m thinking, and what I shouldn’t be thinking, which is of course exactly what I’m thinking. But I don’t think you should have to restrain yourself. And I don’t think you’d misuse your power.” He grins. “Hell, you wouldn’t even misuse the power of being a TA.”

“Oh god,” Charles chokes out a laugh, dropping his head into his hands.

“Hey, it’s fine,” Erik says, and then a large warm hand closes over his wrist, pulling his hands from his face. Erik is smiling at him when he looks up. “So, can you, like, talk in my mind?”

You mean like this? Charles whispers and Erik jumps, a grin splitting his handsome face.

“That’s very cool.”

Charles returns the smile. “Is it? Most people don’t think so.”

“Well, we’re not exactly most people, are we?”

Charles’ fork levitates out of his bowl, a piece of pasta speared on the end, and drifts up to his mouth. Charles can’t even find it in himself to panic, to worry who might see. He just opens his mouth, letting Erik feed him.

“No, I guess not,” he smiles.


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