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Charles locks the door to his office carefully, turning the ancient key until he hears the lock snick into place. The university really needs to update all its fittings. Some days he can barely get the key to turn. He sighs as he pockets his keys, dejected. For the last week he’s felt like all eyes are on him whenever he’s in the department. As far as he knows McCone hasn’t started any official inquiries into his behavior, but the rumors have been flying fast. It’s only a matter of time, he tells himself, before he’s hauled in front of the head of department to explain himself. And he’s not sure quite what he’s going to say.

“Mr. Xavier? I mean, um, Charles?” a timid voice pipes behind him.

Charles turns to find Kitty Pryde lingering uncomfortably in the hallway, her eyes not quite meeting his. For a moment it’s like he’s back in the school canteen all over again, listening to her and Angel laugh over his supposed perversions.

He shifts uncomfortably.

“Yes, Miss Pryde?” he forces himself to ask.

“I, um,” she drags her gaze up to about his chin, and he wonders where she’s going with this conversation. The obvious discomfort she feels talking to him leaves a heavy weight in his stomach. She had always been such a good student. “I heard you were asking around about Professor McCone?”

“What?” Charles’ heart thumps loudly in his chest as he darts his eyes down the corridor, making sure they’re alone. He knows Jean and the other Mutant Advocacy kids have been trying to gather testimonials about McCone, but they were supposed to be discreet. Not to broadcast it to everyone in the department.

Kitty bites her lip. “Some of my friends asked me if he had ever said anything to me. About my powers?”

Charles starts. He thinks back to his register, trying to remember if he noticed an “M” written next to Kitty’s name. He tries not to let mutations affect his perception of his students—whether positively or negatively—and so mostly he tries to ignore those offending markers. And he had been rather distracted by Erik and his own scarlet “M” emblazoned on his list of students. He wonders what Kitty can do.

“And has he?”

“Well…not exactly,” she hedges.

“Okay?” Charles shifts his weight nervously, trying to keep from delving into the girl’s mind and taking the information he wants.

“I mean, he hasn’t said anything to me,” she practically whispers. Her cheeks are pink and she still hasn’t met Charles’ eyes.

“Do you want to come into my office?”

Her grateful nod is all he needs to see, and after a moment’s fumbling, he lets them back into the tiny workspace.

“So…?” he prompts as she folds herself down into the single chair across from his desk.

“I…overheard him say something,” Kitty admits, fidgeting with her hands in her lap.

“That’s great,” Charles says, then pauses. “I mean, not great that he said something unkind—I’m assuming it was unkind?—but that you can help us out.”

“I was kind of somewhere I shouldn’t be,” Kitty admits.

“Well…that’s alright.”

“I, uh. I was in his office.” The words leave her in a rush.

Charles raises his eyebrows. He’s been in McCone’s office—it’s certainly not big enough for him to miss a teenage girl standing in the midst of it. “You were in McCone’s office with him, and he didn’t see you?” He asks skeptically.

“Well…I wasn’t exactly in the office,” Kitty allows, picking at her nails rather than meeting Charles’ eyes.

Charles sighs. He’s desperate for anything that will help his case against McCone, desperate to keep his job and his place at the university. But it doesn’t seem like this girl is going to be able to help him.

“I was in the wall?” she offers, a blush staining her cheeks.

“…Pardon me?”

Kitty sighs dramatically, finally raising her gaze to meet Charles’. “I was in the hall and I saw this boy coming…I, um, really like him. And I saw him at this party the weekend before, but I was drunk and—” she cuts herself off, cheeks flaring crimson. “That’s not important. I just didn’t want him to see me, so I…ducked out. Or in, rather.”

“In?”

“To the wall. That’s what I can do. Um, walk through walls.” Kitty drops her eyes again. “I didn’t even know what was through the wall! I’ve never been in Professor McCone’s office. I just wanted to get away from Brad, and then I saw the professor at his desk and I freaked out, so I just sort of…stopped. In the wall.”

“That’s…” Charles gapes, his mind spinning with the possibilities, the meanings of her mutation. Each individual cell must change, shifting at the atomic level to allow her to step through seemingly solid matter. It’s incredible.

“I know it’s against policy!” Kitty says quickly, her eyes flying up to his. “But I really didn’t mean to! I never use my power on campus, I promise. I just…panicked.”

Charles’ heart constricts at the terror on the girl’s face. She’s only eighteen, nineteen at the most, and she’s been taught to be so afraid of what she can do. It’s not right, he thinks firmly. None of it is right.

“Kitty, I’m not going to report you,” he soothes. “I would never do that.”

“Really?”

“Really. I’ve used my power on campus, too,” he admits, thinking guiltily about the times he brushed against Erik’s mind, unable to stop himself from dipping into the boy’s thoughts.

But Kitty offers him a tentative smile, hopeful enough to brush his guilt and doubts away.

“You have an incredible power,” he tells her. “I’d love to see it some time.”

“Yeah?” A shy smile curves over her lips. “Okay. That would be cool.”

“So, when you were in the wall…?”

“Oh! Yeah. Professor McCone was on the phone. And at first I wasn’t even paying attention to what he was saying. But then I heard him. He said he’d never hire a mutant. That we were ‘useful’ sometimes, but he wouldn’t give one a job when there were deserving ‘normal’ people.” Kitty scowls with every set of air quotes. “That he’d rather hire an idiot than a freak.”

“Oh,” Charles says dully. He knew the man hated them, but hearing that kind of hate speech always sends a shock through him; no matter how many times it happens, he still can’t quite believe someone would say such things. “I’m sorry you had to hear something like that, Kitty.”

“It’s okay,” the girl shrugs. “It’s not the first time.”

“But it shouldn’t ever happen,” Charles says firmly. Seeing the dejected look on her face, he really believes that. No one should be allowed to get away with saying such hurtful things. Certainly not someone in a position of power like McCone’s.

“I—I hope that helps?” Kitty says, raising her eyes to his. “With your problem?”

“I think it does,” Charles tells her with a small smile.

“Good. I’m glad I came to talk to you then,” she says, and her smile is more confident than he’s seen it all day.

“You can anytime, you know.” Charles assures her, following her to the door. “About anything. You know?”

“Thanks, Mr. Xavier,” She gives him a shy smile. “Charles.”

He shows her out of the office and then sinks back into his desk chair, thinking over what she heard. It’s impossible to know exactly who McCone was talking about, but Charles has his suspicions. Kitty heard the Professor talking this semester, which nearly guarantees that he wasn’t discussing Charles. Charles is pretty sure that McCone hasn’t thought about hiring him since November of the previous year, if he ever even considered Charles a candidate for when he finishes his dissertation.

And there’s only one other mutant in the department…

Charles frowns, propping his head in his hands. He knows Azazel hopes to get a job in the department, or to find the grants for a post doc. He doesn’t want to move onto another institution, he’s made that clear. Hell, Charles thinks half the reason the teleporter ratted him out to McCone was to secure a job for himself in the fall.

If McCone’s been treating the man like his own personal pet mutant, while never intending to hire him on…well, that changes everything.

But, of course, Charles doesn’t know for sure that McCone was speaking about the Russian.

It’s a lot to think over, and before he can talk himself out of it, he sends a quick text to Erik.

Can I come over? Something to tell you.

It’s mere moments later, as he’s checking that he has all his belongings that his phone buzzes.

Of course. Everything okay?

Something squeezes in Charles’ chest as his eyes linger on those first two words.

Yes. Just need someone to talk to.

Well, two someones are right here,
Erik’s reply comes nearly instantaneously, and Charles finds himself grinning. He locks his office for the second time that day, feeling more buoyant this time around.


________________________________________________________________________



Erik pulls the door open with Lorna balanced on one hip, and Charles feels his smile relax into something simple and genuine for the first time in what feels like days.

“Char!” Lorna says, reaching out to pat him none-too-gently on the cheek.

“Hello darling,” he ruffles her soft hair, sneaking a peek at Erik to find the boy watching them with softness in his eyes.

“Come on in?” he offers.

Erik puts Lorna down to toddle off once they’re in the apartment. “So, something to tell me?” He prompts.

Charles unwinds his scarf and jacket, shedding layers in the complicated dance of wintertime. “Kitty Pryde stopped by my office today.”

“Kitty? From my class?” Erik frowns, turning the name over in his mind.

“The very one.” Charles is suddenly glad he never told Erik about overhearing Kitty and Angel. He’s feeling much more forgiving towards the girl after today, and wouldn’t want Erik holding a grudge.

They drop onto the couch, keeping an eye on where Lorna has wandered off to inspect Charles’ discarded outerwear.

“Turns out she’s one of the MA kids,” Charles continues, chuckling as Lorna winds his long scarf around her body, getting hopelessly tangled in it’s knitted length.

“Careful sweetheart,” Erik calls. “So she’s a mutant?”

Charles nods, briefly relaying the important facts from his talk with Kitty. Charles stumbles over repeating McCone’s words, still unsure of what they mean for him.

“But that’s perfect!” Erik crows, barely letting him finish. “That’s McCone caught directly in the act of discriminating, and not by us or one of our friends.” There’s a gleam in his gray eyes that looks positively vindictive.

Charles feels like he should disapprove more than he does. Or, at all, really. Instead he feels heat rising into his cheeks. The softness from earlier is gone, leaving Erik’s face all hard lines—sharp cheekbones, firm lips, and the determined set of his strong jaw.

“We’re going to beat this,” Erik says lowly, reaching out to grasp Charles’ shoulder with one large hand. Charles shivers at the touch, Erik’s fingers curling in hard, pulling him closer. “We’re going to make sure that asshole gets what he deserves.”

He tugs him even closer and suddenly Charles realizes what’s happening because oh…Erik’s lips are against his, hard and determined, molding to his as his hand slips from Charles’ shoulder to the back of his neck, tilting him to meet Erik’s kiss.

Charles lets himself be directed, opening his mouth as Erik tilts his head, letting the kiss turn wet and slick.

He had imagined their first kiss would be a sweet goodnight peck at the end of their perfect first date, cheeks flushed, eyes shyly meeting, hands tangled together. But he forgot that as gentle as Erik can be, he’s also strong and determined and relentless, and Charles finds himself unsurprised as Erik leads the kiss, shaping Charles’ mouth just the way he wants.

Erik’s mouth is firm and demanding, nipping at Charles’ lips and drawing the blood to the surface, staining them red. He kisses with purpose, nothing shy or hesitating about the way he shapes his mouth to Charles’, the fine stubble on his chin scraping at Charles’ sensitive skin.

A clatter across the room has Charles drawing back guiltily, lifting a hand to his wet lips. “Lorna,” he gasps.

They turn to find her happily going through Charles’ bag, throwing his possessions around the room with abandon.

“I guess that’s a mood-killer,” Erik laughs, his intensity waning as he gazes fondly at his daughter. “Sorry,” he adds, as Lorna upends the change section of Charles’ wallet, sending coins rolling across the kitchen floor.

Charles hides a smile in his hand. A couple of quarters don’t really matter. “Not really,” he counters, letting his gaze flit back to Erik.

A smirk curls over the boy’s lips, lifting them enticingly, and Charles wants nothing more than to lean back in. It had been far too long since his last kiss, he’s realizing.

And Erik, it turns out, is an excellent kisser.

Charles clears his throat, reminding himself that there is a small, impressionable child in the room and then he cuts his eyes away, because looking at Erik’s lips isn’t really helping the fact that now that’s he’s started kissing Erik, all he wants to do is keep at it.

“It’s, uh,” he says, knowing his cheeks are flushed bright red. “It’s not that simple. With McCone.”

Erik’s smirk falters. “Why not? We’ve got him.”

Charles sighs, his thoughts slipping back to Kitty’s confession. “We can’t go to the administration with what Kitty heard.”

“Why not?” Erik demands.

“Because she was using her power when she heard him,” Charles explains miserably. “She was in his private office, hearing a private conversation, while illegally using her power. Any part of that could get her kicked out of school.”

Erik frowns. “But she’s willing to testify against him?”

“I didn’t even ask,” Charles says sharply. “A power like Kitty’s will be classed as potentially dangerous, like yours or mine. You know the regulations. Using her power on university property is more than enough to get her kicked out. And then breaking into a professor’s private office?” Charles sighs. “Even if she was willing, I’m not doing that to her. She’s a good student.”

“But what she heard will save you from getting kicked out,” Erik protests fiercely.

“You just want to sacrifice her for my sake?” Charles asks, lowering his voice, conscious of little listening ears.

“Well, I—“

“She’s one of us, Erik. Not that it would be alright to throw any student to the wolves, but she’s…”

“Our kind.”

Charles frowns. He hates to think of it along those lines, black and white, us and them. “Yes. Our kind.”

“But. There must be some way to use her information.” Erik says anxiously.

Charles reaches over, placing a steadying hand over Erik’s, still thrilled that he’s allowed this kind of liberty. Erik’s hands hold such power, and Charles thrills as he tangles their fingers together. “There is one thing…” he admits. “I’m nearly positive McCone was talking about Azazel.”

Erik makes a face. “He reported us.”

“I think so,” Charles agrees. “He does whatever McCone wants. But I don’t think he’d be happy to learn he did all that without any kind of reward waiting for him on the other end.”

Erik’s gaze turns speculative. “So you think we can get him on our side?”

“We might be able to get him to question his loyalties, anyway.”

The devious light is back in Erik’s gray eyes. He bites his lip, thinking. “Azazel must know all kinds of things about McCone. More than enough to get him fired.”

Charles can’t believe he’s conspiring to get one of his professors, one of his superiors, fired. Still, he allows, “It’s possible. But we’d have to convince him. And I’m not entirely sure he’ll believe us just from what Kitty overheard.”

“Because McCone could have been talking about you,” Erik guesses.

“Or someone outside the department. It’s impossible to say for sure. And I’ll bet McCone has made Azazel all kinds of promises. I don’t know how we’d convince him that McCone was going to go back on his word.”

Erik gives him a sharp look. “Well, you could.”

“What?”

“You could find out exactly what McCone thinks about Azazel,” the boy points out. “You can’t use your powers in the university hearing, but you can use them to convince Azazel.”

Charles knows he’s gaping. “Erik—I can’t.” It’s violation of everything he’s been taught, everything he believes in.

“You can,” Erik insists. “You have to.”

_____________________________________


A/N: Um...sorry it's a short chapter. I just wanted to post SOMETHING. I'm such a failure at updating these days.

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