Charles Xavier, tired but smiling still, rolled through the wide front doors of his home-cum-sanctuary-and-school. It had been more than a good day. As well as the joyous union of two of his favorite pupils, the wedding had proven a marvelous reunion for scattered students of years and decades past.
Ororo had briefly returned from her year in Oxford to ensure a perfect June afternoon. Jubilation and Allison had given their old school a discount for the reception entertainment, a dazzling concert accompanied by sky-high fireworks in the early evening. July hung right around the corner, so both had been pleased to hand out business cards to impressed visitors.
Following a trail of shredded cigar, Charles sent a mental note to the custodian on duty to do a sweep through the south wing. He found Logan on a balcony overlooking the grounds, where the last of the tents collapsed into a portable bundle. Fading evening crimson limned greying sideburns, a rime of fire more suited to Jean than Logan’s blunter form. Charles appreciated the flare across Logan’s eyes when he turned, the crinkles around aging eyes, the relaxation of shoulders and spine from aching tension earlier in the day.
“They have to grow up sometime,” Charles offered. He wrinkled his nose (even after all these years) when Logan tossed the chewed nub of his cigar over the railing. David had gone his own way years earlier, returning infrequently from Israel and the Haifa branch of the school.
Jane and Laura—Charles reached out lightly, and chuckled—were singing pop songs at the top of their lungs enroute to their rather odd honeymoon itinerary—a tour of Indiana roadside attractions. For the wedding, they’d allowed their respective fathers to fuss over them, much as Logan could be described as ‘fussing’ over anyone. At the moment, both were glad to be alone with each other, independent and free of strictures for perhaps the first time in either’s life. Charles closed the link without bothering the young women. They’d come so far from their origins as human experiments; they’d fought to survive—and had slowly learned how to live. Now, together, they thrived.
Big hands took Charles’, distracting him, began to massage aches from fingers and palms. Charles heaved a sigh.
Logan rubbed a thumb along Charles’ lifeline. “A lot of people—a lot of kids—have cried on my shoulder, Chuck, you included. This is the first time I’ve wanted to cry on yours.” They watched the caterer’s cheery vans disappear down the driveway into the woods bounding the estate, ruddy tail lights gleaming in the twilight. Most of the guests had already gone, the general mood one of pleasure, entertainment and satiated appetite. Gardeners returned the last odds and ends of furniture to sheds, while several students scoured the grounds for litter.
Charles raised Logan’s hand, pressed a warm kiss to its back. “She’s the only biological daughter you’ve raised. It’s quite different when it’s your own child getting married, starting a new life as an adult independent of you.”
“David flying in before classes start in Haifa?”
“No, but he’ll spend Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur here. Marci’s been before, but it will be little Gabby’s first visit.” Charles’ thoughts turned inward momentarily, lips softening into a sweet smile. In photos, his baby grand-daughter looked so like her namesake. Charles’ memories remained fonder of his son’s alpha parent than perhaps Gabrielle Haller’s did of him, focused more on his work in their short year together than on his spouse and child. Still, his relationship with David had improved a great deal…
Logan glanced down, smirked. “So you’ve got plenty of time to take care of—”
“Yes!” Recalled to the moment, Charles shot a hard glance upward, to no effect. “You can take your sabba—your vacation as scheduled, I’ve made all the arrangements. Nothing will go wrong—”
* * *
“—so sorry, Dr. Xavier.”
Charles pressed his lips together, drew a deep breath through his nose, released it. “Lilandra confirmed our appointment four months ago,” he began.
“It’s unfortunate, but she had to cancel all of her summer appointments due to a private matter.” The agent on the telephone, Valerie something-or-other, sounded young and professional. “She did send out notices in May to her clients. Ah, here it is.” Polite regret warmed her voice. “We have a delivery notice on record.”
“…Oh.” Charles slumped. “I see.” May had been so busy with graduation and the wedding; stacks of letters and catalogs and bills had been piled into a bin, unsorted if not immediately pertinent. Charles strongly suspected the notice remained there, buried.
“I have one other female-presenting alpha available…” The young woman trailed off, shuffling paper. “And one male-presenting.” Her tone lightened, pleased. “Both are between assignments, and could squeeze you in. I’ll send over their profiles by certified mail today. Given the projected timeframe of your seclusion, Ms. Voght could arrive about four days in and finish out the term. Mr. Creed could begin at the appointed time, but would have to leave after only three weeks. Please let me know your decision by…” Papers rustled again. “By July 25th.”
“Er, thank you, Valerie,” Charles muttered.
“Thank you for using Discreet Connections, Dr. Xavier.”
He dropped his face into one palm. Lilandra had handled his annual seclusions for the past ten years, an eminently professional surrogate who’d ensured his health, safety, and birth control—and sexual satiation—with aplomb and energy, and a wry sense of humor.
Four days later, Charles sat in his study and slit open the newly arrived manila envelope. Two folders slid out, a photograph and reference list and short personal profile in each. Amelia Voght was an attractive ginger with green eyes. Victor Creed was a mountain of a man sporting a shaggy golden mane. Voght’s references passed all muster, detailing a serious, detail-oriented alpha, professionally caring and supportive of her clients. Creed specialized in robust affairs, outdoorsy and athletic. Charles imagined Creed casually lifting him from the chair, hauling him about like a sack of potatoes. He closed the file. Voght… Nothing there repelled Charles, but he couldn’t work up any enthusiasm, either.
Well. He had several more days to make a decision. He’d mull it over, sleep on it, as it were. Often, his subconscious mind worked out its imperatives and desires while he dreamed, deep in REM sleep. He had plenty of time. He set the envelope on his desk, where he’d be sure to see it daily, a reminder.
Charles noted it the next day, neatly aligned with the edge of his desk pad. He saw it the following day, made a mental note to call the agency once he finished arranging a concert visit for a large swath of the boarding students. For the next few days, the envelope sat under a tarp along with the whole desk and other furniture, while a remodeling firm repaired damages to his study windows from an errant plasma blast.
It sat there still on July 30th, seal re-gummed by heat and moisture, while Charles clamped the phone to his ear, eyes fixed on the calendar, and listened to a polite, but firm, “I’m sorry, Dr. Xavier. If only you’d called earlier, as suggested. Both surrogates have been contracted by other clients.”
* * *
So. Logan long gone, and professional options not readily available. Charles contemplated the clock on the wall, the newspaper before him, the luncheon of baked chicken and baked potatoes, Caesar salad, the inviting bergamot scent of his hot tea. He considered his options.
His one option, to be precise.
He didn’t want to do it. It would be complicated. History must be considered.
* * *
Charles looked into the hall mirror, tilted his head to adjust the fall of one lock of hair. Threads of gray dusted each temple, adding dignity to still-lush chestnut. Blue eyes gleamed, clear and blue as the noon-day sky. His gold-accented, blue suit molded beautifully to his body in his chrome and leather chair, the one he saved for Congressional events and fund-raisers.
Hank strode into the hall, saw Charles, opened his mouth—then shook his head and wheeled around and back out.
Charles raised his chin. He wasn’t nervous. He knew exactly what he was doing. He felt the expected—invited—mind approaching, brushed his hands down his chest to ensure no stray lint, licked his lips and swallowed to relieve an unaccountably dry throat. Ridiculous. He wasn’t hovering like a nervous virgin waiting for their first suitor.
He was Charles Xavier. He had held Cabinet-level discussions with the President of the United States, with the leaders of other countries. He was one of the top speakers in the world on mutant affairs. He—rolled up and snatched open the front door before the visitor pressed the doorbell. “Welcome,” he said, and could do nothing to stop the foolish pleasure rising in his chest. He fixed his eyes on the stern and familiar visage.
“Welcome,” he said once more, and held out his hand to Erik Lehnsherr.
“Charles.” Erik looked unfairly good in his elegant suit, a subtler burgundy than his usual theatrical get-ups. Thick, snow-white hair crowned the lean lines of his face, the last of the auburn gone at last. His gaze dragged slowly down and then back up Charles’ suit, the good chair, the perfection of hair and facial grooming.
One corner of his mouth quirked. He took Charles’ hand in his own warm, firm grip. “You look well. Very well,” he repeated, amusement edging his words. “It seems a pity to tear all of that finery apart.”
“No need,” Charles demurred, cheeks warming, silly thing that he was. Decades later, his heart still thumped as if he were a young man of thirty. “I’ll be more than glad to un-do my own buttons, if you feel incapable of such fine work.”
“Are you implying that I have no patience?” Blue-green eyes twinkled. “After all these many years, old friend?”
Charles lifted his free hand to Erik’s tie, ran fingers up the silk to the knot, wrapped them round it and pulled down until they were almost nose-to-nose. My room, now he sent. He barbed the thought with the slow-rising heat of his desire, the biological summons of omega to receptive alpha, hooked it with Charles’ unceasing desire for Erik, since first he'd felt Erik’s mind, since first he'd laid eyes on the man.
Since he’d first felt the delirious perfection of an alpha fit to match his omega.
Erik’s pupils dilated. He sighed, drew back, straightened. Flicked a finger. Charles’ chair rose and turned to float side-by-side with Erik, down along the hall toward Charles’ suite near the back of the manor. They didn’t touch. The swish of Erik’s long coat worked on Charles’ nerves, until his fingers itched to pull it off.
The door opened to allow them entry, clicked shut and locked behind them. Charles’ chair settled by his bed, where everything needed had been laid out ahead of time; he arranged himself on the pillows while Erik refreshed himself in the lavatory.
Water droplets clung to Erik’s snowy fringe when he emerged. He neatly hung his coat, then paced to stand at the foot of the bed, allowing his eagerness to show, eyes hot in the privacy of Charles’ bedroom. “You’re still buttoned,” he noted. His fingers flexed.
“Perhaps I need assistance, after all.” Charles splayed a hand across his chest. He slid it down over his waistcoat to the visible sliver of deeper blue shirt beneath. “This might be a two-man job.”
“Still such terrible lines,” Erik drawled before climbing onto the bed, moving upward until he knelt over Charles’ straight, unmoving legs. Affection and heat mingled in his expression. He took great care in maneuvering Charles’ unresponsive legs to remove trousers and boxers, watching Charles’ face, hands gentle.
Charles watched him with the same intensity, unconcerned with vulnerability, exposure to one who’d been enemy longer than friend, who’d been a stranger and never a lover. But their connection from the first had never wavered. Charles felt safe; he sensed the depth of Erik’s care, his abiding love. Erik had long compartmentalized his thoughts: private from public, professional from personal. Erik’s mind resolutely held on to every moment of regret and fierce devotion of every year spent apart from Charles, a well-guarded box usually buried in the depths of his psyche.
Now, that box lay open to Charles. Charles poured into it all of his own longings, accumulated year after year. His eyes warmed with tears, but he shook them impatiently away, reaching out to drag Erik’s hand to rest atop his own. “Buttons,” he murmured, voice low and cherishing, Erik himself the treasure in the box, given freely into Charles’ hands the way Charles gave his body freely into Erik’s.
Charles stroked pen-callused fingertips over the no-longer fine, scarred skin of Erik’s wrist. Mutant vitality had held off the appearance of their true ages for longer than most; but there were fewer years ahead than behind. Perhaps Erik had answered Charles’ call for the same reason he made it. Didn’t they deserve at least once to have for themselves the relationship they’d denied those first and few months together? They’d been more concerned with the bold new world opening up around them than the intimate world of the heart. If Charles had gone through a seclusion then, perhaps things might have turned out differently; but he’d still been on suppressants for university.
Now, though. Now, he was a grandfather, a professor, a leader of a mutant community built up over decades of struggle and public conflict. He normally took a professional alpha to see him through his heat; it was routine and unremarkable for an omega of his stature to do so. In fact, his clientage had been to the benefit of the alphas and their firms. If Omega Charles Xavier found it fitting to hire you, after all, many society dons and dames would follow.
Charles had wanted, did want, could not conceive of a time he would not want Erik. So he slipped the lowest button of his waistcoat free, Erik’s hand resting on his. He wetted his lips and undid the second, until Erik raised an eyebrow, and with it, Charles’ watch. Erik gently pulled Charles’ arm away and pinned it at his side. “Allow me.” He made slow, deliberate work of the waistcoat, the silk shirt beneath. Darkening eyes drank in Charles’ chest and shoulders when he lifted himself up to slide the sleeves free.
Nude, Charles let his mental walls fall, let his mind brush against Erik’s, felt the friction and pleasure of connection. Erik had to stand for a moment to disrobe. He snickered when Charles rolled his eyes at Erik’s excessively neat folding, and slowed even further. He finally joined Charles in bed, slipping under the sheet, turning onto his side to meet Charles’ gaze. And so they were naked together, with intent, for the first time in forty years.
The mini-fridge held snacks, water, vitamins. The birth control and other aids lay in the bedside table’s drawers—like his apparent health, Charles’ mutation had also extended his fertility, and he felt no desire to bear a child at this late date. Not even…
“No one can predict the future, Charles.” Erik ran a wistful eye down Charles’ body, laid a hand across his still-conditioned abdomen. “Nina always wanted a little sister or brother.”
“When she was ten,” Charles returned. “She’s old enough to start college.” But his heart beat faster at the thought. So foolish a risk at his age. Just for the thought of Erik’s eyes and Charles’ hair, or Charles’ eyes and Erik’s auburn locks… Not that he couldn’t afford the best medical care an omega could buy, or that he didn’t have a school’s worth of babysitters on tap, or that he wasn’t—if not in his prime—in excellent health for his age and paraplegic condition.
Erik sighed into his ear, breath fluttering around the lobe, making Charles’ breath catch.
Charles thought of David, returning in two months’ time. He thought of Logan ‘vacationing’ in the Adirondacks with a young cadre of potential X-Men recruits. He thought of Peter and Wanda, and young Nina, all half-orphaned in their different ways. He thought of himself, likely alone again, with an infant dandling on his unfeeling knees.
But. “No one can predict the future,” he repeated back, breathing in the warm scent of Erik’s skin, the softening musculature of Erik’s chest perceptible under his lips. The long line of Erik’s body pressed against Charles, the heat of him calling to the heat in Charles, rising soon to the fore where thought would become distant as rainbows, buried in lust and pleasure. Erik smiled at Charles, toothy and keen, as glorious and charming and terrible as ever. “Are you ready?” His breath smelled of mint, clean and cool.
Charles hadn’t taken the birth control ahead of time. He should have. He usually did. But…
Perhaps Charles’ subconscious mind had made the decision his conscious mind refused, long inured to enduring political conflict with Erik. Perhaps it was simply acknowledging and conceding the truth before it was too late:
The heart wanted what the heart wanted.
Charles curled his fingers into thick hair, pressed his forehead to Erik’s, and melded his own eager grin into Erik’s, transforming the shapes of their joined mouths in sweet slow-motion: a kiss, their first, a new venture into a potential new world.
Let’s find out.