Erik glanced over his shoulder and found Emma standing inside the doorway to his powder room. A delicate hand rested on her hip, a smirk tugging at her painted lips. Erik scowled and turned back to the mirror.
"What do you want, Emma?" he asked, hands unsteady as he battled his tie. He was too many years out of practice, Magneto's clothes as utilitarian as they were magnificent. He felt significantly under-dressed in this three-piece suit, though if the way Emma was eyeing him was any indication, she didn't agree.
She sashayed into the room like she owned the place, every step precise, designed to draw the eye. Erik barked a laugh--her wiles had never worked on him. She shrugged and came to stand behind him, watching his reflection in the mirror. Erik caught her eye, somewhat surprised that she hadn't taken advantage of the absence of his helmet. She did so love prying where she wasn't wanted.
"And here I thought you'd abandoned all fashion sense years ago. Apparently I was wrong," she said.
Erik snorted. As if Emma knew a thing about fashion: the woman's wardrobe was entirely devoid of colour and, really, who wore white after Labour Day?
"What's the occasion?" she asked, reaching out to brush at imaginary flakes of dandruff--as if Erik would ever allow such a thing.
"If you must know," he answered, because she'd get it from him one way or the other and Erik always preferred doing things on his terms, "I have a date."
He was watching her reflection closely, so he didn't miss the way her eyes widened, her smirk softening as her mouth fell open. She cocked her head, gaze narrowing.
"Really? Who is he?"
He hadn't meant to allow her a point, but he couldn't help but spin to face her, mouth falling open. She laughed.
"Please. It's not like I didn't know you were gay. Everyone knows, sweetie. But it's hardly the 1960s anymore. People are liberated these days."
"Yes, thank you, I am well aware of that," Erik replied, still galled because preferences aside he hadn't exactly dated anyone in the last thirty-odd years, so to make assumptions about his sexual preferences was just plain rude. Young people these days--not that Emma counted, but in his eyes she had remained the young girl he'd rescued from a government containment facility.
Erik turned back to the mirror; started again on his tie. Emma circled around to perch on the low bureau that lined the wall. She crossed her legs.
"You didn't answer my question."
God, did the woman know how to meddle. Even without her telepathy she was a menace. Erik felt heat start to creep into his cheeks, but before it could bloom into a full blush he stamped it down. He had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It was the late 90s, after all.
"You will not comment, but I met him online." It was almost worth admitting it just to see the startled look on Emma's face. Erik smiled. "Through an online dating site for mature gay mutants," he added, mostly to see Emma splutter.
It was so very rare that he saw her flabbergasted. It was almost worth the interrogation he'd get when he returned to the base. Erik allowed himself a little smirk; he did so love getting the better on people.
"Please tell me it was called silver-muties dot com," Emma said. She'd mastered herself and was now on the verge of hysterical laughter. Erik shot her a glare.
"No, but if you'd like, I do remember seeing a link to cougar-paths dot com. Perhaps we could find you a match."
Emma's smirk vanished. She shook her head. "So you haven't even met this guy. Have you even seen a picture?"
Erik frowned. "Why would that matter?"
Emma lifted a shoulder, and then let it fall gracefully to her side, clear suggestion that it would matter to her.
"What if his mutation is hideous?" She wrinkled her nose.
A brief flash of anger flared white hot in his chest, the sensation nostalgic, calling to mind the impetuousness of his youth. His younger self would have struck Emma down for daring to suggest any mutant could be anything less than perfect. His older self merely scowled, even as he reminded himself that not everyone was as shallow as Emma Frost.
"There's no such thing as a hideous mutation; all mutants are beautiful," Erik said. Despite his attempts at calm, his voice was still laden with conviction. "And besides, he's an empath."
Emma inclined her head, tactic acceptance of his words. Erik glanced past her, back into the mirror, pulling his tie free so that he could attempt its tying yet again. After his first loop, Emma let out an exasperated puff of air and the stepped into Erik's space. She batted his hands aside and took over the task.
"Does he know you're the great Magneto?"
Erik cleared his throat, unable to keep the heat from staining his cheeks this time. He very purposely avoided Emma's gaze, staring instead over her shoulder, his reflection growing blurry as he stared into it.
"He thinks I'm a telekinetic," he eventually said.
Emma lifted an eyebrow, even as she patted Erik's tie, now perfectly fitted against his suprasternal notch. She looked faintly amused.
"What? It's not like he's going to recognize me without the cape and helmet." There was a reason he'd gone out of his way to choose such a memorable costume. "Besides, we've been talking for weeks. I very much doubt the revelation of my true identity is going to turn him off."
Emma frowned, as though she didn't quite believe that was true, but Erik waved her off. He glanced back the mirror and found his tie perfectly straight, his hair coiffed to perfection and the colour of his suit highlighting the grey of his eyes. He smiled.
"Don't wait up," he said to Emma, pausing only to retrieve the exotic calla lily corsage he'd custom ordered from a local florist earlier in the day.
Erik paused outside the restaurant. He took a moment to straighten his tie, check his breath and run a hand through his hair. He was the Master of Magnetism. He could do this. Squaring his shoulders, he pushed through the doors.
A trendy spot, just this side of formal, though not so overbearingly pretentious that the clientele were likely to irritate him, the restaurant was mutant-owned and mutant catered to, so a good number of its patrons sported clearly visible mutations. Erik smiled as he scanned the crowd, waiting patiently by the front desk until a red-skinned mutant came to greet him.
"I have reservations for two under the name Max Eisenhardt," Erik said.
"Of course, Sir, right this way. The other member of your party has already arrived.
Erik nodded, gesturing for the man to lead the way. He tucked his corsage under his arm and followed.
He spotted Charles before Charles spotted him, chair pulled up to the table, legs obscured by a long, white table cloth. Two candles burned in the table's centre, water glasses already filled. Charles glanced up at Erik's approach, undoubtedly drawn by Erik's mind. He didn't seem at all surprised to find Erik without his helmet. Instead he caught Erik's eye, a soft smile flitting across his face. Erik returned it, and then allowed the maître d' to pull out his chair before waving the man away.
"I'll return shortly with your drinks, gentleman," he said before vanishing.
Erik didn't bother commenting on Charles' presumption; instead he sat, pulled out the corsage and set it on the table.
"For you," he said, nodding to the clear plastic container. It earned him one of Charles' arched eyebrows. Erik shrugged, feeling suddenly nervous, though he'd rehearsed this night more times in the past week than he could count. He found himself fiddling with the cutlery on the table and purposely brought his hands to his lap.
"You look well," he said.
Charles, who was still staring at the corsage--and Erik could tell he was pleased--glanced over. "As do you, my friend," he commented, which was rather like commenting that the sky was blue, but Erik allowed it. He meant to say something else; to perhaps comment on the choice of restaurant, but it was then that the maître d' returned. He set a martini in front of Erik; a scotch in front of Charles. Erik smiled.
Charles immediately reached for his glass, took a sip and then set it back down on the table.
"So how long have you known?" he asked.
Erik couldn't quite help but tip his head back and laugh.
"Really, Charles; during our third conversation you told me that a dream tainted by the blood of sacrifice could not endure. That it was poisoned by the rage that took lives, all under the pretense that it was necessary. Who else could be so naively arrogant? Of course it was you."
Erik paused to take a sip of his drink, made exactly as he liked it. Across the table, Charles was watching him, amusement shining in his eyes. The sight made Erik's heart skip a beat. Erik set his glass back down on the table.
"When did you figure it out?" he asked.
Charles' smile grew wider. "In response to that statement, you told me that the dream was dead, that the only man still dreaming it was an old fool clinging to the hope of a peace that had never existed."
Erik inclined his head. "That does sound like something I would say." He paused, scrutinizing Charles then, taking in the new lines around his face. Without his hair, he looked nothing like the boy who'd jumped into an ocean to save Erik from drowning. Only his eyes were the same; bright and knowing and, oh, how Erik had dreamed of those eyes.
"I'm surprised you still agreed to come," Erik said. A waiter was hovering near their table now, so Erik waved him off. He wanted Charles' answer more than he wanted a meal.
"To be honest," Charles said, pausing to take another sip from his scotch, "So am I."
"Ah," Erik said. "Well, for what it's worth, I'm glad you came."
For the longest minute Charles didn't say anything; just sat, watching Erik, his gaze narrow. The moment had already stretched into awkwardness when Charles repeated, "So am I."
Erik couldn't quite check the grin that spread across his face at that, but a moment later it didn't matter, because the same grin spread across Charles' face. Erik let out a little laugh, and then lifted a hand, crooking his fingers to call over their waiter. After they had ordered, he raised his martini, held it across the table and said, "To first dates."
Charles clinked his glass, but added, "If we're taking all the times we've eaten together in the last thirty-odd years into account, I think this might actually be our hundredth date."
Erik let his smile grow smug. "Well, you know what they say about the hundredth date."
Charles didn't answer, but his smile turned mischievous, heat creeping into his gaze until Erik was almost tempted to ask for the bill, even before their food arrived. Instead he took another sip of his martini, smiled and said, "So an empath, Charles, really?"
Instead of responding, Charles tipped his head back and laughed.