“Where, exactly, are you going at two o’clock in the morning?” Emma Frost stood at the doorway, pale and perfect, covered in a white silk bathrobe that draped down her form. Her tone was sternly questioning and her eyes were intent on Azazel, holding a bit of heat and annoyance. She looked ready to disapprove, but was waiting before she began her excoriation.
Azazel gave her a noncommittal shrug. “I am surprised you have not yet found out for yourself,” he said quietly. He was actually surprised. Azazel had just assumed that Emma would have already kept tabs on everyone in their company, and would have long-ago known where he vanished off to for hours at a stretch. Unlike Charles, Emma didn’t have any compunctions about traipsing through people’s minds for any reason, or for no reason at all. One never could feel a telepath inside one’s head, so as he had no other course whatever she chose to do, he had believed that she was practicing discretion.
Of course, Magneto had them usually very busy, and perhaps Emma hadn’t had any reason or need to check on him. So, he had gone undetected. He took a long, slow, deep breath. That was about to change.
He returned to checking himself in the mirror. He was dressed as usual, and was brushing his hair, making sure he was presentable. That he was doing it in the middle of the night here was only because when he eventually teleported, his destination would not be in the same time zone. He didn’t know any other teleporters, so he couldn’t ask them if it was second nature to them as well, but he had learned to keep tabs on such things as that the world was round and that when one could teleport considerably long distances, one should remember that everyone stuck in their own time zone adhered to its natural daylight rhythms. He examined a small spot on the side of his face and realized it was a piece of towel fluff left over from after his shower, and he rubbed the lint away.
He glanced sideways, and saw that Emma was still standing in the doorway, her hands on her hips, and a slight frown marring her perfect features. “You’re dating?” she asked. Her eyes widened and she immediately looked down the hallway before coming inside the room and shutting the door behind her. She leaned against the closed door. “You’re dating Charles Xavier?” she repeated. “Please tell me that I’m mistaken.”
“You are not mistaken,” Azazel told her. “You know you are not.” He checked his watch. He had another few minutes before he would be late, although he had hoped to double check on the location prior to his engagement, but this conversation with Emma would be important. Charles was not a passing infatuation, and Azazel would rather have his comrades on his side as this relationship became more openly acknowledged.
“Why?” she asked.
“You already know why,” Azazel said. Sometimes he didn’t understand telepaths. They seemed to still need to engage verbally even when they had all the information they needed with a few moments of concentration and use of their gifts.
“I would prefer to hear it from you,” she said, her tone icy.
“I like him,” Azazel said simply. “He’s attractive. He’s a mutant, like us. He appears to like me.” He shrugged again. What more was there to add?
Emma’s eyes widened and she leaned forward, and whispered urgently, “He’s going to kill you.”
There was no need to elucidate whom she meant. Magneto.
A dozen responses sprang to Azazel’s mind, but he finally said, “Perhaps.”
Emma shook her head, worry-lines still present on her forehead. “Oh, honey. He’s got you tied up in knots. You’ve got it bad. If you’re willing to take Magneto head on.”
For Charles, Azazel was willing. But he couldn’t think of anything less appropriate than fighting with Charles’ old boyfriend over him. For what? Magneto walked away from Charles. If he wanted to return to that relationship, it was something Magneto needed to bring up with Charles, not Azazel. He couldn’t expect Charles to remain chaste in an ivory tower waiting for Magneto to ride back to him once his adventuring days were over. Azazel had no intentions of waiting. He had lived several lifetimes already, he did not want to hesitate and suddenly find Charles had grown old. He would vastly prefer to be side by side with Charles as time elapsed, come what might. If Charles continued to be interested, of course. Azazel had no illusions—this was still a fledging romance that he was working so hard at giving the chance of pure flight. But the potential was there, and in it Azazel could let his heart and soul soar.
Azazel waved a hand at Emma. “It would be ridiculous,” he said.
Emma raised an eyebrow, having obviously followed his chain of thoughts through her telepathy. “It’s only a matter of time, before he finds out. You’re right. It is ridiculous. But he’s going to be upset. Very, very upset.”
Azazel snorted. “And if next month Charles decides he no longer wishes to date? Or I perish in one of Magneto’s schemes this year? What would there have been to even tell about?” If Magneto wasn’t such a powerful, dangerous man, Azazel thought, there would be no discussion at all. Paramours did not often have to issue memos to previous lovers. Except when they worried about having their skulls crushed by having a truck dropped on them.
Emma folded her arms over her chest. “You’re endangering our cause.”
“Or perhaps I am furthering it,” he countered. “None of us can yet see into the future.” Azazel looked to his watch again. In another minute, he would be late. He flicked his attention to Emma. “Shall I enjoy your silence on this topic?”
Emma considered him for a long moment, and Azazel wished that he were the telepath so that he could know the convolutions of her thinking. Finally, she gave a small nod. “For the time being.” She raised a finger in warning. “But you will need to be more discrete.” A slow, small smile spread across her face. “Singing so happily and loudly in the middle of the night is sure to wake everyone, just as it did me.”
Azazel dipped his head and raised his tail in a salute. “No more singing,” he promised.
Charles was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he heard the familiar popping noise and felt the sudden warm mental presence of Azazel enter the space. The scent of dusty heat wafted over him a moment later.
For certain occasions, Azazel acquiesced to teleporting directly into the house. Since they were jaunting off at the uncommon hour of 2 am, Charles had asked him not to ring the doorbell and wake up the whole house. Charles hadn’t been surprised to find that Azazel harbored strong traditional sentiments, especially considering the times he’d lived through. For a teleporter, to whom no space was sacred, Charles did have to admire the restraint he had shown in preferring to gain entry to the house in the customary manner.
Or course, as proper as it was to announce his arrival at the front door, it meant that Hank, Sean, and Alex knew when he was there. The three of them only grudgingly kept their fists in check.
Charles suspected that Azazel enjoyed stirring up the hornet’s nest. He sighed. Maybe someday he would find someone who wasn’t part of the Brotherhood of Mutants and apparently a sworn enemy. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and stared at his own reflection. Looking for another boyfriend so soon, he chided himself. He’d have been quite happy and content for Erik to have stayed. And now he was just as happy and content to have Azazel. Both men were precious gifts in his life.
“I am here,” Azazel called out softly. “Are you ready?”
Charles put down his toothbrush. “Just ready now.” He wheeled himself out of the bathroom.
Azazel smiled at the sight of him and teleported the three feet across the room. “Walking would have taken too long,” he whispered into Charles’ ear as he embraced him. His tail wrapped snugly around Charles’ wrist, its usual place to rest, and Charles found he had missed its comforting familiarity.
Charles answered that by tilting his head up and curling his fingers under the lapels of Azazel’s jacket, and pulling him in for a short, energetic kiss. When they pulled apart, Charles didn’t need his telepathy to know that Azazel’s head was spinning just as much as his own. “Where are we off to?” he asked, slightly breathless. Azazel loved surprises, and hadn’t yet told him.
“You shall see,” Azazel said. “If you will trust me once more,” he added in a whisper, a nod to their earliest dates, though Charles hadn’t the faintest sense of worry about Azazel’s intentions anymore. At Charles’ nod of acquiescence, he stood up and Charles felt the intense yanking pressure of teleporting. He wondered if Azazel felt the same, or if it was different for him, and was amazed he hadn’t yet thought to ask. Then he gasped in some air as the unpleasant sensation of being doused with stingingly cold water hit him. He caught the grey shapes of buildings, and of being near a street on a sidewalk. It was dark and it was raining--
Azazel swore and Charles felt the immediate smack of being teleported again. He realized just how much Azazel must control each teleport because doing it hurriedly caused Charles’ eyesight to swim black. His insides felt like they’d been stirred with a wooden spoon. But at least he wasn’t getting any wetter.
“Charles?” Azazel’s face swam into view. “My apologies for the suddenness. Wait for a moment--” Azazel vanished in a puff of ruby-colored smoke and dank, old-cigar smell, and then reappeared with a glass of water. “Drink this.” He held it out and Charles took it. He sipped at it, and it did make him feel slightly better.
“What happened?” he asked, his voice croaking a bit more than he’d have preferred.
Azazel pointed to his left and Charles looked through the window. In the grey light from outside he could see that it was pouring rain on an unfamiliar street. “I apologize,” Azazel said, looking aggrieved. “I meant to teleport here first to check the weather, but I’d been detained before leaving. When I felt the rain, I reacted instinctively, and teleported more hastily than I should have.”
“Raven?” Charles asked.
“No,” Azazel said, and a ghost of a smile flitted across his face. “But she sends her love, and I have a letter from her for you.” He patted his ribs, where a letter would have been tucked away inside a pocket. “It was Emma Frost.”
“Ah,” Charles said. Charles had a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. This was a bit of a delicate subject between them. Charles wasn’t sure that having everyone on Erik’s team know about their relationship was quite safe for Azazel. But discovery by Emma Frost meant that Erik would know in short order. Charles wasn’t sure he was ready for that. Either for Erik to not care at all—hurtful in its own right—or for Erik to care too much. “So….”
“We were comrades for many years before Magneto took leadership. She will be discreet for the time being.”
A wash of relief went over Charles. “That’s good,” he said. He knew that this honeymoon period of romance between himself and Azazel probably wouldn’t last, but he hoped it would last for as long as possible before other emergencies intruded. “I always meant to ask you about your teleporting,” he said, changing the subject. “I guess that just answered my question. You don’t hardly feel the teleport at all, do you? But those along with you, you have to modulate their comfort.”
Azazel shook his head in wonder. “You are always full of questions, are you not?” he said. He stroked a finger down Charles’ face, his own expression one of fondness. “It is one of the things I quite like about you.” He smiled. “But to answer your questions, yes and yes. Teleporting for me feels only like exertion. The same as if I was to walk up stairs, or stand up from a chair. It takes effort. More effort to go a longer distance, or to quickly go multiple times, or to bring someone with me, but it doesn’t hurt me the same way it appears to disorient those I bring along. I have learned to try to account for some of the side-effects to others, but it takes attention. When I move quickly, I have not always made due diligence for my guests. Such disregard can be incapacitating.”
“How interesting!” Charles’ thoughts started to spin with what Azazel had told him. “What a fabulous mechanism! We should do some experiments,” he said. “And see if we could develop--”
Azazel leaned in and kissed the rest of the words away. Charles let himself be distracted, and did not at all regret it.
“I bring you all this way, and you want to speak of experiments,” Azazel said, his voice low. “Let us get our coffee and pastries first, and then we can speak as much as you want on any topic that interests you.”
Charles realized that he hadn’t yet paid attention to his surroundings. “Where are we?” he asked, and he stretched out his mind to look for others. “Oh!” he said. “France! We’re in Paris. It’s morning here already. How lovely!”
Azazel smiled, and looked exceedingly indulgent, and only slightly smug. “Yes, and we are at a boulangerie, the best. Friends own and run it. The croissants here are exquisite.”
“Croissants sound amazing,” Charles said. He looked to his right and saw the narrow door, the thin scrap of hallway, and the staircase that dropped steeply and crookedly away. He raised an eyebrow at Azazel.
Azazel lifted one shoulder half an inch. “Old construction,” he said. His tail, still wrapped securely around Charles’ wrist, tugged. “As I said once, I would take you anywhere you pleased. This time will be smoother.”
Charles felt the tug of teleporting, and it was like rolling through silken sheets. The fabric of space just glissaded over his skin, and then he was downstairs in the shop, with a man and a woman staring at him, and absolutely no croissants in sight. He brought his fingers to his temple, prepared to fix whatever needed attention, but the man suddenly broke into a smile.
“Azazel!” he said, joyful, then continued to speak in French. “You should have told me you were coming!” He went forward to embrace Azazel, arms wide.
The woman was also smiling, but her hands were on her hips and she shook her head. “Oh, your timing, it is so bad!” she said, in French. She turned to look at Charles. “The electricity is off,” she said in a low voice, one finger pointing slyly to the door where Charles could see a sign hung, warning away potential customers. “It is the whole street!” she told him.
Charles nodded. His French was a bit rusty—it had been years since he’d studied it in school, and even more years since his mother, Raven, and he had spent any time vacationing here—but his telepathy provided the translation easily. Answering her verbally was another matter altogether, though. “Bonjour,” he said brightly, and with a terrible accent. Marcelle didn’t look as if she minded, she looked positively pleased that he’d tried at all.
“Marcelle,” Azazel said, coming alongside, speaking the language easily. “This is Charles. Charles, my friends, Maurice and Marcelle.” Maurice was a young man, somewhere in his late twenties, but already with a pot-belly and a scruffy beard. Marcelle was slightly taller, slim, with steady dark eyes and lovely lines around her mouth that indicated she smiled often.
“I’m so pleased to meet you both,” Charles said, dropping the effort to speak French, and letting his telepathy translate it for them both.
Marcelle’s eyebrows lifted. “You’ve suddenly improved!” she said. “And-- welcome!”
Maurice chuckled. “You must be like Azazel, then, eh?”
Charles dipped his head. If they weren’t concerned with Azazel’s appearance, then he certainly wouldn’t faze them. But he could tell that neither was a mutant themselves. Azazel did certainly have a knack for friends. “I have a few tricks up my sleeve,” he said. “Azazel hasn’t told me the story of how you met,” he prompted.
“What’s to tell?” Maurice said, laughing. “We met in a wine cave. A cellar.” He winked at Charles. “We’d both gone there to find some particularly renowned vintages.” He put his hands together and snaked them through the air. “The passages were like a labyrinth. I would have been lost forever without him! Of course, first he had to convince me that he wasn’t the devil himself!”
Azazel gave Charles a meaningful look, but didn’t correct Maurice on the topic of pilfering wine. “I heard Marcelle say you have no croissants today,” he said instead. “I had desired to show Charles how wonderful the pastries here are.”
Maurice scowled. “Bah,” he said. “The electricity is off. Again! No food today. Not that it matters. With rain like this, who would go outside?” His scowl darkened, but he then sighed. “I can offer you wine, and croissants from yesterday.”
Azazel looked rueful, but smiled at his friend. “I would be most grateful.”
“Thank you,” Charles said. He could feel the waves of affection buffeting him from the two people. They genuinely liked Azazel, and the weight of more than a few years of friendship were behind it.
Marcelle gave Charles a shy, but knowing look. “We usually have tables and chairs outside, but it would be too wet today. There’s a small alcove upstairs that would give you some privacy.”
“That would be lovely,” he said.
She shooed her hands at Azazel. “Take him up, and I’ll bring up the plates and glasses in a few minutes. Then--” she shook a stern finger at Azazel, “--you will come back some other time when the electricity is on, and we’ll all have a nice meal together.”
“Of course,” Azazel said. He picked up her hand and kissed it lightly. “It would be our eternal pleasure.”
“Go,” she said, making more shooing motions, but her cheeks flushed pink and her eyes were bright.
Maurice made tisking noises from across the room where he was pulling down something from a cupboard. “Leave my wife alone!” he teased. “Or else I might let you have her!”
Azazel’s tail cinched tightly around Charles’ wrist for just a moment, and Charles felt a rush of movement, again that silken slide of space as it was displaced and replaced again. They were in the alcove.
“You are making that so very easy for me,” he said.
“I won’t forget again,” Azazel said, and Charles could feel the dark stain of disappointment from him.
“Azazel?” Charles questioned.
“I had not realized that you were…uncomfortable.” He glanced to the outside, where the rain drizzled down in a steady downpour. Charles could feel his dissatisfaction with the entire date, and Azazel’s anger at himself for forgetting such a basic thing as teleporting comfort, and checking the weather.
“I should have mentioned it long ago. I didn’t realize quite how multifaceted your control over your ability is.” Charles pulled his wrist up and kissed lightly at the length of tail that was coiled there. Azazel gave a small shudder at the touch. “It’s a perfect date,” Charles declared. “Even if we both got damp, I was ill, there’s no coffee, and the croissants are old.” He raised an eyebrow at Azazel and gave his best crooked grin. “It’s the company that makes it enjoyable.”
Azazel seemed to think that over for a moment, but then he went down to one knee and leaned in close to Charles. His hands went to either side of Charles’ face, and Charles mirrored his hands on Azazel’s face. Since Azazel hesitated, Charles pulled him in those last few inches for a solid, sordid, stirring kiss. Finally they parted, and Azazel’s dark disappointment steamed away to be replaced by a more fervid, salacious mindset.
“Bring on the wine,” Charles whispered, and Azazel’s mouth quirked up into a most becoming smile.
Later, after bringing Charles home, both of them gone to the wind with good red wine in them, and not as many croissants (seeing as how most had been eaten the day before and only a few remnants had remained—oh, how much worse could the date have turned out, truly), Azazel returned home, deliriously joyful, and absolutely drunk, and positively sated and satiated. As far as planning went, it had been a disastrous date, and yet it had been completely perfect. What more did he really need than Charles and laughter and a bottle of something vintage?
He sprawled on his bed, his arms wide, and sang.
Probably Emma would come down in a moment to chastise him, but for right that moment he hoped Magneto could hear him. Every note he sang was one Magneto had given up of his own free will, and Azazel couldn’t quite believe his luck. So he sang with his whole heart, and was jubilantly, exultantly, happy.