Charles is sitting in the university library, a whole huge round table to himself covered with the entrails of twenty-three books, fourteen journals, and god only knows how many pages' worth of notes. He's so engrossed in his work that he fails to notice the presence of the alpha until he feels a warm huffing breath on the back of his neck.
He immediately jumps out of his seat and backs halfway around the table in an instinctive scramble to put distance between them. "Go away," he says, before he's taken the alpha in at more than a glance. "I'm categorically uninterested in breeding this week, or at all anytime in the near future. I have a dissertation to write. I'm too busy to have babies with anyone, least of all you. Now shoo."
At this point, Charles' hindbrain kicks in to inform him that this particular alpha is young, wiry, and in good health; then his forebrain where his telepathy lives kicks in to inform him that his name is Erik, he's an engineering major (and a brilliant one); then hindbrain and forebrain together begin chanting baby baby baby baby pretty babies.
Charles shoves it all back down, fiercely, thinking of his dissertation and thinking of how damned irritating it is to be imprinted on for not the first, not the second, not the fifth, but the seventh time this heat. God, he wishes alphas would stop coming to the library. Or alternatively that heat suppressors didn't make his head so damned fuzzy, so that he could take them and still get anywhere with his research.
Erik just stands there, gazing at Charles with bemused adoration, not approaching but leaning in towards him as though there's nothing in the world he wants more -
After a few seconds of staring at each other, Erik steps toward him.
Charles snarls, a primal sort of snarl, an I-mean-business sort of snarl, a don't-you-fuck-with-me sort of snarl, the sort of snarl that makes alphas' blood freeze in their veins.
Erik suddenly looks from side-to-side, faux casual, as though he hasn't taken any interest in Charles at all and certainly didn't hear him snarl.
Charles snarls again, and steps back toward his chair.
Erik retreats to the other side of the table beside Charles', and takes a seat.
Well, at least he's been well-trained. Some alphas are downright rude about it. Charles so hates being forced to draw blood; he can't stand the smell, or re-copying his notes when they get dripped on.
Erik comes to watch Charles work for the next three days. He never says a word, but only sits right there until closing time when Charles leaves again. He doesn't try to follow Charles home, but only stands outside the library's entrance to see him out, and shows up before opening time each day.
Charles keeps a very small portion of his attention on Erik's mind as he works; and he really has been raised well, because the only thing Charles is forced to say to him is, "As much as I appreciate that you're running all on instinct right now, know that if you do bring me the dead body of any animal to court me, your chances with me will go from none to far less than none."
"Alright," Erik says.
It's the first word he's spoken to Charles; Charles' hindbrain makes an embarrassing squeaking noise upon hearing it, the rough rumbling cadence of it, while Charles himself sighs.
On the first day after his heat ends, Charles fully expects for Erik to leave as soon as his nose and hormones cotton onto the lack of hormones seeping out from Charles. But Erik surprises him, following him in anyway and settling down in his customary chair.
"What are you still doing here?" Charles asks after he can't stand it anymore. "Shouldn't you be off to find the next tree to bark at or something?"
"Will you go out with me?" Erik says, looking sheepish. "I didn't want to ask before because of -" Charles' hindbrain, only somewhat quieter now, notices that Erik talks with his hands, that Erik has lovely hands, that Erik's hands are probably attributed to dominant genes that would surely, surely pass on down to any babies they might have "- because I was - because you were - you have a good snarl."
"...Thank you," Charles says, while thinking, Damnit. "I've put in quite a bit of practice on it. And also no, I don't have time for dating, I have to finish my dissertation."
"Alright," Erik says, and far from leaving, as he ought to, he sets his elbows on the surface of his table, steeples his fingers and proceeds to continue watching Charles.
Charles manages to fight off the hindbrain nearly entirely over the next few weeks, largely because he stops looking at Erik: Erik's hands and Erik's eyes and Erik's smooth quick movements that would be so good for their babies to inherit, all very bad things for Charles to observe even out of the corner of his eye.
But his forebrain picks up the slack, constantly picking out this fact or that out of Erik's mind. Erik is good with languages: he speaks seven fluently, can write in five, and is working on an eighth and a sixth respectively. Erik's mutation is powerful, allowing him to manipulate magnetic fields in any way that occurs to him. Most damning for Charles, Erik was the sole caretaker for his aging mother for the last five years of her life; that means quite a bit more for the kind of mate, the kind of father he'd make.
Even so, Charles is winning the battle until the day Raven asks him to babysit.
"Erik," Charles says, holding baby Kurt in one arm as he arranges his books with the other, "this is my nephew, Kurt, and the silly thing hiding behind that chair is my niece, Marie. I'm looking after them for the day for my sister. They won't bother you." At the end of this he adds a pointed look towards Marie, who has the tendency to make friends with everything that moves once she's over her initial shyness.
Except that fifteen minutes later, Marie is playing in the stacks doing god knows what, and Charles hears a series of thumps coming from her direction that can't be good, and as soon as he stands up to go deal with it baby Kurt starts to fuss, and before Charles can even begin to decide whether destruction of private property trumps apparent no-reason mortal terror when it comes to triaging children being difficult, Erik comes up beside him and says, "I can hold that one while you deal with the other one."
Ordinarily Charles would be wary of accepting help from a suitor who just won't go away, as it only encourages them in the future; but in this case he hands Kurt over without a word, and goes off to retrieve Marie, who has apparently decided climbing up the bookshelves is a valid plan.
When he comes back, Erik is still holding Kurt, who's continuing to fuss but hasn't yet worked himself up to a full-out wail.
Erik doesn't look put-out about it at all; and when Charles peeks into his mind, he's thinking of how very much he wants a family of his own.
It's too much for Charles; hindbrain, forebrain and Charlesbrain all come together in one great, deafening litany of Erik-babies-hands-babies-eyes-babies-mutation-babies-mind-babies-babies-babies.
"Um," Charles says. "Erik?"
"Yes?" Erik says, looking up from Kurt.
"You may take me out for coffee," Charles says. "Not tonight, but tomorrow. If you'd like."
Erik's smile is somehow both scary (Charles' hindbrain loves it) and warm (the forebrain approves).
At the coffeeshop the following afternoon, Charles decides to skip all the meaningless chatter.
"I'm still neck-deep in my dissertation," he says, "so the next heat is out. And the following two as well. But perhaps the one after that. Is that acceptable to you?"
He's fully ready to puff himself out, make himself big, put Erik into his place should Erik press him for earlier; but Erik only smiles, again.
They don't quite make it to the fourth heat, as Charles intends. Erik, ever the gentleman, doesn't push it; but Charles' third heat comes upon him a week later than he expected it, and by then he's been awarded his PhD and he's as ready as he'll ever be to get on with it.
It's good, it's very good, it's perfect, right up until Erik is fully seated and fully trapped inside of him, at which point it becomes perfectly boring.
So, as Erik gasps kisses and "Charles" and "so good" between Charles' shoulder blades, Charles pulls his trousers over and digs into the pocket for his cell. First he texts Raven to say, "y didnt u tell me knotting was so v dull?" and then he begins to search the internet to find out how long he can expect this to go on (the average time is apparently between ten and fifteen minutes, while the record is forty-five).
Several minutes later, Erik goes still above him, and he asks, incredulous, "Are you texting right now?"
"Well," Charles says as he skims an online forum conversation regarding whether or not longer knotting periods actual increase the chances of successfully conceiving (the general consensus is no, that knotting on several days in succession in the middle of one's heat will both make conception more likely, as well as increase the chances of a multiple birth or even a litter, but that the length of an individual session means nothing), "this stopped being fun for me seven and a half minutes ago. But you're welcome to carry on."
Erik bites a gentle admonishment onto Charles' shoulder, but doesn't press beyond that. He knows full well who's in charge here.