title: what the wings meant
word count: approx. 2215
fandoms: X-Men: First Class, Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series)
characters: Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr, Emma Frost, and cameos from both XMFC and BSG casts.
notes: All explanations from here, specifically the idea of Charles as Adama and Erik as Roslin. This fic is a takeoff from this scene, as broken down into .gif form by ayuliz.
Dedicated to the following friends and enablers: Nekosmuse, Afrocurl, VictoriaXavier, and Shaliara.
Charles looks at himself in the cracked and crazed glass of the tiny little mirror over the tiny little sink, and the tint in the glass puts all sorts of lines in his face that he frankly does not need, thank you very much. He's already carrying the weight of the entire human race on his shoulders, and that's already enough to give a man a thousand aches, and he really doesn't need to be reminded of any more problems when he goes to sleep and dreams of his problems, and he wakes up and he has to face his problems.
Day after day after frakking day.
He conscientiously drains the last drops of water in his glass and then there's nothing for it but to put his spectacles on - bless McCoy and Cottle, working overtime and then some, like there were more than twenty-four standard hours in a day, looking after everyone else and still finding time to make sure there are enough pairs of eyeglasses to go around. He puts his hands in his hair, tries to put it into some semblance of order. There's more white now than brown or red, and he's still got to be thankful, because at least he still has his hair, and it's just about the only vanity he has left.
Well, that, and a properly pressed uniform. He has to remember to thank his orderly - and he fumbles for a moment before he comes up with a name. Cassidy, red-haired Sean, who also happens to be a crack shot and whose laugh tends to ricochet off the metal-grated walls. It's not even a bad thing. It's good that he can laugh.
Not enough laughter around here, not lately.
Charles shoots his cuffs and straightens his collar and buttons up his uniform jacket; he makes sure his pins are all in place, and he contemplatively brushes a finger over the insignia on his sleeve, and then he steps out of his quarters.
Only to come face-to-face with his XO: Emma Frost, and she's wearing her pale golden hair in a neat braid, and that makes Charles smile. "Looking good, old friend," she murmurs.
"Stop calling me old and I'll think about it," Charles says, and he smiles and she shakes her head and they turn together, smoothly and sharply, and they're off down the corridors and people are getting out of their way, many of them snapping off salutes. "Let's have the day's news."
"I've got Apollo putting the recruits through their paces today; some of the civilians show real promise, though there are some who really ought to be on the ground because they're better at fighting there. Helo will be looking after that group for us today. Athena is holding CIC down for you; Tyrol wants a word later on about fuel reserves; and Starbuck reports all is well on Pegasus. The Fleet seems to have had a quiet night."
"Small blessings," Charles mutters, and he takes the papers she hands him, reads and fumbles for the pen in his pocket to sign off on a handful of leave requests. "And why aren't we heading to Tyrol right now?"
"We are, actually, but that's because he's prepping a shuttle for you. Colonial One hailed us this morning. He wants you."
Charles raises an eyebrow. "Has he, now. I wish I could have more time to help the man out, but the bare truth is that there is no time, for him or for anyone at all. I've two battlestars and not enough time, not enough time - it's always a problem of time, isn't it?"
"As if we ever knew anything else," she says somberly.
He puts a comradely hand on her shoulder. "Worry for me, worry for us, but leave some of the worrying to me, too."
"I try to leave it all to you, sir. It makes you look distinguished."
"Shut it," Charles laughs, and then the roar and hiss of the flight deck is around them and there's a small detail already waiting around one of the shuttles. Munoz is flying, with Darkholme and Adler assisting, and maybe Charles can feel a little better about this completely unexpected appointment.
It's not as if the President of the Twelve Colonies is calling him to haul him to court, or something. Charles is fairly sure he hasn't quite done anything that monumentally foolish in the past ten days.
And no, taking one of the Vipers out for a quick flight absolutely does not count, and he'll argue that to his dying day. He's a pilot no matter what ranks he's got. He has to fly, every once in a while.
"Morning, Commander," Tyrol says, and the group around him salutes sharply.
Charles nods, and he turns to Frost and says, "Galactica is yours."
The flight is brief and uneventful and Charles keeps his eyes on the window anyway, and he makes a note of the Viper squadrons on maneuvers and the light craft on their sentry rounds. He's glad the others saw reason on the idea of having the civilians share in security duties. He hopes it gives everyone a sense of pulling together, of helping each other out, of protecting the Fleet as a whole, because there aren't any others who will come and help them, unless the Cylons change their minds, and he knows how unlikely that is, despite the fact that Athena is in CIC precisely to help listen in for them, for their strategies.
Another series of salutes as he steps out onto the deck of Colonial One. The air here seems - sharper, with a faint metallic tang that lodges in the back of his throat almost as soon as he draws his first breath. Solemn civilian faces here, men and women come to ask for help and come to ask for support and come to ask for hope, the ones he can't tend to, with Galactica and Pegasus already heavy on his mind.
He goes over the lists of tasks for himself and for Frost and for Starbuck and Apollo and Helo and Tyrol and all the rest, the men and women on the military ships, and he's almost surprised when he's ushered into the presidential quarters, though the thing is he's been here before, over and over again.
Charles knows the path to these doors as well as he does the path to Galactica's command quarters.
Voices from inside, murmurs of people responding and a clear clarion tone of command above all the others. "Quested, tell the Summers brothers I will deal with them, personally, as soon as I'm finished with this next appointment. Salvadore, keep me posted about that delegation that just showed up."
A female voice: "When can we tell them to expect you?"
"I'll be there when I get there."
Charles and his security detail step aside smoothly when the doors open - and the last one out, a tall young man with sharp features and his dark hair tied neatly back at his collar, nods formally. "Commander Xavier, welcome back to Colonial One. He's waiting for you, please go on in."
"Thank you," Charles murmurs, and he crosses the threshold by himself, and he puts his hands together behind his back, contemplatively.
"Is that you, Commander?" The same clarion voice, more quiet now, and sounding a little exhausted, a little burned around the edges, rough and worn down. "Please, sit. As usual, you'll excuse me for the rather spartan accommodations. It's been a long night, and it's going to be a long day for me yet."
"I don't think there's any other kind of day but long ones these days, Mister President," Charles says, carefully, and he stays on the edge of his seat. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this summons?"
And President Erik Lehnsherr gives him a sliver of a smile as he crosses the cramped cabin back to the other chair, set at right angles to Charles's, and the man half-falls into a slouch and he passes his hand over his face, momentarily just himself without the trappings of his office, before he straightens back into his usual parade rest.
Charles occasionally thinks that President Lehnsherr has a tendency to carry himself like a soldier, which is a strange thing when the man has been a civilian all his life, no connections to the Colonial Armed Forces whatsoever.
He keeps his face carefully blank and carefully polite, however. Official business is still official business, and he has to look the part, even if the President has loosened up enough that he's down to his white worn shirtsleeves and a partly undone tie in a familiar crimson.
A few moments of near-silence, with the thrum of the engines and the whisper of the air circulation systems the only sounds passing between them, and then Erik coughs and looks up at him. "How're you holding up?"
Charles shrugs one shoulder, and winces after when that sets off a twinge of pain in his neck. "I was supposed to sleep for eight hours, doctor's orders, but who has time for that any more - I kept waking up, imagining emergencies on Pegasus, thinking that things were about to blow up in CIC."
"You look just as tired as I feel," Erik murmurs.
The doors are closed, and here they can address each other plainly, without any ranks. "I think I've forgotten what it's like to be not tired."
"You can say that again," is the reply. "I have people to do things for me and then I only have myself, when they're off on their errands. And some days I wonder if I'm enough. If I have enough strength."
Charles nods gravely, understanding that feeling all too well, and he gets up and pours them both water. Erik sighs when he takes his glass.
And then: "You know, I actually did call you here for a reason." The corner of Erik's mouth quirks up in a smile, and Charles wishes they were really on their own because he needs to be held and Erik looks like he'd fall down if not for his suit and his chair, and this is no way to live but there's no way either of them can die, not yet, not with so many people relying on them both.
"Take your time," Charles says, instead, trying to be soothing.
He's really not expecting it when Erik picks up a small black box from the table, when he turns it over in his hands and looks at Charles contemplatively. "I imagine being in charge of one battlestar is difficult enough, and now, for the past three weeks, you have had two on your hands. And that's on top of dealing with the civilian fleet - the ones on the security details."
"Command is command. I do what I can," Charles says.
"And more than that, if the reports I'm getting can be believed."
Charles almost laughs. "I could have Frost court-martialed for carrying tales of me to you, you know."
"I know you'll do no such thing," Erik says warmly. "In any case. You seem to be wearing quite the wrong insignia on your jacket these days. I do believe that someone who commands more than one ship is called an Admiral. Yes?"
And Charles nearly gets to his feet, pulling back, when Erik offers him the black box; Charles is torn between doubt and disbelief as he carefully opens it - and it's a specific pair of wings, a specific rank designation, gleaming up at him.
"Congratulations, Admiral Xavier," Erik says, and Charles feels the sharp swell of his own emotions and it takes him a long moment before he can identify them - happiness and pride undercut by responsibility, and by a crushing sense of weariness without respite.
But when he looks up at Erik that same weariness is in the shadows beneath those grey eyes full of sympathy and understanding, and there's nothing he can say except "Thank you, Mister President."
And that makes Erik smile - tentative and faint, but there's nothing mocking in it; it's nothing like the knife-like one he seems to wear when he's addressing the Fleet. A real smile, one just for him - for them - and Charles doesn't miss the way Erik's hands are shifting restlessly in his lap.
Charles looks over his shoulder, looks at the closed doors, and he smiles and beckons Erik to lean in - and he cups his free hand around the back of Erik's head, leans in to kiss him just over his right eye. "More where that came from," he says, and he's very aware of Erik's proximity and his own weariness and the flush in Erik's face that must mirror the heat rising in his cheeks. "When they can spare us for a few hours."
"For a day," Erik says, cautiously hopeful.
"When we can."
"So say we all," they say together.
Charles lets Erik help him with the wings, and everyone salutes when they step out of the office together - the Admiral and the President, the last two leaders, the ones who carry hope and fear and responsibility on their weary willing shoulders.