On any other sunny June Saturday, the corridors of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters would be peacefully quiet. For a few hours at least as all of the students would be either be at the local mall, movie theatre or lying on the manicured lawns basking in the sunshine. Whereas the staff would take the opportunity to enjoy that peace and quiet while pointedly ignoring the marking that awaited them.
Not today. Today the school was thrumming with an overwhelming excitement and joy that lit up like a hundred thousand lanterns to anyone with the ability to ‘see’ it. Charles Xavier could see that joy and it made him a little nervous.
Mainly because he was the reason for it, in part.
To that end, it was as much conscious decision as well as design that led him to sitting on his own in his private study. Not his work study as today was a day not be marred by the horrors of tenth grade physics papers; regardless that the mundanity of marking would calm his nerves somewhat.
Looking out of the window, Charles could see that the well tended and manicured gardens of his school and home were given over to rows of chairs. Arranged neatly and colourfully for a celebration.
He turned away, pushing himself towards an antique mahogany sideboard, dark with age and beeswax, stood. It had been there since before he had left for Oxford, all those years ago, and he’d seen no good reason to use it for anything other than to display his favourite photos, upon his return to the house he had left years before.
Charles glanced over the photos, a small smile turned his lips up as he surveyed the images of those he loved best. His family, his friends and colleagues and most of all his students. In some cases they were one and the same.
As he was reaching for a photo of Raven and Kurt. Charles heard the door behind him open. He didn’t turn around. He had felt that welcome, familiar presence moving towards him and welcomed it.
“I’ve been banished,” Erik declared as he shut the study door with a very definite thud at his back, punctuated by the clatter of crockery.
“On what grounds?” Charles asked, “And you bring tea with you too.” he continued, not looking up from his study of the photo in it’s heavy, silver frame. It was one of his favourites, of a delighted new, blue mom and wriggling, giggling baby intent using his tail to heap abuse on a unsuspecting teddy bear. He’d taken it, himself, a few days after Kurt’s adoption had became official. He smiled down at the photo before looking up at Erik.
“Need you ask?” Erik muttered as he pushed himself away from the door, to walk across the study towards Charles. ‘Not to mention you could teach cats a thing or two about cupboard love.”
“You’re looking very dapper today,.” Charles noted with a grin. It was no empty compliment given with the intent of changing the subject. To Charles’ mind, Erik did look exceptionally good. Midnight blue suit fitting his tall, trim frame beautifully, with a tie of the same shade, complemented with a shirt of the palest yellow. The tea was just an added bonus.
“Why thank you. I may say the same of you,” Erik noted as he leant down to plant a butterfly light kiss on Charles’ cheek as he set the tea tray onto the sideboard.
“Thought I’d make the effort, even though it is a Saturday.” Charles groused. Suits were for the week, for teaching, for the public persona of ‘Professor X’. Not for the weekend but then today was no ordinary day. So, favourite navy pinstripe and lemon yellow shirt and tie it was.
“Well, if no one else will appreciate the effort, I do.” Erik remarked. Charles felt the push of love and appreciation from Erik, not easy for a non-telepath to pull off but appreciated all the more for it.
“You’ll be pleased to know that your beloved school has not fallen to wreck and ruin.” Erik began as he fussed with the tea things. “Although there will be no breakfast cereal to be found anywhere on the grounds once the gentlemen have finished.”
“There was talk of camping out in the TV room for the Saturday morning cartoons” Charles noted, “And I quote ‘staying the hell away from the bathrooms until the coast is clear!’”
“Ah, yes.” Erik nodded, expertly pouring a cup of tea. “I could hear the slam of doors and stampede of feet running clearly from the kitchen.” He handed the teacup to Charles who peered at it quizzically.
“Pitor, Logan and Bobby can all testify, if needed, to that teapot contains your favourite PG Tips and nothing else.”
For a moment, Charles felt abashed that Erik felt that he doubted his word. “As if I could ever doubt you-”
“Though I think we will both need a stiff drink before the end of the day, adulterated tea is not the way to do it.”
“True enough and thank you.” Charles noted as he watched Erik pick up another of the photos for inspection.
“I vaguely remember this photo being taken” Erik began as he turned the photo to Charles for inspection. “All dressed up for the teaching staff photo for the website, a thorn between two roses-”
“I think Scott may question your use of idiom by calling him a ‘rose’ my friend,”
“While the human photographer fiddled with his equipment-” Charles tried and failed not to laugh at the unintentional innuendo. Erik simply shook his head in fond exasperation. “I remember I was caught up in a conversation between Jean and Scott whereas you were expounding on the joys of the Ashmolean to Ororo while Magda joined in.”
“While Kurt ‘jumped’ in and took the photo, jumping out again before the photographer really knew what was going on.” Charles finished, smiling at the memory. “Raven chose the formal photo for the website but chose this one for us as it was more ‘us.’”
Erik examined the photo a little more carefully before settling it back onto the sideboard. “As ever, Raven shows excellent judgement.”
“Even when she’s yelling at you for getting in the way?” Charles asked lightly.
“They will be here and everything will run as it should.” He couldn’t blame Erik for his behaviour, he was feeling exactly the same way. Hence his hiding out in his study.
“Last time I checked, being telepathic did not run to being psychic as well.” Erik sniped.
“I know, but as Wanda said on the phone last night, the only thing that would stop her and Pietro from being here today would be death.” Charles sighed, looking up at Erik, “And even then they wouldn’t let a small thing like that stop them.”
Erik shook his head, turning on his heel away from Charles for a moment. His arms wrapped around himself. “I know that, Charles,” he murmured, “It’s just that I remember all the times I promised them that I would be there and-”
“That’s in the past,” Charles chided, “You were absolved you from that years ago.”
Erik snorted. “Still gets used as ammunition in family fights though.”
“What doesn’t?” Charles shot back. “Raven holds her ‘blonde’ phase over me and that was over fifty years ago.”
The look of shock was obvious on Erik’s face. “Has it really been all that time?” he asked rhetorically as he pulled up a chair with a wave of his hand.
“Ororo is badgering me to speak to her class about what it was like living during the Cuban Missile Crisis,”
“The version that’s in the history books or the one we... ah... experienced?” Erik asked, taking great interest in whatever was going on outside the window.
You know I made peace with what happened that day, years ago, Erik Charles thought as he followed Erik’s gaze out of the window. I have lived, laughed and loved just as much as I would have done if it hadn’t happened Charles sent to the other man, punctuating his thoughts with supporting images
As Erik settled into the chair, it didn’t escape Charles’ notice that he looked a little flustered. Not that it was much of a surprise - he’d called upon some of the most erotic and treasured moments he’d shared with Erik as evidence.
“Thank you for that reminder,.” Erik replied tartly as he unbuttoned his jacket to sit down, “Now I have to think, very deeply, about marking for the rest of the day.” he grumbled, fixing the other man with a sharp gaze, “And don’t try apologising.”
“Wasn’t going to bother,” Charles remarked, leaning back in his chair, grinning up at Erik. “Good to know that I still have it.”
“And don’t you know it,” Erik muttered under his breath, meeting Charles’ gaze with a small smile to take the sting out of his words.
As do you, my friend, as do you.
A loud crash, followed by the sound of running could be heard from beyond the wood panelled walls. Both men looked towards the door, in askance.
“Should we...” Erik asked, his palms pushing into the arms of his chair, ready to push himself forwards. Charles shook his head.
“No...” he replied, voice distant as he reached out to touch other minds, to find out what was going on. “Everything is alright,” he noted, turning towards Erik. “Jean assures me that one of the caterers knocked an ice sculpture over by mistake.” He shrugged. “It was one of Bobby’s, she’s calming the caterers down while Magda goes to speak to Bobby. ”
“I hope Robert does not take it personally,” Erik muttered, leaning back in his chair.
“Of course he won’t,” Charles replied confidently, “It was a very kind gesture for him to create them on top of it being a creative use of his mutation.”
“Not to mention, he’s likely to have it recreated quicker than it took to break,”
“Other than that, all seems to be well. Scott, Ororo and Raven are starting to welcome guests and...”
“We’re sitting here, keeping out of everyone’s way.” Erik finished, “Care for a game of chess?”
“Thought you’d never ask!” Charles sighed, wheeling himself towards the chess table tucked away at the other end of the room.
* * *
A welcome peace fell over the study as the game was set up. The preliminaries took on the form of a dance or meditation. From Charles setting the board up, carefully placing each piece onto the board to Erik holding his hands, each curled around a different coloured chess piece to have first choice.
Not that it mattered, Charles was always white and Erik, black. In the past, it was a choice loaded with meaning; now it was traditional.
As he set up the board, Charles couldn’t help but notice that Erik’s gaze kept straying to the bay window. It didn’t take a telepath of any strength, let alone Charles, to realise what was preoccupying the other man.
Not that Erik could be blamed, Charles was doing his level best to ignore what was going on but to little avail.
“They’ll be here for us soon,” Erik noted as he surveyed the board before making his first move of the game. “Pawn to G5”
Charles raised an eyebrow at Erik, “I beg your pardon?” he asked, keeping his voice as level as possible.
Erik frowned at the board “I know it’s not a conventional opening gambit but-”
“No, not that, but you saying that they’ll be here for us soon.” Charles commented with the air of someone trying their hardest not to cause an argument.
Leaning back in his chair, Erik grinned at the other man. On someone else, Charles mused, it was a smile that would set teeth on edge. On Erik it looked... normal.
“I think you misunderstand me, Charles. Or for the first time, you actually accept what I have been saying for as long as you’ve known me” he replied as he watched Charles take his Pawn with his Knight.
“Which is?” Charles asked, laying himself, metaphorically, wide open for the ‘inevitable’ discussion ahead. One that was, unfortunately, not going to be about chess.
“That Mutants are perceived to be a threat by society at large and that however ‘liberal’ those in power seem to be; we are all one law away from being rounded up, to be sent off to camps.” Erik stated calmly as he surveyed the board. “Pawn to E5”
“Oh, that old saw,” Charles replied lightly.
In a strange sort of way, Charles was relieved. Even though their philosophical arguments of old may have been rendered irrelevant by time and social change (or at least, that was Charles’ dearest hope) it was a well known and well rehearsed argument between them.
If it meant that it would stop both of them from fussing over issues that they had no control over - then all the better for it.
“It could still happen,” Erik remarked genially as if he was talking about the beautiful summer’s day outside. “All it would take would be one firebrand Senator with the right people in his pocket and-”
“And things are very different from when we first met.” Charles reminded him as he moved his knight. “Did either of us think back then that this country would have a Black President?”
“To be honest, I would have bet on a woman President first,” Erik conceded with a shrug.
“I think that may happen in the next ten years or so, don’t you?” Charles commented.
“I thought you were a telepath, not a psychic.” Erik joked.
“Though it would not surprise me in the least,” Charles replied more seriously. “It’s always been a great shame that Dr King never lived to see what changes he helped to wrought,” He mused as he watched Erik bring his bishop into play.
“Would you care for some more tea?” Erik asked, his tone too bright and cheery.
“I could do with a refresh, if you’d be so kind,” Charles replied amiably. He had hit a nerve and he knew it. As a younger man he would have blundered into territory where even angels would fear to set foot; now, he knew that patience and silence would reap a greater reward than ‘trying’ to help.
“I... have never told anyone this,” Erik began as he refreshed Charles’ teacup, “Yet now is as good a time as any other...”
Charles nodded curiously as he watched Erik move gracefully through the motions; his back to Charles. “When I heard, on the radio in a diner somewhere unremarkable, that Dr. King had been murdered, my first thought was to take the next available bus and return to Westchester. To you.”
“Oh,” was all Charles could manage to say in response; his utter shock and surprise at Erik’s confession overriding his equamity. “I never knew,” he murmured quietly, surprised so deeply by this unlooked for confession.
“You didn’t even...” Erik turned to face Charles, two cups of tea in his hands. He didn’t have to say the words, Charles knew what he was talking about. Asking whether he had brought his telepathy into play.
“You asked me, a long time ago, to stay out of your head.” Charles replied, nodding his thanks as he took the tea cup from Erik, “And until you gave me your express permission, I’ve always done that.”
“I didn’t know,” Erik murmured not looking at Charles, “I had simply thought that when I gave you permission to...” he said, gently tapping the side of his skull, “I thought that you, well, you know...”
“Peeked?” Charles asked, a wry smile on his lips. “No, despite what you might think sometimes, Erik, I do respect your privacy. Besides, such memories have more significance when you tell me yourself.” he said, reaching up to take Erik’s hand into his own, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“So, where were we?” Erik asked, deftly easing the conversation forwards. “You must be wondering why I didn’t return?” Erik asked as he sat himself down once again, across from Charles on the other side of the chessboard. Just as he had done countless times before.
“Does it really matter now?” Charles sighed as Erik took one of his pawns. “You found your way back to Westchester, eventually.”
“I don’t think that there would be many who would count ten years as ‘eventually’.” Erik commented.
“Semantics,” Charles murmured with a grin as he used his king to swipe Erik’s pawn. “Still, even if you had returned then, I very much doubt I would have known what to do.”
Erik raised his eyebrows as he moved a knight into play. “That’s not like you,”
Charles shrugged his shoulders. “Well, there was the small matter of being utterly and completely sure of the fact that you would not have been interested in me... in that fashion.” he said, shifting a knight.
“Even after you had been inside my head and seen pretty much everything that was to see, good and bad -” Erik noted moving his own knight.
“I had seen images of Magda and well... jumped to conclusions.” Charles replied, defensively. “After all, given how things were back then, could I be blamed?”
“You could have asked,”
Charles scowled, “Oh yes, ask you about your dead wife!” he shot back. “Despite what you may think from time to time, I do have some tact.”
“I know you do and as she proved in ’69, she wasn’t dead. In fact she was and is very much alive.” Erik countered.
“I know that!” Charles peevishly replied, grasping at the teacup until it rattled in its saucer. “Could you blame me for jumping to the wrong conclusion?” he asked. “After all, you never seemed to lack female attention when we were on the road in ‘62.”
“Neither did you,” was the bland reply.
Charles shifted uneasily. “Touche, my friend,” He grimaced, “Though in my defence, I felt it better to... hide in plain sight so to speak.” he muttered, not meeting Erik’s understanding gaze.
“Magda used exactly the same reasoning with me,” Erik explained as he watched Charles bring his other knight into play.
“So, you knew that Magda preferred women?”
“Yes, I did,” Erik noted,“She knew along which paths my tastes lay and I knew hers.” he explained as he mirrored Charles’ previous move, bringing his second knight into play. “While we were content to hide our true natures from the prying eyes of society at large; we promised that we’d never lie to each other.”
Charles nodded as he contemplated the chessboard between them. “I don’t know if Magda ever told you about the long heart to heart she and I had a couple of weeks after our East German jaunt.”
“She has made one or two allusions to it,”
“Well, she made sure that I was in no doubt about... pretty much anything to do with you.” Charles noted. “It was a... most illuminating conversation.”
“It’s a skill that she has always used to her advantage.”
“Quite.” Charles dryly commented. “She also used that conversation to ask a lot of questions about Raven as well.” he remembered. “Although, there was one question that she never answered. Mainly because I never asked it at the time but...” Charles began, inquisitiveness clear in his voice. “And you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to but...”
“Ask away,” Erik replied, “It’s not going to have any bearing on what happens today but I know what you are like.”
“Never happy unless my curiousity is sated?”
“Something like that, “Erik conceded, “Although it has gotten you into more trouble than a barn full of cats.”
“And you say that like it’s a bad thing?” Charles asked, trying for innocent but Erik’s unimpressed expression showed him that he was not falling for that trick. That or he was onto his ploy with moving his King in such a way.
“So, what’s your question then?”
“How did you and Magda end up having the twins?”
Erik’s lips quirked up in a smile. That soon broke into a laugh. It was the sort of smile that Charles knew spelt only one thing. Trouble.
“Obviously, you are not talking about the mechanics or the logistics,” he began, “but more the rationale, yes?” Charles nodded, concentrating on the board but peeking up through his lashes at Erik; unsure of his response.
Love, you know that I don’t mind you asking! Erik replied over the telepathic link they shared. I’m more surprised that you haven’t asked before now!
“Magda and I love each other.” Erik began to explain aloud. “She was my only friend back when I first met her; the first person I felt comfortable enough to share my secrets with and she didn’t turn away from me in disgust.”
Reminds me of someone very special to me too. Charles telepathically stated so quietly that he was unsure that Erik ‘heard’ him.
“Quite fitting when you think about it,” Erik replied before continuing his story. “As you know, Magda was and still is a beautiful, wonderful woman. And a very inquisitive one too.”
“You seem to have a type, old friend,” Charles replied, laughing.
“It hasn’t escaped my notice,” Erik continued in that martini-dry tone that Charles loved. “You know that our marriage was not something we rushed into. We had talked it over for months before we entered into that state and naturally one of the matters we discussed were children.”
“We both wanted children, adoption was the more likely route, obviously but one evening Magda and my conversation turned to discussing how sure were we that we loved the way we did and before you asked, yes, there had been a bottle of vodka involved...”
“And...?” Charles asked, raising his eyebrows and his hand to move his bishop into play.
“Charles, you know better than anyone that to prove a thesis you must put it to the test,” Erik admonished, his concentration on the chessboard as he made his move. It didn’t escape Charles’ notice that there was a blush of colour in his cheeks.
“So you did,”
“That or they were found under a gooseberry bush, for all I know.” Erik continued with a small, sad smile. “I would have been on Shaw’s trail at the time of their birth. Avenging the deaths of both their mother and their grandmother,”
He sighed, a deep, heartfelt thing that caused Charles to reach out and take his hand. “It was only when we went to take down that East German lab that was experimenting on Mutant children that I knew that she had survived the fire and not only was she alive but she was there to rescue *our* children.” he whispered.
Charles nodded sympathetically. “My surprise at finding out that Raven was working on the ‘inside’ was a trifle in comparison to what you felt,” he admitted, moving a pawn forward, “We freed the children; those who had loving homes to return to went back and those that didn’t...”
“Came back to Westchester,”
“Well, can you think of a better place than the school for the Rasputins? Even some of those who went home, came here eventually” Charles noted, “I didn’t expect to be bringing home my future nephew and sister-in-law too.” he joked.
“Of all the places to fall in love, 50,000 feet above France is certainly different but it doesn’t beat the freezing cold waters of Miami Bay as the strangest,” Erik commented as he distractedly moved a pawn and fished his phone, which he habitually kept on him, out of his pocket.
My thoughts exactly Charles thought. “Problem?” he asked lightly as he watched Erik stare intently at something on the phone.
“I have this infernal thing configured-” Erik replied, waving said ‘infernal thing’ about “to alert me if there is a newsflash about the Avengers being called for something other than a media junket,”
“And?” Charles asked, already reaching out with his telepathy, gravitating towards Raven, who was likely to be in a very similar position but with the advantage of being near either a television or computer to research the situation.
Charles? According to tv news reports, some metal-masked meglomaniac was trying to tear up Midtown. Again. Raven ‘sent’ to him, her acerbic tone leaving him in no doubt about how she felt about this ‘disruption’. Obviously, the Avengers have been victorious and the good people of New York City are safe once again. Agent Hill is answering questions on TV, so I am *hoping* that means...
That Pietro and Wanda are on their way? Charles questioned, From your mind to the Universe’s ears, love. He entreated as he caught Erik’s relieved sigh.
“They’ll be here,” Charles stated firmly.
“May I remind that you are a telepath, Charles, not a psychic.” Erik grumbled exasperatedly before sipping at his tea. Charles laughed.
“What would you have done if things had been different between us?” Erik asked sometime later. Their chess game was still in progress but more of a sideshow than any real distraction. Especially if the way that Erik kept checking the clock on his phone was anything to go by.
“Stop that, or else I will confiscate that from you,” Charles replied tartly.
“Yes, Professor!” Erik singsonged in an uncanny impression of nearly all the students they taught.
“You’re too good at that, you know.”
“Heard it too many times not to be,” Erik replied, “Please, don’t change the subject.”
He sighed softly, annoyed at himself for being caught out. “The main events such as the foundation and development of the school, coming to terms with the chair and speaking for Mutant Rights,” Charles began hesitantly, “As for the more... personal events, a number of them would have happened differently, obviously.” he shook his head, “I’d like to think that Raven would have stayed on as the School’s manager after adopting Kurt. I also would like to hope that Magda would have stayed on to teach as well; even after Wanda and Pietro had finished their schooling,” he mused absently. “It’s something that I haven’t really considered, Erik,” he continued, shrugging his shoulders, “One thing I do know and that is I would have still loved you. The main difference is that you would most likely have never have known that I did.”
Erik stood up and walked around the table to Charles, kneeling slowly next to his chair. “And I would have loved you as well, ashamed and afraid to say anything lest I lose what friendship I felt I could still lay claim to,”
Charles felt the sting of tears at the back of his eyes as he took Erik’s large, weathered hands into his own. “Well, I for one, am glad that we got rip-roaringly drunk and ended up in bed together that first night when you returned to the mansion-” he murmured around the lump in his throat.
“Even though nothing happened and we were both battling horrendous headaches as we held that soul-baring conversation the next day?” Erik asked, leaning forward as if to steal a kiss.
“Trying to forget that part. Neither Raven or Magda were at all pleased by that. One thing I do remember is the amazingly good sex that happened later,” Charles replied, meeting Erik half way for a kiss.
“Surprisingly, so do I,” Erik huffed against Charles cheek as they broke for air. “I also remember my knees being more cooperative too!”
“Here, give me your hand, love.” Charles laughed as Erik took his hand, helping to ease him into standing up.
“Thank you,” Erik replied, taking a moment to dust himself down before tugging his chair closer to sit near Charles.
“You do know that in spite everything that has happened between us and that the world has thrown at us, I still love you, you know.” Erik murmured, taking Charles hands into his own, meeting Charles’ gaze with a smile.
“Thought you might like to know that,”
Thank you, Charles sent as he leant forward to rest his head on Erik’s shoulder for a moment. The feeling is more than mutual.
The tranquility of the moment was shattered in no uncertain terms by the roar of jet engines passing too close to the mansion’s spires for reasonable comfort.
“Do you think...?” Charles asked aloud, watching Erik’s expression turn contemplative.
“Whatever it is has the right ‘feel’ to the alloy, for it to be a SHIELD Quintjet” he replied, abstractedly, “Is it time yet?”
Charles wheeled himself towards the window, taking a moment to peer outside. The chairs he had seen earlier, were beginning to be filled with guests. Students, old and new, smartly dressed in either navy or yellow (or in some very brave cases, both) as well as friends and honoured guests.
Not all the seats were taken, there were some notable gaps in the seating. One of the most obvious was right at the very front. Charles was trying not to think about that one, the person who would fill that was in the mansion. Chatting to Jean about motorcycles of all things.
“We don’t have much time, if that’s what you are asking,” Charles tried to smother the nerves he could feel scratch the surface of his equilibrium; he wasn’t sure it was a total success.
“We have all the time in the world,” Erik replied as he pushed himself out of the chair to step over to the window to take in the view.
Charles relaxed, with a smile, at the thunderclap of displaced air that rang out loudly in the confines of the room. He turned to face their interlopers. Kurt Wagner-Xavier, his nephew stood there, tail tapping lightly against the wooden floor, while his ‘brother’ stood beside him.
“Is that really a good thing to say on a day like today?” Kurt asked as he stepped forward to greet his ‘Uncles’ with hugs. “After all, look how that day ended.”
“That Bond film was on TV the other night,” Pietro Lehnsherr noted as he held back a moment, as if to gain his bearings again. “Excellent film but always thought that Lazenby should have done more films.”
“Are you sure you’re mine?” Erik asked rhetorically with a frown as he stepped forward to embrace his son.
“So Mutti keeps telling me,” Pietro responded dryly, returning the hug.
“You’d think your charming personality would have been more of a giveaway?” Kurt sniped with a grin as he stepped back to stand next to Charles’ chair. “Momma, Wanda and Mutti will be down in a few moments.”
“Very well, does that make the two of you the advanced warning?” Charles asked as he cast a questioning eye over the younger mutant. He was dapperly dressed in a navy three-piece suit and light yellow shirt and tie that suited Kurt’s colouring magnificently but with one small issue. “Your tie is a bit-” Kurt obediently leaned forward, patiently allowing him to set it right.
“In a manner of speaking, yes-” Pietro began. Charles couldn’t help but notice how Pietro turned away from both his father and himself.
As he watched this tableaux play out, Charles couldn’t help but notice the usual strengthing of emotions that would inevitably occur when Pietro and Erik were in the same room.
Pietro had inherited more than his fair share of his father’s characteristics. Genetics had blessed him with the height, slimness and good looks but nurture had developed the stubborness inherent to both Erik and Magda; his mutation of superspeed hadn’t really helped.
“More like an effort to escape your mother fussing over your cuts and bruises?” Erik asked wryly as he reached out to cup his son’s jaw in his hand. “At least tell me that the other guy looks a lot worse than you,” he chided.
At least Pietro had the good grace to look a little abashed; allowing the touch. “Yes, they do. That and it was deemed prudent to see how you two are faring.” he replied, sighing as he surrendered to his father’s gentle examination. “Though aren’t there traditions about you two seeing each other before the ceremony being unlucky?”
“Your mother and I saw each other before our wedding ceremony,” Erik noted calmly as he ruffled his son’s white hair. Charles grinned as said son ducked away, too slow and grumbling, just as he always did. To an unaware observer, there may have been a sense of tension; Charles could see clear as day the tension he had felt earlier sublimate into the love shared between father and son.
“And look how well *that* turned out!” a new, feminine voice, called out from the doorway. Charles grinned, Magda Maximoff-Lehnsherr, one of his best teachers and dearest friends stood in the doorway, small frame neatly and exquisitely dressed in a navy sheath dress, her silver-white hair drawn away from her striking features.
“Although, Shaw, may he rot in Gehenna for all time, will never realise all the good he, unintentionally, wreaked,” she stated as she crossed the room to meet with Charles and her son and ex-husband.
A step behind Magda, was Wanda, all red curls and wide smile, dressed in a similar fashion.
The tensions that Charles had sensed earlier began to dissipate somewhat. Wanda favoured her mother in her looks but had inherited some of her father’s height. While he may not have always gotten on with his son, Erik had always had time for his daughter. So did Charles. Many afternoons had been given over to drinking tea and talking about everything that mattered or not as they were growing up.
“Hello Magda, Wanda,” Charles called out, turning to greet the newcomers. “I’m afraid that we’ve drunk all the tea-”
“The offer is appreciated, Uncle Charles,” Wanda replied as she leant forward to embrace him, leaving a kiss on his cheek. “But Drs Banner and Foster smuggled a flask onto the Quintjet before we left Avengers Tower earlier.”
“By the looks of your brother, you may have needed it?” he asked, sympathetically as he listened to Magda and Erik banter about the past and the future.
Wanda laughed softly, “Don’t tell anyone but all of the Avengers were more worried about getting here for the civil union ceremony than stopping the bad guy today. I mean we did and all-’”
“Marriage, meine liebe,” Erik corrected gently. “If we were in, say England, then it would be as you say, a civil union.”
“Potato, potatoe!” Kurt singsonged loudly. “Roses would smell just as sweet and all that,”
“So you *were* paying attention in my English classes, Kurt,” Magda drawled, gentle sarcasm leavened with a smile. “Your mother and I did wonder,”
Kurt replied by childishly sticking his tounge out; Charles laughed to see it. It saved him from dwelling on the enormity of what was being said.
“Kurt has a point, Mutti, Vater, Dad,” Pietro noted, looking around the room to hold the gaze of each person in turn. “I can’t speak for everyone we know but...” Charles caught the pleading glance the young man shot towards his sister, looking for words, for support.
“Vater and Dad, you’re getting married today.” Wanda began, “It doesn’t matter what the piece of paper says, And I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t wish you both the very best for the future.” her voice cracking on the words.
“And if they don’t, we’ll let Thor and Steve have a few words on your behalf,” Pietro stated, eyes looking a little too bright, not that Charles would ever mention it.
“And Uncle Hank and Uncle Azazel too,” Kurt commented as he patted down his pockets for a something.
For Charles, his best analogy for his telepathy was that it could be best described in colour and light. In that moment, everyone in that room was swathed in such brilliant colour and bright light that it was near ‘blinding’ to behold. Such love, happiness and joy that words failed him.
“Thank you... everyone...” Erik began, his voice faltering with emotion in a way that Charles didn’t think possible. “I... we thank you for your love and support and-”
Whatever Erik had been planning on saying, he was ‘saved’ from it by the loud slamming of the door. Raven stalked in, all sunshine yellow gown, pale skin, blonde hair and an expression to make anyone quake in fear. Grown men had been known to wheel away, at some speed, from that look.
“If I have to answer one more inane question about whether the mutant gene and the gay gene being connected I will scream!” Raven announced dramatically.
“There is no data to support such a stupid statement and you know it, Raven.” Charles began as he pushed himself towards his sister.
“I know, Charles, I know.” Raven replied, her tone drooping into weariness. “You know what the anti-mutant brigade are like and what with you and Erik-”
“And may I say how beautiful you look today.” Charles stated, taking her hands in his, “Although you do look better in blue.”
That earned him a frown before she glanced down at her hands. “Oh!” she exclaimed before ‘morphing’ back to her usual, brilliant blue, self. “Perhaps I should have answered the questions this way,” she mused, before leaning forward to kiss Charles on the cheek. “Then the press wouldn’t have come up with such dumb questions.”
“I doubt that would have saved you, Momma,” Wanda commented as she crossed the room to greet her. “You can give them all the information they need and a powerpoint and they’ll still ask asinine questions.”
“One question that was asked that I promised to put the answer to into the press release we’ll send out tomorrow,” Raven explained, her expression turning thoughtful, “Was who asked who and when,”
“Ah,” Erik interjected as Charles gathered his thoughts on the matter. Trust Raven to ask the one question that no one else had asked.
“Honest truth?” Charles asked rhetorically, reaching out, telepathically, to Erik. What he found was the love and trust that had been his for so long. “June 1974, we didn’t think that we’d have a chance of it happening in our lifetimes but-”
“According to the law, I was a widower and therefore free to marry,” Erik picked up the story as Charles sent a wave of affection and support to him. “Even though I knew that Magda hadn’t died in the housefire that Shaw started-”
“The paperwork said otherwise,” Magda interjected, “I still have your death certificate packed away somewhere.” she shrugged, “I had moved on, so had you and we were bringing up the children together, here at the school, that getting re-married was not a solution.”
“So, over chess one night, Charles and I debated the matter and I asked.” Erik continued as he walked over to stand at Charles’ side.
“And even though I was of the opinion that it would never happen, I said yes.” Charles finished as he took Erik’s hand into his. “Obviously, last year’s law, changed things somewhat.” He chuckled quietly to himself, “When I saw the news stating that the law had passed, I asked Erik if he was being serious all those years ago and if he had been, the answer was still the same.”
Over the tide of happiness Charles telepathically reached out to Erik.
That is, if you’ll still have me?
In reply, Charles felt Erik squeeze his hand gently, Too late to get rid of me now!
As he was drawn into a conversation with Wanda and Mystique on quite how to phrase their previous conversation for the press release, Charles noticed a new photo on the sideboard.
The photo was another candid, framed plainly but beautifully, in silver metal. It was of himself and Erik. Both of them were laughing at something; in his case so hard, that he was leaning on Erik’s shoulder.
As he lifted it up to examine it closer, Charles remembered the circumstances of the photo being taken. Of sitting in the main living room, watching DVDs with the children, an animation of all things and of Kurt showing Jubilee how to take good photographs.
“It’s a gift from the children.” Raven softly said, “All of them. We know you and Erik asked for no gifts but they wanted you to have a small token of their appreciation.”
“But why...?” Charles asked, his throat tight with the gratitude and love he felt for his charges in that moment.
“A photo of you and Erik?” Magda asked rhetorically. “Because it was noticed that there are photos of everyone else here but not of the both of you together. As if you wanted to hide what you have.”
“That was never our intent,” he murmured, glancing over at the man who had been his partner in all things for the last forty years, “old habits do die hard, but we’re trying.”
“We know, Charles, we know,” Raven replied, taking Magda’s hand into hers.
“Still, it is a lovely gift and we’ll thank them all for it later.” he replied as he glanced down at his watch. “Because, unless I am sorely mistaken, it’s time.” he looked towards Kurt, chatting with his ‘siblings’ and Uncle.
“Kurt?” he asked, sounding more calm and collected in that moment than he thought he would ever feel. “Will you do the honours?”
“Of course,” the young mutant murmured, “Places everyone,” he asked. “Mama, on Uncle Charles’ side, with me. Pietro, Wanda on Uncle Erik’s side and one final time of asking. Mutti? you have the rings?”
“Yes, I do!” Magda grumbled as she kissed Erik on the cheek. “I will meet you all downstairs,” she said, her voice hiding the emotion Charles knew she felt. Love and joy for both of them and pride as well.
“Good luck,” she whispered as she kissed Charles on the cheek.
“Thank you, I’m going to need it.” he replied, smiling up at her as she turned to leave the room.
Are you ready for this? Erik asked Charles as Kurt took his hand.
In that moment, Charles felt nothing but joy and peace. His earlier nerves had evaporated like morning dew from the rose bushes that adorned the mansion grounds.
Let’s find out. Charles replied grinning as they teleported to the garden and to their wedding ceremony and for the rest of their lives together.