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Rainbow hair 'verse

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The first time Charles saw Erik was in their second week of freshman year. The clubs were all already out in full force, trying to recruit members. Shy, nervous Charles Xavier was avoiding them all like the plague. 

 

Until he saw the GSA club, that is. 

 

After coming out to his all together disapproving mother his freshman year of high school, Charles had laid low and tried his hardest not to act too gay. This meant avoiding his high school's GSA club, despite his desperate desire to join it. But now, at college and away from the disapproving, drunken gaze of his mother, Charles considered joining. Maybe he'd meet someone there. Or maybe he'd simply make a few friends. Either way, joining the club seemed like a good idea. 

 

Screwing up his courage, Charles headed over to the table decorated with various multi-colored flags. He made for the tall, lanky, dark skinned guy sitting behind the table. The guy smiled brightly at Charles, a wide, easy thing. His eyes were a warm, rich brown color, and Charles felt instantly at ease with him. 

 

"Hey," he greeted Charles. His voice was a touch higher than the deep baritone Charles had imagined it would be. 

 

"Hi." Charles stood there dumbly, unsure of how to respond or continue this conversation. 

 

"You looking to join the GSA?" the guy asked. 

 

"Yeah!" Charles almost sighed with relief. "How...um. How do I do that?"

 

"Well, we're not doing sign ups at the moment. This is more of an information table. But our first meeting of the year is next Tuesday. Why don't you come by and see what we're all about and if you want to stick around?" 

 

"Okay. Yeah. I can do that. Where is it?" 

 

"Basement of the student Union." Charles watched as the guy grabbed a piece of paper--a flyer--and jotted something down on the back before sliding it over to Charles. 

 

"There's my number, in case you get lost or something. I'm just the treasurer, but I can answer some of your questions. You're new here, aren't you?" 

 

"Yeah. Um. Freshman."

 

"Cool. Me too. Lived in this town all my life, though."  

 

"Oh. I'm from, um. Westchester." 

 

"Nice. I'm Armando, by the way." 

 

"Charles. I'm Charles Xavier." 

 

"Well, it's been nice meeting you, Charles. Why don't--" Armando stopped, cut off by a shout across the courtyard. Both Armando and Charles looked up at the noise. Drawing a rather large crowd around themselves were two students yelling at each other. One of them--the one that caught Charles's attention the most--was tall, lanky, and had a sleeve of tattoos running down his arm. He also had a nose ring that glittered in the sunlight and his hair was dyed to look like a rainbow. 

 

The other student--a slightly shorter, stockier guy with light brown hair combed over, whose outfit consisted of a pair of khakis with a white Polo tucked into the waistband--was yelling at Rainbow Hair. He was going red in the face, while Rainbow Hair was clenching his fists and appeared to be doing his best not to haul off and hit Khaki and Polo guy. 

 

Armando sighed. 

 

"I'm sorry you have to see this." 

 

"See what?" 

 

"That's Erik Lehnsherr, vice president of the GSA, and resident instigator." 

 

"Ah. And who's...who's that other guy?"

 

"Sebastian Shaw." Armando made a face as he said the name, as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. "President of the Young Republicans club and fortunately for us, graduating in May. He and Erik have been at each other's throats for years now, all throughout high school and now college." 

 

"Ah. Sounds...exciting." 

 

"Of course." Armando shook his head, then nodded towards the paper in Charles's hand. "But do come on Tuesday. I'd love to see you there. And don't hesitate to call or text sometime." Armando smiled again, that same easy, wide smile that set Charles at ease. 

 

"Yeah, thanks. I will." Charles smiled and tucked the flyer into his jeans pocket before waving goodbye to Armando and walking for his next class, giving the showdown between Erik and Shaw a wide bearth. 

 

It wasn't until he was sitting down in his next class--freshman orientation--that it dawned on Charles that Armando had been flirting with him. His face flushed a deep red when he finally put two and two together, and he became so flustered, he dropped his pencil and notebook off of his desk. 

 

And so went the first day Charles set eyes on Erik Lehnsherr. Charles had absolutely no idea just how important the boy with the rainbow hair was going to become to him.

 

                                   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that evening, Charles laid in his bed with the flyer held up in front of him, his phone clutched in his other hand. He stared at the number Armando had left him, debating if he wanted to try to contact him. He'd been staring at the number for so long the writing no longer made sense and he didn't notice his roommate, Hank, come in.

 

"What're you looking at?" Hank asked as he took up his position on the bed on the opposite side of the dorm room. Charles jumped at the sound of his voice, lowering his arm to rest on his stomach.

 

"Huh? Oh. Phone number." 

 

"Wow. Two weeks into school and you're already getting numbers. Lucky you. She cute?" 

 

Charles flashed back to Armando, with his dark skin and warm eyes and easy smile and felt his face flushing. 

 

"Yeah. He is." 

 

Silence from Hank.

 

Charles felt his heart stop and his blood run cold. While he'd gotten a good vibe from Hank, he hadn't known him long enough to feel him out on the whole gay thing, and had no idea how he would react. And, after years of rejection, hatred, and outright dismissal, Charles was braced for the worst.

 

"Oh. Cool." 

 

Charles exhaled slowly, relieved that Hank hadn't freaked out or made a fuss over the issue. 

 

"What's his name?"

 

"Armando." 

 

"Armando...hmm. There's an Armando in my biology class. Might be the same guy." 

 

"Yeah?" Charles wasn't truly listening, though, still staring at the number in disbelief. To call, or not to call. 

 

"You going to text him or anything?" 

 

"I haven't decided yet." Charles finally dropped his arm and rolled over to face Hank, paper tucked under him. "He told me to, but he was also mentioning the GSA in relation to having his number, and I'm not sure if that's what he wanted or..." Charles trailed off, aware that he sounded like an idiot as he over-analyzed Armando's gesture. 

 

"Just text him. You don't know until you ask, right?" Hank smiled at Charles, and Charles nodded in response. 

 

"Yeah. I suppose you're right. Thanks."

 

"No problem." 

 

Rolling back over onto his back, Charles pulled up a new text message on his phone and entered Armando's number. In the message box, he hesitated, thumbs poised to type out the words. 

 

He just didn't know what to say. 

 

"What do I even say?" he asked Hank. 

 

"Hmm? Oh. Um." Hank tapped his chin and pushed his glasses back up his nose, mulling over the question. "How about...how about just, 'Hi, this is Charles from earlier today. Just felt you should have my number too.' Seems casual enough, right?"

 

"Yeah. Thanks." 

 

Taking a deep breath, Charles began to type. 

 

Hey, this is Charles Xavier from earlier this afternoon. The one at the GSA table? Just thought you should have my number too. No questions at this moment, just felt it was only fair you had my number since I had yours. :) 

 

Before he could think about it too much, Charles hit the send button and dropped his phone back onto his stomach. 

 

"Oh God," he said out loud. Hank didn't respond this time, either too engrossed in his homework to notice Charles, or tired of discussing Armando. Pressing his hands over his eyes, Charles groaned. He couldn't believe he just sent that message. Armando was probably going to think he was an idiot, especially because of that little smiley face at the end, and oh god, what was he thinking--

 

His phone beeped with his text message alert. 

 

Cautiously, Charles unlocked the screen and pulled the message up. 

 

Hey! Was wondering when I was going to hear from you. :) You may not have questions, but I have one: How was your day? 

 

Charles stared at the message in disbelief. Armando was being friendly, and striking up small talk.

 

With Charles.

 

Shy, nerdy, dorky Charles Xavier. 

 

Shaking his head in disbelief, Charles hit the reply button and typed out his own response. 

 

It was all right. Nothing too exciting, other than spotting that fight earlier today. How about yours? 

 

The conversation continued on in the same casual manner, Armando asking after Charles's class schedule, homework load, and major. They found out that while they shared a history professor, they weren't in the same section. And Armando was, in fact, in Hank's biology class, and sat two seats behind him. They were due to pair up for lab partners this week, and Armando was thinking about asking Hank to be his. Charles encouraged him, all with a stupid grin on his face. 

 

He didn't go to bed until late in the night, when Armando finally deemed it too late to continue talking and bid Charles a good night. Grinning stupidly to himself, Charles fell asleep with the phone clutched in one hand. 

 

It seemed this semester was shaping up quite nicely so far.

 

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The rest of the week continued with Armando continuing to ask questions about Charles via texts. Getting messages from Armando was the highlight of Charles's day, and even Hank noticed that Charles lit up whenever his phone went off. 

 

By the end of the week, Charles now knew that Armando was a business major with an emphasis in human rescources, had lived in the same city all his life, hated confrontation, and loved watching reruns of Law and Order: SVU late at night. He also knew that Armando had gotten his position as treasurer while being a freshman because he'd taken concurrent classes his senior year of high school, and had joined the club at that point. 

 

Charles also learned that Armando, like himself, was an only child who lived with a very loving mother and a father who was only there sometimes. Armando shared Charles's love of drinking beer and playing a game called Cards Against Humanity with his friends. 

 

By the end of the week, Charles had a full blow crush on Armando, and he'd only spoken to him in person once. 

 

                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday finally came, and Charles timidly made his way down to the basement of the student Union. He glanced around, looking for the room number on the flyer clutched in his hand. 

 

It turned out to be located in the middle of the basement, a small room that was packed with tables and chairs and people milling about. Scanning the room, Charles saw a few people he recognized. There was a very pretty, dark haired and tan skinned girl standing quietly in the small gathering around the podium that Charles recognized from his college algebra class, as well as the redheaded boy who slept all throughout Charles's sociology class. And of course, there was the guy with the rainbow hair--Erik, Charles reminded himself--standing at the podium, leading the conversation. He didn't, however, see the one person he was looking for. 

 

Sighing softly, Charles took a seat in the third row, towards the end, so he could slip out easily afterwards if need be. 

 

Just as he was settling into his seat, someone called his name. Whipping his head around, Charles's heart began to pound rapidly as Armando hurried over to slide into the seat beside Charles. 

 

"Hey man. I'm glad to see you here." Armando smiled that easy smile, and Charles gave him a shy one in return. 

 

"Yeah, me too." 

 

"Thought I was going to be late. The line to get something to drink at the coffee shop was ridiculous."

 

"Ah. Decided to skip out then?" 

 

"Nah. Still managed to get something." Armando nodded to the table up front. "Just decided to set it down at my spot. Would've picked you up something, but I wasn't sure what you'd like." 

 

"Oh. Thank you, but you don't have to do that." 

 

Armando shrugged and looked at Charles again. Charles flushed under Armando's warm gaze, and turned his own elsewhere, embarrassed. 

 

"You doing anything after this?" 

 

"Hm? Uh, no, I didn't have any plans, really. Do some homework, maybe, but nothing utterly important." 

 

"Well, if you want, some of the guys from the meeting and I are going to get together and have a Mario Kart race if you want to join in." 

 

Charles blinked, taken off guard by the request. He'd never had an easy time getting invited to things, even things like sitting around playing video games. And here it was, less than a month into school and Armando was inviting him over. 

 

"Uh..."

 

"It's cool if you don't want to come. Just thought I'd extend the invitation." 

 

"No, no, sorry, just. Um. Yeah, no, yeah, I'd love to come over." 

 

"Cool." Armando grinned widely at him, then nodded towards the front table. "Gotta go take my seat. Meeting starts in a minute. But wait afterwards and I'll take you to my dorm, yeah?"

 

"Sounds good." 

 

Armando grinned again, then got up to go take his place at the table, along with the other members of the GSA. It was then that Charles noticed the guy with the rainbow hair--Erik; he'd really have to remember that one--had a black eye. He was going to have to ask Armando about it later. 

 

The meeting went by without much incident; Charles didn't really pay that much attention, as it was mainly the officers introducing themselves and giving a rundown of the year's agenda, and what they were all about. Charles heard enough to know that he'd be sticking around, and that was all he cared about. The rest of the time, he wondered just who all Armando had invited back to his dorm for the Mario Kart race. 

 

When the meeting ended and everyone had filtered out, Charles lingered awkwardly by the doorway. He shoved his hands in his pockets and chewed on his lower lip as he waited for Armando to finish talking to the other members of the GSA. Finally, Armando broke away and came to stand in front of Charles, smiling widely. 

 

"You ready to go?" 

 

"Yeah, sure. Do we need to wait for anyone else?"

 

"Nah." Armando waved his hand in the general direction of the other officers. "They know where my dorm is. It's cool." 

 

Nodding, Charles followed after Armando, glancing back one last time to see if he could guess who all was going to be joining them shortly. No one had moved from the little circle near the table. Shrugging, Charles turned his attention back to Armando. 

 

They fell into a comfortable silence together, Armando leading the way slowly through campus while Charles followed after him, glancing around at the parts that he was unfamiliar with. It seemed Armando's dorm was at the other end of the row of housing buildings, a section of campus that Charles never had any reason to visit. 

 

"Mine's on the fifth floor. Elevator or stairs?" Armando asked, finally breaking the silence, when they walked into his dorm building. 

 

"Oh. Stairs are fine." 

 

Armando held the door open and gestured for Charles to go in ahead of him. They climbed the stairs in more silence, which should have been awkward, but somehow wasn't. Armando had a very relaxing air about him, and Charles felt immediately at home with him. 

 

"Sixth one on the left. Number 511," Armando murmured, putting his hand on Charles's back and gently pushing him in the right direction. Charles's heart leapt into action, pounding furiously at the small touch. Fighting to keep a straight face, he headed towards the door that Armando was pointing to, and stupidly tried to open it on his own. He looked at it in surprise when it didn't budge. Armando chuckled behind him. 

 

"Sorry, sorry, forgot I locked it." He dug around in his pocket before producing a key similar to the one Charles had for his dorm, and unlocked it. Charles pushed the door open and stepped in behind Armando, glancing around at the room. 

 

It was roughly the same size as the one he shared with Hank, but there was one notable difference: There was only one bed. 

 

"You don't have a roommate?" Charles asked. 

 

"Hmm? Oh, no." Armando shrugged, pulling his wallet, phone, and keys out of his pocket and tossing them onto the table beside his bed. "I applied for a single and lucked out." 

 

"Ah." Charles continued staring around the room, taking in everything from the Jason Mraz and Led Zeppelin posters on the wall to the tall purple lamp standing in the corner. Armando had made use of the extra space by tucking a white mini-fridge on the far side of the room, next to his bed, while two desks took up the remainder of the room. One was pushed right beside the bed, and had nothing but his wallet, keys, phone, and laptop on it. The other one had a microwave, small TV, and a Wii on it. 

 

A framed photo of an older woman with short, grey hair and the same dark, warm eyes and skin as Armando's rested on the ledge jutting over his bed. His mother, Charles thought, feeling a slight pang of jealousy and hurt. If he had to, he'd guess that Armando's mother hadn't told him to "keep it in his pants until he can settle down with a lovely girl from a nice family" when he'd come out to her. 

 

Shaking the thought from his head, Charles continued looking around the room, taking in all the little touches that he was sure were trademarks for Armando. 

 

"Well?" Armando asked, seeing the way Charles was studying his room. Blinking in surprise, Charles whipped his head back around and looked at Armando. 

 

"Pardon?"

 

"What do you think?"

 

"It's nice. Very...you, or so I'm assuming," Charles finished lamely, smiling sheepishly at Armando. To his credit, Armando simply smiled and motioned to the bed. 

 

"Have a seat. Or I can pull out a bean bag chair or something. You want anything to drink? I've got water and Coke in here." 

 

Charles climbed onto the bed and settled back against the wall before responding. 

 

"Uh, water's fine." 

 

"Cool." Armando grabbed two bottles and came over to join Charles on the bed, settling back against his pillows and taking a sip from his bottle. They lapsed into more silence, but this time, Charles felt himself growing uncomfortable. He wasn't sure if it was their location, or the sudden knowledge that he was alone in Armando's room with him; Charles hadn't been alone with another guy in a potentially romantic situation in well over a year. 

 

"Is that your mother?" Charles asked, needing to break the silence any way that he could. He motioned to the picture on the ledge as he spoke.

 

"Hm? Yeah, that's Momma." Armando chuckled and rolled the bottle between his hands before taking another sip. "She's the best. Always been there for me, and I've yet to find a problem to bring to her that she couldn't help with." 

 

"You're close, I take it?" 

 

"Yeah. It was just us for a long time, until she was able to move out here and be a little closer to her siblings. Dad left when I was...oh, three or four? I don't remember much about him, and Momma never really liked to talk about him. After my tenth birthday, I just kind of stopped asking. I finally figured if not having him around was good enough for Momma, it was good enough for me."

 

Charles nodded, taking another sip from his bottle of water and mulling that one over. They were roughly the same age, so when Armando was making up his mind that he didn't need a father, Charles was losing his. Funny, how life worked sometimes. 

 

"What about your family?" Armando asked, shaking Charles out of his thoughts. 

 

"Hm? Oh. Um. Mum and I aren't all that close, and Dad died when I was ten. Mum re-married, but Kurt and I ah...we never really clicked. He has a son, Cain, who's a football star at his high school, and I'm. Well. I never was." Charles paused, startled by how much he was ready to reveal to Armando already, despite not knowing him all that well. 

 

Armando, to his credit, took it all in stride, simply nodding his head in understanding and taking another drink. 

 

"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say your mom's not so cool with you being gay?"

 

"No, not at all." Charles sighed, fiddling with the paper wrapper on his bottle. "She...when I came out to her at fifteen, she told me she was disappointed in me, and that I'd grow out of it eventually. I-" A knock at the door cut Charles off. 

 

"Sorry," Armando murmured apologetically, climbing off of the bed and setting his bottle of water down on the desk beside his bed. "We'll finish this conversation later, okay?"

 

"Yeah, sure." Charles exhaled slowly with relief, grateful that he didn't have to explain his situation with his mother to Armando. He wasn't sure he wanted to unload all of those issues on him this early on. 

 

"Took you long enough!" Armando teased when the door opened, revealing the same redhead from the meeting.

 

"Man, fuck you. Got a number on my way over." The redhead grinned, holding up his hand to reveal a phone number and name written on his palm. 

 

"Bet it's fake," Armando said, grinning widely as he let the guy in. The redhead immediately spotted Charles and raised an eyebrow. 

 

"You're new," he said simply. Charles felt his face flush. 

 

"Ah, Sean, that's Charles. The guy I told you about last night?”

Sean stared at Charles for several more moments before a slow, sly grin crossed his face. Charles didn’t like that look one bit.

“So you’re Charles,” Shawn said, and no, Charles really didn’t like the tone of Sean’s voice. “Armando’s told us all about you.”

“He-really?” Charles asked, dumbstruck. Armando smiled sheepishly at him and elbowed Shawn in the side.

“Sean’s the secretary of the GSA,” Armando quickly covered. “And a complete and utter gossip, so don’t tell him a thing that you don’t want getting around to everyone else.”

“Now that’s unfair. Just because I like sharing-“

“What’s the name of this chick that was dumb enough or desperate enough to give you her number, huh?” Armando quickly changed the subject, leaving a dumbstruck Charles to continue working through his surprise at hearing that Armando talked about him to his friends.

“Moira something. Totally gorgeous. Older, too. Genetics major with a minor in art.”

“Man, what the hell is she doing with an idiot like you?”

“Hey, I resent that! Just because-“ Sean was cut off by a knock at the door. He glared at Armando before flopping down on the bed beside Charles while Armando answered the door.

“I’m telling you man. She’s a real babe.”

“Ah.”

“You’re shy, aren’t you?”

Charles shrugged, not sure how to react to Sean’s forward manner. Sean seemed to soften a little at the shrug, leaning in and speaking softly.

“Armando really does like you, you know. I haven’t seen him this excited over meeting someone in a while. So just relax. You’re already in good with us.” Sean offered Charles a warm smile before leaning back and grinning up at the girl who had just entered the room.

“Yo, Angel, you won’t believe it. I got a chick’s number on the way over here!”

With that, Sean was gone, off chattering with the newcomer. Charles remained on the bed, unsure of what to do with himself or the information Sean had just presented him with. He watched as more people filtered in, until the last two guests finally came through the door.

It was the rainbow haired Erik, who stumbled in with a rather gorgeous brunette trailing behind him. He grinned wickedly at the group of people as they greeted him. Charles's eyebrows went up when he caught sight of the reddish mark on Erik’s collarbone. The brunette was looking at his nails as if bored out of his mind, but Charles spotted a flash of a red mark just behind his ear when his head turned.

“Sorry we’re late. Mr. Perfectionist here wouldn’t leave the dorm until his goatee was just right.”

“Oh, whatever. We didn’t leave because you’re a horny bastard and had your hands down my pants as soon as you walked in the door.”

The group laughed at the brunette’s words, although Charles shifted uncomfortably on the bed. Growing up in the house that he had, he’d never been comfortable discussing sex in front of anyone. In fact, when he’d gone through the required sex education classes in high school, he had sat through the entire thing with his face beet red and his eyes trained on the floor. 

“Well, I wouldn’t have had to jump you if you hadn’t been wearing my sweats and looking so delicious.”

“Yeah yeah. We all know you can’t keep in your pants for five minutes, Erik.”

“Neither can you, Tony!” piped up a blonde girl, sitting with her legs crossed primly in one of the folding chairs Armando had brought out.

“Aw, Emma, don’t be so mean to me!” Tony whined, crossing over to sit beside her. Erik trailed after him, settling on the edge of the bed and casting a glance over in Charles’s direction.

“Stop being so dumb, sugar, and I won’t have to,” Emma drawled, flicking him under the chin with one finger.

“Well hello. I don’t know you,” Erik said, turning to look at Charles. “New to the club?”

“Y-yeah,” Charles managed to choke out, finding his throat constricting as Erik flashed him a very wicked, very shark-like grin. He wasn’t sure what emotion was making his throat close up and his palms begin to sweat, but he wasn’t sure he liked it.

“So he is.” Tony had climbed onto the bed with Erik, and was staring at Charles intently, an almost predatory gleam in his eyes. Erik had a similar look on his face, made slightly more menacing by the bruise surrounding one eye.

Charles felt very much like a mouse staring up into the eyes of a very hungry cat.

“This is Charles,” Armando finally spoke, quickly coming to Charles’s rescue. He slid onto the bed with him, resting a hand lightly on his arm. “I invited him here.”

“So he’s with you?” Tony frowned and backed away from the bed. “What a shame. I could have had some fun with him.”

“Me too,” Erik replied, sighing in an exaggerated manner and turning his attention back to the rest of the group. Charles relaxed as the attention turned away from him and Armando gave his arm a gentle squeeze.

“Sorry about those two,” he murmured, leaning in closer to Charles. “Between the two of them, they’ve slept with the entire town. Watch out for them; they might ask you for a threesome at some point.”

Charles’s eyes widened, and he gripped his water bottle tightly.

“Are you-are you serious?”

“Mhm. Couple of horny bastards.” Armando patted Charles’s arm and smiled warmly. “But don’t worry. They back off when they realize you’re with someone.”

“Hey, didn’t we come here to play Mario Kart?” Sean asked, poking his head up from the group gathered in front of the Wii.

“Yeah, yeah. Keep your pants on, Sean.” Sighing, Armando pushed up from the bed and made his way to the front of the room. “I’ve only got so many controllers, you know.”

“Whatever. Let’s just get this started!”

“Do you know how to play, Charles?”

“No, I don’t. I guess I’ll just watch this first round.”

“Suit yourself.”

Charles scooted to the end of the bed, legs dangling off the edge as the others began to set up the game and controllers. He leaned against the wall, content to watch as Sean and the tan-skinned girl fought over who got to play as Yoshi, and Tony and Erik snarked at each other. The blonde boy whose name Charles hadn't caught egged them on, while Armando was sitting patiently beside the group, waiting for Sean and Angel to finish arguing before they launched into the race. The blonde girl from earlier—Emma, Charles reminded himself—came to settle on the bed next to him.

“Charles, is it?” she asked, voice bored.

“What? Oh, yes. Charles Xavier.”

“Xavier?” Emma’s perfectly waxed eyebrow shot up at the mention of his last name. “I’ve heard of you.”

“O-oh?” Charles asked, nervous that someone might know of him. “How so?”

“You’re Sharon Marko's kid, aren't you? Means you're from money.”

Charles's face heated up and his shoulders went stiff at the mention of his family’s money.

“Relax, sugar,” Emma drawled, seeing the way he had tensed up. “I am too. Name’s Emma Frost. I’ve never actually met anyone from your family, but my mother always talked about the parties Sharon and Brian Xavier would throw. Then they stopped.”

Charles swallowed, knowing what was coming next.

“What brings you here? Bit out of the way from Westchester, isn’t it?”

“That, my dear, is exactly the point.”

“Ah.” Emma fell silent, looking at her perfectly manicured nails again. Charles was grateful for it, as it gave him a moment to regain his balance and composure. Finding someone who knew who he was had thrown him for a loop; a large chunk of his desire to come to Rochester University had been its distance from the large, empty mansion in Westchester. He had wanted to start over, and make new friends, and leave behind the lonely childhood he’d had in Westchester.

“Armando really likes you, you know.”

“What?” Charles pulled himself back to the present, startled by Emma’s sudden comment. She smiled at him, and it was the kindest look he’d seen her give anyone that night.

“Armando. You’re all he’s talked about since he met you. Seems he’s got a full blown crush already.”

“Oh.” Charles looked down at his now empty water bottle, feeling his cheeks heat up again. He bit his lip to keep from breaking into a wide grin. For once in his life, his romantic pursuit was going his way.

“How about you?”

“How about me what?”

“How do you feel about him? You just as crazy over Armando as he is over you?”

“I-oh. I—um,” Charles stuttered, fumbling for an answer.

“Relax, sugar. I can already tell you are.” She reached over and gave his hand a sympathetic pat. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen our Armando this happy.”

“You’ve known him for a long time?”

“Mhm. Tony and Erik have been friends since they were kids, and I’ve known Tony since we were in middle school. We met Armando in high school, and ever since his high school sweetheart broke up with him, he hasn’t been quite the same. He’s dated, but no one’s put a smile on his face like you have.”

“Oh.” That seemed to be the only thing Charles could say.

“And don’t mind Tony and Erik. They’re harmless.”

Charles snorted, not quite believing her. He had opened his mouth to ask Emma another question—perhaps her major, or what year she was in, something to take the attention off of him—when a shout from the group gathered around the television startled him.

“Aww man, you cheater!” Sean shoved Erik in the arm, who in turn shoved Sean back, knocking him over.

“Man, fuck you! Just because you lost doesn’t mean I cheated!” Erik laughed, and Sean threw a pillow at him, which Tony caught and tossed aside.

“Hey now. He’s already been uglied up once today. I don’t need you adding to it. That pretty face is about all he’s got going for him. Well, that and a fantastic ass.”

“Rude,” Sean grumbled, sitting back up.

“What do you mean, uglied up? I’m gorgeous and you fucking know it.”

“Sure you are, sweetheart.”

“Fuck you, Stark. You’re sleeping on the futon tonight.”

The group laughed, and Charles shifted uncomfortably on the bed. He could already tell that the conversation was about to take a turn for the perverted, and he wanted to be out of there as soon as possible.

“Oh, knock it off you two,” Armando said good-naturedly. “Let’s go another round, before you two start sucking face and I have to throw you out.”

“You’re no fun,” Erik grumbled, but he picked up his controller nonetheless and launched into another squabbling match with Tony over who got to play as Mario this time.

Charles spent the rest of the night sitting on the bed, watching the others play while he and Emma got to know each other. She filled him in on who was who in the group, who was dating and who was just sleeping around, everyone’s major--the important information. Charles found that he liked Emma, even if she did wear too much white for his tastes.

Finally, around two in the morning, after several shouting matches and races that produced violent threats against the others, and Erik and Tony nearly fucking on the floor while they all took a break, Armando called it quits.

“I’m getting tired, guys. Think it’s time to clear out.”

“Yeah, I’ve gotta get back to my room and call Moira,” Sean agreed, grinning widely.

“Don’t you dare. She’s probably asleep,” Angel growled. It was the first time Charles had heard her speak properly all night.

“Aw. What if I just send her a text?”

“Still no good. Just wait until the morning.”

“Fine.” Sean pouted, and Angel led him out of the dorm, patting him on the back sympathetically. Emma left next, kissing Charles on the cheek and patting his shoulder before giving Armando the same treatment. She rolled her eyes when Tony puckered up his lips, as if expecting a kiss as well, and instead patted his cheek before heading out of the dorm. The blonde-Alex, Charles had finally learned- followed after her, waving good-bye as he was busy on the phone. Tony and Erik were last, Erik casting one last glance in Charles’s direction.

The look on his face sent a shiver down Charles’s spine.

Finally, it was just Armando and Charles left.

“Well. Did you have fun?” Armando asked, almost shyly.

“Yeah, I did.” Charles smiled warmly at him, sliding off of the bed and standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, hands shoved into his pockets.

“Good.” Armando seemed to relax at that, smiling his warm, easy smile at Charles. “Let me walk you back to your dorm.”

“Oh, you don’t have to. It’s on the other side of the housing district. You don’t need to walk me all the way there and back.”

“I want to. Okay?”

“O-okay.”

Armando smiled, grabbing his keys and wallet before leading Charles out of the room and to the entrance of the dorm building. They walked across campus together, Charles leading the way this time. This walk was a little louder, with Charles asking a few questions about Armando’s friends, and how they’d all met. When they got to Charles’s dorm, he turned to Armando nervously.

“Well, um. This is me.”

Armando paused, looking at his shoes for a moment before screwing up the courage to speak.

“So would you want to go out sometime?”

“Oh.” Charles froze, startled by the question. He hadn’t been asked out since the beginning of his senior year of high school, and even that had been the first time someone had shown interest in him.

“I mean, if you don’t want to, it’s cool-“

“No, no, I’d love to,” Charles quickly covered, embarrassed at how he had frozen. “It’s just—I’ve never really dated, and I don’t have any experience with this and—“

“Charles.” Armando cut him off. “It’s cool. I understand. How about we have lunch one day, and then we can go from there?”

“S-sure. Yeah, that works.”

“Cool. I’ll text you about it.”

“Okay. Sounds good to me.”

“Cool. Well. I guess I better get back to my dorm. It’s late.”

“Yeah. It is. I’m sure Hank’s already asleep by now.”

“Probably. Well…good night, Charles.”

“Good night, Armando.”

Armando hesitated, then reached out to rest his hand on Charles’s shoulder. He gave it a gentle squeeze, then turned to head for the stairs. Charles watched him until he disappeared, wondering what it was Armando had wanted to do when he hesitated.

Shrugging, he let himself into his dorm, careful to change into his pajamas as quietly as possible, so as not to wake Hank. When he finally crawled into bed, his phone beeped at him, alerting him to a text message.

I had a really good time. I can’t wait to take you out sometime.

Charles broke into a wide grin, hitting reply.

Me too. Sorry I’m such a spaz. But I’ll get there. How about we try for lunch on Friday?

The reply was almost instantaneous.

Okay. =)

Charles settled back down to bed, grinning even as he drifted off to sleep. It seemed his freshman year was off to a better start than he had anticipated.