Erik sensed his daughter Lorna's keys lift out of the bowl before he'd even realised she was in the front hall.
"Where are you going?" he called out, without looking up from his stack of paperwork.
There was a sigh from the front hall, before Lorna entered her father's study, backpack slung over her shoulder with an exasperated expression.
"Book club," she replied shortly.
Erik put down his pen.
"Book club?" he repeated. It sounded like a lie. What kind of fourteen year-old in this day and age attended book clubs?
"Yeah," Lorna replied, a light flush colouring her cheekbones.
Erik narrowed his eyes, but didn't push it.
"Be back before dinner," he said, turning back to his work.
Lorna had barely opened her bedroom door before she heard her dad call her name. Rolling her eyes, she dutifully entered his study, where he was sitting with his laptop out on his desk.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Book club," Lorna replied.
"Is this a regular thing now?" he asked in a low voice.
"Well, yeah," Lorna said in exaggerated fourteen year-old sarcasm. "That's sort of the thing about clubs..."
"Do you need me to drive you there?" Erik asked. Then, belatedly and feeling like a bad father, he asked, "where is it anyway?"
"It's at the Mutant Community Centre library off the high street," Lorna replied. "It's like super legit."
Erik's lips twitched, as he felt a not-insignificant amount of relief that his daughter was actually going to a book club and not off smoking pot in a public park or whatever it was that kids did these days. Then he remembered that this was his daughter he was talking about. Lorna was probably more likely to smoke pot than she was to unironically go to a book club at their local community centre.
Erik made a quick internal apology to Magda's ghost for raising such a delinquent of a daughter, before turning his attention back to the conversation at hand.
"So it's a mutant book club," he clarified.
"Sort of," Lorna said, shifting her weight. "It's a club for high school kids to read and talk about books with mutant representation."
Erik raised an appreciative eyebrow. That sounded pretty cool, actually, as book clubs went.
"And who runs this thing?" he asked.
Lorna pinked, her blush only more obvious in contrast with her green fringe.
Erik tried not to let his face betray any sense of satisfaction that he had found the source of Lorna's newfound nerdiness.
"Who's Charles?" he asked innocently.
"He's a professor at the university," she said, hurriedly. "Charles Xavier. He's a telepath."
Erik blinked. How old was this man?
"Haven't heard of him," Erik said casually. Then, because he didn't want to overly torture his daughter by talking about her adolescent crush on some aged academic, he asked, "so do you want that ride or not?"
"I'm fine, dad," Lorna replied, before almost running out of the study.
The next week, it was hailing. Erik waited until he could feel the doorknob of Lorna's bedroom door turn before he left his study to go to the front hall.
"Want a ride?" he asked when Lorna appeared not two seconds later.
Lorna looked out the window at the hail rattling against the pavement and nodded.
"So what book were you reading this week?" Erik asked, once they had reached the high street and the hail against the windshield had died down enough for them to talk.
"Silent Storms. It's by Ororo Munroe and it's about a girl who can control the weather. It's pretty cool. She visits this rural town in the Midwest to alleviate their drought problem but they're all really mutantphobic and she has to help them in secret."
Erik glanced over at his daughter in the passenger's seat.
"Why is she helping them if they're mutantphobic?" he asked.
"Well, that's kind of the point of the book," Lorna replied, with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. "It's all about doing the right thing even if it helps mean people."
Erik raised an eyebrow sceptically.
"But how is that the right thing if-"
"Dad!" Lorna complained, stretching out the word into two syllables. "Join your own book club if you're that invested."
Erik laughed, and pulled the car over into an effortless parallel park.
"Okay, dad," Lorna said, unfastening her seatbelt and picking up her backpack from the floor of the car. "Thanks for the ride."
"No problem," Erik replied, as he pulled the key from the ignition and moved his hand towards his door handle as if to open it.
"Wait," Lorna said, holding up a hand. "Why aren't you going home?"
"Well, there's no real point in going home if the hail returns and I'm just going to have to turn back and pick you up again in an hour."
"Dad," she started. "I swear, if you embarrass me in front of my book club-"
Erik laughed, holding his hands up defensively.
"I won't come near your book club," he said solemnly. "I'm just going to sit in a nice, quiet corner of the library and read my own thing until you're done."
"Promise?" Lorna asked.
"Scout's honour," Erik replied, holding his right hand to his chest.
"Oh, please. You wouldn't have been seen dead in one of those dorky uniforms."
To his credit, Erik stood true to his word and found himself an armchair in the History and Politics section near the front of the library while Lorna took off towards the back. He could sense the cell phone in her pocket as she sat down next to someone with orthodontic braces and sterling silver stud earrings. Definitely a high school club.
With a sigh, he picked up a book he recognised from his college politics days and started reading, trying to keep a fraction of his attention on the location of Lorna's cell phone, so he could tell when she was leaving.
However, soon Erik was too absorbed in his book that he didn't even notice when, an hour later, someone was looking over his shoulder, until he heard them speak.
Erik flinched ever so slightly at the sudden realisation of another person so close to him and looked up to see a blue-eyed man sitting in an aluminium alloy wheelchair and looking at Erik with a smirk. Erik quickly scanned the building for Lorna's cell phone and found it elevated about three feet off the ground just outside the library door. She must have been standing outside, talking to a friend with a battery-powered watch.
Relieved that his daughter hadn't disappeared off the face of the earth while he wasn't looking, Erik reverted his attention back to the man in front of him, who was still smiling beatifically.
"It's the most convincing essay written in favour of a mutant-human segregated education system," Erik said, slowly and with a frown.
The man laughed. Hell, his eyes were blue. Erik never really noticed the colours of people's eyes until now.
"I don't disagree that it's the most convincing essay," the man said, pleasantly. "But the competition isn't very fierce, is it?"
Erik scowled. Trust all the hot ones to be pseudo-liberal dicks.
"What about Generation? Last Stand? Practically anything by Emma Steed?" he asked, counting the books off on his fingers. "What else... The White King-"
"You really are a separationalist, aren't you?" the man interrupted with gleaming eyes and a grin.
"What's so funny?" he demanded.
"Oh, God, no," the man said defensively. "I'm not laughing at you at all. I'm just thrilled to meet a separationalist, especially one as well-read as you."
Now that was interesting. Erik wasn't sure whether he should feel flattered or disturbed that this man appeared to be collecting acquaintances of political orientations, of which Erik's was quite radical and rare.
The man was still looking at Erik with those awfully bright eyes.
Flattered, definitely. Unless he's a Republican, in which case-
The man started laughing again, showing off his pink lips.
"I can really see where Lorna gets it from," the man said.
"Oh, fuck," said the man, holding out his right hand. "I haven't even introduced myself. I'm so sorry: my name is Charles Xavier and I run the book club that your daughter's been coming to for a few weeks now. I'm a telepath."
Oh no. Lorna's going to kill me.
Erik leant forward and shook Charles' hand, which was a lot warmer than he had expected it to be. Was this man just constantly running a fever?
"Erik Lehnsherr," he said. "But you already knew that."
Charles smiled apologetically.
"Sorry," he said, tapping his temple twice with his index finger. "I can try to turn it off if you'd prefer."
"It's your decision," he said non-committally.
There was a moment of silence, before Erik suddenly blurted out, "you're not what I expected."
"What do you mean by that?" he asked, tilting his chin upwards.
Erik wondered, not for the first time, why his powers didn't extend to letting him will the blood away from his cheeks by the traces of iron. Maybe he needed to eat more broccoli.
"I mean," he said, waving his left hand vaguely. "I always thought you'd be-"
"Able to walk?" Charles suggested with a self-deprecating grimace.
"Fuck no," Erik replied quickly, his face getting even warmer now. "I just always imagined you really old."
There was a moment of silence, before Charles broke out into laughter again.
"Occupational hazard," the telepath joked, his pink lips back to his typical grin again. "I'm actually only 27."
Erik raised an eyebrow, impressed.
"No shit," he said. Then, "33."
"I'm 33," Erik clarified, a flush heating up his cheeks once more. Then, realising that Lorna was probably getting impatient waiting for him, he stood up from his chair.
"I should probably go," he said, placing his book back to the shelf where it belonged. "Sorry."
Erik was just about to turn to leave, when Charles spoke again.
"Wait!" the telepath said.
Erik looked back at Charles, who was sitting with a rather sheepish expression.
"It's just, I, um," Charles stammered, a light blush colouring his cheekbones and darkening the freckles on his nose. "I was wondering if you might want to continue this conversation another time, you know. Maybe, um, over dinner?"
"Oh bloody hell," Charles muttered. "What am I thinking? Ignore I said anything, will you? I was just-"
"I beg your pardon?"
Erik's lips twitched.
"I'll go to dinner with you," he said with a smirk.
Charles beamed and Erik wondered how the hell he was going to explain this to Lorna.
"You're in a good mood," Lorna said, suspiciously, once they had both clambered into the car and Erik was switching gears into drive. "What happened?"
Erik shrugged, but was unable to keep the smile off his face.
"Can't I just be in a good mood?" he asked, evasively.
"No," Lorna replied shortly. "You were taking a very long time in the library."
Erik sighed, effortlessly changing lanes.
"I met someone," he said, vaguely. "We might be going out for dinner later this week."
"Ooh," Lorna sang in that very fourteen year-old way that Erik knew and hated. "Who is she?"
"He," Erik corrected. "Don't be heteronormative."
Lorna looked like she was trying not to laugh.
"Sorry," she said, biting her lip. "Who is he?"
Erik glanced quickly at his daughter in the seat next to him. On the one hand, he believed in honest and opening parenting. On the other hand, he really didn't want to tell his teenage daughter that he might be dating her teacher crush.
"Well," he said, trying to buy himself some time. "It's actually... It's Charles."
There was a moment of silence, during which Erik mentally asked Magda's ghost for guidance through this horribly awkward situation and during which Magda's ghost probably laughed at him.
"Nice one, dad," Lorna said finally.
"Charles is really cute," she said. "I approve."
Erik looked at his daughter to see, to his relief, that she really didn't seem that bothered at all. Teenagers sure were unpredictable creatures.
"You're sure?" he asked incredulously.
"As long as you don't ever, ever embarrass me in front of the book club, I don't really care," she told him. "No offence, or anything."
Erik would have hugged her, if he hadn't been driving.
"Thank you," he said, and he meant it.
"What for?" she asked, rolling her eyes fondly.
For being so relaxed about me going out with your sort-of teacher. For being so relaxed about me going out at all, after your mother passed away. For going to this damn book club in the first place.
"I don't know," he said, truthfully, and he turned his attention back to the road.