Sebastian Shaw is a helluva guy with a helluva plan, and he tells himself exactly this every single morning as he gazes at himself in the mirror, fresh out of the shower and ready for one helluva day.
“Sebastian,” he says in the scant few moments before his personal stylist arrives, “you are The Man.”
He’s a big believer in positive reinforcement, especially when it comes to himself and his fabulous hair. Dress for success is a policy to live by and he’ll swear on it—hence the personal stylist. It’s all about appearances and since he has approximately all the money in the world, he may as well dress like it. He likes his luxury. Is comfortable in it, even. And he believes that he deserves every last scrap of it.
“And this is why,” he explains with his most winning smile, beaming at himself in the mirror, “I want you to make me some dinosaurs.”
“Actually,” comes the hesitant reply through the tiny speaker of the headset that currently rests on top of his bronze, wavy locks, “that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Why of course it does!” Sebastian says, astounded. One would assume this is because he’s never witnessed someone not immediately bending over backwards to do what he wants, but in reality he’s mostly stumped because his teeth only appear Shockingly White where they should be Blindingly White. Unacceptable. He’ll have to tell his PR to make him a dentist appointment. “I can pay for it, so why shouldn’t I have it? Is that what’s worrying you? Never worry about money, dear boy, not when I’m involved.”
“Uh,” says Hank McCoy, which is an outstanding representation of all three doctorate degrees he already has under his belt at the admittedly impressive age of 18.
“Speak up,” Sebastian suggests cheerfully, even as he leans forward to examine his eyebrows carefully, “didn’t quite catch that, lad.”
“It’s not the, um, it’s not about the money,” Hank replies carefully. Interestingly enough his mannerisms directly reflect the behavior of someone attempting to approach a rabid animal with nothing but some lint and a paperclip in one pocket—that is to say, he’s fighting every ingrained instinct in his body to not hang up the phone and run screaming in the opposite direction.
This is actually only made possible by the fact that unlike someone attempting to approach a rabid animal with nothing but some lint and a paperclip in one pocket, Hank has something else: pure, undiluted desperation.
“If it’s not about the money then what exactly is the problem?” Sebastian asks, a small dash of annoyance slowly beginning to permeate his voice. As far as he’s ever been concerned, there is no such thing as a problem, let alone multiple ones. Money solves everything, what are they teaching kids these days?
“It’s just that, well, I’m not sure that dinosaurs can just be recreated out of nothing,” Hank says in the tone of someone waiting for a bomb to drop. Sebastian would know, he’s familiar with this kind of tone enough to recognize it, if only because he literally is a walking bomb that could drop at any second.
Honestly, though, bombs and bomb threats, for that matter, are so 1962. He mostly uses his nifty mutation to keep himself looking young. Take that, plastic surgeons.
“Well of course you won’t have nothing,” Sebastian says dismissively, leaning so far forward that he’s in danger of pressing his nose against the glass. Ugh, his pores are huge. He makes a mental note to spend at least three hours lounging at the side of his Olympic-sized pool this afternoon to soak up some glorious radiation. “You’ll have an entire state-of-the-art laboratory, son. Top of the line equipment, no expense spared. I’m being quite serious when I say I want dinosaurs, Dr. McCoy, and you’ll find me quite willing to make this process as smooth, fast, and easy as possible.”
Hank makes a small distressed sound, possibly because Sebastian has just dangled the opportunity of his measly life in front of him on an extra-sugar-coated candyfloss string, or possibly because he’s just checked his mail and has found six bills stamped with large letters that spell OVERDUE.
“I-I’m interested in the project, of course, sir,” he says quickly, “I’m just, ah, uncertain about the success of your—our endeavors, I mean, with no dinosaur DNA to work with, I’m not sure—”
“DNA?” Sebastian interrupts, leaning away from the mirror with a small frown. He’s heard of it. Supposedly it’s responsible for his mutation. In his mind it’s translated to some people are built better than others, and he is built best of all. “You mean something like blood, correct? Can’t you just, I don’t know, find a mosquito that’s been preserved in fossilized amber for 65 million years and extract the red blood cells in its gut that most likely came from a dinosaur?”
“That’s oddly specific,” Hank sputters, and Sebastian allows himself a smirk. Now he’s only allowed four more today; he looks good when he smirks but even he will admit that he looks too good so he tries to ration them. Don’t want to wear them out.
“I have put some thought into this, son,” he admonishes gently. If he were a father figure, he’d be shaking his head knowingly in wise amusement. “So you’ll do it?”
“The DNA won’t be complete, it will need to be sequenced, which will take time, and then we’ll have to find something compatible to splice it with and run tests,” Hank is babbling, but it’s less cautious protests and more brilliant-minded scientist thinking aloud and hook, line, and sinker, Sebastian’s got him now, “but yes, of course, yes—”
“Wonderful!” Sebastian interrupts him cheerfully with another award-winning wide smile (1989, 1990, and 1992 National Best Smile Champion, and he’s still sore about 1991). “I look forward to what you’ll come up with for me, Dr. McCoy. The money’s already been wired, and my people will be in touch to help set you up and get you started. Ciao!”
He hangs up on more of Hank’s sputtering, congratulates himself on once again securing that he’ll get exactly what he wants, and then his stylist arrives and Sebastian promptly forgets about the whole thing for exactly twenty years.
Erik Lehnsherr’s likes, in no particular order, are as follows: his mutant ability, his mother, driving fast and furiously, and strawberry ice cream with chocolate chips.
His dislikes, in no particular order, are: everything else.
That’s not to say he isn’t enjoying his current view which consists of a lot of tweed, floppy brown hair that curls slightly at the end, obscene red lips that practically glisten due to the fact that a pink tongue keeps darting out from in between them to lick every few minutes, and that’s not to forget the stunning blue eyes—that is, when he can actually see them from over the top of the thick novel currently blocking his view. Game of Thrones, the spine reads, visible through neat, tidy fingers. Erik’s heard of it. May even be interested enough in asking about it as a conversation starter, if a conversation was something he actually desired.
The harsh racket of the helicopter’s whirling rotor blades is somewhat dimmed inside the pristine inner cabin, so it’s quiet enough for Erik to hear the soft snort emitted from behind the pages. It’s also quiet enough to hear the snores coming from the third occupant of the slightly cramped space, passed out cold against the tiny window.
Erik wishes that there was an inflight movie. An inflight beverage. Or some way for him to get up and stretch his legs before they fall off.
Game of Thrones is suddenly lowered, flopping down to rest on trim thighs. Not that Erik’s looking or anything. “Would you like to borrow a book?” the red lips say, and Erik is a little bit mesmerized by how each word is formed with that delicate, cultured accent, “I’m reading the second one here, but I’ve still got the first one with me.” The lips quirk in a friendly smile, and Erik takes a brief moment to wonder if they happen to be the direct cause of global warming because he feels a large frozen chunk of ice around his heart suddenly break off and crash down into the sea of Human Emotion at the sight alone.
He realizes belatedly that he’s staring, so he blinks rapidly and recovers enough to reply gruffly, “Doesn’t everyone die in those?”
The red lips purse thoughtfully. At this point Erik might start to sweat. “Well, quite a few people do, yes. But there are plenty of characters to go through.”
“That’s morbid,” Erik says before he can stop himself. What is he doing? It’s almost like he’s actually encouraging conversation. This is practically unheard of in the Erik Lehnsherr Book of Human Relations.
The blue eyes are shining in amusement. “No, my friend, that’s Game of Thrones.”
Erik swallows, somewhat at a loss. Fortunately he’s saved from having to come up with a semi-intelligent reply by their third companion giving a particularly loud snore and drooling a bit on the glass. Erik exchanges a look with Blue Eyes and they end up laughing when they realize that their expressions are identical in the sense that they’re both thinking what the fuck.
“Sorry,” the other man chuckles, hiding his face in his book for a moment, and goddamn it, no, Erik is not kind-of-sort-of-definitely falling for someone who still acts like a third grader, “that’s my fault, I’m afraid.”
“What,” says Erik loquaciously.
He flushes. It’s lovely. Erik might want to die, or just hold him down explicitly to find out just how far that dust of pink extends. “Well, I’m a telepath. I might’ve, um, encouraged Mr. Shaw to fall asleep shortly after takeoff.”
Erik stares at him.
“I normally don’t interfere with minds at all,” he explains, still adorably pink, “but he was all geared up to talk our ears off the entire flight and I just…” He trails off, embarrassed.
Oh, right. Telepath. Erik has known this since before takeoff, when he accidentally almost sat on him. In Erik’s defense, the tweed of his jacket is very similar to the pattern of the seat fabric, and he’d been a little distracted by Shaw blabbering at eight million miles an hour. Maybe Blue Eyes’ second mutation is camouflage. Regardless, Erik had been just about to drop down into the seat when he’d received a very sharp shock directly to the brain, which had caused him to give a very unmanly yelp and knock his head against the roof of the cabin.
All parties involved had been mortified, Erik because he hadn’t even been aware that a sound like that could come out of his own mouth, and Blue Eyes because “oh my god I’m so sorry, it was an instinctive defense and I didn’t mean to hurt you,” while Shaw missed the entire ordeal on the account that he was still describing in acute detail how he lost the 1991 National Best Smile Championship by one point.
“Thank god,” Erik says dryly, but not without feeling. He’s since recovered from that episode of Things He Did Not Know About Himself, and Blue Eyes has been hiding behind his book ever since Shaw had mysteriously conked out against the window as soon as his ass touched the seat cushion.
“You really don’t mind?” Game of Thrones is closed entirely and tossed onto an empty seat, and those blue eyes peer at him inquisitively. Erik suspects that this is how an amoeba would feel shortly after being dumped on a microscope slide and honed in on by one giant eye if it had more than one cell to process all of that. How unsettling.
“What,” says Erik again, actively demonstrating his above average IQ.
“That I, you know—” He raises a hand and wiggles his fingers next to his right temple. Erik is apparently meant to take this as sign language for telepathy.
Erik snorts. “No. As far as I’m concerned, putting him to sleep benefits us both.”
Blue Eyes grins. It has a way of lighting up his entire face which gives off the impression that he could potentially serve as his own power and-or light source. Someone ought to be harvesting that. Wake up America. “So, I assume that you’re a recently-hired employee as well?”
“Yes.” Erik shrugs. Mind-reader or not, it’s not a hard guess to make. Why else would he be on the cramped helicopter? “I’m told my mutation will be helpful in operating animatronic dinosaurs.”
“Oh, you must be Erik!” Now even his eyes are lit up, and Erik is considering asking if he can charge his iPhone. It’s already down to 47% because of all the Angry Birds he’d been playing earlier so a good charging wouldn’t go amiss. “Mr. Shaw told me about you, we’ll be working together!” He holds out a hand. “Charles Xavier.”
“Did he tell you specifically, or did you lift that from his mind?” Erik asks wryly, just to watch him turn pink again. Erik’s never had a problem with the color pink—strawberry ice cream is pink, after all—but it’s slowly edging its way up into his List of Likes, which is something that has not been altered since its creation in 1997.
“I might’ve done some snooping,” Xavier admits sheepishly as they shake hands. His skin is soft and without calluses, but his grip is warm and firm, his hand fitting perfectly into Erik’s like it was meant to be there. Erik is not a believer in things like destiny, but.
Actually, he’s not even sure where he’s going with that.
“So if we’re to work together,” Erik says even as he belatedly realizes that they’re still holding hands and quickly withdraws, “how exactly does a telepath help a metallokinetic move giant, fake dinosaurs?”
“My focus will be on the people watching them,” Xavier says brightly, “I’m supposed to just tweak their perceptions a little and make them believe that they’re looking at real dinosaurs.”
“Who the hell would even believe that there’s such thing as real dinosaurs in the first place?” Erik asks dubiously, shooting a glance in Shaw’s direction.
“I’m not sure,” Xavier admits with a rueful smile, “good thing we’re not going to be in marketing.”
“So much for not interfering in other people’s minds, though,” Erik says bluntly. It’s a talent of his. He can switch from razor sharp to coldly blunt in the same amount of time it takes to flick a switchblade shut. His mother has pointed out to him countless times that this is why he has no friends, to which he can only reply that that is rather the point, Mama, now will you please pass the knishes.
True to his professorial-appearing form (it’s the tweed), Xavier looks like he can probably launch into a lecture that lasts one full work day about the grey area of telepathic ethics, but to Erik’s mild surprise he settles for saying, “What I’ll be doing is relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things, don’t you think? I’ll only be helping them enjoy themselves.”
Erik considers arguing for the sake of arguing. He will openly admit to himself that Xavier is one fine piece while he’s smiling and blinking innocently—just because he doesn’t like people doesn’t mean he’s incapable of recognizing inherent attractiveness—so Erik can only imagine what Xavier looks like when he’s fired up and passionately defending himself and his controversial mutation. Erik likes to argue. Xavier looks like he can probably argue for a living.
On the other hand, Erik also resides on what can be politely called the Pro-Mutant, less politely the Radical Extremist, and impolitely the Fucking Zealot side of the How Do You Feel About Mutants spectrum, so he’s all for sticking together in the face of ignorant baselines who constantly argue about how dangerous the Mutant Menaces are. Xavier can read and alter minds. Big deal. Erik can crush a skyscraper like a cola can and also find his keys.
Everything is very relative, anyway, in the end.
Judging by Xavier’s small, conspiratorial grin, he’s heard most of that. Erik calmly buries his other line of thought which involves both of them minus clothing before Xavier can start getting the wrong idea.
“We’re ten minutes out,” the pilot says over the crackling intercom. Erik tries looking out of his own tiny round window but all he can see is open ocean. Supposedly there’s an island out here somewhere. Erik reserves the right to remain skeptical.
“I should probably wake him up again,” Xavier says reluctantly, indicating Shaw with a nod.
“Do you have to,” Erik says with a straight face.
Xavier laughs, grinning, and then like flicking a switch he abruptly becomes serious as he brings two fingers up to his temple in concentration. Erik watches him without outright staring, or at least makes an attempt not to appear as if he’s mentally cataloging every last visible freckle while imagining where all the rest could be under that ridiculous tweed.
Sebastian Shaw abruptly sits up and wipes the drool off his chin without actually noticing. “Ah, wonderful, we’re almost there!” His exuberance makes the cabin feel five times smaller than it already is, casually defiant in the face of physics. “I suppose I’ll give you boys my little spiel, shall I?”
Xavier nods encouragingly, politely interested. Erik is equally polite in the sense that he refrains from ripping open the cabin’s hatch and bodily tossing the man out.
You need this job, he reminds himself. An income would be nice. And you would also kind of like to suck Charles’ cock, an event which would probably be made complicated with any pending murder allegations.
“In 1993,” Shaw begins, oblivious to the complicated whirlwind inside Erik’s head that’s going along the lines of since when is Xavier now Charles, “I had a dream.”
He’s also evidently oblivious to the way Erik’s thoughts come crashing to a grinding halt at the overly-dramatic delivery of a line that has remotely no business coming out of his mouth. Charles sends him a sympathetic glance in commiseration and while it’s nice to not be alone in what the fuck, oh god does that mean Charles heard all the other things before that.
“I had a dream that dinosaurs would once again walk the earth beside mankind,” Shaw continues brazenly, and Erik is forced to concede a few points for sheer bloody-mindedness, “and back then, I had the money to make that possible.” He stops and looks at them.
“Oh,” Charles says belatedly, “impressive.”
“I hired a brilliant young mind by the name of Dr. Henry McCoy, and charged him with the task of bringing my dream to life,” Shaw continues, apparently satisfied by that meager response, “because my main goal was to open up a theme park beyond anyone’s wildest dreams—an entire island of live dinosaurs on display for all the world to see. Unfortunately, back then I had a lot of projects going on and I feel silly admitting this, but the entire thing slipped my mind.”
Erik wonders at the novelty of being incredibly rich and exponentially more insane that hiring someone to create dinosaurs for you is easily forgotten.
Shaw heaves a sigh. “And then before I knew it, years had passed, and I lost quite a bit when the market went to hell—such is life, eh?—and I was forced to give up many things.” He pauses again for dramatic effect and the silence is so thick that Erik could slice it and serve it on a dessert plate with whipped cream. “Fortunately, those days are long behind me. I’ve slowly been making a comeback, and this new revised version of my dream is going to help me get back on my feet.”
Erik is suddenly hyperaware of how he’s sitting in a private helicopter on the way to a private island that’s scheduled to become a theme park, all owned by a man who believes he’s currently down on his luck. Across from him, Charles must be coming to a similar realization because for a moment he looks like he’s swallowed an unexpected cumshot.
Erik may or may not need to get cocksucking off his mind.
“Fortunately, I’ve learned a great deal of things in the past twenty years, and I’ve had some sense instilled in me,” Shaw says with a chuckle that Erik and Charles are clearly meant to share in but neither of them do, “and I know now that hiring someone to recreate dinosaurs is a little misguided, not to mention far-fetched. We’ll still have a dino theme park, make no mistake, but only the animatronic kind, which is where you two fine gentlemen come in.” He beams at them.
“How inspiring,” Charles says, lying through his teeth in such a way that even a small child would be able to call him on his bullshit.
“Isn’t it?” Shaw agrees happily.
Erik considers throwing himself out of the helicopter.
(Un)fortunately the thought is cut short by the pilot announcing their impending landing, and for the first time in over two hours Erik can finally see something out the window besides water and sky. Something turns out to be a wild, lush jungle, stretched out across the broad, gentle slope of what is probably a shield volcano, rising up out of the ocean in the middle of nowhere. Waves crash against rocky cliffs, sending up spray hundreds of feet into the air, and the helicopter wobbles a little as it carefully hovers into a landing, lurching back and forth before finally setting down with a thump.
“How big is this place?” Charles wonders.
“Three by five miles,” Shaw answers him, delighted to have more to talk about. “I haven’t named it yet, but that’ll be something to consider once we get the park up and running!”
The helicopter pilot hops out of the front and opens up the main hatch of the cabin. They’re immediately swamped by humidity, sloshing in like murky lagoon water and for a moment Erik struggles to breathe, unsure if he’s actually underwater or not. Charles must be dying in that suit.
Nevertheless, Erik is the first to push his way out of the helicopter, instinctively ducking to avoid decapitating himself as he jogs out from underneath the whirling blades. His shirt is already sticking to his skin and overhead the sun beats down relentlessly in the cloudless sky, the glare reflecting harshly off the waves of the ocean. He’s already inclined to hate it.
“And welcome ashore!” Shaw says as he and Charles catch up to where Erik stands. Behind them, the helicopter is already taking off with a huge downdraft of air, buffeting them with gusts for a few moments before climbing higher into the sky, turning to head back to the mainland.
Erik distinctly thinks of the large jaws of a trap snapping shut.
A jeep waits on the edge of the foliage, striped with neon orange and lime green in the same kind of way all home decorating television programs tell you explicitly not to do. To highlight the garish color scheme further, a towering mutant with thick, bright blue fur stands beside the open driver’s side door, and for a moment Erik wonders if he’s stepped onto the Isle of Dr. Seuss instead.
Charles actually elbows him for that one and what the hell, Erik wasn’t aware that their acquaintance has moved into the comfortable territory of being able to rudely elbow each other in the gut.
Be nice, Charles thinks at him, dropping each crisp syllable neatly into Erik’s brain, he’s sensitive about his appearance around others.
“Welcome, Mr. Shaw,” says the mutant, speaking carefully through large frontal canines, “we’ve been looking forward to your arrival.”
“Henry!” Shaw bounds forward and shakes his hand enthusiastically. “So nice to finally meet you in person! Gentlemen, this is Dr. Henry McCoy. Dr. McCoy, may I present Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier, our two newest team members.”
They exchange more handshakes and pile into the jeep, McCoy driving while Shaw claims the front passenger seat, so Erik is forced to fold himself into the back. On the plus side, he gets to sit beside Charles, who happens to fit better than Erik does, and the fact that McCoy has the air conditioning on full, icy blast is literally a gift from above.
“Did my shipment come in?” Shaw asks as the jeep trundles along a winding, dirt road through the jungle. It’s a bouncy ride and everything around them is alarmingly green, even without counting the vibrant lime of the jeep. Erik finds himself looking up through the sunroof at the bits of blue sky visible here and there through the canopy overhead just to give his eyes a little variety.
“Yes,” McCoy confirms, but he sounds a little hesitant. “Though we’re not sure what you wanted to do with all those robotic dinosaurs—I was thinking that they might go well in the museum, I suppose?”
“The museum?” Shaw barks out an incredulous laugh. “The museum only needs fossils and bones, the dinosaurs are going to be the main attraction! We need to set them up around the island inside enclosures to make them seem as real as possible!”
McCoy frowns. “What purpose would that serve? The real ones will be sufficient enough, I think.”
Erik experiences a rare moment of kinship with Sebastian Shaw in which they both gape at McCoy, unsure if they’ve heard him properly. He said real ones, as in real dinosaurs, right? Even Charles is eyeing the young scientist a little warily.
To no one’s surprise, Shaw recovers the power of speech first. “My dear Henry, that’s impossible. Dinosaurs have been extinct for centuries—”
“65 million years, actually,” McCoy interrupts him calmly, “until now. Mr. Shaw, you hired me to make you some dinosaurs, so that’s what I did. Have you been listening to any of my voicemails?”
Whatever it is that Sebastian Shaw was about to say next is swallowed up into nothing as the jeep reaches the edge of the trees, driving out into an enormous, open field. Maybe he finishes the sentence. Maybe he doesn’t.
Erik will never know, because at the moment he’s unable to process anything else besides the sight of a towering monster with legs thicker than tree trunks and a neck stretching longer than a giraffe’s, every slow, steady step it takes shaking the ground with reverberating finality.
A real, live dinosaur.