The last thing Charles Xavier remembers is falling to the ground with beer coming out of his nose.
He’s going to kick Erik Lehnsherr’s ass.
Truthfully speaking, the allure of Greek life had always escaped Charles. As far as he was concerned, fraternities were nothing more than an overhyped way to buy friends, binge drink, and treat women like shit. That being said, when you’re a month and a half into your freshman year and the most exciting thing to happen to you so far was a 4 A.M. fire drill, you start to get desperate.
So, when his overly enthusiastic roommate Bobby asked him for the third week in a row to come to a party, Charles swallowed his pride and agreed. After all, how bad could it truly be? He was a generally social person, and not as much of a lightweight as his stature led most people to believe. Who knows, if Bobby’s constant ramblings were any indication, spending a night playing flip cup at the Kappa Delta house could even be fun, and Charles was definitely sick of watching Netflix every Saturday night in his pajamas. College is supposed to be exciting, so why not take a leap and dive in for a change?
This was mistake number one.
“Dude, seriously? You couldn’t drop the sweater for one night?” Bobby chided as they approached the house, bottle of Fireball in one hand while the other waved vaguely over Charles’ attire.
Charles rolled his eyes. “First of all, it’s a quarter zip and a nice one at that. And secondly, it’s mid-October and I’m not going to freeze my ass off walking to some party in a t-shirt. I mean Jesus, are you not cold at all?”
“Eh, doesn’t really bother me.”
Charles thought briefly about snapping back, but all the wind seemed to get knocked out of him upon realizing that they had reached the front door. He could hear the music blaring inside, some bass-heavy remix he was sure everyone else but him was familiar with, and a wave of unease washed over him as Bobby reached for the doorbell. His friend must’ve noticed him tense up, because he proceeded to clap him on the back and mumble “Relax, dude. All the guys here are super chill. Just hang by me and you’ll get along with them fine.”
Somehow finding it in him to weakly smile and nod back, Charles took a deep breath just as the door was flung open. Much to his surprise, standing in its opening was not some burly jock but instead a scrawny, freckle-covered boy with reddish hair and a goofy smile plastered across his face. Without missing a beat, the boy shoved beers into both their hands and threw an arm around Bobby as he ushered them in.
“Drake! You made it!”
“Told you I’d be here Sean. Oh, and this is the roommate I was telling you about, Charles.”
Charles wasn’t sure what he found more shocking: the fact that Bobby had been talking about him, or the fact that, judging by the vigor with which Sean shook his hand, that he must have been saying good things.
“Oh, hello, nice to meet you. Charles Xavier.”
“Man, Bobby would not stop talking about his genius roommate.” Sean yelled, clearly straining to be heard over the music. “Glad you finally left your dorm for a change.”
Charles felt the heat rise in his cheeks, but his embarrassment was gone as quickly as it came as the two boys before him entered the crowd to mingle. It was only now that he was alone that Charles realized how absolutely packed the house was—there had to be at least 50 people on the first floor alone, huddled around kegs, a beer pong table that seemed held together by duct tape alone, or just standing in conversation. Remember, you’re here to try something new. Get out of your comfort zone for a little bit. He thought to himself, and before he had the chance to second guess his legs were carrying him over to the beer pong table so he could join the next game.
This was mistake number two.
Between games—Charles couldn’t remember if it was his third or fourth—a short, muscular guy who seemed to be a member of the frat made the genius decision to fill the cups with vodka, apparently so the beer “wouldn’t run out so quickly.” Charles supposed he should’ve gracefully tapped out then but hell, he was a guest in this household and it would have been rude to snub one of his gracious hosts, right? At least, that was what he told himself as his opponent flicked her wrist and sunk yet another shot. To his shock, Charles found himself sincerely giggling as he threw back the drink in one swift gulp. Maybe he’d regret it in the morning, but this was surely the most fun he’d had all semester.
After the dark-skinned girl across the table absolutely decimated him, he decided the time had finally come for him to make his leave and allow someone else to play. After a few minutes of stumbling he casually fell in with Bobby and his group of friends, who were swapping theories about what they thought their first pledge task would be.
“Chaaarrrrles!” Bobby slurred as he drunkenly opened his arms and pulled his roommate in for a hug. “Are you having fun dude? We heard you were a mad man when it came to beer pong.”
Charles laughed as the boys all raised their cups in the air and shouted his name, whatever concoction they were drinking sloshing over the rims and onto the floor. It might have been the alcohol buzzing through his system, but Charles felt a certain pang of guilt in his chest over his previous judgments. These guys, as far as he could see, were genuine and enjoyable to be around, and most definitely not as far up their own asses as he had expected frat members to be.
He stepped closer. “What was this you said about pledging?”
This was mistake number three.
Charles shifted back and forth on his feet, a nervous giggle bubbling up from his chest as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the other boys in what he could only assume was a basement. This was only an educated guess because, in the whirlwind of events after proclaiming he wanted to be a Kappa brother, him and the other freshmen were ambushed, blindfolded with bandanas, and led down a flight of stairs into a pitch black room that wreaked of sweat and mold. He knew he was way, way too drunk to be making any decisions right now, but somehow he couldn’t stop himself from smirking as the lights turned on.
Before him were two boys—Charles could only assume they were upperclassmen—clad in all black. One he recognized as the vodka-enthusiast from the night’s earlier pong matches, but next to him stood a taller, leaner boy whose stern and clean-cut demeanor greatly contrasted with the stench of booze and weed wafting off him. He was the first to speak.
“Pledges! Allow me to welcome you to Kappa Delta. My name is Scott Summers and I will be your President. This here,” he nodded to his left, “is Mr. Logan Howlett. Previously, Logan was our Pledge Master, but lucky for you little fuckers he’s moved up to VP.”
The burly guy—Logan, apparently—grunted in agreement. “Let’s hurry this shit up so we can all get back to the party. Summers here is the nice one, but if you cross him you cross me as well. Stay in your lane, listen to your Pledge Master, and we won’t have any problems. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir!” the young boys chanted in unison.
Logan smirked. “Sir…I like the ring of that. You’re all here because you’re freshmeat, and you think rushing a frat will help you meet girls or score some weed or whatever. You,” he nodded towards Charles, “what are you doing here?”
Shit, shit, shit. Charles felt like he was going to vomit, suddenly realizing that like some sort of dumbass he agreed to dedicate his life to some fucking fraternity after one party. He snapped out of his shocked stupor upon feeling Bobby nudge his shoulder, who widened his eyes and mouthed “say something” as Charles just blinked back at him.
“I’m uh, here because you guys seem different from other frats. Like you’re actually brothers.”
It technically was the truth, but Charles felt his ears turn red as Scott started laughing. “That’s cute, kid, but leave the sap at home. Sucking the Pledge Master’s dick won’t get you any special treatment.”
Before Charles could dig himself into an even deeper hole, a third boy stepped into the light, a certain swank to his step as he held a hand up to silence him. How he managed not to noticed him before was a question best saved for Sober Charles, but he kept his mouth shut as the boy strode up to the front.
“Funny, Scott. I always just assumed that was how you got Logan to admit you freshman year.”
If he didn’t know any better, Charles would’ve sworn all the redness from his face somehow leapt across the room and transferred to Scott’s. Logan, much to Charles’ surprise, only smirked. “Pledges, allow me to introduce you to the man who will be making your lives a living hell for the next three months: Erik Lehnsherr.”
It was then that the boy’s presence seemed to finally register in Charles’ mind, gears turning as he felt a sudden wave of soberness crash over him. He was as tall as Summers but less lanky, with broad shoulders filling out his black t-shirt and a hard jawline to match. He held himself with a cocky sort of arrogance, and there was something almost predatory in his eyes as he scanned down the line of freshmen. Charles smiled.
This was mistake number four.
“What exactly,” Erik barked, now standing so close to Charles that he could feel his breath when he spoke, “do you think is so funny?”
His mind blanked, every thought suddenly replaced by white noise. It was a miracle his legs hadn’t given out from under him, he thought as he finally managed to throw a few words together into a coherent reply.
“’Nothing, sir’?” he mocked, voice rising an octave as he mimicked Charles’ accent and paced his way down the line of pledges. “Surely you know something we all don’t. Don’t be shy, go ahead and explain this incredible joke to the rest of us.”
He turned on his heel, eyes locked so sharply on Charles he felt as if he was staring right through him. Half sure that he would vomit if he opened his mouth, Charles was left with no choice but to stare back in resigned silence. Throwing up on the Pledge Master’s shoes would not be a great first impression.
Erik chuckled, his mouth split into such a toothy grin that appeared more bloodthirsty than humorous.
“Lucky for our little friend here, this actually brings us to our first order of business: pledge names. We will call you these names and only these names. I don’t care if you have to tattoo it on your ass in order to remember it—you WILL answer to your given pledge name at all times. I think our sweater-wearing wise ass here would make a good Professor, don’t you all agree?”
Charles stared at the floorboards.
“Drake! You’ll be Iceman, in honor of the first kegger you went to where you dropped a lit bowl on your crotch and had to rub ice on your—“
“DUDE! YOU SAID YOU WOULDN’T TELL ANYONE!” Bobby gushed, and if Charles didn’t know any better, he might have thought Erik’s smile has tinges of genuine affection in it.
The blonde kid leaning against the door jamb snorted. “The hell are you laughing at, Nepotism? You’re only here because you threatened to call mommy if Big Brother Scott didn’t let you in.”
The entire room snickered as the boy clenched his jaw, visibly deflating under Erik’s gaze. “Do I really have to be called Nepotism?”
“Oh I’m sorry, would you prefer Piss Baby?” and with that, the discussion was closed.
Then there was Sean—apparently called Banshee due to the fact that he is a very loud drunk—and his friend Darwin, who earned the name due to his uncanny ability to turn any household item into a bong if the situation demanded it. There were a few more names that Charles didn’t catch the explanation to, mostly because he couldn’t seem to shift his attention away from Erik. Now that he wasn’t the primary target of his wrath, Charles noticed a sort of passion in Erik that underscored the surface-level anger. Sure, he was trying to get the pledges to shit their pants, but the fact that he had a reason behind each of their names meant he had at least been paying some attention to them, right? Maybe he was harsh because he actually gave a shit what happened to them.
“Now,” Erik roared, snapping Charles out of his daze. “You will eat, breathe, and shit Kappa Delta for the next three months. We will ride your ass and we will ride it hard, but you’ll come out on the other side thanking us for it. You will be brothers; you will look out for each other and we will look out for you.”
As if in sync, the boys all straightened their posture and nodded.
“You will drink shitty beer, wake up next to people you didn’t know with bruises you don’t remember getting, and then you’ll rally and do it all again the next night. You’ll jump if I say jump, chug if I say chug, and you will not ask questions. Make it through and you will be rewarded as a brother of Kappa Delta. If you can’t handle that and want out, now’s your chance.”
Charles looked to his left, happily surprised to find all the other boys gazing back and forth at one another but staying put. They were in.
With that, Erik smirked, clapping his hands together in front of him before waving over Scott and Logan. The pair must’ve snuck off in the midst of Erik’s lecture, because they now carried between them a keg with the words “FRESHMEAT” scrawled on in sharpie. The three smiled at each other, clearly privy to a joke only they knew as Erik cleared his throat.
“KD tradition states that each new pledge must do a keg stand on his first night, and he who lasts the least amount of time becomes the Pledge Master’s bitch for the next two weeks.”
Bobby squeezed Charles’ shoulders, his characteristic excitement now bubbling over as the boys gathered around the keg. Before he had a chance to react, Erik swooped in behind Charles and shoved him into the center.
Grabbing onto the keg for stability was his final mistake.
“Looks like you’re up first, Professor.”