Charles woke and immediately regretted it. His head was pounding, his gut was roiling, and something furry had crawled into his mouth and died. He groaned as opened his eyes to slits, grateful for the darkness of the room. Those were some great blackout curtains, but not his curtains, and this was definitely not his bed. The shift in breathing behind him startled him enough that he jerked, the movement sending pain through his aching body, and oh my god, he was never drinking again.
The memories were coming back now. The bar. The drinks. The hot guy.
Oh god, Charles thought wildly, please let him be hot even without the beer goggles. He rolled gingerly to face his bedmate, and silently congratulated himself for having great taste. The man had long eyelashes and a defined jawline covered in slight scruff, and his well-muscled shoulders and chest trailed down into a narrow waist that was covered by a flimsy sheet. If Charles hadn’t been in so much pain, he might have fist pumped.
The man shifted a bit in sleep, his mind a low buzz, and suddenly Charles remembered with a jolt the promised appointment he had with his father. He slid from the bed as quickly as he could, ignoring the delicious twinge in his backside and locating various pieces of his clothing strewn throughout the room and pulling them on. The red numbers of the clock on the nightstand read 6:38, and Charles calculated quickly in his mind. Enough time to get home, shower, pull on some kind of suit, and make it to Xavier Tower, but barely.
The sleeping hottie hadn’t moved, and Charles took a moment to admire him again before stumbling through the expensive and sleek apartment to the front door and letting himself out. The doorman was obviously paid enough not to comment on his disheveled appearance when he held open the door for Charles, but two cabs, obviously finding him suspicious, passed him before a third one finally stopped.
Charles bolted through the tall glass doors and paused only long enough to scan his badge and offer Alex the security guard a quick hello. He made it up the elevator and ran to the door of his father’s office, knocking lightly on the frosted glass as he tried to catch his breath.
“Come in, Charles,” his father called, and Charles took a moment to cheat, checking his father’s mind for anger but finding only resigned amusement. He entered to find him sitting at his massive desk and looking appropriately intimidating. “So nice of you to join me this morning. Rough night?”
Rough in some ways, he thought, but quickly dismissed the thought of hot, strong hands on his hips before the flush could show on his face. “Just went out drinking with a few friends,” he answered neutrally, going for the smile he knew his father was weak against.
His father just shook his head, far too used to Charles’ ways. “I called you here for an important reason, so I expect you to take this seriously.”
“Of course,” Charles responded automatically. He eyed the chairs and couch on the other side of the room, longing to sit his still-aching body down.
His father pointedly ignored his line of sight and continued in his calm, even voice. “I know you enjoy working in the labs for us, and I know you and Hank are in the middle of something, but as I get older, I think it’s important for you to learn more about this company.”
Charles didn’t like where this was going, but he wasn’t about to say that. “Learn what exactly?”
“The business-side of our operations. Do you even know what ‘ROI’ means?”
Charles did, but he didn’t think his father wanted him to answer, so he dug around for the information he wanted instead. “So you’re sending me to marketing?”
“You’re getting better. I almost didn’t feel that,” his father remarked mildly, leaning his elbows forward on his desk and linking his fingers. “I believe the director of the department will take great care of you. I trust him with my company, and I know I can trust him with my son.”
Charles knew arguing was pointless, but he still sent a bit of irritation straight into his father’s mind. “Fine. For how long? You know I’m more valuable down in the labs.”
“Just one month.”
“And I’m assuming I start now?”
His father smiled. “You’re starting to learn. Head down to the 23rd floor. Last week I notified him that you would be coming and briefed him on the basics, so he should be expecting you.”
There was little to do but agree, so he nodded and turned to go.
“Oh and Charles,” his father called, making him turn back once more, “try to behave yourself.”
Charles spent as little time as possible on the upper floors of the company, so the clean open layout of the 23rd floor surprised him a little when he arrived. There were no cubicles, and people were freely discussing matters across their desks, some with chairs pulled up to desks nearby, motioning to graphs on monitors. There were smaller, closed off offices along the wall though, so he started making his way toward those. A few people looked up as he moved through the floor, until one woman stood.
“Can I help you?” she asked. She looked friendly enough with her soft brown eyes and stylish business attire.
“I’m looking for the director of marketing,” he replied, and more heads turned to look at him with something like pity.
“Corner office,” said the woman, pointing towards it. “Good luck.”
Charles knew better than to poke around these minds, but he couldn’t help a cursory look. Everyone was wondering who had decided to throw fresh meat to the shark. Charles was curious enough to dig further, but he held himself back and made his way to the corner office. The door was open, but the man inside was bent intently over his desk, face mostly hidden by his computer, so Charles knocked on the doorframe.
“Hello, I’m Charles Xa—”
The man looked up around his screen, and Charles choked on his words.
Hottie. Hot guy. Rough night. Was sitting right there in front of him, a shiny silver name plaque announcing him to be Erik Lehnsherr, Director of Marketing.
If Charles hadn’t been a telepath, he probably wouldn’t have caught the slight widening of the man’s eyes, his only visible shock. His mind, however, shouted quite clearly, Fuck.
They stared at each other for a moment, a strange heavy silence sitting between them. Charles had no idea what to do or say. What was proper etiquette in a situation like this? He had had this man’s massive cock in his mouth last night, and now he was supposed to say “hello, how do you do”?
“Why don’t you come in and sit down,” the man -- no, his name was Erik Lehnsherr -- offered, breaking the silence. Charles took a deep breath, closed the door behind him, and took a seat on the opposite side of Lehnsherr’s desk. All the while, Lehnsherr’s intense stare never left him.
Charles could feel Lehnsherr’s mind reeling itself back into order, compartmentalizing what was happening and slipping back into cool professional mode.
“I heard from your father that you would be arriving today. I’m Erik Lehnsherr, in charge of marketing and assigned to look after you for the next month.” Apparently, they wouldn’t be talking about last night then. Charles wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed.
“Charles Xavier,” he returned, reaching across the desk to shake Lehnsherr’s hand, trying not to think about how that hand had felt twined in his sweaty hair. “I’m in your care.”
“I’ve heard from Brian that you have an extremely analytical brain.” His tone was laced with enough skepticism that Charles was mildly offended. “So I have a project for you to work on. Moira’s taking lead on it, so she’ll be directly supervising you. Let me call her in here.” He tapped out something on his keyboard and soon there was a knock at the door, and the same woman from before slipped in, looking wary.
“Moira, this is Charles Xavier.” Her eyes widened. “He’ll be spending a month here, and I’m assigning him to work with you on the Calmatin project.”
Moira nodded quickly. “Yes, sir. We’ll start immediately.”
Lehnsherr didn’t nod in response. “Good. Go on then.”
“Come on, Charles,” Moira motioned to him somewhat frantically, Lehnsherr’s attention already back on his screen, eyes narrowed.
It all felt far too brisk and formal -- for god’s sake, they’d fucked last night -- and though Charles had no idea what he wanted to say to Lehnsherr, he still couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to say a word about it. With little other choice presented to him, he shook it off and followed Moira out.
Eyes followed him less than subtly as they made their way to Moira’s desk, but Moira ignored them, patting the empty desk next to her.
“This is you,” she said with a friendly smile, looking far more relaxed now that she was out of Lehnsherr’s presence. She motioned to the other three people sitting at their group of desks, who were all eyeing Charles curiously. “Our helper has arrived,” she told them. “Meet Charles Xavier.”
The red-head’s mouth actually fell open, but the other reactions were less intense, just sharp inhales of breaths and wide eyes.
“As in, Xavier Industries Charles Xavier?” a blonde with icy eyes asked.
“That’s me,” Charles replied, giving them his best winning smile. He knew he wasn’t exactly exciting tabloid material, but he was still heir to one of the world’s largest companies, so it wasn’t surprising that people knew his name, if not his face.
Moira introduced them all. Emma Frost, Sean Cassidy, and Armando Munoz, all mutants, Charles noted, including a telepath, which was quite unusual for a business. Charles liked to think Xavier Industries was above all that, but any corporation was wary of telepaths due to the ease with which they could steal corporate secrets should they want to. Hell, the company’s board members were often wary of Charles, and he was in line to be CEO.
The team seemed pleasant enough, Charles decided, and as he was settling into his seat, Moira turned to him. “I hope Erik didn’t say anything to scare you off. He’s always a bit of a dick, but he’s been in an especially horrible mood this morning.”
“Oh,” Charles said. “No, he was, uh... fine.”
Moira looked at him skeptically before seemingly dismissing it. “So how are you with pivot tables?”
Charles had no idea “marketing” was a codeword for eight hours of excel. The day had been interrupted only by lunch and Lehnsherr coming out from his office periodically, slamming reports down onto desks and demanding they be redone, or storming up to hunched over employees and unleashing massive dressing-downs. Charles was beginning to see where the fear and trepidation he sensed was coming from, and Lehnsherr’s face as he tore an employee to shreds was most definitely predator-like.
Charles’ eyes were stinging and bloodshot by the time Moira told him he could call it a day. He nodded blearily at her, but told her he just wanted to finish up with one last data set, unable to leave until he was sure everything was perfect.
As he continued to plod on through the numbers, more and more people were packing up and heading home. He wasn’t sure when it happened, but he must have fallen asleep because suddenly he was jerked awake by the sharp sting of surprise in a mind nearby. He pulled his face from where it was smashed into the keyboard and turned to find Lehnsherr looking at him.
“Sleeping on the job?” Charles assumed it was a joke, but the tone was utterly flat.
“Uh,” he responded still half-asleep, noticing that the office was now almost entirely empty, just one man bent over a desk across the room, keys clacking away.
“My office,” Lehnsherr commanded, and Charles must have made a face because he added, somewhat more gently, “please.”
Shutting himself back in Lehnsherr’s office immediately brought back the outrageousness of the situation. He sat in the same chair and they stared at each other again, just as they had that morning. Lehnsherr certainly hadn’t suffered much throughout the day, the lines of his suit still crisp and clean, and his hair still tamed perfectly. Charles felt downright frumpy in comparison.
“I need to speak with you before this goes on any longer,” Lehnsherr started, breaking the awkward silence. “If you feel in any way uncomfortable with this, I can tell Brian that this isn’t going to work and ask him to send you somewhere else.”
Charles found himself floundering, surprised that Lehnsherr was going to bring up what had happened after all. He stalled for a moment by shifting in his chair so he could comfortably cross his legs. “You’re not actually my boss in any way that counts, you know. I am still on the R&D payroll, you can’t fire me, and the moment I want to be done with this, I can just walk away and tell my father to piss off.”
Lehnsherr raised an eyebrow. “Well, I guess we can set that issue aside then. Seems like you’ll be fine.”
Charles hesitated a moment, but Lehnsherr didn’t continue.
“If that’s all then…?” Charles hedged, though he could feel the press from Lehnsherr’s mind, a thought he was desperate to voice but holding back. Lehnsherr nodded, so Charles stood up, making his way to the door, his hand on the knob before he heard the squeak of Lehnsherr’s chair and the sound of his movement, long legs taking him across the office in a few strides, his hand landing on Charles’ and effectively stopping his exit.
Charles turned to find Lehnsherr’s eyes darting over his face. “Are you... all right?” He sounded lost. “I mean, I woke up and you were gone, and I know we had both been drinking, so I just…”
Lehnsherr didn’t strike him as the type to trail off, so Charles took mercy on him and pulled the thought that was sitting there precariously on the edge of his mind, hoping to topple over and out of his mouth.
“Oh,” Charles said as the realization hit him hard. “It’s not like that at all. I was definitely drunk, but I was enthusiastically consenting in all actions. Please don’t think otherwise.”
The tension left Lehnsherr all at once, his shoulders sagging. His hand still sat on top of Charles’, warm and distracting, and Charles took the time to fully appreciate Lehnsherr’s gorgeousness once again, the shade of his eyes and the sharpness of his features unbearably Charles’ type. Lehnsherr’s mind was trying to reorganize itself again, but stray thoughts were pushing out, magnified by their contact, and Charles caught pieces of them, he just left, thank god, his lips tumbling around.
Lehnsherr came back to himself suddenly, his shoulders straightening as he let go of Charles’ hand and stepped away. “That’s good then.” His voice was low. “Goodnight, Charles.”
Charles swallowed. “Goodnight.”
Charles didn’t really do relationships, friendships or otherwise. Sure, he’d tried when he was younger, but most people tired of him quickly.
“Too much,” they said.
The complaints were all different, but each one stung. He talked too much, prattled on and on about boring things like genetics and mutant rights. He had too much money, was frivolous and spoiled and knew nothing of hardship. He was too intelligent, and his friends felt inadequate in his company. He had too much power, and a telepath wasn’t to be trusted.
“He thinks he’s better than all the rest of us,” his best friend had said, unaware Charles was just around the corner. “But he’s really just annoying, like an overeager puppy sticking his nose everywhere. He drives me crazy.”
He gave up on friends after that. It was much easier to be friendly with everyone and friends with no one.
When it came to love, he didn’t fare much better. Charles fell and fell hard, and he knew it was often too much too fast, but he couldn’t stop, not when he felt the taste of an extraordinary mind. It outstripped the physical completely. It was the greatest high, an instant addiction that kept him wanting more and more, but that was when they pulled back, wary of his power and his influence.
“What did you do to me?” his last boyfriend had demanded when Charles had slipped into his mind hoping to share their echoing feelings. His voice was shaking and tears were streaming down his face. “Get the fuck out of my head!”
It had apparently been too much.
Charles gave up on love after that. One-night stands were much easier. It had taken him a while to perfect it, but he’d developed a good system that had worked well for him the past few years. Meet man, go back to his place, fuck like animals, and slip out before any awkward talk could ensue. He rarely fell asleep, usually preferring to slink home and sleep in his own bed, but when he did make the mistake of conking out, he was sure to be up and out in the morning with the least amount of conversation possible. No coffee chats or weird hungover breakfasts for him.
The most important rule for one-night stands, however, was no touching of minds. Charles found that anytime he reached into a mind during intimacy, especially the complex and beautiful ones, he found himself falling in a bit too deep, and his partner would jerk away, wide-eyed and panicked. It was hard to resist, but training himself just to stick to surface thoughts even when getting pounded into the mattress had been an important skill to learn. In the last year, he’d stopped even exchanging names with his fucks, taking out the last option for forming attachments. Now, he was a well-oiled one-night stand machine.
The fact that Lehnsherr was no longer an anonymous fuck was a bit of a wrench in said well-oiled machine, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.