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Mix and Mingle

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Location: The main parlor

"Charles, that's just sad."

Charles runs a casual hand through his already casually tousled hair, not that he expects Raven will be fooled. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Raven laughs, steps next to him in the doorway, and presses a fond kiss against his cheek. "There. It worked with me because I knew you wouldn't mind if I kissed you. You have to go to him under the mistletoe, say something charming and professorial, then just lay one right on him. Also, could you have picked a more public place? How did you ever get laid? Don't answer that, I don't want to know."

"I'm not waiting around for anyone," he mutters. "Have you put your mistletoe theory to test? Don't answer that, I don't want to know."

The holiday spirit is alive and well at the mansion. Or, more accurately, Charles and Raven, wearing identical expressions of serene stubbornness, insisted that everyone help them select a Christmas tree, decorate the entire household, and purchase Christmas cookies. The last item ended up scratched off the list when Angel said, "Over my dead body," and sent Sean off with a grocery list.

(Erik just laughed when Charles said, "Um, we're going to be doing--holiday things. Would you like to make a menorah out of these?" Charles felt incredibly stupid, standing there holding the Xavier family's best candlesticks, but then Erik thought something fond and exasperated about Gentiles, and it didn't seem quite so embarrassing anymore.)

Now the house is full of lights and delicious cookie aroma and--mistletoe. Charles hesitated for a long time over that particular purchase, weighing a house full of lively adolescents against a perfectly innocent excuse to indulge in a particular gesture of affection with a certain individual. If that gesture led to something more, well, who was he to argue? If not, no harm done. Then Raven rendered his pondering moot by buying some herself and roping Hank into helping her hang it all through the mansion, especially in Hank's laboratory.

"Children," Erik says, walking in on Raven and Charles making faces at one another, having long since forgotten their argument.

"Erik, come over here!" Raven calls, beckoning, as she takes a few steps backwards.

I hate you, Charles says. I'm going to return all of your presents.

"What is it?" Erik asks, walking over. Despite himself, Charles looks up, and sees--nothing there. Strange, he was sure that this was one of the doorways adorned with mistletoe. What had Raven been teasing him about, then?

"I thought we might check in on the others," Charles says, improvising. Raven rolls her eyes and mouths something rude in his direction.


Location: The dining room

"So me marrying Angel wouldn't give me a winged kid that shot plasma beams unless both of our genes are dominant," Alex says slowly, then takes a sip of coffee, shaking his head. Charles catches a wave of can't believe I got that, my teachers never and his heart aches.

"Like I would ever have babies with you," Angel says, grinning.

"Excellent!" Charles says, beaming. Then: "Alex, you might have waited to eat that Punnett square; I wasn't quite finished with the lecture."

"In his defense," Raven says, scrunching up her face at defending Alex, "you made it out of toast and jam."

"I think we can cross the science lesson off the itinerary," Erik says, doing just that. Everyone else groans as he holds up the schedule. "0900 to 1200 will focus on individual trainings. Sean, Angel, you'll be working on maneuvers with me. Hank, I'll need you to make sure nothing on Sean's harness malfunctions, though the snow should provide adequate padding. Alex, Darwin, you'll be with Charles in the bunker. Raven, Moira has expressed the desire to give you weapons training."

Erik makes this last statement with grudging approval, Charles notes, pleased. Moira is smiling as well, hearing the same emotion in his tone. As for the training itself, Charles isn't thrilled with the idea of Raven using weapons, but her mutation is more defensive than offensive, and anyway she's been so much happier with some women in the household.

"1200 to 1300 is lunch, followed by a rest period from 1300 to 1400, which I am told is still necessary. From 1400 to 1630, you will all meet in the classroom for tutoring and individual schoolwork. At 1630, I will post the chore list. The first person to complete his or her chore will receive a bag of Angel's sugar cookies, not to be opened before dinner, which will be at 1800."

While Erik speaks, Charles permits himself an idle daydream of Erik adding, Charles, we go to bed at promptly 2200. I expect to find you waiting there upon my arrival.

After the last of the children have shuffled out of the dining room, a few grumbling at the prospect of the busy day ahead of them, Charles rises with Erik. As they walk through the doorway, Charles puts a hand on Erik's arm. Now, how to glance at the doorway without giving away the game?

"Erik, I think that..." Charles trails off, staring at the bare doorway. Did one of the children take the mistletoe on the way out? Perhaps it was Hank; Raven did look awfully gleeful at the end of breakfast.

"Yes?" Erik asks, sounding amused.

"--that the ceiling could cave in at any moment," Charles improvises. "I was hoping you might, er, reassure me of the structural integrity of the house."

Now Erik is definitely laughing at him.


The foyer

Charles is more careful planning his next encounter. Earlier, he had missed the sight of the little sprig of mistletoe in the foyer completely until Angel gave him a smack on the cheek and asked if her lips were as groovy as her mutation. He really ought to drop in more often on the training sessions Erik runs, since Erik's students have been verging on insubordinate.

Now, he arranges himself just so under the lamp hanging from the ceiling and calls, ERIK!

A few minutes later, Erik comes running down the staircase. He has a towel around his shoulders, his hair is wet, and he's rubbing his forehead. Charles winces in sympathy, then reminds himself that he's about to give Erik a pleasant surprise, thereby negating any previous wrongdoing. So goes the logic, anyway.

"Are you worried about the structural integrity of the house again?" Erik asks, folding his arms. "I assume that's the reason for your panic."

He's stopped just in front of the lamp, not under it, the bastard. "I think there's something in my eye," Charles says. "I was wondering if you could look at it for me. My apologies for asking so loudly; I was in pain."

Erik says nothing, but he's thinking derisive thoughts about the British. Charles ignores him.

What he can't ignore, however, is Erik cupping his cheek in his hand and tilting his chin up. Charles inhales, lips parting, but staves off any further visible reaction by digging his fingernails into his palm. Erik's hand is large and warm on his face, and Erik favors him with the look of total concentration he normally reserves for the use of his powers, eyes clear and pale as ice on a river--

"I don't see anything," Erik says, breaking Charles out of his admittedly second-rate poetic thoughts.

"Lucky for me, then," Charles says with a nervous laugh. He's on the verge of pointing to the lamp with his most innocent expression, but then Erik lets go of him, stepping back, and there's no bloody mistletoe on the lamp anymore, and either Charles Xavier is going mad or someone is playing him for a fool.

The latter suspicion only lasts as long as it takes to do a quick sweep of the children. They're all engaged in a game of poker, gambling with their chores; Raven is cheating, as usual, but none of them have mischief on their minds beyond the usual sort. Charles doesn't bother with Erik or Moira. They're adults, after all.

Madness, then. Charles calls out a forlorn thank you as Erik makes his way back upstairs.


The laboratory

After the dismal failures of the past few days, Charles decides to console himself with science. The last few weeks of finishing his thesis had him half-convinced he would never do research again, but here he is, anxious for a project of his own. Perhaps Hank will have some ideas regarding where to direct his next line of inquiry.

Unfortunately, Hank appears to be rather busy with Raven, who has his shirt in one hand and a cheery sprig of mistletoe in the other.

"This is just unfair," Charles says, shutting the door behind him.

Location: Charles's study

Charles is sulking at his desk, writing vicious comments in the margins of one of his scientific journals, when Erik enters his study without knocking.

"You missed dinner," Erik says. "The children were worried and Raven is convinced you're angry with her for some reason."

"Got a bit wrapped up in a project," Charles says, indicating the stack of journals next to him. "Honestly, people will print anything these days." He slashes a line through one sentence that manages to transgress both the laws of physics and grammar at the same time. He's definitely not looking at Erik, and he's definitely not tempted to suggest a tour around the house to set fire to all the remaining mistletoe.

"Mm." Erik crosses the room with an intent that reads as rather predatory in nature. Charles looks up, wondering if he's about to be given the telepathic equivalent of a push off an enormous satellite. "And your other project?" Erik asks.

"What?" Charles asks, with no small amount of panic.

Erik lays three sprigs of mistletoe over the open journal on the desk with enough dramatic flair that Charles would suspect him of rehearsing, were he not seriously considering freezing Erik and running away to Hawaii. "You know, one of the curious facts about these little bundles are that they're held together by twists of wire," Erik says. His face is perfectly straight, but Charles can feel him laughing at him.

"You knew the whole time," Charles groans, burying his burning face in his hands. He can't even feel properly irritated at Erik because he's too busy drowning in gratitude that Erik is still talking to him at all. He even seems a touch... flattered?

"As far as I'm concerned, you don't need an excuse," Erik says. "But since you're determined to have one, here it is."

Charles looks up, swallowing past his heart in his throat. All three sprigs of mistletoe float above their heads like tiny, leafy stars.

"Oh," Charles whispers, and stands.

Within the first five seconds of the kiss, Charles has a crick in his neck and a sharp pain in his hip from the edge of his desk, but he can't feel anything besides the press of Erik's lips on his and the finally, finally trembling through his bones. Then there's a slight crunching noise, which he distantly registers as his teacup, and then more sharply registers as the shards sticking into Erik's hand.

Charles breaks off the kiss with a sigh and says, "I'll go get the first aid kit."

"I'm fine," Erik says, waving a hand and spattering droplets of blood on the journal pages. They do add a rather nice touch to Charles's editorial comments.

"The good china isn't," Charles mutters, but kisses Erik again before he heads downstairs in search of medical supplies. Even considering the grievous injuries to pride and body, Charles counts the mistletoe experiment as a success.