"Whatever it is, I'm not doing it," Erik said, twisting his fingers to lead the thin metal threads in a merry dance around the small energy core.
The door that had just a moment earlier slid open, whooshed shut behind the intruder. "I can't come down here and visit my favorite engineering genius?" Tony asked, walking across the room as if he owned it. Which, of course he did, but this was Erik's little corner, his little domain, where even Tony rarely disturbed him.
"I've just finished the latest project you gave me, I'm winding down and leaving for home in about half an hour," Erik answered, adjusting one of the threads that had gone the wrong way around. "You know this, because I sent you the finalization paper work. This leads me to believe that you are here for other reasons."
"Mr. Lehnsherr, you wound me," Tony said theatrically, hopping up to sit on the edge of Erik's work table. The surface was thankfully pristine, no bits or parts lying about.
Erik flicked his wrist and the small soldering pen lifted from its place on the wall among the other tools and drifted over to join the construction he had floating in front of him. There was only so much his power could do, but small electrical stuff would be better with old fashioned soldering.
"What are you doing?" Tony asked, finally giving into his curiosity.
"If I tell you, will you leave without pestering me with whatever it is you came down here for? " Erik asked, not carrying much hope for it as it were.
"Of course not," Tony said with a snort.
Erik sighed deeply. "There are days where I wonder why I bother," he growled under his breath, though he put very little bite into it.
"You like me and you know it's a good idea to keep your boss happy," Tony laughed.
"God knows why, but yes, I do like you, at least when you don't come down here to mess with me around closing time," Erik said drily.
"I'm not going to mess with your hours today, my friend," Tony said, hopping off the table, straightening his shirt and jacket. "Now Friday night, however..."
Erik groaned. "Friday night?"
"Suit and booze and people with more money than sense," Tony said theatrically.
Erik closed his eyes. "Charity."
"Yes!" Tony barked, laughter echoing through the lab. "But more than just that, I have an old friend of mine coming back from the UK to set up a school just outside New York - and he's dangled some pretty interesting blueprints under my nose."
Erik frowned. "Neither of us are architects," he began.
"That's not what Charles will need us for," Tony said with a shake of his head. "As much as I'd love to dive into the project head first, I have other things on my plate at the moment, as you well know."
Erik nodded. "So you want me to take a look at the plans - though I don't see what it has to do with the charity ball."
"I want you to meet Charles, I want you to come and have fun with me," Tony replied.
Erik rolled his eyes. "You just want to share the misery - you hate those things as much as I do."
"Yup," Tony said with a wink. "I could make it an order, but I'd really rather you'd see it as reconnaissance."
"Scouting out the competition?" Erik asked. He was well aware of how much networking and general world ruling went on during such shindigs.
"He'll have to look around for offers, but I also got the distinctive impression that there's something more to the school than just an ordinary place of learning," Tony said with a shrug.
"You're curious," Erik said, giving up on his project for the night, letting it drift up onto a shelf. Tony gestured at it but Erik shook his head. "When I'm done I'll tell you. not like I'm getting out of that charity thing anyway, is there?"
Tony looked like he might consider pouting, and Erik thought long and hard about hurting him a lot if he did. Thankfully he just shrugged, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "I can't say that I'm not curious. Charles has been in the UK for five years. Became a professor and has taught in Oxford for the last three."
"So a boring old fart?" Erik could not quite fit that in with the type of people Tony liked to hang around with and he obviously had fond memories of this 'Charles'.
"Good god, no," Tony said with a deep laugh. "Charles is a lot of things, but boring or old are not two of them."
"Genius," Erik then guessed, because that at least fit very well with Tony's taste. "Pretty?" he teased. He knew Tony preferred them long legged and curvy, but he hadn't missed the times where the curves were less so.
"Not my type," Tony said with a small grin, "but yeah, from what I remember, pretty cute."
"So not your type," Erik agreed with a laugh. "So what are you expecting me to do? Are you going to dangle me as bait?"
Tony looked as if he was seriously considering just that, then shook his head. "No, but I think we'd do well in being the ones to get this opportunity and I'd like to see him again."
Erik just stared at him.
"You'll like him, everyone does," Tony promised.
"I don't play well with other, Tony. You know that," Erik said, a last ditch effort to get out of wasting a Friday night around rich people with little sense. "Apart from you, on some days," he added as an afterthought.
"On odd Thursdays, I've noticed," Tony agreed mock seriously.
"I prefer my lab time," Erik said, decidedly not whining.
"I know," Tony said, obviously trying to be soothing. "But as I said, you'll like him."
Erik put the last of his tools away and turned to watch Tony, arms crossed over his chest. "Remember what happened last time you tried to play matchmaker?" he asked.
"You had fun!" Tony said with a shrug.
"It ended in tears," Erik replied drily.
"You had fun, admit it," Tony said stubbornly.
"The destruction tallied a yacht, half the pier and several warehouses," Erik listed.
"And I know I'm in danger of repeating myself," Tony said lightly, "but. You. Had. Fun!"
Erik just glared at him, letting the silence speak for itself.
"Besides, weren't your tears, were they?" Tony asked, giving him his most innocent smile.
Erik drew a deep breath. "You're going to owe me after this."
The only answer that got him was the wide grin on Tony's face and a slap on the shoulder.
Erik grabbed another glass of champagne off a tray as another waiter passed him. It was his fifth glass in less than an hour, but he was slowly going crazy. He had nothing in common with any of these people, maybe apart from Tony, and of course his boss had fucked off earlier with some blonde bimbo on his arm.
At least no one was getting near him anymore - most of them perfectly capable of reading the stiff set of his shoulders and the closed off look on his face.
Most of them. Erik sighed mentally as he watched another woman giving him the elevator look. She was old enough to be his mother and the cloud of perfume hit him before she even addressed him.
"Mr. Lehnsherr," she all but purred.
Erik wondered where the hell she'd learned his name - he wasn't part of the high and mighty circles of New York's society. He managed to give her a smile, or at least he hoped so. Tony would have his head if he ended up scarring someone for life. Then again, maybe Tony would eventually learn his lesson to not drag Erik along for shit like this.
"I am," she began.
"Eloise Dominique," a voice said, sticky sweet from behind her and she turned as fast as her dress allowed it.
Erik tilted his head to the side, wondering who he had to thank for the timely intervention. He watched a surprisingly young man striding up to them, inserting himself seamlessly at Eloise Dominique's side. A little shorter than Erik was, pretty good looking in a sort of cute and harmless way. However, what Erik really noticed a moment later, were the full lips and the blue eyes.
He could have happily stayed there and imagined a lot of dirty things involving those lips, but then of course the newcomer had to ruin it by speaking.
"Lady Dominique," he said, sounding like he was trying to get into her knickers. "How are you, my dear?"
The lady looked mildly confused, then shook her head. "Oh, my dear Mr. Xavier, I am feeling perfectly fine, thank you for asking. How are you this lovely evening?"
Erik looked from one to the other, and he would have made his escape if Xavier hadn't turned his gaze on him for a moment, intense and in a way that made Erik nervous. Like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
"You look a little flushed, Lady Dominique, perhaps a seat by the balcony door and a glass of water?" Xavier asked, voice thick and sweet in a way that made Erik's stomach turn.
She looked a little dazed for a moment, the nodded slowly. "I do believe you are right, my dear. Do excuse me," she said.
"No need to worry, darling," Xavier said, waving over one of the waiters to have him escort the woman away.
Erik almost wanted to thank him, if not for the fact that the move now left him alone with Xavier. Well, as alone as he could get with other people in the room clearly avoiding him, though not exactly hiding the fact that they were staring at him.
"Can't say I blame her for going for you," Xavier said, giving Erik an appreciative look. "You cut a striking figure in a suit."
Erik bit the inside of his cheek. He did not like being hit on by women, but even less so, he wanted to be drooled over by some spoiled, rich kid. A spoiled rich kid who had no sense of personal space. Erik fought the urge to take a step back to put some distance between them, because they were close enough that Erik swore he could feel heat coming off the other man's body.
Xavier leaned in as if to share some secret with Erik, putting his hand on Erik's arm.
"Erik, there you are!"
Erik wasn't sure he had ever been so happy to see his boss.
"Tony?" Xavier turned around and Erik quickly moved his arm to get rid of Xavier's hold on it.
"Charles?" Tony's face lit up and Erik felt his stomach drop. This could only mean one thing. "When did you stop growing?" Tony asked with a laugh, pulling Xavier into a hug.
"Far too early for my taste," Xavier said with a wink.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together and arrive at the fact that this had to be the Charles that Tony had been talking about.
The one he'd been adamant that Erik would like instantly.
Well, wouldn't have been the first time his boss had been wrong about Erik. However, it was a puzzle to Erik how the hell Tony could have ever thought that he could be interested and even like someone as smarmy as Xavier.
Of course, if they were to do paid work for him, Erik would have to be on his best behavior.
He'd flay Tony alive later.
"Charles, this is Erik Lehnsherr, the engineer I told you about in the last email," Tony was telling Xavier.
Xavier held out his hand and for a split second Erik considered just ignoring it. Then again, that would be childish and less than professional of him. And he refused to be anything but professional and detached with this man.
No matter how much Tony had thought they'd hit it off.
"A pleasure," Charles said, looking up at Erik with his wide eyes and soft mouth as Erik took his hand.
Erik was not impressed. "Pleasure's all mine, Mr. Xavier," he replied evenly. Possibly he'd come across too docile, because he didn't miss the arched eyebrow from Tony. Erik let go of Xavier's hand, making an effort of not pulling his hand away too fast.
"Thanks for sending me the blueprints," Tony said to him. "I can't figure out what the hell you'd need all that for in a school, but then again, you didn't send me all of it, did you?"
"Of course not, Tony," Xavier said with a soft laugh. "First of all, there are people I don't want seeing the details and second of all, I just wanted to give you an idea of what it was I needed."
"People?" Erik asked before he could stop himself.
"Yes, Mr. Lehnsherr," Xavier said, never for a moment losing his almost sugary tone of voice. "I'm opening a school and I'd like it to go under the radar of ...certain people."
"If you say yes to the assignment, you'll get a lot more information," Xavier continued, apparently thinking that was the perfect bait to lure them in.
Well, it worked on Tony.
"Charles, send me more, I want to get an idea of what exactly it is you want made, and I want to have Erik go over it as well," Tony said, "if it's okay with you."
Xavier shot Erik a long, intense look, then nodded slowly. "Yes, it..."
"Are my eyes deceiving me?" a voice broke their little meeting and Erik allowed himself to sink back, away from the two jetsetters as they were caged in by yet another couple of rich bastards.
Erik turned and made his exit quiet and quickly, still unsettled by Xavier. The man had not only managed to come on to him in less than half a minute, he'd also made Erik feel as if he was being studied under a microscope. A feeling that never failed to make his hackles rise.
Erik walked down the hallway and finally found a room with a balcony, onto which he went and drew a deep, freeing breath. Patting his pockets he sighed. He'd forgotten his cigarettes.
Oh well, he was trying to quit anyway, although, quite frankly, he could do with a smoke right at that moment.
Leaning against the metal railing, he could feel the structure of the whole building, drew a little strength and calm from it. One of the reasons why Erik liked living in New York was the sheer amount of metal in buildings, used in the construction of virtually everything. The rails and the trains of the subway crisscrossing underground...
To Erik it was like closing his eyes and soothingly running his fingers along strings of energy.
Feeling more centered he had to consider what he'd do when Tony brought the plans up again. Because it wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Not that he minded a challenge, because he did like having those in his work, but for some reason, Xavier just... made him feel off. And no project would be worth the stomach acid Erik knew this would produce.
Erik hadn't been kidding when he'd said he didn't play well with others. He managed quite well as project manager, even better when he had smaller assignments he could work on by his lonesome. It seemed Tony agreed, because a lot of those projects tended to land on Erik's desk. Erik reached out with his power, a lingering touch to the metal in the vicinity.
He'd just have to make sure that no matter what argument Tony pulled out, he wouldn't be swayed.
"Erik, could you," Tony began, cutting himself off with a grunting noise.
Erik rolled his eyes, but caught the metal structure and twisted the plate to fit it a little better. "I thought you'd shelved the suit project," he said, shooting Tony's 3D model of a quick look and bending the metal plate to the exact degree.
"Thanks," Tony said, breathlessly twisting his shoulder to get the plate to fit a little better. "I had but I realized last night, that there were a few things I hadn't tried."
Erik watched as Tony detached the rest of the suit parts. He stepped in to help with a smaller piece that had gotten stuck. Putting his hand on Tony's chest, he could feel the sheer power of the reactor core embedded in Tony's chest.
"Just... be careful," he said quietly. "I don't think Pepper would ever forgive me if I let you get yourself killed."
Tony patted his hand. "I know, don't worry, I'm taking my precautions."
Erik just looked at him.
"I'll let you review the safety protocols?" Tony tried.
Erik allowed his lips to curve up into a small smile.
"Fucking mother hen, is what you are," Tony muttered, but without any real heat.
Erik didn't even bother answering that one, but he did remove his hand.
"I've got something I want you to see, by the way," Tony said, putting the plates down on the table.
"Yeah?" Erik moved with him to the 3D holographic model. He waited while Tony folded the model into a ball and bounced the image into the security folder, then dragged another file forward.
"What the hell is that?" Erik asked, leaning forward to turn the model of a strange looking room. It was completely sphere shaped.
"I have no idea what it's for, but look at the specs," Tony breathed.
"All the plating, all metal and all... apparently in a very specific pattern," Erik muttered under his breath. "And this?"
"I don't know what it's for either," Tony said happily, "but look at this, the suggestions for material would mean it could take impacts, high energy ones - and absorb some pretty extreme blasts, not to mention heat. Plasma, laser, you name it."
Erik nodded. "Why and where are we building it?"
Tony didn't answer and suddenly Erik just knew he'd walked right into a trap.
"Xavier," was all he said.
"Yup," Tony said with a laugh. "I take it I have the attention of your sulking teenage attitude?"
"Oh, shut up," Erik said with a resigned growl.
"What exactly is it you don't like about Charles?" Tony asked curiously. "I mean, you put up with me."
"You're my boss, I have to," Erik deadpanned.
"And Charles is a friend of mine, much easier to get along with and not to mention, a potential client," Tony told him evenly.
Erik took a deep breath. "Promise me one thing," he said, because he knew that he was going to say yes, but he really needed to set some boundaries. At least that he'd learned from working with Tony.
"Sure," Tony said, folding the files into the virtual folder marked X.
"This is not one of your harebrained ideas to play matchmaker," Erik intoned. "I have never figured out why you occasionally think I'd want your help and why I would even need anyone like that."
Tony stared at him, then turned back to compressing the file folder and attaching it to an email. He didn't send it though. "Is it so bad that I think your attitude and occasional bad temper could be helped with a good lay?"
"Yes," Erik said, leaning on the table. "Tony, I, like you, am married to my job and the love I have for engineering and R&D does not leave much room for other people, also, you know, because I've told you time and time again, I just don't have a high sex drive - so I don't feel like I need it."
Tony nodded slowly. "You're just so high strung sometimes," he argued.
"Unlike you, I don't have to have sex to get rid of it," Erik told him with a laugh. "You know I take an hour in the gym and beat the shit out of a sandbag or one of the practice drones and I can promise you, it does more for me than a one night stand ever could."
"Alright," Tony agreed. "I can promise you that I am not trying to set you up with Charles. I'd love for you to like him, because like you, he's my friend, one I have very fond memories of." He held his finger over the send icon. "I also think this project is right up your alley, not to mention, since I can't do it myself at the moment, I want my best man on the job."
Erik let his head fall forward. "Okay, I'll trust you on that one, then," he said. "and as I don't have any other major projects on my table at the moment and you're right, it does look interesting..."
Tony shot him a blinding grin, tapping the send icon. "Well, if you find any free time in between let me know - I could use your input on the new suit designs."
Erik laughed. "Sure, Tony. Anything to keep you from killing yourself."
"Pepper would never forgive either of us," Tony lamented.
"Exactly," Erik agreed.
Erik transferred the phone number from Tony's email to his phone and put it on speaker as the dial tone bleated through the air. He pulled up the blueprints from its new folder along with his own notes. Not the high detailed ones, just the ones that he might need during the conversation.
The phone was picked up and "Yeah?" someone said from the other end.
Erik looked at the phone for a moment, hands stilling in the air. "Is this Xavier's School?" Erik asked. It was possible that the phone number wasn't the right one.
"Yeah, sorry, it is," came the reply. "Or it will be, eventually. I'm Alex."
Erik raised an eyebrow. If he were to guess from the voice, he wasn't dealing with an adult, probably more a teenager. "My name is Erik Lehnsherr, I'm calling from Stark Enterprises. I was asked to set up a meeting with Mr. Xavier about the additions to the school."
"Erm, yeah, the professor's not here right now," Alex said.
Erik could almost hear the desperation in his voice now. "Everything alright?"
There was a soft chuckle at the other end, tension lessening a little. "Yeah, sorry. The professor had to check up on one of the guys - who's had a bit of an accident."
"Nothing too bad, I hope," Erik said, wondering how many students were already at the school. He hadn't thought there'd be any until the rebuilding was done. That would add to the work load of course, having to work around children.
"Nah, Sean's pride's more bruised than his ass," Alex said before he could stop himself. "Sorry, but yeah, it's alright, I know Charles' schedule so I can pencil you in if you want."
Erik stopped again, staring over at the phone. "Alright." It would mean he'd have to wait with anymore changes to the project until he'd actual met with Xavier. He'd hoped he might have time to answer some questions over the phone, but apparently not. "When would the earliest time be?"
There was a moment of silence at the other end as Erik could hear typing being done. "If you don't mind the short notice, you could come out..." There was a muted explosion somewhere in the background and an unmistakable sigh from Alex. "Tomorrow at noon?"
Erik debated with himself whether or not to ask Alex what was going on, but he got the feeling that he wouldn't get a satisfying answer. "Sounds good, the address is the one I have on Greymalkin Lane?"
"Yeah," Alex said, "If you're using GPS you might get a bit of trouble hitting the side entrance we're currently using, but I'll send you over the specific coordinates for that one." There was another moment of typing and Erik's phone beeped.
Erik tapped into the phone from his main display and nodded when he saw the coordinates and navigation directions displaying themselves. The kid might just be that, a kid, but he wasn't too shabby with tech. "Yes, I've got it," Erik told him. "Tomorrow at 10."
"I'll let Charles know," Alex said before hanging up.
"So much for getting more information," Erik muttered under his breath. He had hoped to get a little more to go on. As it was, his notes seemed to have a lot of holes in them, lack of information. He pulled another blueprint up, the one of the sphere shaped room. "What is it you would need a room like this for, with such carefully calculated specifics?"
Swapping it with another blueprint, he stared at an underground room. A bunker that could, strictly speaking be seen as a bunker, but the materials requested, or rather, expected for the walls and floor... it added up to some pretty weird thinking, because the surface would be able to absorb large amounts of energy, laser, even plasma.
There was also the nightmare of making any or all of this happen, because the house had to retain its structural integrity and judging by the blueprints, it was a damned big house already.
"Well, Mr. Xavier, your flirting did nothing to me, but you definitely have my attention now," Erik mumbled, adding a few more questions to his notes, to the ever expanding list of things he really needed to know about this project before he could give an estimated timeline as well as a price. Not to mention hiring the right construction crews and general project planning.
Erik pulled up through the smaller entrance along the estate and realized that quite frankly, he could probably put any price down on the project, because the guy had to be loaded.
The huge mansion loomed in front of Erik as he pulled his car over to the side. There was one other car sitting in the drive way as well, but that was it. Of course, Erik could see a shut garage door off to the right and considering the width of it, if there were vehicles in there, there was room for quite a few.
Erik checked his watch. Five to 12. He was actually glad that Alex had warned him the previous day that he would be better off using the side entrance. It would have been hard to find without help and from what he could see of the main driveway in, it looked like a huge worm had frolicked underneath it. No way was anyone getting a car across that unless it was an off-roader.
Considering that Erik had stopped making guesses as to the use of the changes for the house, the same questions now returned to bug him. The house was not exactly what he'd expected from a school, unless someone mentioned a boarding school or some such. While the blueprints had shown him a lot, it was, seemingly, only a small part of it all.
Walking up to the entrance, Erik rang the doorbell. There was no answer from the other side, but Erik figured it might take a while for anyone to get the door. Of course, judging from the place, it was possible he should be expecting an old fashioned English butler at the door.
Erik raised his hand to ring the doorbell again, then stopped, taking a quick step back as the door was pulled open.
"Oh, sorry," Xavier said, blinking in the stark sunshine. "The doorbell doesn't work."
Erik just stared at him. He had only seen Xavier in a suit, but in front of him it was like a whole different man. Well-fitting jeans, walking boots and a t-shirt with a gene joke printed across the chest. Erik wondered, if the doorbell wasn't working how then, Xavier had known he was there. He realized a moment later, that Xavier was letting a visitor out, so that would explain it. He gave the woman Xavier was letting out a once over. Not too bad, although he wasn't interested.
"Moira, this is Erik Lehnsherr, he's here about the changes we need to do to the house, Mr. Lehnsherr, this is Moira MacTaggert, a friend and partner in getting this school up and running," Xavier said.
MacTaggert met his gaze easy enough, and she gave him a quick nod. "Do remember to sign the papers and have them sent to me no later than Friday, Charles. There's still a lot of paperwork to get done."
A noise escaped Xavier, but he did smile good naturedly. "I know, it seems there's no end to it."
"You're the one who wants a school more than anything else, Charles," MacTaggert said with a small laugh and a quick wave goodbye as she headed towards the other car in the driveway.
"She's right," Xavier said with a shrug, gesturing for Erik to enter the house. "I just hadn't expected all the bloody paperwork."
Erik merely nodded. There was an air to Xavier that threw him more than a little. However, he couldn't quite put a finger on it.
"Right, let's have a look at what you've got, Mr. Lehnsherr. Alex said there were some things you wanted to go over," Xavier said, leading Erik down a hallway to a lovely library that was obviously serving as office to the professor. The large windows had been thrown open to let in the early summer breeze.
"I have brought some suggestions. While I have to admit I was intrigued by the blueprints, there are more than a few of them that will need changes done to them," Erik said, putting his tablet on the table and bringing up the notes. He'd opted for the experimental tablet model that Tony had been working on that allowed him to pull up the prints as a 3D hologram.
Xavier didn't even blink.
"First of all, not that I need to know why, but I consider half of these requirements very odd for a school," Erik continued, holding up a hand when Xavier opened his mouth to answer. "Which is fair enough, but there are more than a few parts here that need extra work. Depending on the data I've made a list of the information that I'll need, there's more than one part of the mansion that will need extra support, or the changes will damage the structural integrity."
Xavier nodded. "I had feared that. None of us have any particular skills regarding architecture and engineering and while we can list what we'd like to do, bringing the house down around our ears in the process is not an option."
"Which would be why you asked Mr. Stark for help," Erik said.
"I mentioned it to Tony and he said he had the right kind of man in mind," Xavier admitted. "I didn't know when we met at the charity that it was you, though," he continued with a shrug and a slight coloring of his cheeks.
"I take it you wouldn't have come on to me quite so much if you had?" Erik said, joking though he'd really not liked it when it had happened.
"That would be putting it mildly," Xavier agreed good naturedly. "Now, show me what you would need to make changes to and what information you would need access to."
Erik pulled out his notes and began.