”Where is he, Pete?”
”In the office, Mrs. Lehnsherr.”
”I told you to call me Moira, Pete.”
”Sure, Mrs. Lehnsherr.”
Moira sighed and heaved her heavy book bag higher on her shoulder. Her back hurt, she hadn't had time to eat and on top of everything, Erik had called. He didn't say what was wrong, but he had sounded panicked and asked her to come. Moira had left in the middle of the class without thinking twice.
She walked into the office without knocking. The office was small, a desk and two odd paired chairs filling the most of it. Erik sat behind the desk, head buried in his hands.
“Erik? What happened? Are you alright?”
Erik lifted his head and Moira rushed to him, wrapping her arms around him. He looked pale and shaken. Erik clung to her waist like a drowning man, leaning his head against the curve of her baby bump.
“What happened?” Moira asked, stroking his hair. “Tell me.”
“I found him,” he said, tightening his hold around her waist. “And his name is Charles Xavier.”
At first the name didn't even register to her, and then she gasped, realizing why Erik was so beside himself.
“Wait. The Charles Xavier?”
“Yes. Him. He was here, I don't even know why, and I felt it. The way he looked at me? That was unreal. I never believed it would happen to me, and him of all people? This will destroy our lives!”
“Honey, please, calm down,” Moira said. “I'm sorry, but I have to ask. Are you sure he's the one? Really sure?”
Erik was quiet for a moment before he lifted his head and looked her in the eyes. “I have no idea.”
Moira stroked his face gently, brushing away the tear that had escaped his eyes. “Calm down then. It might be a fluke, no harm done. A great story to tell to your daughter some day, hm? Now. Tell me exactly what he said to you?”
“He said he had a meeting with the President, but he would cancel that because I was more important,” Erik said, and laughed. It wasn't a happy laugh.
“I didn't know what to say, so I told him that he should keep his schedule, and he turned around and left.”
“He didn't say anything else?”
“He looked unhappy. But no, he didn't argue,” Erik said, leaning back in his chair, still holding Moira in his arms. She sat on his lap, thinking.
“That was obedient of him.”
“Don't say that. It makes no sense at all! He is a damn Charles Xavier! Why would he even bother listening what I say, let alone act on it? I'm no one and he is on the cover of the damn Time magazine!”
“Do you think he'll be back?”
“His personal assistant called ten minutes ago and graciously informed me that Mr. Xavier 'will have a dinner in our house at seven o'clock'. She didn't care if we like it or not.”
“What! No way,” Moira said and got up from his lap. “I've been in classes all day, the house is a mess and there is only leftovers in the fridge! Oh shoot! I have to go to the store right this minute...And I don't have any money. Do you?”
“Not until tomorrow, and I spent my last penny on gas.”
“Oh...Shoot!” Moira said, trying hard to come up with something. “We either raid your mothers fridge, or you have to order him not to eat. What do you want to do?”
“You can't tell mother, it would crush her if this thing turns out to be a false alarm,” Erik said, suddenly worried. Moira kissed him and smiled.
“I hope not. I'm so happy for you, darling. Did I say that already?”
“No, I think you left that part out,” Erik said, and kissed her, squeezing her against his chest. Moira laughed and hugged him back.
“Well, I am. So, so happy.”
“Is this shirt fine? Should I change?” Erik asked from the bedroom and Moira leaned to glance at him from the bathroom. He had the blue shirt on now, when five minutes ago he had worn the white one. Moira smiled. Last time he had been this fussed about shirts had been on their wedding day.
“You look dapper either way,” Moira said and turned back to the mirror to add a swipe of lipstick before stepping out of the bathroom.
Moira hadn't had time to do much else but brush her hair and change into a dress. She wasn't worried about her looks. What Erik had told her, it sounded like Xavier wouldn't have eyes for anyone else but him.
“Tadah! The instant magic with lipstick,” she said.
“You look lovely,” Erik complimented. He reached to pull her into his arms. “I love you. You know that, don't you?”
“Never doubted. I love you too,” Moira said and kissed him. Downstairs the doorbell rang. “Now, go on and open the door to your new boyfriend.”
“I don't think that is the correct term.”
“Ah yes, one of the many conversations that await you, dear. The Title Talk. Very exciting,” Moira teased. The doorbell rang again. “Go open the door.”
“I'm not ready Moira. This might be a mistake. A horrible mistake.”
“You take three different medications on a good day and six on a bad day. I don't know if this is right or wrong for you, but you owe yourself that you at least try. I want our child to know her father, not visit the grave on Father's Day. Alright?” Moira waited until he nodded. It was hesitant, but at least he had heard her. “Alright. Now go open that door.”
Erik took a deep breath and straightened up. “I can do this. A dinner. We can do this.”
“That's the right attitude!”
The doorbell rang for the third time, this time longer, and Moira pushed him out the bedroom. Erik shook her hand off, flashing a tiny smile and walked to the door on his own. Moira stopped at the stairs to watch, squeezing the banister. Her heart bounded, but Erik seemed calm, his hands steady as he opened the door.
Charles Xavier stood in their doorstep and Moira's first thought was that he looked smaller in person than on television. Her next thought was that he was also much more handsome than on television. He had a wavy brown hair, a tad too long but it suited him. He wore a suit, stark black with blue tie. It looked tailored, expensive. He held a bouquet of pink roses in his hands, and looked nervous.
“Thank you for inviting me to your home,” he said. His voice was pleasant, yet powerful and compelling. He was a public speaker, and that showed.
“We didn't,” Erik said and Charles looked shocked, like Erik had slapped him. “Your assistant informed us that you would arrive. There was no question if this would suit us or not.”
“Ms. Frost, a word?” Charles said somewhere in the darkness behind him and a tall blonde woman stepped forward. Her hair was pure white, eyes cold. Something about her made Moira's skin crawl.
“I believe I said you should ask Mr. and Mrs. Lehnsherr if it was convenient to visit them this evening, did I not?”
“Yes, Mr. Xavier,” Ms. Frost said, and she glanced at their direction, her eyes so full of disdain that Moira took an instinctive step back. Erik straightened, blocking the doorway. Moira knew they could do nothing if the woman decided to turn her feelings into actions.
Charles frowned and something happened. First she startled and her eyes widened, then she winced and shuddered. She turned to Erik with an apologetic smile that almost looked sincere. “My apologies, Mr. Lehnsherr. Madam. I should have been more careful with my word choice.”
“Fine,” Erik said, but he didn't move from the door. Charles looked at him, hope radiating from him so strongly that even Moira could read it. Erik didn't budge.
“I apologize for my staffs behavior. If you are unavailable this evening, may we reschedule? Please, name any evening that would suit you?”
There was nothing smooth about his voice now, he outright begged. Moira was sure he would fall on his knees if Erik didn't have mercy on him. Moira looked at Ms. Frost, who seemed like she had bitten a mouthful of lemon.
“The table is set,” Moira noted and walked down next to him. Erik glanced at her. He knew that, they had borrowed the good china from his mother for this. That had required some serious truth bending and Moira wasn't about to let all this trouble go to waste. Erik's shoulders relaxed a fraction and he nodded, stepping aside. Happiness lighted Charles' face, Erik's small gesture important to him. Charles walked over the threshold, and Erik closed the door behind him, shutting the ominous Ms. Frost outside.
“Mrs. Lehnsherr, I brought these for you,” Charles said and handed her the roses. He looked at Erik before he handed them to her.
“Thank you, they are lovely! Why don't I put these in a vase and you boys could go have a drink in the living room. Erik?” Moira smiled at him, the specific bright smile that she used to signal him that he should play nice or else there would be a conversation later. Erik sighed like Moira had burdened him with a difficult chore. She ignored that and instead smiled at Charles, whose nervousness didn't seem to ease up at all. Now that he had nothing to hold in his hands, he seemed even more shaky than before. Moira patted his arm and pointed toward the living room. “He likes a martini. I set it all up for you on the side table.”
“Thank you Mrs. Lehnsherr,” Charles said.
“Please, call me Moira,” she said, like she always said when someone called her Mrs. Lehnsherr.
“No, you'll call her Mrs. Lehnsherr,” Erik said. “Or m'am. Or any other polite thing you like, but you are not on the first name basis with her.”
Charles nodded and smiled. A clear rule seemed to calm him down, and Moira was proud of Erik. He would get the hang of it, if he stopped fighting his instincts every step of the way.
“I'll be in the kitchen,” she said to Erik and left before he could ask her to stay. They needed to have some time together. How else they could know if they were compatible? Though Charles' readiness to obey Erik without so much as a word was a good sign.
The kitchen was spacious and full of brand new appliances. When Erik had remodeled the house, he had paid particular attention to the kitchen to make sure Moira had everything she had ever wanted from a kitchen. It was her favorite room and she loved all the details Erik had put into it, from the tiling to the designer faucets.
Moira looked around the cupboards for the crystal vase she knew she had, a wedding gift they had never found any use. The vase was a heavy and glittery thing. She filled it with water and placed the roses in it, admiring the lush color and soft petals. Roses like that must have cost a lot. She lifted the vase carefully and carried it to the dining room.
They hardly ever used the room for actual dining but tonight Moira had taken out the white linen, and set the table with china. Moira placed the vase on the table, adjusted it bit for the effect. A sound caught her attention and she looked up. A woman stood in the far left corner of the room, half hidden in the shadow of the doorway. Her skin seemed fluctuate in the light. Moira yelped in surprise. The woman didn't move from her spot and Moira backed slowly back toward the kitchen.
Before she could decide if she should run or scream, Erik rushed to room, alarmed by her yelp. Charles followed in suit, three steps behind. Moira noticed it and the woman in the corner seemed to notice too, her glowing yellow eyes widening in surprise.
Moira pointed at the corner, where the woman still stood like a statue.
“Raven,” Charles said, his face flush with anger. He seemed flustered about her appearance. “My deepest apologies yet again Mrs. Lehnsherr, I hope my sister didn't frighten you. She has this way of butting in where she does not belong.”
“I'm fine, no harm done,” Moira said, more to Erik than anyone else. Erik seemed ready to throw everyone out this instant and Moira couldn't blame him. His heart couldn't take this type of stress, and Moira's back still hurt. “I could sit down though.” Erik pulled the chair for her and Moira sat down with a relieved sigh.
Charles looked back and forth between them all, like sniffing out some emotional scent of the room. The woman in the corner didn't so much as blink.
“I'm terribly sorry about this, Raven is my bodyguard. Though it's her night off,” Charles said.
“I couldn't let you come here alone Charles! This has the word 'trap' written all over it,” the woman said, like it was a rational concern. Erik's jaw tightened again and Charles seemed to stagger under the weight of Erik's anger. Raven's eyes widened but she didn't move from the corner. The evening had turned from the rough start to completely impossible middle.
In the kitchen the oven clock buzzed.
“Right. Dinner is ready. Everybody who wants to stay and eat, take a seat. Otherwise, the front door is that way,” Moira said and stood up. “Erik, would you help me in the kitchen?”
“Of course,” Erik said and followed her without looking back. There was no direct view from the kitchen to the dining room, so the moment they were alone, Erik pulled Moira to his arms and buried his face against her neck. Moira rubbed his back, and whispered soft nonsense to him, like he was a child.
“This is horrible, Moira. The bond hurts, I can feel it gnawing me! Why does it hurt so much?”
“Because you fight against it, darling. When you allow it to happen, it won't hurt anymore. Try to calm your mind, and it will get better.”
“That's a weird advice. How do you even do that?”
“Hard to say, my sponsor never explained it. Between you and me, I never managed it either,” Moira said and leaned back to look him. “I think it means you only have to decide if you want this, and the rest will take care of itself.”
“Will you sponsor me?”
“What do you think I've done all evening, silly? I will sponsor you,” Moira said and kissed him. “Now, grab that dish and the rolls, I'm starving.”
They gathered the serving dishes and with some delicate maneuvering carried them to the dining room. Moira wasn't surprised to see Charles seated at the table, and Raven standing behind him with arms crossed.
“I take your sister isn't hungry?” Moira asked, placing the dishes she carried on the table. “We have plenty of food.”
“Thank you Mrs. Lehnsherr, Raven will pass the offer. And there is something she wanted to say, wasn't there Raven?”
“This is not natural! We are not supposed to bond with humans, it isn't right,” she said and Charles looked genuinely shocked.
“Actually, several studies show that the success rate of bonds between human dominants and mutant submissives is significantly high, even if you factor in that those bonds are the rarest of all bond types. So one could argue, if the strength of the bond between partners is used as the indicator, that it's wiser to form a pair between a human and a mutant, than in any other combination. Pass me the peas?” Moira asked and Erik passed her the dish without missing a beat.
Raven stared at her like she was a dog that suddenly spoke. Charles seemed a bit surprised as well but he hid it better than his sister.
“The Campbell-Elson study? Quite controversial research method, Mrs. Lehnsherr, even though I am inclined to agree with them.”
“They had their blind spots, but I think their method is valid and the conclusions stand the scrutiny. But I'm sorry, I interrupted. Your sister wanted to say something? Something else, I mean?”
Raven stared at her, and it wasn't until Charles reached over and pinched her arm that she snapped out of her reverie. “Sorry I scared you,” she said and Charles reached to pinch her again. “I mean, sorry I scared you Mrs. Lehnsherr.”
“Quite alright,” Moira said.
“It was nice to meet you,” Erik added.
Charles smiled, relieved. Moira had to smile too. His happiness was infectious. Raven frowned, like she still had trouble believing what she saw.
“I'll see myself out,” she said and melted back to the shadows. After a moment there was a faint click of the front door.
There was a silence. Charles stared at his empty plate.
“Oh, I'm sorry Charles, I'm dropping the ball here. Honey, you have to fill his plate,” Moira said to Erik. “It is important that you do.”
Charles looked relieved.
“Do you mind me asking but does your sister attend any grief therapy groups?” Moira asked after Erik had placed the full plate in front of Charles and he had taken a bite. “I think it might help her, talking with others in the same situation.”
“Groups do help, I can give you some references if you like,” Moira continued.
“Moira...” Erik said, looking at her pointedly.
“Oh...Shoot. I'm sorry. She wouldn't attend human groups. You probably have your own exclusive help system?”
“Moira...” Erik said again, and Moira blushed. “Ah, none of my business. Right.”
“How did you know she had lost her partner?” Charles asked. “Because you are shattered as well. My deepest condolences on your loss, Mrs. Lehnsherr.”
“Thank you. May I ask when your sister shattered?”
“Her partner Irene was murdered two years ago. It was excruciating for her. I think that is why she is so suspicious about all this. She is afraid that...” Charles said, looking at Erik and then back to Moira. “This might end badly.”
“There is no guarantees in life,” Moira said. “I would do anything to protect Erik and I'm sure your sister feels the same for your.”
“I would do anything to protect him as well, Mrs. Lehnsherr,” Charles said, solemn and determined. “I'm not playing games. I know what I feel is true and right. I will prove it to you if you allow.”
“Oh, it's not me you need to worry about. He's the one who needs convincing,” Moira said and nodded toward Erik, who listened the conversation with a disapproving look.
“Stop talking about me like I'm not in the room,” he said.
Moira smiled and reached to touch his hand. “Oh I'm sorry darling, of course you are here. You are a force to be reckoned with,” she said. Erik smirked and squeezed her fingers before letting go.
“May I ask how you met?” Charles asked.
“Your mother is responsible about that,” Moira said, looking at Erik. “It's a long story.”
“I think you have met her,” Erik said to Charles. “During the Heart Disease Symposium in Cologne last year?”
“Doctor Edie Lehnsherr? Of course! Her presentation of the rise of dominant traits in correlation with the Broken Heart Syndrome was absolutely fascinating,” Charles said.
“Well, my mother also runs the Summerhill Sanatorium, as you might now. We met there,” Erik said. Charles froze.
“You were there...as patients?” Charles asked, cautious, like even thinking about it would be too reckless. Moira squeezed her fork harder to stop her hands from shaking and nodded.
“My submissive died in a car crash. One of those stupid, pointless accidents that you read about in papers every day. I was under the suicide watch in the Summerhill. I think it was my first fifteen minute walk in outdoors when we met, right? In the gardens. For some reason he thought I was about to leave as outpatient, so he didn't think we would meet again, until your mother made you do group therapy.”
“She wanted me to try that, to study the changes in my EKG before and after. I'm not sure why, it was for that presentation in Cologne. Moira was in the group too, and we talked again and then...Here we are,” Erik said. He seemed more interested about his dinner than the bomb shell he had just dropped on Charles, but Moira knew it was only for show. He was as scared as Moira.
“You have the Syndrome,” Charles said, turning pale as a sheet.
“I have the variant that can be controlled with the combination of medication, diet and therapy. The damage to my heart isn't extensive, and I'm quite healthy. And now that you are here...” Erik said, leaving the unfinished wish hang in the air.
“If you bond,” Moira said, “The damage might stop advancing.”
“Or it might kill you,” Charles whispered, the color washing off of his face completely. “I might kill you.”
Moira stared at her plate, twirling the fork in her hand. There was nothing to add. The reality was that no one knew for certain what would happen. There was probabilities and percentages, fancy educated guesses, but no one could say for sure what would happen when the bond would form.
Charles' fork clattered against the plate and Moira looked up just in time to grab his shoulder as he fainted.
“Erik! Little help!” Moira said and pushed against his slumped form, trying to stop him from falling on the floor. It was hard, because she was in awkward angle and her stomach was in the way, and Charles was heavier than what he seemed. Erik bounced to his feet and rushed to her side, catching Charles right as he keeled over. Erik straightened, pulling Charles up with him. His head rested against Erik's chest, like he had just dozed off.
“Now what?” Erik asked and Moira shook her head in disbelief.
“I don't know. We lay him down on the sofa?”
Erik nodded and with a quick move picked Charles up, one arm behind his back and another under his knees. Moira helped and tucked Charles' arm to his lap, like he was a sleeping child. Erik's eyes were dark and he looked tense.
“Are you alright?”
“I don't know,” Erik said, looking down to the man in his arms. “I think I'm going insane.”
“You and me both. I don't know what else could go wrong with this evening.”
“You had to jinx it, did you?” Erik sighed and walked toward the living room. Moira followed him, and they were half way there when the front door opened with a bang and Raven rushed in, Ms. Frost flanking her side.
“Let go of him!”
“If I let go, he will fall to the floor,” Erik said, stating the obvious.
“Sofa would be better,” Moira added. The two women stared at her and Moira stood as tall as she could. It was her house, and her guest, and she wouldn't listen any kind of nonsense at the moment, powerful mutants or no.
“Why is he unconscious? What did you do to him? Hand him over!” Raven demanded again.
“He was emotional and he passed out,” Erik said, but that only made matters worse. Both women reached out to grab Charles, and Erik instinctively backed away, turning to shield Charles and keep him out of their reach.
“Damn it! You did something, what did you do? My brother doesn't faint!”
“He is an omega-level telepath, the leader of the mutant nation and a damn war veteran, he doesn't pass out because some measly emotions!” Ms. Frost argued right after Raven.
“Oh. Well. Maybe he didn't know about that rule,” Moira said, not bothering to hide her annoyance with this ridiculous conversation. “Dear, just put him down there on the sofa, and you can all stand around and wait him to come to it. I'll go get a glass of water. People sometimes get thirsty after they faint.”
“He didn't faint!” Raven argued.
“Times like these make me miss drinking,” Moira said to Erik.
“I hear you,” Erik said. “Ladies, if you follow me...”
Moira walked back the dining room, filled a glass with water and went back to the living room. Ms. Frost stood at the doorway like an annoyed guardian angel, while Erik and Raven crowded Charles. He sat on the sofa, looking confused.
“Here you go,” Moira said, handing him the glass. Raven let out a little snort and snatched the glass away before Charles could even reach for it.
“Apparently we have poisoned him,” Erik informed her. “That is the current consensus.”
“Hm. We aren't any good at it, considering that our victim is awake and alert. Should've read a book about this.”
“Eating same food might have been a bad idea as well.”
“Damn, I knew I forgot something,” Moira said and bit down the need to laugh out loud. How could you poison a telepath? Wouldn't he pick the intent for something as elaborate and strenuous as poisoning a mile off?
“He would, actually,” Ms. Frost said, startling Moira. “Your wife is sharp. Nice utilitarian mind, with a surprising depth.”
“Emma, you touch either ones mind again, I will scrub yours so clean that you will spent a week trying to remember your own name. Is this clear?”
“Yes it is, Mr. Xavier.”
“Calm down, Raven,” Charles said and reached to take the glass from her hand. “Your worrying gives me headache. I'm fine. Bit embarrassed, but fine.”
“Don't be,” Erik said, reaching over to straighten his shirt collar, and tugging his jacket lapel back to its place. “But you should leave now.”
The room fell silent. Charles stared at Erik. “Why? I'm sorry I shamed you with my weakness, I will do better!”
Moira noticed the cringe that flashed on Ms. Frost's face, and the quiet longing on Raven's. Charles didn't seem to notice anyone else but Erik.
“I think it would be best if you get a good night sleep and think over everything. And this has been an exhausting evening for all of us, and my wife shouldn't deal with this kind of stress. It's not good for the baby. Would you please go home with your friends here, without an argument? For all our sake?”
Charles turned his eyes away from him, then nodded slowly and got up from the sofa. “May I please come back another day?”
“Me and my wife will discuss this matter. You should think this through before you decide,” Erik said, looking tired. He reached his hand to brush the lock of hair from Charles' face, like he didn't even realize what he did. The touch was short, but Charles seemed relieved, his tense posture relaxing. Raven mirrored his feelings like an echo.
“Thank you for the dinner, Mrs. Lehnsherr,” Charles said to her, and even though Moira knew she was wildly out of line, she leaned to hug him. He smelled like birch trees warmed by sun.
“I'm so happy you came. Good night.”
The women ushered Charles out and he kept glancing at them until the door closed. Moira sighed and sat down on the armchair.
“Not one of our best dinners, was it?” she asked quietly. “Didn't guess he would pass out from the news.”
“Do you think he'll be back?” Erik asked, staring at the closed door.
“I hope so.”