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Only Hope

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Charles was sat propped up in bed, glasses perched on the end of his nose and deeply engrossed within his favourite novel, 'The Once and Future King', when he heard the click and creak of the front door opening, followed by the sounds of a loud thump and a muffled curse.

Frowning, Charles marked his place with an old bus ticket stub before slipping out of bed and padding to his open bedroom door. He cautiously poked his head out into the hallway, nostrils flaring as he sniffed the air, relaxing when Raven's familiar scent flooded his senses. He glanced at the glass-domed carriage clock ticking loudly on his bedside table, shaking his head when he saw it was just gone three in the morning.

He waited until Raven's dark figure ambled up the stairs and onto the landing before reaching around the corner to flick on the stair lights.

"Ow, fucking Jesus!" Raven cursed, belatedly raising her hands to shield her eyes from the sudden glare. She stumbled to a stop, swaying on her feet as she groaned in pain. From this distance, Charles could easily pick up on the heavy scent of alcohol mixed with the musky scent of unfamiliar Alphas.

"Have a good night, darling?" Charles asked in a pleasant voice, making a show of sniffing the air with a wrinkled nose as he leant against the door frame to his room.

"Fuck you, Charles," Raven snarled, squinting as she pointed at him with an unsteady hand. An inky black smear from a nightclub stamp decorated the back of it in the form of a howling wolf's head in profile. Charles grimaced as he recognised the Lycanthropy logo; a club in town that catered specifically to Alpha wolves. Being an Omega, Charles had never been himself, but he'd heard all of the disturbing rumours about what went on in that place.

"Language, Raven," Charles admonished half-heartedly. He was twelve years older than Raven and had practically raised her single-handedly since she was six, but because he was just her brother and an Omega, she didn't treat him with quite the same respect she would an Alpha parent. He'd learnt to pick his battles for when it really mattered, hence Raven's foul mouth. "How was Lycanthropy?"

Raven gave him a suspicious look, clearly picking up on the disapproval in his tone despite her inebriated state. "It was fine."

"Good, good." Charles looked away to gaze out the window, watching the lights of cars streaking past as he asked with feigned disinterest. "Meet anyone nice?"

"Oh, for fucks sake, Charles!" Raven barked suddenly, flinging her hands in the air.

"What?"

"Don't fucking 'what' me with your shitty fake innocent look. You've been doing this since my first fucking heat! No, I didn't meet any fucking Omega's all right? No drunken fucks for me, okay?"

Charles frowned, standing straight as Raven barged past him into his room and flung herself face first onto his bed. "I only asked you a simple question, Raven. There's no need to snarl at me. And remove your boots from my bed, please."

Raven sat up, rolling her eyes and grumbling as she fumbled with her laces. Charles watched her struggle for a minute before he took pity on her, quickly undoing the messy knots and yanking the boots from her feet, placing them together neatly to one side of the door.

"I'm always careful, Charles. I'm still a virgin, I don't do any drugs and I make sure to take suppressants if I'm going out and due a heat." Raven watched him in silence for a moment before she spoke again, her voice soft. "I promise, I won't ever force a claim on someone."

Charles blinked in surprise at the unexpected statement, before he puffed out a sigh and crossed the room to press a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I know, darling. You're always a very responsible Alpha, I do know that," he admitted, smiling as she nuzzled into his chest like she always used to do when she was just a pup. He doubted she'd be doing so now if she were sober. "But you're my baby sister. It's my job to worry."

She gave a snort and squirmed in his arms as she tried to get more comfortable. Charles took the hint, laying them both down on the bed and tucking the blankets up to cover them. Raven snuffled into his neck, her muscles slowly relaxing as she took in the familiar scent of her brother and began to drift off to dreamland.

"Charles?" she murmured, her voice heavy with sleep.

"Hmm?"

"I worry about you too, you know."

"Oh?" Charles frowned, a little puzzled. He was always careful to take his suppressants and made sure to steer clear of Alpha territory, sticking to the more human and Omega friendly areas of the city. He never ventured out after dark by himself and when he did go out, it was usually with Moira or one of his other human friends from the University. He couldn't think of having done anything reckless enough to have Raven worry about him. "How so?"

"I just want you to be happy," Raven mumbled, her voice barely audible.

His frown deepened. "What are you talking about? I am happy." There was a beat of silence. "Raven?"

He glanced down to see Raven had fallen asleep, getting nothing but a twitch and a sleepy murmur in response. Dismissing her words as drunken ramblings, Charles affectionately pecked the top of her blonde head.

"Goodnight, dearest," he whispered.

*

The sun was slanting into the kitchen through the window that overlooked the tiny back garden, bathing Charles in warmth where he sat at the huge antique table that took up two thirds of the entire room, a fresh cup of tea and plate of biscuits at his elbow as he graded papers. He was just marking Kitty Pryde's paper with a large A and a smiley face when Raven finally appeared, slumping against the door frame.

She was still dressed in last night's outfit, though now rumpled from where she'd slept in it, her long hair a tangled crows nest and her pretty face slack as she suffered the effects of what must have been a hell of a hangover.

"Good morning," Charles chirped, amused at her haggard appearance.

"Gnurgh," Raven eloquently replied, shuffling barefoot across the room to the coffee-pot. She poured herself a cup, heating it in the microwave to fill the kitchen with the heavy aroma of cooked beans before taking a sip and letting out a grateful sigh. Charles had never been a coffee connoisseur, preferring a good ol' cup of English tea, but Moira had always wrinkled her nose in disgust at Raven's version of making coffee. "What time is it?"

"Just past twelve," Charles replied, flicking a glance at his wristwatch. Then, because he was her big brother after all, he asked, "How about some breakfast? Bacon, eggs, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms, fried tomatoes and blood pudding sound good?"

Raven's face paled as she pulled a face. "Fuck off, Charles. Bloody bastard," she muttered, affecting a British accent to mock him as she slumped into her usual chair opposite him, stealing a biscuit off his plate to nibble on. Charles chuckled and shook his head.

The doorbell rang, startling them both. They rarely had visitors, the only person who ever came round their house being Moira, who never bothered to ring the bell and just strode right in since she had her own key.

"You didn't order anything, did you?" Charles asked as he slowly got to his feet. Raven shook her head.

Instinct and experience left Charles cautious as walked out the kitchen, his slippered feet silent as he slipped through the adjoined living room out into the hallway. He paused at the window next to the front door, peeking out past the lace curtain. A woman he'd never seen before stood on the front porch, her hip cocked to one side as she tapped her stilettoed foot impatiently against the ground whilst she waited for someone to open the door.

She had blonde hair, coiffed perfectly to frame her face, a pair of fashion shades guarding her eyes from the midday sun. Her suit was completely white, including the buttons that fastened her blazer tight to her ample-sized chest. She held a suitcase in one hand, the black leather looking odd against the pure white of her outfit. Her lips were drawn into a thin line, her perfectly manicured nails tapping against her thigh in a show of annoyance.

Charles took note of all this, taking a moment to weigh the risk of the woman being a possible threat to him or Raven before he deigned to open the door, a charming smile in place on his face. It slipped when he was immediately flooded by the heady scent of an Alpha in heat, his breath leaving him in a quick pant at the spike of arousal the smell sent to his groin. His instincts screamed at him to kneel before this woman, to bear his throat and beg to be claimed. It was an old Alpha trick, using their heat to exert a sense of dominance over unclaimed Omegas, one that usually worked since unclaimed Omegas where normally much younger and inexperienced at resisting the pull of their instincts.

The Alpha stared at him, a finely plucked eyebrow raised and a smirk playing about her lips. She knew exactly what she was doing as well, damn her. Charles tightened his grip on the door until it became painful, struggling to meet the Alpha's gaze when instinct told him to lower his eyes in deference. After a moment, Charles managed to pull himself together and stare the Alpha down in an obvious act of defiance.

Her expression flickered into one of surprise for a moment before she smirked once more, removing her shades to reveal a pair of icy blue eyes. "Impressive," she admitted. "Charles Xavier, I presume?"

"Yes," Charles agreed, coldly polite. "And you are?"

"Emma Frost, Pack attorney," she said, extending her hand towards him in a silent challenge. Charles took it in a firm grip and shook once before tucking his hand behind his back, proving he wasn't afraid of her.

"Pleasure," Charles said, his tone revealing it was anything but. "How can I help you Miss Frost? I'm afraid I'm not a member of a Pack any more."

"Emma, please. And that's exactly the problem, Sugar," she told him, pausing for a moment before asking. "Shall we take this inside?"

Charles shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't allow that, Miss Frost. My sister is an Alpha, and with you on heat-"

"She'd think I was encroaching on her territory and pick a fight," Emma finished for him with a huff of annoyance. "Then let's talk about this elsewhere. I'd rather not stand on your front porch looking like a lousy door to door salesman."

"Perhaps if you told me what this is actually about, first," Charles replied, unwilling to trust her after the stunt she just tried to pull on him. He was glad Raven had apparently decided to stay in the kitchen. He didn't want to think about what would have happened if she had been present for that.

Emma shot him a look of annoyance before swinging her briefcase around, resting it against the window mantel as she clicked it open, fishing out a file and handing it to Charles. "I'm here to inform you that someone has filed a claim of rightful custody for your sister, Raven Xavier."

"What?" Charles exclaimed, taking the file and flipping it open. "That's impossible. There's no one who can-"

He froze, heart plummeting through his stomach when he skimmed through the official letter. It was detailing how, as a single Omega, he was deemed unfit by werewolf law to properly care for a young Alpha. But that wasn't the worst of it.

There, signed clearly at the bottom in black and white under the official petitioner, was a name that filled Charles with horror and dread; a name that resurfaced childhood memories of hiding under his bed or in his closet whilst a cruel voice used to sing out his name, detailing all the lewd and horrible things he was going to do the moment he found Charles.

It was signed Cain Marko.

Chapter Text

The café was a flurry of activity as it struggled to meet the demands of the lunchtime rush. The wait staff nimbly weaved through the narrow gaps between the tables that littered the floor, balancing heavy trays laden with food and drinks with remarkable dexterity. Their own waitress barely had time to smile in return of Charles' murmur of thanks as she set his large cup of Earl Grey on the table before she was bustling away to deal with other orders.

It wasn't an ideal place for them to hold a meeting, but it was their best option. Emma couldn't enter his house without risking a fight with Raven, and Charles adamantly refused to follow her to the more Alpha-orientated parts of town that she'd suggested. The human run café was a neutral territory that Charles often frequented, though normally in the company of Moira or Hank.

Charles took a large gulp of his tea, the mildly perfumed taste comforting even as the scolding liquid burnt his tongue. Emma gave him an amused look when he winced.

"You sure you don't want anything stronger, Sugar?" she asked, her perfectly rounded nails tapping her own fine glass of red wine. "You look like you could use it."

"I'm afraid I haven't much indulged in alcohol since my youth," Charles told her with a sardonic smile. "It doesn't quite agree with me."

From the way in which Emma continuously eyed him with a mild wariness, and from the fact that she seemed to be trying hard to keep him placated and comfortable in his surroundings, he guessed that she already knew to what he was referring. Since Cain had somehow managed to retain her services, he'd no doubt informed her all about Charles' unfortunate... condition.

"I have to say," Charles said, his tone deceptively light. "I am fairly surprised that my step-brother was even able to file a custody claim. Last I heard, he was still serving his life sentence in Stryker Prison."

Emma grimaced in mild disgust at the mention of the jail. It had been founded over fifty years ago in the wake of the revelation of the true existence of werewolves upon human society. Designed specifically for containing werewolves, it was the only known jail currently in existence that could handle the inmates during their shifts. It was rumoured to be a terrible and cruel place, apparently liberal in its use of silver as punishment against the inmates despite the severe allergic reaction to the metal that all werewolves shared. Stryker Prison was generally used as a last resort for only the worst kind of criminals.

"There was a rather fortunate change in circumstances that aided in the early release of Mr. Marko," Emma said, leaning back in her seat as she took a sip of her wine. "As I'm sure you're aware, I'm unable to divulge anything in great detail, but I will tell you that after a recent review of my client's case, the charges against him were dropped due to the unreliability of the evidence."

Charles' grip tightened on his porcelain mug until his knuckles turned white. The evidence was unreliable; their own eye-witness accounts given as testimonies against Cain were deemed as unreliable. Raven's was most likely discounted because she'd barely been six years old at the time, and his own because...

Charles grit his teeth, the low growl that had started from the pit of his stomach working its way up his throat to escape past his lips, unbidden. Emma shifted in her seat, snapping Charles' attention to her. Her sharp gaze was completely focused on him, her hands braced on the table and her feet planted firmly on the ground, poised on the edge of her seat. She was bracing herself for a fight, Charles realised with vague amusement. That was all the proof he needed to know Emma was indeed aware of his condition.

"Forgive me," he apologised as he reclined back into his seat, moving slowly so as to not startle Emma into attacking him. "That was rather rude."

Emma watched him with wary eyes for a moment before she slowly relaxed, leaning back in her seat in a casual pose that didn't fool Charles for one minute. He cast a quick glance around the swarming café, feeling a mild sense of satisfaction at his choice of venue when it was clear that none of the humans around them had noticed anything out of sorts.

If they had been around other werewolves, they would have quickly picked up on the tense atmosphere and in turn been bewildered by the fact that an Alpha was acting like she was afraid of an Omega. Charles' condition wouldn't have remained secret for long after that. He allowed himself a moment to feel grateful for his friendship with Moira, her job at the CIA in the Werewolf Control Division (WCD) keeping him safe from official government investigation.

Emma's smile was stilted and clearly false. "It's fine, Sugar. You're clearly under a lot of stress." Setting her wine glass to one side, she pulled some papers out from her briefcase, laying them on the table before Charles. "All you have to do is sign the bottom of pages 1, 4 and 9 and your sister's custody will be officially transferred over to Mr. Marko."

Charles gave the papers a dismissive glance. "And why would I do that?"

"Because you don't want this to go to court. It would be a major waste of time and money for you," she explained, her tone patronising. "All I would have to say is that you are a single, twenty-nine year old Omega. At your age, it'd be hard enough to find an Alpha willing to be your mate even if you had a Pack to help barter and negotiate for you. As a loner, your chances are slim to none." Emma shrugged. "I won't even mention the possibilities of your finding a new Pack willing to accept you. You have zero prospects, Sugar."

She allowed a moment for all of this to sink in before she added lightly, "Of course, there is another option that would allow you to keep custody of Raven."

Charles looked at her, askance. "There is?"

Emma smirked, her eyes glittering in a cruel mirth. "You could always rejoin your former Pack. That way, both you and my client get what they want."

"Never," Charles hissed back, stifling a surge of fear at the thought. Cain was the last remaining member of his former Pack and, as the only Alpha of legal age, was technically the Head of the Pack. Charles would have to spend the rest of his days, bowing his head in deference to the brute. It was one of the reasons Charles had tried to run from him in the first place.

"Then sign the papers, Sugar," Emma told him, fishing a pen out of her pocket and laying it on top of the crisp white sheets.

"No," Charles replied without hesitation, pointedly pushing the papers away from him. "I refuse."

Emma scowled. "I'm telling you, Xavier, you don't want this to go to court. I've never lost a case yet."

"Then this shall be your first," Charles told her. He leant forward, his voice low but firm. "My sister is the dearest person to me and I will not give her up to that neanderthal brute of an Alpha without a fight. I don't care what else it takes, I will not lose her and I will not go crawling back to him to keep her." He sat up, teeth bared in what only an idiot would interpret as a smile. "I'll see you in court, Miss. Frost."

Emma's lips were thin as she stood, sweeping up her papers in a quick movement, her briefcase held in a tight grip before her. "Thank you for the drink, Mr. Xavier. The conversation was most... enlightening."

She gave him a curt nod before heading for the door, slipping on her fashion shades as she walked. Charles waited for a few moments until after the door had shut behind her before he allowed himself to slump in his seat, the tension draining out of him.

"What am I going to do?" he mumbled to himself, ruffling up his hair with both hands. If he expected any chance at winning this case and keeping custody of Raven, he was going to need help. Smoothing his hair back out with one hand, Charles inhaled deeply before reaching for his phone. He scrolled through the depressingly short list of contacts before hitting the call button.

It rang a couple of times before the line clicked on and a feminine voice answered, "Moira MacTaggert."

"Moira," Charles said in greeting.

"Charles?" she replied, her voice immediately filled with concern. "What's wrong? Has something happened? Is it Raven?"

Charles gave a small smile at her concern. "Raven's fine." For the moment, at least. "But I need your help."

Chapter Text

Moira's car windows were rolled down, allowing the warm afternoon breeze to lightly lift Charles' hair and clear the air of the overwhelming array of different scents that permeated the car's interior.

As a WCD agent at the CIA, Moira had the most pleasant task of investigating and/or arresting werewolves that were suspected of criminal activity or feral behaviour. As a result, many a different werewolf had been a passenger in her car, most of them unwillingly; all of them unconsciously leaving a small trace of their scent behind.

The dizzying mix of scents from unknown wolves put Charles on edge, and he would usually avoid riding in Moira's car if he could. However, the need to get back home and check on Raven was a much higher priority than his own comfort at the moment.

Charles had left Raven alone in the house with nary a word about Emma or Cain, simply telling her to lock the windows and bolt the front door behind him once he'd left. Of course she'd questioned him, snapping angrily after Charles had refused to answer. Her face had been one of pure shock when she'd pushed him a step too far and he'd reacted by snarling at her like an uncouth beast.

The memory of her hurt expression, before she'd stormed up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door shut hard enough to rattle the framed pictures on the wall, made Charles wince in guilt. He hadn't meant to snap, but with an Alpha in heat waiting on his front doorstep and the prospect of Cain worming his way back into their lives, his patience had been on its last thread.

Moira shifted in her seat as she changed gears, drawing Charles' attention. She was dressed in her usual work attire of black blazer and matching pencil skirt, her hair drawn back from her face in a high ponytail. Her face was pinched in thought as she processed everything Charles had told her, her eyebrows drawn down together in a frown.

Despite the severe expression and bland clothes, Moira still appeared as a striking woman. It was a pity she wasn't a wolf. With her tough as nails demeanour, sharp wit and intelligence, Charles was sure she'd make him an ideal Alpha.

Then again, if she had been an Alpha, Charles would have torn her throat out long before she would have had the chance to touch him, so perhaps it was a good thing Moira was human after all, for the sake of their friendship.

“I don't get it,” Moira said eventually. “If your eye-witness accounts were good enough to get Cain convicted eleven years ago, then why aren't they good enough now?”

Charles sighed, tilting his head back against the headrest. “I don't know. Miss Frost wasn't exactly forthcoming with the information. I thought it was perhaps due to my unfortunate constitution and Raven's age at the time.”

Moira shook her head. “That can't be it. Raven's age aside, if your 'unfortunate constitution', as you put it, had been discovered I would have at least heard talk about an investigation or you would have already been carted off by the WCD.”

Charles frowned. “Why else would they deem what we saw as unreliable evidence then?”

“I'm not sure,” Moira replied slowly. “It doesn't make sense. There's something else that's bugging me too. Emma Frost is a top notch Pack attorney, one of the best.”

“So she told me,” Charles said with a wry smile. “Hasn't lost a case yet, apparently.”

Moira nodded, turning the next right down Charles' street. “It would take a pretty penny to retain her help. But Cain has been rotting in Stryker prison for the past eleven years. So where did he get the money?”

“He inherited the Xavier fortune when Kurt was killed,” Charles pointed out as they pulled up to park by the curb outside his house, the driveway currently occupied with his beaten up second-hand car from the 1950's and Raven's sleek looking motorcycle. “That includes the mansion and the collection of valuable antiques and such.”

“Not since you officially left his pack,” Moira told him. “He has no access to either the property or the fortune any more. Without you, Cain is broke, without a penny to his name.”

Charles looked at her, frowning in confusion. “So how could he afford to hire Miss Frost?”

“That's what I'm asking. There's something else going on here, Charles.” Moira gave a heavy, rattling sigh before turning to him with a wry smile. “It's going to be some late nights at the office while I try to figure it out, I think.”

Charles shot her his most charming grin. “You're an angel, darling.”

Moira let out a bark of laughter. “Yeah right, Xavier. You're gonna owe me big time for this.”

“I'll make sure to bring you fresh, home-made coffee every day.”

Moira narrowed her eyes. “As long as it's not the crap that Raven makes, deal.” She shuddered. “I don't know how she can drink that god awful microwaved stuff.”

Charles snorted and got out the car, easing the passenger door shut and bumping it with his hip to latch it. He paused halfway across the small square patch of grass that constituted as the front lawn, the back of his neck prickling unpleasantly with the feeling of being watched. He scanned the sparrow-noisy street with narrowed eyes, lifting his head as he subtly sniffed the air for any strange scents floating about, frowning when he found nothing odd.

“Are you going to tell Raven?” Moira asked as she joined him, head tilted to one side in question at Charles' sudden unease.

“I don't know,” Charles replied, distracted. He wanted to shrug off the sensation and chalk it up to his own sense of paranoia, but found himself gently urging Moira inside, his hand placed at the small of her back in a deceptively casual manner.

The front door swung open just as Charles reached for the handle, revealing a furious looking Raven. She'd changed into a loose pair of navy blue pin-stripe pyjamas that Charles recognised as his own.

“Where the hell have you been?” Raven snapped, grabbing Charles by the collar and practically hauling him inside, barely giving Moira enough time to slip in behind him before she was slamming the front door shut, flipping the latch and sliding the bolt into place.

“Do you know how fucking worried I've been?” Raven hissed, shaking Charles roughly from where she still had a handful of his shirt. “Do you even care?! You disappear out of here, telling me fuck all about where you're going or who you'll be with! You don't bother answering any of my texts or calls, and I'm about to go out of my fucking mind thinking about all of the horrible things that might have happened to you, when you know what I find?”

She slapped her hand down on the side table by the door, picking up the manilla folder that held his copy of Cain's custody challenge letter, waving it in front of his face.

“Raven-” Charles started in an attempt to explain, but Raven quickly cut him off.

“So, here I am, in the house by myself, scared shitless because this fucking asshole has somehow been miraculously released from prison and wants to take me away from you, and you're not answering your fucking phone. Then I pick up the scent of another werewolf on the front porch. But not justany wolf, oh no! A fucking Alpha!” Raven's pretty face was contorted into an expression of fear and betrayal as she shoved Charles away from her, hard enough that he stumbled back into the far wall. “An Alpha in heat, Charles! I mean, what the actual fuck?”

“Raven, calm down-” Moira tried, her hands raised in a placating gesture, quickly backing off when Raven turned on her with an angry snarl.

“Don't you dare tell me to calm down,” Raven growled out in a low rumble. It was only as she turned to face Moira that Charles noticed her whole body was trembling. “You have no idea how I felt when I read that fucking letter. How I feel knowing that – that psychopath is out there walking free!”

Charles took a step towards his sister, hesitating when she snarled at him in warning. Her anger and fear had triggered a partial shift into her wolf form, drawing out her long curved fangs and causing her already bright eyes to glow with a more predatory edge. The sight instinctively had Charles' hackles raised, his jaw muscles twitching and his body tense as he fought the urge to shift in turn. He had little to no sense of control over himself in his wolf form. If he shifted, he wouldn't be able to guarantee anyone's safety, even Raven's.

Raven's eyes flicked between his, clearly seeing his struggle to keep control. Blowing out a slow breath, she visibly forced herself to calm down, her features gradually melding back into pure human form. Charles instantly relaxed, letting out a small huff of relief. Her eyes were guilty, but Raven tilted her chin back in a show of defiance, silently refusing to apologise with all the stubbornness and pride that was expected from an Alpha.

“You're going to tell me everything,” she demanded. “How Cain got released, why the fuck an Alpha was on my front porch. All of it, Charles.”

Charles exchanged a quick glance with Moira. He noted her wary stance; the way one hand hovered close to where her gun holster was hidden, strapped to her thigh. He couldn't help but ponder for a moment whether Moira even realised she was doing so, or if the action had simply become instinctive after dealing with so many hostile werewolves over the years.

Moira tilted to her head to one side, lifting her shoulder in a barely there shrug. “Your call, Charles,” she said.

“Charles,” Raven said as he turned his attention back to her, expression now pleading. “I deserve to know.”

Charles hesitated, licking his lips before slowly nodding. “Yes,” he agreed, reluctantly. “I suppose you do.”

**

“That bitch!” Raven exclaimed, slamming her palm down on the sofa cushion. They'd moved to the living room before Charles explained everything he'd already told Moira, so that Raven could fume at him in comfort. “If I ever meet Frost, I'll tear her fucking head off! Unreliable evidence my ass. I may have only been six at the time, but I remember everything even now! Vividly, even!”

Moira watched her warily from the plush armchair opposite, perched on the very edge of the cushion. When Raven slumped back into her seat with a huff, Moira returned her attention back to her phone where she was currently texting her WCD partner, Logan.

Charles had never noticed before, but Moira always seemed to be more cautious around Raven than himself despite the fact that technically he was the more dangerous of the two. Perhaps it was due to her training; that she was taught to treat Alphas as more of a threat. Or maybe it was because he had never really lost control in her presence, causing her to inadvertently lower her guard around him. Either way, Charles wasn't about to draw it to her attention lest Moira treat him any differently.

He hovered by the window, leaning casually against the wall as he peered through the small gap in the white lace curtains, keeping an eye on the street. The odd sensation of being watched hadn't faded, even though they had relocated inside to where no prying eyes could follow. Yet the only people Charles had seen passing outside had been Nathan from two doors down taking his dog for a walk, and a little girl riding a bright pink bike with stabilizers. Perhaps it was just his paranoia playing on his nerves after all.

“So, what are we going to do?” Raven asked eventually, sitting up and looking to Charles.

“We're going to do what I told Miss. Frost we would,” Charles replied, turning away from the window to face his sister. “We'll take this to court.”

“What?” Raven cried out in disbelief.

“You can't be serious, Charles,” Moira said at the same time.

“Let's just forget for a second about the many, many bull-crap reasons that Frost gave for why you'd be seen as an unfit guardian for me,” Raven said, standing up and moving around the narrow coffee table to stand before Charles. “Where the hell would we get the kind of money we'd need for a lawyer who could take on Frost?”

“Apparently the Xavier fortune reverted back to me the moment we left Cain's pack,” Charles explained. “We'd have enough money for a lawyer, with plenty left over for your college fund.”

Raven blinked at him in surprise, before her nose wrinkled in distaste. “Money is money, I suppose,” she muttered. “No matter where it comes from.”

“Aren't you two forgetting something?” Moira asked, waving her hand at them. “If you go to court, all Emma would have to mention is that you're, well...”

“Cuckoo for cocoa puffs?” Raven supplied when Moira trailed off.

“Raven!” Moira hissed.

“What? He is! You are,” Raven added to Charles with a nod.

“Thank you for that, darling,” Charles said, amused.

“He's perfectly in control when he's in human form,” Moira snapped. Raven shrugged back. Charles said nothing, allowing Moira that small delusion. “But that won't matter in court. All Emma would have to say is that you're a feral, unwed Omega, and you'd be carted off by the WCD faster than you could blink. Not to mention that I could lose my job for not reporting you in the first place.”

“What other option do we have, Moira?” Charles sighed, carding a hand through his hair. “I'm not going to simply hand Raven over to them, and there is no way in hell that I'm going to rejoin Cain's pack. Not after...not after before.”

Raven let out a small, sympathetic whine at that, softly stroking his arm. Charles placed his hand over hers, giving her a small smile and squeezing her hand gently in a reassuring manner.

Moira hesitated for a moment, fiddling with her phone before she swivelled in her seat to face them. “There is another option,” she told them. “But you're not going to like it.”

“We're not going to have to flee the country in the middle of the night, are we?” Raven asked. “'Cause I think my passport's expired.”

“No, nothing like that,” Moira replied, shaking her head. She paused before meeting Charles gaze. “You could get married to an Alpha.”

Charles couldn't help but let out a bark of laughter at that. “You're joking.”

“No, Charles, listen,” Moira said, rising from her seat and holding her hands out imploringly. “If you got married, Cain would have no grounds whatsoever to be able to claim custody over Raven. You'd have full legal custody of her until she comes of age. Then any reports about your feral behaviour would have to go straight to the WCD, which I could easily take care of. Plus, you'd have another Alpha around to help protect you in case Cain tries anything sordid.”

“You must be mad if you think I'm letting some strange Alpha anywhere within ten feet of me,” Charles snapped at her, folding his arms over his chest. “And I certainly don't need any Alpha's protection, either.”

“Charles,” Raven said, gently. “I think it's a good idea.”

“What?” Charles yelped, incredulously.

“Look, it wouldn't have to be permanent, only until I turn eighteen. That's not even a whole year and you could file for a divorce straight after my birthday,” Raven reasoned. “It would make me feel better knowing there's another Alpha about to look after you, too.”

“I think you're forgetting about the part where we'd be bonded for life,” Charles told her with a frown. “Or the part where I wouldn't hesitate at tearing their throat out if they so much as tried to touch me.”

“We're not saying you have to mate with them, Charles,” Moira explained, gently. “That isn't a necessity in the legal process. It will be just a simple, human marriage.”

“You really think there's an Alpha out there that would be willing to marry me; a twenty nine year old, feral Omega without even a pack, without getting possessive or wanting to force a bond?” Charles asked in clear disbelief.

Moira winced. “Well, you might want to leave out the feral part. Maybe offer up some of the Xavier fortune as extra incentive?”

“There has to be an Alpha out there somewhere that'd be willing to fake marry you for less than a year,” Raven said. “We can't be the only wolves in existence that aren't looking for permanent mates.”

“Yes, but we're not exactly the epitome of normal are we, darling?” Charles pointed out.

Raven pulled a face. “True,” she agreed, reluctantly.

“I admit, it's not looking that hopeful,” Moira said. “But what other choice do you have? You can't let this go to court Charles.”

Charles eyed her beseeching expression for a moment, turning to look questioningly at Raven who nodded at him encouragingly. He let out a deep, rattling sigh, ruffling his hair up with one hand.

“All right, fine,” he agreed, grudgingly. “But I wouldn't even know where to start looking for an Alpha.”

“The Lycanthropy club in town holds an Omega night on Tuesdays,” Raven suggested with a mischievous grin. “I can go with you, help you pick someone out.”

“Oh, joy,” Charles replied sarcastically. He was regretting agreeing to this plan already.

Chapter Text

Charles watched himself in the mirror hanging above his dresser as he adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, his brow wrinkled in consternation. Tuesday had arrived far too quickly for his liking, and he was dreading the thought of attending the Lycanthropy club that night, even though Raven had promised to not leave his side for the entire evening.

The whole club would no doubt be teeming with drunk and horny Alphas, with little to no concept of personal boundaries. The very idea of having to entice one of them into a fake marriage and then further having to endure their company for an entire year made Charles shudder in apprehension.

Placing his hands on the top of the dresser, Charles leant in close to the mirror and gave his reflection a stern look. “But no matter what happens tonight, old boy, you must simply grin and bear it,” Charles told himself. “For Raven’s sake you must act pleasant, charming and most importantly, not reveal a single hint of feral behaviour.”

Giving his reflection a short, sharp nod, Charles pushed away from the dresser to grab the small orange pill bottle sitting on his bedside table. Xavier Suppressants was stamped on the lid in blocked blue letters, repeated in the same manner on the front label, followed by a short list of instructions and warnings in a miniscule print as per the norm.

The Xavier brand of heat suppressants had been the first of its kind, invented by Charles’ father after many long years of hard work and experimentation. Although there were now a large range of different brands available on the market that Charles would have happily preferred to use, the Xavier brand still remained as the most effective of the lot. It had been a very long time since Charles had last gone through a natural heat and only the strongest of suppressants would be able to keep his monthly heat cycles at bay.

The plastic lid twisted off the bottle with a sharp click. Charles shook out the last of the small white pills onto his palm, making a mental note to pick up some more before he swallowed the pill dry. He was due an appointment with Hank in any case and Charles always enjoyed chatting with the exuberant young omega doctor. Though he could have done without the frequent lectures Hank gave over Charles’ reluctance to shift outside of the full moon and how it was bad for his health, but that was neither here nor there.

Charles grabbed his brown blazer off the bed and went in search of Raven, eager to get the dreadful evening over and done with. He knocked gently on her bedroom door, knowing better than to enter an Alpha’s territory without their explicit permission.

“Charles, are you-” Raven started as she opened the door, her words cutting off abruptly as she took in his outfit. Charles gaped at hers in return.

She wore a little black sequin dress with a plunging neckline. Her three inch spiked heel boots went above the knees and were decorated with large golden buckles. Raven had straightened her hair so that it fell like a thick blonde sheet about her bare shoulders, the silken locks tucked behind her ears to reveal a large pair of golden hoop earrings.

“What the fuck are you wearing?” Raven asked, sounding scandalised.

“Don’t you think that dress is a little, um… revealing, darling?” Charles asked in return, with a wince. He was well aware of how Raven frequented the clubs on the Alpha side of town, but he’d never seen her dress up in quite such a manner before.

“My dress is fine, Charles,” Raven replied, rolling her eyes. “It’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to wear to clubs. Unlike what you’re wearing.”

“What’s wrong with my clothes?” he asked, looking down at himself.

“You look like you’re just going down for a bite to eat at the cafe on the corner,” Raven told him, sounding exasperated. “You’re supposed to be trying to attract an Alpha, Charles. You need to put a little more effort into it.”

“I thought I looked quite smart, actually,” Charles said, self-consciously smoothing a hand down his front.

“We’re going to Lycanthropy. You need to look sexy, not smart,” Raven told him, heels clicking against the hardwood floor as she strode down the hall and into his room.

Charles pulled a sour face behind her back before reluctantly trailing after her. Raven’s torso disappeared completely from view as she delved deep into his closet, plastic hangers clattering noisily as she rummaged through his clothes.

Charles let her have at it, perching himself on the end of his bed with a resigned huff.

“There has to be something in here,” he heard Raven muttering to herself before she let out a noise of triumph. She emerged with a pair of skinny black jeans that Charles hadn’t worn in over a decade. “Start with these.”

“They are far too tight, Raven.” Charles complained as she tossed him the jeans before vanishing back into the closet.

“Tight is sexy,” she replied, voice muffled. “It shows off your assets.”

“Don’t be crude,” Charles scolded absently, examining the jeans dubiously. “How the devil do you expect me to be able to sit down in these things?”

“Stop complaining already, you’re wearing them,” Raven ordered, before making a disgusted noise. She re-appeared holding one of Charles’ more frequently worn cardigans. It was a light beige in colour with large pockets sown into the sides, and brown toggles dangling down the front instead of buttons.

“Oh, up close this isn’t just ugly, it’s fugly,” she said with a wrinkled nose. “Can we throw it away? Or better yet, burn it?”

Charles snatched it from her hands, affronted. “You’ll do nothing of the sort, this is one of my favourites!”

Raven gave him a wry look. “You’re hopeless,” she told him, turning back to the closet.

“You seem awfully concerned about looks all of a sudden,” Charles observed, placing the cardigan safely to one side. “Normally you couldn’t care one wit as to what I wear.”

Raven seemed to hesitate for a moment before she answered. “I’ve got friends at Lycanthropy. I have to make sure you leave a good impression or I’ll never be able to show my face there again,” she explained, pulling out a bright red turtleneck from the dark recesses of his closet.

“So dramatic,” Charles laughed, unbuttoning his shirt with one hand as Raven handed him the new clothes.

Generally werewolves didn’t have the same sort of reservations over nudity that humans had, especially wolves with a large pack. It would make things frustratingly awkward otherwise since whenever they shifed to and from wolf form there was a distinct lack of clothing involved.

They had not gone on any Pack runs for many years now as Charles was unable to control his feral nature when he shifted into wolf form. But Raven was always the one who had to help deal with the aftermath of his full moon shifts where he’d been chained up in the spare room. She’d seen his naked body numerous times before and it would be silly to feel uncomfortable changing clothes in front of her now.

“Are you that concerned I’ll ruin your reputation?” Charles asked mildly, tugging up the jeans with only a small amount of difficulty.

“Don’t be stupid. I just want to make sure you have the best chance at attracting a nice Alpha, is all.”

Raven stepped back once Charles had pulled on the turtleneck, chin in hand as she looked him up and down. “Not bad, but it’s missing something.”

“About an inch or two of room in these jeans,” Charles said, yanking at the denim clinging to his thighs.

Raven shot him a quelling look before quickly clattering out of the room, returning less than a minute later with a black leather jacket in hand. “Here, put this on.”

“Where did you get this?” Charles asked as he shrugged it on. The smell of leather was still strong which meant the jacket was still fairly new and it only carried the faintest traces of Raven’s scent, suggesting she hadn’t worn it for any length of time.

“It’s been hanging in my closet for the past few months,” Raven replied offhandedly, smoothing her hands down the jackets sleeves, absently scent marking her brother. “It was supposed to be a present but it was too big. It looks all right on you, though.”

“Thank you. Shall we go?” Charles asked, eager to get the evening over and done with.

“Yeah sure, you’re good to go,” Raven grinned as she led the way to the front door. “Looking like that you’ll get tons of Alpha’s checking you out.”

“Splendid,” Charles replied sourly, grabbing his keys off the side table in the hall as they passed. “I’m driving.”

“Awesome,” Raven chirped over her shoulder. “Because I’m drinking.”

*

The Lycanthropy club was situated on the opposite side of town by the water front, where the area was generally recognised as the Alpha part of town. It was a long squat building, with ceiling to floor tinted glass windows lining the front wall. There was no sign declaring the club’s name anywhere, simply the howling wolf head insignia etched into the glass panels of the front doors.

A long red velvet rope ran along the side of the building, herding the crowd of people gathered there into a jumbled semblance of a queue. Two bouncers stood before them guarding the entrance, one holding a clipboard in hand whilst talking into a radio, the other standing with his arms crossed over his chest and looking vaguely bored.

“They don’t seem to be letting anyone in,” Charles commented as they joined the end of the queue, rocking back on his heels as he attempted to peer over the top of the heads of the people standing in front.

“It must be really busy tonight,” Raven huffed, looking annoyed. She let out a small growl of frustration, startling a short brunette Omega that had filed into line behind them. Charles smiled at her apologetically, recieving a dark glare in return. “Shit, we’ll never get in at this rate.”

Raven bit her lip in thought before she leant over the velvet rope, craning her head around to see past the length of the queue. “Hey, Azazel! Oi! Over here!” she yelled, waving her arm wildly at one of the bouncers.

“Raven,” Charles hissed, yanking his sister back roughly by her arm as people turned to look at them with varying odd looks. “What are you doing?”

“Getting us in,” Raven replied mildly as the bored looking bouncer approached.

He was a tall and fairly intimidating looking Alpha, with a long scar that ran down one side of his face, intersecting his left eye. He was dressed entirely in black, with ‘STAFF’ printed in white blocked letters across the chest of his tight t-shirt.

“Azazel, my man!” Raven chirped in greeting, drawing the bouncer into a quick friendly hug. Charles bit back a growl at the show of familiarity. He knew that Raven was a frequent patron of the club and had friends that worked there, but seeing his sister and only other pack member acting friendly with an Alpha that he’d never met before set him on edge. “How are you doing?”

“Eh, not bad,” Azazel replied, his voice thick with a Russian accent. “No one has made trouble, so it is slow night.”

“Well, it’s still early. Once the drunks have had their fill, I’m sure things will pick up for you,” Raven laughed. She clapped a hand on Charles’ shoulder. “This is my older brother, Charles.”

Azazel looked him up and down, raising an eyebrow. “You’re older brother?” he repeated dubiously. “He does not look more than twenty.”

Raven forced a laugh, slapping Charles hard on the back in faux playfulness before he could do more than sneer at Azazel’s comment. His youthful facade was somewhat of a sore spot, stemming from the difficulties Charles had in finding a decent job. He’d lost count over how many of his applications had been rejected because it was generally believed he’d be better off spending his time searching for an Alpha whilst he could still pass in looks as an Omega in his prime mating years.

“Baby faces tend to run in the family,” Raven said with a strained smile, shooting Charles a warning look. He glared back at her, but kept his mouth shut. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’d let us cut ahead of the queue and head straight on in?”

“Club is at maximum capacity,” Azazel told them with a shrug. “Until someone come out, no one gets in.”

“Oh, come on! The two of us won’t take up much room,” Raven wheedled, tilting her head to one side with a bright grin. “I’ll owe you one!”

Azazel folded his arms as he stared her down.

“Besides,” Raven leaned in closer to Azazel and stage-whispered, “Charles is on the hunt for a mate.”

Raven!” Charles hissed in protest, flushing in embarrassment as Azazel looked him over with a renewed interest, his nostrils flaring as he registered Charles’ pure Omega scent.

“You wouldn’t deny my brother a chance at finding a mate now, would you?” Raven asked, ignoring Charles.

Azazel’s eyes flicked between Raven and Charles before eventually grunting his aquiesence. “All right, go ahead. Angel was hoping to see you tonight anyway,” he told them, holding the rope aloft so they could easily duck underneath.

Charles willfully ignored all the dirty looks from the people still waiting in the queue as Azazel escorted them to the entrance, leading them past his colleague with a simple nod of acknowledgement.

“Go in. We close at three,” Azazel added, fixing Charles with a pointed look.

Charles glared back at Azazel before following Raven through the entrance into a dimly lit foyer. It was sparsely decorated, save for a lone table with a marble top standing in the centre, a large flowering potted plant set on top. The cloakroom was in an alcove to the left, the young human attendant sat on a short stool beside it, snapping on a piece of gum as he played with his phone. There were a set of double doors in the far wall, muffling a steady thumping dance beat coming from the main room beyond.

“What the fuck was that?” Raven hissed at Charles as she handed her coat over to the attendant who looked annoyed at being interrupted from his game.

“What was what?” Charles asked, stuffing the ticket stub into his jeans since Raven didn’t have any available pockets.

Raven flapped a hand towards the entrance. “With Azazel, dumb-ass!” At Charles’ blank look she added, “he totally checked you out just now and you acted all affronted!”

Charles sputtered. “I’m a grown man of twenty-nine and he just said I looked like I was barely twenty!”

Raven stared at him, disbelievingly. “Charles, most people would take the age thing as a huge compliment.”

“Well I didn’t appreciate it,” he snapped back.

Raven groaned, slapping a hand against her forehead. “This is going to be so much fucking harder than I thought it would be.” She pointed at Charles with a stern expression. “You need to take out that stick that’s been rammed way up your ass and learn to relax for once. You’re never going to be able to attract any potential Alphas if you’re not open to even a little bit of flirting.”

Charles swatted her finger away from his face with a snarl. Raven drew back, startled by his sudden aggression. He winced at her betrayed look, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I’m sorry, darling. I just haven’t been around Alphas like this for a long time and I’m… struggling,” he explained, flexing his hands by his sides.

Raven’s hurt expression morphed instantly into one of sympathy. She wrapped her arms around his neck with a whine and drew him into a tight hug. Charles buried his face into her neck, taking comfort in her familiar scent.

“I’m sorry. Sometimes I just forget,” she mumbled before pulling back. “If you really don’t feel up to this, we’ll go home right now. We don’t have to do this tonight.”

Charles smiled softly at her concern, shaking his head. “No, it’s fine. The sooner we can get this over with, the better, I think.”

Raven’s eyes flicked over him for a moment before she gave him a slow nod of understanding. Charles gave a her a quick peck on the cheek and offered her his arm. Raven took it with an exaggerated roll of her eyes and together they strode through the double doors that led to the main room of the club.

It was a building-wide room, with a dance floor that took up almost half of the entire space. Black vinyl booths lined every wall but the one to the far right which was already taken up by a long, sleek looking bar. Waist-high round tables ringed with tall stools littered the remaining space between the dance floor and the bar.

The club was extremely crowded. The dance floor was swarmed with sweaty bodies swaying to the beat and most of the tables and booths were subsequently occupied. Charles noticed that everyone was dressed up in a similar fashion to Raven and himself, and he was suddenly glad he’d allowed his sister to have her way with his outfit. Though he still wished for a more comfortable pair of jeans.

He trailed after Raven as she easily wove her way through the crowded tables towards the bar, smiling as two women kindly slid apart to make space for them. Raven leant on the counter, waving to attract the attention of the nearest bartender; a beautiful dark-skinned woman who filled our her tight red and black dress rather admirably. She beamed upon spotting Raven and hurried over.

“Wow, Raven. You look amazing,” the woman told her, cheeks dimpling as she smiled.

Charles blinked, bemused at the way Raven flushed at the compliment. She flicked her hair behind her shoulder with a small, pleased smile on her face. “Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”

Angel shrugged, smoothing her hands down the side of her dress in a self-conscious manner. “It’s not a bad uniform, I guess.”

“Even in uniform, you’re still the most beautiful woman here,” Raven told her, smoothly.

Charles looked between the two women, feeling a little awkward as the third wheel. He gave a pointed cough to interrupt their flirting, amused at the way Raven startled as though she’d completely forgotten he was there.

“Ah, Charles, this is my friend Angel,” Raven said, belatedly remembering her manners and looking slightly sheepish about it.

Charles shot his sister an amused look before politely shaking Angel’s proferred hand, subtly scenting her as he did so. Underneath the heavy mix of wolves, alcohol and perfume, Angel was surprisingly human. Though not unheard of, it was rare for a human to want to work in an establishment run by werewolves. It had been over fifty years since the humans had learnt of the existence of werewolves, but there was unfortunately still a lot of prejudice and social stigma between the two species.

“Charles Xavier,” he introduced himself, genially.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Charles,” Angel told him with a friendly grin. “Raven’s always going on about her brother that lectures at the university.”

“I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve had the same pleasure. Raven’s been rather tight-lipped about you,” Charles replied with a pointed look at his sister. She shot him a dirty look in return.

Angel laughed. “Well, there’s not much to tell to be honest. I work nights here and during the day I work at Shaw’s Restaurant around the corner,” she said with a shrug. “Can I get you guys anything to drink?”

“Dead Man’s Float,” Raven requested gruffly, ignoring Charles’ look of disapproval. Drinking, like her swearing, was one of the battles Charles had conceded to Raven’s stubbornness. Though sometimes he did wonder if she drank just to spite him since he was unable to drink alcohol without fear of losing control of himself.

“Just a Cola for me, please,” Charles said, politely. When Angel gave him an odd look, he simply explained, “I’m driving.”

“Coming right up!” Angel chirped, bustling quickly down the bar to make up their drinks.

Charles waited until she was gone before turning to Raven with a knowing grin.

“Shut up, Charles,” Raven warned.

“I didn’t say anything,” Charles laughed, raising his hands defensively.

“Your face said enough,” Raven muttered back, a light pink dusting her cheeks as she avoided his gaze.

“She seems like a lovely girl,” he said, tapping his fingers against the bar to the thumping beat of the music. “I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks, Charles,” Raven said sincerely with a small smile, though it quickly faded. She pushed away from the bar, turning around before leaning back against it, her elbows resting on the counter as she gazed out onto the dance floor. “But… I can’t be with her like that.”

“Why on earth not?” Charles asked, bewildered. “I mean, obviously you haven’t claimed her since she’s human and you’re still very much underage-”

“Oh my god, Charles, keep your voice down!” Raven exclaimed, her face turning beet red in embarrassment. She glanced around to see if anyone was eavesdropping on their conversation before leaning closer to Charles. “They all think I’m twenty-one here and I don’t want to get kicked out!”

“You haven’t slept with her already, have you?” Charles asked, his tone turning chiding. “Because even by wolf law-”

“No, I haven’t!” Raven cried, her hands covering her face in dismay. “Jesus fucking christ almighty! I’m still a virgin and I haven’t claimed anyone!”

“Then I don’t understand what the problem is? You’re both clearly attracted to one another, so what’s stopping you?”

“Charles, would you please just fucking drop it already?” Raven snapped. “I don’t want to talk about it!”

“But-”

“Please!” Raven pleaded, gripping his arm. “Just drop it.”

Charles sighed before reluctantly acquiescing with a nod, even though he was burning with curiousity over why exactly his sister was holding back.

“All right,” he conceded as Angel returned with their drinks in hand.

“I’m actually kind of surprised to see you here, Charles,” Angel admitted as she set their glasses down on the counter before them. “From what I’ve heard, this isn’t exactly your typical scene.”

“He’s on the look out for an Alpha,” Raven told her with a conspiratorial wink. “If you see any good-looking ones, send them his way, okay?”

Charles cast Raven an exasperated look whilst she sipped her drink with a smug air. His sister was definately drinking now just to spite him.

“An Alpha?” Angel repeated, gaping at Charles. “You are?”

Charles exchanged a confused look with Raven. “Is there something wrong with my looking for an Alpha?” he asked, slightly offended by her obviously shocked reaction.

Angel blinked, looking taken aback. “No! Of course not. It’s just that you-” she faltered, seemingly struggling for the right words. “You don’t really seem the type, is all.”

“So I don’t seem like a regular type of Omega to you?” he asked, flinching at the sharp kick Raven gave to his shin. He really wished she hadn’t worn the spiked heel boots.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way!” Angel hastily backtracked, shifting nervously on her feet and glancing around the bar. “You’re- well… you’re, er…”

“I’m?” Charles repeated, completely offended now.

“Hey, sorry, I’ve got to get back to work!” Angel decided, jerking her thumb over her shoulder. She darted forward to give a bewildered Raven a quick peck on the cheek. “Call me later, babe. Charles, it was - er, nice meeting you.”

“You too!” Charles called after her as she hastily fled to the other end of the bar, disappearing through a swing door marked as ‘Employees Only’.

“Well, that was fucking weird,” Raven said after a confused moment of silence.

“Strange girl that,” Charles murmured in agreement. “Lovely,” he hastily amended at Raven’s sharp look. “But strange.”

Raven rolled her eyes and took another sip of her drink. She slapped him on the arm before flapping her hand at the dance floor. “You’re supposed to be looking for an Alpha, so look already.”

Charles pulled a face at her before turning his back on the bar and mimicking her posture. He scanned the dance floor, quietly surprised at the amount of Omegas he could see, especially with all the disturbing rumours he’d heard concerning the club’s supposed illicit activities.

Though he spotted a couple of appealing looking Alphas amongst the crowd, they were already paired off. There were still a lot of the older ones left, strutting about the floor in a pitiful attempt at peacocking, but Charles resigned himself to not approaching any of them unless his desperation got the better of him.

Charles turned his gaze away from the dance floor to the booths lining the far wall. He twitched in surprise when he found the man in the corner booth watching him intently. He was an Alpha and appeared to be listening to a rather one-sided conversation coming from the phone pressed against his ear. From what Charles could see, he seemed to be wearing a rather sleek looking pale blue suit, though the look was made casual by the plain t-shirt he wore underneath the jacket rather than a proper shirt.

The man eventually finished the phone call, stashing the phone away inside his jacket before picking up his martini glass, his gaze fixed on Charles’ over the rim as he took a sip. He was pale, with short auburn hair parted neatly to one side. He was definitely one of the more attractive Alphas in the room, but it was his quiet self-assuredness that drew Charles’ attention. As Charles watched him, the man’s lips twitched up in a minute smile, his head tilted to one side and eyebrows raised in a silent invitation of conversation.

Charles took a breath, habitually going to decline when he stopped himself. Raven was right, he needed to learn to relax and flirt a little. Why not start with this Alpha? If he turned out to be an arrogant arse, Charles could easily just get Raven to run him off. Decision made, Charles picked up his drink and made to cross the room when Raven startled him by grabbing his arm.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday. Desperate old fogey at 2 o’clock, fast approaching,” she warned quietly, her eyes wide as she cringed and turned her back to the floor.

The Alpha approaching was a large man with a walrus mustache and a ruddy complexion that suggested he’d already had one too many drinks that night. Charles cringed as he bumped into someone, belching loudly during his apology.

“Oh dear lord,” Charles muttered, following Raven’s example and spinning around to face the bar, hoping the drunk old Alpha would get the hint.

Luck, it seemed, was against him however as the Alpha stepped in a little too close for Charles’ comfort, swaying slightly on the spot as he slurred, “Well, here I am! What’s your next wish?”

Raven choked loudly at Charles’ other side as she tried hard not to laugh. Charles grimaced, raising a hand at the man in a warding off gesture. “Please, don’t.”

“Are you a cowboy? ‘Cause I see you riding me,” the Alpha continued with a smarmy grin. He leant closer, completely disregarding the low rumbling growl Charles gave in warning. “Baby, you could ride me all night long.”

Charles’ hand trembled with effort as he fought the urge to unsheath his claws. He curled his fingers into his palm, breathing slowly as he told himself to remain calm.

The Alpha remained completely oblivious to Charles’ rapidly diminishing patience and clear discomfort, taking his silence as permission to press even closer, placing his hand on the small of Charles’ back.

Charles twitched at the contact. He bared his teeth in a silent snarl before growling, “Remove your hand. Now.”

“Aw, baby don’t be like that!” The drunken arse gave an exaggerated pout. “I’ll show you a good time, promise.”

“Fucking hell, enough already!” Raven exclaimed from her spot by Charles’ elbow, throwing her head back with a groan. “He’s not interested, so fuck off!”

“Shut the fuck up, bitch! This has nothing to do with you,” the drunk Alpha snarled.

“See, normally I wouldn’t give a shit over a jerk like you, but that’s my brother you’re currently inflicting yourself upon,” Raven said, moving to stand between him and Charles, forcing the drunk Alpha to back up a few steps. “So fuck off.”

“Or what?”

Raven’s lip curled as she flashed her eyes in warning. “Or I’ll make you.”

The drunk Alpha took a breath, paused, and with Raven staring him down, he seemed to change his mind. “Fucking bitch,” he muttered at her before staggering away. Charles pitied the next victim he found to foist his pitiful pick-up lines on.

“Creep,” Raven murmured, her eyes narrowed as she watched him leave.

“Thank you for that, darling,” Charles said, sincerely.

“Hey, I was tempted to just let you go ahead and do permenant damage to the fucker!” Raven cast a disgusted look over her shoulder. “I don’t think anyone would have blamed you if you had.”

Charles huffed a laugh before turning back to the room, stifling a sigh of disappointment when he saw that the Alpha in the corner booth had left.

“Here, I have to use the bathroom,” Raven said, shoving her drink in Charles’ hand. “Try to at least stay out of trouble while I’m gone.”

Charles stared at her blankly as Raven shot him a warning look before ambling away, leaving him alone in a room full of Alphas. He took a large swig of his drink and leant back against the bar, trying not to look as lost as he felt.

“I would offer to buy you a drink, but you already appear to have two.”

Charles turned, surprised to see the Alpha from the booth had approached him. His eyes were a piercing shade of blue, evaluating as they flicked over Charles’ form.

“Um, sorry?” Charles asked, before realising he still had Raven’s drink in his other hand. “Oh! No. Er, this is my sister’s,” he explained, feeling strangely flustered as he set the drink down on the bar.

“Your sister. That would be the blonde Alpha who stood down the one-line wonder just now?”

Charles winced, embarrassed. “You heard that delightful exchange then?”

“Every painful word.” The Alpha pulled a face of mock sincerity. “Are you a cowboy?” he asked, before rolling his eyes.

Charles laughed softly, ending it with a large gulp of his drink. The Alpha watched him for a moment before he took a step closer. Charles bit back an instinctive warning growl, still feeling slightly on edge from the drunken Alpha’s unwanted advances.

“My name is Erik,” the Alpha said, extending his hand. Charles hesitated for only a moment before he slipped his fingers into Erik’s grip and gave his hand a firm shake.

“Charles Xavier,” he replied.

Erik smelt of leather, pine and an odd hint of something metallic. Overlaying it all was the heavy musk of an Alpha that tugged at the more primal part of Charles’ instincts, making him want. Charles let out a shuddering breath before pulling his hand free. It still tingled from the phantom pressure of Erik’s fingers and he tucked his hand in his pocket, fighting the urge to wipe the feeling away.

“Charles Xavier,” Erik repeated slowly, as though he was savouring the name. He grinned widely and Charles shivered, knowing better than to trust a smile with that many teeth. “It’s a pleasure.”