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[b "He probably hasn't had a good meal in a while,"] Erik noted from across the table. [b "The food at the compound may be bland, but it'll be good for putting meat back on your bones."]
The boy - while timid and awkward - seemed eager enough for a change of scenery. Even if he was still unsure of Erik, Charlotte had charmed him entirely and it would be altogether unsurprising if he trailed after her like a puppy to its mother. [i [b "You must have adopted a lot of stray animals as a child,]] he thought in his head, knowing she'd hear him.
Regardless, she was all too happy to remind him of their bet, smiling smugly from her seat. Narrowing his eyes, he fought the grin that wanted to appear. [b "Keep it up and I'll have your fifty dollars waiting on your bed, paid entirely in nickels."]
Sean looked between them, unsure if the older man was actually capable of making jokes. [i "Remind me, what exactly am I going to be training for? And he's not going to be the one training me, is he?"] he looked to Charlotte while gesturing to Erik.
[b "Charlotte's approach to teaching is less likely to get you maimed or killed. I prefer learning on the job. Perhaps dropping the lot of you in a forest and seeing how you fare,"] Erik kept a blank face.
The boy laughed nervously. [i "He's kidding, right? Right?"]
[b "I wonder if your powers can deter bears,"] Erik went back to his milkshake.
[i [b /+// Now, Erik, //+/]] Charlotte began mentally, the tint of her mental-speaking to the man amused as she kept her outward expression innocent. [i [b /+// What did we talk about with bullying the humans from the compound that aren't being rude? If they're rude there you can threaten to castrate them for all I care. ...Just don't tell Raven I condoned it. Have to keep up the good rolemodle form.//+/]] She gave a sniff on the outside world, shooting Erik the smallest smile.
The chatter filled the table with Erik's monologing of the bland potatoes, the Agent at the table with them eating a cake and a sandwich , and Charlotte attending to her own food.
The professor turned her attention to Sean perhaps halfway through the meals, giving an amused huff as she grabbed a napkin and gently encouraged him to place the dual burger-eating down. [b "The food will be a little more satisfying - and less likely to make you sick - if you slow down a bit."] She cradled Sean's face with one hand, using the other to clean up the mess like a mother might a much younger child. [b "I bet the food will be even [i more] satisfying if you can slow down enough to make sure most of it ends up in your mouth instead of on your face-"] A soft laugh cut off her words, she capturing Sean's hands next to clean those off, [b "-or on your hands."]
The poor fifteen-year-old was blushing almost as red as his hair, but he gave a dutiful little 'Yes, ma'am' and a meek grin to Charlotte's gentle words.
The women smiled, finishing up from her cleaning and tossed the used napkins into the pile growing in the center of the table. [b "You owe that me fifty dollars, Erik. The potatoes have thwarted your existence again."] She added innocently, nodding to her finished chocolate milkshake. It stood so innocently next to Erik's own half-drank/half-melted strawberry one. [b "I would also like it in a nicely crisp and new bill."] She stuck her tongue out a little, a smirk in place.
[b "A chocolate milkshake? Are you twelve? Strawberry milkshakes are clearly superior,"] Erik challenged her. [b "Besides, they're on page three of the menu. I looked for those first. I'll take that fifty in a nice crisp new bill, please,"] he smirked.
[i "I really don't think we need all that much food - "] the agent sputtered, trying to rein them in on his watch before they racked up several hundred dollars worth of food.
[b "You wouldn't be denying a homeless, starving child a solid meal, would you?"] Erik leaned to make eye contact. [b "I wouldn't want word getting out that the government doesn't provide for children in their care."]
Sean played up the act, pouting as pitifully as he physically could. [i "I haven't eaten in days,"] he wimpered.
The agent looked horrified. [i "No, of course not, I'd never say he can't eat, it's just that - "]
[b "Good, it's settled. Sean, order what you'd like,"] Erik settled back in his seat. Glacing up innocently at Charlotte, he tilted his head. [b "Problem solved."]
A round of drinks were ordered, along with three milkshakes, and then a rather absurd amount of burgers, fries, and onion rings. There were enough plates that they barely had room for their cups on the table. Erik placed a massive slice of chocolate cake in front of the CIA Agent, stabbing a fork straight out of it. [b "I even got something for you. Dig in, or I'll be offended."]
[i "Is the food this good at the compound?"] Sean had a burger in each hand, alternating bites.
[b "Not even a little,"] Erik launched into an explanation on the bland potatoes and flavourless meatloaf that awaited them.
Charlotte had tried to debate that "Well, if it was a destined-to-be-evil baby" to Erik's disbelief on her stabbing statement, but even Sean had proceeded to laugh at her so she had just grinned and let the subject drop with a roll of her eyes.
It seemed like no time at all before they were at the diner that young Sean had directed them too, and Charlotte couldn't help but role her eyes from where she was sandwiched between the guard and Sean - Erik was directly across from the guard, technically, because of the C-curve of the booth they were in, but Erik couldn't throw a fuss about a man he'd been hassling not wanting to sit by him - especially since she was quite sure she could feel a constant satisfaction on Erik's surface thoughts every time he glanced at the guard.
[i One crisis at a time, Charlotte. Erik has already made a few leaps in not being a little shite to the government employees already. Focus on the current crisis.] She scolded herself.
Charlotte tuned back into the current moment in just in time to snort at Erik's statement. [b "American's due tend to think they're great, but they do get a lot of help from various sources. From pens and pencils, to the creation of Captain America, and so on."] She agreed, resting her cheek against her hand. She glanced at the menu, a little mischief sparking to life with a single item-photo. [b "I bet I can finish a chocolate shake before you. Let's say... put fifty on it?"] She wagered, glancing up at him and giving a lopsided, cheeky grin, [b "It is on the government's dime, after all. Not like they'd notice, hm?"] She winked, finding an actual meal to order. [b "Waitress will be over for drink-orders in a few moments, by the by. Pepsi-products only here."]
Erik narrowed his eyes at her. [b "Only one of those things would actually surprise me. You'd sooner throw yourself into the scorching sun than even frown at a baby, let alone stab one. I fully believe everything else on that list. So long as secret service isn't after us, I'd say we're free to go."]
His mouth was watering by the time they were able to squeeze into a red plastic-covered booth in the far corner of the diner. Greasy fried food and fresh coffee were just what they needed. [b "Order what you want, the government is paying for it,"] Erik slid a menu to Sean, scanning his own for the most expensive item.
The boy looked hesitant. [i "Are you joking?"]
Erik fished his wallet from his pocket and pulled out a credit card. [b "We're on official government business, therefore expenses are covered as needed. Since food is a requirement to stay alive, I'd say this counts as business expenditures. I'd even recommend ordering more food to go when we're finished."]
Enough was said. Sean buried his head in the menu, seeking out the tastiest thing he could find. Erik flashed Charlotte a grin. [b "I doubt a German and a Brit were what American agents were hoping for in regards to help, but as long as they're footing the bill, I'd say we should indulge ourselves. Wouldn't you agree?"]
[b "It could be worse, Erik - we could all be giving an impression of the Empire State Building like you are. That me even more cozy."] Charlotte teased, buckling herself in and making sure that Sean did the same. She also looked pointedly at Erik, but knew that ultimately be his choice considering, well, he'd probably the safest naturally if a car-wreck were to ever happen.
Of course Erik didn't wait for her input on the type of food they currently had time for, but she was also the one who gave Sean an encouraging nod to go ahead and answer freely no matter what they conversation from minutes before had been.
Besides, the other two they were looking for would still be there in a couple hours - especially the first of the two they'd be going for, since he was willingly in isolation as a 'pyromaniac'.
[b "And what you missed, Erik? Nothing, nothing at all."] Charlotte finally said in response to his question as the drive along to this "Mamie's" restaurant started. [b "I just took over mankind, started a riot, stabbed a baby, kidnapped America's president, and flipped a rather rude man onto his back. Same old, same old; you know how I am such a little shrew with a violence streak."] She shrugged, inspecting her nails and fought off a smirk as Sean tried to muffle his giggles from beside her.
It wasn't much longer before the drive was through, though, and a parking spot was managed to be found at the rather busy diner.
[b "I know I walk quickly, but surely you didn't fall that far behind,"] Erik drawled when they joined him at the car.
To prove his point of being nice, he even went so far as to open the door for them. [i "We didn't, you missed it! She totally-"] the boy trailed off, unsure if he should say anything.
Erik raised an eyebrow at Charlotte. [b "What is it that I missed? You wouldn't leave me out of any fun now, would you Ms Xavier?"]
The town car that was supplied to them for the journey mercifully had a rather roomy backseat, with a second bench facing the opposite direction behind the driver's seat. Erik was quite a bit taller than the other two, and took the entire bench for himself, sitting on a diagonal angle so he wasn't bumping knees or feet with the other two. [b "Isn't this cozy,"] he reached for the stack of files from the floor.
[i "Where to, sir?"] the driver nervously asked.
[b "Any requests?"] Erik looked to Sean.
The boy hesitated. [i "There's a really good diner not far from here, called Mamie's. It's got the best cheeseburgers around."]
[b "You heard the man,"] Erik tilted his head to the driver. [b "Cheeseburgers it is."]
He made it a point to avoid looking at Sean for the drive. The less he had to take in the boy's half-starved frame and sad puppy dog eyes, the less his stomach would twist with guilt.
Charlotte blinked, screwing her face up to try and mock the scowl Erik had left with, and she grinned as she heard a snicker from the teenager beside her. [b "Come along, sweetheart. Would getting some fast-food before stopping for a proper meal? We have at least one other stop we have to make before lunch."] She asked, wrapping her arm around him and giving a squeeze.
Sean nodded in agreement and, despite being a good six inches taller than Charlotte , easily melted into the woman's hold like a lost child - and that's what he was, and Charlotte knew what that was like, and refused to let it happen again.
...Of course, the minute Erik walked away is the moment they probably could have used his assistance the most.
Long story short, if Erik turned around, he'd be able to briefly see Charlotte bodily putting herself between Sean and this man , Sean looking fearful but also like he was ready to defend Charlotte like a dog would their pack, the man reaching out-
-and Charlotte gripping his wrist, twisting it behind the mans back, and knocking him down to the ground while the zoo's onlookers gave no attention to the incident at all.
Erik had never been one for compassion. Why should he show sympathy when his entire life had been spent being abused by everyone he'd come in contact with, after his parents were murdered? After his people had been slaughtered like animals? No, he had learned from a young age to steel himself and to never expose any softhearted feelings he may have.
So why in the absolute hell did her encouragement rattle him so much?
He kept his eyes locked on the boy as she spoke. [i Sean,] he forced himself to say his name. There'd been a period of time when Erik had been just a number, not a boy with a name. Subconsciously, his fingers brushed against the number still tattooed into the skin of his forearm, underneath the wool of his jacket. Sean had a name, and Erik would not be like the men who took his own from him.
Charlotte's words punched holes in his chest though his face remained as neutral as he could make it. Home. Food. Warmth. Things that he, himself, had been without as a teenager. Surviving by taken shelter in barns left standing after Nazis tore through towns and farms. Morsels of food dug from the garbage or nicked from markets when eyes were elsewhere. Truly, he didn't know what he would have been if someone had shown an ounce of compassion to him; had offered him food or shelter or even treated him with a shred of dignity.
His stomach sank as he remembered freezing nights and a painfully empty stomach, longing for his family. Looking at Sean now, Erik saw the same loneliness and desperation to survive.
Fuck, she'd gotten to the part of his brain he'd worked hard to lock away. Damn Charlotte Xavier.
Noticing that she'd looked to him, Erik cleared his throat and quickly snapped his eyes away. [b "Fine. I'll be nice. Let's see if we can find a restaurant without our dear driver getting lost in traffic along the way."]
Without waiting for them, he hurried away in a flurry of long strides and a scowled face.
[i [b /+// Oh, Erik. You're speaking of this like its business. This is barely a teenager. He's a child, really, he needs compassion. He's, god, fifteen-? //+/]] Charlotte cut her own thoughts off to the magnetic-using mutant, closed her eyes with a soft sigh and a reminder that helped her to calm down when she recalled that Raven had been much younger and through much worse when they had first met years ago as children.
She turned her attention to Sean, and held her hands out to him in a silent request, and despite a hesitation the teenager ultimately gave her one of his hands. She squeezed it gently, stroking her thumb on the back. [b "If you agree, we can take you somewhere where there's people like you. People like all three of us. Taking you there can lead to many dangers in your life... but also many good things."] The short telepath smiled at the boy with a gentlness she had used on Raven and towards many children over the years out of the pure kidness of her heart. [b "Warm food, friends you don't have to fear hating you just because of what you can do, as much safety as a couple adults who will genuinely care about you can provide... a home, eventually, if that's what you want. I promise that I'll do my best to make sure you're safe."] She squeezed his hand again, and slowly reached up to wipe at tears that Sean seemed started to realize had fallen. [b "What do you think? How's that sound, sweetheart?"]
[#08ada4 "...Um-"] The teenager cleared his throat, subtly wiping the tear from the other side of his face. [#08ada4 "That... s-sounds nice, ma'am. ....Any chance one of those times of warm food can come within the next hour though?"] He shifted on his feet.
Charlotte laughed gently before ruffling the boys hair. [b "Of course. If Erik here can stop scaring the poor driver we have, that is. Right, Erik?"] She turned to grin up at the German mutant, but internally she was wondering why there seemed to be a distant, almost soft look in his eyes.
Erik was going to need a bottle of rum and several hours of solitude to make up for the time spent around these recruits. [b "I usually prefer to go by His Royal Highness, but Charlotte here thinks it's too pretentious. Let's just stick with our first names before we give you any information that could be used against us."]
It was a fun parlour trick, watching Charlotte's silent communication spook her intended target. The human face was capable of rapid emotional changes in short bursts of time, and Erik was fairly sure this Sean boy ran through seven different emotions across his face before settling into one of amazement. When the question of powers is turned to him, he shrugged. [b "I'm a lot less fun,"] he answered, snapping his hand into a fist, causing a metal trash bin to cave in on itself. [b "She's the popular one at parties. Care to see more?"]
The boy looked a solid fifteen seconds away from his brain shutting down. [b "I can see we've taken you a bit by surprise here, so I'm going to just go ahead and summarize this in as simple terms as I can,"] Erik stepped forward. [b "We're offering you a job. Learn to train and harness your bubble breath, or whatever it is that you do. Be around people who know what it's like to have something that makes you stand out."]
Sean stared back blankly. [b "More incentive? Okay, well you get free food and accommodations, and access to state of the art training to maximize your abilities. Sound better?"]
Still nothing. [b "Charlotte, I'm going to need you to take this one,"] Erik stepped back, keeping his temper in check.
[b "Why should I need to reevaluate when the perfect definition of 'adorable' has me as the picture-perfection definition?"] Charlotte asked with a flutter of her lashes.
It was then that they had made it to young Sean, and off to the boys other side she just rolled her eyes at how Erik decided to open up the conversation channels. To be fair, she probably wouldn't have been able to think up a much better conversation started either.
[b "No, can't say I have."] Charlotte said, causing Sean to look at her, and then with a soft smile she continued without her lips. And though she was speaking to Sean, she made sure her words were projected to Erik's mind as well so that he wasn't left out of the conversation. [b /+// I bet that you, however, haven't ever seen anyone speak without their lips. //+/]
The teenager startled a bit, looking between the two. [#08ada4 "Shit! What, um... Sorry, ma'am, uh..."] He looked uneasy and a little panicked, curling in on himself a bit - which was understandable, he was barely sixteen. Adults talking randomly to a kid was nerve-inducing for said kid in general, let along in a situation like this! [#08ada4 "Who... w-who are you guys? Guy and girl, uh... sir and madam? Lady and- Ya know what? I'm just gonna shut up."] He clapped his hands together, tucking them in front of his stomach, and then snapped wide-eyes to Erik. [#08ada4 "Wait, do you do that no-mouth-talking thing to? What even [i was] that?"]
Erik's face scrunched. [b "I think you need to reevaluate your definition of 'adorable',"] he didn't try to hide the judgment in his tone. [b "Don't encourage the boy."]
Their target was as unassuming as could be, in terms of standing out as a mutant. Nothing about him was a threat. Erik took note of the boy's unfortunate posture, unkempt hair, and overall lack of muscle. [b "God help us,"] he muttered to himself.
He was going to let Charlotte take the reigns again, since she'd already been successful with getting their last subject on board. However, the boy was either a complete space cadet who didn't notice their presence, or he was entirely indifferent. [b "Cool trick,"] Erik broke the silence. [b "How about another demonstration?"]
The young man barely glanced at them from the corners of his eyes. [i "Not sure I know what you're talking about. The filtration system bubbled and spooked them."]
Erik looked to Charlotte over the boy's head. He crooked an eyebrow. [i This one? Seriously?] What he wouldn't give to enlist someone not still wet behind the ears for the mission. He was going to lose his mind with teenagers running around, testing his patience.
[b "Never seen a bubble move like that before. How about you, Charlotte?"]
[b "You know what's good about kid-height, Erik? I have great advantage in being able to accurately aim and attack sensitive areas on average-height males."] Charlotte sassed right back, and she looked as if she were resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at him... because she [i was]. She was now a professor though, so she kept some decorum, and knew better than to be too immature while 'working'. She'd plan her revenge for later.
When they reached the aquarium she shrugged out of the jacket of her suit, folding it over her arms and then rolling her eyes at Erik's incredulous look. [b "Goodness, I joke about cleavage once and now you're looking at me like I'm planning to seduce my way all the way up to the U.S. President,"] she teased, a grin on her face. [b "It's warm in here, Erik, and it was warm enough outside. And as far as I can tell he's [i not] in a tank, since you're so worried about that. He..."] She trailed off, paused, and then grinned before shaking her head. [b "Oh, the poor dear: he comes here to try and use fish puns as pick-up lines on girls. That's so precious."]
Giggling, she lead the way through the maze of the aquarium building as easily as if she were a veteran employee. It wasn't long until they came upon the sight of a curly-haired, young ginger boy turning his attention to a fish window as a girl walked away, did something with his mouth, and the fish disappear like something had come to blow away. She arched an eyebrow, fascinated, and then lead the way over once the female child had disappeared out of that hall of the aquarium completely. She came up on one side of the teenager, a soft smile on her face as she glanced over at him.
The woman was far too bold. [b "I am not going to let a teenage boy oggle your...your..."] [i You are a grown man, Erik, be sophisticated. [b "Your assets."]
Wiping the water from his chin, he scowled at her on the floor. [b "No cleavage will be admired by anyone. If you're going in to speak with him, you'll be wearing a turtleneck and a parka over it."]
He hauled her back onto her seat, still scowling. Whatever was flickering in his chest was new and he didn't like it at all. He'd tampered it back down by the time they arrived at the zoo, but caught her playfully batting her eyelashes to convince Fred to wait for it. [b "I'm going to include a ski mask in your wardrobe if you keep that up,"] he glanced down at her.
It was amusing to watch her try to navigate the maze of habitats. More than once, he fought back a snort at the sight of her on her tiptoes. [b "What's wrong? They don't put the signs at kid-height?"] he tauntingly patted the top of her head.
The signs posted led them to the back of the zoo, where larger building structures were set up. Inside was mercifully warmer, but everything was coated in blue lights to give the halls a submerged atmosphere. [b "If he's swimming in a tank with sharks, I'm not going in after him,"] he warned her. [b "I've had my share of swimming lately."]
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