--no, I'm totally kidding, it's MOAR BROS.
Title: Carpe Brewski
Author's Notes: This is a WIP, folks. You're going to want to start with Chapter One (where disclaimers, summary, etc, can be found), Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, and Chapter Five.
Winter break bleeds easily enough into spring semester, which is one of those things that Charles has just come to accept about college at Richters. It never feels like it's going to happen--the town, empty and quiet over Christmas and New Year's, always feels like it's not going to be able to hold students again. Every break Charles spends here has him convinced that this will be the time when the townies revolt, demanding that their periods of peace and quiet become permanent once and for all, and then one day he wakes up and everyone's back, as loud and obnoxious as before.
"Aww, don't be like that, I missed them," Erik says, when Charles scowls at the hoards of freshman moving back into the dorms. "Shit's not as fun without them around to corrupt and ruin."
"Yes, but you are a crazy person," Charles says, "so your opinion doesn't count."
"I liked the campus better when it was completely dead," Erik says, in the haughty, overwrought voice that means he's calling Charles a hipster, "but you wouldn't know, you've probably never heard of it."
"Oh, whatever, that doesn't even make sense. And you know you'll miss having Raven around."
"Well, yeah, okay," Erik agrees. "She's kind of an improvement on Scott, I gotta say."
"I'd make her a member," Erik says, "but, you know, there's the whole 'dudes only' thing, and also--"
"She'd laugh in our faces if we offered? "
Erik offers anyway, dignity be damned, as they're packing Raven's stuff into Charles' car. She does, as expected, laugh in their faces.
"It was fun, boys, really," she says, "and I love you both to death, but I've really had enough of that house for awhile."
"It's a nice house!" Erik protests. "The toilet works and everything!"
"The railing in the stairwell's been hanging loose since you move in," Raven says, "and, also, the whole place smells like weed."
"It's a choice," Erik says. "It adds to the ambiance."
Raven laughs again and kisses him on the cheek before climbing into the passenger seat. "It's not like I live far away, Erik. It's like a ten minute walk, I'm here all the time--and, I guess if you're really pining, you could always come by the dorms--"
"Ew," Erik says, "ew, okay, no way, there is such a fucking difference between liking the, like, theconcept of dorm life and actually going to visit them. Do you even know what I've done in those dorms?"
"You don't want to," Charles says quickly, shutting her door for her and rounding the front of the car. He turns to Erik, says, "I'll be back in like an hour, try to resist the urge to go find the pledges and introduce yourselves to their parents, will you?"
"I'm just trying to be friendly," says Erik, with a smile that looks anything but. Charles makes a face, and the smile shifts, becomes brighter, more real. "God, you're too easy. No, don't worry, I'll be here, causing absolutely no trouble at all."
"I'll believe it when I see it," Charles says, but he's grinning. He hops in the car, backs them out of the driveway, trying and failing not to laugh at the way Erik's miming burning the house down behind them.
When he glances to his right, Raven's giving him a soft, concerned look.
"No, don't," Charles says, sobering at once, "just--just don't."
"I think it might be time to tell him," Raven says, almost gently. "Well, no, that's not true, I think it's been time to tell him for at least two years, but--"
"It is what it is," Charles says.
"It isn't, actually," Raven says. "It's something entirely different, but you're too worried about fucking it up to see that."
This is not the first time they've had this conversation; Charles is sure it won't be the last. "We've covered this, Raven. He's straight."
"Yes, we have covered this," Raven snaps, "and I've told you a hundred times, there is no straight boy that--"
"Would you just drop it, please?"
"I want you to be happy," Raven says stubbornly. "Both of you."
"I am happy," Charles says. He catches her doubtful glance in the rearview mirror and sighs. "I am. I can't think of a single thing to complain about other than this, and even this--I mean, he's still my best friend, right? This is just what I get for falling for a straight guy, as I've told you a hundred times. I've accepted it."
"Careful, your martyr complex is showing," Raven mutters. Charles barely catches it, and understands that she probably didn't mean him to--it's the kind of thing she might think, but wouldn't say to his face. He's overcome with a fierce rush of affection for her, sudden and swift, so strong he nearly loses control of the car.
He has to tell her. He doesn't know how not to tell her. He really, really should have told her before.
"I applied to Oxford," he says, before he can lose his nerve.
"Sorry," Raven says, "what?"
"I applied to--"
"Oxford, as in the school in England?" Raven says. "Charles, what the hell, when were you planning on saying something?"
"Er," Charles says, "right now? Oh, would you look at that, there doesn't seem to be anywhere to park, I suppose I'll just have to let you off here--"
"Jesus, don't even try that," Raven says. "England, Charles, that's--when do you find out?"
"March," Charles says. "Or April, maybe, depending. And, look, I should tell you, I'm not even sure--I mean, it certainly not the only school I'm considering."
"Jesus," Raven says again. Then: "God, what did Erik say when you told him?"
Charles shifts a little bit in his seat, and Raven makes a small, incredulous noise.
"You haven't told Erik yet?"
"It hasn't come up," Charles says. "I'm going to tell him, I am, I'm just…looking for the right time."
A space opens up in front of them, and Charles slides the car into it, trying to convince himself that he's not looking at his sister because he's focused on the park job. He's not really fooling anyone.
"Charlie," Raven says, and he turns to her, doesn't know how not to. She looks…less freaked out than she'd sounded a minute ago, and knowing, too, in that way that never leads to anything good. He waits for her to say something--to tell him that he can't just up and move across an ocean, to ream him out for not mentioning the whole thing sooner, but she just looks at him, a small smile curving the edge of her mouth up.
"Don't call me Charlie," he says finally.
"You're an idiot," she says, as if in response. "And, look, if this is what you want--"
"I don't think I know what I want."
"Well," Raven says, "you might want to get on figuring that out. But, in the meantime, I think your best friend might want to know that you're thinking of fucking off to the other side of the ocean, don't you?"
"I'm going to tell him," Charles repeats.
"Yeah, well," Raven says, "it's not really any of my business, I guess. But I think--I just think you should think about how you'd feel, if things were reversed."
Charles has thought about it--once, twice, a hundred times. It would be a punch to the gut, but, sadly enough, kind of a relief too; sometimes he wonders if he applied to Oxford because of the distance, rather than in spite of it. There are days that being in the same state as Erik feels like more than he can bear, let alone in the same house. At least, with an ocean between them, Charles could maybe start to think about moving on.
"I can see you thinking," Raven says, "you should stop. Just--you know what, just help me get my shit upstairs and we don't have to talk about this anymore, alright? You can do what you want; I know you know what the right thing to do is, but it's not like I can make that call for you."
"You know, it's kind of disconcerting how much time you spend being the mature one," Charles says, hopping out of the car. "Seeing as I am, technically, the older sibling here."
"Are you really?" Raven says. "Because usually you act like you're about thirteen, sometimes I forget."
"Thank you for that," Charles says. "But, hey--you're not upset about this?"
"About you applying to grad schools?" Raven says, raising an eyebrow. The little smile on her face deepens a little, and he wonders what she's thinking, knows she wouldn't tell him even if he asked. "Tell you what; I'll let you know once you've made a decision, okay? But in the meantime--"
"I know, I know," Charles says, "the laundry list of things I absolutely must tell Erik, don't worry, I've got it marked down."
"That's all I'm asking," Raven says. "Now come on, help me get this stuff inside."
Charles really does have every intention of telling Erik about the Oxford thing. He means to do it when he gets home that night, but Erik's ordered pizza and is watching The Shawshank Redemption with an intensity that makes Charles wonder if he's taking notes on prison escape. It's probably a prudent course of study, actually, so Charles steals a slice and sits down next to him. Three hours later they're arguing about what kind of poster they'd use to cover their carefully chiseled escape hole ("You can't put up a poster of Mendel and expect people not to be suspicious, Charles, no one but you would ever want to look at that 24 hours a day"), and Oxford is the last thing on Charles' mind.
Then school starts again. Charles' schedule fills up with advisor meetings and long hours in the library, and Erik takes to staying up half the night drinking shitty coffee and pouring over his textbooks. Erik has this habit of scheduling his hardest classes for second semester, of spending the first month and a half or so getting his grades up so high that he's got wiggle room for spring; he likes to party, but losing his scholarships would mean the end of his college career, so he's careful. Charles starts passing him in the hallway at four in the morning, circles under both of their eyes, as they head in tandem for the coffee pot.
And, well, Charles isn't exactly going to tell Erik about Oxford then, is he? It's much better to lean against him--too close, too close--while they wait for the coffee to brew, yawning as they bicker about nothing at all.
The other problem, which becomes apparent as weeks go by, is that Erik has a…thing…about letting the pledges use the house all the time. Charles thinks it's yet another facet of his whole "you're equals when we're not hazing the shit out of you" thing, not that he's ever gotten a real explanation for that. Whatever the reason, Erik's adamant about it, encourages them all to hang around during the day. And, like every year, they do--Charles gets used to finding Darwin and Eyebrow on his couch playing MarioKart, to advising Beast as to the best professors in the Chem department, to helping Banshee with his English homework. Gambit's always trying to rope someone into a poker game, and Iceman--as they all discover--only thinks he can cook; Pyro takes to dealing weed out of the basement of the house until Scott discovers him at it, after which point the two of them spend a lot of time on the back porch under a suspicious cloud of smoke.
Charles is fairly certain that Logan is giving them all kinds of hell when he's not around, but he kind of doesn't mind. It's almost heartwarming, watching them get comfortable with each other; it's definitely heartwarming to watch the way Erik watches them. Oxford slips ever further out of his mind, until eventually Charles isn't even checking the website for updates. There are things to be done, classes to be passed, freshman to guide--he doesn't have time for the stress of grad school applications, for what discussing those applications might mean.
He'll deal with it eventually. Tomorrow. At some point.
"I want the rest of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch," Erik says. "No, check that, I will have the rest of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, because I am the president of you, and you're just going to have to deal with that."
It's 11:45 on a Saturday morning, but it might as well be the crack of dawn. They're nearly a month into the semester, and between his coursework and the pledges and the inadvisable fours hours in that bar last night, Charles can feel every bone in his body creaking in protest at being awake.
There is only solution to this problem, and that's solution is sweet, sugary cereal.
"If you imagine for one moment," he says, "that I am even slightly intimated by you--"
"Don't lie," Erik says, and slips into an upsettingly spot-on imitation of Charles' accent. "Oh, Erik, you're so big and strong and I cannot fathom a universe in which you would not have every right to consume the cereal which you are so clearly owed--hey, asshole, get off me!"
Charles, having hurled himself across Erik's back with an arm reaching up towards the cereal, does not let go. "Happily, the moment you give up the goods."
"That's not even your cereal!" Scott yells from the table. "That is my--"
"Shut up, Scott!" Charles and Erik say in tandem, both laughing on it. Scott makes a grumbling noise under his breath, but Charles is rather too busy trying to get leverage to care. Erik's the taller of the two of them, but Charles is more flexible; he puts one foot up the edge of the cabinet and pushes his way up.
"I'm not a tree!" Erik says, laughing so hard now that he's wheezing a little. "Jesus, what are you, are you a monkey now, there are pledges here--"
"We don't mind," Darwin says.
"It's like battle of the bosses," Pyro agrees.
"Plus, it's Scott's cereal," Eyebrows says, "so that's a plus."
This causes Scott to actually get up from the table and dive towards his brother, who laughs until he's caught. Then he shrieks, "'Mando, help, help, dude, he's trying to Purple Nurple me--Scott, come on, we're not kids anymore--fuck! Ow! Fuck!"
Charles uses this moment of distraction to pull Erik's hair, which almost--almost!--wins him the cereal.
"I will end you," Erik warns, attempting to push Charles off and succeeding only on pinning him to the counter. The game suddenly gets much, much less amusing, but Charles can't exactly explain why; he keeps reaching, tries again to grab the box, hopes to god Erik won't notice that he's gotten hard. "This cereal is mine."
"You are a terrible person," Charles says, "don't think that I am above harming you," and this is when the doorbell rings.
Everyone freezes. Scott's got his brother pinned to the ground, and Darwin's poised over them, like he was going to go to Eyebrows' aid after all; Banshee's in the corner, a spoon halfway to his mouth, looking guilty (so that's where the rest of the cereal went). Pyro's got a wake-and-bake bowl halfway to his mouth, and Logan's chewing on the end of a dart, which--being as there is no dartboard in the living room--he must be intending on throwing at the wall.
"Shit," Charles says in Erik's ear, "have you done anything I need to know about? Is this the cops?"
"Don't think so," Erik says, equally low, and then: "Yo, Logan, we done anything worth an arrest warrant?"
"Not this month," Logan says, shrugging, "but who the fuck knows, statutes and whatever."
"Shit," Charles repeats, and whacks Erik's arm. "Let me down, I'll handle this. Pyro, put that bowl away; Scott, Eyebrows, get up off the floor, you two look like some kind of sideshow act."
Erik lets him down, and Charles smoothes the rumples out of his t-shirt and striped pajama pants. He walks with as much dignity as he can towards the door, takes a deep breath, and opens it.
He blinks, surprised. Instead of cops, what's waiting for him behind the door is two boys, one of whom looks vaguely familiar. Charles thinks they're both probably freshmen; the familiar-looking one shifts on his feet, bites his lip.
"Uh," says Charles, "good morning?"
"Hi," the familiar kid says, "I, uh, well, I met you a couple months ago, outside the police station, with, uh, Erik--and he said that if I, well, that I knew where to go if--"
"Janos!" Erik says, pushing past Charles to shake the kid's hand. Charles remembers him now; he'd kind of blocked out that whole morning, filed it away under too stupid and hungover to be real, but it's coming back to him now. "You decided to take us up on our offer, then? And you brought a friend, that's great, why don't you both come on in--Pyro, show some manners, offer them green hit."
"Charles told me to put the bowl away," Pyro says, sounding confused. Sometimes Charles worries he's actively smoking away braincells.
"That's when they thought it was the cops, idiot," Eyebrows says, rolling his eyes. "Do these dudes look like cops to you?"
"They could be undercover cops," Pyro says. "Or, like. Plain-clothes cops."
"Plain-clothes are undercover cops, Pyro," Darwin says, not unkindly. "Just--you're fine to smoke."
"Okay," Pyro agrees, and pulls the bowl out of his pocket. "Wake and bake, new dudes? Plenty to go around."
"Uh," Janos says, "yeah, alright," and drifts over to the couch. This leaves Charles and Erik standing by the door with the second kid, whose eyes flick across the room warily. He doesn't seem to want to step over the threshold.
Something flashes in Erik's face, just for a second, a bitter, harsh fury that's gone as soon as Charles looks for it. "So, you're a friend of Janos', then?"
"Yeah," the kid says.
"You got a name?"
"Azazel," Azazel says. Erik smiles at him, all teeth, and extends a hand.
"Erik Lehnsherr," he says, "good to meet you."
Four hours later, they have two new pledges, both of whom have signed an actual contract relinquishing all ties to Zeta house.
"Are you sure this is legally binding?" Erik says. He holds the signed contracts in front of him, squinting. "I want them to be air-tight."
"I'm pre-law," Scott says, "it's fine."
"It's actually probably better if it's not legally binding," Charles says, "as, you know, I'm pretty sure it's frowned upon to try to con 18 year olds into signing--"
"We didn't con them!" Erik says, affronted. "We didn't do a damn thing to them, we offered them all the love and kindness in our hearts--"
"In exchange for, let me look at the language here, 'unwavering devotion to the downfall and destruction of every motherfucker in the Zeta cult of assholes'--really, Scott?"
"He said it had to hold up in court," Scott says. "He didn't say which court."
Charles drops his head into his hands and groans. "You seriously, all of you, you are taking years off my life."
"You worry too much," Erik says. "And, anyway, they're just pledges, it's not like they can actually do anything to affect our lives."
Darwin pokes his head into the kitchen. "You guys do realize there's not a door here, right? We can all hear you."
"You want me to make you do the burrito laps again?" Logan says. "Because I will fuckin' make you do burrito laps again, you're asking for another round in a big way."
Burrito laps? Charles mouths at Erik, who shakes his head and makes a complicated gesture that means tends to involve copious amounts of vomit, which is indicator enough that Charles doesn't want to know.
"Right," Darwin says, "uh, sorry," and then, clearly gathering his nerve, "but, uh, while I'm already on dangerous ground and that shit, the guys want me to tell you that they don't think it's cool that the new dudes don't have to get pledge names."
"Yeah!" says Eyebrows, sticking his head in over Darwin's shoulder. Charles is beginning to suspect they are, quite literally, attached at the hip. "I mean, look, uh, Magneto, Prof, it's not that I don't, uh, whatever I'm supposed to say here about respect or whatever--"
"Nice job you're doing with the training there, Logan," Erik says.
"Hey," Logan says, "you told me to run 'em hard, I run 'em hard. I don't do any of that mushy feelings shit, don't fucking start with me--yo, Summers, gimme that cookie, that looks good."
"Why is everyone in this frat so determined to eat my fucking food?" Scott demands. "Do I need to start grocery shopping for you assholes--no, no, you can't have--Erik, I swear to god, if you don't do something about him I'm going to kill everyone."
Erik tries to look annoyed but is quite clearly in too good a mood to manage it. Success over Zeta always leaves him cheerful, for all it generally leads to disaster later. Charles grins at him, cheeky despite himself, saying look, the spirit of brotherhood with just a lift of his eyebrows; Erik rolls his eyes but grins back, flicking a piece of paper towel at Charles' head.
"Anyway," Eyebrows says, "like I was saying before you guys were all--"
"Don't push your luck, kid," Erik warns, and Eyebrows, still mildly terrified of losing what hair he has left, shuts up. "Janos and Azazel took a bigger risk than you idiots by joining up, so they get certain privileges. Plus, they've already suffered part of the Zeta pledge process, and that's a bitch."
"How would you know?" Eyebrow says. It's just a question, but there it is, there and gone again, just like it was when Azazel was at the door--Erik's whole face goes dark and furious, just for a second, just long enough for Charles to catch it out of the corner of his eye. Eyebrows misses it, but Darwin doesn't; he steers them both out of the room with a hasty "Thanks, okay, bye," and doesn't turn around once.
"Erik?" Charles says.
"Are you…quite alright? It's only that, well, for a second there--"
"They're going to retaliate," Erik says, apropos of nothing. Charles tilts his head, and Erik elaborates, "The Zetas. We stole two of their pledges, they're going to hit back."
"You do recognize," Charles says, "that that is completely psychotic and also ridiculous, and we didn't steal them, they came of their own volition."
"Won't matter," Erik says. "Not to Shaw, and not to the rest of them, either. I know how he thinks, and he'll be gunning for us now, wait and see."
"Or," Charles says, "maybe, seeing as how he is actually a sixth-year senior, he's let go of this whole ridiculous war in order to--"
"It's not ridiculous," Erik snaps, all good humor gone. "And he fucking well hasn't, alright? I know him, and letting go is not something he fucking does. Ever."
You could just tell me what happened between the two of you, Charles thinks, but doesn't say. Scott and Logan are still in the room, after all, and Erik wouldn't want to go into it in any case--it's one of the very few things he's dodged throughout the course of their friendship, explaining his history with Shaw. Instead, Charles sighs, runs a hand over his face.
"Well," he says, "we'll just have to hope you're wrong, won't we? Because until they do something, there's not exactly another option."
"Fine," Erik snaps. "You want to lounge around like sitting ducks--"
"What, exactly, do you suggest we do instead?" Charles says, and Erik opens his mouth, shuts it, scowls at the wall. Charles, who knows him well enough to know this means I refuse to admit that you have me there, reaches out to pat him on the shoulder.
"It'll be fine," he says.
"It won't," Erik says, "but you want to be naive about it, that's your damage," and pushes back from the table to stalk bitterly away.
Charles doesn't watch the line of his body, back ramrod straight and taut with stress, as he walks off. He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't.
A week passes, then two, without any sign of Zeta response. Charles more or less dismisses the possibility of it materializing, and even Erik has started to relax a little--he's not, just for example, making everyone do surprise checks on the closets each night, or running to check on the toilet seat every fifteen minutes.
"What were you expecting to find on the toilet seat?" Scott asks.
"You don't want to know," says Erik, in the tone of a man brooding on his wrongs, and Scott doesn't press any further.
In two weeks, most of what Charles learns is that Erik is, for lack of a better word, a completely paranoid bastard.
The third week, Charles learns that he's right to be.
"Charles," Erik says, "Charles, wake the fuck up."
Charles blinks blearily, once, twice, and peers up at Erik through sleep-crusted eyes. "Whazzat? Hmm? Did I--is it--class--no, wait, not til--"
"Charles!" Erik snaps. "As much as I normally appreciate your morning imitation of a drunk sloth--"
"We have a fucking problem," Erik growls. "So get it together, okay, Princess Sleeps-A-Lot, this is not beauty rest time, this is triage time, okay, that's what this is, this is fuck-we-are-so-fucking-screwed time--"
"Erik," Charles says, drawn to alertness by the level of sheer panic in his voice. Erik…doesn't panic easily. "Slow down, what's happened, is it--is someone hurt, are you hurt--"
"This whole fucking fraternity is hurt!" Erik cries, and shoves a piece of paper into Charles' face. "Just--Jesus, just fucking read it, I can't--"
"Okay," Charles says, "okay, I will--could you just sit down, please, you're making me nervous."
"You should be nervous," Erik says, "because I am about to lose my shit in a big fucking way."
"Nervous for you, not of you," Charles says. "You're--shaking, Erik, bloody hell, no one should be able to pace while standing still, just. Please. As a favor. Sit."
Erik makes a low noise under his breath, but he crashes down onto the bed, narrowly avoiding crushing Charles' legs with his ass. Charles sits up and pinches the bridge of his nose, blinking a few times to clear his eyes so he can focus on the paper in front of him.
"Well," Charles says weakly, "he used raison d'être unironically, so at least we know he's a douche, right?"
"He," Erik says, "you," and then he drops his head between his legs and starts--well, Charles can't exactly call the sound he's making laughter, but he's not sure what the right word would be. He puts a hand on the back of Erik's neck before he can think about it, soothes his thumb along the warm skin there; Erik shudders underneath his palm, barking out that terrible, hysterical sound, and Charles wishes he could set paper on fire with his eyes.
"Breathe," he says, "Erik, please--I know that this looks--"
"They're trying to disband us," Erik says, "do you not know what that--they kicked us out, four years of our fucking lives and, god, the pledges, what do we tell the--and I fucking knew he'd do something, I told you, didn't I fucking tell you? I knew Shaw would fucking--they kicked us out, Charles! He got them to fucking kick us out!"
"We'll fix it," Charles says wildly. "We'll fix it, okay, something will--well, for one thing, what the fuck does it matter what the national chapter says, right? It's--for god's sake, Erik, calm down, please breathe, listen to reason for a moment. So long as the school doesn't kick us off--"
"Which they totally fucking might--"
"You're Dean Stark's advisee," Charles reminds him. "You're Dean Stark's only advisee, and he quite likes us, doesn't he? I can't imagine he'll be eager to throw us off campus."
"They did last year," Erik says.
"Only because we set the lawn on fire," Charles says gently, "and, I will remind you, you are always quick to point out that it was really more of a suggestion than an order."
"That's true," Erik says. He sounds a little more like himself as takes one last heaving breath and sits up, but there's still a tension in his hands that Charles doesn't like, something loose and wild lingering in the flex of his fingers. "We'll--we'll go see Tony, right, okay, yeah, that's just what we'll fucking do--you're gonna have to put some real clothes on or something, dude, you can't go see the Dean like that."
"I can do that," Charles says. "But…you know, maybe we should wait until you're a little--"
"I swear to god, Charles, if you tell me to calm down," Erik snaps. "I will--fuck, I don't know what the fuck I'll do but it won't be…this is, this is war, do you understand me? This is fucking war now, because I can't--he can't win. He can't. He can't, he can't have this, I won't let him, this is ours, okay, it's mine, Charles. He can't just take it--"
"Alright," Charles says, "alright, Erik, easy. Alright. We'll fix it. Dean Stark'll fix it. It'll be alright.'"
"I can't fix this," Tony says, holding the letter in front of him with disdain. Outside his office, his assistant Pepper "Don't You Dare Barge Into His Office You Two He Is In A Meeting Oh Why Do I Bother" Potts is apologizing to…whatever rich old white guy Erik had told to beat it on entering, who looks like he's about ready to pop a blood vessel. Charles wants to go talk to them, try to smooth things over while Erik communicates with Tony in the weird language they've built over four years of mentor/mentee bonding, but he's kind of afraid that if he turns his back on Erik for even a second, he'll break a window or set something on fire.
"What do you mean you can't fix it?" Erik demands. "You're the Dean, you can fix anything!"
"Well," Tony says, preening a little "this is true. I'm basically a superhero. But the point stands--"
"So you're just going to kick us off campus?"
"What?" Tony says. "No, of course I'm not going to kick you off campus, what the fuck are you talking about? I'd have to put you all up in my house--"
"No," Pepper calls from the front office.
"--which, obviously, wouldn't exactly be ideal," Tony finishes smoothly. "Although, actually, Erik, if you moved in we would have more time to go over the drawings for--"
"Aaaaand it's still not appropriate to discuss Stark tech with students," Pepper says, leaning into the room. "Don't make me call Legal, you hate Legal."
"Could you shut the door?" Tony says to Charles. "There's a draft, and it seems to be telling me what to do."
"Stay exactly where you are, Charles," Pepper says, a note of warning in her tone, "you two just interrupted a very important meeting, I am not in the mood."
"Oh come on, that guy was just blowing smoke up my ass--admittedly, my very nice ass, but--"
"Your ego is not on trial here, Tony, everyone who meets you is already quite aware that it's guilty. You need to understand--"
"That I am the decider and I make the decisions?"
"That you can't just blow off investors! This is a school, it needs the money--"
"Which I could easily give it myself--"
"Yes, if you'd like to bankrupt Stark Industries--"
"You'd never let me bankrupt Stark," Tony says, and bats his eyelashes. Pepper gives him a guarded, irritated smile--one that, very clearly, says Danger, Will Robinson, and then turns to Erik and Charles. Charles, as always, feels very much as though he's wandered into someone else's disaster zone, but Erik--used to this kind of thing by now--just snatches the letter from Tony and hands it to Pepper, a plaintive look on his face.
"Hmm," Pepper says, "right, then. Well, they're quite correct in the assumption that we would normally be uncomfortable with keeping an unofficial fraternity on campus, but as you're technically in a privately leased house--"
"And since we know you," Tony cuts in. Pepper rolls her eyes and hides a smile behind her hand.
"Yes, and since we know you," Pepper says, "we're not looking to ban you. But, boys, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your real issue isn't with us."
"Then who's it with?" Erik demands, jumping out of his chair. Pepper raises an eyebrow at him, and Tony looks delighted to see the expression turned on someone else.
"Stay calm," Charles reminds him in an undertone, yanking him back down by his sleeve. "You're not going to help anything by panicking, you know that."
"Sorry," Erik says, "sorry. I'm just, uh. Curious. As to who we need to talk to."
Pepper sighs. "All official Greek life business goes through the Alumni Association. They decide who gets funding, and how much, and--most importantly for you guys--who gets to call themselves a fraternity. Without recognition from the national chapter, you may just be…well, a bunch of boys with a house."
"Fuck," Erik says.
"Would it really matter?" Tony says. "I mean, you're going to graduate in the spring anyway, and--"
"Yes, it fucking matters," Erik says, and Tony makes a face that is clearly supposed to say, 'I-know-you're-angry-and-we're-buds-but-I-a
Not, of course, that that's Charles' main concern right now.
"Erik," he says, low. Erik looks at him, and it can't take him more than a second to realize what Charles is thinking--he widens his eyes, says, "No," so vehemently that it's nearly a shout.
"If it's the Alumni Association, this might be our only--"
"Not. Him," Erik snaps. "You know how I feel about him, Charles, no. Absolutely not. No. We'll find another way. No."
Twenty minutes later, they get home to find a cake sitting on their front porch. It reads Farewell, ABG! in bright green frosting, and there's a stylized letter zeta in the bottom right corner.
Erik's face is a picture, but not one Charles ever wants to see again.
He says, "Fuck it. Make the call."