Sean was caught off guard by two things when he opened the large oak door in the grand foyer: 1) the stern looking woman with pointy glasses on the other side and 2) the little boy with bright blue eyes clutching onto her thin fingers.
A distant crash echoed down the hall as he cleared his throat. "Um, can I help you?"
The woman spared a glance for the child barely reaching mid-thigh in height before focusing back on the teen in front of her.
"I'm looking for Charles Xavier."
Sean quirked an eyebrow, but turned and began to yell for his mentor anyway.
"Profess - !"
"That won't be necessary, Sean," Charles interrupted as he wheeled into the foyer, his eyes immediately focusing on the little boy hiding behind the woman's legs. Sean noted that Charles seemed to pale a few shades and he pulled his eyes away from the boy and focused on the woman with the clipboard.
"Sean, I'm afraid I've made a bit of a mess in the kitchen. Would you mind cleaning it up for me?"
"Sure thing, Professor," Sean said, throwing a final look back at the woman watching him as he went. Knowing it would be fruitless to eavesdrop around the corner - surely the Professor would know he was there - Sean continued on his way to the kitchen, where he found shattered porcelain and white milk marring the cold stone floor.
"I'm Charles Xavier," Charles said good-naturedly, though those that knew him better would have heard the slight tremor in his voice.
"I -" The woman's gaze flicked from Charles, to her clipboard and finally to the child whose hand she held. "There must be some mistake," she said, her careful avoidance of his wheelchair just as obvious as if she had stared outright.
"I assure you, you have the right one," he answered in a clipped voice. Charles could feel waves of fear rolling off the little boy who cautiously began to peek out from behind the woman's legs, curiously eyeing the new man in the shiny chair. He couldn't have been more than two and Charles offered him a smile, which drew the boy out further.
Charles knew what this woman was here to tell him, though he didn't quite believe it himself. "He's mine?"
The woman's eyebrows hit her hairline and she fumbled at his unexpected, but factual comment. "Um, yes. Yes, he is. His mother was"
"Julia Barnard. He was born – "
March 12, 1961
"March 12, 1961."
Just under two years old.
The boy, whose eyes were so much like his own, let go of the woman's hand and toddled over, ever so precariously, before latching onto the side of the chair.
"Hello, Daniel," Charles whispered.
The woman's jaw dropped and she mentally went through their conversation, trying to remember if she had ever mentioned the little boy's name, but Charles ignored her.
"How did she pass?"
"Car accident. In December. We tried to find you sooner..."
"I was recovering," he murmured, eyes fixed on the boy.
"I see," the woman replied, and Charles finally felt her gaze settle on the chair. "He has no grandparents."
Charles remembered that. A conversation in a quiet field, a bottle of champagne resting between them. A quiet summer celebration before the chaos of their final year began. The boy would have been conceived sometime around there. Charles closed his eyes and remembered how that night ended - in discarded clothes and itchy grass and hitched breaths.
He glanced up, realizing the woman had said something and was patiently waiting for his response. It wasn't like Charles to get so distracted.
"You're all he has left," the woman repeated. "If you don't want him, he will be placed in care of the state."
"I want him," Charles stated, more forcefully than he intended. The little boy jumped at his words and stared wide-eyed into the face of the man whose features he had inherited. Charles placed a hand delicately on his head, brushing his wavy brown hair off of his forehead.
"I want him."
"What the hell happened in here?"
Alex bypassed a wayward handle that had snapped off its pitcher as Sean scrubbed the floor.
"I think the Professor dropped the milk."
"That's not like him." Alex frowned as he continued over to the refrigerator and pulled out a soda.
"A little help?"
"You look like you've got it covered." Alex smirked before stepping over Sean. "Did I hear the doorbell earlier?"
"Yeah, but I'd steer clear if I were you." At Alex's questioning glance, he elaborated. "It seemed a little tense. I don't know what's going on, but there's a kid out there who looks freakily like the prof."
Charles waited in the foyer while the woman, a Ms. Olivia Friedman, went back to the car for Daniel's effects. The little boy seemed utterly fascinated with the way the light reflected off Charles' chair and he traced his finger over the shiny metal.
Charles closed his eyes, avoiding the temptation of allowing his mind to drift into dangerous waters, and focused his concern on the boy and the very real possibility that he could pinch his tiny fingers in the wheel.
"This is it," Ms. Friedman said, holding up a tiny suitcase and a stuffed rabbit. "Shall we move somewhere else to go over the paperwork?"
A little dazed, Charles nodded and led the way to the study.
With a signature and a handshake, he was a father.