Regarding the three young men sharing the small, private table with her, Raven Darkholm crossed her arms and cleared her throat. In unison they looked up from their plates, like three deer caught in the headlights of a semi-truck.

She didn't need telepathy to read the startled trepidation in their eyes. Not that they'd say anything…well, no, Sean would say anything that popped into his head, but only because he lacked a brain to mouth filter. He was harmless and Alex, for all his sassy talk, knew when to shut up. Hank was smart and sweet enough not to say anything that would upset her.

"I wanted to talk to you guys about something…delicate," she began, making sure she had their undivided attention. "It's about Charles and Erik…."

"We know," Alex interrupted her before turning back to his plate of fettuccini with gusto.


"Of course we know," Hank added softly, squirming uncomfortably in his seat. "But…we're guys. We don't talk about stuff."

"But…How?" Raven honestly didn't think any of the three boys had an emotionally intuitive bone in their bodies. Hank had to be prompted to make any moves, Alex had a bubble of cynical snark around him at all times and Sean…Sean had spent an hour talking to a Hibiscus yesterday.

These were not the most observant boys in the world.

Sean snorted an paused his inhalation of what looked to be a pan of lasagna. "Oh please. My goes-to-mass-every-day Gran on the Old Sod - who thinks the sun shines out of the asses of the good and holy men and women of the church, mind - would be able to see that they're in love…."

"…and in denial…." Alex broke in with a nod.

"But we don't talk about it," Hank concluded.

"Nope," Sean agreed quickly.

Alex picked a roll with a air of finality. "Never."

Gaping at them, Raven blinked, then rallied. "Tough. You're helping me get them together."

A resigned expression flitted across Hanks face, while Sean rolled his eyes and Alex looked mutinous. "And if we don't?"

She eyed him. "Do you really want to know?"

The way he quickly relented made her smile. She'd had many years to perfect her methods, training Charles. After him, these three didn't stand a chance.

Upon returning to the mansion, Raven let Moira know boys were going to help them with Operation: Cherik. At first, she had viewed the older woman as…something of a rival, the only other woman around, but it quickly became clear that they were on the same page regarding many things.

Foremost was the knowledge that men were emotionally stunted idiots and required a firm hand to guide them. To ground them in reality and wrench them out of denial…really, they were helpless creatures.

Sitting quietly on the couch, Hank, Alex and Sean were key examples of this. Being a genius, Hank had readily accepted that he had no choice but to take part in her plan. Alex was attempting to look bored, but Raven knew he'd perk up once they set things into motion. Sean appeared to be napping.

Clearly, they couldn't be left to their own devices.

"All right," she said, nodding first to Moira, then to the boys. "Now, we all agree that the unresolved tension/denial thing Charles and Erik are entrenched in has gone on for long enough. Since they're men, they need our help to get past their…general stupidity about all things related to emotions."

"But we're going to have to be subtle about it," Moira said very seriously. "I worked with bureaucrats for years, but it's safe to say that I've never met anyone more stubborn than those two."

So true, Raven thought as Alex roused himself from his practiced disinterest to ask, "And how do you suggest we go about manipulating Charles, who can read minds, and Erik…who is Erik!"

Well, he did have a tiny point there, worrying about their resident paranoid, barely socialized Nazi hunter, but Raven waved a dismissive hand.

"Details, details."

She and Moira would work something out.

Plan One wasn't a total failure. It hadn't been a great success, but neither Charles nor Erik had caught on to them, so Raven figured they had managed to break even.

Charles and Erik had gone out to a nice dinner alone, as everyone else had begged off at the last minute, saying that they felt a bit ill or, in Sean's case, wandering off into the woods. Unfortunately, they seemed to have treated the meal like any of the other meals they'd shared, full of spirited conversations and ideological debates.

Not exactly a recipe for romance.

Plan Two had never been anyone's favorite plan and they'd never even gotten around to implementing it. Hank, a fan of the classics, had suggested they try the old 'Note from a secret admirer' ruse, which had prompted Sean and Alex to fess up to impressive forging skills. Raven had easily gotten a hold of a sample of Charles's penmanship, but, as always, Erik proved elusive.

Finally, after Erik had used a notepad to write a list for the store, Alex had managed to do a rubbing with a pencil to read the taller man's writing on the blank page. He had presented the page to the group with a shrug.

Apparently, Erik wrote in German.

So, that plan was shelved, but Raven was certain Option Three would be a winner!

"Just how long do you expect they'll playing kupplerin*?"

Charles sighed. "Well," he said, joining Erik by the door to regard the sight in front of them with bemused bewilderment, "When I was 14, Deidra Sawyer came over the house to work on a school project. Raven decided we looked cute together and attempted to play matchmaker for close to a year."

Shaking his head, Erik asked, "Was she this bad at it then or do you suppose this heavy handed approach is due to the boys?"

"A bit of both, really."

It was just after midnight and Erik had opened the door of Charles's suite, intent on finding a bottle of wine. They'd finished off one during the previous game of chess and, before beginning anew, another was needed.

Erik had pulled open the door to find himself staring out into the hall over the top of a hope chest. Normally, it sat further down the hall, but at some point during the evening it had migrated to rest directly in front of the door. Its placement would have prevented the door from opening, had it swung out into the hall instead of into the room.

Instead, it was just a puzzling annoyance.

"Do you think they'd cease this if you asked nicely?" Erik mused, placing his hands on the wooden chest and heaving it out of the way.

Joining him in sliding the large chest down the hall, Charles said, "Sadly I think that would only encourage them more."

"Hmmm," Erik said when they finally had the chest back in it's proper place. Quirking a small smirk at Charles, he murmured, "Perhaps I should pin you to a wall, kiss you breathless at breakfast. That might end their little game."

A flush spread across Charles's pale cheeks and the tip of his tongue darted out to wet his ridiculously red lips. "That would quite possibly do the trick."

Stepping closer into the telepath's space, Erik leaned down to breath in his ear, "How about we forget the wine…and the chess."

"A sound plan," Charles replied, turning on his heel to march back to his room, confidant Erik would follow.

He did.

In a way, Raven's third plan did work, as they spent the night together…much as they had most nights since their cross country recruitment trip.

They did subtle far better than the children.

*According to Google Translate, kupplerin is German for matchmaker.

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