- Alternate Universe
This is a sequel to Families.
Tony slowly left the office of Jess Yates, the therapist here at Xavier Institute. There were others also working with the students and other residents, of course, since there were far too many mutants who needed help in dealing with past experiences, past traumas. Yates, however, was the only one to also live at the school, which made it easier for Tony to schedule sessions around his work for SI. Not that he was back to full time work. He’d still not been cleared completely from his injuries, both the remaining ones from the fight against his ex-team mates and new ones from the fight against Thanos and his forces, so Erik and Charles insisted that he should take it easy for now and Pepper had agreed.
Tony sometimes still found himself surprised to be here, not just seeing a therapist but living at Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. After being betrayed by his supposed friends and team mates and being abandoned wounded and in a dead suit in Siberia, he’d been rescued by the X-Men and invited to stay at the Institute while he recovered. They’d also offered him information and training and in his gifts after he’d come online as a Guide and support in dealing with everything, with what had happened and what was coming.
Seeing Yates had been Erik and Charles’ suggestion. He’d been hesitant at first, afraid to trust a therapist after some in the past had ignored doctor-patient confidentiality and had sold details of their session with him to the press or hadn’t been prepared to deal with what he’d gone through. Pepper and Rhodey had encouraged him, pointing out that a therapist proven to be trustworthy enough to work at the Institute and used to the unusual issues resulting from the different mutations would be more likely to work out for him. And it was working out well. Yates was not only successfully helping him to recover from Scarlet Witch messing with his mind and the constant state of hyper vigilance he’d been in as a result but also the PTSD resulting from Afghanistan and flying the nuke through the portal back in 2012 and what he recognized now as gas lighting by Obie and later by Romanov.
That didn’t mean the sessions weren’t hard on him, quite the opposite. Right now, he just wanted to rest.
He stopped in the middle of the hallway, considering where to go. He could go to the room he was staying in, the room he was slowly coming to believe was his room, of course, but right now he did not want to be alone. Decision made, he turned around. Considering the time of the day, he expected to find most of the adults currently not on duty to supervise the children in one of the sitting rooms.
He was right. Erik and Charles were sitting at the small table between three comfortable armchairs, playing chess. Jean was sitting near the windows, reading a book and enjoying the last rays of sunshine. Alex, Kurt and Peter were sitting on the couch in front of the TV but the sound was turned down and they seemed more interested in talking. Tony walked over to the corner with the armchairs and let himself drop into the chair beside Erik, tiredly leaning his head against the headrest.
“Are you okay, Tony?” Charles asked.
Tony just hummed, idly watching Erik make his next move. “Tired.”
“I’m afraid we have no coffee ready but you can have some tea if you want,” Charles said.
“Still not a tea drinker,” Tony replied, still looking at the chess board with his eyes half closed. “Bruce tried to convert me. Didn’t work.”
Charles laughed and reached over to pad his arm. “Fair enough.”
Tony smiled slightly. This was nice, being able to just sit and enjoy the company without any demands being placed on him and yet knowing that he’d be able to talk to them if he wanted to.
“So, did Wendy and Vision say when they’ll be back from their date?” Alex asked after a moment.
Jean raised the book to hide her smile at the twin grimace on Peter’s and Erik’s face. Charles didn’t even bother hiding his own smile. Erik and Peter’s denial of the tentative romance between Wendy and Vision was a source of amusement to the others.
“They’ve just gone to see a movie together. They’ll be back right after, I’m sure,” Erik said.
“I guess it’s date night then. Logan and Scott are down in the garage together, aren’t they?” Kurt said casually.
“And I’d like to not consider what my little brother and his boyfriend are doing there, apart from working on the cars or motorcycles,” Alex said.
“Children,” Charles chided patiently.
Tony smiled, letting his eyes drift close. He loved his new family. Now if only his Rhodey would be back from Washington where he’d gone to discuss his future with the Air Force.
Erik and Charles briefly looked up from their game, taking in their newest son dozing in the armchair. ‘Should we let him sleep?’ Charles asked.
‘For now. We can wake him later to get him to bed.’
The next morning Tony slowly made his way into the kitchen for his morning coffee (he may have celebrated when he’d been finally declared healthy enough to have coffee again). He just hoped that no one brought up yesterday evening. He was an adult and over 40, he was too old to be walked to bed half-asleep. At least he hadn’t been carried. Peter and Alex might tease him by calling him their new baby brother but he was not a baby.
He smiled brightly at Jean when she offered his a cup of coffee and a friendly “Good morning.”
“’ morning,” he mumbled back, taking his first sip of the nectar of gods.
The X-Men were by now used to him not being very much of a morning person, especially not the morning after a therapy session, so they simply went back to their conversations. Though Tony noticed that plates with food were being pushed in his direction in a silent invitation to have some breakfast aside from coffee, a now regular occurrence he’d had to become used to.
Scott and Logan were at breakfast as well already. Scott was typically up early but Logan sometimes preferred a morning in bed or wherever he went. Tony had to agree with Alex, he didn’t want to know any details. As far as they were concerned, he spent those mornings sleeping, no matter if either or both his partners were also in their room with him.
“Is Hank in Washington again?” Tony asked after a while when he was awake enough to properly take notice of who was there or at last passing through the kitchen.
“Yes, he has a few meetings yesterday and most of today but he said he’d be back this evening, tomorrow at the latest,” Alex said. His bond with his Sentinel was strong enough after all these decades that the distance was no problem for them, something he was rather relieved by because, while Hank enjoyed his work in politics, he had neither the patience nor the inclination for it. He did well enough to accompany Hank to events as his plus one or for meetings with representatives of the military branches who tended to listen more to him, a Vietnam veteran, than his civilian husband, as he’d done while preparing for the fight against Thanos, but he was not interested in doing it regularly. No, he very much preferred his life here at the Institute. Of course he still missed his husband and was happy whenever he could find a few days between meetings to come home. “He mentioned that he ran into Ellison and Sandburg recently. They are consulting in the training of all the Sentinels and Guide who have come online right before or during the fight against Thanos and on if and how the Accords apply to all Sentinels and Guides, no matter when their gifts emerged.” He looked to Erik and Charles. “They’d like to visit us here, to keep us up to date on the results of their meetings in Washington and to see how where doing with the Sentinels and Guides were training.”
Tony frowned. “They’re not suggesting that you’re not doing enough or doing something wrong, are they?”
“No, my dear, don’t worry,” Charles assured him. “We regularly exchange ideas and act as guest teachers for each other’s students. Generally speaking, we’re better equipped and more experienced for cases with additional abilities or unusual experiences but some while they have more experience training Sentinels and Guides how to use their abilities in law enforcement without drawing attention or endangering cases. But, like with any teacher, there are sometimes students who respond better to the other teaching approach, so we sometimes exchange students.”
“We’ll give them a call later,” Erik told Alex, “and see when they plan to visit.”
“How are they handling the revelation that Blair’s dissertation wasn’t fraudulent after all, now that the fight is over and it has had time to sink in for everyone?” Jean asked.
Alex shrugged. “I don’t know, Hank didn’t say. But I expect Ellison will be happy that his Guide is finally getting recognition.” He paused. “Not that I think Blair ever really regretted his decision to declare his dissertation a fraud, not if it meant protecting his Sentinel and their bond.” He smiled gently, thinking of his own Sentinel.
Tony sighed softly, a bit envious. The other Guides here seemed to happy and settled in their bond. He wondered what that was like.
“Speaking of bonds,” Charles said. “Jess talked to me earlier today. They think, and I agree, that you are ready to start looking for a Sentinel to bond with.”
Scott stood up. “Sorry, I have to get ready for my first lesson.”
Tony was a bit he surprised by his abrupt exit, never mind his excuse since Scott tended to make sure to have everything ready well before his lessons, but he was quickly distracted. He’d perked up at Charles’ words, all attention on him. “Really?”
Charles smiled at him. “Really. You have come a long way in your recovery, physically and psychologically. You’re in a better place now to build a bond of your own.”
Tony nodded. He looked down at his plate thoughtfully. “Then I guess I just need to find a Sentinel who would be interested in a bond with me.” Considering how many Sentinels had come online, surely there had to be some willing to give him a chance.
The other adults exchanged meaningful looks over his head. Logan opened his mouth to comment but Jean reached over to take his hand and shook her head.
“Has Doctor Strange decided if he’s going to train here, in Cascade with Blair and Jim or somewhere else entirely?” Erik asked.
“Here, I believe,” Jean said. “He’s going to come here three days from now.”
“Isn’t that also when Rhodey’s coming back?” Alex asked.
“Yes, he said he hopes to be back by then,” Tony said. He frowned lightly, considering, then asked: “The last time I talked to King T’Challa, he mentioned asking if he can train here as well. Do you think some of the other online Sentinel heroes would be interesting in joining us for training? I think a Sentinel familiar with working as a hero or for an agency will be better able to accept my being Iron Man.” He’d learned from his failed relationship with Pepper, after all. They were great as friends but she just couldn’t understand what made him Iron Man, that it was not just a suit he put on but an important part of himself. If he wanted a bond like the one between Erik and Charles or Hank and Alex, then he needed someone who could accept all of him.
“We’re still in contact with a number of them from the fight against Thanos. I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with something,” Charles said.