Erik woke to the faint pressure of dry lips pressing a soft kiss to his forehead. He breathed deeply, taking in the familiar scent of Charles’s aftershave as he waited for the perfect moment to strike. His husband squawked gracelessly as Erik pulled him down for a longer and decidedly less innocent kiss, licking into Charles’s mouth and biting at plump red lips.
“Mmmmn, do you have to?” he murmured against the pillar of Charles’s neck as he ran his hands through his husband’s hair.
“Fraid so, love.” Charles’s voice was gravelly and regretful. “The university only gave six week’s leave.”
Erik sighed and let Charles go, helping smooth down crumpled shirt and blazer.
“Don’t forget about me while I’m out.” Charles said with a kiss.
“Never, unless you forget to bring home the milk like we discussed,” Erik answered and blew Charles a kiss before flopping back down on their plush bed. It was his first day as a stay at home parent, after all. Best to be well rested. While he didn’t think taking care of Raven would be worse than, well, “taking care” of problems for the CIA, he didn’t want to take any chances.
Erik absentmindedly followed the familiar hum of his husband’s watch as Charles stopped by the refrigerator and paused by their daughter’s room before heading out the front door and down the elevator.
He hadn’t exactly planned on being a stay at home dad. It wasn’t a scenario he had imagined when he and Charles first discussed having children. They had covered that topic on their third date; Erik congratulated himself on his reserve both for that and for resisting the urge to propose until after the fifth week anniversary, although Moira, his partner at the CIA, thought he was insane. Then again, she was involved with Emma Frost, who she met while arresting the woman, so she clearly wasn’t a bastion of good romantic advice.
But he digressed. He hadn’t planned on being a stay at home dad, but when Charles came to him shortly after their wedding to discuss what he thought about starting the adoption process, all he could think about was spending his own childhood with his mother in their small home, running errands to the park or the library and learning the alphabet and how much he loved those memories. That, combined with the poorly hidden pinched miserable look Charles had whenever Erik had to leave on assignment, made it easy. The day they finalized the arrangements to adopt Raven was the day he handed in his notice, and the day he told Stryker where to shove his human superiority clauses.
If all the restrooms in Stryker’s division stopped working about the same time, well, there was no way to directly link him to it.
He was just about to drift off when he felt the screws in Raven’s crib shake with surprising force. He was down the hall almost before he was fully aware of having moved, one of Charles’s ties in hand as a makeshift silken garrote should the need arise.
“I’m armed,” he called to whoever was in his daughter’s room. Images of Raven, terrified, being kidnapped by anti-mutant extremists or ninjas or ninja anti-mutant extremists danced through his head as his pulse thumped loudly in his ears. He kicked open the door and was confronted with the sight of Raven banging against the crib wall, giggling at Erik’s plight.
“Really, Kiddo? Not five more minutes?” he grumbled in relief as he slumped against the wall of Raven’s room. He and Charles had painted it together, a strange and somewhat garish combination of blue, yellow, magenta, and purple.
It was possible that Moira had a point when she said they should learn to compromise more effectively. His daughter squealed happily up at him from the crib railing, yellow eyes shining and blue mouth split in a toothy grin.
“Hello sweetie,” he cooed as he lifted her and settled her against his chest. “Who’s my girl? My frighteningly early bird of a girl?” She beamed up at him happily as he pottered out to the kitchen. Apparently he’d catch up on sleep a bit later.
When everyone told Erik that having children would change things, he agreed wholeheartedly. For one, they’d need to get more food from the grocery store, and recalibrate the booze to juice ratio currently used in the apartment. He and Charles would have to either eschew mid-afternoon couch sex or become much stealthier about said mid-afternoon couch sex. The office, currently overflowing with Charles’s genetics texts and Erik’s maps and dossiers, would have to be converted to a baby room. They’d need toys of some sort or another. And he’d most certainly no longer be able to leave spare grenades on the end tables.
He hadn’t quite counted on this, he thought, valiantly keeping Raven from eating any of the garbage tangled in her hair.
It was perfectly rational, really. He’d had her snug in the stroller Charles insisted on paying a small fortune for and was walking her down the street to the park when he heard a loud banging noise. As he’d informed the police when they’d arrived, it was only logical that he assume the sound was gunfire, especially given his training with the CIA. And, logically, it made sense to protect his daughter from the threat of armed individuals. The only rational option was to fling the dumpster behind their local deli between Raven and threat.
It was perhaps to be expected that upending a dumpster may cause a bit of a mess, but it wasn’t like he had escaped unscathed.
The police let him go with a warning, but that might be due to not wanting to deal with the paperwork ‘mayhem by protective mutant father’ would entail. Or the fact that all the cars on the street levitated slightly until they let Erik go. Or perhaps the fact that he had quickly texted Moira before the police arrived and one of the officers got a rather brusque, screamy call during their talk.
“No, baby. Spoiled lettuce isn’t for eating, it’s for washing away and never telling your father, okay?”
Raven only babbled as she made a clumsy grab for a particularly disgusting glob of what Erik fervently hoped was at least kosher on his shoulder.
They hadn’t even gotten to the park, either. Erik narrowed his eyes at his reflection. Tomorrow, he vowed. They would go to the park tomorrow, come hell or high water. Nothing would keep his baby from enjoying the fresh air.
He’d been lost in making promises to his precious darling that he didn’t register anyone else in the apartment until a voice cut through his reverie.
“What in god’s name is that smell?”
“Hello to you too, darling,” Erik replied to Charles. The latter stood in the doorway, gaping at his family.
“Did you get stuck in a dumpster or something?”
Erik glared at Charles, sending very clear thoughts about how not funny the situation was.
“It is a little funny.” Charles countered, failing to keep a smile from his face.
“Not in the least,” Erik snapped. Raven chose that moment to start cooing at her father and stretched out chubby blue arms to him. Turncoat. Still, Charles grinned happily and swooped down, gathering her in his arms.
“How about you clean yourself up a bit, and I’ll finish this one in the kitchen?”
“Gladly,” Erik answered, already shucking his unsalvageable clothing. He ignored Charles wolf-whistle as he turned the water to the hottest setting he could stand.
The next morning played out much the same as the previous one; Erik woke with Charles and managed to get in some quality groping time before his husband ran out the door to work, and Raven’s early morning whims kept him on his toes.
At least they made it to the park. It had been close; he’d passed Hank McCoy, Charles’s graduate student, walking his two corgis with his alarmingly cranky and hairy boyfriend. Raven had been mad for the dogs, but Erik strongly doubted that Logan could be a good influence on anyone. Charles would have his head if Raven took up cigars before walking.
They hadn’t stayed at the park too long; despite Erik’s glaring and muttered cursing, the weather was not in their favor. Luckily, the library was across the street, and Charles had made it very, very, very clear that early childhood reading habits were crucial to everything.
It might have been more specific, granted, but Charles does have a tendency to go on and on about some things. Sometimes it’s just best to smile and nod.
They sprawled in the living room, books scattered about them, as Erik picked one to read. He’d never read out loud to anyone except possibly his mother. It was slightly embarrassing.
Then again, he’d changed Raven’s diapers. She hardly had standing for feeling superior.
“Cinderella,” he began. He’d been familiar with the story, of course, but it had been a long time since he’d given it much thought.
“You know, Cinderella,” he said, going off script, just as Cinderella was going to be made into a beautiful princess by her fairy godmother. He couldn’t play along anymore. Was this really what he wanted to teach his daughter?
“You know,” he continued, “I have another idea. Why don’t I teach you self-defense, so you can stand up to your wicked stepmother and stepsisters? This is your house, too, after all. And I’m sure your daddy left his house to you. At any rate, finding proper legal representation would be a good plan.
“Why, Cinderella said to the fairy godmother, that is a much better idea! After all, even though economic options for women in this era suck, it wouldn’t be wise to attach all hopes of future stability onto some guy who could be a total asshole. Please teach me how to kick my stepmother in the face!
“Of course, the fairy godmother said. Then Cinderella confronted her stepmother and stepsisters after they came back from the ball, and enacted vengeance on them for all the times they wronged her. Their bodies were never found. Eventually she found someone she liked who liked her too, and after a long courtship where they never touched each other, they got married. And they had an equal partnership, and she opened a self-defense gym to teach other people in the kingdom kickboxing. The end.”
Raven gurgled at him when he looked up.
“That was Cinderella. How about Snow White?” he asked, as he opened the book.
Charles found them halfway through The Little Mermaid when he got home.
“I thought I caught something about sea witches,” he said as he leaned over to kiss Erik’s cheek and Raven’s forehead, “but I thought I must be mistaken. Especially since I didn’t recall the Little Mermaid murdering the prince and his wife, and starting a war against all land creatures.”
“We need to start teaching her the way of the world, Charles,” Erik replied.
“I don’t think ‘genocide is an option’ is a lesson anyone needs to learn. What else have you covered,” Charles asked as he curled up to his family on the living room floor.
“Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast.” Charles raised an eyebrow as Erik felt the familiar thrum of Charles peeking at his mind.
“Really, burying the stepmother in the rose bushes,” Charles chided. “And I don’t think Emma would be pleased to be compared with the evil queen.”
“That didn’t make it into the story,” Erik smirked. “No critiquing my updates to Snow White?”
“Ah. Not as such, I suppose. Teaching our daughter that it isn’t okay for strange people to kidnap her and, well, molest her when she sleeps is a good lesson. I would have featured fewer sniper shots, but I suppose that falls under artistic license,” Charles mumbled as his cheeks flushed. Clearly he’d caught that Erik hadn’t made any changes to Beauty and the Beast, and moreover why he’d not made any changes.
The tale of a beautiful, kind, lovely soul falling for a cantankerous beast might have some applicability, after all.
“Moira, I have an emergency,” Erik whispered into the receiver from behind the sturdy oak table Charles inherited from some dead Xavier or another. It was currently being used as a buffer to protect Raven from the threat in the kitchen. Smoke passed by overhead, and he covered her tiny blue mouth with his shirt to keep her from breathing the worst of the fumes. “We’re infiltrated.” Raven shuffled underneath him, clutching to him with tiny blue fists.
The day had started so well. He woke up in good time before Charles’s alarm sounded and had his full run, and even had a pleasant mid-shower interlude with his husband before Charles had to run to campus and Erik had to get breakfast ready for their daughter.
Things had gone smoothly afterwards, too. He had half a mind to call Moira and preen over his effortless child-rearing abilities, and was therefore certain that Emma arranged for the Incident out of pure spite. He wouldn’t put it past her.
“Details, Lehnsherr,” Moira prodded. She’d dropped her mocking tone and was all business. It was a relief. There was no one better to have at his back than Moira MacTaggert, save possibly her wife Emma Frost. And that was only because Frost didn’t let silly things like laws or morality stop her from what she wanted to do.
Erik squashed down the panic fluttering in his chest and ran a calming hand over his daughter’s hair. “The kitchen is compromised. At approximately 1100 hours a strange beeping was heard from the oven, followed by the smoke alarm. I created a barrier from the origin of the smoke and checked the apartment for intruders.”
“Wait,” Moria interrupted callously. Raven stifled a sob. “you weren’t using the oven before the beeping and smoking, were you?”
“We were attempting to prepare baked goods. But there’s no way this can be from one pan of cookies-“
“Do me a favor and check, okay?”
“Are you mad,” he hissed, clutching Raven tightly against him. “I can’t leave-“
“Okay, why don’t you set down the phone and check? That way if you explode, I’ll pop over and grab Raven.”
“You’re a terrible person, MacTaggert. You and Frost deserve each other.”
“You know how to sweet talk a girl. Now off!”
He passed the phone to Raven and grabbed the baseball bat. He’d checked for intruders before and found nothing, but he wasn’t taking chances. Not when he was the only one standing between his daughter and certain doom. In the background he could hear Raven babbling happily in response to whatever nonsense Moira was filling her head with. He made a note to teach her the importance of disregarding everything Aunty Moira said as soon as he was finished here. He swung around the corner into the kitchen.
The smoke was much stronger here, and the smoke alarm was blaring loudly. The previous beep had ceased. He steeled himself and grabbed a nearby towel and pulled open the oven door.
“Goddammit!” he shouted, taking in the mass of flaming ex-cookies in front of him. He grabbed the cookie tray by a corner and tossed it in the sink, somehow lighting the towel on fire in the process. Once he got that under control, he ran back to console his daughter who must be terrified.
Raven was curled up, in a blanket nest, tucked between the cracked tabletop and a broken table leg. He hissed in a breath at the damage. But in his defense, he’d needed to protect his girl. From cookies. Fire cookies.
He glared at the phone as he picked it up.
“You may have had a point.”
“Glad to hear it, Lehnsherr.” Moira said jovially. “Now if you’ll excuse me, some of us have criminals to catch.”
“Got it, MacTaggert. Don’t marry them this time.”
“Scout’s honor,” he heard her tinny voice say as he disconnected. He let Raven sleep as he grabbed his tablet to google ‘How to Clean Scorch Marks’. It was going to be a long afternoon.
“Why is the timer melted to the stove, dearest?” Charles asked flatly from the doorway to their bedroom.
“Luck and great skill.” Erik mumbled into his pillow. At least that’s what he meant to mumble – hopefully Charles could translate the “shsdmtmmmmmd” noise he actually made. It was as close to an explanation as he could give, at present. Or ever, if his plan of cleverly distracting Charles with sex and foot rubs worked out.
“I’m not even mad, darling. I’m mostly confused, and slightly impressed.” Charles soothed as he padded over to their bed, making just enough noise so Erik didn’t startle when Charles ran a comforting hand through his hair. Erik made an involuntary noise that was most certainly not a whimper.
“Oh there, there, darling,” Charles, wonderful Charles murmured as he started rubbing Erik’s shoulders. His husband threw a leg over to straddle him, leaning into the tough knots in Erik’s back.
“You’re so tight,” Charles added in his most lascivious tone. Which was joined by a distinct hardness poking Erik’s backside, further nailing in the point, so to speak.
Well. Erik could certainly go with this. He turned under the close spread of Charles’s thighs to reel his smug husband in for a kiss.
At that moment, a surprisingly powerful voice started crying from her room down the hall. Erik grimaced as Charles breathed heavily through his nose.
“I’ll check on her, love,” sainted Charles muttered as he stood and walked out of the room towards their daughter’s bedroom down the hall. Erik manfully did not cry in frustration. Clearly, someone in the building was cutting onions. Clearly.
“You’re doing great,” Charles said later that night. It used to bother Erik when Charles would respond to unvoiced thoughts, but sometimes it was nice, not having to lay his insecurities bare to the world.
“I almost set our home on fire. With cookies.”
“Yes? But you didn’t. Really, you’re marvelous. You’re both marvelous.” Charles pulled Erik down onto the bed and pulled him into warm, open arms. Raven was sleeping in her room.
“The CIA was much easier. At least they had a guidebook.”
“Yes, but no more irritating airport lines, yeah?” Charles joked. “I mean it. You’re fantastic. You love her, that’s the biggest part.” He sounded wistful and Erik suspected he was thinking about Sharon, and growing up more or less alone.
“We,” Erik corrected. He could feel Charles smile against his neck.
“We, then. Just, promise me one thing.”
“Anything,” Erik breathed.
“No rocket launchers until she’s sixteen.”
“Deal,” Erik said with a chuckle. He decided not to tell Charles about the children’s sized bow and arrow set’s he’d picked up. It would give her a leg up on that Wade Wilson kid they’d run into at the park. Erik didn’t trust him as far as he could throw him, which was a surprisingly short distance -- that kid was surprisingly heavy for a five year old. In any case, arrows were way better than katanas. But that could be his and Raven’s secret.