Chapter 1: 1
This starts of as just Erik/Magda but will eventually (sooner rather than later, honestly) turn into Erik/Magda/Charles (with scenes involving each individual couple as well as the trio as a whole)
Triggers for this chapter: vague mentions to the Holocaust, references to mutant prejudice
In the end, it’s the baby’s bright green hair that makes the decision for them. For the last few years, there’s been plenty of times Erik brought up the possibility of a move with Magda. Ever since Nina first began showing signs of her mutation. However, between the two of them, they could always find an excuse to delay it. Too risky, too expensive, to hard for Erik to find a new job, too difficult to explain to the children. An endless list of excuses to put it off, but who could blame them? An intercontinental trip to show up at your old enemy’s academy and practically beg for a second chance; that was no one’s idea of a fun time or simple task. Not to mention the fact that once they left there would be no coming back. They couldn’t really leave their home without a trace and expect it to be waiting for them. So even while the children grew older and their powers became more and more obvious, between him and Magda, they’d always found some excuse to delay it further.
But then baby had been born with a head full of little green fuzz.
The main thing that had kept them safe in this tiny Polish village was how willing all its residents are to pretend. Pretend there is never an unusual amount of animals always trailing after Nina. Pretend Pietro’s white hair is merely an odd shade of blond. Pretend that Henryk Gursky the factory worker doesn’t share an odd resemblance with Erik Lehnsherr the terrorist. Even the midwife had, on her way out, offered to pretend she’d never seen anything different if tomorrow the baby showed up bald or dyed. But Erik and Magda both knew that the village would be considerably less kind if faced with anything undeniably out of the ordinary. Green hair was certainly harder to ignore than white and neither Erik nor Magda were about to condemn an infant to a life of hiding.
Even if it had ever been an option before, it certainly wasn’t now that Erik has first held her in his arms. She is his fourth child already and it still shakes him to the core how deeply one could love another. Erik would do anything for his children. Anything to make sure they had the best life possible. Frightened as it might make them, neither he nor Magda are foolish enough to pretend that ‘best’ is anywhere other than Charles Xavier’s academy an ocean away in Westchester. So with the baby no more than a few hours old, Erik and Magda have to begin their planning to move the whole family away.
“She’s so little to be traveling such a long way…” Magda murmurs regretfully, caressing the baby’s head.
Erik knows she’s right. He hates to think about carrying such a tiny baby half a world away, and Magda so soon after giving birth, but Erik also doesn’t want to take his chances staying here. Perhaps we can travel to a big city nearby and wait some time there for the both of you to gain some strength and then we’ll make the jump to New York. We’d certainly be safer in a city like that. It’s easier to blend in, no matter the oddities.”
“We’ll just… we’ll pack our bags and go. Where we’ll go and how long, we can decide once we’re on the way.” Perhaps she and Erik were sometimes a bit too rash or dramatic in their actions to keep their children safe, but they had both lost their families due to not choosing to flee quickly enough. Neither of them is going to run that same risk again.
Erik tries to relax, at least for now, and nods. “Of course. I’ll get the children back home in a bit and we’ll pack.” Since having to leave quickly had always been in the back of their minds, their house has always been arranged in just the right way to allow for their lives to be picked up and moved from one day to the next. The only thing that would be a bit more difficult would be packing the baby’s things, but Erik will manage. As he thinks more of the baby, he asks, “What have we decided to name her?”
“Lorna.” Magda smiles down at their tiny, green-headed child, sleeping peacefully in her mother’s arms and unaware of all the upheaval she’s caused. “Her name will be Lorna.”
Erik agrees that’s a beautiful name for their baby girl. He spends a bit more time between the three of them, just pretending that everything is beautiful and perfect in the world. He wishes it were and that his girl being born with soft tufts of emerald upon her head is no cause for concern. It was what he’d fought so ferociously for back when Erik had been younger, angrier, and with nothing to lose. In those days, Erik might have wanted to stay, standing tall and proud and daring the village to give them any problems. But that is Erik no longer. These days, Erik stands to lose far too much, this entire family he cherishes so deeply. So soon, he will go off to pick the older children up from the neighbor’s home where they’d stayed during the birth. He’ll explain as gently as he can that they’re leaving and then he’ll help his family pack away their lives into as little bags as possible so they can run long and far from anyone that might cause them any harm. Erik of the past might have called this cowardice, accused him of bowing down and running away from the humans. However, the man Erik had grown into cared for one thing only: keeping his family safe, no matter the amount of running or cowardice it took.
Moving his family wound up being one of the most stressful experiences of Erik’s life, which was saying a lot for a man whose childhood was spent in Nazi Germany and who’d once spent a decade in solitary confinement. In the twelve hours between Lorna being born and their family being on the road to Warsaw, Erik sees more tears than he has since he had toddlers in the house. They all cry about having to leave their home, and then cry even more about not getting a chance to bid it a proper farewell. It breaks Erik’s heart to see their tears, but he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t wholeheartedly believe it’s for the best. He wishes there were some other way, but unfortunately, this is just one of those difficult decisions parenthood is forcing him to make. Erik wishes it could be different. He just hopes the children will be able to make a new home of Westchester.
In the two days they stop to rest in Warsaw, Erik fills their head with stories of the mansion. Nina is soothed by being assured that there will be plenty of critters on the ground; Pietro by the knowledge that he will have more than enough room to run in; and Wanda by the promises that there is a great big flower garden for her to explore. He tells them a few stories about Charles he shares with Magda, whose nerves are calmed slightly by knowing there is a good man waiting at the other end of their journey. As for Erik… well, there’s no one left to soothe his nerves, but he’s content with knowing that his children will be safe soon.
Originally, they had planned to stay in Warsaw at least a week, but preferably two or three. In reality, they barely make it past forty-eight hours when Erik and Magda are too anxious to remain there for much longer. Magda is still tired and sore from childbirth, while Lorna is still almost unbearably tiny, but they depart the city and start on the way to New York. Erik is as paranoid a traveler as always. Through car, train, and ferry, they make their way to London for a fight .This leg of their journey, though, is stretched out into nearly two weeks, due to Erik’s second nature of constantly backtracking and switching routes, should anyone be following. The children see it as a game and Magda indulges him in it, though she is undeniably thankful when they are finally in a plane over the Atlantic. Paranoid traveling makes her as ansty as Erik. Even though eight hours in a plane with a crying infant and a fidgeting Piero is enough to drive anyone mad, Magda really feels as though she grows calmer with every mile closer to their destination. As the plane begins its descent, Magda feels an exhausted sort of relief.
A few seats away from her, Pietro presses his face up against the window, fascinated with the city he sees spread out in front of him. “This is America, Mama?” he asks, unwilling to pry his face from the view for even a second as he asks her this. It’s night time already, so the view is a beautifully twinkling field of lights.
Magda nods, reaching over to make sure Pietro hasn’t undone his seatbelt yet again in his endless wiggling. “Yes it is, Pietro. That’s New York City in the horizon and where Papa will be driving us is called Westchester. He tells me it’ll be another hour.”
By now, Wanda’s interested has been piqued and she wrestles a spot at the window from her brother so she too can see the lights as they land. “Another hour, Mama? And then we’ll be where Papa told us?”
“Not quite yet, ketsele. But we’ll be somewhere we can sleep and rest. Then tomorrow, we’ll see the school,” Magda promises. Erik is confident that Charles will make space in his school for their children, no matter the past between him and Charles. Magda herself is not so sure, but of course, she always presents an optimistic point of view to her children.
That makes the children happy enough and between the twins and Nina, they distract themselves for the remainder of the landing. Lorna, miraculously, sleeps through it, and Magda couldn’t be happier for that. Soon enough, they are disembarking and Magda watches the children from the back while Erik leads them in the front, a well practiced routine to keep the children in line while away from home. Together, they shepherd the children through customs and just as Magda had refrained from questions as to where all this money to run away with had come from, Magda turns a blind eye as Erik procures forged passports and papers for all of them. She’s learned to trust her husband, and have faith that the only illegal things he does these days are for the greater good and for the sake of their family.
Getting through only takes another half hour or so, but Magda feels like it’s taking an eternity, since she has Lorna asleep in her arms, Wanda drowsing off as she perches on her hip, and Pietro practically clinging to her leg. Erik is helping as well, carrying a sleepy Nina in one arm, but he’s taking their luggage, so Magda is left to juggle their three other children. Magda also doesn’t question where the money for the rental car comes from, she only happily loads the children into the back and settles in for the drive to Westchester. Tonight, they’ll focus on their family. They’ll pull up into the first dingy motel off the interstate when they take the exit for Westchester. They’ll distribute themselves and the children between, at most, two beds and a couch. They’ll sleep, as both Erik and Magda struggle to feel safe in the knowledge that Charles Xavier and his school will be a stone throw away, so the children will be near refuge should anything happen. Tonight, they’ll rest, then tomorrow, `Erik will go off in search of rekindling old ties.
Chapter 2: 2
Erik gathers up his courage and goes to Charles' side once more.
cw: food, alcohol
To no one’s surprise, the Maximoff family does little more than go through the motions on the night of their arrival. They’re all half asleep, except for Erik who is wound up tight with the nerves. Magda wishes she could comfort him, but she knows how Erik is in these moods. It’s best to just let him be for a bit before he can be approached. So Magda does the next best thing and focuses on keeping their children content for now. Erik always calms when he sees the children safe and happy. So tired as she is, Magda runs off habit as she tucks the children into bed. By the time the four of them are knocked out asleep, Magda close to follow, Erik at least doesn’t look like his back is about to snap in two from the tension.
As she drifts off, she hopes he’ll get some sleep as well. From the way he beats her to reaching Lorna all night long, she’s willing to bet he didn’t. This belief is only reinforced when she wakes just before the sunrise to find him gone. Magda doesn’t worry on ‘if’ he’ll return. She knows he will. She only hopes he hasn’t already gone off to see Charles. Though Erik insists it’s impossible, Magda maintains that it’s entirely possible for Charles to simply turn Erik in to the authorities. Magda prays that the next she sees of her husband won’t be on the television as he’s carted away to some top secret jail. Thankfully, Erik is back even before the kids are awake. As he enters, Magda sees he’s holding several greasy paper bags with a red, curved M on the front. Horribly unhealthy fast food for breakfast, no doubt. The children will be happy. Any type of food that’s awful for them, the children will inevitably love it.
“You’re up early,” Erik says. He sets the food down at the small table in the corner and then goes to give Magda a kiss.
“And you didn’t even sleep at all,” Magda retorts, standing up. She briefly notes that none of them made it into pyjamas the night before and she, as well as the children, fell asleep in the same clothes from their flight. “We were all but sleepwalking when we arrived last night. You need sleep as well or you’ll be dead on your feet when you go see Charles.”
“I’ll be fine, Magda.” Erik has plenty of experience with running for several days without sleep. Not a habit he wants his family to learn from him, but one he’ll gladly use to help them in these rocky times.
Magda can’t pester him much longer because the smell of food rouses Pietro from his sleep. The boy is sandwiched between Wanda and Nina on one of the beds and sticks his head up, sniffing the air like a puppy. His white hair is sticking up in disarray, but Magda only thinks that makes her son look even cuter. Pietro’s gaze follows his nose until he finds the food and his eyes widen. “Food,” he moans out as he climbs over his sisters to get off the bed and shuffle towards the breakfast. Half asleep, he looks a little like a zombie chasing after brains. Impatient little hands grab at the bag. “Gimme, gimme. I’m hungry, Papa.”
“You’re always hungry, Pietro,” Erik points out as he sets pancakes, hashbrowns, and a paper takeaway cup of orange juice down in front of Pietro. His runnings eats up a lot of energy and it shows in his diet. And in Erik’s grocery bills.
Pietro already has a mouthful of food, but that doesn’t stop him from grinning up at his father. He cheers, “Always!”
Magda tries to shush him, but his sisters have already woken. Nina sleepily shuffles to the food, while the other two girls complain. Wanda through annoyed groaning and Lorna with her piercing cries. Magda sighs as she goes to the infant and picks her up to soothe her with some gentle rocking. At the very least, Pietro had the decency to look sheepish. Magda can’t be too angry at him. Pietro has spent five years being the youngest along with his sister. Unlike Nina, he’s not very well versed in how to keep the baby from starting to fuss.
“Sorry, Mama,” he apologizes between bites of pancake. He’s already managed to eat two.
Magda sighs as she sits to give Lorna her own breakfast as soon as she’s calm. “It’s okay, Schatzi. I know you are. Just remember we have to be a little quieter around the baby, okay?”
“I’m going to be so quiet, Mama! You’ll see. The quietest!” Pietro says. Given how his excitement has already caused his voice to raise again, Magda doesn’t believe that at all. She still nods in encouragement.
Wanda eventually frees herself from the covers and joins everyone with breakfast. Her eyes are still drooping with sleep, and her hair is an absolute nest atop her head, but at least she’s in a good enough mood. Usually she’s a grouch after her brother wakes her. Delicately, Wanda tears away pieces of pancake. “Is today the day you see Charles, Papa?”
Erik nods. “After you all have breakfast in your tummies and are settled for the day, I’m going out to the school. You’ll stay with Mama.”
“But we’ll meet Charles too, right?” Nina asks, looking at her father with wide, hopeful eyes.
Pietro butts in with an offended, “Why can’t I go with you?” He absolutely abhors feelings left out of things.
“Charles and I are going to be talking about boring grownup stuff first. Nothing you would find interesting,” Erik explains. He hopes that will be enough to keep Pietro from asking too many questions or trying to chase after Erik when he leaves. “As soon as the boring stuff is done, I’ll make sure you meet him.”
That calms the fussing before it can properly start, thankfully, and Erik spends the next two hours helping Magda get the children ready. On a normal day, getting them all ready is a chaotic affair. The process now, with a newborn addition to the family and a cramped hotel room with only one bathroom, takes significantly longer. Erik feels a twinge of guilt for leaving Magda all alone with this, but she only ushers him out the door with a kiss and makes him promise he’ll return no matter what. It’s a promise Erik is all too willing to make. However, as Erik gathers up the nerve to go show his face around his old friend again, he almost wishes Magda had kept him around for longer. A marriage, four children, and nine years since he’s last seen him, but Erik still feels wholly unprepared to face down Charles Xavier again.
Erik isn’t stupid enough to walk back into Charles’ life through the front door. Charles is too forgiving for his own good, so Erik feels undoubtedly safe with him? The other residents of the house, though? Erik is sure he’s antagonized himself to several of them, even ones he’s never met. So in lieu of the main entrance, Erik comes into the estate through the wooded area in the back and levitates himself into Charles’ office through an unlocked window. Class is in session, it seems, for Erik runs into no one while he sneaks into Charles’ office. He’s thankful that the fates at least see it fit to grant him this one small thing.
Charles’ office is familiar to Erik, even after all this time. It has the same cozy clutter, the same over stuffed arm chairs in front of the desk, the same mini bar with a decanter of scotch in the corner. Erik is glad at least some things have remained the same despite so many years and so much trauma between the two of them. Erik makes himself at home as though it’s 1962 and he’s only waiting for Charles to return from a grueling training session. Certainly, the way Erik pours himself a drink and settles into one of the armchairs is not the behavior of someone who hasn’t seen this man in nine years, since Erik had dropped a stadium on him. It’s a case of Erik trying with all his might to look more confident than he actually feels. Thankfully for Charles’ supply of scotch, Erik is only halfway through his first glass when his powers sense a wheelchair coming steadily down the hallway. To Charles’ credit, the man doesn’t even flinch as he opens the door and sees Erik sitting there. In fact, he doesn’t say anything at all until after he’s wheeled himself to the corner and set some water to boil on the kettle he has there. All the while, Erik waits anxiously to at the very least be acknowledged.
Finally, Charles turns to him and says, “I thought I felt your mind approach last night. For a moment, I’d worried I imagined it.”
“No, old friend, you haven’t reached the age of delusions just yet. I flew into New York yesterday and spent the night in a motel a few miles away,” he explains.
“Of course. I’d offer you some tea, but I see you’ve already helped yourself,” Charles says, gesturing to the glass of scotch in Erik’s hands. “Bit early to be drinking, isn’t it? Hardly lunch time, my friend.”
“I’ve had a rough few days.” That’s an understatement, but if Erik gets into details, they’ll be here for hours longer. The sooner Erik can have his children nearby and sure of their safety again, the better.
“Hmm. You didn’t come to New York alone.” It’s not a question. “None of your Brotherhood fellows, I would hope. You’ve been very quiet these last few years.”
“If you saw in my head, you’d know that I’m not with any accomplices or anything of the like,” Erik insists. He would still prefer to have Charles outside of his head, but Erik knows he’s not in a position to make demands.
Still, Charles shakes his head. “I’m not going snooping in your head just because you don’t seem to want to get into details about what trouble you’re causing these days. I don’t mean to disappoint, but there’s no nearby baseball stadiums for you to drop on me here, old friend.”
Erik sighs. It’s not that he’s surprised to see that Charles is still upset at him. Honestly, it makes more sense for Charles to remain furious than it would for him to have magically forgiven Erik for everything that’s happened between them. Still, Erik had held on to some hope for a small miracle. Never had Erik feared that Charles might turn him into the authorities, but he’d never been too sure how friendly Charles might be too see him. Erik wishes the answer to that hadn’t wound up being, obviously, not too happy at all. Erik almost wishes Charles had lingered in his head for longer, to see Erik’s reasons for being here and the events leading up to the journey. At least it would leave Erik with far less to find the words to explain with.
“I’m not here to harm you, Charles. I’m here… I’m here to ask for your help,” Erik admits. It’s not easy for one as prideful as him to reach out for help, but there’s nothing Erik wouldn’t do for his children. Even bruise his ego a bit.
“My help? Erik, many years back I told you we don’t want the same thing and I stand by that. I consider you a friend and equal, but I will neither assist nor condone the sort of practices you often involve yourself in,” Charles says firmly.
“Charles… I’m not asking for myself. I’m here because I know your school is the safest place for our kind and I’m in desperate need of somewhere safe right now. For my family, Charles. I have a family now.”
Chapter 3: 3
Charles tries to be funny. He is not funny. Thankfully, he is very good with children.
Just a note that applies to this chapter and from here on out, anything in italics implies that it's being spoken in another language other than English!
Charles blinks once. Twice. He stares at Erik for a long moment, waiting for the moment when his friend will laugh about having managed to prank him and reveal that no, of course he doesn’t have a family hidden away somewhere in a motel nearby. That would be absurd. No, Charles keeps waiting for Erik to reveal that yes, obviously it’s a group of Brotherhood mutants he has waiting in a hotel room. But the moment never comes and instead, after Charles’ shocked silence has gone long enough, Erik is still just sitting there and awaiting a reply.
When he’d felt Erik’s mind in his presence again, Charles prepared himself for a great many alternatives as to why he might be here. When he’d wheeled himself into his office, Charles had truly felt he was prepared for anything Erik might reveal. Never could he have imagined that what Erik would reveal was a family. While Charles can see at the surface of Erik’s thoughts and his concerns for people left behind in their lodging, Charles hadn’t delved any further and infringed on Erik’s privacy. Therefore, this news comes as a genuine shock. Charles likely could have spent all afternoon there, just gawking at Erik, but after just under a minute of awkward, flabbergasted silence between them, Charles reminds himself that Erik needs a reply from him.
“I’m sorry, my friend, but I’m afraid you need to repeat that for me.” Charles is still not sure he’s heard that clearly. “Did you say you have a family now?”
Erik nods. “I do. A wife, three daughters, and a son. Magda, my wife. Nina, Wanda, and Lorna; my girls. And Pietro, my boy.”
With every name he says, Charles receives a projection of the family member. When he spots the infant’s bright green hair, Charles feels confident to wager a guess why they’re here. The world is becoming friendlier towards mutants, but progress is slow and mostly in the Western world. In many parts of the world, visible signs of mutation are still cause for ostracization and even death.
“This is… Well, it’s definitely a surprise,” Charles admits. It’s not like he has to. It’s probably obvious from his face alone. Still, Charles says it to be polite. The same way that despite the obviously unnatural hair color on two of Erik’s children, he still asks, “I take it your family are mutants as well?”
“The children are, Magda is not. But her association to us was enough of a safety concern had she stayed in Poland. It’s not safe to be visibly mutated there. That’s why we left. Lorna, the baby, was born only a few weeks ago, and with that green hair you saw. I don’t know what would have happened to her if we’d stayed, and I didn’t want to find out.” Erik sighs and even without the aid of telepathy, Charles can hear his friend’s immense exhaustion in it. For all the resent Charles still carries in his heart for him, Charles also feels pity. He understands the scotch now. Erik continues, “I wouldn't come to you were it not absolutely necessary, Charles, given our history. But I have four children in need if a safe place to grow up and I’m desperate to provide it for them.”
“Four children… Four little Erik Lehnsherr’s running around. Honestly, my friend, had you no access to birth control in Poland?” Charles aims for joking, but from the way Erik’s face falls, it obviously doesn't come across well.
“They're good children, Charles,” he insists. “Lorna is only an infant, hit she's been a sweet and calm one so far. They'll behave. They're just innocent young mutants in need of a safe place for an education and I don't know anywhere better at that than here. That's why I’m here, asking that you please take them in. As for Magda… Well, I would beg that you give her a space here, too, because she has nowhere else to go. If not for me, then for the man I used to be. For all that’s happened between us, neither of us can deny the friendship we shared that summer in ‘62. That’s worth something, no? As for me… Well, I understand that I’m a safety concern. I’m more than prepared to leave them here safely and depart on my own way.”
Charles cuts him off, refusing to listen to anymore nonsense about Erik leaving his family. “I was only joking a bit, my friend. I’m not in the habit of turning away students at my door, nor of breaking apart families. Your family is welcome here, as are you. Always, Erik, no matter the past between us.”
“You mean that?” Erik asks. He holds the wary excitement of a man who’s long since learned that getting his hopes up is the perfect way to have them come crashing down again. Charles wishes he could dispel every shard of self doubt in Erik, so he does the next best thing and projects his sincerity to him. Erik looks infinitely grateful, as though he had not once considered this might be the outcome of his request. “Thank you, Charles. You’ll love Magda and the children, I promise you that.”
“I would love a chance to meet them,” Charles agrees. He’s curious to see who’s managed to calm down Erik and his extremist ideals. If Charles is honest, he’s a bit resentful that someone has gotten Erik to settle down, even after everything Charles offered wasn’t enough. But Charles tries to push those thoughts away and instead, just focus on how happy he is for his friend.
“Of course. We can meet them now. They’re not far.” Erik stands before even giving Charles an answer. “The children are excited to meet you.”
Charles lifts a hand to his temple and through there, he informs Hank that he’ll be gone the rest of the afternoon and to please find a sub for his classes. Charles very conveniently avoids mentioning why he’ll be gone. Once that is arranged, he wheels himself away from his desk. “Let’s head over there! I’m eager to meet your lucky lady. And the next generation of Lehnsherr’s!”
The ride back to the motel is no longer than ten minutes, but it feels much longer from the silence between them. Erik would love for Charles to fill the silence with meaningless chatter, as he had so many times when they had departed on their road trip so many years back. But the small talk doesn’t come and instead, Charles just quietly looks out the window the whole car ride. Erik would love to fall back into old habits as if there weren’t two decades of turmoil between them, but he knows that would be asking for a bit much. For his part, he doesn’t attempt to start up the conversation either.
It’s a relief for the both of them when Erik pulls into the motel parking lot. As he opens car doors and pulls the wheelchair out of the back, Erik refrains from using his powers. He’s made it this far in bringing his family to safety, he’s not about to risk it because he doesn’t he doesn’t want to do something the human way. Erik wants to help while Charles transfer himself to his chair, but he knows to do so would be infantilizing. Not to mention almost entirely fueled by Erik’s want to soothe his old guilts. So instead, he just settles for closing the car door behind Charles and leading the way to the room door.
“Should I wait out here in the hall while you tell them I’m here to see them?” Charles asks, bringing his chair to a stop in front of the door.
Erik shakes his head while he retrieves the key from his pocket. “Not at all. They were all hoping I’d be coming back with you anyway.”
He waits another moment to make sure Charles isn’t about to back out, and then he opens the room door. Before leaving, he’d suggested just ordering a pizza for lunch, to make things a little easier for Magda, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Pietro looks most pleased of all as he makes his way through what is probably just one of an absurd amount of slices of cheese pizza. When the kids spot him coming in, there’s a flurry of excitement. When they spot Charles wheel in behind him, their excitement only grows. Poor Magda is holding a sleeping Lorna in her arms and from the resigned look on her face, she’s just accepted the fact that Lorna will soon be awake.
“ Papa !” Pietro shoves the last bit of his pizza crust into his mouth, so his hands are free to wrap around his father’s shoulders when he rushes over and jumps up to hug him. “ You’re back. Is this your friend Charles? This is your friend Charles, isn’t it? ”
Erik nods, happily picking Pietro up and letting the boy perch on his waist. “ He is. But we musn’t speak Polish around him, okay? He won’t understand you if you do.”
“Oh.” Pietro is shy suddenly, which is a lot to say for the boy. Pietro is never shy about anything, but it seems the premise of practicing his English is enough to trigger one of those occurrences. They all understand and speak English just fine, Erik has made sure of that, but they obviously didn’t practice with too many native speakers in Poland. Pietro finally settles for a shy, “Hello, I am Pietro.”
Charles is nothing but kind and friendly to the children. There wasn’t much space for Charles to wheel through in the hotel room, but he went in as far as he could manage comfortably. All proper and polite, he reached forward to shake Pietro’s hand. Young children were always wildly amused to be treated like little adults. “HEllo, Pietro, it’s such a pleasure to meet you!” He turns to the girls and gives them the same smile. “You two must be Nina and Wanda. It’s wonderful to meet you as well. Your father said such lovely things about you.”
Nina seems to be the one least shy about using her English, and she steps forward to shake Charles’ hand. Erik never fails to find it adorable when she tries to act grown up. “Hello, I’m Nina. I’m the oldest one.”
“That’s fantastic! I was the oldest child as well,” Charles says. He turns to Wanda, going from very enthusiastic to a little gentler, since she’s obviously the shiest one. “And that means you must be Wanda. I’m very happy to meet you as well. That’s a beautiful red bow you’re wearing.”
Wanda reaches up to touch her bow and nods shly. “Thank you.”
Of course, it’s only another moment before Lorna is awake from all the commotion in the room. She wiggles as best she can in her mother’s arms and starts fussing. Since Magda has been with the children all morning, Erik steps forward to handle this time. He sets Pietro down on the floor again so he can go to Magda and pick the baby up from her arms. He coos to Lorna gently, and rocks her against his chest until she’s asleep again. When he looks over again, he can see Charles is smiling his way. It only lasts a second, though, before Charles is maneuvering through the room so he can reach Magda.
Charming as ever, Charles takes Magda’s hand in his and leans down to kiss the back of it. “You must be Magda. It’s amazing to see who’s managed to tame Erik after all these years!”
Magda looks hopelessly charmed as she smiles back at Charles. “And it’s good to meet the man my husband speaks so much about.”
“Oh, I’m sure he must not say that much about me,” Charles insists, shaking his head politely. He puts the brake on his chair on and leans back more comfortably. He glances at the children for a moment, who are all watching him very closely as they await to find out more about this mysterious man their father told them so much about these last few days, and then he looks back at Magda. “Let’s discuss about getting you and your family moved into the school, why don’t we?”
Chapter 4: 4
The children and Charles get to know each other a little better.
This one is a bit shorter because I wanted a chapter the focused on Charles and one of his first interactions with the kids, since those first meetings are foundations for later trust and bonding. Similarly, my intention is for the next chapter to be heavily focused on Charles and Magda!
as a reminder, italicized and between quotations "like this" means speaking a different language. italicized and between forward slashes /like this/ means telepathy
cw: none I can think of lmk if I missed anything
Charles does his best to be nothing but charming while speaking with Erik and his wife. Any resentment he holds for the situation (and there is plenty of it) he buries deep down inside. This isn’t about him, this is about Erik’s family. Besides, while Magda had been passing Lorna to Erik, Charles had spotted the numbers tattooed on her arm, just like Erik’s. That gives him a slightly better idea as to why Magda might have been able to calm Erik when Charles had failed so dramatically. That soothes the jealousy Charles is trying so hard not to acknowledge. Surprisingly, it’s not that hard to keep his jealousy at bay. Magda is kind and absolutely lovely, even just a few minutes of chatting (mundane chat, too, about transporting them to the mansion and going out as soon as possible to buy clothing for the children) is enough to have Charles completely charmed on her. Plus, the children are adorable and in Charles’ eyes, Magda’s having played a role in their rearing is something in her favor.
While Charles and their parents are talking, the children are standing around and watching them while they finish their lunch. They haven’t said a word yet, but Charles can feel the eager curiosity in their minds. He’s sure at any moment, when they’ve gathered a bit more courage, they’ll be firing out question after question. Sure enough, it’s only a few minutes into logistical planning before Pietro steps forward. Tentatively, he puts his hands on the arm of Charles’ wheelchair, using it as leverage to pull himself onto tip toes.
“Excuse me, Mr. Charles?” Pietro glances briefly at his parents, who he’s just interrupted, but they just nod encouragingly. Pietro continues. “Are you a mutant, too? Like me and my sisters and Papa?”
“Indeed I am, Pietro! I’m sure your Papa mentioned this to you, but the school I run is entirely for young mutants. Ones just like you and your sisters! Most of our staff is mutant as well, including myself,” Charles explains.
Pietro’s eyes widen. He’s excited, clearly. Charles can’t understand much from the boy’s surface thoughts, since they’re mostly in Polish, but he can assume none of these children have met mutants other than their father and each other. “What can you do, Mr. Charles?”
“Call me Charles, please. No need for the formalities,” Charles assures him. These are Erik’s children. Charles would very much like them to see him more as a family friend than simply just the headmaster where the children will be studying. He smiles at them, trying to look mischievous, to make the children feel like they are getting in on some big secret. Charles makes a big show out of pressing two fingers to his temple. As gently as he can, he reaches forward with his mind to broadcast the thoughts into their minds. /As for my powers… Well, I’m a telepath./
Wanda gasps and jumps a little where she’s standing. “Oh!”
Charles can feel the wonder and excitement from the three of them. It seems he was right in assuming they’ve never met any other mutants outside their family. At the very least, they’ve never come across a telepath before. In his experience, young mutants are always fascinated when they learn of a mutation like telepathy. Even to young mutants, the idea of mind reading is fantastical.
“ Papa! Papa, I just heard him in my mind!” Nina exclaims. In her excitement, she’s gone back to Polish, so Charles doesn’t understand anything other than ‘Papa’ but he doesn’t need to understand the words to know she’s wondered by it.
Erik nods. “I know, ketsele. It’s pretty neat, isn’t it?”
All three kids nod enthusiastically. This is Charles’ favorite part of the job; when he gets to show young mutants that they're not alone and that there's a whole world of possibilities waiting for them out in the world. Charles turns his wheelchair slightly to face the children so he can properly address them. “What about the three of you? What can you do?”
At first they’re hesitant, but Erik and Magda cheer them on with words of encouragement in a language Charles cannot understand. It seems to do the trick, because then the children are debating amongst themselves, seemingly about what order to show off their powers, so the room doesn't dissolve into superpowered chaos. After a moment, they emerge from the impromptu huddle they'd formed in the middle of the room.
Pietro speaks up first, but only to regretfully say, “I can't show my power in a room small like this. I need space. But I am very fast.”
“Oh, wonderful! There's more than enough space in the school, Pietro. Once we've driven there, you can show us how fast you are,” Charles promises. He's excited to see what ‘fast’ means to Pietro. Among his works, Charles had theorized on speedsters, but never actually met one until now. Will Pietro be like a car? Like a train? Faster perhaps? He's eager to now.
The next to step forward is Nina. She’s grinning, as though this might not be something she’s allowed to do inside very often. “Wait here a second,” she instructs. Then she hurries to the room door and opens it. She only has to step outside a moment before a pair of birds have flown to her and settled on her shoulders. She walks with them near Charles again and Charles had to smile as the birds whistle merrily. “Animals are my friends! All sorts of animals.”
“Fascinating!” Charles reaches out to stroke the bird’s head with his fingertip and Nina’s presence keeps the small creature calm enough to enjoy the touch. “That's a beautiful gift, Nina, thank you for showing it to me. There are plenty of critters on the school grounds. You’ll enjoy them, I believe.”
Nina nods, still smiling. She pets both birds gently before opening the door once more to let them fly free. “I would love to meet the animals in your school. My favorites are rabbits and deer.”
“I'm sure you'll find some!” Charles then turns to Wanda, seemingly the shiest of the group. “What about you, little one? Wanda, right? What are your powers?”
“Yes, Wanda,” she confirms, nodding and standing a little straighter. Shy, but proud. Charles considers that maybe she's simply reserved, but proud, much like her father. Wanda takes a step away from her siblings and then lifts her hands towards one of the pillows. Her face scrunches up in concentration and her little hands glow scarlet. For a few moments Charles wonders if perhaps the glowing is all she can do, but after racking up all her concentration, the pillow glows in the same shade of red and hovers up in the air a few inches, a bit wobbly and only for a few seconds before it plops back down again. Wanda mumbles, “I'm not as good at mine as Pietro and Nina.”
Even with the mild shields Charles always has up, he can feel clear as day how it hurts Erik’s heart to hear his baby girl put herself down. No doubt, he's about to jump in with fatherly advice, but Charles speaks before he can. “I think that was a marvelous display!” he says, beaming at her. Charles is sincere. He loves seeing young mutants experiment with their powers, no matter their level of control. “And your power manifests itself in such a gorgeous color, Wanda. I see your hairbow is red. It matches your powers!”
Wanda nods shyly. “Red is my favorite color. I can also do…” She holds her hand out towards the bed and this time, the red light on her hands charges out towards a stuffed kitten on the bed. It hits the kitten and the toy is knocked onto its side, but seems otherwise unharmed. “That.”
“Magnificent, Wanda. Simply magnificent! Your powers are lovely, I'm so glad I could see them. At the school, we all practice our mutations and learn more about them, so we can get better every day. All of us, even your Papa,” Charles says, glancing up at Erik and smiling.
Erik nods, looking down at Charles and meeting his gaze. “And even little Lorna someday.”
“Yes,” Charles agrees, “even little Lorna.”
(Later, when they've all packed up and driven to the mansion, Pietro makes it a point of not letting anyone go inside until he’s run a lap around the property to show Charles just how fast it is. Charles is flabbergasted in the best of ways to see how he'd underestimated Pietro’s speed. This boy is much, much faster than any car or train. His first thought? Scientific amazement. His second? Absolute horror as he considers the mischief the Lehnsherr children are capable of causing. Just like their father, they'll undoubtedly be the reason he goes bald someday.)
Chapter 5: 5
Magda tries to properly meet Charles.
Once again, she's quite sure she knows her husband better than he knows himself.
bit of an early update! happy fourth of july to anyone who celebrates it :)
cw: mentions of the Holocaust and the camps, Magda vaguely describes some things of her and Erik's time there
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Maximoff family has been moved into the Xavier Institute for only a few hours, not yet dinner time, but the children are already fast asleep in their beds. Magda can’t blame them. The travel over the last few days has exhausted all of them, and the excitement of moving must have drained the last of their energy. While Magda and the children had moved in normally, through the front entrance, Erik had come in through all the back hallways, to avoid being seen, and he hasn’t left the bedroom since. They’d sold it to the children as though they were playing a game. That had made them more excited, which in turn had tired them out faster. Magda can’t say she’s not grateful.
The children being asleep means Magda has time to explore these strange new grounds she’ll have to call home. Erik’s encouraged her to explore even if he, for the moment, is confined to their bedroom. Lorna wakes up hungry just before she leaves, but that’s no problem. Magda just picks her up and walks with Lorna nursing at her breast. She gets a few scandalized looks from the American teenagers roaming the halls, and many more looks that are simply embarrassed. It doesn’t bother her. Few things do these days.
Magda walks through this house - she’s almost hesitant to call it that, it’s so big - aimlessly for a few minutes, just feeling out of place among the carpeted floors and high ceilings. Eventually, she turns up at Charles’ office, the first room he’d shown them on their brief tour. She knocks, and opens the door once she’s beckoned inside.
Charles is busy grading papers at his desk. He looks up when Magda comes in and does a double take when he sees Lorna nursing. He’s obviously embarrassed, but trying to hide it. In Magda’s opinion, he’s not doing a very good job. “Magda! And, um, Lorna. Come in, take a seat. I can’t imagine that’s comfortable to do standing up. I mean - not that I’d know, of course I wouldn’t know. I don’t mean to offend. I just-” Wisely, Charles cuts himself off before he can be embarrassed further. “How can I help you, Magda?”
Why is Magda there? She’s not entirely sure, if she’s being truthful. Charles is still, in many ways, a mystery to her. This is the man her husband trusted enough to move his whole family across an ocean. The man who had shown this trust was not misplaced by welcoming them with open arms. The man her husband has maintained such an odd friendship with for decades, despite rarely actually seeing each other.
This is the man her husband has loved since they met, though Magda is not sure if either of them knows it. It wouldn’t be the first time she knows her husband better than he knows himself. Yet for all those things, Magda knows very little about him personally. She would like to see that change. To better understand this strange bond between her husband and Charles.
“Erik and I met as children in the camps,” Magda starts. Lorna has stopped nursing, so as she continues her story, Magda moves her onto her shoulder and fixes her shirt. “He was twelve, I was thirteen. He’d go to see Schmidt more often than not and he always came out looking a little more broken, but that never stopped him from smuggling food out of Schmidt’s desk and bringing it back to me. And when he overheard that the Romani camps were to be cleared, he arranged God knows what bargain to have me moved and my records changed to identify me as a Jew instead of Romani. He was like my knight in shining armor, a hero to me when I was little more than a girl and him, little more than a boy. That’s why I stay by his side. Because when I recall the news of awful things he’s done under that name of ‘Magneto’, I also recall those days of our youth and I know my Erik was always there under that ‘Magneto’, only broken and lost his way. That’s why I stay with him, Charles, and why I always will. What you can help me with, I suppose, is helping me understand why you have remained at my husband’s side as well.”
Charles is quiet for several long moments, while Magda just sits and watches him. She knows Erik rarely speaks of his boyhood and Charles is likely caught off guard by that. He sighs after a moment and pushes aside the papers he’d been marking. Charles wheels himself away from his desk and towards Magda, eliminating the barriers between them. “Erik took away my sister and my legs within minutes of each other. He abandoned me on a beach in Cuba, to die for all he knew. On almost every approach to humanity and mutant rights, we disagree fundamentally. I’m sure the acts of terrorism he’s committed have set human-mutant relations back significantly. The last time we saw each other, he dropped a bloody stadium on me. I have no reason to stick by him, yet every reason to despise him.”
“And still, you don’t,” Magda points out.
“No, I don’t,” Charles agrees, sighing in defeat. No point denying that. It’s obvious.
“I know. And what I’d like to know is the why. I'm sure you can understand my curiosity.”
“When I met Erik, he was just in the midst of his hunt for Sebastian Shaw - Schmidt, that is. He was full of anger and pain. It was the rage that drove him forward, nothing more. Yet I saw more to him. I saw past that. There was good in him as well. So much good and nobility and bravery. If only he would let himself find peace, I know he could be a good man, because I’ve seen it for myself. And just like you, when I see the atrocities Erik has done, I don’t lose faith in the good I’ve seen. Just like you, I’m going to stand by him until the end, for I firmly believe Erik can be reformed. Erik isn’t a bad man, he’s a great man whom life has simply tested one too many times.”
That’s an answer Magda is very happy with. She too has faith in the goodness of Erik. She still knows very little about Charles, but at least now she feels a little more confident that Erik hasn’t misplaced his trust in this man. Not only that, now Magda has a growing suspicion that Erik isn’t the only one who’d been smitten in love for decades. Someday soon, they’ll all have to face up and acknowledge that. However, Magda will stay quiet on her part and trust that her husband will remain oblivious. Things are rocky enough right now with adjusting to the move, they don’t need this on top of it. Surely, if they’ve waited since 1962 to confront those feelings and have a proper conversation over them, they can wait another short while.
Magda doesn’t worry for her marriage. She trusts Erik wholeheartedly. Always has and she likely always will. It’s her who calls him husband. Her who has made a home with him. Her who has four children with him. She certainly doesn’t fear losing him to Charles and the impending conversation in their future doesn’t intimidate her. Besides, she likes Charles now. She likes the answer he’d given her in regards to her husband.
“I suppose you and I have a lot in common there. We both have gotten to know the Erik that he hides away from the world. It’s a shame the rest of the world can’t see the Erik we know, isn’t it?” Magda says. When she thinks of this Erik the world doesn’t know, she thinks of Erik the husband, Erik the father. Two things he excels at because of how much he loves them.
Charles nods sympathetically and leans back in his wheelchair slightly, settling more comfortably for conversation. “It is, but Erik is a stubborn man. I know that everything he does, he thinks is the best option for mutantkind. I disagree, I think it only worsens things, but he does what his life has led him to believe is best and for that, I can’t entirely fault him. Perhaps in not faulting him, I inadvertently condone his actions, but then so be it. Erik is my best friend and casting him aside in shame will never help him see the world in a better light.”
“Best friend,” Magda repeats. She smiles. “You are Erik’s best friend, as well. One of his only friends, truly. I’m glad my husband has you. Just as glad as I am that you so persistently stand by his side. Erik will need someone like that these days. He can’t just stay locked up in that room forever.”
“I know. And I don’t intend to let that happen. Just for the night. Through tomorrow morning, at most. I need to speak to the faculty, help them understand the situation. My right hand man, Hank McCoy, knew Erik personally and is a bit more adept at holding grudges than I am. But once I’ve spoken to them, I shall speak to the students as well, so it doesn’t come as a shock when they see a wanted man roaming our halls. And once that’s done, Erik is free to settle in as freely as he wants.” This is a promise Charles makes. Magda can hear the surety in his voice, and she’s confident he’ll make it happen one way or another. This will just be something else for Magda to add onto her list of reasons why she’s thankful for who her husband has chosen as a best friend.
Still, Magda has to approach the situation cautiously. One cannot be too cautious when Erik is among America’s most wanted terrorists. He’d tried to kill the president his last time here, after all. “And if one of your students calls home? Tells their parents that Erik Lehnsherr is being housed here and that parent calls the authorities and suddenly, your school is being raided and my husband taken away.”
“I won’t let that happen. I know my students. For all I try to instill trust in them, most are as wary of the authorities as Erik is. Besides…” Charles pauses and the determination she sees on his face is like a shadow of the same look she’s seen on her husband so many times. “I truly pity anyone who comes to my school looking for any trouble.”
“I can see why my husband likes you, Charles. There’s a fire in you underneath the surface,” Magda says, smirking up at him.
Charles laughs. “I’m not sure Erik would agree with you, but I’d like to think so, yes. I like to avoid fights when possible, but I don’t live in a fantasy world either, regardless of what Erik may say. I understand that there may come a day I have to go against my morals if it means keeping my students safe.”
“Keeping your students safe. Or your best friend, it seems,” Magda notes.
“Students,” Charles says once more. This time, he smiles fondly and points down at baby Lorna on her lap. “Students, see. And, of course, if I’m keeping those students safe, how am I not to do the same for those students’ families?”
“Of course.” Magda runs a gentle hand through the tiny green hairs on Lorna’s head. Her children are students here now, aren’t they? Charles had been quick to accept them, and seemed pleased even. Magda can see that being a teacher comes as naturally to Charles as being a warrior and leader does to her husband. Once again, Magda is thankful. This time, for the fact that her children are safely tucked away in the dormitories of a sanctuary where they can grow up free of the harsh realities of the world. She tucks Lorna more snugly into her arms and stands. “I’ll see you, Charles.”
“You as well, Magda. It was lovely to chat with you.” Charles nods politely towards her and wheels himself back behind his desk.
Magda walks with Lorna back towards the door, pausing with her hand over the doorknob. With a sly smile, she turns back to Charles. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re right. I don’t think he’s right, either, though. I think the both of you are just stubborn men who refuse to see any different than old opinions formed a lifetime ago in the 1960s.”
Charles answer comes between laughter. “Perhaps you’re right, Magda. Perhaps you’re right.”
I fucking love Magda.
She knows, man, she knows. Just waiting for the doofus she calls husband and the dolt he calls a best friend to catch up :')
Chapter 6: 6
The students learn of Erik's arrival.
Of course, most of their concern isn't for safety, it's for the gossip they can create from it.
cw: mentions of Erik's jail time (specifically, the solitary aspect of it), mentions of Erik's past terrorist acts
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Charles sees very little of the Maximoff family the rest of that day. Erik has yet to venture out to be seen by the student population and the children were mostly sleeping off the jetlag, which of course meant Magda preferred to hang nearby them in the room, emerging only when the children need something. Charles crosses paths with her once in the hallways, late at night, when Magda had given him a brief smile, along with a knowing look as though the two of them now shared more than just an acquaintance via Erik. Other than Magda’s occasional appearance in the hallways, Charles doesn’t see the family for much of the day. However, out of sight definitely doesn’t translate into out of mind. Erik and his family are, in fact, most of what Charles has to think of that evening and the following day. First thing in the morning, he has to talk to Hank about their latest addition to the school. In the brief period of time between breakfast and the first class of the day, Charles goes to Hank’s classroom to have a chat.
“Hank, my good man! May we have a word?” Charles asks, wheeling himself up to Hanks’ desk.
From the look Hank gives him, it seems he has a suspicion that Charles is up to something. But Hank nods and puts his work aside. “Sure. Does it have to do with why you were gone from class yesterday? And those new kids that moved in with their mother?”
“Observant as ever, Hank. Yes, that’s most of it. As well as one more important detail you missed. Their father moved in as well,” Charles reveals. “That father being Erik.”
In his defense, Hank doesn’t immediately panic. He takes off his glasses and wipes nervously at the lenses, but he doesn’t panic. “Erik… Lehnsherr?”
“The very one,” Charles says, nodding in confirmation.
Hank still looks like he’d rather not believe it. “Erik Lehnsherr the terrorist? The fugitive? The man who we last saw trying to kill the President?”
“Erik Lehnsherr the concerned father of four children,” Charles corrects. Other than the years of addiction when he had been at his lowest point, Charles has always defended Erik despite their past. The fact that Erik now has a family, not to mention a seemingly genuine want to do better, only means Charles will now be even more relentless in defending his old friend.
“Fine. Erik Lehnsherr the man who, despite fatherhood, is a fugitive for terrorism and wanted by most countries in the developed world. Professor, this is a horrible idea,” Hank says.
Charles sighs. Of course he’d expected Hank to be appalled and fight against the situation, but he’d sort of hoped it might go a little better. “Hank, this place serves not just to educate young mutants, but also to take in mutants who might have nowhere else to go. It’s always been like that, I’m not about to stop now.”
“Most mutants we might take in aren’t terrorists we’ve fought against multiple times!” Hank protest. Despite how much he’s arguing, Charles can feel his resolve breaking.
“Hank, please. Just trust me. You’ve trusted me without question in the past. I’m only asking that you do it again now,” Charles pleads. “I understand you don’t trust Erik, but I do. And you trust me, don’t you?”
Hank sighs after a long moment. “Fine. Okay. But even the slightest hint of trouble from Erik and I won’t just be sitting around in the background waiting for everything to go to hell.”
“Fair enough,” Charles agrees, nodding. “I very much appreciate it, Hank. You won’t regret this. One last thing: I want to use homeroom today to speak with the students. Tell them that Erik is here and there’s no reason for anyone to panic or call the authorities when they see him. I would very much appreciate if you were there and pretended to wholeheartedly support this. To help soothe the children and all that.
Hank’s only response to this is an annoyed groan.
All things considered, the impromptu reunion of the children goes well. Hank’s version of appearing supportive is to nod occasionally and bite back all his commentary, but it winds up working just fine. Telling the students that there’s now a fugitive living on the grounds with them could have made for a tricky process, but in typical teenager fashion, the children are far more interested in the gossip aspect of this whole ordeal. It’s all fine and dandy that Erik Lehnsherr has moved in and yes, yes, okay he got up to some pretty nasty things in the early 60s and tried to kill the president in 1973. But most of the students don’t care about that. They care about the why. They care about who he brought with him. They want to know the relationships involved. They want to know if the kids are mini version of their father. They want to know if he and professor are still friends. They want to know all of that and a million other questions Charles doesn’t understand because only a teenager would think them up.
Once Charles is done explaining Erik’s arrival to the children, there’s a bombard of questions. Charles answers most of the questions from the younger students. Those are the ones who need a little extra assurance that Erik isn’t going to hurt them and that things won’t change around the school because of its new additions. Charles is happy to provide all these comforts, and the occasional telepathic nudge towards trust. It’s a bit immoral and not something Charles would do under any normal circumstances, but life has already proved that Charles would do a great many things for Erik, even go against his usual moral compass.
Charles brushes aside the teenagers’ questions, mostly because they’re the ones who are asking questions to fuel their rumors instead of seeking comfort. Under the excuse of needing to get to class, Charles ushers them all away before having to answer much and thinks that’ll be the end of it. It, of course, isn’t. After so many years, one would think Charles would be used to the antics of teenagers. But no, he’s still hopelessly naive about them sometimes. When Charles goes to his first class, he’s actually expecting the kids to focus on their classes like any other day. Obviously, that’s not what happens.
The students file into class, same as any day, but when they sit down, not even one of them pulls out their notebooks. They just sit there and stare at Charles, seemingly in the hopes that staring at him long enough will get them their answers. Charles sighs. This is his group of 8th graders, which he’d been hoping is still an age young enough to not care about gossip. He’s sorely mistaken. Charles wheels himself to the front of the room and closes the novel on his lap. He doesn’t think they’ll be getting any work done anyway.
“All right,” he relents. “No point in pretending otherwise, I’m sure you all have a great deal of questions for me. Go on.” All at once, every student in the room starts asking questions, which is simply chaotic and unproductive. Charles can’t make out a single one. So he holds his hands up to silence them and tries again. “One at a time, kids! I can’t hear you when you go all at the same time. Raise your hands. There we go, that’s better. Sam, you can go first.”
“Is it true that the two of you are friends, Professor?” he asks, looking far more interested in this than he ever has in English class.
Charles nods. “Indeed we were. We met a long time back and I still consider him one of my closest friends, despite the circumstances.”
There’s several murmurs between the students and a few hands go down, but the ones that remain up are straining to go up even higher, as if that’ll get them called on sooner. Charles gestures for one of the girls, Jeanne-Marie, to go next. “Was he a terrorist back when you first met? Were you still friends with him while he was a terrorist? Is he still a terrorist now? Actually, Jean-Paul and I heard that you once busted him out of jail! Is that true? Did you bust a terrorist out of jail, Professor?”
“Jeanne-Marie.” Charles puts a hand up to stop her before she can keep on her rambling of questions. “My friendship with Erik has been a complicated one. I have my reasons for trusting him despite his mistakes and understanding, even if disapprovingly, why he went down the path he did. However, Erik’s story is not mine to tell, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I wouldn’t bring in anyone to the school if I thought they’d bring any of you harm.”
Her brother, Jean Paul, jumps in, not bothering to wait on being called. “But, Prof, that doesn’t answer about him being in jail! Or about if he’s still out trying to eradicate the human race or whatever. Or, like, why he isn’t in jail right now for all the stuff he did.”
“No, Erik is no longer engaging in those activities. He’s too busy taking care of a family, so none of you have anything to worry about. As for being in jail…” Charles thinks back to where Erik was held in solitary confinement for practically a decade. At the time, Charles had still been so angry and bitter, he’d thought that was exactly what his old friend deserved. Now, though, looking back with the clarity and calmness time has given him, he can think of no worse, more inhumane punishment for anyone. Ten years locked up alone? Charles isn’t sure how Erik survived it with his sanity. “Erik has more than paid for the things he’s done.”
Charles is very obviously avoiding the question about whether it’s true if he broke Erik out of jail or not, but his silence is more than answer enough to the students. If Charles thought they were buzzing before, it’s nothing compared to now, when they’re all looking just about ready to burst with this new bit of information. Charles has to remind them once more to go about this calmly, taking turns in their questions. He has to threaten to start a proper lesson before they calm down enough to continue. He calls on Jubilee, mostly because he fears she’ll cause literal fireworks in the classroom if she doesn’t get called on soon.
“Professor! We saw those little kids’ mom yesterday in the kitchen and we asked her what her powers are - not to be mean or anything, just because, duh, that’s what we always ask new people - and she said none. None! She said she’s a human! There’s no way that’s true, right, Professor?” Jubilee manages to get this whole ramble out in no more than five seconds, but thankfully Charles has practice in understanding ‘teenager’. Logically, it’s just English sped up and with slang and filler words put in the middle. However, Charles knows the truth. He knows it’s basically a language of its own.
“Erik’s wife is human, yes,” Charles confirms, nodding. “And while I understand the excitement of newcomers in the school, I hope you all remember to remain polite.”
There’s a bit of silenced shock to hear that Magneto did indeed marry a human. Ric is the soonest to recover from hearing such news, and is the next to talk. “So, with all this happening, does that mean Magneto-”
Charles cuts him off. “His name is Erik Lehnsherr, not Magneto, and while he’s here at the school, that’s what we’ll call him. I don’t want to hear that name from any of you. Not while talking to him, not while talking to me, and not even while talking among yourselves.”
“Okay, so now that… Erik,” Ric corrects, “is here at the mansion to stay, does that mean he’ll be a teacher? Are we going to be taking classes with Mag- Erik now?”
“What Erik will or won’t do while he’s here has yet to be decided, but will be between him and I. Any more questions?” Charles is really hoping that would be it and they can go back to their lessons like a normal day. He’s really hoping he won’t spend the rest of the school day answering rumour-fueled questions.
How wrong he is.
I'm 95% sure that one of the many intrusive questions Charles gets asked is "so was Magneto always this hot? because if was, I can see why you're friends after the whole terrorism ordeal"
and then when Charles gets all flustered while answering, the rumor that spreads isn't just 'the professor broke magneto out of jail'
nah, instead it's 'the professor broke magneto out of jail for a booty call'
Speaking of our lovely Erik, he'll be coming back next chapter ;)
Chapter 7: 7
Charles starts having to think of Erik's place in the school. But more importantly, the both of them are in dire need of acknowledging what lies behind them.
cw: none, lmk if I need to add anything
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
By the end of the school day, Charles has had to curb an absurd amount of ridiculous rumors. Really, Charles isn’t even sure where half of these rumors even come from. The unfortunate part is that they get equal parts more ridiculous and bolder with every passing minute. It’s not even four in the afternoon yet and Charles has even heard one particular, outlandish rumor about the four Maximoff children secretly being Charles’. When Charles had questioned a group of students on the logistics of this particular rumor, they had only shrugged dumbly. Though Charles’ office has open hours for questions or extra help from three to five, he’s hoping no one will come today. He doesn’t want to clarify any more crazy teenage rumor. But duty calls and there’s soon a knock on his door.
Charles brushes his mind up against the one at his door, just enough to feel that it’s Johnny Allerdyce at his door. He calls out, “Come in, Johnny.”
Johnny is one of several students at the academy whose tuition and board is paid for by a government agency instead of a parent. Most of those kids are children the foster system has deemed lost causes because of their mutations and sent Charles’ way. A few, however, are kids like Johnny (and even Alex, so many years back) who’d been stuck in juvie and been sent here in hopes of teaching them control and that learning with their peers will set them on a better road. Johnny was shipped here by the Australian government a few years back, in a last ditch effort to reform him. Charles has high hopes that he can succeed in that.
The hopes are despite the fact that currently, Johnny is a surly fifteen year old that more than leans towards supremacist views. At least he hasn’t acted on those views and Charles considers that a small victory. Johnny goes to sit on the chair across from Charles’ desk, slouched and with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. The perfect picture of teenage angst. Charles can see that his head is full of fantasies of running off with Magneto now that he’s here at the school. Johnny seems to think Erik’s presence at the school is the most wonderful segway for his beliefs to become actions. Alternatively, Charles thinks Erik’s arrival will be a great influence for Johnny. If Erik could leave behind the extremism, surely Johnny will see a better way as well.
“I heard Magneto’s German. Is that true?” Johnny asks.
What an odd question to open their conversation with, Charles thinks. Still, he nods. “Yes. Erik - and that’s what I prefer you call him until further notice - was born in Germany and lived there for much of his youth.”
“Okay, cool. So, back in Straya, I used to take German as a foreign language. But then I dropped it when I moved here ‘cause we don’t have a German teacher. But now Magneto’s here and I was wondering if maybe he’d teach me or something?” Johnny suggests.
Charles ignores the way Johnny is so obviously disregarding Charles’ request to call Erik by his name instead of the silly nickname. He also ignores how obvious it is that Johnny couldn’t care less about learning German. He only cares about the chance to get a bit closer to his role model ‘Magneto’. This time, Charles will humor him, though. “I’ll have to speak to Erik about it, but I’ll try my best to arrange it for you, Johnny.”
“Cool.” Johnny nods and stands up once more. He pauses to readjust his leather jacket, and in the process, pulls out his lighter to fidget with the flames. Once the flames are dancing along his palm, Johnny turns to leave.
“Are you sure you don’t need anything else, Johnny? I could help you with your physics homework. I saw your last exam. I could give you a hand,” Charles calls out after him.
“Goodbye, Prof.” Johnny lets the door slam shut down behind him.
By evening, Erik is growing a bit antsy. It’s not that he’s been holed up in the room. After Charles had spoken to the students, he’d sent Erik a message via telepathy that it was okay to leave his room. Erik had gone out with Nina and the twins for a while, showing them around the grounds and letting them play in the vast green areas. He can’t exactly give them a tour of the place, not with how much it’s changed to accommodate a student population, but at least he still knows the layout of the place. Enough to entertain the children a few hours. But other than that, Erik’s day is painfully empty. Just sitting about and taking care of the children when they need him. For someone like Erik, who has an unstoppable drive and a constant need to be doing something, anything so long as he’s working towards a goal.
It’s driving him the slightest bit mad, especially since Nina and the twins have decided that one lap around the grounds with their father and they’re ready to wander and play on their own, no need for uncool parental interruptions. So Erik had been left to either sit around and watch them, or go crowd around Magda and the baby. Erik knows he can be a bit much when he’s restless like this. Magda has told him several times in the past that she loves when he offers her help, but sometimes, he tries so much it becomes more detrimental. Today is one of those days. The six of them had sat together for dinner, in a table tucked into the corner of the ballroom turned dining hall of the school. There’s plenty of stares from the students and Erik can hear them whispering his name among themselves a few times. But for the most part, they’re left alone, and for that, Erik is grateful. However, as soon as dinner is done, he goes right back to the eternal nothing his day had been.
Magda makes it barely twenty minutes after dinner before it’s too much. Erik is fussing over Lorna endlessly, even though the girl is fast asleep and has been for a few minutes. He just can’t help it. At least fussing over her gives him something to do, even if it’s more likely to wake Lorna up again than anything else. He’s willing to deal with that. Magda, the one who actually has to feed her every time she gets hungry, is not so quick to accept that alternative. She reaches over to pick Lorna up from Erik’s arms and fixes him with a stern look, the one that Erik knows means he’s about to given a strict order.
“You’re going to drive me mad with your antsy fidgeting about, Erik!” she insists. “Why don’t you go join Charles for the evening? He’s your best friend and he’s being so kind and hospitable to us, yet you’ve hardly shared a word since yesterday at the hotel room.”
“Well, he’s been busy with the school and I’ve been busy helping settle the children in,” Erik says, a weak excuse.
“Well, school is done for the week and the children are settled so well, they’ve even abandoned us in favor of going to play and explore on their own,” Magda points out.
Erik sighs. She’s set her mind on this and Erik knows when she’s set her mind on something, there’s no escaping it. “Well, Charles probably has better things to do than for me to laze about his office without purpose.”
“Of all people to give cheap excuses to, Erik Lehnsherr, don’t give them to me!” she says sternly. She lays Lorna down in her crib and when she turns back to Erik, her hands are set firmly on her hips. “You’re each other’s best friends. You must have something you can do with each other.”
Erik hesitates and then goes to check the dresser in the room. This is the same room he’d stayed in that summer in ‘62 and Erik had been shocked to find most of his things still in place, if perhaps much dustier. Soon, the room will be filled in with his and Magda’s things, giving it a far homier finish than it had ever been while Erik had lived in it back then, but for now, they haven’t gotten a chance to make their mark and override Erik’s old things. Sure enough, one of his old chess sets is in the back of the drawer just where he’d left it the morning before departing for Cuba. “I suppose we can find something to fill the time.”
“Yes, you can. Run along, Erik. Off to your playdate,” Magda says, ushering him out of the room as though he were one of the children acting shy around a new friend.
Erik laughs and steals a kiss before she can shut the door in his face. “I’ll be back in a few hours at the latest. You know where Charles’ study is, right? If you need anything, anything at all, come get me.”
“Yes, yes, my love, I know. Now go spend time with your friend,” Magda says, gazing fondly after him for a moment before closing the door.
Erik goes away from their room like a cast aside puppy and makes his way to Charles’ room. He doesn’t know if Charles will even want or accept his company, but he has a feeling Magda won’t let him back in until he’s at least tried. She can be just as stubborn as him sometimes. On the way there, he passes in front of a few students, but while they openly gape at him, none tried to stop him for questions or confirmations of the rumors. And thank God for that, because Erik certainly wouldn’t be as patient as Charles. When he reached Charles’ study, he reached to knock, but Charles was already calling for him to enter before his knuckles could reach the door.
Charles was sat at his desk, going through papers as he did more often than not these days. When Erik let himself in, Charles wheels out from behind the desk and towards Erik. He spots the chess set in his arms and grins. “Erik, old friend, what brings you here? I do hope it’s for the both of us share in a game.”
“Indeed I am.” Erik sets the board down on the coffee table in the room and goes to sit down in one of the arm chairs. “Magda’s kicked me out of our room so I’d be forced to socialize.”
“Did she? Remind me to thank her next time I see her!” Charles laughs heartily and puts on the brakes in his chair. In one well practiced motion, he transfers over to the arm chair across from Erik.
“I’m not so sure how I feel about you and Magda being co-conspirators…” Erik says. He sets up the board quickly, putting the black pieces to himself as always. At least that’s one thing that’s remained the same.
“Just wait until I start teaching your children,” Charles teases, smirking up at Erik.
Erik just breathes out a laugh at that. Silence came over them, and remained for the first few moves of the game. Even with silence between them, Erik’s mind was busy considering the complicated history between them. It was odd to think how in seemingly no time at all, they could go from fierce rivalry to years of no interaction to sitting and playing a game of chess together as though none of it had ever happened. An odd friendship they had.
Charles paused halfway through moving his rook to look up at Erik, not entirely pleased. “I may not be able to hear what you’re thinking, but I can hear that you’re doing an awful lot of it. Would you care to share, perhaps?”
It had been a long time since Erik had been in the company of telepaths. He may not have his helmet any longer, but he’d long since learned how to shield his mind, to hide at least his surface thoughts. It wouldn’t stop a truly persistent telepath digging along his brain, but it kept Charles from hearing his every thought. Less than a ‘mute’ button, though, it was more like an intense muffling of everything he thought. Erik should have known better than to let such a stormy cloud of thoughts fester in his mind when Charles was sat across from him.
“Ah. It’s nothing you need concern yourself with. I’m only considering the situation. It’s not exactly the most normal of times, is it?” Erik pointed out. That was an understatement, though, wasn’t it? Nothing about them was normal. Not since the moment Charles had fished Erik out of the sea.
Charles shook his head, clearly less troubled by the weight of their years than Erik. “It isn’t. But we never are. I’ve learned to accept that and stop applying normal expectations to things between us.”
“There’s a difference between simply accepting the abnormal and in sitting back to let life turn absurd. I mean, the last time we were in each other’s company-”
“Is in the past,” Charles cuts in. “There’s a great deal of painful history between you and I, Erik. But there were also many years to heal. I don’t see a point in dwelling in the past. Not when you’ve come back and there’s a future together to look forward to.”
“I don’t understand you, Charles. I really don’t. Perhaps you’re right in saying that I hold my grudges too long, but you’re bad in just the opposite way. I don’t know how you manage to just… forget it all,” Erik says. He shakes his head, almost forgetting where he meant to put his knight down from the conflict in his head. Did he want to be grateful? Did he want to be exasperated that Charles continues to be so optimistic and naive in the face of a cruel world?
Erik doesn’t get to decide how to feel, for Charles interrupts those thoughts with a scoff. “Don’t fool yourself, Erik. I’m still upset at you, and I’ll likely hold a bit of that anger with me forever. But I don’t let it define me. That’s the difference between your anger and mine.”
“I don’t let my anger define me,” he protests.
Now, Charles just laughs. “My friend, you don’t even believe that yourself. But it’s all right. None of that matters right now. Not your anger. Not my anger. Nothing of our pasts. Only one thing matters right now.”
“Oh? And what would that be?” Erik asks.
“That you’re home, Erik. At each other’s sides, where we belong.”
Magda is highkey going to end up playing matchmaker between these two
probably going to get frustrated and shove them in a closet together to kiss and make up because wow they are so in love
sneak preview: the chess game will continue into the next chapter, ft. erik being a father and charles being smitten
Chapter 8: 8
Charles spends some time with Erik and Lorna, inciting some doubts deep inside
this chapter was a bit delayed, my apologies for that. my laptop was damaged and I was without it a few days until I could get it replaced
so here's a pretty cute scene to showcase how emotionally stunted both these goofballs are
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The two of them play a few games without interruption, simply enjoying each other’s company. Over their games, they nurse a drink or two of scotch and partake in the idle sort of chatter that fills the silence, but doesn't say much of anything. They talk mostly about the school, with Charles answering Erik’s endless string of questions about logistics, curriculum, and operation. There's still plenty left unsaid between them, which they'll have to acknowledge eventually whether they want to or not, but for now there’s a silent agreement between them to approach everything gradually. Charles is happy to let things go like that. Even a man as patient as him can only take so much prodding at unfortunate memories in one day.
They're starting on their third game when there's a gentle knock at the door. In walks Magda with Lorna, swaddled and fussing, in her arms. Charles feels Erik’s apology in his mind for a brief moment before the man stands up, with the intention of going to help Magda with whatever she needs, even if it means abandoning their chess game in favor of going up to bedroom once more.
Magda is quick to nudge Erik back to his seat. “Sit, Erik. You don't have to shoot up like the world is ending every time I walk in.”
“Are you sure? Charles will understand if I have to help you with Lorna,” Erik insists, though he sits back down like Magda had said.
“Charles, do me and my family a favor and let's not indulge Erik in his every overprotective little whim, okay?” Magda says, laughing as she looks towards him. Charles has a feeling this is a common discussion in their household. Magda bends down and helps Lorna settle in her father's arms. “ She's fine. She only wants to be held by her Papa for a bit.”
“Oh? Did she tell you that herself?” Erik teases, smiling up at her.
Magda laughs and steals a kiss before standing again. “ Mother’s intuition.”
Charles watches this scene from his seat, trying not to look as awkward as he feels. He can't understand a word of what they're saying when they’re speaking… German? Polish? He's not entirely sure, making him think that maybe he should have taken better use of the foreign languages departments when he'd been in school. Then maybe he wouldn't be stuck here, clueless. At least, Charles can make out an idea of what the conversation is about. Lorna, obviously, who from the looks of it, will be staying here with her father. Already, Erik is settling Lorna in the crook of one of his arms so he can still reach the chess pieces with the other. Fatherhood is a good look on Erik, Charles thinks. Certainly, it has him calmer. A very good look on him indeed.
In fact, the whole domestic life is a good look on Erik. Before this, Charles would have sworn that Erik as he'd acted in 1962 - reserved but not hostile - was the calmest and friendliest Erik could ever be. But now that Charles gets to see Erik around his family, he knows he'd been wrong. This is Erik at his best, no doubt. Like this, Erik is calm, happy, and Charles swears he's seen Erik smile more now than ever in the past. Even now, Erik radiates content as he sits across from Charles. With his wife standing besides him and his baby in his arms, Erik looks more at peace than anyone could have ever predicted. It warms Charles’ heart incredibly, more than he can explain. He's so distracted by the whole image, he doesn’t notice Magda trying to get his attention until she moves her hand to his shoulder.
“Charles? It’s okay with you, yes?” Magda asks, looking down at him.
Charles at least has the decency to look sheepish. “Pardon? I’m afraid I’ll need you to repeat yourself, Magda.”
“I was asking if you’re okay with Lorna here while you spend time with Erik? I don’t want to intrude to intrude on your time together,” she explains once more, since Charles had clearly been distracted.
“Oh!” Charles shakes his head. “Of course I don’t mind! I’m sure Lorna would say I’m the one intruding, taking her daddy away from her.”
Magda chuckles. “Most likely, yes. She’s just eaten, so she will probably sleep while you hold her, but if you need me to take her back before you’re done playing, you both know where to find me.”
She kisses her husband again before letting herself out, leaving Charles with Erik and the baby. Erik looks completely at ease with her in his arms, even while maneuvering around her to continue with their game. That makes sense, if Charles looks at it logically. He has three other children under his care, who are clearly growing up just fine. It’s only that the image is still very new to Charles and undeniably jarring. Erik had been a father-like figure to the younger boys in their summer of ‘62, but it’s much more different to be paternal around older, mostly self-sufficient teenagers than it is to be a father to young children. Charles still hasn’t seen much of the children, but he’s seen enough to know that they have no complaints about their father. As far as he’s seen, Erik is nothing but a caring, loving father. Charles has his doubts about whether the children even know about Erik’s tumultuous past.
In short, Charles can see nothing to suggest that in fatherhood, Erik is the same chaotic, troubled man he’d been in youth. Charles can’t help but feel that this is Erik tamed. This is Erik stripped of the anger and rage that had once driven him forward, stripped of the harmful tendencies Charles had always longed to rid of in Erik. Charles should feel nothing but happiness, joy for his friend who’s managed to set off on better paths. And he is happy. Truly, he is, but there’s something about it all that sets off something nasty and unpleasant in the pit of his stomach. Charles can’t even say what it is, but he does know that he’s not happy it’s there. Erik is a good friend. His best friend. Charles should be absolutely nothing but pleased, yet he isn’t. Worst of all, Charles isn’t even sure he can even place these dark feelings bubbling away in the corners of his mind. He’s tempted to lock them away and ignore them forever, but he knows from experience how using avoidance as a tactic can backfire spectacularly. He’ll have to square up and face whatever it is eventually, but does he want to do it right now? In front of Erik? Sitting by the man in question as he rifles through his mind in an attempt to figure out his heart is probably not the best of ideas.
Erik interrupts Charles’ brooding as he questions, “Are you quite all right, Charles? You look far too deep in thought considering we’re only playing a silly round with half-assed strategy.”
“Ah, yes. I got a bit caught up thinking of… well, thinking of your children, truthfully,” Charles admits. There, he’s not entirely telling a lie, though he’s hardly revealing the full truth as well. It’s the perfectly dubious grey area that Charles prefers to inhabit when he can’t be entirely honest.
“Oh?” Erik looks down at Lorna, dozing quietly in his arms. “Magda probably hasn’t gone too far, I can still go ask if she’ll stay with the baby.”
“No, no, nothing like that! I mean it when I said I’m happy to have her here with us. I was thinking more about how unexpected this whole thing is. At least to me. You, married and with children? I would have never guessed it from the last time we were in each other’s company,” Charles elaborates. That much is a bit of an understatement. Their last time in each other’s company had resulted in Charles pinned under the debris of a baseball stadium and Erik floating away, presumably in search of world domination.
Erik doesn’t try to rehash lines about it being a long time since they saw each other and people changing. He just nods instead. “I never expected it either. It was just a matter of luck, winding up running into Magda again after so many years. I never meant to settle down, it just… happened. I certainly thought about leaving again at the beginning. The first few months, I meant for it to be a brief thing. Just a break while the DC incident became old news again. But every day, the thought of leaving grew harder and then we found you Magda was pregnant, and after that… Well, I couldn’t leave. And I didn’t really want to.”
The first thought that comes to Charles’ mind is that if he just loved Magda too much to leave her, inversely, Charles must have not been important enough to be worth staying with. It’s not a fair comparison, Charles knows. He and Erik are only friends, as far as importance and priorities go, that’s far from a wife and child. But there’s always been a part of Charles that thinks their friendship was worth a bit more than the norm. If Erik doesn’t think the same… Charles just tries to look at it differently, to not take it so personally. Charles has always been good at hiding those things and now, he just smiles, like he feels nothing but joy. “I’m happy for you, my friend. I’m glad you found someone worth starting a family with. And of course, you know I’d be happy to see you away from your more dangerous tactics, no matter the motivation.”
“Of course you are. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that savior complex of yours,” Erik remarks, smirking up at him. They’ve both grown distracted enough that this game doesn’t last long and already, Erik takes possession of Charles’ queen. When Charles’ king falls a few moments later, neither of them goes to set the board up again. They only settle back in their armchairs to continue their chatting further into the evening. Erik adds, “I always thought you’d be the one ending up like this. With a wife and a small horde of children running around.”
“Three more and you can be like the von Trapps! You’re more than halfway there,” Charles points out, grinning.
Erik rolls his eyes, though he’s obviously amused. He bounces Lorna gently in his arms, humming some of Edelweiss under his breath, which is what most catches Charles off guard. Though, logically, he figures Erik must be watching plenty of children’s films these days. “You’re right,” Erik says. “But I’m quite sure Magda is done with having children. Perhaps we can reach a compromise? We’ll find you someone and you can have three of your own and together, we’ll have a full Trapp family.”
Charles laughs. “I think those days are past me, I’m afraid. There are no little Charles Juniors in the future.”
“Are you sure? You’d be a good father,” Erik says, smiling as he strokes Lorna’s little cheek gently. Charles doesn’t even need to pry in his head to feel the love he has for her. Erik is just radiating it.
“I don’t think I quite have women lining up outside to start a family,”’ Charles says. Before he can stop himself, he gives his wheelchair the briefest of glances. No matter how quick, Erik still notices it and Charles feels the guilt that flares up inside him. Charles tries to steer his friend’s thoughts away from that quickly. He adds, “I’m far too busy to raise children, anyhow. I have a school to run!”
“You would have been a good father,” Erik says again, more quietly this time.
No matter how obvious it is what they’re both thinking of, neither of them brings it up. Is it avoidance? In its purest forms, instead of just facing up to the problems and letting it all air out. But that’s just how them two function. They avoid problems and when they do talk about them, they speak the bare minimum of their feelings and let the rest fester inside. Logically, Charles knows that’s done nothing but contribute to their past troubles, but that doesn’t mean he’s in any rush to change it. Neither is Erik. Admittedly, the two of them are a bit hopeless sometimes.
Charles just keeps on with trying to downplay the whole situation to soothe Erik’s guilt. “I’m practically a father to most of the students here. It’s already more than enough to get my hair thinning. If I had a baby to tend to as well, no doubt I’d be bald by the first year!”
“I’ll keep that in mind whenever I ask you to look after one of mine while Magda and I are busy,” Erik promises, chuckling as he stands to carry Lorna closer to Charles. He waits a moment to see if Charles will object and then he passes Lorna to her, and helps Charles adjust her in his arms so they’re both comfortable. “See? She fits just right there. No doubt worth the premature balding. You can be their Uncle Charles.”
Charles smiles down at the sleeping infant. She’s not his, but she’s Erik’s and for that alone, Charles feels a great deal of love for her. He agrees, “I don’t think there’s anything else I’d rather be, old friend.”
I know everyone likes to joke that Erik is the one with zero emotional intelligence but honestly they're both not that great
originally they were going to discuss Erik's eventual employment in the school in this chapter, but Charles' reflections on Erik's fatherhood wound up being more than originally planned. but everything will come with time!
as always, thanks for reading :)
Chapter 9: 9
Magda carves a space out for herself in the manor.
Charles finds himself around the children again.
sorry this is a bit late, I was sick last week. Also I finally sucked it up and added 'slow burn' as a tag
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
On Saturday morning, Erik wakes to an empty bed and a crying baby. A quick glance at the bedside clock tells him it’s half past eight. Later than he usually wakes, but it’s no surprise after his and Charles’ chat dragged on into the early hours of the morning. They'd talked for hours on end about the lives they'd built in their nine years apart. Erik had shared countless stories of the children, while Charles told him all about the school and its students. It's one of the nicest evenings Erik has had in a long time. So even though he's a bit more tired than usual this morning, he can't regret it. He'd do it all over again tonight if Charles offers. It feels as though there’s endless stories to catch up on between them. Understandably enough. Nine years is a terribly long time.
Erik hauls himself up out of bed and shuffles to the corner of the room, where he and Magda have set up Lorna’s crib. He shushes her gently as he picks her up, thankful that his room is tucked away in a corner of the mansion. It's in the same hallway as the other faculty quarters, and the rooms at either side of him are occupied by his own children. Someday, the children might move to dorms with all the other students, on the other side of the mansion, but for now, they function perfectly well as an extra buffer between Lorna’s cries and anyone else in the school. Erik picks her up and checks her over, noting quickly that it's a diaper change she needs. Good thing, too, because Erik can tend to her without having to interrupt Magda. He lays her down to change, murmuring German lullabies to her the whole time. Much to Erik's content, those never fail to soothe her. A few short minutes later, the baby is changed into a new diaper and clean clothes, so of course she deems it fit to fall right back to sleep. That doesn't stop Erik from cradling her to his chest with one arm as he goes through his morning routine. There's few things Erik loved more than holding his children.
He puts her down while he dresses, though that doesn't stop him from continuing to coo at her. No matter if she’s more asleep than awake. When he picks her up again, he murmurs, “ How about we go find Mama, hmm ?” Erik carries her out with him. He checks the room to his right, but Nina isn't there. The twins are similarly absent from their room to the left, so Erik can only assume they've gone down to get food. He shares this thought with Lorna, simply because he likes for her to hear his voice. Erik carries her down to the kitchen. Its seating area is much smaller than the official dining hall, but it’s enough to fit a family, and perhaps an odd few students who have woken up early despite it being a Saturday. Just as he suspects, Erik finds his family sitting in the kitchen with their breakfast. There’s a pair of sleepy looking teenagers who are eating while standing at the counter, though Erik barely glances at them other than to note that they’re eating the same thing as Magda and the children.
Erik smiles as he goes to give Magda a kiss. “ Good morning. Accidentally made too much breakfast?” he asks, nodding his head in the direction of the older students’ breakfast.
“ The cooking staff is off on the weekends so I’ve designated myself in charge of making sure the children all eat well, ” Magda explains. After taking a moment to tickle Lorna’s tummy gently, Magda stands and goes to fetch a plate of toast and eggs from the counter, where she’s left an absurd amount of food already prepared for whichever students happen to come along in search of breakfast. Erik isn’t even the least bit surprised. Arriving at a new place and immediately figuring out how to best start tending to others sounds exactly like something his wife would do.
“ Wanda and I helped with the eggs!” Pietro exclaims, grinning proudly.
Erik chuckles as he makes a show out of his next bite of the eggs. He pretends to think it over for a second before nodding. “ Oh, yes, they’re very good eggs !”
Nina tries to hide a giggle, in the way she always does when she’s trying to pretend she’s all grown up. “ You’re silly, Papa.”
“ The silliest ,” Erik confirms. Just for that extra effect, Erik reaches over and taps her on the nose gently. Charles wheels himself in as this is all happening and Erik is almost embarrassed. Almost. The children are certainly shy enough, as they all slide a little further down their chairs when Charles comes in.
Charles smiles sweetly at all of them regardless. “All the Lehnsherrs at my table! What a lovely way to greet the day,” he says, cheerfully grabbing an empty plate from one of the lower cabinets. “My, look at all this food. Either someone’s thrown a breakfast party without inviting me or they vastly overestimated the portion sizes they’d need.”
“It was Mama. Mama and me and Pietro,” Wanda pipes up, then immediately leans back into her chair again as if remembering that she’s the shiest of the three.
Charles grabs breakfast for himself, as well as something to drink, then maneuvers his chair back to the table. Without needing any further coordination, Magda moves her seat slightly closer to Erik’s so that Charles can fit himself next to her at the table. As he spreads some jam on his toast, he says, “That’s lovely, Magda. May I ask which it was? A party I wasn’t invited to or a grave miscalculation of portions?”
“Neither.” Magda laughs. “One of your students told me that they’re in charge of their own meals on the weekends. Most teenagers I know would sooner starve than make themselves a proper meal, so I thought I could offer some help. If you’ll allow me the kitchen later, as well, I can do the same for lunch and dinner.”
“That’s exceedingly kind of you, thank you. Though it’s entirely unnecessary. You’re a guest here, Magda, and I’m happy to have you and your family. There’s no need to repay me for that,” Charles insists.
“None of that, Charles. I like having things to do. And besides, you’ve allowed this school to be my family’s new home and I take care of my homes,” she says firmly. It’s the tone of voice that years of marriage have taught Erik that an argument is over.
Charles, even without the knowledge provided by marriage, seems to figure out as much because he just nods. “If that’s what you wish, Magda, then that’s what we’ll do. Just know you have my gratitude for it. Actually, Erik, I’ve been meaning to speak to you. Would you perhaps be interested in teaching for the school?”
“Papa’s not a teacher!” Nina cries, before Erik can give an answer. She looks rather scandalized by the thought of her father doing something she considers entirely out of character for him. “Papa works with steel. He can build things, that’s very different from teaching.”
“Well, Nina, I think your Papa has a great deal of talent in many things. Some that perhaps you may not even know about!” Charles tells her happily. He looks towards Erik gain. “What do you say? You can join the teaching ranks here and prove to the children just how multitalented you are.”
Erik takes a long drink of his coffee to avoid answering for a moment longer. He doesn’t want to give Charles a ‘no’ immediately, and he would love to be a part of the school. However, like always, Erik feels that he has to be the realistic one in the face of Charles’ neverending optimism. And right now, the truth is that Erik remains a wanted terrorist and staying in the manor is enough of a risk. Going out of his way to integrate himself into daily life and interact with students feels like a foolish way to just increase the current risks.
“I don’t know, Charles,” he says, finally. Erik provides a different excuse than what he’s actually thinking, since he has a strong suspicion that Charles would tell him that he’s being ridiculous and overestimating the dangers. “I’ve never taught before.”
“Most of our faculty have never taught before arriving here. I’m sure you’ll find we can catch you up in no time at all. And I don’t mean to overhear, Erik, but you’re projecting a great deal. At this point, I think the difference is negligible between the risks of you being a teacher versus just some man who happens to roam the halls at times. It might even do you well to become acquainted to the students. Then they can see you for who you are, and not some man on an old news segment,” Charles points out.
The mention of news segments makes Nina and the twins frown amongst themselves. They’re obviously confused as to what that could possibly reference, but that’s a very long chat for another time, so Erik pretends not to notice their faces. He just shakes his head, though with less resolve this time. “I don’t even know what I’d teach, Charles.”
“Whatever you want! We’d figure it out,” he insists, grinning. Mostly because Charles seems to know he’s already winning this argument.
“I think you should,” Magda says, simply and easily. She doesn’t use an overly firm tone like she had with Charles about cooking meals. She knows she doesn’t have to. Erik knows just as well as Magda does that if what she wants is for him to give teaching a try, then that’s just what Erik will do. Magda settles Lorna in one arm and stands. She continues, “It would be good for you to find something to occupy yourself with. You’re the sort of man that needs a constant drive, Erik.”
Erik is quick about finishing the last few bits of his breakfast so he can stand and help Magda in gathering the children’s empty dishes. Charles looks like he’s desperately trying to hold back another comment about their not needing to help around the house. Erik is content to ignore Charles’ looks and comments. In just the same way that he ignores the children’s dramatic gagging when he leans down to press a kiss to Magda’s cheek. “Are you going to side with Charles on everything from now on?”
“I might!” Magda threatens, grinning up at her husband. With Lorna still tucked up in one of her arms, she grabs the remaining dishes singlehandedly.
Now, Charles look like he’s about to burst, so he refrains from holding comments back any longer. “If that’s the case, I do hope you’ll side with me on this, as well. If you’ll insist on doing the cleanup as well, at least let me hold the baby while you do. Surely, it can’t be comfortable to go through all these chores with an infant in your arms.”
“All right,” Magda relents. She sets down the cups she’d collected already and takes a step closer to Charles. Lorna is mostly asleep, so the fussing is minimal while she’s transferred over to Charles’ arms. Magda adjusts Charles’ grip on her slightly and then steps back, smiling. Pietro, apparently still a bit dubious about strangers around his baby sister, climbs up onto Charles’ lap to be closer to Lorna and play the role of protective older brother. Charles looks a bit startled, but makes space for him anyway. Magda’s smile only grows. “Look at that, you’re just a natural.”
“I got a bit of a tutorial on baby holding from Erik yesterday,” Charles admits, letting a sheepish laugh escape him.
“How good to know that I have a replacement lined up should anything ever happen to Erik,” Magda decides, laughing as she says carries the rest of the plates to the dishwasher.
Erik scoffs, scandalized. “Good to know you love me so, Magda. Are you seeing this, Charles? The horrors of my day to day married life?”
“My friend,” Charles laughs, “I’ll agree that her sarcasm is on the borders of cruelty. And that’s exactly the reason I think you’ve found your perfect match.”
god I love magda (also lowkey she's starting to realize why erik definitely fell in love with him in the span of a few seconds that it took to resurface again after their brohug underwater in miami lmao)
also I have a pretty good idea what Erik will wind up teaching but like he's so versatile??? I'd love to hear your headcanons about what Erik would teach
Chapter 10: 10
Nina gives Charles a helping hand in recruiting Erik
Sorry this is so late. I move into my freshman year of college (an ocean away from home D: ) in about a week and things are crazy. Please forgive any hecticness in these upcoming weeks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saturdays are fun. At least, they’re supposed to be. Usually, Saturdays are Nina’s favorite day of the week. Saturdays are when she and her siblings will run around and play in the woods behind their house. Sometimes, they’d play with other children of their town, but they’re a private family overall, with even the kids tending to keep to themselves. They’re never lonely, though. Each other is more than enough company and their imagination embarks them on a different adventure everyday. For all this, Saturdays are Nina’s favorite day of the week. However, today is not like most Saturdays. On most Saturdays, they’re not in an entirely foreign country, living in a new house owned by a man who, while claiming to be Papa’s best friend, is a stranger to all of them. That’s enough to put a damper on anyone’s Saturday routine and needless to say, the three of them feel a bit odd about that. Lorna is still too little to be aware of much, which Nina thinks is an incredibly lucky position to be in right now.
Mama had made them all breakfast as soon as they woke, which was as close to one of their normal days back home as they’d gotten. But back home, it hadn't been a brand new kitchen, there hadn't been strange teenagers in their table with them, nor had there been Charles Xavier, their father’s alleged best friend. It's a bit too much change for a trio of children to handle and as such, their Saturday vibes feel a bit off. None of them are exactly upset, but the mood is visibly dampened. How can they just play like it were a normal Saturday when it so clearly isn’t? Nonetheless, they try their best to act like any other day, in hopes that a sense of normalcy will follow.
Not long after breakfast, while Mama and Papa are busy with the baby and Charles, Nina makes her way out to the green areas. The twins trail behind her, as they always do. Pietro scampers ahead of them, not nearly as fast as he can reach, but enough that he blurs just a bit. When he stills in front of them again, he’s holding a frisbee up. Where he’s gotten it from is anyone’s guess. His habit of ‘borrowing’ things hasn’t improved in these last couple of weeks since leaving home. On the contrary, it’s gotten worse these last two days at the school, because so many of the students leave their things strewn about everywhere. In theory, Nina knows she’s the oldest, so she’s supposed to set a good example and scold Pietro for stealing when he does it while their parents aren’t around. In practice, Pietro’s stealing usually results in more fun for the rest of them, so Nina rarely ever calls him out on it.
“I found this,” Pietro says, holding the frisbee up. It’s always ‘found’ or ‘borrow’, never ‘stole’. “We can play with it! Everyone else is inside, so there’s plenty of space to run.”
Wanda sighs and flops down onto the grass, entirely too dramatic for a five year old out playing in the weekend. “But, Pietro, I don’t want to run around! I want to play, but there’s no need to run all the time.”
“But I love running!” Pietro pouts and throws himself down on the grass next to her.
Nina’s willing to bet they’ll both come back inside with grass stains all over and Mama will probably do her signature Quietly Disappointed Sigh when she sees them come back all dirty. Mama’s Sigh is rivaled only by Papa’s Look. Will Nina try to stop them, though? No, of course, not. She just crosses her arms and looks down at the two of them, trying to convey the same authoritative air as their mother. She thinks herself very grown up sometimes. “Can’t we just run for a little bit, Wanda? And then we’ll do something you want to do after, then we can all be happy.”
“I don’t want to run,” Wanda repeats. She sits up again, so her sister can see her scowl.
Pietro grumbles halfheartedly, but they all know he’s always the first to break when it comes to making his sister happy. It’s why Wanda knows she can get away with always being stubborn. “You never want to run, Wanda… But I saw a tire swing, too. Why don’t we go and take turns pushing each other?”
This time, Wanda nods. “I like swings!”
“But only two of us can play at the same time in the swings. One to swing and one to push. But there’s…” Nina makes a bit show out of counting them off. “Three of us!”
“But only two of us,” Pietro says, gesturing between himself and Wanda. “Sorry, Nina, but twin trumps big sister.”
“No fair!” It’s Nina’s turn to pout now.
“We’ll play with you after,” Pietro promises. He hardly gives her a chance to argue because half a second later, he’s picked Wanda up and raced off to the tire swing on the other side of the lawn.
Nina briefly considers trying to catch up to them and putting on a longer argument in favor of playing something else, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort. The twins are more stubborn than even their father. There’s no point in arguing with them when they’ve both got the same idea in their heads. She just sulks for a minute before turning and walking back to the house. Her intention is to go and complain to Mama, but before finding her mother, she find her father and his friend first. Nina’s always had a bit of a short attention span, so she forgets all about her plan to find her mother. Instead, she rushes forward and jumps up so her father will catch her.
“Papa! Papa, the twins went playing without me. Can I stay here with you instead?” Nina asks. She glances down and remembers suddenly that Charles is there. She flushes sheepishly as she remembers what her parents have told her about not being rude and making sure Charles can understand them when they speak. “Oh. Sorry, Charles. I asked Papa if I can come along with you and him. Pietro and Wanda are being dumb and playing by themselves.”
“Of course you can come with us, Nina. Though I don’t think either of your parents would appreciate you calling your little siblings ‘dumb’,” Charles says, sharing a look with Erik.
“Not in the slightest,” Erik agrees, settling Nina on his waist as they walk. “Your brother and sister aren’t dumb, ketsele. They’re just younger than you and sometimes they get caught up in their excitement and forget to be considerate. They’ll learn with time.”
“It’s still not fair,” Nina grumbles under her breath. The twins get away with everything just because they’re the babies in the family. She’s hoping that’ll go away now that Lorna’s been born.
Charles nods sympathetically. “It’s not, but that’s part of the responsibility of being the oldest. And I’m sure you’re grown up enough to handle those responsibilities, right?”
Nina falls right for it and starts nodding enthusiastically. “Oh, yes, of course I am. I’m the most grown up of all of us.”
“Well, that just makes you all the more perfect to join your Papa and I for the day! I was just going to show your father around the classrooms while I try to convince him to join our ranks as teacher here. Do you think you could help me with that, Nina?”
Nina considers that as Charles leads them into one of the classrooms to show Erik the set up. The students have left books and papers and pens strewn about the place, but Nina hardly notices that. She’s too busy thinking about all the ups and downs if her father were to become a teacher. She can still hardly wrap her head around the concept, but Charles seems to think he can do it. So even while Nina can’t comprehend how her father the steel worker could ever be a teacher, it’s not her school, so it’s not entirely her decision to make. If Charles wants to make her father a teacher, he probably will one way or another. Nina’s just trying to figure out what type of teacher her father would be.
She knows lots of people find her Papa scary, because he can be all big and intimidating sometimes. However, she doesn’t really see it. To her, Papa is just like a big teddy bear. Sometimes he gets all pouty and upset and he’ll give them all The Look, but usually, if she and the twins team up to give him hugs and cuddles, he’ll forget all about being angry from one moment to the next. If Papa were a teacher, Nina bets he’d be like that, which is lots better than how mean her old teachers back home have been. The more she thinks about it, the more Nina is convinced that if her father becomes a teacher and she’s in his class, she can get away with never doing homework again. It seems like the perfect plan, so finally, she nods.
“I’ll help you convince Papa, Charles. But… what would he teach?” Nina asks, frowning. That seems to her like the biggest hole in the plan.
“Whatever he would like!” Charles says, grinning up at Erik. “That's the best part for your Papa, isn't it? He can pick whatever he pleases. Though - not to steer you in any one direction, Erik - our languages department would certainly benefit from a polyglot like you if that sort of thing might interest you. It's early in the year as well, so it's still in time to add or change things to schedules.”
Nina frowns and looks between her father and Charles. There's a word there she doesn't quite recognize and Nina hates not recognizing words. She squirms to the floor again and leans up against Charles’ chair. “What does polyglot mean? Is it a good thing for Papa to be?”
“It's a wonderful thing, Nina! It means he can speak many languages,” Charles explains, smiling at the girl.
“Oh! I want to be a polyglot too!” Nina exclaims, looking back at her father. She thinks of all the friends she might make if she can speak many more languages. “You should do that, Papa. And then you can teach me!”
Erik was leaning heavily towards a yes regardless, but if his kids ask him to do it, that just about makes the choice for him. “All right. We’ll meet up this evening, Charles, to talk properly about the scheduling and curriculum.”
“That sounds excellent, old friend.” Charles grins from ear to ear, obviously pleased with this. Nina thinks Mama will be happy too. She likes it when Papa pleases others.
But Nina has bigger concerns. She leans in closer to Charles once more. “So does this mean Papa can be my teacher? I would like that so so much, Charles.”
“Of course, Nina. You'll be a student here just like any other. And if your Papa is a teacher where you are a student, that means he can be your teacher,” Charles promises. He bops her nose playfully and Nina giggles. “When I'm making your schedule, I'll make sure you’re in a class with your father.”
“Good! I want to take French with you, Papa. Can you do French?” Nina asks, eyes widening. She almost feels genuinely excited about school for once.
Erik chuckles as he fondly lays a hand atop Nina’s head. “I suppose that means I'll have to teach French just to please you, right?”
“Yes! Exactly that!” Nina’s growing more and more curious about this whole school thing. She's never been to a school this big after all. “Will I take class in this classroom, Charles?”
“No, Nina, this is a classroom for the older students. The ones in high school. But why don't I continue my tour of the teaching wing and show you the younger students’ classrooms?” Charles suggests. He squeezes her shoulder before patting his knee. “You can hop on and I'll give you a ride. If you behave, I'll even let you steer.”
Nina gasps and clambers onto Charles’ lap in the blink of an eye. “Yes! Let's go, let's go! I want to see where Papa will be a teacher. I bet it will be soooo funny!”
As they exit this classroom and continue the tour, Nina rambles on and on about the type of teacher she thinks her Papa will be and how he’ll be her favorite teacher ever and how she hopes everyone else will like him. Charles, of course, is nothing but charming and polite as he laughs along and encourages her. It's not like a normal Saturday, but Nina thinks it might just be better.
Writing one if the kids' POV was fun. You can expect more of that :)