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Not What I Was Expecting (So Much Better)

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Erik opens his door, twins clinging to his legs. Wanda's crying again because Pietro pinched her -- or she pinched him -- or something -- and Pietro is crying because Wanda's crying, which makes Wanda cry even more. He blinks at the slim man standing on his doorstop for a minute. The man is holding a backpack. Wanda sobs, gulps, sobs again, stares at the man.

"I'm from the agency," says the man, sticking out his hand as if he expects Erik to shake it.

Erik does what he later realizes is the first sensible thing since his wife died and left him with the children, and shuts the door in his face.

"That wasn't nice, Daddy," says Pietro, shocked into not crying.

The doorbell rings again and Erik really considers locking and bolting it, but he opens it again, and the twins peer cautiously around his legs at the man.

"I really am from the agency," says the man, waving a letter that, yes, does have the letterhead of the Frost Agency. "My name's Xavier. Charles Xavier."

“I don't care if you're Christ Almighty,” says Erik in German, rudely. “Go away.”

“I'm telling Grandma,” says Wanda, also in German.

“As well as you should,” agrees the man in the same language.

After that, the man – Xavier – somehow weasels his way into the house, probably because Erik is late to work and Emma Frost of the Frost Agency never suffers a fool or a pedophile to work for her, and Erik figures the worst that can happen is that his twin demons will meet him at the door that afternoon with angelic faces and Xavier duct-taped to a wall. As he leaves the house, he hears Wanda saying to Xavier, speculative, “Daddy always lets us have a movie after breakfast.” For a minute he almost turns and goes back, but he's got an important meeting and it's better that they break him at once instead of drawing the torture out.

He doesn't have time to worry about the children during the day, and when he drives up to the house that night, he has a shock, seeing the lights on as if to welcome him. It's late, but if the twins have broken Xavier, they're probably playing Wii or fighting over which movie to watch. He unlocks the door and braces himself for the disaster.

The entry is neatly cleared of the detritus of two children and a single parent too busy to really keep the house clean and after the children to pick up after themselves. There is no screaming, only the faint sounds of Rachmaninoff floating from the living room.

“There's extra supper in the kitchen,” says Xavier, from the living room, and Erik looks in to see him curled up on the couch, working on a laptop, composedly drinking a cup of tea.

Erik thinks several things all at once, but what actually comes out is, “The twins?”

“Perfect lambs,” says Xavier, and for a moment Erik thinks wildly he must have drugged Erik's children, because of all the things that Wanda and Pietro are, lambs are not even near the list. “Pietro showed me their workbooks and we had a nice time studying together.”

Erik stares at him, because Pietro never willingly does a lesson in his workbook, and Wanda only does it to be smug and better than her brother. “They did their lessons?”

Xavier nods. “Then they had their baths and went to bed. Wanda wanted an extra story at bed time, I'm afraid.”

“What did you do to them?” demands Erik.

“Oh,” says Xavier serenely, “I've always been good with children.”

 

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Erik calls Emma the next day, early in the morning.

“He is very good with children,” says Emma. “He's in high demand with all my clients, but he wants a steady position. He's taking a graduate course at the university right now.”

“He got Pietro to take a bath,” hisses Erik into his phone, “and washed his hair.”

Very good with children,” says Emma, sounding bored. “If you don't want to hire him, Erik --”

Erik hesitates, because he's not so noble as to pass up hiring someone who can get Pietro in the tub, let alone get him to do his lessons. His influence has somehow lasted the night and the twins are bent over their books, laboriously copying the alphabet. Even so –

“Yes,” he says slowly. “I believe I do want to hire him.”

“Excellent,” says Emma.

 

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Xavier (“You can call me Charles, you know”) shows up every morning at six thirty, just as Erik is staggering out of his room toward his expensive coffee maker, the twins trailing after him. He starts off just feeding the twins, but after a few days Erik stares down at a plate of pancakes, actual pancakes, that have miraculously appeared before him, and after that Charles just cooks enough for Erik too. Then the lunches in neat plastic eco-friendly containers start appearing mysteriously on Erik's briefcase, and Charles always has enough left over from the twins' dinner for Erik to eat.

Charles is a very good cook.

When Erik gets home at night, Charles is working on something on his laptop or reading a book, curled neatly on the couch, and both the children are sleeping like small angels. Once Erik asks Charles how he gets them to sleep so easily (Wanda especially thinks sleep is ridiculous), and in reply Charles reads his thesis to him.

Erik wakes up an hour later as Charles is putting a blanket over him. He blinks up at him, and Charles says, “Goodnight, Erik.”

It’s the first time he’s called Erik by his name; always avoiding it or calling him Lehnsherr instead, and Erik lies and thinks drowsily about how sweet it on sounds on Charles’ mouth until he wakes up enough to realize what he’s doing.

He doesn’t sleep much after that.

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The next morning is more normal than Erik thinks he has a right to expect after the night before.

He feels incredibly awkward, because -- he doesn’t know why, exactly. He just realized that his childcare provider has floppy brown hair and blue eyes with a laugh behind them, and how he wants him to call him by his first name all the time and take care of him and his children forever and ever.

Erik doesn’t even remember being this maudlin over his wife. (In fact he’s pretty sure he hadn’t been. They had just sort of …. fit.)

When Charles comes to work he looks at Erik in the same friendly way he always does, and Erik realizes, somewhere between relief and disappointment, that Charles has no idea that Erik has spent the entire night awake thinking about him. He probably wouldn’t even care if he did know. Charles seems like the sort of person who has people to love him all the time. It’s probably why he’s so good with children. Erik can count the number of people who’ve loved him on one hand, and two of those probably will stop by the time they grow up and realize what a terrible job he does at being a father.

Erik is just going to get over it. He’ll bury himself in work if he has to, but he is going to get over this before Charles notices any difference.

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