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I have always wanted to have a neighbor, just like you.

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Erik closed his laptop with a decided noise of irritation and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. There was just no salvaging some student work, no matter how constructive he'd been instructed to be. At least he'd been able to get through the entire paper this time: no crashing, no yelling, no breaking things. No noise... Erik pushed back from his desk and was out of his office before his chair hit the ground. He rounded the corner to the family room at full speed - he'd be lucky if the children hadn't managed to kill each other. The house was probably on the verge of collapse. Or they'd shaved the dog. Or the neighbor's dog. Or...

Wanda and Pietro Lensherr, five-year old fraternal twins, sat rapt in front of the large-screen tv dominating the room. A floppy-haired man with a very red mouth was singing... to a puppet. A blue and furry puppet that was, according to the man who was making a cardigan look far more attractive than Erik would have previously considered a cardigan to be, named Henrietta Beastlycat.

"Daddy, are you going to watch Mr. Xavier's Neighborhood with us?" Wanda and Pietro spoke in unison which, Erik had to admit, was by turns adorable and creepy. But they also both looked happy and settled and... he could grade papers later.

"Of course, darlings. Scoot over." He joined them on the couch in time to watch the man greet a new puppet. "Who's that?"

"Lady Emma Frost, Daddy. She runs the Museum-go-round!" Wanda snuggled against Erik's side.

His work could definitely wait.

***

It was, of course, some sort of pledge drive for public television. On the plus side, Erik found himself actually quite enchanted by the ridiculous man who talked to puppets. Mutant puppets at that. Pietro and Wanda had not displayed any abilities of their own, unless terrorizing the neighborhood was their power, but still. Mutation was a sensitive topic for many people. Erik could appreciate a show aimed at making mutant children feel good about themselves.

And he was absolutely not going to feel sorry for himself in that regard.

On the down side, Erik felt almost compelled to call in and pledge to support public broadcasting. He hated it when marketing worked.

Mr. Xavier himself - really, it was quite inappropriate to be ogling a children's television programming host, wasn't it? - appeared with an announcer to smile at the camera (that had to be some sort of lipgloss, really) and ask with an eager sincerity that should have been out of place on a man of any age for viewers (like you, muttered Erik) to help them continue airing quality programs like Mr. Xavier's Neighborhood. And Erik found himself reaching for the phone. He sighed. At least it was tax deductible.

***

Oh, who are the mutants in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the mutants in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

***

"Nice tote, Lensherr." Moira MacTaggert, professor of English literature, speciality Rennaissance poetry and prose, snorted at her officemate.

"Fuck you very much, too, MacTaggert." Erik was in no mood for it. The twins had refused to ready themselves for school, he had seventy-five more comp 101 papers to grade, and the weekend forecast was for rain. He'd be trapped inside with the twins. They'd all kill each other.

The tote bag had come in the mail, a gift for sponsors of Mr. Xavier's Neighborhood at the $50 level. Erik wasn't entirely sure why he'd grabbed it and stuffed the messy pile of printed out student drafts into it but the cheery visage of the host he'd grown enamored of had helped prevent him from throwing something at the student sleeping in the back of his 8am writing class.

***

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong...
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It's great to be able to stop
When you've planned a thing that's wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there's something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

***

They'd started watching the show every day, the three of them on the couch, an oasis of peace in their tumultuous lives. So much upheaval really wasn't ideal for young children but when Magda had died... Well, he wasn't going to pack his offspring off to relatives. Even if he hadn't known about them. And they hadn't known about him. They were all adjusting.

Besides, Erik didn't have any relatives. And, really, neither had Magda.

It still stung, that she'd kept it from him. Though, Erik supposed, he'd probably have done the same in her position. Six years ago, Erik had not seemed the most stable of prospects, sleeping his way through whatever adjunct positions he could find, cramming the rest of his hours with as much poetry and alcohol as he could consume.

He was tenure track now. He was responsible. He could be a father, certainly. Even if the highlight of his nascent fatherhood skills seemed to be spinning idle fantasies about his children's favorite television personality while they all watched the man cavort through the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

At least he knew the characters and their names: Professor X the Owl, Darwin Striped Tiger, King Banshee XIII and his Queen Raven Saturday, and a host of others. And the two he'd seen the first time, Henrietta Beastlycat and Lady Emma Frost.

There were real-world segments. Erik was as entranced by the visit to a crayon factory as his children. Though he was far too grown-up, he thought, to admit to any such thing.

Erik checked his watch and grabbed the tote in question. If he didn't hurry, he'd be late and the twins would never forgive him.

***

"Daddy."

There was a warm spot in Erik's chest that occasionally made it difficult for him to breath. It was most evident when one of the twins called him daddy. And he would most assuredly deny that to anyone who suspected it.

"Daddy, it's time to watch." Wanda was sometimes very serious, especially when she wanted something from her father.

Though, Erik thought, he might be training her to act that way himself. He usually gave in when she gave him the big-eyed doe face. Children and dogs were basically the same when it came to rewards-based training, weren't they? Should he be trying to teach her to say please by not doing what she wanted until she said it? But he didn't want her to think she always had to ask nicely, after all, as a woman there would be times she would need to go after what she wanted without being limited by social customs of politeness... He'd lost the thread of the conversation. Erik closed his laptop and then let her pull him by the hand into the family room. It was that time again.

He might have looked the host up on Wikipedia during a space moment. Possibly. Obsessively. Charles Xavier. A variety of degrees in things Erik didn't really feel like parsing, a family fortune, and a passion for childrens' programming on public broadcasting. No mention of whether or not he wore lip gloss but Erik was still suspicious.

***

"What's that you're humming? Why are you even humming?" Moira threw a book at him and Erik ducked, reflexes honed after three years of sharing office space.

"Slumming it with Harlequin again? Won't Mary Wollstonecraft and Julian of Norwich get jealous?" He flung the slim red book back at her. "'Having the Sheik's Baby'? Seriously, you know how colonialist this is, right?" He'd been humming. And it was none of her business.

Moira caught the book, as used to dealing with Erik as he was used to dealing with her. "It's Margery Kemp this week, actually. And shut your face. Some of us have to read the worst possible literature to get the taste of textual analysis out of our mouths at night." She leveled a look, and a pointed index finger, at him. "What were you humming."

She was never going to leave him alone about this. "The twins, they watch this show. There was this song yesterday and it's been stuck in my head ever since."

One two three four five, six seven eight nine ten, eleven twelve. Erik was worried he was going to go to his grave with that stuck in his head.

If Moira's groan was anything to go by, she was familiar with it. She dropped her head to her desk even as she tucked the romance novel into her purse. "Mr. Xavier's Neighborhood? My niece lives for that show."

When he smiled at her, for only the seventh time in the history of them sharing an office, Moira made a face. "I swear, Lensherr, you look like a goddamn shark when you smile like that. No wonder the undergrads are afraid of you."

He rolled his eyes, started humming again, ready to dodge if Moira threw her book again.

***

It's a beautiful day in this brotherhood,
A beautiful day for a mutant.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

It's a mutanty day in this beauty wood,
A mutanty day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

I've always wanted to know a mutant just like you.
I've always wanted to live in a brotherhood with you.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we're together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be a mutant?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be a mutant?

***

Some are mutated on the outside.
Some are mutated on the inside.
Everybody's mutated.
Everybody's fine.
Your body's mutated and so is mine.

Boys are boys from the beginning.
Girls are girls right from the start.
Everybody's mutated.
Everybody's fine.
Your body's mutated and so is mine.

Girls grow up to be the mommies (or the daddies).
Boys grow up be the daddies (or the mommies).
Everybody's mutated.
Everybody's fine.
Your body's mutated and so is mine.

I think you're a special person
And I like your ins and outsides.
Everybody's mutated.
Everybody's fine.
Your body's mutated and so is mine.

***