The plan was simple. The plan was that Moira was going to come over and bring her niece and everyone would get along and go to the band shell like happy, normal goddamn people. He would be nice to everyone. Everyone would be happy, dammit.
Erik should have anticipated everything going straight to hell.
The twins had hated Moira's niece, a tiny red-headed girl named Jean, on sight. He hadn't been able to figure out why and so Jean had went from smiling and shy to wobble lippy and petulant to outright tears and clutching and Moira's legs.
Then the gallon of milk he'd been holding, so he could feed his children breakfast cereal like a responsible human being who woke up on time instead of running 45 minutes late because he'd been up all night jerking off to completely inappropriate fantasies involving some creative puppetry, exploded.
Jean was telekenetic. Joys upon joys, heaped upon his sleep-deprived, sex-starved head.
Moira had almost hyperventilated she'd laughed so hard. And she hadn't apologized. On the plus side, the twins were fascinated.
The cons were most evident to Erik, pants and shirt soaked through, with milk dripping from his eyebrows.
"Go, you go take a shower and change," Moira stuttered out between gasps. "I'll take care of this."
She was very unattractive when her face was that shade of red, Erik decided. He pulled together the shreds of the dignity he'd stolen from his children by convincing them to play Daleks instead of elephants and turned without a word.
Moira was not actually unattractive. Objectively she was quite attractive in a very pretty, very... shared an office with him and put up with his shit kind of way that he valued rather a lot. Though that certainly wasn't something he'd ever tell her. Sappy friendship bullshit.
The shower helped. There was very little that hot water couldn't solve. Well, hot water and some of the nice shower gel that didn't sting. Hot water, slippery shower gel, and maybe that thing that had kept him up all night: pondering the ramifications of a handjob via puppet. That didn't mean he had a thing for puppets. It just mean that maybe Charles Xavier with a puppet made him want to do perverse things.
Erik finished his shower and resolutely did not think about the implications of this on his nonexistent social life. He was going to take his children to see their favorite person (other than himself, Erik assured himself) and, hell, if he got to shake the man's hand afterwards, well, Erik was perfectly capable of being a nonlecherous person.
He thought virtuous thoughts while he dried himself, wrapped a towel around his waist. He just needed to get dressed and everything was going to be fine.
"Seriously, Lensherr, those kids are going to be the best accessory you ever had." Moira did not knock.
Erik grabbed at his towel and did not squeak. "I thought the rule was I had to have pants on at all times around coworkers."
"Yeah, well, don't think I don't know you blew the spirit of that law - literally - in the grad lounge at the Christmas party two years ago." She rolled her eyes and made for his closet. "I still refuse to sit on that couch."
Oh, so she knew about that. His pants had stayed on the whole time. They'd just ended up... sticky. He winced. "What do you want?"
"So many things, none of which you can deliver." She rummaged through the shirts he had on hangers. "Seriously, this is your outside of work wardrobe?"
Erik counted to ten. Twice. "Don't you judge me." He liked band t-shirts. She could suck it. Or not. Because that'd be weird and cross that whole friendship line he'd been considering earlier.
"There is no way you're going to pick up a single mother in these clothes." Moira shook an Ac/DC t-shirt at him.
Erik... was really not in the loop of his own life anymore.
Moira didn't care that Erik had no interest in meeting single mothers. Moira didn't care that Erik had been dressing himself and getting himself laid since he was ... well, 21 was still completely respectable and, besides, he'd had some shit to work out. Not about clothes - he'd worked out his feelings about fashion (they were, approximately: naked naked naked ooooh, natural fibers, naked) long before he was legal to drink. Moira didn't care.
Erik lugged his tote bag, full of healthful snacks and quiet distractions just in case anyone got bored, and kept a firm hold of Pietro's hand. The boy did like to run off. He checked their tickets - Moira and the girls had gone ahead; they had excellent seats. Moira's sister-in-law (and Erik felt inexplicably grateful to the woman he'd never met that Moira still felt comfortable calling her that five years after Moira was widowed) knew a person who knew a person, apparently. It was good to know people.
"Oh, Firefly! I love that show." A curly-haired blonde with a baby on her hip smiled at Erik, part of the milling crowd. Her voice was as perky as her tits. Not that Erik had meant to look at them. He was only looking to see if she had an interesting t-shirt. Which she did not. He was vaguely disappointed but the truly excellent rack went a long way toward salving that hurt. Firefly. Right. His Moira-approved t-shirt.
He wrenched his gaze to her face. "Oh, thanks." He tried a smile of his own. "I have a hard time telling when they're that size. Babies. How old they are." He gestured with his free hand. "How old is it?"
The woman's face did something complicated that ended up reading as cautiously charmed. "He's 18 months." She nodded to Pietro.
There was no denying that Pietro was Erik's, through and through. He looked at the woman, quite seriously - Erik thought he must have borrowed the look from Wanda - and meowed at her. Her eyebrows rose.
"He's very much enamored of Henrietta Beastlycat at the moment." That was really the only explanation Erik had. "So, you're a Firefly fan." Distraction continued to be the best policy in his life.
That got the smile back on her face. "Oh, I love it. It's my favorite show. I hate that they canceled it."
Erik felt himself relax, just enough for his shoulders to ease a notch and the tote bag to slip - he trapped it between his arm and his body. Squished healthful snacks were still healthful. "The movie really destroyed the story arc for the ensemble in a way I found disjointed and forced, though - emotionally manipulative for the sake of audience reaction, you know?"
Her smile flattened into a frown. "Actually, I love the movie. I thought it was brilliant."
Pietro meowed again. And Erik closed the mouth he wasn't entirely aware of having opened. It had been an enjoyable cinematic experience even though it was a clusterfuck of storytelling. But brilliant? Hardly. Erik shook his head, gestured at his son. "Pietro's quite right - we really should catch up with our friends and find our seats." Before he could finish making his excuse, the blonde had turned to the people on her other side, a fairly obvious indication she was ignoring him now.
Erik considered looking at her breasts once more, just because they were nice, but, really, a brilliant movie? That was just going too far. "Come on, darling." He and Pietro dove back into the moving crowd.
Erik had never been so glad to collapse into a metal chair before. He tucked the tote bag down by his feet and rolled his eyes at Moira. "Sorry, ran into someone. Not literally."
Moira laughed at him - she'd picked out the damn Firefly t-shirt for him to wear in the first place. The Firefly t-shirt Pietro was tugging on with no small amount of urgency.
"Meow, meow, meow, Daddy. Meoooow." His eyebrows were worried about something and the rest of his face looked just as concerned. "Meow." There was something urgent about it.
It was possible he wasn't as bad at fatherhood as he'd thought; Erik knew what Pietro was trying to tell him. He felt proud of himself just long enough for Pietro to hit him with another pained meow. Right. Back into action.
He was back on his feet before Moira could ask. "Pietro needs the bathroom. We'll be back." He heaved a sigh and made sure he once again had a firm grip on Pietro's hand before they headed back out into the crowd.
They were swimming against the tide, though – Pietro was looking kind of cramped… Erik picked his son up and slung him over his shoulder. “Darling, just hold on a few more minutes and we’ll be there.”
Erik bullied his way through the crowd, glad for his height and his shoulders. He side-stepped to avoid a little girl running with her head down and Pietro's little fingers scrambled to hold on to his shirt; the kid would have caught him right in the groin. Erik didn’t need that. And if it happened, he’d probably drop Pietro and then he’d either lose his kid to the crowd or… well, he hadn’t brought a change of clothes for anyone.
“Almost there.” The bathrooms were in a concrete block building – the hallmark of public outbuilding construction – down a lonely path behind the bandshell itself. The light seemed dim after the brightness of the outdoors, but Erik could still see there was a shorter urinal – thank all the gods ever – at the end of the row. He settled Pietro back onto his feet. “There, darling, you’re okay, you made it.”
Pietro fumbled at his fly, a maneuver made more complicated by the angsty stompy dance he was doing. “Meow, meow, meooooow.”
Right. Erik stepped up to help with the button, glad that no one was around to think he was some creepy child molester. That had happened with Wanda once.
“Oh, excuse me.” The voice was soft and accented and surprised.
And absolutely familiar.
Erik really hated his life.
A part of Erik’s brain – the part that liked Molière in the original French – could appreciate the humor of the situation. After all, if he’d been writing it (maybe in the novel he didn’t think he’d ever finish, in the hidden file on his laptop), well, he wouldn’t have been able to resist introducing his main characters under the most awkward conditions possible.
At least Erik wasn’t drunk. Small favors.
Another part of Erik’s brain – the part that had known what Pietro needed even though his son was still communicating almost exclusively in cat noises – turned a father’s eye to Pietro. The little boy knew that voice just as well as Erik. The big eyes were as wide as Erik had ever seen them, and Pietro’s hands were clutched tight around the fabric of his jeans. This was a potential disaster.
“Focus, darling, focus.” Erik steered him to the small urinal at the end of the row. Pietro was short, even for his age. At least he wouldn’t have to lift his son up to a more accessible height while trying to ignore – or interact, interacting would probably be polite, all rules of the mens room aside – Mr. Xavier himself.
Erik had interacted in some mens rooms before. And Mr. Xavier’s lips were just as red in person as they were on tv…
He was staring.
“Um, my son’s a big fan.” Polite. And it established that no one needed to call the cops. Hopefully. And Erik was a grownup. He didn’t have to think of the man as Mr. Xavier. He had a first name. Erik had looked it up, after all.
Charles Xavier was shorter than Erik expected. But even high-def tv clarity had not accurately conveyed how blue his eyes were. The man smiled politely.
Pietro was meowing in relief – he sounded happy at least. Erik heard him kick at the handle, heard the flush, and then Pietro was flinging himself at Charles Xavier’s legs. Erik closed his eyes. Odds were even Pietro hadn’t managed to get his underwear and jeans back in order.
“Oh, hello.” Charles (great, now Erik was just calling him Charles like he knew the man) managed to detach Pietro from his leg, then crouched down so he was on Pietro’s level. “My name is Mr. Xavier.”
“Meow, meow meow mutant meoow!” Pietro had, at least, managed to get himself put away back into his underwear.
Erik was a lot of things. But he wasn’t a man who could let his son meet his hero with his pants threatening to fall around his ankles. He sighed, and bent down to hitch Pietro’s pants back up where they needed to be. “First impressions, darling. Now go wash your hands.” He flashed an apologetic smile at Charles – and squashed the very inappropriate thought that sprang to mind at the way he looked, crouched at Erik’s feet. If Erik’s child were not in the room, if Erik were not a responsible father, he wouldn’t be in such dire straits that an attractive man on his knees…
That might not be entirely true, Erik realized. He was probably always going to react inappropriately to hot guys on their knees. And, really, given the small range of circumstances in which he was treated to that kind of view, was it really an inappropriate reaction in general? Maybe it was just inappropriate this specific time.
Charles settled and spread his knees a little wider, apparently unconcerned that he was on the floor of a public toilet. He grinned up at Erik. “We’re planning a song or two about hygiene tonight.”
Hygiene. Right. Erik was clean. He had the blood test results to prove it.
He was spared a response that would have, no doubt, been completely humiliating – Erik had no idea what he had planned to say in return and, really, that rarely turned out well for him – by Pietro’s damp return. This time, because Charles was still so low to the ground, Pietro threw his arms around the tv show host’s neck.
“Well then.” Charles responded gently – he looked to Erik for permission, waited for Erik’s nod before returning the child’s hug. “It’s very nice to meet you, Pietro. I’m so very glad to be your friend.”
The little boy yowled and meowed, evidently excited to share whatever story he was sharing. Erik’s brain was remarkably quiet regarding anything his son might be saying, though it had quite a few opinions about Charles’s hair and how it would look in sweat damp curls across Charles’s high forehead.
“Oh, goodness! I appreciate that you told me.” Charles nodded, serious though he was still smiling. He looked up at Erik. His eyelashes had to be criminal.
But the eyelashes, as pretty as they were, had become secondary – Charles was responding like Pietro’s meowing meant something to him. And who knew? Erik Lensherr was a sucker for a man who took his ridiculous kid seriously.
It was a kick in the gut. Charles caught his gaze and held it. Erik didn’t realize he was holding his breath until dark spots danced in his vision. Then he gasped in a deep breath and the room rushed back into detail.
“Charles? We need to get started—“ The man who stepped onto the tile was blue. And furry.
The moment was broken. Charles smiled up at the interloper. “Hank, this is Pietro. He was having a restroom emergency, and then we had a little chat.”
Pietro gaped. Hank was a real-life Henrietta Beastlycat. Well, a real-life, very male Henrietta Beastlycat. And he was clutching a clipboard. Erik understood his son’s reaction – his own jaw hung a little loose. “Pietro, we need to go back to our seats.” Moira was going to call him a liar. A lying liar who told lies. “Mr. Xavier has to get ready for his show.” And, presumably, Mr. Xavier had to piss.
Erik choked on a laugh.
Hank gave him a look – Erik had been on the receiving end of that kind of look before and it usually meant the person didn’t trust him – but smiled and offered his hand to the little boy. Another round of introductions, another round of cat noises. Erik smiled and nodded where he was supposed to but he also edged toward the exit. Hank was disturbingly good at cat noises.
Charles’s extended hand stopped Erik cold. “And it was nice to meet you as well, Erik Lensherr.”
He hadn’t told Charles his name. Hell, he hadn’t told Charles either of their names. And Charles had a very strong grip.
“Right. Pleasure. I mean, to meet you.” How did this man know anything about Erik and his son?
He’d had indecent thoughts about Charles’s fingers – he couldn’t help but watch when Charles raised them to his temple. “You must not have seen the first episode.” He tapped his fingers to the side of his head and waited, like he was waiting for Erik to realize something.
Oh. Oh, shit. Mr. Xavier, everyone’s favorite mutant children’s show host, was a telepath. Well. That hadn’t been on the Wikipedia page.
Erik blushed scarlet.
A switch to Charles POV!
Charles Xavier, popular children’s show host and promoter of mutant pride, had a dirty habit.
It wasn’t so bad in the studio, even with the small live audience watching, the pressure to perform for the cameras was manageable. But the live performances… Charles was not actually an extrovert. He was just very good at faking it.
And the children, the children could always tell when he was stressed. They were smart. And he wouldn't want to lie to them anyway.
So, really, if he popped off the restroom for a private moment or two – and a quick wank – before live performances, well, that didn’t say anything about him as a person. It didn’t say anything other than he had an efficient method of relaxation at hand, so to speak, and took advantage of it. It was a perfectly respectable thing to do.
If the press got hold of it for any reason, of course, it could ruin him. So Charles was careful. He had reached out for any minds in the restroom – and found two bright sparks indeed. Still, he hadn’t quite expected a man to be crouched in front of a small boy, unbuttoning his trousers. Though it could have been worse – the man could have been unbuttoning his own trousers in front of the young boy.
Charles had reached a little further, a little deeper: father and son, a distance between them that was rather strange but a great deal of love and no fear on the part of the boy. That was all right then.
Then he’d slipped a little deeper – the man had a very comfortable mind. Erik, Charles’s power supplied. Erik and Pietro Lensherr. And then he’d seen… well. Charles had seen himself. Erik was creative. And impressively flexible if the man’s own mind were to be believed.
Charles coughed, announced his presence as gently as he could. And then he lost his breath. Erik Lensherr was tall and sharp featured, regal in a way that Charles had given up aspiring to – Charles was under no illusions about his own attractiveness, but it was of an entirely different sort. Erik was classically beautiful.
Erik ushered Pietro to a urinal. Ah. That explained it then. Charles was vaguely embarrassed that he had been so distracted by the father that his attention had been distracted from the child. He had a chance to make up for it, though – Pietro was exuberant in his affections and it was easy enough to glean what the meows meant: Pietro loved Mr. Xavier and Pietro’s father was a mutant and Pietro’s father was so smart and Henrietta Beastlycat was Pietro’s favorite and Pietro had a sister Wanda – would Mr. Xavier like to meet her, too? Charles laughed, delighted. He could feel Erik keeping an eye on them – and he could also feel Erik’s idle thoughts.
Hank and Raven both called Charles a slut. He didn’t actually mind the term. It was just that, when you could see someone’s mind, physical intimacy was a quick and easy decision.
It was an easy decision to want Erik.
But Hank was interrupting, of course Hank was interrupting. Always in a rush and never slowing down. They’ll hardly start without us; I'm talking to Pietro. Hank clearly wanted to roll his eyes but did not, gave no indication that Charles had a point.
Shaking Erik’s hand was like sticking his finger into an electric socket. He’d only done that once. Okay, twice, but he’d been a very inquisitive little boy and anything worth trying once was generally worth trying twice.
If shaking the man’s hand had been electric, watching him blush, a fierce red that started at the tips of his ears and spread inward across his cheeks and down the strong column of his throat, was like … was like something that was very something. Charles would like of an adequate simile for it later. At the moment, he simply reveled in it. Well, reveled and returned Pietro's hug goodbye.
“Here.” His personal card. Erik reached for it with the hand that wasn't holding on to Pietro's collar, fumbled it.
“Charles, they’re waiting. Do we have time for this?” Hank had a certain tone that Charles hated. He ignored Hank, watched Erik examine the card, eyes widening when he realized it was a personal number. Hank herded him toward the exit – damned schedule. And he hadn’t had a chance to… and there was no time.
“You’re here for the show?” Charles managed to hold his ground at the door. “You should bring your daughter up after the show.”
The smile was slow to spread across Erik’s face – still red – but it was genuine. “We’ll do that. We’ll, uh, yes, we’ll do that.” Pietro’s grin moved faster but it looked just the same.
Hank gave a particularly high-pitched whine – Charles had pushed the furry blue mutant as far as he would go. It was time - and Charles realized that, though his muscles were singing with a very specific tension, he was as relaxed as he'd ever been. Perhaps because he had something to look forward to after. Fascinating.
Back to Erik's POV
“Run into someone else?” Moira snickered. And looked smug – she’d been the one to pick out his t-shirt so Erik supposed she was entitled to take some credit for the looks they’d both seem him get.
“You won’t believe me.” He shook his head, looked significantly at the children, waved at the stage where the lights were coming up. Moira’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded, took the juice box from Jean before the fake fruit juice inside could shoot out of the straw from the force of the little girl’s excited grip. A familiar furry blue figure had walked onto the stage.
On an ordinary day, Erik would have been just as entranced as his children by the live performance. He liked theatre, and puppet theatre had a long and noble tradition, after all. But it had stopped being a normal day the minute Charles Xavier had stepped into the bathroom. The kids were leaning so far forward, it was easy to lean across their seats, especially when Moira met him halfway – it wasn’t the first whispered conversation she’d had to have at a live event, clearly.
“I met someone in the bathroom.” Maybe that wasn’t the best way to put it. That sounded sordid. Erik thought of the way Charles had spread his knees on the floor… maybe it had been just a little bit sordid anyway.
He flinched back to avoid a finger in the eye; Moira followed after him to poke him in the forehead. “I do not want to hear about your bathroom hookups, Lensherr.”
She had really sharp fingernails. Erik rubbed his forehead – he’d have to get her to teach Wanda how to do that at some point. When Wanda was older. But before she was interested in boys (or girls or anyone else) so she’d already know how to use it when someone got handsy. “For fuck’s sake, I’m not a Republican politician – I did not just hook up in the public restroom.” Not that only Republican politicians hooked up in public restrooms. But still.
“Hey, dude, there are kids here. Watch your language.” A scruffy man on the row behind them scowled at Erik, moved his own kid (looked like a screamer to Erik, flared nostrils ready to suck in enough air to shatter all their ear drums) over a seat, further from Erik’s foul mouth.
The man had no idea how foul Erik’s mouth could be. “Private conversation, fuck off.”
“Shut up, Lensherr.” She flashed a smile at the grumbling stranger. “Really, I can hardly take him out in public. Sorry about that.” Then she flicked the upper curve of Erik’s earlobe. Hard.
He clapped a hand to the side of his head. Fucking goddamn shit balls. His eyes watered but he bit his lip. Jean turned back with worried eyes but smiled when she saw that he was okay. “Fuck.” She said it like she was asking him if he was okay.
Moira flicked his other ear. Erik bit his lip so hard he tasted blood.
"I think Charles Xavier hit on me in the bathroom." He ground it out between his clenched teeth. And the expression on Moira's face was worth everything.
“No fucking way,” Moira breathed. She waved off the grumble of displeasure from the scruffy guy. “What the hell happened?”
“I had to help Pietro with his buttons and then this man walks in, worst possible timing, right?” He did at least try to keep his voice down. The kids were fixated on the stage like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and a bunch of other religious figures he didn’t know anything about had all arrived. Mr. Xavier was on stage, singing about being a mutant.
“Did he think you were a child molester?” Moira had laughed herself sick the day after that had happened. Erik had refused to take Wanda to the mall without Moira ever again.
“No, he was, damn it, he was awesome with Pietro, but he was, he was on his knees, right?” When he said it out loud, it really didn’t sound… “And then he fucking spread his legs. Moira, when a man kneeling on the floor in a public men’s room does that, it means something.” That didn’t sound as solid as it had when he’d mulled it over on the way back to their seats.
The single skeptical eyebrow that crept up Moira’s face did not bode well. “You are a dirty pervert. You asshole – you met Mr. Xavier and you perved on him while he was making nice with your kid.” She balled up her fist and punched him in the arm.
Erik flinched back; Moira punched with her pointy knuckles. “Ow, stop, no, fuck you.”
The scruffy man leaned forward. There were several empty seats around him, but the potential screamer remained glued to his side. “Listen, bub, I’m getting sick of your mouth. Family venue.”
If he had been paying more attention, Erik might taken half a second to think before he spoke. But he wasn’t so he didn’t. “Fuck you, buddy.”
Which also meant Erik didn’t see the fist attached to the (surprisingly large, why hadn’t he noticed how large the guy was?) scruffy guy before it made contact with his nose.
“Ow.” It was good that the paramedics were there and prepared for any eventuality. It wasn’t the first time Erik had broken his nose – but it was the first time he’d had it broken during a puppet show.
“Hey, buddy, I warned you to watch your language.” The man on the other end of the bench glared at him. Erik had gotten in a pretty good right cross but he’d been teaching too long; he hadn’t followed through for shit.
As evidenced by the man’s distinctly unbroken face.
“Because violence is more acceptable than profanity?” Moira had calmed the kids down, then refocused them on the stage, where Henrietta Beastlycat (Erik wasn’t sure but he didn’t think it was the big blue furry guy with the clipboard). And then a couple with five kids in tow had returned to claim their seats.
“Sean knows better than to punch anybody. His mom would kill me if he came home swearing.” The man looked around, pulled a cigar from his pocket. He sneered at Erik’s expression. “There’s oxygen tanks on this rig and kids everywhere. Not going to light it.” He chomped on it ferociously. “Name’s Logan, by the way.”
Erik sighed. It was definitely the first time he’d ever had his nose broken by a babysitter with sensitive ears. “Erik. Nice to meet you.”
“Heard you talking about Chuck. He put the moves on you in the can?” The man, Logan, snorted at Erik’s expression. “What, you can’t keep your voice down, people hear. And Chuck’s real forward.”
This… called for caution. And not just because Erik had already needed medical attention once. “You mean Charles Xavier, right?” First step in any debate. Or any not-debate. Any situation. Define your terms.
“Yeah, real British hair, real red mouth, looks like butter wouldn’t melt.” Logan stood up, like he hadn’t just rocked Erik’s world. “Probably didn’t know you were with that brunette piece.”
It was a shame that, with the advent of digital music, that the sound of a needle scratching across vinyl in a sudden and destructive interruption was losing its meaning. Because Erik heard it in his mind. “Brunette piece? As in piece of tail.” He considered hitting Logan again.
“Yeah, you guys serious? She’s hot.” Logan flashed a toothy grin. And remained one step out of easy reach.
“Are you sure I can’t convince you to go to the hospital, Mr. Lensherr?” The paramedic stepped between them to look Erik’s nose over again. The woman was small but she had a strong grip. She’d looked at his nose and declared it broken but not out of place. “I know your type. Here, take these.” She handed him two pills (only acetaminophen, alas) and a paper cup of water. “And both of y’all behave. This is a family show.”
Erik managed to thank her while glaring at Logan. “Moira is not a piece of tail. And she isn’t my girlfriend.” Maybe he should have let Logan think she was. But he also didn’t want this man, who apparently knew Charles, to think he could be picked up in the men’s room while his girlfriend was sitting in the audience. “And Charles invited me to introduce my daughter to him.”
Logan threw his head back and laughed at that. “Of course he did. You bring that brunette with you, you hear?” And before Erik could ungrit his teeth, Logan ambled back into the crowd.
Erik tried to rub his forehead and brushed against his nose instead. “Fuck.”