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My Name is Max

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April 17, 1963

Dear Erik,

We are having a son.

Hank and I were able to see him clearly today for the first time on the ultrasound machine. He is in perfect health and his development is coming along beautifully. Unfortunately, I am being confined to bed rest as my body is not handling the pregnancy as well as we hoped. We are monitoring my food and vitamin intake but Hank believes I am developing too high levels of iron deficiency causing anemia. He’s concerned that if my general health continues to deteriorate it will become a very risky delivery for me and the baby.

I’m trying to be optimistic and doing my best to follow his instructions. We are looking for a qualified obstetrician now in preparation for the baby’s arrival in June.

Erik, I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to our child. Some nights I’m so scared I can’t sleep.

I wish you were here.

Yours,

Charles

 

June 1, 1963

Erik,

Hank and Dr. Richards believe that I will need to deliver the baby sooner than later. I’m told it is likely to happen sometime this week.

I have asked both Hank and Alex to act as guardians for the baby should I not survive the delivery. I’ve made all legal arrangements to have the bulk of my estate transferred to the baby’s name in trust with the remaining set aside for Raven. The boys have both promised to care for him and I am quite relieved to know that our child will be well loved and protected in the safety and anonymity of the mansion.

If the worst does come to pass, I hope you will respect my wishes for our son and let him remain here to be raised away from whatever violence follows your chosen path. I care only that he is happy, healthy and loved; it is your choice the extent you wish to be involved in his life.

Our son’s name is Max Francis Xavier. I gave him both of our names so he will always carry us with him. He is the best of the both of us.

Charles

 

February 9, 1963

Dearest Erik,

The February weather in New York State is so dreary and cold; I find myself feeling even more closed in than usual as we wait out this latest storm front. If you are still in the States, or someplace where the winter weather is harsh, I hope that that you and Raven are taking care to dress warmly and staying safe.

Hank tells me that I’m now about five months along in the pregnancy and that all continues to be well with the baby. I had hoped for less frequent bouts of nausea by the second term but it would appear to be wishful thinking on my part. Our young genius is racing through every medical journal he can find on pregnancies and determined to learn everything he can about my mutation in preparation for what he believes will be a complicated delivery. You will be pleased to know that I am following all of Hank’s instructions to rest and eat often to ensure the health and wellbeing of the baby.

I should tell you that I believe our child will have telepathic abilities like me. Yesterday for the first time I could sense our tiny miracle projecting emotions from inside of me. Feelings like warmth, contentment, love. Oh Erik I can’t begin to explain the joy I feel, knowing that our baby is safe and happy.

I miss you so much. Please, come home.

Yours,

Charles

 

***

He has Azazel deliver him back to the mansion’s driveway, some distance away from the front door. Erik thanks his teleporter, promising to call soon with instructions for the team and then heads up the gravel path with his small suitcase.

He feels oddly exposed without his helmet and cape; the outer trappings of Magneto allowing him to remain distant and impersonal from everyone around him. And every forward step he takes feels significant, weighted, as the mansion looms above him.

Most surprising (and unsettling) is the unexpected quiet of the early evening. There should be more light and sound filtering from the open windows; it’s a Saturday night and the students and teachers are all taking a break from their studies. More importantly, Erik doesn’t feel Charles; he had expected Charles in his mind the moment he arrived back on the grounds without his helmet.

He’s not sure what it says that he feels both relieved and disappointed.

The foyer is empty when he enters, and he doesn’t encounter any of the mansion’s residents as he takes the long winding staircase up to the second floor. He checks in briefly with Mystique and drops off a few items she requested from the Brotherhood’s base before going back to his own room to stow his belongings.

He pulls out the stack of letters he retrieved from the bank before returning to the mansion and tosses them on the bed. Unpacking takes all of five minutes as he throws some shirts into the dresser along with a few pairs of jeans and slacks. It’s not much more than what he came with the first time he stayed here after leaving the CIA installation with Charles and their new recruits.

Erik sits on the bed, running his fingers over the envelopes scattered on the bedspread. So far, he’s only read three, having pulled them out randomly from the pile to see with his own eyes that Charles had told him the truth. He would have almost preferred if Charles had lied about writing to him regarding Max; instead he has over a dozen letters in hand to condemn his failure as both a parent and a lover.

The words are painful to read, his chest aching with regret for what Charles went through those first months after they parted ways. He had needed Erik and wanted and hoped for his return; had been deathly ill and afraid for Max’s life.

He had almost died, believing that Erik had read his letters and had chosen to ignore him, to abandon their child.

Erik knows that at the time, he had good reasons not to read Charles’ letters. He could hardly afford the distraction; he had a team of mutants who followed him out of circumstance and not loyalty. He needed funds; needed to establish a base of operations and to recruit others to join their fight. He and Charles had both made a choice and he couldn’t let his ex-lover sway him off course.

It doesn’t make him feel any better.

And he knows that he needs to make amends; for causing Charles even more pain than he thought possible, for giving birth to Max and loving and raising him on his own, without Erik by his side.

He just has no idea where to begin.

***

Erik wanders back down to the main level, passing by the occasional student who says hello but pays no further attention to his presence. He stops a boy about thirteen or fourteen years of age in the kitchen, wearing a pair of what looks like red goggles and asks to be directed to Charles and Max.

He can’t see the boy’s eyes behind the lenses but Erik can feel himself being assessed, his worth being measured and found wanting by the teenager standing in front of him. The boy doesn’t bother to give him a name, instead pointing Erik to the study and then wanders off without another word.

Erik can hear the low murmur of voices when he arrives outside the open door and he hesitates only for a moment before he steps inside. The sight that greets him stops him mid-stride, a ground swell of longing and affection threatening to knock him right off his feet.

Charles and Max are sitting in front of the fireplace, a chess set placed on a low table between them. Max is curled up on one of the old antique armchairs across from Charles - in Erik’s chair - and there’s a plate of cookies and two glasses of milk within easy reach. There is focused intent on Max’s face as he makes his move, and then he slowly turns towards Erik and smiles, eyes bright and warm. “Hello Papa!”

***

It hits Charles like a tidal wave the moment Erik transports back onto the property.

When he had felt the emptiness around Erik disappear from the mansion earlier in the day he had assumed that his former friend had chosen to leave instead of meeting his conditions for spending time with Max. The mix of emotions Charles felt in that moment was at once confusing and enlightening; he was relieved to have the inevitable happen sooner rather than later, and yet his insides felt scrubbed raw, old wounds bleeding where he thought them long healed and scarred. Raven’s explanation that Erik had left to make arrangements for a longer stay should have made him happy for Max and hopeful for a real relationship between father and son. Instead he finds himself filled with dread; he knows there will be more confrontations and awkwardness between them in the days and nights to come.

His powers have grown exponentially in the years since he’s last felt Erik’s mind, had been invited in and embraced by his lover, and he throws his shields up quickly and easily to guard against the steady outpouring of emotions. Erik’s mind is like a shining beacon in the dark and he can’t help but follow as the other man wanders into the mansion and up the stairs to his guest room. It takes every ounce of Charles’ willpower to shield himself from Erik’s thoughts; to not to dive in and make himself at home.

“You’re doing very well tonight Max.” He smiles at his son who is staring at the chess board, contemplating his next move with a serious expression on his face.

“Thanks Daddy.” He watches as Max makes a move, before tilting his head slightly, eyes widening in delight. “Can you...I can feel him Daddy! Mr. Erik is back and I can feel him now!”

“Easy, Max. Your father has likely not experienced a telepath is his mind for a very long time. It would be best to be gentle when you reach out to him; touch his surface thoughts and emotions and let him guide you further.”

“Okay Daddy I promise.” Max is clearly still reaching out telepathically as he continues, “He’s coming downstairs now. And he’s thinking really loudly about a lot of different things. About me and you and family...I see a tall man and a woman with pretty hair...he misses them a lot.”

Charles reaches out to brush his son’s cheek, “He's thinking about his own Mama and Papa, love.”

“Oh,” Max wrinkles his brow slightly before he looks up at Charles, “Do you think it would be okay if I called him Papa instead of Mr. Erik?”

He can sense Erik outside the study now as he rolls the chess piece in his hand and places it on the board. “I’m sure he’ll like that very much.”

Charles can feel the shock, mixed with an overwhelming love as Erik steps into the room and takes in the scene. He has to strengthen his shields again to not get swept up in the emotions; he knows better than to hope that a momentary bout of nostalgia will make Erik change his mind and stay.

“Hello Papa!” Max stands and walks over to where his father has stopped in the middle of the room. He reaches to take Erik’s hand and then wraps his arms around to hug him. “It’s really you.”

Erik wraps his own arms around Max and leans down to kiss him on the top of his head. His smile is blinding, chasing years off the harsh lines of his face as he crouches in front of Max. “It’s really me.”

“Daddy and I are playing chess. Do you want to play too?”

He hesitates for a moment before allowing Max to pull him over to the chessboard and push him into the unoccupied chair. The boy then promptly climbs into his lap and settles comfortably, before pointing to the game in progress. “Can you help me Papa? I think I’m losing this game to Daddy.”

They both laugh and Charles can’t help but join in. He can see Erik watching him intently and deliberately does not meet the other man’s gaze. “You mean Charles doesn’t let you win?” And now Erik is grinning at him, smile so wide and open that for a moment, Charles forgets that this isn’t the norm; that they haven’t always been like this, the three of them a real family.

“Max insists that he only wants to win if he can genuinely beat me.”

“That’s admirable.” He shifts the boy slightly so he can see both Max and Charles as he speaks. “I’ll do the best I can Max but I haven’t played in years.”

“Oh?” Charles is honestly surprised at Erik’s comment. “You haven’t the time even for an occasional game of chess?”

Erik stares at him for a moment before answering, “No one else could ever compare to you Charles.”

They lapse into a comfortable silence then, as Erik and Max discuss strategy together in their heads and Charles very consciously stays out of their private thoughts. Their game continues on to a draw, just in time for Max to let out a huge yawn against Erik’s chest.

“I think it’s time for bed, Max. Say goodnight and you can see your father in the morning.”

Max winds his hands around Erik’s neck and tilts his head slightly to smile sleepily at Charles. “Can Papa take me upstairs and tuck me in instead?”

He tries not to react to Max’s words though his heart clenches at his son's request. “That’s fine love, if your father doesn’t mind?”

Erik looks relieved and a bit grateful, “No of course I don’t mind.” He lifts Max up and stands, holding his son tightly in his arms. “Thank you Charles.”

“Good night Daddy!” Erik leans down so Max can hug Charles and kiss him goodnight, before lifting him up again and turning to head towards the door. “I’ll see you in the morning!”

“Good night, love,” Charles answers, smiling sadly as he watches Erik carry their son away, hoping it’s not a sign of things to come.