Erik had hoped he could finish his report uninterrupted, but halfway through his analysis of the major flaws in their design, the pile of blankets on the couch twitches. He sighs and tips his head back and reminds himself that the joys of fatherhood outweigh the inconveniences.
He keeps reminding himself of that until the blankets whine, "Paaaaapaaaaa!" and he's forced to abandon his laptop and intervene.
"Raaaaveeen," he replies, and sits on the far cushion of the couch, digging through the blankets until a pair of sleepy gold eyes stare up at him. "Have you died of the plague yet, Schatzi?"
Raven pouts at him and he sighs and digs her out of the blankets, pulling her into his lap. A surreptitious swipe at her forehead reveals that her fever's gone down, but still not broken completely. He feels fleetingly guilty for wishing she'd just go back to sleep when she's so clearly miserable, but Erik was just as miserable when it was his turn with this bug last week and he still dragged his sore, snot-filled body into work each day.
"Everything hurts," Raven murmurs, wrapping her arms around Erik's neck and burying her face in his shoulder. "I want Daddy."
"Daddy's at work," Erik says. He kisses the top of her head. "Sorry, baby."
"Work is dumb," Raven says. "You don't have to go to work."
"That's because I was doing work here," Erik says. "I can bring my work home if I can't make it into the office. Daddy can't bring all the kids at daycare here, now can he?" A bit of a misnomer, admittedly--there are daycare kids coming in and out on a fairly regular basis, frequently more than Erik thinks should legally be allowed, but it makes Raven giggle.
"That's silly, Papa," she says. Then, after a moment, "What's your job, Papa?"
"I work for Uncle Tony," Erik says. "I'm an engineer."
Raven looks up at him, clearly dubious.
"I...make things," Erik says. "I...use numbers and computers to design things for doctors. Tools and...things."
Raven is still unconvinced and Erik says, "It's really very impressive. I'm very smart."
"Like Uncle Tony?" Raven asks and Erik sighs.
"Yes," he says.
"Uncle Tony's really smart," Raven says. "He makes robots."
"I could make you a robot," Erik insists. "But Daddy won't let me, so he's the one you need to talk to about having a robot."
"Do you make robots at work?" she asks, suddenly wide-eyed and excited.
"Uh, no," he admits. "Not as such." And there goes the excitement, gone as quickly as it came, and replaced by the same sickly skepticism. "I work very hard," he assures her, a last ditch effort to win at least some respect.
"You should have a real job," Raven tells him. "Like a teacher or a fireman or a doctor or a mailman."
"Yes," Erik says dryly. "A mailman. Why didn't I think of that? I could have saved so much time that I wasted getting my master's degree."
"Exactly," Raven says. She pauses for a coughing fit, her tiny body shaking in his arms with each wheeze, and he rubs her back, wincing and feeling guilty for being so frustrated by her illness.
"Well," he says with forced cheerfulness, "if you're not going to be a brilliant engineer--and I hold out hope, I think Uncle Tony and I can overpower your father's hippie bull--um, your father's hippie ideals--the point is, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
He expects a thoughtful silence or maybe I don't know, but Raven replies immediately, "A soccer player!"
Pee-wee soccer for four and five year olds has been going on for about a month. Raven and Alex seem to be more interested in running around in circles after each other and watching the dog park next to the soccer field, but she looks forward to it with an enthusiasm that shouldn't be felt by anyone at eight am on Saturday mornings.
"Well," Erik says after a considering pause, "We'll have to move to Germany if that's the case. It shouldn't be any trouble getting you in, but Daddy will have to stay here. It will be sad, of course, but you'll hardly miss him after a while and I'll learn to love again, I'm sure."
Raven laughs and shifts in Erik's arms so she can better look at him.
"You're silly, Papa," she says.
"Why do you want to be a soccer player?" he asks, stroking her hair. "It seems fairly repetitive, running around after a ball all the time. Although I suppose it's not less repetitive than most jobs."
"Soccer is fun!" Raven says. "We see the doggies. And last week, when Mr. Summers made you sit in the car, I climbed all the way to the top of the fence way way faster than Alex did!"
"Mm, I'm glad your father is taking his supervisory role seriously in my absence," he says.
"It's fun and it makes me happy and Aunt Moira says that a job should make you happy and be fun and you should love it and she has fun at daycare and we make her happy and she loves us," Raven says. "Is working with Uncle Tony fun and do you love it and is it happy?"
"Huh," Erik says. "Trust Moira to raise your expectations of the real world high enough that the eventual realization will be crushing."
Raven blinks at him, scowling a bit.
"Do you like you job? Do you, Papa?" she asks. "Is it fun? If it's fun, then maybe it's okay."
"I...wouldn't say it's fun," Erik says, considering. "It's interesting. And I enjoy it."
"Jobs should be fun," Raven says. "Aunt Moira says."
"Well," Erik says. "That's what I have you and Daddy for. To have fun and be happy."
"That's not a job," Raven says.
"Believe me, baby, being married to your Daddy is a full time job," he says. It's maybe a little unfair to Charles to say that--Charles, whom he loves more than he imagined he could love someone, who is smart and receptive and kind and just the right amount of wicked. But Charles is at work and Erik is at home tending to a sick child, so Charles can take a few punches today.
"But you don't--"
Whatever he doesn't do is cut off by another coughing fit, one that goes on and on until Erik is on the verge of panic and Raven is on the verge of tears. When she finally stops, her cheeks are tearstained and she's shaking. Erik holds her close and rubs her back as she wraps her arms around his neck and whimpers.
"It's okay, baby," he says. "You're okay. You're okay. Take deep breaths."
"I don't want to be sick anymore!" Raven sobs, coughing again, more shallowly, as she does so. Erik does wish he were a doctor, now. He wishes there was anything he could do besides give Raven more cough syrup and fight with her over using the inhaler and nebulizer that the pediatrician prescribed.
"I know you don't," he tells her. "I don't want you to be sick anymore either." He leans back on the couch, reclining and adjusting Raven until she's sprawled out on top of him. There's an hour until he can give her more medicine and talking probably isn't helping. He pulls the blankets back over on top of both of them and keeps rubbing her back. "How about I tell you a story?"
Raven wipes her nose on his shirt and nods. Erik is opening his mouth to reprimand her when he realizes, at this point, it's probably best to choose his battles. Snot is hardly the worst thing that's been smeared on his clothing since he became a father.
"Okay," Erik says. "A story. Uh. Okay. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...."
Erik gets most of the way through A New Hope before Raven drops off, and he's planning on leaving her on the couch and getting back to work, really, but his throat's still a little sore from his turn at the death plague. A few minutes nap won't hurt anything, he figures, but, of course, he wakes up when he hears the garage door opening two hours later.
Raven is still asleep and Erik latches on to Charles' watch and his wedding ring and follows his progress through the garage and into the house. The door between them opens and closes and then he can hear Charles' footsteps across the floor. He opens his eyes when the footsteps stop next to the sofa, but not before he hears the mechanical click that means Charles has taken a picture with his phone.
"How is she?" Charles asks, and Erik groans as soon as the words are out of his mouth. Charles sounds hoarse and, now that Erik looks closer, his nose is red and his eyes are watery and verging on bloodshot.
"You too?" Erik asks.
"I'm fine," Charles says automatically, but his words are followed by a coughing fit. Erik sighs. He stands up slowly, careful not to wake Raven, and gestures towards the couch he's just freed.
"Take off your coat and shoes. Lie down. Now."
Charles grumbles and mutters something under his breath about "pushy" and "things to do," but he gives in, which is Erik's best clue that he's feeling even worse than he looks. Charles sits on the edge of the couch and Erik lifts the bottle of cough syrup by the metal washer he's taped to the bottom, floating it into Charles' grasp.
"Take a swig of that," he instructs, and once Charles has done so, grimacing at the taste, he gently transfers Raven into Charles' arms and then slides back into the couch, reclining against the arm and tugging Charles until he leans against Erik's back.
"You're very bossy," Charles murmurs, but he turns his head and presses his forehead against Erik's neck, projecting gratitude and warmth and safety and a whole host of other things that bleed through. Erik secures the blankets over them again and wraps his arms around Charles and Raven, leaving one hand resting on Raven's back and the other curled around Charles' wrist. "Just for a few moments," Charles says. "I need to call Moira and get a sub. And we need to make dinner and--"
It's a bit difficult to kiss Charles from this angle, but Erik manages it. He lets go of Charles' wrist and cups the side of his head. He's running a fever for sure.
"Go to sleep, Charles," he says, and kisses Charles again despite the crick in his neck. "I'll take care of it."
And he will. He'll call Moira and order dinner and call Tony to say he'll be working from home again tomorrow. He'll feed his family and make sure everyone gets to bed and everyone gets a dose of NyQuil and everyone is comfortable. Contrary to what Raven might believe, it is his job. It's his job to take care of his husband and his little girl and sometimes that means remembering to set the burglar alarm at night and sometimes that means making sure everyone is warm and medicated and tucked in for the night.
And sometimes that means curling up on the couch and taking an evening nap, secure in the fact that, even if they're slightly feverish, Raven and Charles are safe and cared for and right within reach if they need him. It's fun, in its own way, and it makes him happy. And, most importantly, he loves it more than anything.