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Swimming with Sharks

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Erik isn't very good at being human. He knows that. His pups are better. They don't blink with their third eyelids and their skin is smoother. They sleep, too. For hours and hours and he just watches them, wondering if loving them so much is part of being human. Maybe it's because they need so much care and there is no one else to give it. Magda is gone, and it always surprises him how much that still hurts. Taken by sickness when nothing else could break her, his fierce human mate. He supposes he stays with the children because they're hers and she would want him to as much as for their own sake. He always tried to be a good mate to her, but isn't sure he succeeded. Now he closes his eyes and remembers swimming, before the harsh air and light, before Shaw pulled him up out of the ocean and into this complicated place. There were experiments and tests and endless pain, his skeleton warped and wracked before he finally escaped, lurching naked through the fields until Magda found him. Erik and beings like him are protected under the Products of Experimentation Act, so even with Magda gone he can exist in the human world. He has no choice now, and opens his eyes.

He is packing lunch for his pups. Large sandwiches with thick chunks of roast beef, so they don't get too hungry at school. He also adds some crisps, because the children like them. They call them chips here, and chips are something else altogether. Whatever they are, Erik puts the brightly colored bags into the brown ones and then puts an orange into each bag because the pediatrician says the twins must have fruit. Erik doesn't need fruit. He's not human enough for that, and the refrigerator is full of good meat and fish, with only a few of the plants the children need. They complain that the green plants are icky, but Erik can't seem to figure out how to cook them. He makes sure they eat them anyway, and assumes that that's right. They seem to be healthy, anyway.

"Wanda!" He calls, "Pietro!" The pups come thundering down the stairs. They're eight now, and mostly self-sufficient. By human standards, anyway. He still has to braid Wanda's hair for her, and does as the children eat their bacon and toast. They're excited for their first day at their new school, and Erik just hopes they won't frighten the humans this time. That's not the only reason for the move, but it had definitely played a part. "Remember," he says, tying off Wanda's braid, "no biting."

Pietro sighs. "And no soaking our clothes and no talking about our electroreception and try to act human."

"Yes." Erik bites Wanda's cheek gently, and moves around the table to do the same to Pietro, who squirms.

"Papaaa!" He whines, and Erik chuckles.

"Hurry up and finish your breakfast, or we'll be late."

They are not late, but only because Erik drives fast. Driving is the thing most like swimming used to be, the car a sleek and aerodynamic body around them. The pups watch from the windows, eyes bright and avid. Erik wonders if he can get away with eating their teacher if he or she proves unkind. Probably not, but a sharkman can dream. As it is he parks in front of the school and walks his children in. His children, not his pups. They are being very human now, skittering ahead of him with their cartoon backpacks and looking around, full of curiosity. The school is bright and clean, and Erik approves. So far. They reach the correct room, the door propped open. Erik feels the usual impulse to snatch his children up and run away somewhere where no one will misunderstand or frighten them, but he knows that's hopeless and does not give in. The pups don't even notice, wandering in ahead of him. Most of the children are already in their seats, but the teacher still smiles, so they must be on time. He's young, with big blue eyes and a rumpled cardigan, and he smells genuine. Erik relaxes just a little.

"Hello," he says, coming around his desk. "You must be the Lensherr twins."

"We are," Pietro says, looking around.

"Pleased to meet you both. I'm Mr. Xavier."