Chapter 1: 1
This starts of as just Erik/Magda but will eventually (sooner rather than later, honestly) turn into Erik/Magda/Charles (with scenes involving each individual couple as well as the trio as a whole)
Triggers for this chapter: vague mentions to the Holocaust, references to mutant prejudice
In the end, it’s the baby’s bright green hair that makes the decision for them. For the last few years, there’s been plenty of times Erik brought up the possibility of a move with Magda. Ever since Nina first began showing signs of her mutation. However, between the two of them, they could always find an excuse to delay it. Too risky, too expensive, to hard for Erik to find a new job, too difficult to explain to the children. An endless list of excuses to put it off, but who could blame them? An intercontinental trip to show up at your old enemy’s academy and practically beg for a second chance; that was no one’s idea of a fun time or simple task. Not to mention the fact that once they left there would be no coming back. They couldn’t really leave their home without a trace and expect it to be waiting for them. So even while the children grew older and their powers became more and more obvious, between him and Magda, they’d always found some excuse to delay it further.
But then baby had been born with a head full of little green fuzz.
The main thing that had kept them safe in this tiny Polish village was how willing all its residents are to pretend. Pretend there is never an unusual amount of animals always trailing after Nina. Pretend Pietro’s white hair is merely an odd shade of blond. Pretend that Henryk Gursky the factory worker doesn’t share an odd resemblance with Erik Lehnsherr the terrorist. Even the midwife had, on her way out, offered to pretend she’d never seen anything different if tomorrow the baby showed up bald or dyed. But Erik and Magda both knew that the village would be considerably less kind if faced with anything undeniably out of the ordinary. Green hair was certainly harder to ignore than white and neither Erik nor Magda were about to condemn an infant to a life of hiding.
Even if it had ever been an option before, it certainly wasn’t now that Erik has first held her in his arms. She is his fourth child already and it still shakes him to the core how deeply one could love another. Erik would do anything for his children. Anything to make sure they had the best life possible. Frightened as it might make them, neither he nor Magda are foolish enough to pretend that ‘best’ is anywhere other than Charles Xavier’s academy an ocean away in Westchester. So with the baby no more than a few hours old, Erik and Magda have to begin their planning to move the whole family away.
“She’s so little to be traveling such a long way…” Magda murmurs regretfully, caressing the baby’s head.
Erik knows she’s right. He hates to think about carrying such a tiny baby half a world away, and Magda so soon after giving birth, but Erik also doesn’t want to take his chances staying here. Perhaps we can travel to a big city nearby and wait some time there for the both of you to gain some strength and then we’ll make the jump to New York. We’d certainly be safer in a city like that. It’s easier to blend in, no matter the oddities.”
“We’ll just… we’ll pack our bags and go. Where we’ll go and how long, we can decide once we’re on the way.” Perhaps she and Erik were sometimes a bit too rash or dramatic in their actions to keep their children safe, but they had both lost their families due to not choosing to flee quickly enough. Neither of them is going to run that same risk again.
Erik tries to relax, at least for now, and nods. “Of course. I’ll get the children back home in a bit and we’ll pack.” Since having to leave quickly had always been in the back of their minds, their house has always been arranged in just the right way to allow for their lives to be picked up and moved from one day to the next. The only thing that would be a bit more difficult would be packing the baby’s things, but Erik will manage. As he thinks more of the baby, he asks, “What have we decided to name her?”
“Lorna.” Magda smiles down at their tiny, green-headed child, sleeping peacefully in her mother’s arms and unaware of all the upheaval she’s caused. “Her name will be Lorna.”
Erik agrees that’s a beautiful name for their baby girl. He spends a bit more time between the three of them, just pretending that everything is beautiful and perfect in the world. He wishes it were and that his girl being born with soft tufts of emerald upon her head is no cause for concern. It was what he’d fought so ferociously for back when Erik had been younger, angrier, and with nothing to lose. In those days, Erik might have wanted to stay, standing tall and proud and daring the village to give them any problems. But that is Erik no longer. These days, Erik stands to lose far too much, this entire family he cherishes so deeply. So soon, he will go off to pick the older children up from the neighbor’s home where they’d stayed during the birth. He’ll explain as gently as he can that they’re leaving and then he’ll help his family pack away their lives into as little bags as possible so they can run long and far from anyone that might cause them any harm. Erik of the past might have called this cowardice, accused him of bowing down and running away from the humans. However, the man Erik had grown into cared for one thing only: keeping his family safe, no matter the amount of running or cowardice it took.
Moving his family wound up being one of the most stressful experiences of Erik’s life, which was saying a lot for a man whose childhood was spent in Nazi Germany and who’d once spent a decade in solitary confinement. In the twelve hours between Lorna being born and their family being on the road to Warsaw, Erik sees more tears than he has since he had toddlers in the house. They all cry about having to leave their home, and then cry even more about not getting a chance to bid it a proper farewell. It breaks Erik’s heart to see their tears, but he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t wholeheartedly believe it’s for the best. He wishes there were some other way, but unfortunately, this is just one of those difficult decisions parenthood is forcing him to make. Erik wishes it could be different. He just hopes the children will be able to make a new home of Westchester.
In the two days they stop to rest in Warsaw, Erik fills their head with stories of the mansion. Nina is soothed by being assured that there will be plenty of critters on the ground; Pietro by the knowledge that he will have more than enough room to run in; and Wanda by the promises that there is a great big flower garden for her to explore. He tells them a few stories about Charles he shares with Magda, whose nerves are calmed slightly by knowing there is a good man waiting at the other end of their journey. As for Erik… well, there’s no one left to soothe his nerves, but he’s content with knowing that his children will be safe soon.
Originally, they had planned to stay in Warsaw at least a week, but preferably two or three. In reality, they barely make it past forty-eight hours when Erik and Magda are too anxious to remain there for much longer. Magda is still tired and sore from childbirth, while Lorna is still almost unbearably tiny, but they depart the city and start on the way to New York. Erik is as paranoid a traveler as always. Through car, train, and ferry, they make their way to London for a fight .This leg of their journey, though, is stretched out into nearly two weeks, due to Erik’s second nature of constantly backtracking and switching routes, should anyone be following. The children see it as a game and Magda indulges him in it, though she is undeniably thankful when they are finally in a plane over the Atlantic. Paranoid traveling makes her as ansty as Erik. Even though eight hours in a plane with a crying infant and a fidgeting Piero is enough to drive anyone mad, Magda really feels as though she grows calmer with every mile closer to their destination. As the plane begins its descent, Magda feels an exhausted sort of relief.
A few seats away from her, Pietro presses his face up against the window, fascinated with the city he sees spread out in front of him. “This is America, Mama?” he asks, unwilling to pry his face from the view for even a second as he asks her this. It’s night time already, so the view is a beautifully twinkling field of lights.
Magda nods, reaching over to make sure Pietro hasn’t undone his seatbelt yet again in his endless wiggling. “Yes it is, Pietro. That’s New York City in the horizon and where Papa will be driving us is called Westchester. He tells me it’ll be another hour.”
By now, Wanda’s interested has been piqued and she wrestles a spot at the window from her brother so she too can see the lights as they land. “Another hour, Mama? And then we’ll be where Papa told us?”
“Not quite yet, ketsele. But we’ll be somewhere we can sleep and rest. Then tomorrow, we’ll see the school,” Magda promises. Erik is confident that Charles will make space in his school for their children, no matter the past between him and Charles. Magda herself is not so sure, but of course, she always presents an optimistic point of view to her children.
That makes the children happy enough and between the twins and Nina, they distract themselves for the remainder of the landing. Lorna, miraculously, sleeps through it, and Magda couldn’t be happier for that. Soon enough, they are disembarking and Magda watches the children from the back while Erik leads them in the front, a well practiced routine to keep the children in line while away from home. Together, they shepherd the children through customs and just as Magda had refrained from questions as to where all this money to run away with had come from, Magda turns a blind eye as Erik procures forged passports and papers for all of them. She’s learned to trust her husband, and have faith that the only illegal things he does these days are for the greater good and for the sake of their family.
Getting through only takes another half hour or so, but Magda feels like it’s taking an eternity, since she has Lorna asleep in her arms, Wanda drowsing off as she perches on her hip, and Pietro practically clinging to her leg. Erik is helping as well, carrying a sleepy Nina in one arm, but he’s taking their luggage, so Magda is left to juggle their three other children. Magda also doesn’t question where the money for the rental car comes from, she only happily loads the children into the back and settles in for the drive to Westchester. Tonight, they’ll focus on their family. They’ll pull up into the first dingy motel off the interstate when they take the exit for Westchester. They’ll distribute themselves and the children between, at most, two beds and a couch. They’ll sleep, as both Erik and Magda struggle to feel safe in the knowledge that Charles Xavier and his school will be a stone throw away, so the children will be near refuge should anything happen. Tonight, they’ll rest, then tomorrow, `Erik will go off in search of rekindling old ties.
Chapter 2: 2
Erik gathers up his courage and goes to Charles' side once more.
cw: food, alcohol
To no one’s surprise, the Maximoff family does little more than go through the motions on the night of their arrival. They’re all half asleep, except for Erik who is wound up tight with the nerves. Magda wishes she could comfort him, but she knows how Erik is in these moods. It’s best to just let him be for a bit before he can be approached. So Magda does the next best thing and focuses on keeping their children content for now. Erik always calms when he sees the children safe and happy. So tired as she is, Magda runs off habit as she tucks the children into bed. By the time the four of them are knocked out asleep, Magda close to follow, Erik at least doesn’t look like his back is about to snap in two from the tension.
As she drifts off, she hopes he’ll get some sleep as well. From the way he beats her to reaching Lorna all night long, she’s willing to bet he didn’t. This belief is only reinforced when she wakes just before the sunrise to find him gone. Magda doesn’t worry on ‘if’ he’ll return. She knows he will. She only hopes he hasn’t already gone off to see Charles. Though Erik insists it’s impossible, Magda maintains that it’s entirely possible for Charles to simply turn Erik in to the authorities. Magda prays that the next she sees of her husband won’t be on the television as he’s carted away to some top secret jail. Thankfully, Erik is back even before the kids are awake. As he enters, Magda sees he’s holding several greasy paper bags with a red, curved M on the front. Horribly unhealthy fast food for breakfast, no doubt. The children will be happy. Any type of food that’s awful for them, the children will inevitably love it.
“You’re up early,” Erik says. He sets the food down at the small table in the corner and then goes to give Magda a kiss.
“And you didn’t even sleep at all,” Magda retorts, standing up. She briefly notes that none of them made it into pyjamas the night before and she, as well as the children, fell asleep in the same clothes from their flight. “We were all but sleepwalking when we arrived last night. You need sleep as well or you’ll be dead on your feet when you go see Charles.”
“I’ll be fine, Magda.” Erik has plenty of experience with running for several days without sleep. Not a habit he wants his family to learn from him, but one he’ll gladly use to help them in these rocky times.
Magda can’t pester him much longer because the smell of food rouses Pietro from his sleep. The boy is sandwiched between Wanda and Nina on one of the beds and sticks his head up, sniffing the air like a puppy. His white hair is sticking up in disarray, but Magda only thinks that makes her son look even cuter. Pietro’s gaze follows his nose until he finds the food and his eyes widen. “Food,” he moans out as he climbs over his sisters to get off the bed and shuffle towards the breakfast. Half asleep, he looks a little like a zombie chasing after brains. Impatient little hands grab at the bag. “Gimme, gimme. I’m hungry, Papa.”
“You’re always hungry, Pietro,” Erik points out as he sets pancakes, hashbrowns, and a paper takeaway cup of orange juice down in front of Pietro. His runnings eats up a lot of energy and it shows in his diet. And in Erik’s grocery bills.
Pietro already has a mouthful of food, but that doesn’t stop him from grinning up at his father. He cheers, “Always!”
Magda tries to shush him, but his sisters have already woken. Nina sleepily shuffles to the food, while the other two girls complain. Wanda through annoyed groaning and Lorna with her piercing cries. Magda sighs as she goes to the infant and picks her up to soothe her with some gentle rocking. At the very least, Pietro had the decency to look sheepish. Magda can’t be too angry at him. Pietro has spent five years being the youngest along with his sister. Unlike Nina, he’s not very well versed in how to keep the baby from starting to fuss.
“Sorry, Mama,” he apologizes between bites of pancake. He’s already managed to eat two.
Magda sighs as she sits to give Lorna her own breakfast as soon as she’s calm. “It’s okay, Schatzi. I know you are. Just remember we have to be a little quieter around the baby, okay?”
“I’m going to be so quiet, Mama! You’ll see. The quietest!” Pietro says. Given how his excitement has already caused his voice to raise again, Magda doesn’t believe that at all. She still nods in encouragement.
Wanda eventually frees herself from the covers and joins everyone with breakfast. Her eyes are still drooping with sleep, and her hair is an absolute nest atop her head, but at least she’s in a good enough mood. Usually she’s a grouch after her brother wakes her. Delicately, Wanda tears away pieces of pancake. “Is today the day you see Charles, Papa?”
Erik nods. “After you all have breakfast in your tummies and are settled for the day, I’m going out to the school. You’ll stay with Mama.”
“But we’ll meet Charles too, right?” Nina asks, looking at her father with wide, hopeful eyes.
Pietro butts in with an offended, “Why can’t I go with you?” He absolutely abhors feelings left out of things.
“Charles and I are going to be talking about boring grownup stuff first. Nothing you would find interesting,” Erik explains. He hopes that will be enough to keep Pietro from asking too many questions or trying to chase after Erik when he leaves. “As soon as the boring stuff is done, I’ll make sure you meet him.”
That calms the fussing before it can properly start, thankfully, and Erik spends the next two hours helping Magda get the children ready. On a normal day, getting them all ready is a chaotic affair. The process now, with a newborn addition to the family and a cramped hotel room with only one bathroom, takes significantly longer. Erik feels a twinge of guilt for leaving Magda all alone with this, but she only ushers him out the door with a kiss and makes him promise he’ll return no matter what. It’s a promise Erik is all too willing to make. However, as Erik gathers up the nerve to go show his face around his old friend again, he almost wishes Magda had kept him around for longer. A marriage, four children, and nine years since he’s last seen him, but Erik still feels wholly unprepared to face down Charles Xavier again.
Erik isn’t stupid enough to walk back into Charles’ life through the front door. Charles is too forgiving for his own good, so Erik feels undoubtedly safe with him? The other residents of the house, though? Erik is sure he’s antagonized himself to several of them, even ones he’s never met. So in lieu of the main entrance, Erik comes into the estate through the wooded area in the back and levitates himself into Charles’ office through an unlocked window. Class is in session, it seems, for Erik runs into no one while he sneaks into Charles’ office. He’s thankful that the fates at least see it fit to grant him this one small thing.
Charles’ office is familiar to Erik, even after all this time. It has the same cozy clutter, the same over stuffed arm chairs in front of the desk, the same mini bar with a decanter of scotch in the corner. Erik is glad at least some things have remained the same despite so many years and so much trauma between the two of them. Erik makes himself at home as though it’s 1962 and he’s only waiting for Charles to return from a grueling training session. Certainly, the way Erik pours himself a drink and settles into one of the armchairs is not the behavior of someone who hasn’t seen this man in nine years, since Erik had dropped a stadium on him. It’s a case of Erik trying with all his might to look more confident than he actually feels. Thankfully for Charles’ supply of scotch, Erik is only halfway through his first glass when his powers sense a wheelchair coming steadily down the hallway. To Charles’ credit, the man doesn’t even flinch as he opens the door and sees Erik sitting there. In fact, he doesn’t say anything at all until after he’s wheeled himself to the corner and set some water to boil on the kettle he has there. All the while, Erik waits anxiously to at the very least be acknowledged.
Finally, Charles turns to him and says, “I thought I felt your mind approach last night. For a moment, I’d worried I imagined it.”
“No, old friend, you haven’t reached the age of delusions just yet. I flew into New York yesterday and spent the night in a motel a few miles away,” he explains.
“Of course. I’d offer you some tea, but I see you’ve already helped yourself,” Charles says, gesturing to the glass of scotch in Erik’s hands. “Bit early to be drinking, isn’t it? Hardly lunch time, my friend.”
“I’ve had a rough few days.” That’s an understatement, but if Erik gets into details, they’ll be here for hours longer. The sooner Erik can have his children nearby and sure of their safety again, the better.
“Hmm. You didn’t come to New York alone.” It’s not a question. “None of your Brotherhood fellows, I would hope. You’ve been very quiet these last few years.”
“If you saw in my head, you’d know that I’m not with any accomplices or anything of the like,” Erik insists. He would still prefer to have Charles outside of his head, but Erik knows he’s not in a position to make demands.
Still, Charles shakes his head. “I’m not going snooping in your head just because you don’t seem to want to get into details about what trouble you’re causing these days. I don’t mean to disappoint, but there’s no nearby baseball stadiums for you to drop on me here, old friend.”
Erik sighs. It’s not that he’s surprised to see that Charles is still upset at him. Honestly, it makes more sense for Charles to remain furious than it would for him to have magically forgiven Erik for everything that’s happened between them. Still, Erik had held on to some hope for a small miracle. Never had Erik feared that Charles might turn him into the authorities, but he’d never been too sure how friendly Charles might be too see him. Erik wishes the answer to that hadn’t wound up being, obviously, not too happy at all. Erik almost wishes Charles had lingered in his head for longer, to see Erik’s reasons for being here and the events leading up to the journey. At least it would leave Erik with far less to find the words to explain with.
“I’m not here to harm you, Charles. I’m here… I’m here to ask for your help,” Erik admits. It’s not easy for one as prideful as him to reach out for help, but there’s nothing Erik wouldn’t do for his children. Even bruise his ego a bit.
“My help? Erik, many years back I told you we don’t want the same thing and I stand by that. I consider you a friend and equal, but I will neither assist nor condone the sort of practices you often involve yourself in,” Charles says firmly.
“Charles… I’m not asking for myself. I’m here because I know your school is the safest place for our kind and I’m in desperate need of somewhere safe right now. For my family, Charles. I have a family now.”
Chapter 3: 3
Charles tries to be funny. He is not funny. Thankfully, he is very good with children.
Just a note that applies to this chapter and from here on out, anything in italics implies that it's being spoken in another language other than English!
Charles blinks once. Twice. He stares at Erik for a long moment, waiting for the moment when his friend will laugh about having managed to prank him and reveal that no, of course he doesn’t have a family hidden away somewhere in a motel nearby. That would be absurd. No, Charles keeps waiting for Erik to reveal that yes, obviously it’s a group of Brotherhood mutants he has waiting in a hotel room. But the moment never comes and instead, after Charles’ shocked silence has gone long enough, Erik is still just sitting there and awaiting a reply.
When he’d felt Erik’s mind in his presence again, Charles prepared himself for a great many alternatives as to why he might be here. When he’d wheeled himself into his office, Charles had truly felt he was prepared for anything Erik might reveal. Never could he have imagined that what Erik would reveal was a family. While Charles can see at the surface of Erik’s thoughts and his concerns for people left behind in their lodging, Charles hadn’t delved any further and infringed on Erik’s privacy. Therefore, this news comes as a genuine shock. Charles likely could have spent all afternoon there, just gawking at Erik, but after just under a minute of awkward, flabbergasted silence between them, Charles reminds himself that Erik needs a reply from him.
“I’m sorry, my friend, but I’m afraid you need to repeat that for me.” Charles is still not sure he’s heard that clearly. “Did you say you have a family now?”
Erik nods. “I do. A wife, three daughters, and a son. Magda, my wife. Nina, Wanda, and Lorna; my girls. And Pietro, my boy.”
With every name he says, Charles receives a projection of the family member. When he spots the infant’s bright green hair, Charles feels confident to wager a guess why they’re here. The world is becoming friendlier towards mutants, but progress is slow and mostly in the Western world. In many parts of the world, visible signs of mutation are still cause for ostracization and even death.
“This is… Well, it’s definitely a surprise,” Charles admits. It’s not like he has to. It’s probably obvious from his face alone. Still, Charles says it to be polite. The same way that despite the obviously unnatural hair color on two of Erik’s children, he still asks, “I take it your family are mutants as well?”
“The children are, Magda is not. But her association to us was enough of a safety concern had she stayed in Poland. It’s not safe to be visibly mutated there. That’s why we left. Lorna, the baby, was born only a few weeks ago, and with that green hair you saw. I don’t know what would have happened to her if we’d stayed, and I didn’t want to find out.” Erik sighs and even without the aid of telepathy, Charles can hear his friend’s immense exhaustion in it. For all the resent Charles still carries in his heart for him, Charles also feels pity. He understands the scotch now. Erik continues, “I wouldn't come to you were it not absolutely necessary, Charles, given our history. But I have four children in need if a safe place to grow up and I’m desperate to provide it for them.”
“Four children… Four little Erik Lehnsherr’s running around. Honestly, my friend, had you no access to birth control in Poland?” Charles aims for joking, but from the way Erik’s face falls, it obviously doesn't come across well.
“They're good children, Charles,” he insists. “Lorna is only an infant, hit she's been a sweet and calm one so far. They'll behave. They're just innocent young mutants in need of a safe place for an education and I don't know anywhere better at that than here. That's why I’m here, asking that you please take them in. As for Magda… Well, I would beg that you give her a space here, too, because she has nowhere else to go. If not for me, then for the man I used to be. For all that’s happened between us, neither of us can deny the friendship we shared that summer in ‘62. That’s worth something, no? As for me… Well, I understand that I’m a safety concern. I’m more than prepared to leave them here safely and depart on my own way.”
Charles cuts him off, refusing to listen to anymore nonsense about Erik leaving his family. “I was only joking a bit, my friend. I’m not in the habit of turning away students at my door, nor of breaking apart families. Your family is welcome here, as are you. Always, Erik, no matter the past between us.”
“You mean that?” Erik asks. He holds the wary excitement of a man who’s long since learned that getting his hopes up is the perfect way to have them come crashing down again. Charles wishes he could dispel every shard of self doubt in Erik, so he does the next best thing and projects his sincerity to him. Erik looks infinitely grateful, as though he had not once considered this might be the outcome of his request. “Thank you, Charles. You’ll love Magda and the children, I promise you that.”
“I would love a chance to meet them,” Charles agrees. He’s curious to see who’s managed to calm down Erik and his extremist ideals. If Charles is honest, he’s a bit resentful that someone has gotten Erik to settle down, even after everything Charles offered wasn’t enough. But Charles tries to push those thoughts away and instead, just focus on how happy he is for his friend.
“Of course. We can meet them now. They’re not far.” Erik stands before even giving Charles an answer. “The children are excited to meet you.”
Charles lifts a hand to his temple and through there, he informs Hank that he’ll be gone the rest of the afternoon and to please find a sub for his classes. Charles very conveniently avoids mentioning why he’ll be gone. Once that is arranged, he wheels himself away from his desk. “Let’s head over there! I’m eager to meet your lucky lady. And the next generation of Lehnsherr’s!”
The ride back to the motel is no longer than ten minutes, but it feels much longer from the silence between them. Erik would love for Charles to fill the silence with meaningless chatter, as he had so many times when they had departed on their road trip so many years back. But the small talk doesn’t come and instead, Charles just quietly looks out the window the whole car ride. Erik would love to fall back into old habits as if there weren’t two decades of turmoil between them, but he knows that would be asking for a bit much. For his part, he doesn’t attempt to start up the conversation either.
It’s a relief for the both of them when Erik pulls into the motel parking lot. As he opens car doors and pulls the wheelchair out of the back, Erik refrains from using his powers. He’s made it this far in bringing his family to safety, he’s not about to risk it because he doesn’t he doesn’t want to do something the human way. Erik wants to help while Charles transfer himself to his chair, but he knows to do so would be infantilizing. Not to mention almost entirely fueled by Erik’s want to soothe his old guilts. So instead, he just settles for closing the car door behind Charles and leading the way to the room door.
“Should I wait out here in the hall while you tell them I’m here to see them?” Charles asks, bringing his chair to a stop in front of the door.
Erik shakes his head while he retrieves the key from his pocket. “Not at all. They were all hoping I’d be coming back with you anyway.”
He waits another moment to make sure Charles isn’t about to back out, and then he opens the room door. Before leaving, he’d suggested just ordering a pizza for lunch, to make things a little easier for Magda, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Pietro looks most pleased of all as he makes his way through what is probably just one of an absurd amount of slices of cheese pizza. When the kids spot him coming in, there’s a flurry of excitement. When they spot Charles wheel in behind him, their excitement only grows. Poor Magda is holding a sleeping Lorna in her arms and from the resigned look on her face, she’s just accepted the fact that Lorna will soon be awake.
“ Papa !” Pietro shoves the last bit of his pizza crust into his mouth, so his hands are free to wrap around his father’s shoulders when he rushes over and jumps up to hug him. “ You’re back. Is this your friend Charles? This is your friend Charles, isn’t it? ”
Erik nods, happily picking Pietro up and letting the boy perch on his waist. “ He is. But we musn’t speak Polish around him, okay? He won’t understand you if you do.”
“Oh.” Pietro is shy suddenly, which is a lot to say for the boy. Pietro is never shy about anything, but it seems the premise of practicing his English is enough to trigger one of those occurrences. They all understand and speak English just fine, Erik has made sure of that, but they obviously didn’t practice with too many native speakers in Poland. Pietro finally settles for a shy, “Hello, I am Pietro.”
Charles is nothing but kind and friendly to the children. There wasn’t much space for Charles to wheel through in the hotel room, but he went in as far as he could manage comfortably. All proper and polite, he reached forward to shake Pietro’s hand. Young children were always wildly amused to be treated like little adults. “HEllo, Pietro, it’s such a pleasure to meet you!” He turns to the girls and gives them the same smile. “You two must be Nina and Wanda. It’s wonderful to meet you as well. Your father said such lovely things about you.”
Nina seems to be the one least shy about using her English, and she steps forward to shake Charles’ hand. Erik never fails to find it adorable when she tries to act grown up. “Hello, I’m Nina. I’m the oldest one.”
“That’s fantastic! I was the oldest child as well,” Charles says. He turns to Wanda, going from very enthusiastic to a little gentler, since she’s obviously the shiest one. “And that means you must be Wanda. I’m very happy to meet you as well. That’s a beautiful red bow you’re wearing.”
Wanda reaches up to touch her bow and nods shly. “Thank you.”
Of course, it’s only another moment before Lorna is awake from all the commotion in the room. She wiggles as best she can in her mother’s arms and starts fussing. Since Magda has been with the children all morning, Erik steps forward to handle this time. He sets Pietro down on the floor again so he can go to Magda and pick the baby up from her arms. He coos to Lorna gently, and rocks her against his chest until she’s asleep again. When he looks over again, he can see Charles is smiling his way. It only lasts a second, though, before Charles is maneuvering through the room so he can reach Magda.
Charming as ever, Charles takes Magda’s hand in his and leans down to kiss the back of it. “You must be Magda. It’s amazing to see who’s managed to tame Erik after all these years!”
Magda looks hopelessly charmed as she smiles back at Charles. “And it’s good to meet the man my husband speaks so much about.”
“Oh, I’m sure he must not say that much about me,” Charles insists, shaking his head politely. He puts the brake on his chair on and leans back more comfortably. He glances at the children for a moment, who are all watching him very closely as they await to find out more about this mysterious man their father told them so much about these last few days, and then he looks back at Magda. “Let’s discuss about getting you and your family moved into the school, why don’t we?”
Chapter 4: 4
The children and Charles get to know each other a little better.
This one is a bit shorter because I wanted a chapter the focused on Charles and one of his first interactions with the kids, since those first meetings are foundations for later trust and bonding. Similarly, my intention is for the next chapter to be heavily focused on Charles and Magda!
as a reminder, italicized and between quotations "like this" means speaking a different language. italicized and between forward slashes /like this/ means telepathy
cw: none I can think of lmk if I missed anything
Charles does his best to be nothing but charming while speaking with Erik and his wife. Any resentment he holds for the situation (and there is plenty of it) he buries deep down inside. This isn’t about him, this is about Erik’s family. Besides, while Magda had been passing Lorna to Erik, Charles had spotted the numbers tattooed on her arm, just like Erik’s. That gives him a slightly better idea as to why Magda might have been able to calm Erik when Charles had failed so dramatically. That soothes the jealousy Charles is trying so hard not to acknowledge. Surprisingly, it’s not that hard to keep his jealousy at bay. Magda is kind and absolutely lovely, even just a few minutes of chatting (mundane chat, too, about transporting them to the mansion and going out as soon as possible to buy clothing for the children) is enough to have Charles completely charmed on her. Plus, the children are adorable and in Charles’ eyes, Magda’s having played a role in their rearing is something in her favor.
While Charles and their parents are talking, the children are standing around and watching them while they finish their lunch. They haven’t said a word yet, but Charles can feel the eager curiosity in their minds. He’s sure at any moment, when they’ve gathered a bit more courage, they’ll be firing out question after question. Sure enough, it’s only a few minutes into logistical planning before Pietro steps forward. Tentatively, he puts his hands on the arm of Charles’ wheelchair, using it as leverage to pull himself onto tip toes.
“Excuse me, Mr. Charles?” Pietro glances briefly at his parents, who he’s just interrupted, but they just nod encouragingly. Pietro continues. “Are you a mutant, too? Like me and my sisters and Papa?”
“Indeed I am, Pietro! I’m sure your Papa mentioned this to you, but the school I run is entirely for young mutants. Ones just like you and your sisters! Most of our staff is mutant as well, including myself,” Charles explains.
Pietro’s eyes widen. He’s excited, clearly. Charles can’t understand much from the boy’s surface thoughts, since they’re mostly in Polish, but he can assume none of these children have met mutants other than their father and each other. “What can you do, Mr. Charles?”
“Call me Charles, please. No need for the formalities,” Charles assures him. These are Erik’s children. Charles would very much like them to see him more as a family friend than simply just the headmaster where the children will be studying. He smiles at them, trying to look mischievous, to make the children feel like they are getting in on some big secret. Charles makes a big show out of pressing two fingers to his temple. As gently as he can, he reaches forward with his mind to broadcast the thoughts into their minds. /As for my powers… Well, I’m a telepath./
Wanda gasps and jumps a little where she’s standing. “Oh!”
Charles can feel the wonder and excitement from the three of them. It seems he was right in assuming they’ve never met any other mutants outside their family. At the very least, they’ve never come across a telepath before. In his experience, young mutants are always fascinated when they learn of a mutation like telepathy. Even to young mutants, the idea of mind reading is fantastical.
“ Papa! Papa, I just heard him in my mind!” Nina exclaims. In her excitement, she’s gone back to Polish, so Charles doesn’t understand anything other than ‘Papa’ but he doesn’t need to understand the words to know she’s wondered by it.
Erik nods. “I know, ketsele. It’s pretty neat, isn’t it?”
All three kids nod enthusiastically. This is Charles’ favorite part of the job; when he gets to show young mutants that they're not alone and that there's a whole world of possibilities waiting for them out in the world. Charles turns his wheelchair slightly to face the children so he can properly address them. “What about the three of you? What can you do?”
At first they’re hesitant, but Erik and Magda cheer them on with words of encouragement in a language Charles cannot understand. It seems to do the trick, because then the children are debating amongst themselves, seemingly about what order to show off their powers, so the room doesn't dissolve into superpowered chaos. After a moment, they emerge from the impromptu huddle they'd formed in the middle of the room.
Pietro speaks up first, but only to regretfully say, “I can't show my power in a room small like this. I need space. But I am very fast.”
“Oh, wonderful! There's more than enough space in the school, Pietro. Once we've driven there, you can show us how fast you are,” Charles promises. He's excited to see what ‘fast’ means to Pietro. Among his works, Charles had theorized on speedsters, but never actually met one until now. Will Pietro be like a car? Like a train? Faster perhaps? He's eager to now.
The next to step forward is Nina. She’s grinning, as though this might not be something she’s allowed to do inside very often. “Wait here a second,” she instructs. Then she hurries to the room door and opens it. She only has to step outside a moment before a pair of birds have flown to her and settled on her shoulders. She walks with them near Charles again and Charles had to smile as the birds whistle merrily. “Animals are my friends! All sorts of animals.”
“Fascinating!” Charles reaches out to stroke the bird’s head with his fingertip and Nina’s presence keeps the small creature calm enough to enjoy the touch. “That's a beautiful gift, Nina, thank you for showing it to me. There are plenty of critters on the school grounds. You’ll enjoy them, I believe.”
Nina nods, still smiling. She pets both birds gently before opening the door once more to let them fly free. “I would love to meet the animals in your school. My favorites are rabbits and deer.”
“I'm sure you'll find some!” Charles then turns to Wanda, seemingly the shiest of the group. “What about you, little one? Wanda, right? What are your powers?”
“Yes, Wanda,” she confirms, nodding and standing a little straighter. Shy, but proud. Charles considers that maybe she's simply reserved, but proud, much like her father. Wanda takes a step away from her siblings and then lifts her hands towards one of the pillows. Her face scrunches up in concentration and her little hands glow scarlet. For a few moments Charles wonders if perhaps the glowing is all she can do, but after racking up all her concentration, the pillow glows in the same shade of red and hovers up in the air a few inches, a bit wobbly and only for a few seconds before it plops back down again. Wanda mumbles, “I'm not as good at mine as Pietro and Nina.”
Even with the mild shields Charles always has up, he can feel clear as day how it hurts Erik’s heart to hear his baby girl put herself down. No doubt, he's about to jump in with fatherly advice, but Charles speaks before he can. “I think that was a marvelous display!” he says, beaming at her. Charles is sincere. He loves seeing young mutants experiment with their powers, no matter their level of control. “And your power manifests itself in such a gorgeous color, Wanda. I see your hairbow is red. It matches your powers!”
Wanda nods shyly. “Red is my favorite color. I can also do…” She holds her hand out towards the bed and this time, the red light on her hands charges out towards a stuffed kitten on the bed. It hits the kitten and the toy is knocked onto its side, but seems otherwise unharmed. “That.”
“Magnificent, Wanda. Simply magnificent! Your powers are lovely, I'm so glad I could see them. At the school, we all practice our mutations and learn more about them, so we can get better every day. All of us, even your Papa,” Charles says, glancing up at Erik and smiling.
Erik nods, looking down at Charles and meeting his gaze. “And even little Lorna someday.”
“Yes,” Charles agrees, “even little Lorna.”
(Later, when they've all packed up and driven to the mansion, Pietro makes it a point of not letting anyone go inside until he’s run a lap around the property to show Charles just how fast it is. Charles is flabbergasted in the best of ways to see how he'd underestimated Pietro’s speed. This boy is much, much faster than any car or train. His first thought? Scientific amazement. His second? Absolute horror as he considers the mischief the Lehnsherr children are capable of causing. Just like their father, they'll undoubtedly be the reason he goes bald someday.)
Chapter 5: 5
Magda tries to properly meet Charles.
Once again, she's quite sure she knows her husband better than he knows himself.
bit of an early update! happy fourth of july to anyone who celebrates it :)
cw: mentions of the Holocaust and the camps, Magda vaguely describes some things of her and Erik's time there
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Maximoff family has been moved into the Xavier Institute for only a few hours, not yet dinner time, but the children are already fast asleep in their beds. Magda can’t blame them. The travel over the last few days has exhausted all of them, and the excitement of moving must have drained the last of their energy. While Magda and the children had moved in normally, through the front entrance, Erik had come in through all the back hallways, to avoid being seen, and he hasn’t left the bedroom since. They’d sold it to the children as though they were playing a game. That had made them more excited, which in turn had tired them out faster. Magda can’t say she’s not grateful.
The children being asleep means Magda has time to explore these strange new grounds she’ll have to call home. Erik’s encouraged her to explore even if he, for the moment, is confined to their bedroom. Lorna wakes up hungry just before she leaves, but that’s no problem. Magda just picks her up and walks with Lorna nursing at her breast. She gets a few scandalized looks from the American teenagers roaming the halls, and many more looks that are simply embarrassed. It doesn’t bother her. Few things do these days.
Magda walks through this house - she’s almost hesitant to call it that, it’s so big - aimlessly for a few minutes, just feeling out of place among the carpeted floors and high ceilings. Eventually, she turns up at Charles’ office, the first room he’d shown them on their brief tour. She knocks, and opens the door once she’s beckoned inside.
Charles is busy grading papers at his desk. He looks up when Magda comes in and does a double take when he sees Lorna nursing. He’s obviously embarrassed, but trying to hide it. In Magda’s opinion, he’s not doing a very good job. “Magda! And, um, Lorna. Come in, take a seat. I can’t imagine that’s comfortable to do standing up. I mean - not that I’d know, of course I wouldn’t know. I don’t mean to offend. I just-” Wisely, Charles cuts himself off before he can be embarrassed further. “How can I help you, Magda?”
Why is Magda there? She’s not entirely sure, if she’s being truthful. Charles is still, in many ways, a mystery to her. This is the man her husband trusted enough to move his whole family across an ocean. The man who had shown this trust was not misplaced by welcoming them with open arms. The man her husband has maintained such an odd friendship with for decades, despite rarely actually seeing each other.
This is the man her husband has loved since they met, though Magda is not sure if either of them knows it. It wouldn’t be the first time she knows her husband better than he knows himself. Yet for all those things, Magda knows very little about him personally. She would like to see that change. To better understand this strange bond between her husband and Charles.
“Erik and I met as children in the camps,” Magda starts. Lorna has stopped nursing, so as she continues her story, Magda moves her onto her shoulder and fixes her shirt. “He was twelve, I was thirteen. He’d go to see Schmidt more often than not and he always came out looking a little more broken, but that never stopped him from smuggling food out of Schmidt’s desk and bringing it back to me. And when he overheard that the Romani camps were to be cleared, he arranged God knows what bargain to have me moved and my records changed to identify me as a Jew instead of Romani. He was like my knight in shining armor, a hero to me when I was little more than a girl and him, little more than a boy. That’s why I stay by his side. Because when I recall the news of awful things he’s done under that name of ‘Magneto’, I also recall those days of our youth and I know my Erik was always there under that ‘Magneto’, only broken and lost his way. That’s why I stay with him, Charles, and why I always will. What you can help me with, I suppose, is helping me understand why you have remained at my husband’s side as well.”
Charles is quiet for several long moments, while Magda just sits and watches him. She knows Erik rarely speaks of his boyhood and Charles is likely caught off guard by that. He sighs after a moment and pushes aside the papers he’d been marking. Charles wheels himself away from his desk and towards Magda, eliminating the barriers between them. “Erik took away my sister and my legs within minutes of each other. He abandoned me on a beach in Cuba, to die for all he knew. On almost every approach to humanity and mutant rights, we disagree fundamentally. I’m sure the acts of terrorism he’s committed have set human-mutant relations back significantly. The last time we saw each other, he dropped a bloody stadium on me. I have no reason to stick by him, yet every reason to despise him.”
“And still, you don’t,” Magda points out.
“No, I don’t,” Charles agrees, sighing in defeat. No point denying that. It’s obvious.
“I know. And what I’d like to know is the why. I'm sure you can understand my curiosity.”
“When I met Erik, he was just in the midst of his hunt for Sebastian Shaw - Schmidt, that is. He was full of anger and pain. It was the rage that drove him forward, nothing more. Yet I saw more to him. I saw past that. There was good in him as well. So much good and nobility and bravery. If only he would let himself find peace, I know he could be a good man, because I’ve seen it for myself. And just like you, when I see the atrocities Erik has done, I don’t lose faith in the good I’ve seen. Just like you, I’m going to stand by him until the end, for I firmly believe Erik can be reformed. Erik isn’t a bad man, he’s a great man whom life has simply tested one too many times.”
That’s an answer Magda is very happy with. She too has faith in the goodness of Erik. She still knows very little about Charles, but at least now she feels a little more confident that Erik hasn’t misplaced his trust in this man. Not only that, now Magda has a growing suspicion that Erik isn’t the only one who’d been smitten in love for decades. Someday soon, they’ll all have to face up and acknowledge that. However, Magda will stay quiet on her part and trust that her husband will remain oblivious. Things are rocky enough right now with adjusting to the move, they don’t need this on top of it. Surely, if they’ve waited since 1962 to confront those feelings and have a proper conversation over them, they can wait another short while.
Magda doesn’t worry for her marriage. She trusts Erik wholeheartedly. Always has and she likely always will. It’s her who calls him husband. Her who has made a home with him. Her who has four children with him. She certainly doesn’t fear losing him to Charles and the impending conversation in their future doesn’t intimidate her. Besides, she likes Charles now. She likes the answer he’d given her in regards to her husband.
“I suppose you and I have a lot in common there. We both have gotten to know the Erik that he hides away from the world. It’s a shame the rest of the world can’t see the Erik we know, isn’t it?” Magda says. When she thinks of this Erik the world doesn’t know, she thinks of Erik the husband, Erik the father. Two things he excels at because of how much he loves them.
Charles nods sympathetically and leans back in his wheelchair slightly, settling more comfortably for conversation. “It is, but Erik is a stubborn man. I know that everything he does, he thinks is the best option for mutantkind. I disagree, I think it only worsens things, but he does what his life has led him to believe is best and for that, I can’t entirely fault him. Perhaps in not faulting him, I inadvertently condone his actions, but then so be it. Erik is my best friend and casting him aside in shame will never help him see the world in a better light.”
“Best friend,” Magda repeats. She smiles. “You are Erik’s best friend, as well. One of his only friends, truly. I’m glad my husband has you. Just as glad as I am that you so persistently stand by his side. Erik will need someone like that these days. He can’t just stay locked up in that room forever.”
“I know. And I don’t intend to let that happen. Just for the night. Through tomorrow morning, at most. I need to speak to the faculty, help them understand the situation. My right hand man, Hank McCoy, knew Erik personally and is a bit more adept at holding grudges than I am. But once I’ve spoken to them, I shall speak to the students as well, so it doesn’t come as a shock when they see a wanted man roaming our halls. And once that’s done, Erik is free to settle in as freely as he wants.” This is a promise Charles makes. Magda can hear the surety in his voice, and she’s confident he’ll make it happen one way or another. This will just be something else for Magda to add onto her list of reasons why she’s thankful for who her husband has chosen as a best friend.
Still, Magda has to approach the situation cautiously. One cannot be too cautious when Erik is among America’s most wanted terrorists. He’d tried to kill the president his last time here, after all. “And if one of your students calls home? Tells their parents that Erik Lehnsherr is being housed here and that parent calls the authorities and suddenly, your school is being raided and my husband taken away.”
“I won’t let that happen. I know my students. For all I try to instill trust in them, most are as wary of the authorities as Erik is. Besides…” Charles pauses and the determination she sees on his face is like a shadow of the same look she’s seen on her husband so many times. “I truly pity anyone who comes to my school looking for any trouble.”
“I can see why my husband likes you, Charles. There’s a fire in you underneath the surface,” Magda says, smirking up at him.
Charles laughs. “I’m not sure Erik would agree with you, but I’d like to think so, yes. I like to avoid fights when possible, but I don’t live in a fantasy world either, regardless of what Erik may say. I understand that there may come a day I have to go against my morals if it means keeping my students safe.”
“Keeping your students safe. Or your best friend, it seems,” Magda notes.
“Students,” Charles says once more. This time, he smiles fondly and points down at baby Lorna on her lap. “Students, see. And, of course, if I’m keeping those students safe, how am I not to do the same for those students’ families?”
“Of course.” Magda runs a gentle hand through the tiny green hairs on Lorna’s head. Her children are students here now, aren’t they? Charles had been quick to accept them, and seemed pleased even. Magda can see that being a teacher comes as naturally to Charles as being a warrior and leader does to her husband. Once again, Magda is thankful. This time, for the fact that her children are safely tucked away in the dormitories of a sanctuary where they can grow up free of the harsh realities of the world. She tucks Lorna more snugly into her arms and stands. “I’ll see you, Charles.”
“You as well, Magda. It was lovely to chat with you.” Charles nods politely towards her and wheels himself back behind his desk.
Magda walks with Lorna back towards the door, pausing with her hand over the doorknob. With a sly smile, she turns back to Charles. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re right. I don’t think he’s right, either, though. I think the both of you are just stubborn men who refuse to see any different than old opinions formed a lifetime ago in the 1960s.”
Charles answer comes between laughter. “Perhaps you’re right, Magda. Perhaps you’re right.”
I fucking love Magda.
She knows, man, she knows. Just waiting for the doofus she calls husband and the dolt he calls a best friend to catch up :')
Chapter 6: 6
The students learn of Erik's arrival.
Of course, most of their concern isn't for safety, it's for the gossip they can create from it.
cw: mentions of Erik's jail time (specifically, the solitary aspect of it), mentions of Erik's past terrorist acts
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Charles sees very little of the Maximoff family the rest of that day. Erik has yet to venture out to be seen by the student population and the children were mostly sleeping off the jetlag, which of course meant Magda preferred to hang nearby them in the room, emerging only when the children need something. Charles crosses paths with her once in the hallways, late at night, when Magda had given him a brief smile, along with a knowing look as though the two of them now shared more than just an acquaintance via Erik. Other than Magda’s occasional appearance in the hallways, Charles doesn’t see the family for much of the day. However, out of sight definitely doesn’t translate into out of mind. Erik and his family are, in fact, most of what Charles has to think of that evening and the following day. First thing in the morning, he has to talk to Hank about their latest addition to the school. In the brief period of time between breakfast and the first class of the day, Charles goes to Hank’s classroom to have a chat.
“Hank, my good man! May we have a word?” Charles asks, wheeling himself up to Hanks’ desk.
From the look Hank gives him, it seems he has a suspicion that Charles is up to something. But Hank nods and puts his work aside. “Sure. Does it have to do with why you were gone from class yesterday? And those new kids that moved in with their mother?”
“Observant as ever, Hank. Yes, that’s most of it. As well as one more important detail you missed. Their father moved in as well,” Charles reveals. “That father being Erik.”
In his defense, Hank doesn’t immediately panic. He takes off his glasses and wipes nervously at the lenses, but he doesn’t panic. “Erik… Lehnsherr?”
“The very one,” Charles says, nodding in confirmation.
Hank still looks like he’d rather not believe it. “Erik Lehnsherr the terrorist? The fugitive? The man who we last saw trying to kill the President?”
“Erik Lehnsherr the concerned father of four children,” Charles corrects. Other than the years of addiction when he had been at his lowest point, Charles has always defended Erik despite their past. The fact that Erik now has a family, not to mention a seemingly genuine want to do better, only means Charles will now be even more relentless in defending his old friend.
“Fine. Erik Lehnsherr the man who, despite fatherhood, is a fugitive for terrorism and wanted by most countries in the developed world. Professor, this is a horrible idea,” Hank says.
Charles sighs. Of course he’d expected Hank to be appalled and fight against the situation, but he’d sort of hoped it might go a little better. “Hank, this place serves not just to educate young mutants, but also to take in mutants who might have nowhere else to go. It’s always been like that, I’m not about to stop now.”
“Most mutants we might take in aren’t terrorists we’ve fought against multiple times!” Hank protest. Despite how much he’s arguing, Charles can feel his resolve breaking.
“Hank, please. Just trust me. You’ve trusted me without question in the past. I’m only asking that you do it again now,” Charles pleads. “I understand you don’t trust Erik, but I do. And you trust me, don’t you?”
Hank sighs after a long moment. “Fine. Okay. But even the slightest hint of trouble from Erik and I won’t just be sitting around in the background waiting for everything to go to hell.”
“Fair enough,” Charles agrees, nodding. “I very much appreciate it, Hank. You won’t regret this. One last thing: I want to use homeroom today to speak with the students. Tell them that Erik is here and there’s no reason for anyone to panic or call the authorities when they see him. I would very much appreciate if you were there and pretended to wholeheartedly support this. To help soothe the children and all that.
Hank’s only response to this is an annoyed groan.
All things considered, the impromptu reunion of the children goes well. Hank’s version of appearing supportive is to nod occasionally and bite back all his commentary, but it winds up working just fine. Telling the students that there’s now a fugitive living on the grounds with them could have made for a tricky process, but in typical teenager fashion, the children are far more interested in the gossip aspect of this whole ordeal. It’s all fine and dandy that Erik Lehnsherr has moved in and yes, yes, okay he got up to some pretty nasty things in the early 60s and tried to kill the president in 1973. But most of the students don’t care about that. They care about the why. They care about who he brought with him. They want to know the relationships involved. They want to know if the kids are mini version of their father. They want to know if he and professor are still friends. They want to know all of that and a million other questions Charles doesn’t understand because only a teenager would think them up.
Once Charles is done explaining Erik’s arrival to the children, there’s a bombard of questions. Charles answers most of the questions from the younger students. Those are the ones who need a little extra assurance that Erik isn’t going to hurt them and that things won’t change around the school because of its new additions. Charles is happy to provide all these comforts, and the occasional telepathic nudge towards trust. It’s a bit immoral and not something Charles would do under any normal circumstances, but life has already proved that Charles would do a great many things for Erik, even go against his usual moral compass.
Charles brushes aside the teenagers’ questions, mostly because they’re the ones who are asking questions to fuel their rumors instead of seeking comfort. Under the excuse of needing to get to class, Charles ushers them all away before having to answer much and thinks that’ll be the end of it. It, of course, isn’t. After so many years, one would think Charles would be used to the antics of teenagers. But no, he’s still hopelessly naive about them sometimes. When Charles goes to his first class, he’s actually expecting the kids to focus on their classes like any other day. Obviously, that’s not what happens.
The students file into class, same as any day, but when they sit down, not even one of them pulls out their notebooks. They just sit there and stare at Charles, seemingly in the hopes that staring at him long enough will get them their answers. Charles sighs. This is his group of 8th graders, which he’d been hoping is still an age young enough to not care about gossip. He’s sorely mistaken. Charles wheels himself to the front of the room and closes the novel on his lap. He doesn’t think they’ll be getting any work done anyway.
“All right,” he relents. “No point in pretending otherwise, I’m sure you all have a great deal of questions for me. Go on.” All at once, every student in the room starts asking questions, which is simply chaotic and unproductive. Charles can’t make out a single one. So he holds his hands up to silence them and tries again. “One at a time, kids! I can’t hear you when you go all at the same time. Raise your hands. There we go, that’s better. Sam, you can go first.”
“Is it true that the two of you are friends, Professor?” he asks, looking far more interested in this than he ever has in English class.
Charles nods. “Indeed we were. We met a long time back and I still consider him one of my closest friends, despite the circumstances.”
There’s several murmurs between the students and a few hands go down, but the ones that remain up are straining to go up even higher, as if that’ll get them called on sooner. Charles gestures for one of the girls, Jeanne-Marie, to go next. “Was he a terrorist back when you first met? Were you still friends with him while he was a terrorist? Is he still a terrorist now? Actually, Jean-Paul and I heard that you once busted him out of jail! Is that true? Did you bust a terrorist out of jail, Professor?”
“Jeanne-Marie.” Charles puts a hand up to stop her before she can keep on her rambling of questions. “My friendship with Erik has been a complicated one. I have my reasons for trusting him despite his mistakes and understanding, even if disapprovingly, why he went down the path he did. However, Erik’s story is not mine to tell, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I wouldn’t bring in anyone to the school if I thought they’d bring any of you harm.”
Her brother, Jean Paul, jumps in, not bothering to wait on being called. “But, Prof, that doesn’t answer about him being in jail! Or about if he’s still out trying to eradicate the human race or whatever. Or, like, why he isn’t in jail right now for all the stuff he did.”
“No, Erik is no longer engaging in those activities. He’s too busy taking care of a family, so none of you have anything to worry about. As for being in jail…” Charles thinks back to where Erik was held in solitary confinement for practically a decade. At the time, Charles had still been so angry and bitter, he’d thought that was exactly what his old friend deserved. Now, though, looking back with the clarity and calmness time has given him, he can think of no worse, more inhumane punishment for anyone. Ten years locked up alone? Charles isn’t sure how Erik survived it with his sanity. “Erik has more than paid for the things he’s done.”
Charles is very obviously avoiding the question about whether it’s true if he broke Erik out of jail or not, but his silence is more than answer enough to the students. If Charles thought they were buzzing before, it’s nothing compared to now, when they’re all looking just about ready to burst with this new bit of information. Charles has to remind them once more to go about this calmly, taking turns in their questions. He has to threaten to start a proper lesson before they calm down enough to continue. He calls on Jubilee, mostly because he fears she’ll cause literal fireworks in the classroom if she doesn’t get called on soon.
“Professor! We saw those little kids’ mom yesterday in the kitchen and we asked her what her powers are - not to be mean or anything, just because, duh, that’s what we always ask new people - and she said none. None! She said she’s a human! There’s no way that’s true, right, Professor?” Jubilee manages to get this whole ramble out in no more than five seconds, but thankfully Charles has practice in understanding ‘teenager’. Logically, it’s just English sped up and with slang and filler words put in the middle. However, Charles knows the truth. He knows it’s basically a language of its own.
“Erik’s wife is human, yes,” Charles confirms, nodding. “And while I understand the excitement of newcomers in the school, I hope you all remember to remain polite.”
There’s a bit of silenced shock to hear that Magneto did indeed marry a human. Ric is the soonest to recover from hearing such news, and is the next to talk. “So, with all this happening, does that mean Magneto-”
Charles cuts him off. “His name is Erik Lehnsherr, not Magneto, and while he’s here at the school, that’s what we’ll call him. I don’t want to hear that name from any of you. Not while talking to him, not while talking to me, and not even while talking among yourselves.”
“Okay, so now that… Erik,” Ric corrects, “is here at the mansion to stay, does that mean he’ll be a teacher? Are we going to be taking classes with Mag- Erik now?”
“What Erik will or won’t do while he’s here has yet to be decided, but will be between him and I. Any more questions?” Charles is really hoping that would be it and they can go back to their lessons like a normal day. He’s really hoping he won’t spend the rest of the school day answering rumour-fueled questions.
How wrong he is.
I'm 95% sure that one of the many intrusive questions Charles gets asked is "so was Magneto always this hot? because if was, I can see why you're friends after the whole terrorism ordeal"
and then when Charles gets all flustered while answering, the rumor that spreads isn't just 'the professor broke magneto out of jail'
nah, instead it's 'the professor broke magneto out of jail for a booty call'
Speaking of our lovely Erik, he'll be coming back next chapter ;)
Chapter 7: 7
Charles starts having to think of Erik's place in the school. But more importantly, the both of them are in dire need of acknowledging what lies behind them.
cw: none, lmk if I need to add anything
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
By the end of the school day, Charles has had to curb an absurd amount of ridiculous rumors. Really, Charles isn’t even sure where half of these rumors even come from. The unfortunate part is that they get equal parts more ridiculous and bolder with every passing minute. It’s not even four in the afternoon yet and Charles has even heard one particular, outlandish rumor about the four Maximoff children secretly being Charles’. When Charles had questioned a group of students on the logistics of this particular rumor, they had only shrugged dumbly. Though Charles’ office has open hours for questions or extra help from three to five, he’s hoping no one will come today. He doesn’t want to clarify any more crazy teenage rumor. But duty calls and there’s soon a knock on his door.
Charles brushes his mind up against the one at his door, just enough to feel that it’s Johnny Allerdyce at his door. He calls out, “Come in, Johnny.”
Johnny is one of several students at the academy whose tuition and board is paid for by a government agency instead of a parent. Most of those kids are children the foster system has deemed lost causes because of their mutations and sent Charles’ way. A few, however, are kids like Johnny (and even Alex, so many years back) who’d been stuck in juvie and been sent here in hopes of teaching them control and that learning with their peers will set them on a better road. Johnny was shipped here by the Australian government a few years back, in a last ditch effort to reform him. Charles has high hopes that he can succeed in that.
The hopes are despite the fact that currently, Johnny is a surly fifteen year old that more than leans towards supremacist views. At least he hasn’t acted on those views and Charles considers that a small victory. Johnny goes to sit on the chair across from Charles’ desk, slouched and with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. The perfect picture of teenage angst. Charles can see that his head is full of fantasies of running off with Magneto now that he’s here at the school. Johnny seems to think Erik’s presence at the school is the most wonderful segway for his beliefs to become actions. Alternatively, Charles thinks Erik’s arrival will be a great influence for Johnny. If Erik could leave behind the extremism, surely Johnny will see a better way as well.
“I heard Magneto’s German. Is that true?” Johnny asks.
What an odd question to open their conversation with, Charles thinks. Still, he nods. “Yes. Erik - and that’s what I prefer you call him until further notice - was born in Germany and lived there for much of his youth.”
“Okay, cool. So, back in Straya, I used to take German as a foreign language. But then I dropped it when I moved here ‘cause we don’t have a German teacher. But now Magneto’s here and I was wondering if maybe he’d teach me or something?” Johnny suggests.
Charles ignores the way Johnny is so obviously disregarding Charles’ request to call Erik by his name instead of the silly nickname. He also ignores how obvious it is that Johnny couldn’t care less about learning German. He only cares about the chance to get a bit closer to his role model ‘Magneto’. This time, Charles will humor him, though. “I’ll have to speak to Erik about it, but I’ll try my best to arrange it for you, Johnny.”
“Cool.” Johnny nods and stands up once more. He pauses to readjust his leather jacket, and in the process, pulls out his lighter to fidget with the flames. Once the flames are dancing along his palm, Johnny turns to leave.
“Are you sure you don’t need anything else, Johnny? I could help you with your physics homework. I saw your last exam. I could give you a hand,” Charles calls out after him.
“Goodbye, Prof.” Johnny lets the door slam shut down behind him.
By evening, Erik is growing a bit antsy. It’s not that he’s been holed up in the room. After Charles had spoken to the students, he’d sent Erik a message via telepathy that it was okay to leave his room. Erik had gone out with Nina and the twins for a while, showing them around the grounds and letting them play in the vast green areas. He can’t exactly give them a tour of the place, not with how much it’s changed to accommodate a student population, but at least he still knows the layout of the place. Enough to entertain the children a few hours. But other than that, Erik’s day is painfully empty. Just sitting about and taking care of the children when they need him. For someone like Erik, who has an unstoppable drive and a constant need to be doing something, anything so long as he’s working towards a goal.
It’s driving him the slightest bit mad, especially since Nina and the twins have decided that one lap around the grounds with their father and they’re ready to wander and play on their own, no need for uncool parental interruptions. So Erik had been left to either sit around and watch them, or go crowd around Magda and the baby. Erik knows he can be a bit much when he’s restless like this. Magda has told him several times in the past that she loves when he offers her help, but sometimes, he tries so much it becomes more detrimental. Today is one of those days. The six of them had sat together for dinner, in a table tucked into the corner of the ballroom turned dining hall of the school. There’s plenty of stares from the students and Erik can hear them whispering his name among themselves a few times. But for the most part, they’re left alone, and for that, Erik is grateful. However, as soon as dinner is done, he goes right back to the eternal nothing his day had been.
Magda makes it barely twenty minutes after dinner before it’s too much. Erik is fussing over Lorna endlessly, even though the girl is fast asleep and has been for a few minutes. He just can’t help it. At least fussing over her gives him something to do, even if it’s more likely to wake Lorna up again than anything else. He’s willing to deal with that. Magda, the one who actually has to feed her every time she gets hungry, is not so quick to accept that alternative. She reaches over to pick Lorna up from Erik’s arms and fixes him with a stern look, the one that Erik knows means he’s about to given a strict order.
“You’re going to drive me mad with your antsy fidgeting about, Erik!” she insists. “Why don’t you go join Charles for the evening? He’s your best friend and he’s being so kind and hospitable to us, yet you’ve hardly shared a word since yesterday at the hotel room.”
“Well, he’s been busy with the school and I’ve been busy helping settle the children in,” Erik says, a weak excuse.
“Well, school is done for the week and the children are settled so well, they’ve even abandoned us in favor of going to play and explore on their own,” Magda points out.
Erik sighs. She’s set her mind on this and Erik knows when she’s set her mind on something, there’s no escaping it. “Well, Charles probably has better things to do than for me to laze about his office without purpose.”
“Of all people to give cheap excuses to, Erik Lehnsherr, don’t give them to me!” she says sternly. She lays Lorna down in her crib and when she turns back to Erik, her hands are set firmly on her hips. “You’re each other’s best friends. You must have something you can do with each other.”
Erik hesitates and then goes to check the dresser in the room. This is the same room he’d stayed in that summer in ‘62 and Erik had been shocked to find most of his things still in place, if perhaps much dustier. Soon, the room will be filled in with his and Magda’s things, giving it a far homier finish than it had ever been while Erik had lived in it back then, but for now, they haven’t gotten a chance to make their mark and override Erik’s old things. Sure enough, one of his old chess sets is in the back of the drawer just where he’d left it the morning before departing for Cuba. “I suppose we can find something to fill the time.”
“Yes, you can. Run along, Erik. Off to your playdate,” Magda says, ushering him out of the room as though he were one of the children acting shy around a new friend.
Erik laughs and steals a kiss before she can shut the door in his face. “I’ll be back in a few hours at the latest. You know where Charles’ study is, right? If you need anything, anything at all, come get me.”
“Yes, yes, my love, I know. Now go spend time with your friend,” Magda says, gazing fondly after him for a moment before closing the door.
Erik goes away from their room like a cast aside puppy and makes his way to Charles’ room. He doesn’t know if Charles will even want or accept his company, but he has a feeling Magda won’t let him back in until he’s at least tried. She can be just as stubborn as him sometimes. On the way there, he passes in front of a few students, but while they openly gape at him, none tried to stop him for questions or confirmations of the rumors. And thank God for that, because Erik certainly wouldn’t be as patient as Charles. When he reached Charles’ study, he reached to knock, but Charles was already calling for him to enter before his knuckles could reach the door.
Charles was sat at his desk, going through papers as he did more often than not these days. When Erik let himself in, Charles wheels out from behind the desk and towards Erik. He spots the chess set in his arms and grins. “Erik, old friend, what brings you here? I do hope it’s for the both of us share in a game.”
“Indeed I am.” Erik sets the board down on the coffee table in the room and goes to sit down in one of the arm chairs. “Magda’s kicked me out of our room so I’d be forced to socialize.”
“Did she? Remind me to thank her next time I see her!” Charles laughs heartily and puts on the brakes in his chair. In one well practiced motion, he transfers over to the arm chair across from Erik.
“I’m not so sure how I feel about you and Magda being co-conspirators…” Erik says. He sets up the board quickly, putting the black pieces to himself as always. At least that’s one thing that’s remained the same.
“Just wait until I start teaching your children,” Charles teases, smirking up at Erik.
Erik just breathes out a laugh at that. Silence came over them, and remained for the first few moves of the game. Even with silence between them, Erik’s mind was busy considering the complicated history between them. It was odd to think how in seemingly no time at all, they could go from fierce rivalry to years of no interaction to sitting and playing a game of chess together as though none of it had ever happened. An odd friendship they had.
Charles paused halfway through moving his rook to look up at Erik, not entirely pleased. “I may not be able to hear what you’re thinking, but I can hear that you’re doing an awful lot of it. Would you care to share, perhaps?”
It had been a long time since Erik had been in the company of telepaths. He may not have his helmet any longer, but he’d long since learned how to shield his mind, to hide at least his surface thoughts. It wouldn’t stop a truly persistent telepath digging along his brain, but it kept Charles from hearing his every thought. Less than a ‘mute’ button, though, it was more like an intense muffling of everything he thought. Erik should have known better than to let such a stormy cloud of thoughts fester in his mind when Charles was sat across from him.
“Ah. It’s nothing you need concern yourself with. I’m only considering the situation. It’s not exactly the most normal of times, is it?” Erik pointed out. That was an understatement, though, wasn’t it? Nothing about them was normal. Not since the moment Charles had fished Erik out of the sea.
Charles shook his head, clearly less troubled by the weight of their years than Erik. “It isn’t. But we never are. I’ve learned to accept that and stop applying normal expectations to things between us.”
“There’s a difference between simply accepting the abnormal and in sitting back to let life turn absurd. I mean, the last time we were in each other’s company-”
“Is in the past,” Charles cuts in. “There’s a great deal of painful history between you and I, Erik. But there were also many years to heal. I don’t see a point in dwelling in the past. Not when you’ve come back and there’s a future together to look forward to.”
“I don’t understand you, Charles. I really don’t. Perhaps you’re right in saying that I hold my grudges too long, but you’re bad in just the opposite way. I don’t know how you manage to just… forget it all,” Erik says. He shakes his head, almost forgetting where he meant to put his knight down from the conflict in his head. Did he want to be grateful? Did he want to be exasperated that Charles continues to be so optimistic and naive in the face of a cruel world?
Erik doesn’t get to decide how to feel, for Charles interrupts those thoughts with a scoff. “Don’t fool yourself, Erik. I’m still upset at you, and I’ll likely hold a bit of that anger with me forever. But I don’t let it define me. That’s the difference between your anger and mine.”
“I don’t let my anger define me,” he protests.
Now, Charles just laughs. “My friend, you don’t even believe that yourself. But it’s all right. None of that matters right now. Not your anger. Not my anger. Nothing of our pasts. Only one thing matters right now.”
“Oh? And what would that be?” Erik asks.
“That you’re home, Erik. At each other’s sides, where we belong.”
Magda is highkey going to end up playing matchmaker between these two
probably going to get frustrated and shove them in a closet together to kiss and make up because wow they are so in love
sneak preview: the chess game will continue into the next chapter, ft. erik being a father and charles being smitten
Chapter 8: 8
Charles spends some time with Erik and Lorna, inciting some doubts deep inside
this chapter was a bit delayed, my apologies for that. my laptop was damaged and I was without it a few days until I could get it replaced
so here's a pretty cute scene to showcase how emotionally stunted both these goofballs are
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The two of them play a few games without interruption, simply enjoying each other’s company. Over their games, they nurse a drink or two of scotch and partake in the idle sort of chatter that fills the silence, but doesn't say much of anything. They talk mostly about the school, with Charles answering Erik’s endless string of questions about logistics, curriculum, and operation. There's still plenty left unsaid between them, which they'll have to acknowledge eventually whether they want to or not, but for now there’s a silent agreement between them to approach everything gradually. Charles is happy to let things go like that. Even a man as patient as him can only take so much prodding at unfortunate memories in one day.
They're starting on their third game when there's a gentle knock at the door. In walks Magda with Lorna, swaddled and fussing, in her arms. Charles feels Erik’s apology in his mind for a brief moment before the man stands up, with the intention of going to help Magda with whatever she needs, even if it means abandoning their chess game in favor of going up to bedroom once more.
Magda is quick to nudge Erik back to his seat. “Sit, Erik. You don't have to shoot up like the world is ending every time I walk in.”
“Are you sure? Charles will understand if I have to help you with Lorna,” Erik insists, though he sits back down like Magda had said.
“Charles, do me and my family a favor and let's not indulge Erik in his every overprotective little whim, okay?” Magda says, laughing as she looks towards him. Charles has a feeling this is a common discussion in their household. Magda bends down and helps Lorna settle in her father's arms. “ She's fine. She only wants to be held by her Papa for a bit.”
“Oh? Did she tell you that herself?” Erik teases, smiling up at her.
Magda laughs and steals a kiss before standing again. “ Mother’s intuition.”
Charles watches this scene from his seat, trying not to look as awkward as he feels. He can't understand a word of what they're saying when they’re speaking… German? Polish? He's not entirely sure, making him think that maybe he should have taken better use of the foreign languages departments when he'd been in school. Then maybe he wouldn't be stuck here, clueless. At least, Charles can make out an idea of what the conversation is about. Lorna, obviously, who from the looks of it, will be staying here with her father. Already, Erik is settling Lorna in the crook of one of his arms so he can still reach the chess pieces with the other. Fatherhood is a good look on Erik, Charles thinks. Certainly, it has him calmer. A very good look on him indeed.
In fact, the whole domestic life is a good look on Erik. Before this, Charles would have sworn that Erik as he'd acted in 1962 - reserved but not hostile - was the calmest and friendliest Erik could ever be. But now that Charles gets to see Erik around his family, he knows he'd been wrong. This is Erik at his best, no doubt. Like this, Erik is calm, happy, and Charles swears he's seen Erik smile more now than ever in the past. Even now, Erik radiates content as he sits across from Charles. With his wife standing besides him and his baby in his arms, Erik looks more at peace than anyone could have ever predicted. It warms Charles’ heart incredibly, more than he can explain. He's so distracted by the whole image, he doesn’t notice Magda trying to get his attention until she moves her hand to his shoulder.
“Charles? It’s okay with you, yes?” Magda asks, looking down at him.
Charles at least has the decency to look sheepish. “Pardon? I’m afraid I’ll need you to repeat yourself, Magda.”
“I was asking if you’re okay with Lorna here while you spend time with Erik? I don’t want to intrude to intrude on your time together,” she explains once more, since Charles had clearly been distracted.
“Oh!” Charles shakes his head. “Of course I don’t mind! I’m sure Lorna would say I’m the one intruding, taking her daddy away from her.”
Magda chuckles. “Most likely, yes. She’s just eaten, so she will probably sleep while you hold her, but if you need me to take her back before you’re done playing, you both know where to find me.”
She kisses her husband again before letting herself out, leaving Charles with Erik and the baby. Erik looks completely at ease with her in his arms, even while maneuvering around her to continue with their game. That makes sense, if Charles looks at it logically. He has three other children under his care, who are clearly growing up just fine. It’s only that the image is still very new to Charles and undeniably jarring. Erik had been a father-like figure to the younger boys in their summer of ‘62, but it’s much more different to be paternal around older, mostly self-sufficient teenagers than it is to be a father to young children. Charles still hasn’t seen much of the children, but he’s seen enough to know that they have no complaints about their father. As far as he’s seen, Erik is nothing but a caring, loving father. Charles has his doubts about whether the children even know about Erik’s tumultuous past.
In short, Charles can see nothing to suggest that in fatherhood, Erik is the same chaotic, troubled man he’d been in youth. Charles can’t help but feel that this is Erik tamed. This is Erik stripped of the anger and rage that had once driven him forward, stripped of the harmful tendencies Charles had always longed to rid of in Erik. Charles should feel nothing but happiness, joy for his friend who’s managed to set off on better paths. And he is happy. Truly, he is, but there’s something about it all that sets off something nasty and unpleasant in the pit of his stomach. Charles can’t even say what it is, but he does know that he’s not happy it’s there. Erik is a good friend. His best friend. Charles should be absolutely nothing but pleased, yet he isn’t. Worst of all, Charles isn’t even sure he can even place these dark feelings bubbling away in the corners of his mind. He’s tempted to lock them away and ignore them forever, but he knows from experience how using avoidance as a tactic can backfire spectacularly. He’ll have to square up and face whatever it is eventually, but does he want to do it right now? In front of Erik? Sitting by the man in question as he rifles through his mind in an attempt to figure out his heart is probably not the best of ideas.
Erik interrupts Charles’ brooding as he questions, “Are you quite all right, Charles? You look far too deep in thought considering we’re only playing a silly round with half-assed strategy.”
“Ah, yes. I got a bit caught up thinking of… well, thinking of your children, truthfully,” Charles admits. There, he’s not entirely telling a lie, though he’s hardly revealing the full truth as well. It’s the perfectly dubious grey area that Charles prefers to inhabit when he can’t be entirely honest.
“Oh?” Erik looks down at Lorna, dozing quietly in his arms. “Magda probably hasn’t gone too far, I can still go ask if she’ll stay with the baby.”
“No, no, nothing like that! I mean it when I said I’m happy to have her here with us. I was thinking more about how unexpected this whole thing is. At least to me. You, married and with children? I would have never guessed it from the last time we were in each other’s company,” Charles elaborates. That much is a bit of an understatement. Their last time in each other’s company had resulted in Charles pinned under the debris of a baseball stadium and Erik floating away, presumably in search of world domination.
Erik doesn’t try to rehash lines about it being a long time since they saw each other and people changing. He just nods instead. “I never expected it either. It was just a matter of luck, winding up running into Magda again after so many years. I never meant to settle down, it just… happened. I certainly thought about leaving again at the beginning. The first few months, I meant for it to be a brief thing. Just a break while the DC incident became old news again. But every day, the thought of leaving grew harder and then we found you Magda was pregnant, and after that… Well, I couldn’t leave. And I didn’t really want to.”
The first thought that comes to Charles’ mind is that if he just loved Magda too much to leave her, inversely, Charles must have not been important enough to be worth staying with. It’s not a fair comparison, Charles knows. He and Erik are only friends, as far as importance and priorities go, that’s far from a wife and child. But there’s always been a part of Charles that thinks their friendship was worth a bit more than the norm. If Erik doesn’t think the same… Charles just tries to look at it differently, to not take it so personally. Charles has always been good at hiding those things and now, he just smiles, like he feels nothing but joy. “I’m happy for you, my friend. I’m glad you found someone worth starting a family with. And of course, you know I’d be happy to see you away from your more dangerous tactics, no matter the motivation.”
“Of course you are. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that savior complex of yours,” Erik remarks, smirking up at him. They’ve both grown distracted enough that this game doesn’t last long and already, Erik takes possession of Charles’ queen. When Charles’ king falls a few moments later, neither of them goes to set the board up again. They only settle back in their armchairs to continue their chatting further into the evening. Erik adds, “I always thought you’d be the one ending up like this. With a wife and a small horde of children running around.”
“Three more and you can be like the von Trapps! You’re more than halfway there,” Charles points out, grinning.
Erik rolls his eyes, though he’s obviously amused. He bounces Lorna gently in his arms, humming some of Edelweiss under his breath, which is what most catches Charles off guard. Though, logically, he figures Erik must be watching plenty of children’s films these days. “You’re right,” Erik says. “But I’m quite sure Magda is done with having children. Perhaps we can reach a compromise? We’ll find you someone and you can have three of your own and together, we’ll have a full Trapp family.”
Charles laughs. “I think those days are past me, I’m afraid. There are no little Charles Juniors in the future.”
“Are you sure? You’d be a good father,” Erik says, smiling as he strokes Lorna’s little cheek gently. Charles doesn’t even need to pry in his head to feel the love he has for her. Erik is just radiating it.
“I don’t think I quite have women lining up outside to start a family,”’ Charles says. Before he can stop himself, he gives his wheelchair the briefest of glances. No matter how quick, Erik still notices it and Charles feels the guilt that flares up inside him. Charles tries to steer his friend’s thoughts away from that quickly. He adds, “I’m far too busy to raise children, anyhow. I have a school to run!”
“You would have been a good father,” Erik says again, more quietly this time.
No matter how obvious it is what they’re both thinking of, neither of them brings it up. Is it avoidance? In its purest forms, instead of just facing up to the problems and letting it all air out. But that’s just how them two function. They avoid problems and when they do talk about them, they speak the bare minimum of their feelings and let the rest fester inside. Logically, Charles knows that’s done nothing but contribute to their past troubles, but that doesn’t mean he’s in any rush to change it. Neither is Erik. Admittedly, the two of them are a bit hopeless sometimes.
Charles just keeps on with trying to downplay the whole situation to soothe Erik’s guilt. “I’m practically a father to most of the students here. It’s already more than enough to get my hair thinning. If I had a baby to tend to as well, no doubt I’d be bald by the first year!”
“I’ll keep that in mind whenever I ask you to look after one of mine while Magda and I are busy,” Erik promises, chuckling as he stands to carry Lorna closer to Charles. He waits a moment to see if Charles will object and then he passes Lorna to her, and helps Charles adjust her in his arms so they’re both comfortable. “See? She fits just right there. No doubt worth the premature balding. You can be their Uncle Charles.”
Charles smiles down at the sleeping infant. She’s not his, but she’s Erik’s and for that alone, Charles feels a great deal of love for her. He agrees, “I don’t think there’s anything else I’d rather be, old friend.”
I know everyone likes to joke that Erik is the one with zero emotional intelligence but honestly they're both not that great
originally they were going to discuss Erik's eventual employment in the school in this chapter, but Charles' reflections on Erik's fatherhood wound up being more than originally planned. but everything will come with time!
as always, thanks for reading :)
Chapter 9: 9
Magda carves a space out for herself in the manor.
Charles finds himself around the children again.
sorry this is a bit late, I was sick last week. Also I finally sucked it up and added 'slow burn' as a tag
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
On Saturday morning, Erik wakes to an empty bed and a crying baby. A quick glance at the bedside clock tells him it’s half past eight. Later than he usually wakes, but it’s no surprise after his and Charles’ chat dragged on into the early hours of the morning. They'd talked for hours on end about the lives they'd built in their nine years apart. Erik had shared countless stories of the children, while Charles told him all about the school and its students. It's one of the nicest evenings Erik has had in a long time. So even though he's a bit more tired than usual this morning, he can't regret it. He'd do it all over again tonight if Charles offers. It feels as though there’s endless stories to catch up on between them. Understandably enough. Nine years is a terribly long time.
Erik hauls himself up out of bed and shuffles to the corner of the room, where he and Magda have set up Lorna’s crib. He shushes her gently as he picks her up, thankful that his room is tucked away in a corner of the mansion. It's in the same hallway as the other faculty quarters, and the rooms at either side of him are occupied by his own children. Someday, the children might move to dorms with all the other students, on the other side of the mansion, but for now, they function perfectly well as an extra buffer between Lorna’s cries and anyone else in the school. Erik picks her up and checks her over, noting quickly that it's a diaper change she needs. Good thing, too, because Erik can tend to her without having to interrupt Magda. He lays her down to change, murmuring German lullabies to her the whole time. Much to Erik's content, those never fail to soothe her. A few short minutes later, the baby is changed into a new diaper and clean clothes, so of course she deems it fit to fall right back to sleep. That doesn't stop Erik from cradling her to his chest with one arm as he goes through his morning routine. There's few things Erik loved more than holding his children.
He puts her down while he dresses, though that doesn't stop him from continuing to coo at her. No matter if she’s more asleep than awake. When he picks her up again, he murmurs, “ How about we go find Mama, hmm ?” Erik carries her out with him. He checks the room to his right, but Nina isn't there. The twins are similarly absent from their room to the left, so Erik can only assume they've gone down to get food. He shares this thought with Lorna, simply because he likes for her to hear his voice. Erik carries her down to the kitchen. Its seating area is much smaller than the official dining hall, but it’s enough to fit a family, and perhaps an odd few students who have woken up early despite it being a Saturday. Just as he suspects, Erik finds his family sitting in the kitchen with their breakfast. There’s a pair of sleepy looking teenagers who are eating while standing at the counter, though Erik barely glances at them other than to note that they’re eating the same thing as Magda and the children.
Erik smiles as he goes to give Magda a kiss. “ Good morning. Accidentally made too much breakfast?” he asks, nodding his head in the direction of the older students’ breakfast.
“ The cooking staff is off on the weekends so I’ve designated myself in charge of making sure the children all eat well, ” Magda explains. After taking a moment to tickle Lorna’s tummy gently, Magda stands and goes to fetch a plate of toast and eggs from the counter, where she’s left an absurd amount of food already prepared for whichever students happen to come along in search of breakfast. Erik isn’t even the least bit surprised. Arriving at a new place and immediately figuring out how to best start tending to others sounds exactly like something his wife would do.
“ Wanda and I helped with the eggs!” Pietro exclaims, grinning proudly.
Erik chuckles as he makes a show out of his next bite of the eggs. He pretends to think it over for a second before nodding. “ Oh, yes, they’re very good eggs !”
Nina tries to hide a giggle, in the way she always does when she’s trying to pretend she’s all grown up. “ You’re silly, Papa.”
“ The silliest ,” Erik confirms. Just for that extra effect, Erik reaches over and taps her on the nose gently. Charles wheels himself in as this is all happening and Erik is almost embarrassed. Almost. The children are certainly shy enough, as they all slide a little further down their chairs when Charles comes in.
Charles smiles sweetly at all of them regardless. “All the Lehnsherrs at my table! What a lovely way to greet the day,” he says, cheerfully grabbing an empty plate from one of the lower cabinets. “My, look at all this food. Either someone’s thrown a breakfast party without inviting me or they vastly overestimated the portion sizes they’d need.”
“It was Mama. Mama and me and Pietro,” Wanda pipes up, then immediately leans back into her chair again as if remembering that she’s the shiest of the three.
Charles grabs breakfast for himself, as well as something to drink, then maneuvers his chair back to the table. Without needing any further coordination, Magda moves her seat slightly closer to Erik’s so that Charles can fit himself next to her at the table. As he spreads some jam on his toast, he says, “That’s lovely, Magda. May I ask which it was? A party I wasn’t invited to or a grave miscalculation of portions?”
“Neither.” Magda laughs. “One of your students told me that they’re in charge of their own meals on the weekends. Most teenagers I know would sooner starve than make themselves a proper meal, so I thought I could offer some help. If you’ll allow me the kitchen later, as well, I can do the same for lunch and dinner.”
“That’s exceedingly kind of you, thank you. Though it’s entirely unnecessary. You’re a guest here, Magda, and I’m happy to have you and your family. There’s no need to repay me for that,” Charles insists.
“None of that, Charles. I like having things to do. And besides, you’ve allowed this school to be my family’s new home and I take care of my homes,” she says firmly. It’s the tone of voice that years of marriage have taught Erik that an argument is over.
Charles, even without the knowledge provided by marriage, seems to figure out as much because he just nods. “If that’s what you wish, Magda, then that’s what we’ll do. Just know you have my gratitude for it. Actually, Erik, I’ve been meaning to speak to you. Would you perhaps be interested in teaching for the school?”
“Papa’s not a teacher!” Nina cries, before Erik can give an answer. She looks rather scandalized by the thought of her father doing something she considers entirely out of character for him. “Papa works with steel. He can build things, that’s very different from teaching.”
“Well, Nina, I think your Papa has a great deal of talent in many things. Some that perhaps you may not even know about!” Charles tells her happily. He looks towards Erik gain. “What do you say? You can join the teaching ranks here and prove to the children just how multitalented you are.”
Erik takes a long drink of his coffee to avoid answering for a moment longer. He doesn’t want to give Charles a ‘no’ immediately, and he would love to be a part of the school. However, like always, Erik feels that he has to be the realistic one in the face of Charles’ neverending optimism. And right now, the truth is that Erik remains a wanted terrorist and staying in the manor is enough of a risk. Going out of his way to integrate himself into daily life and interact with students feels like a foolish way to just increase the current risks.
“I don’t know, Charles,” he says, finally. Erik provides a different excuse than what he’s actually thinking, since he has a strong suspicion that Charles would tell him that he’s being ridiculous and overestimating the dangers. “I’ve never taught before.”
“Most of our faculty have never taught before arriving here. I’m sure you’ll find we can catch you up in no time at all. And I don’t mean to overhear, Erik, but you’re projecting a great deal. At this point, I think the difference is negligible between the risks of you being a teacher versus just some man who happens to roam the halls at times. It might even do you well to become acquainted to the students. Then they can see you for who you are, and not some man on an old news segment,” Charles points out.
The mention of news segments makes Nina and the twins frown amongst themselves. They’re obviously confused as to what that could possibly reference, but that’s a very long chat for another time, so Erik pretends not to notice their faces. He just shakes his head, though with less resolve this time. “I don’t even know what I’d teach, Charles.”
“Whatever you want! We’d figure it out,” he insists, grinning. Mostly because Charles seems to know he’s already winning this argument.
“I think you should,” Magda says, simply and easily. She doesn’t use an overly firm tone like she had with Charles about cooking meals. She knows she doesn’t have to. Erik knows just as well as Magda does that if what she wants is for him to give teaching a try, then that’s just what Erik will do. Magda settles Lorna in one arm and stands. She continues, “It would be good for you to find something to occupy yourself with. You’re the sort of man that needs a constant drive, Erik.”
Erik is quick about finishing the last few bits of his breakfast so he can stand and help Magda in gathering the children’s empty dishes. Charles looks like he’s desperately trying to hold back another comment about their not needing to help around the house. Erik is content to ignore Charles’ looks and comments. In just the same way that he ignores the children’s dramatic gagging when he leans down to press a kiss to Magda’s cheek. “Are you going to side with Charles on everything from now on?”
“I might!” Magda threatens, grinning up at her husband. With Lorna still tucked up in one of her arms, she grabs the remaining dishes singlehandedly.
Now, Charles look like he’s about to burst, so he refrains from holding comments back any longer. “If that’s the case, I do hope you’ll side with me on this, as well. If you’ll insist on doing the cleanup as well, at least let me hold the baby while you do. Surely, it can’t be comfortable to go through all these chores with an infant in your arms.”
“All right,” Magda relents. She sets down the cups she’d collected already and takes a step closer to Charles. Lorna is mostly asleep, so the fussing is minimal while she’s transferred over to Charles’ arms. Magda adjusts Charles’ grip on her slightly and then steps back, smiling. Pietro, apparently still a bit dubious about strangers around his baby sister, climbs up onto Charles’ lap to be closer to Lorna and play the role of protective older brother. Charles looks a bit startled, but makes space for him anyway. Magda’s smile only grows. “Look at that, you’re just a natural.”
“I got a bit of a tutorial on baby holding from Erik yesterday,” Charles admits, letting a sheepish laugh escape him.
“How good to know that I have a replacement lined up should anything ever happen to Erik,” Magda decides, laughing as she says carries the rest of the plates to the dishwasher.
Erik scoffs, scandalized. “Good to know you love me so, Magda. Are you seeing this, Charles? The horrors of my day to day married life?”
“My friend,” Charles laughs, “I’ll agree that her sarcasm is on the borders of cruelty. And that’s exactly the reason I think you’ve found your perfect match.”
god I love magda (also lowkey she's starting to realize why erik definitely fell in love with him in the span of a few seconds that it took to resurface again after their brohug underwater in miami lmao)
also I have a pretty good idea what Erik will wind up teaching but like he's so versatile??? I'd love to hear your headcanons about what Erik would teach
Chapter 10: 10
Nina gives Charles a helping hand in recruiting Erik
Sorry this is so late. I move into my freshman year of college (an ocean away from home D: ) in about a week and things are crazy. Please forgive any hecticness in these upcoming weeks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saturdays are fun. At least, they’re supposed to be. Usually, Saturdays are Nina’s favorite day of the week. Saturdays are when she and her siblings will run around and play in the woods behind their house. Sometimes, they’d play with other children of their town, but they’re a private family overall, with even the kids tending to keep to themselves. They’re never lonely, though. Each other is more than enough company and their imagination embarks them on a different adventure everyday. For all this, Saturdays are Nina’s favorite day of the week. However, today is not like most Saturdays. On most Saturdays, they’re not in an entirely foreign country, living in a new house owned by a man who, while claiming to be Papa’s best friend, is a stranger to all of them. That’s enough to put a damper on anyone’s Saturday routine and needless to say, the three of them feel a bit odd about that. Lorna is still too little to be aware of much, which Nina thinks is an incredibly lucky position to be in right now.
Mama had made them all breakfast as soon as they woke, which was as close to one of their normal days back home as they’d gotten. But back home, it hadn't been a brand new kitchen, there hadn't been strange teenagers in their table with them, nor had there been Charles Xavier, their father’s alleged best friend. It's a bit too much change for a trio of children to handle and as such, their Saturday vibes feel a bit off. None of them are exactly upset, but the mood is visibly dampened. How can they just play like it were a normal Saturday when it so clearly isn’t? Nonetheless, they try their best to act like any other day, in hopes that a sense of normalcy will follow.
Not long after breakfast, while Mama and Papa are busy with the baby and Charles, Nina makes her way out to the green areas. The twins trail behind her, as they always do. Pietro scampers ahead of them, not nearly as fast as he can reach, but enough that he blurs just a bit. When he stills in front of them again, he’s holding a frisbee up. Where he’s gotten it from is anyone’s guess. His habit of ‘borrowing’ things hasn’t improved in these last couple of weeks since leaving home. On the contrary, it’s gotten worse these last two days at the school, because so many of the students leave their things strewn about everywhere. In theory, Nina knows she’s the oldest, so she’s supposed to set a good example and scold Pietro for stealing when he does it while their parents aren’t around. In practice, Pietro’s stealing usually results in more fun for the rest of them, so Nina rarely ever calls him out on it.
“I found this,” Pietro says, holding the frisbee up. It’s always ‘found’ or ‘borrow’, never ‘stole’. “We can play with it! Everyone else is inside, so there’s plenty of space to run.”
Wanda sighs and flops down onto the grass, entirely too dramatic for a five year old out playing in the weekend. “But, Pietro, I don’t want to run around! I want to play, but there’s no need to run all the time.”
“But I love running!” Pietro pouts and throws himself down on the grass next to her.
Nina’s willing to bet they’ll both come back inside with grass stains all over and Mama will probably do her signature Quietly Disappointed Sigh when she sees them come back all dirty. Mama’s Sigh is rivaled only by Papa’s Look. Will Nina try to stop them, though? No, of course, not. She just crosses her arms and looks down at the two of them, trying to convey the same authoritative air as their mother. She thinks herself very grown up sometimes. “Can’t we just run for a little bit, Wanda? And then we’ll do something you want to do after, then we can all be happy.”
“I don’t want to run,” Wanda repeats. She sits up again, so her sister can see her scowl.
Pietro grumbles halfheartedly, but they all know he’s always the first to break when it comes to making his sister happy. It’s why Wanda knows she can get away with always being stubborn. “You never want to run, Wanda… But I saw a tire swing, too. Why don’t we go and take turns pushing each other?”
This time, Wanda nods. “I like swings!”
“But only two of us can play at the same time in the swings. One to swing and one to push. But there’s…” Nina makes a bit show out of counting them off. “Three of us!”
“But only two of us,” Pietro says, gesturing between himself and Wanda. “Sorry, Nina, but twin trumps big sister.”
“No fair!” It’s Nina’s turn to pout now.
“We’ll play with you after,” Pietro promises. He hardly gives her a chance to argue because half a second later, he’s picked Wanda up and raced off to the tire swing on the other side of the lawn.
Nina briefly considers trying to catch up to them and putting on a longer argument in favor of playing something else, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort. The twins are more stubborn than even their father. There’s no point in arguing with them when they’ve both got the same idea in their heads. She just sulks for a minute before turning and walking back to the house. Her intention is to go and complain to Mama, but before finding her mother, she find her father and his friend first. Nina’s always had a bit of a short attention span, so she forgets all about her plan to find her mother. Instead, she rushes forward and jumps up so her father will catch her.
“Papa! Papa, the twins went playing without me. Can I stay here with you instead?” Nina asks. She glances down and remembers suddenly that Charles is there. She flushes sheepishly as she remembers what her parents have told her about not being rude and making sure Charles can understand them when they speak. “Oh. Sorry, Charles. I asked Papa if I can come along with you and him. Pietro and Wanda are being dumb and playing by themselves.”
“Of course you can come with us, Nina. Though I don’t think either of your parents would appreciate you calling your little siblings ‘dumb’,” Charles says, sharing a look with Erik.
“Not in the slightest,” Erik agrees, settling Nina on his waist as they walk. “Your brother and sister aren’t dumb, ketsele. They’re just younger than you and sometimes they get caught up in their excitement and forget to be considerate. They’ll learn with time.”
“It’s still not fair,” Nina grumbles under her breath. The twins get away with everything just because they’re the babies in the family. She’s hoping that’ll go away now that Lorna’s been born.
Charles nods sympathetically. “It’s not, but that’s part of the responsibility of being the oldest. And I’m sure you’re grown up enough to handle those responsibilities, right?”
Nina falls right for it and starts nodding enthusiastically. “Oh, yes, of course I am. I’m the most grown up of all of us.”
“Well, that just makes you all the more perfect to join your Papa and I for the day! I was just going to show your father around the classrooms while I try to convince him to join our ranks as teacher here. Do you think you could help me with that, Nina?”
Nina considers that as Charles leads them into one of the classrooms to show Erik the set up. The students have left books and papers and pens strewn about the place, but Nina hardly notices that. She’s too busy thinking about all the ups and downs if her father were to become a teacher. She can still hardly wrap her head around the concept, but Charles seems to think he can do it. So even while Nina can’t comprehend how her father the steel worker could ever be a teacher, it’s not her school, so it’s not entirely her decision to make. If Charles wants to make her father a teacher, he probably will one way or another. Nina’s just trying to figure out what type of teacher her father would be.
She knows lots of people find her Papa scary, because he can be all big and intimidating sometimes. However, she doesn’t really see it. To her, Papa is just like a big teddy bear. Sometimes he gets all pouty and upset and he’ll give them all The Look, but usually, if she and the twins team up to give him hugs and cuddles, he’ll forget all about being angry from one moment to the next. If Papa were a teacher, Nina bets he’d be like that, which is lots better than how mean her old teachers back home have been. The more she thinks about it, the more Nina is convinced that if her father becomes a teacher and she’s in his class, she can get away with never doing homework again. It seems like the perfect plan, so finally, she nods.
“I’ll help you convince Papa, Charles. But… what would he teach?” Nina asks, frowning. That seems to her like the biggest hole in the plan.
“Whatever he would like!” Charles says, grinning up at Erik. “That's the best part for your Papa, isn't it? He can pick whatever he pleases. Though - not to steer you in any one direction, Erik - our languages department would certainly benefit from a polyglot like you if that sort of thing might interest you. It's early in the year as well, so it's still in time to add or change things to schedules.”
Nina frowns and looks between her father and Charles. There's a word there she doesn't quite recognize and Nina hates not recognizing words. She squirms to the floor again and leans up against Charles’ chair. “What does polyglot mean? Is it a good thing for Papa to be?”
“It's a wonderful thing, Nina! It means he can speak many languages,” Charles explains, smiling at the girl.
“Oh! I want to be a polyglot too!” Nina exclaims, looking back at her father. She thinks of all the friends she might make if she can speak many more languages. “You should do that, Papa. And then you can teach me!”
Erik was leaning heavily towards a yes regardless, but if his kids ask him to do it, that just about makes the choice for him. “All right. We’ll meet up this evening, Charles, to talk properly about the scheduling and curriculum.”
“That sounds excellent, old friend.” Charles grins from ear to ear, obviously pleased with this. Nina thinks Mama will be happy too. She likes it when Papa pleases others.
But Nina has bigger concerns. She leans in closer to Charles once more. “So does this mean Papa can be my teacher? I would like that so so much, Charles.”
“Of course, Nina. You'll be a student here just like any other. And if your Papa is a teacher where you are a student, that means he can be your teacher,” Charles promises. He bops her nose playfully and Nina giggles. “When I'm making your schedule, I'll make sure you’re in a class with your father.”
“Good! I want to take French with you, Papa. Can you do French?” Nina asks, eyes widening. She almost feels genuinely excited about school for once.
Erik chuckles as he fondly lays a hand atop Nina’s head. “I suppose that means I'll have to teach French just to please you, right?”
“Yes! Exactly that!” Nina’s growing more and more curious about this whole school thing. She's never been to a school this big after all. “Will I take class in this classroom, Charles?”
“No, Nina, this is a classroom for the older students. The ones in high school. But why don't I continue my tour of the teaching wing and show you the younger students’ classrooms?” Charles suggests. He squeezes her shoulder before patting his knee. “You can hop on and I'll give you a ride. If you behave, I'll even let you steer.”
Nina gasps and clambers onto Charles’ lap in the blink of an eye. “Yes! Let's go, let's go! I want to see where Papa will be a teacher. I bet it will be soooo funny!”
As they exit this classroom and continue the tour, Nina rambles on and on about the type of teacher she thinks her Papa will be and how he’ll be her favorite teacher ever and how she hopes everyone else will like him. Charles, of course, is nothing but charming and polite as he laughs along and encourages her. It's not like a normal Saturday, but Nina thinks it might just be better.
Writing one if the kids' POV was fun. You can expect more of that :)
Chapter 11: 11
been fucking forever hasnt it lol
more on that in the bottom notes
cw: talks of religion
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik decides the next day, sometime just after lunch, that he’s not entirely sure what he’s gotten himself into. It’s Sunday, with Monday fast approaching, and Erik is stuck in a vacant office room, hastily making up syllabi for the courses he’s been placed in charge of from one day to another. He’d agreed to take on some foreign language courses under peer pressure from Charles and his family, but also under the assumption that he wouldn’t actually be doing very much work. Perhaps a section of French, or a section of Spanish. Instead, Charles had wrangled up enough students that he’s filled up two Spanish classes, a French one, and a German one as well. So not so much an empty office room anymore, now it’s Erik’s office. (And Erik is stuck thinking perhaps he should have thought a bit longer before agreeing to this.)
How does one even go about teaching a bunch of children? Erik doesn’t have the slightest idea. Outside his own kids, he hasn’t interacted with children in God knows how long. It doesn’t help that they all probably know him as Magneto, the big and scary mutant supremacist. It’ll do wonders in helping them behave, but other than that? Erik’s pretty sure it’ll just make it harder to get them to listen to him instead of just sitting in fear for hours. Actually, Erik isn’t even sure how he’ll get them to listen and learn anything, seeing as he’s never actually taught before.
He’s not the telepath in this house, but anyone would think so with the way he’s radiating frustration and a cloud of gray all around him and his small office. One way or another, Magda must know Erik’s in a bit of a mood, because she lets herself into the room right in the midst of Erik’s brooding over syllabi. Erik notes that, bless her, she’s also carrying a mug of coffee, black and searing hot the way Erik drinks it.
“I thought you might need it,” she comments, setting it down on the desk and then going round to sit on his lap.
Erik wraps an arm around her waist. “You’d be entirely right, Magda. I’m not quite sure why I thought this would be a good idea. The only children I like are ours.”
“Oh, I think you’re just being dramatic.” Magda presses a kiss to his cheek before reaching to look through the papers he has already. “See? You’re making steady process, you just love to whine and complain.”
Erik huffs. “I don’t love to whine and complain. It just so happens life gives me plenty of opportunity to do it. Clearly not my fault. And the problem isn’t entirely coming up with what to put on a piece of paper. It’s thinking of what I’ll do when I’m actually standing in front of a group of moody adolescents.”
“You naturally fall into the role of a leader, Erik. For better or worse. Just let yourself do the same here with these kids,” Magda pats his cheek and stands up again.
“Leaving me already?” Erik sighs, reaching to still hold her hand even as she stands. He’s a bit of a sap sometimes but no one other than Magda needs to know.
“You only want me to stay so you have an excuse to be distracted.” Magda laughs and pats his hair down gently. “Besides, the baby was sleeping when I left her, but we both know how quickly that can change with her.”
“Bring her down,” he insists. As much as company, he also wants a distraction, he’ll admit. He doesn’t want to have to think about syllabi and lessons and teaching a bunch of children.
Magda shakes her head and starts toward the door. She pauses once it’s open, to look back at Erik and get a few more jabs in. Lovingly, of course. “If you’re that desperate for some company, why don’t I call Charles down? The both of you can bond over your teaching.”
“I’m hardly a teacher like Charles, yet, Magda,” Erik says. “Regardless, God no. I don’t want you to spending more time together than strictly necessary. Once the two of you start banding together against me, I’m done for.”
“Wonderful! I’ll go drop some tea off in his office right this moment and we’ll start on our scheming!” Magda blows him a kiss and disappears once more, leaving Erik to his papers and frustration.
Erik watches her go before dropping his gaze back to his work once more. He sips at his coffee and waits for Charles to come by, inevitably. He knows his wife. She says it oh so jokingly about fetching Charles, but he knows she’s serious. Magda is always sure she knows what’s best for her family and right now, she seems to think what Erik needs is a bit of a supportive chat from his best friend, so that’s exactly what she’ll make sure he gets. (More often than not, Magda is exactly right about what Erik needs, but of course, his pride is a bit too fragile to ever admit that.)
Sure enough, Charles wheels himself into the room some twenty minutes later, when Erik has finished his coffee and he’s halfway through writing down the German children’s books his parents used to read to him as a boy. Charles goes to park himself in front of Erik’s desk, but Erik focused on finishing the list he’s writing before looking up to acknowledge Charles. And when he does, it’s with a sigh before anything else.
“I take it my wife sent you?” he asks.
Charles nods. “Told me to come on down here before you drove yourself mad and tried to take over the world again or something. I like her, you know I think I’m starting to see why the two of you are together.”
“Was it that hard to see before?” Erik turns the now empty mug over in his hands as he considers that.
He’s known Magda since he was twelve, so even with the decades between their goodbye as young teens and their reacquaintance less than ten years earlier, it’s still hard to imagine his life without Magda. Maybe there’s a large gap in the middle without her, but she’s still undoubtedly been there for the most important parts of his life. Magda at his side seems as natural to him as apples and honey on the new year. But he supposes coming from Charles’ point of view, with very little context, he can see how it would be a bit jarring.
Charles laughs as he shakes his head. “Very hard to see. You’ve just always been so… very much the lone wolf sort of type. And now here you are with four kids and a wife. It’s like a whole different man, Erik!”
“Magda makes me want to be a different man,” he agrees. “She knew me long before my reputation was solely for domestic terrorism and destroying capital cities.”
“Does that mean you regret it?” Charles asks.
Erik knew that would come at some point, of course. It’s the inevitable question and one Erik is never sure whether he should lie or be truthful about. By this point, he knows Magda has forgiven him, despite the fact Erik has never quite felt the need to truly repent for it. And Charles…. Well, forgiveness or not, he’s letting Erik and his family stay in the mansion, so it’s as close to forgiveness as Erik could want. Regardless of how it may make him come off, or if it leaves him as much of a monster as when he first committed all those acts, the truth is that if Erik did regret it, it would be for distancing him from the people most important to him, not because he thinks he was entirely in the wrong.
Charles would know if he was lying, so Erik just shakes his head. “In truth, I don’t. Not the way I should. I stand by my opinions and I would never apologize for doing what felt needed for my people. But… I do regret for pushing the two of us apart. That was my price to pay, I suppose.”
“For pushing us apart? I’m afraid to say, Erik, that I’d never guess I played a significant role in any of your choices.” Charles doesn’t mean for it to sting, but sting it does, nonetheless.
“Clearly I’ve some trouble expressing even the most basic of human emotions. I think Magda’s told me as much many times over the years.” He aims for a touch of humor. It falls flat.
Instead of amused, Charles looks sympathetic. “You’ve had quite a lot to deal with as you grew up. I’m glad you have Magda. I can imagine it’s been great help to have someone with more of a shared past. I are more about seeing you heal than about ‘winning’ anything between the two of us.”
“Seeing me heal,” Erik repeats. He smiles wryly. “Do you see me as broken, Charles?”
Charles is quick to shake his head. “Don’t put words in my mouth, Erik. That’s how we got into half our messes in the past. I don’t think you’re broken. But I do think you know as well as I do that there’s parts of your past that you carry with you to this day. And that perhaps you’d go about life easier if you eased the burden on your shoulders somewhat.”
“The burden on my shoulders you mean my childhood. You think I trudge around with it like some sort of anchor tied around my ankles?” Erik drums his fingers on his thigh as he thinks. He leans back in his chair. The syllabi and papers and book lists lie forgotten. “Do you believe in God, Charles?”
Understandably, Charles looks perplexed. The question must seem entirely out of left field. “God? Well, I suppose I don’t. Not really. I’ve devoted my whole life to science. Outdated books and silly rituals and oppressive rules don’t fit into that.”
“Well, I do.”
“Oh. Well, uh - what I meant was - well-”
“Shush, I didn’t mean it as a trick question or to preach to you or anything of the matter. I only mean to say…” Erik’s not sure he can truly, faithfully explain a whole lifetime of his journey through life and coping, but he supposes he can do his best. “For a while, I didn’t. When I was a teenager, barely past boyhood and angry at the world. Then I had no faith, only anger. When we first met, I was hardly any better. I’d only just outgrown being viciously angry at the whole notion of God, but I still thought the whole thing to be a cleverly played sham. But for all that, God still gave me Magda. And He gave me you. And to have a pair like you in my life, well, that’s nothing less than being blessed. So perhaps I am a bit broken and certainly, I still don’t regret things that perhaps I should. But I have you and I have Magda. That’s all the divine intervention I need to make me want to be a better man.”
Silence stretches out between them for a while. Just on the other side of too long a while, but Erik doesn’t need a response. The slight flush to Charles’ whole face is telling enough. Perhaps it’s a bit much to openly proclaim Charles of the two most important and dear people in his life, but Erik doesn’t regret saying it. The two of them are so emotionally stunted they probably don’t even make up a single emotionally healthy human being between the two of them. But occasionally some things need to be said.
Quite predictably for the both of them, though, Charles hardly acknowledges it and Erik doesn’t push for it. Instead, Charles wheels himself closer to the desk and looks through the papers Erik has on there. “Now, Magda mentioned you were having a bit of trouble getting ready for tomorrow. I figured perhaps I could help you.”
“Ah, yes. I’m not quite sure how one is even expected to approach a room full of little brats.”
“What a perfect segway into lesson number one: you’re not allowed to call them brats, Erik.”
so if y'all remember, I'm from Puerto Rico
I just moved away to college literally like two months ago so I wasnt on the island when the hurricane came through but its still my home and it hurt to see it destroyed and to know that my family is still there
theyre okay, but frustrated and things are different and will be for a long time and idk its just a lot and I just have barely had the strength to go to classes and do work as normal, so as much as I wanted to, writing fic was just something I never had the emotional or mental or physical energy to do at the end of the day
but Im trying to get back to normal just please bear with me
thank you and though its like three weeks late, shana tova <3 here's to a 5778 of healing
Monday comes far too soon. No one is happy on Monday. Nina is upset about waking up early, Pietro is grumpy about going back to classes, Wanda is always displeased when her brother is, Erik is frazzled that he has to try to teach a room full of adolescents today, and Magda is… Well, Magda is actually having a grand old time seeing her family of little drama queens. So perhaps it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say absolutely no one is happy on Monday. Only that the majority of the Lehnsherr-Maximoff clan is in a grumpy mood, though that’s not exactly far from the norm, either. If Magda has to put up with all the pouty faces, she may as well find some humor in it.
Magda wakes only slightly after Erik and goes down to the kitchen to help the staff with breakfast while Erik wrangles together the children. Just as Magda knows Erik needs to spend his time guiding other people to keep his mind occupied, Magda finds similar comfort in helping a household to run smoothly. Normally that means looking after her own family, but she’s happy to do it for all the children here at Xavier’s school. Charles is running a lovely place here, but Magda still thinks it could feel more like home. If doing her part with the cooking staff will help make it homier, Magda is happy to do it.
In the mid morning, when everyone’s had breakfast but lunch is still a few hours away, Magda is busying herself in the kitchen with the dish washing while the cook is out doing some shopping. Lorna is set up in a corner of the room on a blanket, mostly preoccupied with sleeping or staring at the colorful shapes on her blanket as she drools all over it. As she moves onto drying all the dishware from breakfast, Charles wheels himself into the room with a mug on his lap.
“Ah! Magda! I didn’t expect to run into you here,” Charles says. He sets his mug down on the counter and gives Lorna on the floor a wide berth with his paranoid caution.
Magda moves to give him space as he sets some water to boil. She resists the urge to offer her help, knowing he’s likely to refuse. “Just helping a bit around the place. It’s a productive way to spend my time.”
“Of course. But like I said before, you needn’t feel obligated to do anything around here. I’m unspeakably happy just to have you all here,” he insists.
She goes back to work, moving around Charles as she puts away dried dishes and utensils. She smiles knowingly at him. “The same way you needn’t feel obligated to reach and stretch to make your own tea when I am here to gladly give help if you’d asked?”
“Yes, well, that’s, you know-” Charles stumbles and stammers, looking flustered as he sets his tead own to steep on the table. “That’s different. Making tea is hardly a struggle. I do it everyday.”
“I could say the same about tending to the domestic chores.” Magda laughs. As she passes behind Charles on her way to Lorna, she squeezes his shoulder. “You’re stubborn. Like my husband. I have plenty of experience with stubborn men.”
Charles scoffs. “I’m not nearly as stubborn as Erik. Speaking of Erik, I’ve yet to see any students run screaming from the building, so I’d already say he’s having a better first day than expected.”
“Such high expectations we have of him, aren’t they?” Magda grins. “And what about you, Professor? Aren’t you meant to be in some class or something?”
“Even dusty, old professors like me have free periods. I was about to go up to my office and have this tea while I grade some papers. Though…” Charles hesitates as he looks to the baby, but then he jumps onward anyway. “I’d be happy to leave those papers for some other time if you’d be amenable to joining me?”
“For tea? I’d be absolutely delighted to, Charles.”
Erik has a very beautiful wife. Charles probably shouldn’t think of his best friend’s wife that way, but that’s just the truth. Charles is quite used to admiring beautiful people from a distance. In truth, he thinks Erik is as handsome as his wife is beautiful. They’re the sort of couple Charles would expect to see in magazines. They’re tall and confident and lean without seeming delicate. Erik’s green eyes are something out of a novel and Magda has curls other women would easily ridiculous amounts of money to reproduce in a salon. Erik’s skin looks perpetually sunkissed, even in the dead of winter, and while Charles thought it couldn’t get any better than that, it’s clearly because he’d never seen how beautifully it contrasts against his wife’s darker tones, like something out of a painting.
But Charles decided a long time ago that he would never dwell on thoughts like this and that if he ever did, it was purely platonic admiration. Such as it was now, just platonic admiration. Because Charles is many things, but he’s not the type of man to ogle his best friend’s wife while they share a spot of afternoon tea. Or at least, he’s going to try very hard not to.
Charles parked his chair and transferred himself onto one of his arm chairs, where he leaned back with a tired sigh. There’s just something about Mondays, right? “So, how have you found these first few days here in Westchester? Everything you ever dreamed of?”
“It’s calm out here. Which is nice. And it’s like one big home. There are certainly worse places one could make a spontaneous move to,” Magda says. “It’s my first time out here, so I suppose as soon as there is time to spare, I shall have to head out to see all the famous sights.”
“First time out here in upstate New York?”
“No, no,” Magda corrects him, “first time here in the United States.”
“Oh. Wow. Well… Welcome! A shame your first view of it is hunkered down here in this old place,” Charles says, glancing out his office window. Sure, he has a beautiful campus for his school, but it’s certainly not among the most exciting places the country, or even the state, has to offer.
“I think it’s a wonderful first impression. Erik’s always been the one to travel far and wide, I was more one to stay hunkered down at home.” Magda shrugs. “I didn’t travel much farther than Poland or Germany, except when I absolutely had to.”
“I suppose opposites attracts,” he agrees. Which is… true in more ways than one. Most of the times, Charles can’t see how Erik and Magda got together in the first place, but clearly it’s working out fantastically for them.
Magda takes a drink out of her tea and shakes her head. “Erik and I are not so different, I think. Not underneath all of that Magneto hiding it.”
“I suppose you know him better than I do,” Charles says, sighing. It’s not like it’s a particularly new realization of his that he really doesn’t know Erik all that well, but that doesn’t make it any easier to think about.
“We have the same roots, that’s all. There’s parts of Erik I know better and parts you know better. Maybe as a pair we could figure him out entirely, but… quite the process to get through to Erik! He’s not an easy man to love, but well worth it.” Magda smiles down at the baby on her arm, and no doubt is thinking about the rest of the life and family they’ve crafted together.
“Worth any price indeed,” Charles agrees. “Though I’m not sure how right you are about all of that. Most of the times, I wonder whether I ever knew Erik at all or if it was nothing more than an act to get to Shaw. It’s silly to worry about it all these years, I know. What’s done is done But I suppose it’s just as silly to consider my best friend a man I’ve spent no more than a few months with over decades. Especially when I’ve hardly any way of knowing whether it’s even mutual. Words are one thing, but actions… Those speak a great deal, don’t they?”
Magda laughs. It’s not unkind, but it is abrupt enough to make the baby stir and she does look at Charles like he’s utterly ridiculous. “Charles. I’ve spent nine years living with hearing my husband go on and on about you. I don’t know if Erik feels there’s enough praise in the world for you. For all he’d talk to me about you, I almost felt like I knew you! For all that, half the time I probably felt like I loved you just as much, too. And actions? Charles, kochanie, my husband is not a trusting man, but we dropped our world on a dime to move here because he trusts you so. Perhaps you have your doubts, but I certainly hold none.”
“You’re right. You’re right, I’m being ridiculous,” Charles admits. He shakes his head and distracts himself with his tea to cast aside any other equally silly thoughts. “I’m sorry. I’m sure you didn’t want to spend your morning with an old man’s ramblings. I don’t suppose Erik ever acts the same?”
“Erik is an expert at rambling like an insecure old man. You have good company there,” Magda promises, smirking.
He laughs. “Is he really? The only sort of rambling I’ve ever heard Erik go on is on his hour long rants about his passionate hatred for humanity. And perhaps a drunken night or two.”
“Sure, sure, but you knew Erik as a young man. I knew him as a little boy once, and now as a wrinkly old man,” Magda says fondly, teasing. “It’s quite different from when you knew him, way back in the day.”
“Be logical now, Magda, how could you possibly have known an old man like Erik when he was a young lad when you’re clearly right in the prime of your youth? The math doesn’t add up!”
Magda grins at him. “You’re just as bad as Erik said you were! Regardless, a lady doesn’t reveal her secrets, Charles.”
“As bad as Erik said I was?” Charles pretends to look absolutely shocked.
“I heard all sorts of stories about your being a womanizer, Charles!” she explains. “I heard you’re quite devious in your little adventures and a lady such as me must stay far away from that sort of thing.”
Charles scoffs. “Don’t be ridiculous. Your husband is spreading slander about me. I’m a perfectly respectable, lovely gentleman. However, if he’s going to go about telling all this gossip about me, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to do the same. The things I could tell you about your husband, Magda!”
“Oh? I’m all ears, Charles,” she promises, hiding a grin behind her mug as Charles launches into (slightly exaggerated) tales of their summer together in ‘62.
Charles is quite confident that Erik would not be entirely pleased at Charles and Magda sharing stories of him like children in a schoolyard, nor at how their interaction comes dangerously close to toeing the line at flirtatious. However, Charles is also quite confident that Erik would overlook all that just to get the joy of seeing his wife and bestfriend being brought closer together. And truthfully? Charles is equally happy to get closer to Magda.
tag yourself I'm Charles pooling himself into the people who love Erik and Magda also implying that Erik loves Charles
and Charles not even noticing any of it cause he's a blind idiot
Erik was never meant to work with children. He’s absolutely sure of that. Because if he was, he’d assume he’d have more than about thirty seconds of patience. Actually, he does. He’s plenty patient when it comes to Magda and the children, so he’s quite convinced the problem lies in everyone else instead of him. Magda would roll her eyes at him if he complained to her about it, but Magda’s not the one currently standing in front of a classroom full of school children, all staring at him like they can’t believe they’re lucky enough to get front row seats to the school’s latest piece of gossip.
He’s not even a full minute into his first school day and Erik already wonders how deeply he might make Charles regret this. He hasn’t said anything yet, just leaned up against the desk near the front as kids file in. Half of them are staring at him in fear that he’s about to bite their heads off, while the other half are looking on in eager hoopes that he’ll do just that. It’s not a particularly easy combination to work with, but Erik’s not easily fazed. Even by a group of teenagers. Frustrated, yes, but not fazed.
Finally, he pushes himself off the desk and walks towards the desk. It doesn’t escape his notice how a few of the students in the front row flinch as he moves. It doesn’t escape him, either, the brief pang of hurt that causes him, though he tries to ignore it. He doesn’t want his children seeing this and becoming scared of him as well. But he soldiers on. “Let’s begin, shall we? I’m sure you’ve all heard plenty of names for me and I’m sure you’ve used them in reference to me while gossiping among your friends outside this classroom. However, within these four walls, I’m Herr Lehnsherr. You’ll refer to me as such and anything else will be unacceptable.” Erik writes it out on the board, lest any of them try to claim confusion later on. “That’s Herr not Her. For every over pronounced, American sounding ‘R’ I hear, I’ll add an exercise to your homework. Is that understood?”
They stare blankly at him for a moment, until he sighs, exasperated, and reminds them that this is a class like any other and he expects everyone to have notebooks out and ready for notetaking. He asks anyone with any experience in German to raise their hands, and a few go up. Once he clarifies that watching Raiders of the Lost Ark over and over again doesn’t count, most of them go down again. He no longer feels bad for taking advantage of Charles’ hospitality. Dealing with these teenagers is clearly his price to pay in exchange. He could be half assed about this, but for all they might be annoying him a bit, Erik respects Charles far too much to do anything but the very best he can. He warns them that though these first few days he’ll let them use English, they’ll be conducting the entire class in German by the following week at the latest. When they, predictably, respond with horror, Erik has them jot down a few useful phrases (Was heißt xyz auf Deutsch?, Langsamer bitte, Ich weiss nicht, and the like) and walks them through the pronunciation a few times. Their r’s and ch’s are a few steps shy of atrocious, but Erik’s sure time will fix that.
He spends the rest of the period having them write down the most basic vocabulary Erik can think of. It’s endlessly difficult to convince them to try them out with some simple sentences like ‘My name is’ or ‘My favorite color is’, mostly because they seem convinced that Erik will toss them out of the school if they make any mistakes. Erik dismisses them a few minutes before the bell and sits at the desk, tired and uneager to do it all over again in the next class. He’d expected them to be frightened of him, of course, but had never quite considered how blatant it would be. Or how much it would interfere. It’s hard to teach a class full of children terrified of him. He wouldn’t care all that much normally. He’s never been known for caring what others think of him. But these are the peers his kids are going to be mingling with with while they’re here. Erik’s not sure how nonchalantly he’ll be able to take it if his kids end up frightened of him as well.
While most everyone files out quickly, one of the students approaches him, looking skittish. “Um, sir? I heard that you and your family are Jewish. Is that, uh, is that true?”
Erik had expected to be asked for verification of one of the many rumors floating around the school of him. Whether he’d killed the President or if he and Charles are really friends or something of the like, but not this. A latent part of Erik’s childhood survival skills always rears its ugly head when he’s asked this, a flash of panic and fear never failing to bubble up in his chest. He pushes it aside, though, and glances down at his roster to remind himself of this boy’s name. “Indeed we are, Vance. Why do you ask?”
“Well, uh, uum, I’m Jewish, too, and, uh….” Vance trails off, fiddling nervously with the straps of his backpack. Erik fears if he breathes too loudly, it’ll send Vance off running. But the boy finds the courage somewhere inside him to keep going. “Well, uh, ever since getting here I haven’t been able to observe anything, so, um, I was wondering if you and your family observe anything on Shabbats? Like, um, dinner or something. Because-”
Erik cuts him off, before he suffers an aneurysm from having to listen to this kid stumble through his sentences. “We’ll have Shabbat dinner at 6:30. Don’t be late. Wear a kippah. Or don’t. I don’t care. Just be punctual and maybe work on speaking in proper sentences.”
“Okay! Yeah, I’ll, uh, I’ll do that. Thanks, sir. I mean, um, danke, Herr Lehnsherr!” Vance beams at him before running off to his next class, no doubt late after spending an eternity uttering out a simple question.
Still, Erik can’t help but feel a bit pleased. Maybe not everyone hates him.
School is a scam. This is the one thing Pietro has learned in his first day as a student here in the Xavier Institute. School is a cruel, drawn out scam that his parents have fallen for and Pietro is nothing but a victim. It’s awful. Truly awful. At home, they’d attended a school small enough that it had all taken place in one room and no one really cared much about anything. Half the times, Pietro didn’t even bother going, instead choosing to run off and go play instead. More often than not, his teacher had never even bothered getting him into trouble over it. Here, though? When he’d tried, he’d been found within five minutes and brought right back to his classroom!
There was no running off to play here. He and his sister are pretty much the youngest here, as well, other than their baby sister, meaning their classes were just them and one other little girl. No space for hiding in the back and not answering anything. No space to sneak out and have their teacher not notice. No space for anything fun. Pietro spends the whole day doing actual work and - worst of all! - at the end of it all, he still has homework he has to do. Homework! Like all the work he’d done during the day counted for nothing.
When his school day ends, he doesn’t even have the chance to go and complain immediately. No, Wanda has to insist on being responsible, and drags him to their room to do their homework. Pietro traces out letters of the alphabet like they’ve been assigned, mostly because he wants to make his sister happy, but he grumbles about it the whole time. Needless to say, by the time he trudges downstairs for dinner, he’s unbelievably grumpy. He spots his mother seated in a table off to the side, chatting with Charles. He cares very little that he’s interrupting. He runs over and climbs into her lap, seeking attention and validation after the worst day ever.
“Oh! Hello, boychik. What’s wrong with you?” Magda asks, stroking his hair soothingly. She sounds like she might be smiling, but Pietro is too busy hiding his face against her chest to verify.
“School is…” Pietro takes a moment, wanting to be sure he has the most accurate description possible. Finally, he settles for, “Terrible horrible awful! School is terrible horrible awful. It’s no fun at all. I want to leave it.”
Dramatic like his father. Magda swallows a laugh and continues to stroke his hair. “I’m sure it’s not so bad. Come on, chin up. Tell me all about it.”
Pietro sighs, but sits up straight finally so he can look at his mother properly. Charles is looking at him, more amused than anything else at having his conversation with Magda interrupted.
Pietro ignores him. “I like to play, Mama. Play and run around. There was very little playing today It was all boring and too long and I wanted to be outside! Not sitting still!”
“Sometimes we just have to sit still for a little bit, Pietro. It’s part of being a big boy. You’re a big boy, aren’t you, Pietro?” Magda points out.
“Not if it means not spending all day playing outside,” he grumbles. No wonder Papa is always so grumpy. Pietro is, too, and this is after only a single day of this nonsense!
Charles enchanges a glance with his mother, who only nods minutely. Then he reaches over and squeezes Pietro’s shoulder. “I’m sorry to hear your first day was a bit underwhelming, Pietro! I used to hate school as well, you know? When I was a boy, just like you, I dreaded it every day. I just thought it was painfully boring.”
“Really?” Pietro eyes him suspiciously. “But… you’re a professor. Professors are… always in school!”
“I know! Funny how things work out, isn’t it? See, I used to hate it, but that’s because I needed to learn and work a little differently than everyone else. And once I figured that out, I wound up really loving school!” Charles explains. “So tell me, you had a bad day because you had to sit still for too long?”
“Uh huh!” Pietro nods, leaning closer to Charles, even though he doesn’t abandon his place on his mother’s lap. “It’s boring. I’d rather be out playing.”
“Well, I’ll talk to your teachers and we’ll see what we can do about that, okay? We’ll get you liking school if it’s the last thing I do, Pietro,” he promises.
“...you’re going to be trying for a really long time,” Pietro mumbles, but he doesn’t argue it any further. He has the attention span of a puppy, even while he’s complaining, and dinner being brought out distracts him from his woes. He finally leaves his mother’s lap once more, going off in search of a heaping plate of food and his twin sister. As he goes off, the last thing on his mind is the way Charles and his mother keep smiling at each other while Pietro walks away.
i dont even have anything witty too say down here today smh
college is lowkey leaving me dead inside but its okay
Chapter 14: 14
well it's been two months but this chapter is extra long so.... is it evened out? who knows
CW: food, alcohol, allusions to/memories of the Shoah
disclaimer: Shabbat dinner is sort of condensed because I figured most people don't want to read through a bunch of Hebrew they probably don't know
and also, of course, just because Erik and Magda celebrate a certain way doesn't make it representative of all Jewish families
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s alarming how quickly they manage to return to a sense of normalcy. .At least, it would be alarming were it not a family of Lehnsherrs. They’re a resilient breed, like their father. By Friday morning it feels like they’ve already fallen back into routine like old times. There’s a great many people who likely wouldn’t be all too happy about life feeling like a routine, but Magda is always grateful for it. She’s had enough happenings in her life by now. She’s more than happy to have a quiet living. She takes great comfort in routine and luckily, even if her children and husband are often on the more wild side, she gets it often enough. It helps that while not terribly strict, they’re still a decently observant family. So if nothing else, Magda knows Shabbat dinners with her family are always something she can count on.
The kids are just the same no matter how much more rambunctious than her they are. When Pietro sits for breakfast, the first thing he does is to very eagerly ask, “Are we making challah today, Mama?”
Magda smiles. She’s been hovering around the table, helping out as she’s been doing this last week. Charles has this place running like a well oiled machine, but it’s in desperate need of a maternal touch, which she’s been happy to provide. When her kids are around, though, she of courses pauses on everything to sit with them for a bit. Magda nods, patting down Pietro’s hair “Of course we are, love. Once you and your siblings are all out of class.”
“Good!” Pietro grins. Charles has chosen now to make his entrance as he wheels in for breakfast and Pietro’s grin widens. “Mama, can Charles make challah with us?”
Charles rolls his chair in next to Erik and has only just put his brakes on when he finds himself with all the Lehnsherr children staring at him, anticipating an answer. “Oh, dear,” he says, grabbing a slice of toast and slathering on a decent helping of butter. “What have I been corralled into?”
“Oh, it’s fun, Charles! You’ll bake challah with us and I can teach you to braid it and then you can even join us for dinner!” Nina decides, grinning.
“Oh. I don’t want to intrude on your family things. But it’s very sweet of you kids to offer,” Charles says.
The kids apparently don’t think their parents’ opinion holds much weight in this, because they barrel on without giving Erik or Magda a chance to validate the invitation. Pietro shakes his head so quickly, his hair is left all astray when he’s done. “You are Papa’s very best friend, Charles! That means you basically are family, because Papa doesn't have any other friends. So you sort of are like family, so you have to come to dinner.”
“Pietro’s right. You’re more than welcome to join us if you’d like,” Erik promises. He smiles, or as close as Erik gets to smiling when he’s not pulling out his full on shark grin, which is to say, not very much, and pats Charles’ knee under the table. “We’re like brothers, Charles.”
“Well, all right. As long as Magda wouldn’t mind it either, then I’d be absolutely flattered to accept your invitation to dinner,” he agrees.
“Perfect! It’s a plan, then.”
Later, when everyone is off to class and Magda is left to her thoughts as she helps to clean from breakfast, all she can linger on is ‘’brother’. Sure. Brothers. She has a feeling there’s something more there than just brotherhood. But she’d never expect her emotionally stunted husband to do anything other than bury feelings deep down inside where they can do nothing but hurt him until the day they burst out and hurt those around him. Magda doesn’t hold it against him. She was by his side during a great deal of the events that had shaped him into such a difficult, reserved man, even if she’d ended up entirely different. But for all she loves him as he is, she wishes he were more honest with himself and those around him - because she knows it would make him happier.
Magda doesn’t presume to know everything that goes on between Charles and her husband. She thinks, perhaps, that they were once lovers, but she has no way of knowing for sure. It wouldn’t surprise her either if they had spent the last two decades entirely dancing around things unsaid. Even now, they share glances not fitting for a pair of friends and occasionally let their touches linger longer than is appropriate. Magda can imagine they were even worse as younger men without families or careers. Even with all that, she’s sure they were as willfully blind as they are now. Nothing much surprises her when it comes to her husband anymore. Even this whole situation, odd as it may be, doesn’t faze her. Or even the fact that Charles is a man, for starters. She’s known of Erik’s preferences almost as long as she’d known him.
She remembers all too well being marched along endlessly’ the bitter cold, the aches on her back and feet, the ever-present hunger seeming a hundred times worse as they marched with no end in sight. Magda had very much wanted to stop. Simply give up and let everything run its course. But Erik had persistently trudged along beside her, refusing to let her even falter. A vengeful spirit had already burned deep inside him and the very act of surviving was Erik’s first act of revenge. He’d kept her distracted of the whole thing, of the cold and pains, mumbling stories to her, and questions of life from before to keep her awake and going. She thinks that’s very likely the moment their fates had become intertwined forever. She remembers how it had been her to bring up childhood crushes, and how quickly Erik had grown sheepish, flushing a bright pink. She’d pried, likely more than she should have, until he’d admitted his first crush, Eli, the rabbi’s son from his synagogue. And as she blinked in confusion, he’d clarified that no, Eli was not short for Eliza, it was in fact short for Elijah.
Magda remembers the flurry of emotions that had run through her. Confusion, disgust, disappointment. She couldn’t understand why anyone would admit to such a thing and she’d voiced her concern outloud, not caring how rude it might be. Erik had sighed so sadly, she remembers, and mumbled, “I suppose I wanted someone to know before I’m gone, too.”
He’d sounded so sad, Magda couldn’t have possibly held it against him. Besides, the more she thought about it - and there was plenty of time to think during the monotonous marching of those days - the more she couldn’t think of a reason why that would change who Erik was to her. She finds the whole thought of a man with another man unnatural, repulsive almost, but only because it’s what she’s been told all her life. When Erik had first met her, he’d called her a gypsy and found her disgusting as well, because it’s all he’d ever been told as well. So, she’d reasoned that perhaps this wasn’t all that different either. Of course, they’d immediately changed the subject and avoided speaking of it at all, until after liberation when, one slow day of sitting around and waiting, she’d mentioned to Erik that now he wouldn’t be gone and perhaps someday he’d find himself another rabbi’s son. Erik had only stubbornly pretended to have no idea what she was talking about.
Since then, she can probably count on one hand the amount of times it’s come up again. Once when he’d assured her that he really did love her and want to be with her and maybe a handful of other times. Always mumbled or whispered, almost always in the dark and quiet of their bedroom. Actually, as she thinks of it, Magda shouldn’t be surprised that her husband has made no moves towards any of this. It’s going to drive him mad, she knows it. She just wants them to talk it out and whatever should happen, will happen. Her and Erik are already have a less than conventional relationship. She’s married to an international fugitive that she met as a twelve year old. She’s way past doing things normally, clearly.
Magda spends most of the day busying herself with family things and with the baby, and later on, with starting the process for making the dough. While the kids always get eager about making the challah together, she knows that more often than not means mixing in chocolate chips and braiding it, not sitting around for hours waiting for the dough to rise. Her kids don’t have the patience for that. Not Nina, who’s a God-send when it comes to extra help around the house, and certainly not Pietro, who can hardly ever sit still for a minute. So close to three, when the kids make their way into the kitchen after their classes, Magda has the dough ready and waiting for them.
Predictably, Pietro is the first in the kitchen, all but shaking with his excitement. Magda basically has to hold him back from climbing up on the kitchen counter, with a firm hand on his shoulder to calm him for even a moment while his siblings catch up. Wanda and Nina join them soon after, riding in on Charles’ lap. Magda’s glad to see that he’s actually come to join them. She half expected him to come up with some excuse as to why he can’t join them. She may not have known him for very long, but she can see clear as day that he shares her husband’s penchant for disappearing the moment things get even marginally uncomfortable.
Erik trails along in the back and only has a moment to give her a chaste kiss before he has to rush to pick Pietro up before, in his haste to climb up onto the counter where he can see better, he knocks over all the dough. “You won’t get any if you push it to the floor,” he chastises, playfully.
“But I want it now!” Pietro says, grinning as he monkeys around Erik until he can get around and hang off his shoulders and down his back.
“Unfortunately,” Magda says, caressing his hair until he calms down just a smidge, “the bread can’t be ready as fast as you.”
Pietro whines softly. “Why?”
“Good things in life are worth waiting for sometimes, Pietro,” Charles offers, from near the edge of the counter where he’s parked his wheelchair.
“That’s quite sad.” Pietro sighs. “Is there nothing to make it go fast?”
“I’m afraid not, Pietro. But perhaps if you listen to your mother, she’ll give you some tasks to occupy yourself with and it’ll make the time go by a little faster.”
Pietro shrugs, seeming to decide it easier to relent than to keep fighting. Magda looks towards Charles gratefully before doling out tasks to the children. She places Erik and Pietro on egg wash duty, a relatively small task, but Pietro always has a great deal of fun with breaking the eggs. Nina and Wanda are more than happy to be in charge of braiding the challah. They usually don’t let any of the boys near the braiding process, claiming that they can never make it nearly as pretty. Today, however, Nina is insistent on getting Charles to help them with the braiding. She grabs his hand, trying to encourage him to roll closer to the table. The kitchen counter is too tall for Charles to reach from his chair, so Magda moves it onto the kitchen table to work with.
“You can help us make sure the challah is beautiful,” Nina says happily.
Charles just starts apologizing prematurely, shaking his head. “I’m afraid I don’t know how good I’ll be at that. But I’m happy to watch you work!”
“Nonsense, Charles,” Magda chides. “It’s not so hard. We’ll teach you how to braid it, won’t we, girls?”
That gets rather enthusiastic agreement from the girls and Charles very quickly loses all ability to argue. The girls quite simply won’t allow it. Magda’s been on the receiving end of their stubborness more than once. She knows Charles doesn’t stand a chance.
Charles relinquishes defeat, letting the girls maneuver him towards the table where they guide his hands to and fro. Erik looks over knowingly. He’s been at the mercy of the girls before. Magda ends up doing what she always does when there’s three kids and a husband in the kitchen: supervise in case dire crisis intervention is needed. She didn’t want to burn her own home down and she certainly doesn’t want to burn down Charles’.
For all the excitement the kids always create about this, it doesn’t really take more than a few minutes. Magda sends them away with a gentle swat from a dish towel. “Off you kids go! Off with your father. Unless you’re eager to help with some actual work around the kitchen.”
Predictably, they scamper off, giggling and dragging their father along behind them. Charles lingers, wheeling out of Magda’s way, but standing observant. “So, this is something you all do every week?”
Magda nods. “It was important to the both of us they grow up with some level of observance. Erik especially. He wanted them to have some stability in their life.”
“Huh.” Charles fiddled with the controls on his chair, rocking back and forth a few millimeter, as though he were pacing. “I don’t think he would have ever done any of this when we first met. He’s like a different person now with you.”
“No… I don’t think so. Erik fears many of the things inside of himself, Charles. There’s a great deal of him he’d much prefer to hide away and ignore forever. I only try my best to help him see we shouldn’t fear ourselves,” Magda says. She can see in Charles’ eyes he doesn’t believe her.
He shrugs lamely. “Perhaps. I think you underestimate yourself, though. He loves you a great deal. It does him good.”
“Don’t say that as if you’re a stranger to his love,” Magda laughs gently. “You do him good, too.”
Charles turns an undignified shade of rose. “I don’t know about any of that, Magda. We were good friends once, but… Even then, I think he meant much more to me than I ever did to him.”
Men. Magda knows they’ll be the death of her. “Enough of that. I hope you’ll be joining us for dinner as well?”
“Oh, I don’t want to intrude further than I already have,” he says quickly.
Magda stares at him a moment. “Charles. That wasn’t really a question. I don’t think Nina and Wanda will let you do anything except join us.”
“Well, if my presence is requested, I suppose I have no choice but to oblige!”
To no one’s surprise, Charles joins them for dinner. As if the girls would have ever had it any other way. Another student from the school joins them, as well. One who, Erik whispers to her in Polish, is one of Erik’s. No doubt that’ll put a stop to the details Erik had been sharing with her about his day when they’d been upstairs, putting Lorna to bed before dinner. It’ll never cease to amuse Magda how Erik, no matter how tough he may like to act, can always start gossiping like a schoolgirl at the drop of a hat. It’s probably why they could remain best friends after being apart for so long. Erik had delighted in telling her about everything she’d missed since then.
The student introduces himself as Vance and Magda is happy to set another place at the table for him, next to Nina instead of one of the twins, because a pair of five year olds is a bit much to handle. Charles’ place she sets up next to Erik’s. The candles are already lit and on the table, there’s a bottle of wine and a bottle of grape juice. While the kids help set out Vance’s plate and utensils, she pours some out to hand out across the table. She hands one to Charles, who shakes his head politely.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to pass, I don’t drink,” he says apologetically.
Erik just shrugs and takes the cup from Magda’s hands, reaching over to switch it out for the grape juice Vance is holding, leaving Charles with the juice and Vance with the wine. “That’s better anyway. Come on, now, Magda. Astrovik’s fourteen, he’s past his grape juice days.”
“I was under the impression things are done differently here in America!” Magda says, pouring for herself last.
Vance shifts sheepishly on his feet, but says nothing. Any teenager would be quite pleased to get treated more like an adult and he certainly isn’t going to put that at risk. Charles just sighs, like a man who’d given up years earlier. “They are.”
Erik waves him off. “Shush, Charles, I’m sure your parents let you have a drink over dinner when you were a boy as well. No one has to know.”
“If you two boys are done bickering, I think there’s some of us here who’d appreciate getting started on dinner,” Magda says, shaking her head fondly.
Neither of them press any further, nor does Charles try doing anything to stop it. He just resigns himself to it. Magda gets Erik’s attention once more, since reeling in the children into focus is a two-man job. They do, finally, and get through all the blessings so they can start eating. Charles looks horribly lost and confused for most of it, until just before the Motzi, when him and Erik make eye contact, and snicker silently to themselves. Charles is visibly far more relaxed after that and Magda can only imagine what sort of conversation the two of them are having in their heads.
Any remnants of discomfort in Charles fade away once they’re busy eating. The children fill the air with their nonstop chatter, happy to tell their parents (and Charles and Vance, who have no choice but to listen in exchange for dinner) all their thoughts about the previous week. And an eventful week it’s been. Occasionally, they’ll veer into sad reflections of missing home, but Erik always gets their spirits up again by reminding them of the great big yard they have now, or the cool new rooms they can decorate however they please.
As dinner progresses and the children start slowing down with their endless reflections on the week, Charles speaks up. “This is all absolutely amazing, Magda. I can’t thank you enough.”
Erik grins, leaning back slightly in his chair. Over the course of dinner, the top few buttons of his shirt have come undone and his sleeves have been rolled up. Magda alway thinks he’s quite a sight like this, glowing and softened by the wine. “Magda’s always amazing. You’ll learn that quick, Charles.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he agrees.
“The both of you are easy to impress.” She shakes her head. “I don’t know where it comes from with you, Charles, but with Erik, it’s certainly to do with how hopeless he is on his own! Imagine if I wasn’t around, hmm? You’d run into a dead end by the end of the first day!”
Erik smiles, taking her hand and bringing it closer to him to press a kiss to her knuckles. “Lucky for me, that’s not something I have to consider.”
As with any romantic moment in a family of several small children, it doesn’t last very long. It’s quickly interrupted by a balled up napkin being tossed their way, and cries of, “Yuck, Papa!”
“I don’t think our children approve, Erik,” Magda laughs, pulling her hand away from him.
Erik shrugs, unbothered as he finished his wine. “Our children don’t approve of anything. It’s not in their nature.”
“Blame it on the Lehnsherr in them,” she shoots back at him. Magda makes no effort to hide her grin.
Between his last bites of dinner, Erik scoffs. “You hurt my heart, Liebling. Good thing dinner is over. I don’t know how much more of this pain my heart can withstand.”
“Poor you. I don’t know how you’ll manage, but if you can somehow find a way to fight through the tears, how about taking the children up to their bath?” Magda suggests.
“I’m sure I can find the strength in me somehow.” Erik goes to gather up the kids, despite their protests. He kisses Magda’s cheek on his way out and then leaves, hoisting up a twin in each arm and shepherding Nina in front of him.
Magda watches them leave before she starts gathering together all the plates from dinner. Charles is quick to assist her, as is Erik’s student, who is probably the quietest teenage boy Magda’s ever met in her life. “You haven’t said much, Vance. I hope my family hasn’t left you traumatized.”
“Oh, no, ma’am,” he says quickly, shaking his head. “It’s just… it’s very much like being home, yet nothing at all like it… you know?”
“I understand. It’s never easy being away from home. But at least you have Charles here to make it as close to a second home as possible. I know he tries very hard.” As Magda reaches over for an empty plate, she pauses to squeeze Charles’ shoulder.
Charles waves away the compliment, rather predictably. “I’m only a headmaster, Magda. I think you’ve done more towards homeliness in a week than I’ve done in a decade.”
“You keep putting yourself down! It’s no surprise you and Erik are such good friends!” She laughs.
Vance looks between the two of them. Awkward in the way only a gangly fourteen year old can be, he leaves the stack of plates in the middle of the table. “Right. Well. I’m going to head off now. Thank you for dinner, Frau Lehnsherr.”
Magda watches him leave, chuckling softly to herself as she carried plates to the kitchen. Beside her, Charles followed. “I think my husband has struck the fear of God into all of them.”
“It’s his specialty, is it not?” Charles agrees, shrugging.
“At times.” Magda deposits the plates in the sink and steps away. That’s work for another time. “Which means I should probably go make sure he’s not terrorizing the children with bubbles and bath toys. Good night, Charles.”
“Good night, Magda. Thank you for allowing me to dine with your family. It was an honor,” Charles says, wheeling out of the kitchen at her side, until they have to part ways.
Magda lays a hand on Charles’ shoulder. She smiles at him. “It was our pleasure. Truly.”
He knows he’ll just dismiss it like everything else, but she doesn’t quite give him a chance to. With that, she turns and goes to join Erik and the children, before any of them can plan an uprising against bedtime. The kids all have their father’s blood in them, and squandering possible revolutions is her full time job as their mother. She finds them covered in far more bubbles than they should ever have access to, but at least everything seems in one piece. Erik has bubbles all throughout his hair and clinging to the scruff of his beard when he turns to see her at the bathroom entrance.
“I have it all under control,” he promises.
Magda laughs. “I don’t doubt it! And from the looks of it, you’re getting your own bath in as well. Very efficient, Erik. I like it.”
‘You know me. Dripping with German efficiency. Now, shoo, go on. I’ve got this handled tonight. You don’t have to worry about any of it,” Erik insists.
Pietro gives his father a helping hand by splashing some water as far as he can. “Yeah, Mama, go away, we’re with Papa now!”
“All right, all right. I get the hint. Good night, you three.” Magda blows a kiss towards them and then goes off to the bedroom, leaving them to spend some time with their father.
As she waits for Erik’s return, she checks up on Lorna, asleep in her crib at a corner of the room. None of the children had been particularly difficult children, not even Pietro with his never ending appetite, even as a baby. But Lorna has certainly been the easiest of the lot. Maybe it’s because anything pales in comparison to uprooting a family, but Magda thinks it has more to do with Lorna taking after her father. Magda can already see the glint of surliness in her eyes, just like her father. Magda has a soft spot for grumps, clearly. She steps away from the crib again when she hears Erik come in, a while later.
Erik comes up and wraps his arms around her, leaning down so he can kiss her forehead. “There are three squeaky clean children in their beds right now.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” she says, giving him a proper kiss before he can stand up straight again. “I got to talk to Charles a bit today. It’s always rather enlightening when I do.”
“Enlightening?” Erik repeats. His arms move to loop behind her shoulders, holding her close there.
“Yes, enlightening. It’s like getting a window into parts of you I’ve never known,” she elaborates.
Erik laughs. “You make it sound like you’re reading long lost journals of my youth. Charles is…. A hugely important friend in ways that would be hard for most people to understand, but at the end of the day, you’re my wife. I don’t think there’s a great deal about me Charles could share that you wouldn’t already know.”
“Don’t downplay what he is to you, Erik. I think most people would call it a great deal more than friendship.”
“Brothers, then. But estranged ones, who’ve spent perhaps a few months together over the course of decades. The end result is the same. You’re my wife of eight years, there’s nothing he could say that you wouldn’t know for yourself already.”
“If brothers shared what the two of you seem to have, I’d be worried about the sort of family they’ve come from! I’d accuse you of trying to keep me in the dark about things, but with you, it’s always possible you’ve willfully blinded yourself.”
Erik tenses minutely, hardly enough for Magda to notice. But in years of marriage, she’s come to notice all his tics.It’s how she knows they’re on the same page now. Erik would only ever grow this uncomfortable when forced to think about the many things he ignores. After a moment of hesitation, he retracts his arms from around her and takes a step back. “‘I think your head is full of fantasies, Liebling.”
“I think the only one in a fantasy world is you,” Magda says, trying to reach for Erik’s hand, only to have it pulled away defensively.
“I love you. You, ” Erik emphasizes. He shakes his head and sits as the edge of the bed.
“I know. And I you,” she promises, standing in front of him so she can cradle his head in her hands. Moments like these remind her of when they were children together, back when Erik hadn’t been so afraid of imperfection. “But, you know…. You and I are like best friends that wound up married by circumstances. We’re hardly conventional. We never know. And you can talk to me. You know that, don’t you?”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Magda,” Erik insists. He pulls his head back, away from her touch, and that hurts more than she’d like to admit.
But loving Erik is a drawn out game of patience. “I don’t think you even believe that yourself, Erik. I wish I knew where I went wrong, to make you think you can’t come to me. I’ve always believed I could go to you about anything in the world. Am I wrong?”
“Of course not. But it’s different. It’s… There’s not….” Erik sighs. This isn’t a battle he has the strength to fight on a Friday evening, after a week like theirs. So, he amends, “There’s nothing I want to talk about.”
“Not tonight, then. But soon.” It’s not a question. Magda knows if left in Erik’s hands, it would be put off indefinitely until it ate him up inside, like so many other things already had. Erik says nothing, but stands and begins to undress for the night. It’s far earlier than normal for Erik to be sleeping, but Magda doesn’t try to push it. Instead, she retrieves her night clothes as well to join him, because Erik left alone to brewing dark thoughts is good for no one, but most of all, it’s no good for Erik himself. As she watches him undress, she can’t help but gently remind him, “I love you, Erik. The whole of you.”
“I know, Magda. I know.”
magda and erik are a classic example of platonic best friends who make a pact at ten years old to marry each other if they're still single at thirty, except they actually went through with it
also it's currently Purim so hmu in the comments if you want my sad (or happy, I can also give you happy) Lehnsherr family headcanons about Purim