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If Charles thought that an excellent midterm grade would change the way Lehnsherr feels about Intro Biology, he was wrong. Two more weeks of no-shows, and he’s at the end of his rope.

“I just don’t know what to do,” he whines to Moira, phone pressed between his shoulder and his ear as he tries to juggle his laptop bag, a stack of course work, and the door to a café.

“You need to stop caring so much,” she says pragmatically.

“Please,” Charles scoffs. “Like you wouldn’t feel the same way if it was one of your students.”

It’s the universal curse of being a TA—inevitably you’re way too invested in a bunch of eighteen year olds.

“You can’t let it get to you, though,” Moira says, dodging the accusation. “You’re too busy to be this stressed out.”

Charles looks down at the mounting stack of coursework in his hand and tries to remember the last time he actually got to do his own research. Moira might have a point.

“I suppose,” he allows reluctantly.

“Just report him to McCone,” Moira presses. “And stop worrying about it.”

“Yeah, I—” Charles clamps down on his bottom lip, a familiar profile coming into view by one of the back tables. “Shit, Moira, I think he’s here.”

For one agonizing second Charles tries to remember whether he’s said Lehnsherr’s name since he walked into the café, and then he looks closer, and realizes it doesn’t matter.

Lehnsherr definitely isn’t paying attention to him.

“Moira, I have to go,” he says, hanging up before she can question him.

He squints towards the back of the café. There’s no question; Lehnsherr is standing by the corner table, and there is a baby in his arms.

Charles sidles closer.

“Please, Emma,” Lehnsherr’s tone is pleading. It’s quite a departure from the monosyllabic grunts Charles gets in class. “I can’t miss another class; I’ll fail.”

“Sorry, sugar.”

A blonde rises from the table, coming into Charles’ line of sight. She’s beautifully and beautifully dressed, and she looks at the baby with something akin to distaste.

“You know I don’t do kids,” she tells Lehnsherr with very little sympathy. “Besides, I have a meeting for a group project.” She begins to gather up her belongings from the table.

Charles watches, fascinated. What is Lehnsherr doing with a baby? Has he gotten stuck with a younger sibling for the day?

“Emma, you know I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate. But there’s no one else.” Lehnsherr’s eyes are wide and entreating. The child in his arms squirms, reaching out to poke at his face. “The babysitter has pneumonia or something like that, none of my other regular sitters are available last minute, and I can’t blow off another class. I’m already on thin ice.”

Even though he’s technically still on campus, Charles can’t help but reach out, brushing his mind against Lehnsherr’s.

Already took out student loans…should have listen to my mother…no way I can do this… what was I thinking?...I’m going to fail out in my first semester…just prove everyone right: a teen parent doesn’t deserve more than a job at the local gas station.

Charles draws back with a gasp.

The baby is Erik’s?

The boy watches helplessly as the blonde walks away, offering a jaunty little wave over her shoulder as if she hadn’t just left him in a rut. Charles watches Lehnsherr’s face crumble into bitter resignation, as the child buries her face into his neck and his arms curl tighter around her.

All the missed classes, all the late entries, all the dark circles under Lehnsherr’s eyes, they suddenly make sense to Charles, and he feels like the worst teacher in the world. He’s called Lehnsherr lazy, arrogant, small-minded and a dozen other names, and in this moment he can see that none of them are true.

“Erik?” Charles says, stepping closer.

The boy looks up, surprise and embarrassment flitting over his face as he focuses in on Charles. “Oh. Hi, Mr. Xavier.”

“It’s just Charles,” he reminds the boy gently. “Are—are you okay?”

Lehnsherr frowns slightly, shifting the child to his hip. “I’m fine,” he says, and the mask of stony indifference that Charles is used to settles over his face.

The girl in his arms fixes her eyes on Charles, examining him with a kind of intensity he hadn’t known children could muster. “Hi!” she declares, her face breaking into a smile.

Apparently he’s passed some kind of a test. “Hello,” he returns. “What’s your name?”

“Hi!” she says again.

“This is Lorna,” Lehnsherr says awkwardly. “My daughter.”

He looks like he expects Charles to be shocked; but, of course, he doesn’t know about Charles’ mutation, and Charles isn’t about to tell him that he violated university policy and eavesdropped in the boy’s mind.

“Nice to meet you, Lorna,” Charles says gravely, reaching out for one of the baby’s chubby hands. He shakes it gently between his fingers and she erupts in peals of laughter.

Lehnsherr looks flummoxed.

“She’s beautiful, Erik,” Charles says sincerely. She has her father’s blue-green eyes, and her soft down of hair is a lovely rich auburn. “How old is she?”

“Eighteen months,” the boy says, and a small smile spreads over his face as he looks at his daughter.

Charles bites his lip; it softens the boy’s face, making him look so much more open and kind.

He feels worse and worse for the judgements he made against Erik. He should have seen that there was more to the situation than meets the eye; it was part of his pastoral role as an educator, and he had failed his young student.

He sees Erik’s eyes drift to the clock behind his head, and the boy winces slightly.

Charles makes up his mind.

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear. You need someone to watch Lorna while you go to class?”

Erik sighs. “My babysitter called out sick at the last minute,” he admits.

“I—“ Charles pauses, knowing what he’s about to suggest is insane. “I could watch her. I wasn’t going to do anything but grade some papers. I’m free all afternoon.”

Erik looks highly sceptical, but his eyes dart to the clock once again. “Do you have any experience with babies?”

“Well, no,” Charles admits. The eighteen-year-olds in his classes are pretty much the closest he’s ever come to children. “But how hard can it be?”

Lorna looks like a sweet, happy child. She’s watching him with interest, sucking on her own fingers.

Erik snorts, but one more glance at the clock has him handing Lorna over.

“Oh!” Charles takes her awkwardly, holding her uncomfortably against his chest. She squirms against him, writhing in his arms trying to find a more comfortable rest against him, and Charles squeaks, tightening his grip.

Erik looks even more sceptical, but merely hands over the bag from his shoulder.

“Diaper bag,” he says. “There are diapers and wipes inside. She’ll probably cry when I leave; give her a juice box and it’ll calm her down. There are some snacks in there, too. Just…keep her entertained, and I’ll be back in an hour.”

“Oookay,” Charles says, looking down at the bag. Diapers, wipes, snacks…he can do this. Probably. “We’ll be fine,” he says, trying to assure himself as much as Erik.

“Alright. I’ll just…go, then.” He leans in, pressing his lips against Lorna’s downy hair. “Daddy loves you,” he whispers, and Charles feels his heart constrict. He sounds so tender.

He can’t be more than nineteen.

Erik hurries out of the café just as Lorna’s little face begins to screw up. Charles watches, fascinated, as her face reddens and her little mouth opens, revealing the few teeth she has.

And then the wailing starts.

“Oh!” Charles looks around the café, seeing every head turning towards him and the noise bomb in his arms. “No, no,” he says lowly, jiggling her slightly in his arms. This does not seem to help. “Daddy will be back in no time.”

“Da!” Lorna hiccups, sobs increasing.

“Oh god,” Charles groans. What has he gotten himself into?

After about a minute of solid wailing he remembers the juice box Erik mentioned, and digs frantically into the diaper bag one-handed, trying desperately not to drop Lorna in the process. Finally, after a moment of panic, he unearths a small box with a colourful picture of a grape vine on it.

“Juice!” Lorna cries, reaching out for it.

The twist top is almost too much for him, particularly one-handed, but finally Charles tears the thing open and guides it into Lorna’s mouth.

The immediate silence is absolute bliss.

“Oh thank god,” he says, closing his eyes in relief.

“Sir?”

He cracks an eye open to see a young girl, wearing a bright red apron with the logo of the café emblazoned on it.

“I’m so sorry!” he says quickly. “She’ll be quiet now.”

The last thing he wants is to be kicked out of the café. Where would he take Lorna then?

“I was just wondering if you wanted a highchair? For the baby?”

“What? Oh.” Charles glances at the table behind him. He supposes it would be nice to put Lorna down sometime in the next hour. She’s much heavier than he was expecting. “Oh, yes, that would be lovely.” He offers the girl his best charming smile.

She merely smirks, and Charles’ smile falters slightly. He feels he is being judged, although the girl can’t be more than eighteen herself.

She trots to the back of the store and returns a moment later with a highchair, setting it beside the table.

“Thank you,” Charles says, eyeing the contraption. “Do you, um…” he feels himself flush. “Do you know how to put her in it?”

The girl laughs outright then. “Just set her in, one leg on each side of this divider, and buckle the strap around her waist, so she won’t fall out,” the girl taps each part of the chair in succession, demonstrating.

“Ah, right. Thank you.”

She returns to the counter and the line of customers. Charles barely restrains from calling her back and pleading for her help. Lorna watches him critically from over the top of her juice bottle.

“Not you too,” he tells her, shifting her in his arms to try and deposit her in the seat. It’s not as easy as the barista made it sound. Lorna struggles in his arms, and Charles is terribly, terribly afraid he’s going to drop her. Her chubby little legs don’t automatically go where he wants them to, and when he tries to guide them, he worries that he’s hurting her. Can he force her legs to bend where he wants them to go?

After a moment’s struggle she slides down into the seat, her blue-green eyes fixing on him reproachfully.

“Sorry,” he says, abashed. “I guess I’m not very good at this.”

He plucks at the straps and buckles of the chair, trying to remember how the girl said it should go. He drags one around Lorna, but it doesn’t seem like it will reach. After a moment he sees that the straps adjust, and with a mighty tug gets them to wrap around her round belly, snapping in place and securing her to the seat.

“There!” he says triumphantly. Lorna just stares at him over the juice bottle.

Charles sighs and glances up at the clock.

It’s only been four minutes.

“This is going to be a very long hour,” he tells the child gravely, dropping into the seat beside her.

He takes out his stack of coursework, settling in to mark.

A juice box hits the side of his face and falls on the top sheet, drooling purple liquid on a student’s assignment.

“Done!” Lorna announces.

“Yes, I can see that.” He blots at the spreading stain of grape juice with a frown.

“Num-me,” she declares.

“Yes, yummy juice,” Charles sighs.

“Num-ME,” she says, louder. Charles glances up. She is looking at him sternly.

“Do you…want something?”

“NUM-ME.”

“Um…” Charles risks another glance around the café. People are definitely looking at him. Probably judging him and his inability to take care of a child for (he looks at the clock)…ten minutes. Oh god.

Sending a (silent) mental apology to Erik, he dives into Lorna’s mind. Her thoughts are not the same as an adult’s; they’re not ordered into words, but just flashes of images. Erik, at the forefront, coloured by a distinct tinge of longing. Charles bypasses that with a pang. Suddenly swimming into focus is the image of a stack of crackers, and Charles dives for the diaper bag, practically crowing in relief as he comes up with a baggie full of goldfish crackers.

“Num-me!” Lorna says, reaching out with chubby hands. Charles hands her the bag, and then just manages to catch it before she upends it all over the floor.

“I guess you can’t really feed yourself yet,” he says, shaking a few of the bright-orange crackers onto the tabletop. Lorna grabs for them happily, shoving them into her mouth and crunching down.

Orange-colored spittle lands on his marking. Charles glances down sadly. Poor Kitty; she does not deserve the mess that’s being made of her work.

Lorna eats happily for several minutes—more crackers land on the floor than in her mouth, but she’s quiet and content. Charles manages to grade two and a half assignments.

And then Lorna starts squirming in her seat, a frown touching her rosebud lips.

“Eeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh” she whines, low and insistence. “Eeeeeehhhhhh.”

“What’s wrong?” Charles asks, as if she can tell him.

Her whining increases, and orange goop drips onto her chin.

Charles winces. “Lovely.”

The barista looks over from where she’s sweeping the floor nearby. “She probably needs to be changed,” the girl volunteers.

“Oh,” Charles eyes Lorna, hoping she’ll somehow do something to prove that’s not the case.

“There’s a changing table in the bathroom,” the girl continues.

“Oh,” Charles repeats. Lorna’s whine increases.

“Well,” he says, standing up determinedly and shouldering the diaper bag. “This should be an adventure.”

Lorna looks as doubtful as he feels as he struggles to remove her from the highchair, but eventually they make their way over to the café’s bathroom. Charles waits impatiently for it to be free, trying to conjure some knowledge of diapers. He even sneaks a peek into the barista’s mind, but all he finds is amusement at his predicament and a firm belief that he’s going to fail spectacularly.

Not helpful.

But how hard can it be? People have been diapering their children for millennia. He’ll be fine.

He shoulders his way into the restroom when its occupant vacates. He blinks at the changing table folded against the wall. Of course, he’s seen them before, but he’s never had to think about them. He arranges Lorna on one hip and gives the table a tug, sighing with relief as it folds down from the wall. It has completely unhelpful pictorial instructions on it; mostly implying that there’s every chance the child will fall to their death from it. Lots of red Xs are involved.

Charles chooses to ignore the alarmist instructions entirely.

He plops Lorna down on the table starts to paw through the bag dangling off on one of his shoulders; diaper, wipes, he’s sure he can do this.

And then Lorna rolls over.

“Oh god!” he squeaks, dropping the bag to catch her with both arms. Toys and snacks and diapers spill across the sticky bathroom floor. “Well, that’s unsanitary,” he grumbles, his heart pounding in his ears. He hoists Lorna back onto the table, and finally pays attention to the straps that criss-cross the table. “Ah,” he says, squinting at the tiny diagram on the table. “Well, I suppose that makes sense,” he tells Lorna reluctantly, strapping her securely down before going to fetch the contents of Erik’s bag.

“Don’t tell your father this happened,” he says firmly, scooping up a handful of granola bars. “It’s not like the actual food touched the floor.”

Lorna gurgles at him, plucking at the buckle holding her down with interest.

“Okay,” Charles says, bag back in some semblance of order. “Diaper change. Yes. I can do this.”

He strips off Lorna’s pants, pausing for only a moment to admire just how tiny they are, a miniature replica of adult jeans, complete with little useless pockets and belt loops. They are, to be quite frank, adorable.

Lorna’s top buttons between her legs, and he unsnaps it, telling himself its ridiculous to feel awkward doing this, as she is just a baby. Her diaper is extremely puffy and slightly damp to the touch. “I can see how that would be uncomfortable,” he sympathizes. He wrangles it off of her, dropping it quickly into the trash before he can think about what he’s holding in his hand.

He unfolds the new diaper, looks at it, and then looks at Lorna. “Hmm,” he says. She giggles.

He really should have paid more attention to the diaper he removed.

“Okay, one bit under you,” he talks himself through it. “And then up between your legs, and then it should just…hmm.” It doesn’t seem as easy to stick as it should, but he manages in the end, getting it securely fastened around her little hips. A few more terrible moments, and she’s fully dressed again, and as far as he can tell, unharmed by the process.

“Let’s not do that again, alright?” he says, scooping her up and guiding the changing table back up against the wall.

When he opens the door, there is a line of seven people waiting impatiently for the bathroom.

“Oops?” he offers helplessly, stepping around a rather irate man. He glanced at the clock. He’d like to see them try to change their first diaper in under…fifteen minutes.

“Had a bit of trouble in there?” the barista asks, seeming utterly delighted with his struggles.

Charles frowns. “It was fine,” he tells her shortly, clutching Lorna tighter to his chest.

The girl just laughs.

The diaper change has, thankfully, taken up a good portion of his time with Lorna. Charles settles her back into her highchair, and tells himself not to stare at the door, trying to will Erik to walk back through it.

Lorna fidgets in her seat. “Down!”

“Not right now,” he placates.

“Down!” she says more insistently.

“You can’t get down,” Charles tells her. “The floor is dirty and I need you stay in one place.”

“Down!”

Charles cannot believe he’s arguing with a toddler. “No,” he tells her firmly.

She bursts into tears.

The girl behind the counter laughs unrepentantly.

He scrambles into the diaper bag, looking for something to entertain her with. He pulls a book out of its depths and Lorna instantly stops crying.

“Good girl,” he says, impressed. “Books are the best entertainment.”

The book is called Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and it is mind-numbingly repetitive.

Charles reads it four times.

Lorna is delighted.

“We’ll try to improve your taste in books later,” he concedes.

Charles looks up as a wave of concern and impatience hits him, just in time to see Erik shoulder past a slow-moving woman and squeeze through the café door. He visibly relaxes when he sees Lorna, sitting quietly in her highchair, flipping through the pages of her book.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says, panting. “The seminar ran over, and then we had to talk to our group partners, and arrange a study time, and it just took longer than I thought it would.”

Charles blinks at the breathless flow of words. “It’s fine,” he says gently. “We had a fine time. I didn’t even notice you were late.”

In truth, it had been the longest hour and seventeen minutes of Charles’ life, but Erik doesn’t need to know that, not when he’s looking so relieved, and unbearably fond of his child as he crouches down next to her, pressing a kiss to her round cheek.

“Were you a good girl?” he asks.

Charles is fairly sure Lorna isn’t going to answer her father, so he does instead. “She was an angel,” he tells him.

He’s not entirely sure if this is a lie, or not. She was difficult, but he suspects—mostly from the amusement radiating off of the barista—that this is normal baby behavior. She didn’t throw a tantrum or spit up on Charles or tear up his coursework. Perhaps that counts as angelic?

Erik looks up at him, his mouth twisting as several emotions flit across his face. He settles on reluctantly grateful. It’s more than Charles has ever gotten from the boy before, so he’ll take it.

“Thank you,” Erik says gruffly. “I really…I really appreciate it.” He seems to be forcing the words out.

“It’s quite alright,” Charles tells him. “Babysitters do get sick, I suppose.”

Erik snorts. “Yeah, and they forget, and they cancel, and their moms show up late to drive them to my place, and they decide they want to go out with friends instead—” he abruptly cuts off the bitter flow of words, cheeks flushing.

“Has it been that bad?” Charles asks gently.

“I’ve—I’ve been struggling with finding a reliable sitter,” he admits. “I can only afford kids too young to get a better job, but that also means they’re too young for the responsibility. “ He sighs, the resigned and long-suffering sigh of someone much older than his eighteen or nineteen years. “It was really great of you to step in today. I’ve missed too many classes as it is.”

Charles thinks of every time Erik’s come into class late, out of breath and surly. Every time he’s missed seminar. He remembers the look on the boy’s face as he sprinted up to the midterm, barely making it. His heart breaks a little bit.

“Can’t your family help out?”

Erik’s face hardens. “No. They’re—no.”

Charles can’t help it, he opens himself up, just a little bit, and gets a terrible rush of anger, resentment, longing.

“I could do it again,” he says suddenly.

“What?”

“Watch Lorna,” he clarifies, slightly horrified at the words coming out of his own mouth. The only consolation of the last hour has been that it was only an hour. One hour out of his life.

But he can’t take back the words now, not when hope is blossoming in Erik’s eyes.

“Really? I mean, I only pay, like, five dollars an hour…”

“Don’t be silly,” Charles says. “You don’t have to pay me. I’m always free during this class period, and all I do is spend it in this café. I’d be happy to watch her once a week for you to go to…”

“Structural engineering,” Erik supplies.

“Ah. Not a bio major then?”

“No. Sorry,” Erik grimaces. “It’s a prereq for the major.”

“Ah well,” Charles smiles. “You’re good at it, though, if you change your mind.”

“I’m better at engineering,” Erik boasts with a grin, which falls just as quickly as it formed. “When I can make it to class.”

“Then I really insist you let me watch Lorna,” Charles says. He knows it’s foolish, but the joy that had colored Erik’s face when he talked about engineering…well, wasn’t that what he was supposed to foster as an educator? He couldn’t teach the boy engineering, but he could make sure he made it to class.

“Thank you,” the boy says sincerely. “We have to go, but—see you same time next week?”

“I’ll be here,” Charles promises.

Erik leaves the café with a smile on his face.

“Bye!” Lorna bellows over his shoulder.

“You’re a big softie, you know that?” the barista says, pushing a broom past his table.

“So I’ve been told,” Charles sighs.

_______________________________________________


A/N: This story is actually a fill for this prompt:

Erik is the teen dad of adorable baby!Lorna.

Baby's mom can be Magda, or I'd also be fine with an mpreg element. I just want teen!Erik being a dad, with adorable interactions between him and his baby. Angst is good too since there's always going to be some in such situations, but mainly I want to see teen dad Erik being an awesome dad who loves the hell out of his daughter despite whatever else may be going on.

Oh and powers are a MUST.


But somehow Chapter One ended up being all about TAing. Oh well...
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