"So Dad, when are we going to have the talk?" Pietro asks as they try and figure out how to make a goddamn elevator out of a box of nails and some plastic pipes. They hadn't had the foresight to actually get any supplies for this little project, and that, plus their general lack of understanding of how to go about building anything, was really grinding on Magneto's nerves.
"Aren't we're talking right now, Pietro?" he replies irritably.
Pietro's eyes widen. "Wow. You don't even know what the talk is, do you?"
Magneto closes his eyes. Give me patience, he thinks.
"Aren't you going to give me advice with the lads and the ladies, y'know, techniques and stuff? Warn me not to get some girl pregnant when I'm in my twenties like you did, all that?"
Magneto is still processing the insult in that last sentence when Pietro continues,
"Well, I do have the ladies end covered, Wanda helps me with that, but I thought you could help me with the fellas, on account of you and the professor."
Magneto neither knows nor cares who Wanda is at this point, but the last part of that sentence catches him.
"Excuse me?" he asks. "What, exactly, about me and Charles are you talking about?"
Pietro loses a bit of his momentum under Erik's glare but continues on, "Well, y'know, because you two are gay together."
"What?" Magneto asks flatly. There's a rather drawn out pause before he can say, "Myself and Charles are not 'gay together', what the hell gave you that impression?"
Pietro shakes his head in disbelief. "Really? Not even a little bit? Are you suuure?"
"Pietro," Magento warns, "Cut it out."
"What? Hey, look sorry dad, I just presumed-"
"What exactly did you presume, Pietro?"
"Well, just from the chess games and the banter and then the way you left him and-"
He trails off, then raises his hands. "Stop getting insulted, okay? It was a misunderstanding."
"Did I say it was insulting?" Magneto snaps, and runs a hand through his hair. "But look, Pietro, you can't just run around saying people are gay for crying out loud," he says, his voice harsher than he means it to be.
Pietro juts out his jaw, but for once says nothing, and Magneto is at a loss as what to do next. Pietro does most of the talking normally.
"Let's see if they've made any progress on dinner, shall we?" he says after a moment.
Pietro nods, and then shakes his head just as fast. "Just checked there. Nope. Guess you're stuck here with me."
If Magneto starts grinding his teeth, it's entirely unintentional.
Hank wanders back into the kitchen that evening, and then immediately regrets it. Alex is cooking tonight. This could be dangerous.
He pulls up a chair, and asks "what are you making?" as casually as he can, fearing the worst.
"Spaghetti," Alex says, and his brow crinkles a little in concentration. It must be very arduous task after all, adding hot water to the pot. Hank doesn't know how Alex will possibly cope with this kind of pressure.
Probably due to his stints in jail and the army, Alex does not have exceptionally developed tastebuds, or a gift for cooking. This often leads to questions like the one he asks now. "Hank? You know chicken?"
Hank sighs. "I've heard of it, yeah."
"Can I just like, fry it?" Alex asks, gesturing towards his torso. So he intends to laser-blast their dinner. Lovely.
"Do you have a slow-roast setting that I wasn't previously aware of?" Hank asks.
"Fuck off," Alex says, maybe affectionately, maybe not, and turns back to the chicken. He wavers in front of the microwave, clearly wondering whether you can cook chicken that way. Hank doesn't inquire if this means that they are having literally just having dry chicken and spaghetti for dinner. It's probably best not to know.
Hank starts jotting down his idea. He used to have a habit of writing on his arm, but the blue fur he sports now doesn't really hold the ink so well. It's a shame.
"What are you doing?" Alex asks trying to sound uninterested.
"Right," Hank begins, albeit badly. "Well I wanted to see if there's any connection between the mutations in families, or whether it's just random." He phrases it as simply as he can, conscious of the fact that Alex has limited interest in science, but he doesn't want to be condescending either. Condescension is for guys in metal hats with stupid maroon capes who flap around ineffectively and still think they're superior.
"Well," Alex says, turning back to the spaghetti, which obviously still needs the utmost care and attention, "there's always my kid brother."
Hank blinks. "You have a brother?" he asks, rather stupidly, as that has just been established.
"Yeah Scott," Alex replies. "He's got the lasers too, but they're in his eyes. It's really shitty."
Hank is still flabbergasted. "You never mentioned him."
"Well, it's not like I've seen you too often in the last ten years man. When I was getting shot at in Vietnam, I wasn't thinking 'wow, I really must tell Beast that my deadbeat mom got pregnant again,'"
Hank almost feels like he should apologise, though he doesn't know what for, but instead just scrawls down this new tidbit of information, then looks up.
"If he's having problems with his mutation, why doesn't he join the school?" he asks.
Alex barks out a laugh. "Man, this isn't a school. We've got a kleptomaniac, and his megalomaniac dad, a junkie, a monster and me. That's it. What kind of place is this to raise a kid? Scott can come someday, sure, but he's got to go to real school first, learn to read and write for God-sakes. Who here is gonna have the patience to teach him that?"
This is the most words Alex has ever spoken to Hank all at once, and he seems to realise it himself and turns back to the dinner. There's a lot there that they could discuss, but Hank gets stuck on the word monster. He would like to think Alex is joking, but it's hard to tell with Havok sometimes.
Charles ambles in sometime later, and Hank reflects that only Charles could be wheel-chair bound and still have the verb 'amble' apply to him. It's the British side of him, with all the cardigans, he supposes, that makes it work.
"Professor, did anyone in your family have a mutation?" Hank asks him.
"Raven," Charles answers immediately.
"Erm, I actually mean biological family," Hank replies, embarrassed at the ease in which Charles still calls Raven family. "It's for a study I'm thinking of doing, tracking relations between mutations within families," he elaborates.
"Oh," Charles says softly, and Hank regrets bringing it up at all. The unspoken rule in the mansion was not to mention Erik, Raven, or Sean. They were only dealing with the latter's death by steadfastly not talking about it, like how they dealt with the other two's on-and-off absences. It was easier like that.
"Well, my biological father killed himself when I was only a child," Charles says, and from the flatness of his tone he could be talking about the qualities of Alex's spaghetti,"so I never did find out whether he had a mutation or not, but I'd hazard a guess and say not." Charles lapses into silence again, and Hank is afraid to say anything. "Oh, my mother was unremarkable in every way too," the Professor adds a moment later. "My apologies if that's unhelpful Hank."
Hank really regrets starting this investigation. Nearly every mutant he knows has a brutal backstory, and even Alex said he wasn't cut out to be a guidance counsellor. He shouldn't be dragging this stuff up.
"I'm sorry Professor," he manages.
Erik and Pietro turn up some time later, ostensibly not speaking to one another. Hank would really like to know how Charles has managed a decade of relative-amity with the man, when his own son can't last two hours. Knowing Erik, he probably told Pietro to kill his mom. She was only a lowly human after all. Billions of others to replace her.
"Dinner's ready," Alex says, walking to the table, balancing four plates in his hands. He slides one in front of Hank, then Charles and Pietro, and puts the last one in his own place, and then sits down.
Everyone watches him as he begins to eat.
"What?" he asks reproachfully, a blond picture of innocence - if innocence had a strong jaw and light stubble, that is.
"Alex, don't you have some dinner for Erik?" Charles asks, not without merit. Erik is drumming his fingers on the table and looking like he may go Magneto on them, which Hank would like to avoid at all costs.
"Oh," Alex says slowly and yet deliberately, "Oh yeah. I must have forgot about you, Magneto. Oh no. What a horrible mistake. It must be just terrible, being let down by someone you thought was your friend. My sincerest apologies," Alex says, then adds cheerfully, "There's some bread leftover if you want to make a sandwich or something. That is, if you're even hanging around that long at all."
"That's enough," Charles says. Erik stands, and Hank thinks well here comes the inevitable Erik-storming-off-bit, but Erik surprises him by sucking in a breath and walking over to the kitchen, and by all accounts he actually starts making a sandwich, though god knows what ingredients they have. Butter. Everyone has butter. There also might still be some mustard lying around from the Honey Mustard Turkey debacle a few months back.
None of them do much grocery shopping. Hank has the excuse of being too intimidating, Alex flat-out refuses, Charles pleads disability and Pietro does it on occasion, but won't pay for it, which is nearly worse.
They were, he concludes, a ridiculous bunch.
"So, how much progress did you make today, Pietro?" Charles asks after a moment. Erik is deliberately being noisy making his sandwich - how loudly can a one man open a tub of butter, really - his actions screaming, no, I'm fine doing it by myself, no, no need to get up. Such a drama queen.
"Umm, we decided where to put the ramp," Pietro says. "Mainly we were arguing though, because Dad wants to line the walls of the mansion with metal so he can crush everyone to death inside if he needs to."
Hank isn't even surprised, and that worries him a little. It's one thing to know a man with murderous tendencies and avoid that man at all costs; it's quite another to try and have dinner and polite conversation with him.
"Pietro," Erik says warningly from over in the kitchen.
"Alright alright, so that last bit was a lie," Pietro says, shrugging, "but wow guys, you didn't even bat an eyelid. Is he really that bad?"
The silence that follows says a lot. Erik slams the butter knife onto the counter and walks back over to where they're sitting.
The silence grows deeper, and it's almost unbearable. Maybe if Hank really casually gets up for a glass of water no-one will notice him slinking away.
He sighs. He's kind of hard not to notice, being a blue hairy thing and all.
"How's that sandwich, Erik?" Charles asks. It's bad when Charles is this desperate.
Even though it's an informal rule that Hank isn't allowed to talk about science at dinner, desperate times call for it.
"Erm, Magneto?" he asks. Erik's gaze moves to him, and he shrinks a little in his chair, and then straightens again. He's fought Magneto, who isn't such a big man when you do literally anything other than give him metal to work with. Hank is pretty sure that Erik doesn't know how to fight fairly, without using his power, but then, neither does Charles. They're literal soul-mates, he muses.
He stares Erik down. "Did anyone else in your family - other than Pietro that is, have a mutation? It's for a, emm, project."
Erik looks at Hank coldly in the eye, and then says in a completely monotone voice, as if he's daring Hank to pity him, "Well Hank, all of my family were brutally murdered in a concentration camp, so the topic never really came up, but as far as I know they were human through and through. I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you." His eyes look like he means nothing of the sort.
"Ahh yes," Hank mumbles. All of his bravery leaks out of him and he stares at his spaghetti. It's congealing. Does spaghetti even congeal? That's Alex's cooking for you.
Alex wiggles his eyebrows at Hank in a way that says, could you be less sensitive? Hank wants to wriggle his eyebrows right back in a way that would eloquently say at least I bothered to feed him, but since Hank went blue he can't really control his eyebrows very much, and he fears the message would be lost.
"Hank?" Pietro asks, more timidly than usual. "If you're still interested, my sister Lorna hasn't shown any powers yet." He spins his spaghetti on his fork like it is a food blender, and looks as if what he has just said is inconsequential.
"You have a sister?" Erik says, and Hank knows that tone, like he's trying to sound like he's not interested, but he desperately is. Hank never understands this charade that Erik plays at; like he's aloof and above it all. Like, wow man, it's okay to be interested in whether you have a daughter or not.
"Lorna's only a kid, so she's not yours if that's what you're wondering," Pietro says bluntly.
Hank can nearly feel the relief coming off Erik. Scratch that- his relief is literally palpable as all of the cutlery stops faintly vibrating. Hank knew they should have invested in plastic cutlery for times like this.
"So no, doubt Lorna is yours," Pietro continues, "But I guess my twin Wanda is your daughter, come to think of it."
"You. Have. A. Twin."
Erik's face is gone purple, and Hank is glad that Erik has changed out of his terrorism-suit, because that maroon against the shade he is now would be really off-putting.
"Yeah, Wanda. Thought you knew. Didn't you like, talk to my mom? I was kind of wondering why you hadn't mentioned her till now actually."
To be fair to Erik, having one child had clearly been stressing him out enough, and now all of that man-pain and angst was just doubled.
"I have a daughter?" he asks, clearly not understanding. Hank wonders sometimes if that helmet addled his brains, just a little bit.
Hank is aware that pots have started swinging and knives slicing through the air. He tenses, but Pietro just sighs, and then everything is back in its place again, except for Erik. Erik is lying on the floor, looking baffled.
"Why am I on the floor?" Erik growls, which is an entirely fair question.
"Yeah well I just thought I'd better lay you down in case you fainted or something," Pietro says, fork prodding his spaghetti half-heartedly.
Erik stands up. "I don't just faint Pietro."
"Of course you don't Dad," Pietro says dryly. "Though you sure looked ready to collapse in the Pentagon after I speeded you around."
Hank would really, really love to hear more of that story, but Charles, being a bastard, interrupts.
"Sorry Pietro, so you have a twin sister called Wanda. Does she have a similar mutation to you?"
"Nah," Pietro says, "But she can control probability, so that's probably relevant, right Hank?"
Hank asks the obvious question. "If she's a mutant why isn't she here?"
"Well she's at college, and I did ask her did she want to hang out in a creepy old house with a junkie, an ex-con and a blue-beast thing, and she was like, nah man, I'll pass. Can't really blame her."
"Excuse me," Erik says, finally pushing himself up off the floor and standing up. He stalks out of the room without another word.
Magneto is striding outside, about to leave- this place is not good for his mental health- when he remembers the goddamn helmet.
He corners Pietro when the kid is on his way back to his bedroom.
"Give me back my helmet," he demands.
"Ahh dad, can't it be like a momentum, something to remember you by?" Pietro says sarcastically.
"Just give it back, would you?"
"Fine," Pietro says. He's back in a second with the helmet in his hands, but he's already talking before Magneto can say anything.
"You know what dad? Fuck you. It's bullshit that a guy who kills people in the name of equality, and not discriminating against mutants is himself homophobic. You're a hypocrite. Take your goddamn helmet and go. I'm glad Wanda never met you. You're a goddamn disappointment of a father, you know that?"
Of all the things his son has just shouted at him, Magneto can't understand homophobic. How would that even be relevant-
He thinks about how angry Pietro was earlier, when Magneto said he couldn't just call people gay, when he was so quick to deny himself and Charles being together.
"You're not-" he starts, and then stops because Pietro has arched on grey eyebrow.
"I'm not what, dad?"
"I mean, you're not," and he pauses again, "gay?"
Pietro is leaning against the wall, opposite Magneto, far closer than he had been. "Yeah," he says defiantly, and then, "No, I'm more like bisexual really, but still. Why dad, is there something a problem with that?"
"Of course not," Magneto says, too hurriedly because Pietro is still looking at him with that cold, cold look.
Irrational fear strikes Magneto. Why is being a father so devastatingly nerve-wreaking? It's like cutting wires on a bomb, except bomb talks at 200mph and calls him 'dad', and somehow it feels like everything is going to blow apart forever if he doesn't act fast.
There is a long fractured silence, in which Magneto tries to think. What does he know about this, about any of this? He may never, ever ask for help, but if a stray thought screams out what the fuck am I meant to do Charles?, well that's something else entirely.
The answer comes back to him at once. Just say you support him no matter what. Which is the truth, anyway.
Goddamn Charles and his clarity on issues like this.
"I support you Pietro, no matter what," he says solemnly, and they may be Charles' words but Magneto means them as if they were his own.
"Yeah?" Pietro says.
"Yes, I do," Magneto replies. "And look, keep the helmet, okay? I don't need it."
"I'm not leaving," Magneto says. "Well, I will for a day or two - seems like I have a daughter to track down. I'd say Charles wouldn't mind if I signed you out for a few days, to see Wanda too."
Pietro looks at the helmet in his hands, and then back at Magneto. "Look man, I don't want to guilt-trip you into this, like it's totally fine if you don't want to-"
"Of course I want to. I came to see you, didn't I?" he replies, his tone lighter than it's been in a long time. "Go on, get our stuff, we might as well go now."
Pietro beams at him, and then he's gone.
Thank you, Magneto thinks.
Not at all Erik, Charles' voice comes back to him. My old friend, that was all you, and you were magnificent. You're going to be a wonderful father.
Magneto can't formulate a coherent thought other than thank you again, because Pietro is back, with two stuffed bags under his arms.
"Ready?" Magneto asks.
"Sure dad," Pietro says, and they walk out of the Xavier mansion together. It's not like Magneto has a car - he actually levitated over here, albeit badly - and even if he had one, he doesn't think Pietro is used to travelling that slowly, but for once Erik doesn't worry. They'll figure something out. It's all going to be okay.