A/N : Oh how I've hated writing a nasty Magneto... but it made a change, and I hoped you enjoyed him anyway. I leave you with a little bit of hope, and a promise that the next time you see Erik it will be with the main-universe Peter and he'll be back to his loving Papa-Bear self. Thanks for all the reads and reviews, as always.
By the time autumn had truly set in, the grounds had been transformed into a blanket of golden and red leaves. Many of the students could be seen out there kicking up the fallen gown, laughing happily, forgetting whatever cares they may have to enjoy themselves in the crisp air. Peter watched them, smiled. Thought about joining them when he'd finished his homework. Startled out of his thoughts by a knock on his door, laying his pen aside, he didn't even have time to open it before he had been bowled backwards onto his bed, sharp little knees digging into his thighs as Lorna had put the Death Squeeze on him before releasing him breathless and hauling him back to his feet.
"Do you have to do that?" he asked, though without a trace of irritation, "I'm gonna have bruises now"
"Sorry…" she said, putting on her most wide-eyed contrite look, "Just missed you. Big Bro hugs are the best kind"
He grinned, bent and scooped her up in his arms for another cuddle, swung her round and made her squeal with delight.
"I missed you too, Roadrunner" he told her softly, setting her down, "Skipping school again?"
"Nope! We all came to see you, but…" she paused, glanced out of the door, "I guess Mom and Wanda are lagging behind a little. C'mon, let's go find them!"
They hadn't had to go far, seeing the two women ascending the staircase at the end of his corridor. Both had stopped, stared, before his twin sister doubled her pace and meet him in at the top, beaming with delight. Wanda had cut her hair short since he last saw her – it looked good. She too had flung her arms around him and squeezed, leaving Peter wondering for a moment how all the women in his family had developed such strength in their arms that they could practically crack his ribs with a hug. Drawing away from him at last, grinning widely before dropping into a mock-serious expression
"Getting into many fights?" she asked, "How much time are you spending in the Principle's office now?"
Peter laughed, messed her cropped hair mischeviously
"We don't have a Principle. We've got the Professor – and none, actually"
"You fixed your teeth!" she exclaimed, "Now I can't call you Chipmunk anymore!"
"You can still call me whatever you like," he smiled, "Troll"
"Where's my hug then?" Magda asked softly. She had descended the staircase again, and was waiting in the lower hallway watching her children make a fuss over one another. Watched a broad, happy smile she hadn't seen in years creep over her son's face as he jogged down the stairs and threw his arms around her, surprised to find tears springing up in his mother's eyes when he had released her. Frowned a little at her
"You okay, Mom?"
"I'm fine, sweetheart" she sniffed, wiped her eyes before she had returned her hands to rest at his waist, loved the way he didn't flinch away from it anymore, "Just look at you…. What happened to my scrawny little boy?"
He blushed, allowed her to squeeze him again, realised she had a point – and it must be more obvious than ever now after Jean had taken him shopping for some new clothes and persuaded him into his first ever pair of drainpipe jeans. He'd been self-conscious of course, but soon realised that he liked the way they clung around the new muscle in his legs. So did everyone else it seemed, having noticed a few admiring stares that never failed to embarrass him lately. He still wouldn't quite be parted from his loose shirts yet, but that time was coming he knew, with the sleeves starting to get tight around his growing biceps.
"Guess I am getting kinda big" he said softly
"In all the right places, honey. You look great. Really healthy and fit – I'm proud of you"
"OK, so we're all happy he's not living on dry crackers anymore – can we go get some lunch now?" Lorna whined, but threw him a cheeky wink, "Seriously, I'm dying of hunger. Let's move"
Peter laughed at her, allowed Wanda to slip an arm around him, paused just before he had begun to lead them out, and said
"There is someone I'd like you to meet first though" he blushed a little at his mother's enquiring look. Wanda squeezed him a little too hard
"Ahh yes, Lorna tells us I'm not the only pretty redhead in your life now!" she cooed. He shot a look at his bigmouthed little sister, who shrugged innocently.
"She'll be in the library," Peter told them, "I'm sure she'll join us."
Magda had adored Jean instantly, welcomed her into the arms of her family with a hug and a kiss on the cheek which made the young girl colour suddenly but grin nonetheless. Plied her with questions about the school, her son's training, her own family, everything under the sun until Peter had laughed and said
"Mom, come on – don't give her the Third Degree!"
"It's fine, Peter" Jean said softly. Marvelled at the way just meeting his eyes still made her shiver a little, "I don't mind"
"Get used to it," Wanda told her with a wink, "Lorna gets her motor-mouth from Mom. Honestly I don't know how Peter turned out so quiet, maybe he could never get a word in edgeways"
Jean laughed at her, liked them all so much already. Though they were on the surface so different from her pupil, she had soon seen that they had banded together so tightly and formed such a close network of mutual support that they were in a way just the same as him. Strong underneath, for all their carefree chatter, with cores of vulnerable softness that they each covered in their own ways. She could see the looks they were giving him too – admiring, wondering looks at the gradual change in him that had resulted in this handsome boy who held his head up high and now habitually tucked that long silky hair behind his ears, showing off the high cheekbones that were less prominent and glittering dark eyes that were no longer puffy and shadowed. Reached for his hand on the table and squeezed it tightly, gave him an amused look as he had floated the coffee pot over to her cup
"Refill, hon?" he asked with a grin, she nodded
"You're showing off," she told him softly. "I like it"
"Speaking of metal-manipulating show-offs" Lorna said, licked ice-cream from her spoon, "How's King Jerk himself? Still avoiding each other?"
Peter and Jean shared a look, before the boy had quietly said
"Not really. I mean we're not exactly hanging out, but he's been kind of civil the last few times I ran into him. I think we sort of… get each other"
"What he means is that he gave him a piece of his mind about being the worst father in history" Jean stirred her coffee, tapped the spoon and remotely went to stir Peter's too, "And now he's a little less of a jerk"
"Really?!" Wanda said in disbelief, reached to gently lay a hand on Peter and Jean's, "You stood up to him?"
"I… well, kind of…" Peter admitted, allowed a small proud smile, "I think he gets that he can't pick me up and put me down and expect me to be his dutiful son."
"Peter has stronger control over his metallokinesis than him" Jean explained, "It shouldn't have taken that to impress him, but I guess the tables are turned now. Erik isn't the powerful one anymore"
"Wow…." Wanda said softly, "Think you can get him off our backs too, Bro?"
"I can try" Peter told her. Saw that proud little smile returned.
The women had left him later, regretting they couldn't stay longer, with more rib-cracking squeezes and encouragement to keep doing whatever he was doing that had him looking so well, kisses for both Jean and himself and extracted promises to come to Washington for Thanksgiving. Parted from them, Jean had walked arm in arm with him back to his room. Paused at his door to slip her arms around his waist, pull him in for a gentle hug and to capture his lips with her own.
"I need to study," she said softly, "Science finals tomorrow… but after that, well…"
"Is 'well' going to involve ice cream and handcuffs again?" he asked with a saucy smirk, "Because I only just changed my sheets"
"My room then" she said, reached to grab a double handful of his butt and squeeze, "Your family are nice, Peter. Most of them anyway"
"I'm working on the rest" he promised, held her tightly and indulged himself in another lingering kiss before letting her go. As his door swung open, he frowned as he spotted a brown teddy-bear sitting on his freshly-made bed, then laughed to himself. Instead of sitting down to study, he had closed the door again and walked up to his father's room, hoping he wouldn't need a letter-opener to get him to accept his thanks.