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Chapter 19 : Albus: When We Go One Step at a Time
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So, after sending one last owl, I finally decide that it's time to give up and climb the stairs, into Alexa's - our? - room. There really isn't anything else I can do; if Xavier doesn't want to be found, he won't be. He knows how to stay invisible, despite his celebrity status. I'm glad he can maintain his privacy when he needs or wants it, but right now I find it very unfortunate, for him and for me. I'm not so sure it's what he really needs right now.
Lexi is already fast asleep when I go back inside; she was almost gone when I left her. I lie on top of the covers and try to finish the movie we had put on, but not even my worry for my friend or the sounds of fireworks can keep me awake, though it's my previously late nights of constant worrying for my friend that has made me so tired in the first place. It's just gone midnight, officially the New Year, but I imagine people will still be out celebrating for a while. We would be, if we'd had our New Year party as usual, but since it's a full moon and ours was moved to Christmas, me and Lexi decided to just stay in tonight. I'm glad.
I just about turn off the television and my eyes are already closing. I drop the remote and that's the last thing I remember, except one thought; morning can't come quick enough. So, when I'm woken up just over an hour later - I check the alarm clock three times to make sure it's not lying and I haven't really only been asleep for a few minutes - it comes as a complete surprise; I wasn't expecting anyone at this time of night. Especially not on my mobile - something I only have to keep in touch with Muggleborn and Muggle friends (some I met when growing up, others from school and Craig now).
Cautiously, I pick it up and check the name; it's Xavier. I remember that I gave him my number on his birthday when he realized I actually had a phone and he didn't have to write a letter. Xavier is a Halfblood, his father is a Muggle, and he has one to keep in touch with his family. Well, I guess that was the reason initially; as he barely talks to his family now, he mostly uses it when he goes out. Most of his contacts seem to be dates. I think I'm one of the only contacts on that phone of his, besides his family, that he can't sleep with.
And he rarely calls me, so my surprise just grows. I answer.
"What the hell, Xavier?" I whisper, wishing I could yell. But I don't want to wake Lexi. "I have been looking everywhere for you since Boxing Day!"
I frown; the voice is definitely not Xavier's, but it is familiar. I've heard this person's voice before, I'm sure; I must know him. It takes me a few minutes for the memory to resurface, during which he tries to get my attention again. I don't know him, not really, I've just met him once. In the players' lounge before a Quidditch game.
"Cody McIntyre?" Despite remembering the voice, it still comes out as a question.
"Yes," he replies, breathing a sigh of relief. "I was beginning to think I'd dialed the wrong number. I'm not really sure how to work this."
"Why do you have Xavier's phone?" I demand, then I wince. I don't mean to sound so harsh, but I can't help it; my worry for my friend is kind of the one in control here. I apologize and tell him why, even though I don't think he asked for an explanation. "Is he alright?"
Cody answers me, but I can't hear him and have to ask him to repeat it three times. I climb back out of bed and stand in the hall; if I don't have to whisper, maybe he'll have a better chance of hearing me as well. Because he's shouting. I can hear the loud pounding in the background, the dance music; where he is unmistakable - he's in a nightclub. Actually inside, shouting over the music, rather than going outside to take a call. My worry increases; is there a reason he can't go outside?
"He's fine," I finally manage to hear the man shout. I can't help but let go of a relieved breath, just as he had a few minutes ago. "I have no idea how he knew where I was, but he called the hotel I was at and had them find me. He kept wishing me a happy New Year and telling me to come celebrate with him. I only came here because no one's been able to find him for five days!"
I try to keep the phone pressed to my ear, seeing as it's the only way I can hear him properly, but his yelling and the loud music is starting to make my ear ring and I have to keep a little bit of distance until he's stopped talking. Almost hesitantly, I bring it closer again.
"Where is here?" I ask slowly, hoping it's loud enough for him to hear because I still don't want to raise my voice.
"Eros," he tells me. I roll my eyes; of course. Maybe I should have gone there five days ago and just waited for him. "He's in one of the private rooms," Cody continues. I may be wrong, but he sounds wary about that. And very uncomfortable. "He's with someone; I didn't want to leave them alone in case he did something stupid!"
Ah, that would explain why he's shouting over the music. It would also explain why he's very uncomfortable.
I admit, when I realized who he was, I thought he'd have just left Xavier alone, thinking it was his own life and he could do whatever he wanted, and called me just so someone knew where to find him. But throughout the whole conversation, he's sounded like a concerned friend. I thought their friendly banter in the players' lounge, and other conversations they had talked about, was just that; a bit of friendly competition between apposing teams. Obviously not. Cody may not put up with his jokes of them being together, though he doesn't take them badly, and they may not see each other often due to schedules and games, but he really does seem to care about Xavier. They may not be best friends, that seems doubtful, but Xavier has someone worrying about him, leaving his own party to stay with him.
Although some part of me can't help but wonder why Xavier would call Cody instead of me, it's only small; I'm mostly glad he has someone else. I started to fear me, his work, the mandatory visits to see his family and his one night conquests would be his only forms of human contact.
"Good," I finally reply. "Don't leave him. I'll be there in a minute."
"I thought you'd tell me to take him home or something, I didn't expect you to say you'll come here," Cody shouts again. The music sounds so much louder for a second; someone must have opened a door or something. "What can you do that I haven't already tried?"
He sounds skeptical, curious, but I don't say. "I have my ways. I'll be right there."
I hang up before Cody can say anything else, but I doubt he even noticed, or cared; he'd started yelling at someone else by then. Most likely Xavier. Like before, some part of me wonders why Xavier called him and, like before, it's only small. I go to my room, quickly changing into a comfortable pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Then I slip on my shoes and go back to Lexi's room. I mean to leave a note, not even expecting her to read it because I'm sure I'll be back before she wakes, but she turns around unexpectedly and her arm stretches out, hitting air instead of me.
"Al?" Lexi asks sleepily. She opens her eyes for a brief moment, barely enough time for me to think they'd been open at all, let alone anything else. "Did the movie finish? Are you going back to your room?"
Obviously, she didn't notice that I'm dressed. "No, I'm going to get Xavier," I answer softly. That gets her attention; she opens her eyes again. I answer her unspoken question. "He's at Eros, Cody McIntyre just called to tell me. I'll find out where he's been the last few days, don't worry."
I expect her to give me a list of questions to ask him, along with threats about making us worry, but the moment the question leaves her lips, I know it's the one I really should have expected. "Why is Cody McIntyre in Eros?"
I can't help but chuckle; the last time she heard that one of her favorite celebrities was in the club, she'd had to admit to the fact that she couldn't ever have him. I don't think she'd like to go through that again. Not that I think she wants to be with Cody McIntyre over me, but apparently it's nice to have the dream where it might happen one day. It's hard for her to dream of being with a guy when you know that in real life he'd rather be with another guy.
I'm almost tempted to tell her that it's the same situation. Does that make me a bad person?
Well, I don't. So it doesn't matter.
"Xavier called him, Cody went to get him. Xave's not listening, though," I explain. I press my lips to the top of her head, telling her to go back to sleep. "I'll be back soon."
Her light breathing is her only response.
There's a line of people still waiting to get in by the time I get to the club. I ignore their protests, their yells for me to get to the back of the line, and find the bouncer. His name is Ben; I remember him because he was very chatty with Xavier when we were leaving, after that one and what I thought was the only time I'd ever be here. He's tall and not as big as the other bouncers, muscle-wise, with curly brown hair and a nice smile. He seems to be Xavier's type, but once they started talking I found out that they're just good friends.
I know he'll let me in.
Ben gives me a sympathetic look the moment he sees me. "Trying to get Xave out?" I nod. "Well, good luck; I hear that guy Cody is already about to give up."
He moves the rope for me to get past, ignoring the even louder protests, and smiles reassuringly, even though the look in his eyes clearly tells me he doesn't believe I can help. I hope he doesn't get into trouble for letting me in, but I can't add it to the seemingly growing list of things to think about it.
The club is full; I have to squeeze past sweaty, alcohol-fueled bodies all the way to the private rooms, the whole time feeling like I really need to take a shower. But I get to the end of the main part of the club eventually, now I just have to find the room Xavier is in. The private rooms are for exactly what the title suggests; privacy, to get away from everyone else in Eros when you want your own party, whether it's a party for one, two or a group. Each one is a good sized room, with a leather couch that takes up the back wall and a table for your drinks. There's a champaign bucket by the couch in case you order it and the music isn't so loud in them, so it's easier to talk.
Xavier usually gets the one on the end, that's where he was the night we met, so it's the first place I look.
It's the only place I look.
I recognize Cody standing outside the door. He waves me over when he sees me and nods his head in the direction of the room.
"Do what you have to do, so I can go home," he says down my ear, pushing the door open. He enters before me, choosing now to take action where the stranger is concerned. He uses his hands to push the guys apart and grabs Stranger's shirt. He doesn't pull Stranger up, but I'm sure he will if he has to. "It's time you left. Now."
Xavier just watches them, amused by Cody's actions, and doesn't even take notice of me. But he knows I'm here and so does Stranger; two against one. He takes off, muttering things I don't care to hear.
I take that as my cue to step forward.
"Come on, Xave. We're leaving."
"I don't have to go anywhere with you. I'm a big boy and you're not my father," he answers with a smug grin, calm and coherent for someone who's supposed to be drunk - an impression I got from Cody's call. Too calm and coherent.
"Yeah, all I heard was noise," I feign indifference, even shrug my shoulders. But inside I kind of want to hurt him for putting me through crap by disappearing and not giving a damn about it. "So, get your ass off the couch and get moving, or I'll have Cody drag you out. He seems willing to do it. Actually, I think it's safe to say he's eager to do it, considering what you've forced him to witness."
"I can't wait," he almost growls.
Xavier, so help me, just doesn't care about the implied threat. He turns to Cody, flirty, and throws his arms over the back of the couch. "Really?"
I know I shouldn't; I have no idea what's he's been doing the last five days and the last time I saw him, he wasn't taking things well, but it just seems to come out. All I do know is that it's the only thing that'll make him listen.
"You can't let what's going on with Tasha get to you, you'll ruin your life. And you've already damaged it enough." It certainly gets his attention; his whole body tenses and he's now glaring at me. "It's not just you you have to think about, you have a son now."
And that gets Cody's attention. "He has a what now?"
"I have son," Xavier replies quietly. "His name is Ethan, he's two now and I've missed it because his mother lied to me."
"This is the baby you said died?" he asks, shocked.
I'm just as shocked that Cody actually knows about that, causing me to question exactly how close they are again, but now doesn't feel like the time to ask about their relationship. Apparently Xavier feels the same.
"I know she's your friend's cousin and I'm not asking you to choose between us, but you can't say anything that'll make me forgive her for the hell she put me through," he finishes.
"I'm not going to," I promise. "What you do is your decision and it's for you and you alone to make. I just want you to put yourself in her shoes for a minute; she met a guy who pretended to be interested beause he didn't want his team knowing about him, she listened to him talk about how much he loved Quidditch, how much it meant to him, and it all came flooding back when she found out she was pregnant. And to top it off? Not only was he not interesting, but he could never be."
I pause only to watch him grimace as he remembers what he did. "Tasha is not a bad person, Xavier. She made a choice, which turned out to be the wrong one, and she made it based on what she knew. She knew that Quidditch was your life when you were eighteen, it probably still is, but she didn't know you enough to understand that you wouldn't hate the thought of being a father, no matter how scared you were. She regrets her choice, she always will, but she was a scared kid, too. She didn't know what to do, she was alone because she hadn't told anyone else and all she knew about you was Quidditch. What would you have done in her position? Would you have told the guy if you thought you'd either ruin his career or end up alone anyway because he wanted nothing to do with the baby? You'd already told her you were gay, so even if you did want the baby she'd be alone."
I expect him to tell me that it wasn't her choice to make, to say the same things he'd yelled at Tasha at Christmas, but the look on his face tells me he's already thought about all of this. Knowing Xavier and who he is as a person, it just makes him more stubborn.
He scoffs. "You sound like Stewart."
"Whoa," I interrupt him - and Cody's 'I can't believe he has a kid' monologue. "You've been with Stewart? That's who you've been with these last five days?"
Damn. I should have looked instead of just calling.
"Why were you with Stewart? How did I miss you when you went home? And why did he lie when I asked if he'd seen you?"
Xavier answers my demands in order, counting them off with his fingers. "Because he knows my kid. Because I didn't go home, I stayed at my sister's. Because I told him to, so I wouldn't have to put up with your questions. I know you, Albus; stop worrying, I'm allowed to freak. I went to Stewart because he was honest with me, there was no bullshit, and he's already told me this story. I understand why she did it, I don't think she's a bad person, I'm just not ready to forgive her for it," he finishes, standing up.
He picks up his drink and downs the rest in one. "I knew he'd call you," he says, pointing at Cody. "But I thought I was ready for your questions. Now I think I should have drank more than orange juice."
Orange juice? That's it? I turn to glare at Cody. "You made it sound like he was drunk!"
Cody holds up his hands. "I told you he was here and that he was with somebody, you made that assumption on your own. He can do stupid things while sober. Or do you not know him as well as you think?"
"Easy, boys," Xavier tuts, walking past and out into the club. We follow, none of us speaking until we're back outside. We say good bye to Ben, who looks a little awed that Xavier is no longer inside, and discreetly nod, even though I don't think I really did anything. Xavier continues to speak, "You know I don't drink and I couldn't drink even if I wanted to; I promised Stewart I wouldn't."
"Why?" I ask curiously.
My friend stops and turns to look at me. "Because every day for five days, I asked if I could see Ethan. Yesterday, he said yes. I get to see him tomorrow. It sucks that I have to ask, but after I handled things badly at Christmas I'll take what I can get right now."
"I still can't believe that you have a kid," Cody mutters, his disbelief evident.
"Yeah, well, me neither," Xavier replies. He suddenly sounds tired and scared and exactly how I had pictured he'd be. "What if I'm bad? What if I can't do this? I've already scared him. What if he hates me?"
"He's only two years old," I tell him, trying to be reassuring. I have no idea if what I'm about to say is true, though, I'm just basing it off experiences of my own, when James and Roxy, under Fred's guidance, pranked and scared me a lot when I was Ethan's age. And family arguments I'd apparently witnessed that had gotten bad sometimes. I don't remember them, people have told me. "Right now, he's scared and confused, but he probably won't even remember it later. But he will know his dad. That's all that matters, isn't it?"
"Unless I'm a bad dad," he whispers.
"I don't believe that. I saw you with Jason Shepherd."
"Yeah, but he's not mine."
I don't answer, I don't have a chance to; Cody is standing in front of Xavier, his hands cupping our friend's cheeks to make him look. "Then you just take it a day at a time, Xave. You see him tomorrow, you spend time with him and you get to know your son. That's all you're doing; spending the day with him. You can do that."
It takes a few minutes, but he eventually nods and repeats the little mantra 'I can do that'.
"Where are you meeting him? I can go if you want. Lexi as well probably," I add.
"I'd like that, you don't scare me as much as Stewart does," Xavier answers, nervously chuckling a little.
"Yeah, he's like that at first, buts he's alright," I promise.
Xavier nods, seemingly agreeing with me. "We're going to the park near his house. Lunch time."
I tell him I'll see him there and Cody takes his arm. "Come on, I'll take you home. You can tell me all about this."
He nods again, starting to walk away, only to stop and curse. "No, I said I'd check on Louis tonight; I saw him on my way to the club." My cousin's name comes to my attention and many questions come to my mind. "You know what, screw it; he's a big boy, he can take care of himself, and I'm not brave enough to go in there."
"Go in where?" I demand to know, just as Cody asks who Louis is. "He's my cousin. Where is he, Xavier?"
"Out," he says vaguely. Guiltily. God, what has he done now? He's not the best company during the full moon. "I'll see you tomorrow."
I grab Xavier's arm. "No. After the crap I've gone through looking for you, I have a right to know this. He's my cousin. Where is he?"
"Eclipse," Xavier tells me reluctantly.
I drop my arm, shock and denial, among other emotions, building up inside. Finally, I settle on acceptance; of course he is. After everything that's happened recently, I shouldn't be surprised. Plus, this is Louis we're talking about; he's an 'I'll do what I want' kind of guy with little care for personal safety, especially during a full moon.
"What's wrong with Eclipse?" Cody asks. He's full of questions tonight. "It's just a club, right?"
"I forget you're so naive to the world," Xavier jokes halfheartedly.
"It's a vampire club," I answer him. "The front part is just a club, yeah, but the back rooms is for the vampires. They have people willing to be fed on in there." I turn to Xavier. "He's not -"
"No," he says quickly, shaking his had adamantly. "He goes to drink alcohol. And to see Kendra," he adds after a pause. "Actually he's probably home now."
"With this Kendra," I finish, getting the feeling I know what he's not telling me.
He shrugs, saying nothing more about it. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah," I mutter, my mind on my cousin and a life we had no idea about.
We'll be talking the next time I see him.
"Louis is seeing a vampire?" Lexi whispers as we walk to the park. I told her all about Louis this morning; she won't tell anyone else.
"I have no idea, but I will be finding out."
Lexi let's out a low whistle, more to emphasize shock than appreciation. "Aren't vampires and werewolves, like, mortal enemies?" she asks, keeping her voice low.
I roll my eyes. "He's not a full werewolf. And you watch way too many movies."
"True," Lexi doesn't even pretend to disagree with me on the movie issue; it is her favorite Muggle appliance after all, after her dad got one and told her about the things he watched while 'away' (she was about four at the time, so obviously he didn't go into detail about him being in hiding), and while Kieron read, she'd watch TV. Even now she asks if what he's reading has a movie version.
Her next words bring me back to the other part of our conversation. "But you don't know; you don't talk to wolves or vamps, just Louis and Bill and Ted. They could be mortal enemies for all you know."
"I think that if they were feuding, we'd have heard about it by now," I explain. "The media just love to make big deals out of things; they'd probably jump at the chance of scaring the public because they know readers would grow and listen when they told them what to do."
Lexi agrees with me. It's scary when she just agrees with me straight away. But I know why; despite the pleasant tone we're keeping, she doesn't hate Louis and is concerned. And she's nervous about Xavier meeting Ethan.
I squeeze her hand gently when we reach the park.
Xavier is already here - it's not a very big park, so we find him easily - lying across one of the benches near the kid's play area. Ethan loves the park, having people push him on the baby swings, so it's the obvious place to meet. Ethan will be more comfortable here.
"Sit up, you," Lexi scolds jokingly. "I'm the tired one, you're just lazy."
Whatever her plan is, I think it works; Xave let's go of his nerves just a little and smiles, sitting up.
"Al said you'd come, I shouldn't have doubted," he says.
Lexi shrugs and grins. "Well, I am a nosy bitch, I need to know everything. Me and his cousin, Roxy," she points at me, "would be such good friends if I didn't find her so annoying."
"She's a nosy bitch, too," he guesses.
"She's worse," Lexi promises him. "I just like to talk to Al about it, people rarely ever know that I know their business. She uses it against you."
"And yet we hear such good things about the Weasley family," he sighs in mock-disappointment.
"I know, right? That phrase about appearances being deceiving is definitely true when it comes to this family." She turns to me again. "Isn't that right, Al?"
I nod and play along. Mostly. "More so for Hugo, I think. Most people know what everyone else is like and say nice things in general anyway; no one knows that Hugo is an evil genius."
Xavier points at both of us. "Then I can't wait to find out which family member will arrest him one day."
"Oh, I don't know, if these two will have anything to do with it, they'll probably get him a good lawyer," Stewart's voice says, referring to Kieron. He's standing on Xavier's other side, by the arm of the bench, carrying Ethan in his arms. The little boy has his head buried in Stewart's shoulder, but he peeks at us every so often. Xavier goes silent, his eyes on his son. "Hello," Stewart finally says.
"Hey," Lexi is the first to answer, ready to smile when Ethan looks again. "Ready to have fun in the park, sweetie?"
Ethan nods shyly and it's Stewart who answers. "We're going to have loads of fun, aren't we, mate? And we hope you're hungry because Ethan brought his favorites." I notice the picnic bag over his shoulder for the first time. "We hope you like egg mayo sandwiches."
"It's my favorite," Xavier says softly. Ethan turns to him briefly then; 'it's my favorite' is pretty much his famous line when talking about sandwich fillings. He rarely eats anything else, except strawberry jam on it's own or PB and J, but only when Lexi makes it.
The look between father and son only lasts for a second or two, then Ethan hides his face again, but it causes Xavier to bring his smile back. He gestures to the park. "Lead the way."
We move to a large grassy area on the other side of the playground, by the slides this time, and Stewart finally sets Ethan onto his feet to open the bag and pull out a blanket. Lexi grimaces at the thought of sitting on the floor and waits for me to sit before slowly following my lead, leaning into me so she's using my chest as a cushion. Stewart sits across from us Ethan moving quickly onto his lap, this time burying his face in the man's t-shirt. Xavier is the last to join us, looking out of sorts and uncomfortable, but he doesn't walk away like I fear he will - he sits in the middle, right between us and Ethan. He's close to both sides, yet there's still that little bit of distance.
"Have you told your family yet?" Stewart asks, going straight to the awkward topics.
It's a completely open question, anyone listening would never know what he means, but we know and we impatiently for Xavier to answer.
He shakes his head and gestures to Ethan. "One step at a time, yeah. I'm barely getting visiting hours."
I almost flinch at the bitter edge in his voice, a sad undertone worming its way through as well; he makes it sound like he's some kind of criminal. Stewart doesn't flinch; this must be one of the things they talked about. He rubs Ethan's back soothingly and whispers in his ear, pointing to the basket. I expected to see the kid glued to Stewart today - I'm just full of expectations, it seems - but no, he moves, taking the basket with him, and sits in between Stewart and Xavier.
He bites into a sandwich before Stewart asks him to give everyone else one. He only gives Xavier one, because he's closer, and the basket just gets moved around.
"Ethan, tell everyone what you did in school before Christmas."
"Paint," he whispers.
"You painted pictures, didn't you? What where they of?" Stewart prompts.
"Quidditch, yeah. You love Quidditch. Who else loves Quidditch?"
Ethan points at Xavier without looking at him; Lexi and I had guessed that he might have told the kid things about his dad, although without actually calling him the kid's dad.
"Yeah, Xavier loves Quidditch," Stewart continues. "You brought a picture to show him. Do you want to show him the picture?"
Ethan stuffs the rest of the little square sandwich into his mouth, oddly reminding me of when Xavier stuffed the cake in his mouth at the game, then holds out his hands. He takes the picture and drops it on Xavier's knee.
It's mostly swirls and splotches, what could maybe be a ball is in the middle and the long stick on the left could be a person or one of the poles, but Xavier smiles like it's famous art and leans in.
"You did this?" Ethan nods, still not looking at him. "Wow. Will you tell me about it? What's this?"
He points at the biggest splotch; Ethan looks and shrugs his little shoulders.
"Is it the players, Ethan?" Stewart asks. "Are they playing? Or is that the little one?"
"Little one," he replies, pointing at the smaller mess of paint on the right.
"So, is the big one the fans?" Xavier asks. "Are they cheering?"
"Yes. Like this," he says, holding up his arms and shaking, but making no noise. "Like that."
"Wow. And what's this? Is this the captain?"
Ethan laughs a little. "Me."
"That's you?" Xavier gasps. "You're playing Quidditch? Are you the best?" Ethan nods. "Are you better than me?" He shrugs again. "Maybe one day when you're big we'll see."
"I big," the kid protests.
"Show him how big you are, Ethan," Stewart boasts. "Show him how high you can swing."
"Kay," he grins, getting up and running into the play area. He's almost at the gates, still in clear view, when he stops.
"The irony, Xavier," Stewart tells him, "is that you control how high he goes because you have to push him."
The stressed 'you' is clear; Xavier follows Ethan to the swings.
We use the time without Xavier and Ethan to talk about the five days Xavier was 'gone' for. Stewart fills us in on what they talked about every day that Xavier went to him - once he got Xavier to calm down and listen to why Tasha did what she did, not that he thinks she not completely blameless, he told Xavier about Ethan - but he kept it brief, saying that it was for Xavier to tell if he chose to. Stewart won't get involved any more than he has to. It's not that he doesn't like or care about the guy or the situation, of course he does, he's part of it, he just doesn't like being stuck in the middle unnecessarily.
And he thinks it's unnecessary because it's for Tasha and Xavier to talk about.
But we all know that won't happen for a while... Unless Xavier surprises us (again) by being the bigger person.
It was on the fourth day that Stewart felt that Xavier was truly listening and was calm; he talked to Tasha about him seeing Ethan. Apparently she thought about coming, hoping that now everything was out in the open and she trusted that Stewart was right, she could be talk to him without a fight. She dismissed it when Chris told her to think about the situation from Xavier's prospective.
It's a complicated, messed up situation. But I think things will be okay. I mean, Ethan's not suddenly calling Xavier 'Daddy' and I know he's still scared he won't be good enough and he's worrying about Quidditch as a career and all the times he's away, but right now, watching him get to know his kid, he can do this.
Ethan comes back first, tired and sweaty from running around in the playground, and he demands his juice twice before Stewart finally gets him to ask somewhat nicely.
I think stubborn pride runs in the family because if he weren't a baby, I'd be saying that the reason the kid sits next to Xavier once he's back is just on principle - you just don't sit next to the guy who made you say please.
He soon falls asleep, his head resting on Xavier's arm until he's gently moved to sit on his knee. Stewart takes his bottle and he gives a sort of approving nod.
"See? You're not so bad," he says quietly. "It just takes time. It gets easier."
Xavier opens his mouth to speak, then he shuts it, shakes his head and tries again. "I guess. It's not this, being with him, that I'm worried about."
"What is?" Lexi prompts.
"What he'll call me," he whispers.
Stewart chuckles, it's soft and quick, but he's definitely amused. "He's not going to get confused over who to call 'Daddy'? You'll be the first and the only."
"He doesn't call you that?" Xavier asks, confused.
We all shake our heads. Stewart's the only male parental figure he's had, but it's not been long enough for Ethan to change what he says.
"Ethan calls me 'Stu' because he can't say 'Stewart'. He's never called a man 'Daddy' before," Stewart continues. "I met Tasha a couple of months after Ethan's first birthday, but she took things slow. I knew all about him, and you, but because of what happened with you, she wouldn't let a guy meet Ethan until she was absolutely sure about him. I didn't meet Ethan until his second birthday, two days after I proposed. Six months ago.
"You don't have to worry about that, you just have to give it time," he finishes his little speech, packs away the picnic bag, then turns as though he's just remembered something. "That includes talking to Tasha, even if all you can be is civil right now. Sharing responsibility is going to be hard enough, we don't need the added tension and Ethan one day asking why you don't talk to 'Mummy'. Besides, I refuse to be your errand boy."
"I'll talk to her. One day," he sort of promises. "It's just hard right now. One step at a time, yeah."
"I'll hold you to that," Stewart threatens. Regretfully, he adds, "I should put him to bed, let him sleep properly."
Xavier nods slowly and carefully lifts Ethan up to carry him in his arms while Stewart helps Lexi. The walk to their house is short because they live quite close and all too soon Xavier is handing Ethan over. The look on his face is almost heartbreaking and I see Lexi hastily wipe away a tear - she'll blame hormones for that later.
Tasha opens the door as they get there, hesitantly holds up a hand to wave. At first I think he's going to ignore her, but then he waves back and they shut the door.
"That was harder than I thought it would be," he murmurs.
"Come on," Lexi says, wrapping an arm over his shoulders. "we'll go to ours, go on a chocolate binge - we'll eat it, we'll drink it, we'll go nuts."
"I wish I could, but there's something I have to do." We share a look before we question him on what it is. "I have to go home; I need to have a long overdue conversation with my family before my younger sisters go back to school."
"Good luck," I tell him awkwardly, but sincerely.
He can help but laugh at me. "Thanks. I'll see you both later."
We watch him leave, waiting for him to disappear before we turn in the other direction. I take Lexi's hand. "Did you say something about chocolate?"
"Lots and lots of it," she swears.
A/N: Sorry for the wait, but yay, new chapter.
Feel free to form your own opinions and thoughts on Tasha and Xavier and their situation, but personally I hope you don't hate her too much. :)
Eclipse is of my own creation, it, like Eros, likes to pop up in some of my stories. :)
I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think.
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