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Isn't it strange how quickly life can change?

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Erik pushes open his front door, eager to see Wiliam. He’s just making it home from a week-long mission. Everything went great, better than expected, really. But it’s still been a long week without seeing his husband, and he just can’t wait to wrap his arms around Will and kiss him senseless. 

He considers calling out to his husband, but he decides it might be better to sneak up on him and surprise him. Erik uses all of his field agent training to close the door quietly behind him and sneak through his house. He can hear movement in the kitchen and makes a B-line that way, moving through the living room on his way. 

 His eyes mindlessly pass over the room as he moves through it, but something catches his attention. There’s something on the couch, something moving ever so slightly, a gentle up and down movement. It’s a person, not just a person, but a child. 

Erik takes a step closer to the couch, taking in all the information that he can from the distance he’s at. He looks like a teenager, but just barely, can’t be any older than thirteen, maybe fourteen. His back is towards Erik, his face pressed against the back of the sofa, a blanket thrown over him. 

Bella lays on the floor next to the sofa, the kind dog lifting her head when she sees Erik get closer. She lets out a quiet whine, her tail twitching ever so slightly. Erik pats his leg silently, and Bella stands up, her nails clicking across the wood floor as she walks over to him. When she’s in range, he scratches the behind her ears. The two of them quietly move out of the living room and into the kitchen, where William is pulling out a tray of what seems to be cookies. 

Erik leans against one of the counters in the kitchen, waiting until William put down the hot tray before making his presence known, not wanting to startle the other man and make him hurt himself. 

“Hey.” Erik says softly once the pan is sitting on the top of the stove. William jumps slightly, dropping the potholder in his hand and turning around quickly. His eyes are wide, and he brings a hand up to his chest, his breathing heavy. 

Erik frowns, worried about William. He hasn’t seen his husband this worked up in a long time, not since shortly after their wedding, since after… well. 

“Erik! You- I’m sorry, you startled me.” William gives Erik a smile that is tinted with sadness. Erik slowly walks across the decently sized kitchen, bending over to pick up the potholder from the ground and placing it on the counter beside the stove.

“Are you okay?” Erik wants to cup William’s face, wants to pull him close and kiss whatever caused this nervousness away, but doesn’t want to make him more nervous. William leans forward and rests his head on Erik’s shoulder, letting out a deep sigh. 

“I’m alright. It’s just… it’s been a long day.” Erik brings up a hand and runs it comfortingly up and down his husband’s back. 

“It’s alright. I’m here now.” He assures the other man, and he can feel some of the tension drain out of William’s body. His mind wanders back to the sofa, more specifically, the figure on the couch. “Will, who’s the kid in the other room?”

Willam pulls back and looks at Erik with a confused expression on his face. 

“What are you talking about?” Erik raises an eyebrow. He knows William said it’s been a long day, but is he really that out of it that he forgot that he brought a child home?

“The kid that’s asleep on the sofa? I’m assuming that he’s one of your students.” 

“Erik… there’s no kid on the soft.” William’s tone is serious, and that makes Erik tense up. His mind starts trying to remember if there were any possible threats that PEIP knew of in or near Hatchetfield, but he’s coming up blank. 

“Will, we need-” Erik stops talking when William’s chest starts shaking, moving up and down rapidly and his breathing matching, his face pressed against Erik’s chest. The soldier can feel his heart in his throat, his hand moving to cup William’s cheek. “William, please, look at me.” Erik begs softly.

William stands up straight, bringing his eyes up to meet his husband’s. Erik is 100% expecting to see sadness or fear on his face, but instead, he sees a smile. The breathing gets louder, and Erik realizes it’s not a sob, it’s a laugh. Erik stares at him, his face slack as his husband continues to laugh. 

“I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist.” William manages to say between laughter. After a moment, Erik begins laughing with him. The two of them stand in the kitchen laughing and holding each other with Bella at their feet, her tail wagging happily, for a while. Long enough that if an outsider were to see them in this moment, they might think the two of them are insane. 

“Will, you scared the shit out of me.” His words fall a bit flat when paired with his tone, which is joyful. Instead of replying, William leans in and kisses him, the two of them giggling into each other’s mouths. “Seriously, babe, who is that?” Erik asks again once he pulls back enough to speak. 

William sighs and pulls further back, his joyful, almost giddy mood dying in an instant and being replaced with the sad one of earlier. He wraps his arms around himself and leans against the counter. 

“His name is Michael. He was one of my students when I was a student teacher.” William says, running a hand through his hair. Erik can quickly tell that something about Michael has his husband upset. He moves so that he’s leaning against the corner next to him and lightly bumps William’s hip with his own.

“Okay. And is there a reason Michael is here?” Erik doesn’t want to make William talk about something that clearly has him upset, but he really needs to get to the bottom of this. 

“He’s having a… a bit of a hard time at home right now. He just needed somewhere safe to go after school today.” 

Oh. That explains it. William has always had a soft spot for children, which is a good thing seeing as he’s a teacher. 

“When you say a hard time, are his parents… do they…” Erik’s trying to figure out a way to ask this gently, but it’s hard. It’s hard to even think about, let alone vocalize. 

“He won’t tell me for sure, but I think so. He has a bruise on his cheek that he won’t tell me how he got, and he’s so small, Erik. He’s almost sixteen. He’s a sophomore, and he looks like he should still be in middle school. I invited him over, and he hugged me, and I swear I could feel every one of his ribs. So I brought him home, threw a blanket on him when he fell asleep, and baked some cookies because I don’t know what else to do. I want to help him, but I just feel so damn… helpless.” William is shaking before he stops talking. Erik wraps an arm around his shoulder and pulls him close. 

“Mr. Herbert?” A shy voice speaks up, and both turn to look at the teen standing in the kitchen entrance. He looks between Erik and William, looking ready to bolt any second. Erik forces the most genuine smile he can muster on his face and steps towards the boy, his hands mindfully hanging by his sides to show the boy he means no harm. 

“Hi, you’re Michael, right? I’m Erik, the other Mr. Herbert.” The teen looks at him, looking like he doesn’t know what to make of this new person. As Michael scrutinizes Erik, Erik is doing the same thing, just a bit more subtly. William was right, he has a large purple bruise on his cheek that looks painful. His clothing hand loosely from his frame, and there is a noticeable tremor in his limbs. 

Michael’s dull green eyes flick from Erik to William, where he stands behind his husband. Erik hears steps behind him and feels a hand come to rest on his shoulder. He turns his head and sees William looking past him and at Michael. 

“He’s my husband. I promise he’s really nice.” William assures the boy. Erik presses a kiss against Will’s hand before placing his hand on top of his husband’s. When he looks back over at Michael, the teen looks slightly less nervous now. 

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Herbert. I um… I should probably head home.” Michael clearly doesn’t really want to go, but he’s afraid of being a burden. Erik and William share a look before Willaim clears his throat. 

“Michael, why don’t you stay for dinner? I just made some chocolate chip cookies that we can have for dessert, and then we’ll drive you home. Does that sound good?” The boy’s eyes light up at the suggestion. 

The tree of them have grilled chicken for dinner, Erik pretending not to notice when William and Michael feed Bella little bits of scraps from the table. Michael ends up filling up on the hot protein and not having any room for cookies, so Erik puts them in a bag and helps the teen hide them in his backpack. 

They eventually have to take him home. They drop him off. Making sure he has William’s number first in case he needs anything, and they really mean anything. When they get back home, the house feels strangely empty, but neither of them want to comment on that. 

They wash the dishes together in silence, and Erik feels the weight of the day catch up with him. He kisses William’s cheek before disappearing to go take a shower. The hot water helps ease the tension in his back. 

He quickly washes himself off, eager to get back to William. When he gets out, his husband is sitting in their bed, T.V. playing the newest episode of some cooking show that William is all but obsessed with. Erik hops in the bed like an excited kid, wrapping his arms around William and pressing his ear against William's chest, right above his heart. 

“I’m glad that he felt safe enough to come to you.” 

“Yeah, so am I.” The two of them sit in silence for a moment until a shiver travels through Erik’s body. “Will you get under the covers before you freeze to death?” 

Erik groans, not wanting to let go of his husband but knowing that he’s right. He unhooks his arms from around William and moves around until he’s underneath the blankets. He rolls on his side, looking up at William with big, tired eyes. 

“Will?”

“Yes dear?” 

“Will you hold me tonight?” William looks at him fondly before scooting closely and pulling Erik even closer. The PEIP agent falls asleep to the sound of his husband’s heartbeat.