Erik was in love with Charles. He wasn't ashamed of that fact. It was a curiosity to him, though--for him, the word love had always had strong associations with the idea of family, the image of a mother and her child. He hadn't thought of himself as being capable of being what they call a "family man"--maybe not since he was very young, and before the war. Charles seemed to have been trying, as of late, to force him into the box, by trickery and wiles, that trouble-making telepath. Nonetheless, Erik, was not gentle with the other persons living in the mansion with them. Alex, Sean, Raven, Hank...they were not children any longer, they did not require kid gloves.
There was probably an irony to the fact, then, that the first child to come to the Xavier Estate was the child that Charles had never known he'd had.
Raven was the first to tell Charles that she wanted to throttle him. It hadn't been so long ago, really, those days when Charles had gone to bars and shamelessly flirted with women, taking them home afterwards, his or theirs. Charles had the grace to look ashamed, putting the telephone down after his third call to the mother, to a woman named Madeline, making the necessary travel and meeting arrangements.--
"She wanted to know," Charles said to Erik, privately, and over chess, "If my family had any history of hereditary mental illness. That's the only reason she contacted me."
And that's why Charles went.
Charles drove to Philadelphia by himself; he was gone for a week, and when he returned, it was with a six-year-old boy in tow. Erik greeted them in the front hall and regarded the child with light curiosity. The house was quiet, with the younger mutants having gone into town for the day. The boy was holding Charles' hand, and he looked back at Erik with wide eyes.
"That's David, I presume?" Erik asked Charles.
The boy flashed a quick, nearly furtive look at his father, while Charles began, "Well, it's--I suppose it's a little more complicated than that, I'm afraid--"
"I'm Julia," the boy said, soft and piping and shy. Then he pressed his fingers against his mouth, and then ducked behind Charles' leg a little. In a slightly different tone, still hiding behind Charles, he said, "I'm David."
Erik felt his brow furrow. He looked narrowly at Charles, and asked, "Mutation, or otherwise?" He didn't wait for Charles to answer, going on, "Charles, you're a geneticist, not a therapist--"
"Please," Charles interrupted sharply. He sounded weary. "Erik, I wouldn't have--" He hesitated, then seemed to bowl on, "I wouldn't have brought them back with me if I didn't think we could have helped."
"Them?" Erik repeated, disbelieving.
The boy--Julia, David, whoever it was--the boy was clinging to Charles' leg.
"Ducklings," Charles said, putting a gentle hand to the boy's shoulder. "This is--ah, this is your Uncle Erik."
Erik snorted. Uncle was one way of putting it, he supposed.
Charles took the boy to the kitchen and made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While Charles spread peanut butter on bread, the boy wandered around the kitchen, touching the knobs of drawers, looking out the windows at the estate grounds, looking at Erik in an inquisitive way, and then finally sitting down. The boy seemed to be in a bit of awe of the place. Erik sat down in the chair across from the boy's. He folded his hands in front of him on the table.
"Stop that," Charles said to Erik, putting a place in front of David, and also a glass of milk. "You're going to frighten them with that kind of intensity of expression."
"I'm not scared," the boy said, reaching for the milk.
"Hmmm," said Charles, sliding into the next chair over.
While the boy sat at the table, eating his lunch, Charles explained, "His mother, Madeline, didn't...believe me when I tried to explain to her that the erratic behavior of her son was really the collective behavior of...hmm, a number of discrete consciousnesses that had developed in the shared body. I've seen this before. It's not the same kind of mutation as my telepathy, or your manipulation of metal, although on that count David has begun to show developing ability for telepathy, and Spoons has exhibited mild telekinesis."
"Spoons is a good name," the boy mumbled around his sandwich.
"It is," Charles reassured his son, and then added to Erik, "I wouldn't say that Magneto is the most sophisticated name I've ever heard, either." He said the last with a light smile.
"Your sister came up with that one, not me."
"I'm seven years old," the boy said, "And I can float spoons, and I like the name Spoons." He demonstrated with the butter knife, a glob of grape jelly sliding down. Erik did not point out that he was floating a knife over the kitchen table and not a spoon.
Charles watched this display, and then winced, as though at an unpleasant memory. "At first, Madeline thought that David simply had an overactive imagination, that he was making up these other children and spending too much time play-acting. As a telepath, I can see them as different children, as separate and distinct brain wave patterns, I suppose you could say, but it's... harder for others I think. I was present when Spoons demonstrated his ability, and Madeline was horrified that David might have been suffering from some kind of possession after all, and not mental illness...She's a bright and lovely woman, Maddie, but I think this was all a bit much for her."
Charles seemed unhappy, thinking about all of this. "I...convinced her to allow me to take the child with me. At least for a little while. I promised her and the children that I'd take them home on alternating weekends to visit their mother."
Charles looked at Erik. I didn't want to take them, Erik heard in his head. They are only six years old. What right do I have to take these children from their mother? But along with that was a wave of fears and worry, of doctors and psychologists examining the child when there was nothing wrong, of forced therapy and worse.
Erik thought of Shaw, and his jaw tightened. He took Charles' hand. Then he looked over at the boy in a considering way. "I don't know who I'm talking to, just by looking at you," Erik said bluntly. Charles made a disapproving noise, which Erik ignored. Erik believed in being frank with people, even children, and if that included pushing them off satellite dishes or telling them the facts, then that was how it was going to be. "Perhaps we can reach a compromise with a collective name, so I can address you as something other than 'that boy.' At least until everyone has had time to become more familiar with all of you."
"Daddy knows who he's talking to," the child said to his sandwich.
Erik smiled thinly. "I'm not Charles," he said. "Or should we take to referring to you as the ducklings, after all? A little saccharine for my tastes, but--"
"We like ducklings." The boy squeezed the sandwich a little between his fingers, watching the jelly and peanut butter ooze.
Charles was watching the exchange with a faintly bemused smile.
"Fatherhood does not suit you," Erik said, not meaning a word of it. He was thinking about names. The child was still small. 'Duckings' would do for present, but he imagined they'd have to grow into a more suitable name in the future.