No matter what Charles had said, Erik had been certain that it wasn't going to be as easy as asking to find him on campus so huge and impressive as Oxford's, but it was. He had asked exactly three people where he might find Charles Xavier before he got an answer. He was pointed to a building, instructed as to the floor and room number, and then told that he'd best hurry if he wanted to catch Charles' office hours. Erik wasn't certain if he should hurry or not; he was not interested in catching the man in the middle of instructing students and interrupting him, but he did hope to catch him before he disappeared into the evening to a home address Erik didn't possess.
He was only in town for a few days, a week at the most, he had someone to find, someone to kill, someone to torture information out of; it was good to have a goal. He wanted to see David before that, however, before his hands were again covered in blood and he needed time to wash away that stain before he could see the boy again. He was many things - a monster among them - but he would not touch Gabby's son with that on his hands.
Erik found the two of them, door to the office open, with Charles on the floor with David curled up between his legs, sitting with his back against Charles' chest. Charles was holding a book out for him and reading in a sure, slow voice, the sort that seemed to come naturally to parents, or perhaps just with people who weren't like him. Charles had a steady voice. David's fingers pressed over the pages from time to time, repeating a stray word after his father.
"Yes very..." Charles glanced up at the door... "Good... Erik." David didn't glance up. "David, it's your Uncle Erik."
Charles was forgotten in a flash and David was hurdling towards him, arms wrapped tight. Erik got down to his knees and wrapped the boy up tight in a hug. He felt warm and solid and so... human, fresh, clean, and undamaged. Simple. This was simple. Erik let himself get lost in the feeling for the moment, pure and undamaged, something good, and something that let him think of Gabby, even if the boy was wrapped up in a certain amount of bitterness on Erik’s part. He looked up a few moments later to see Charles puttering around the office, packing away books into a bag and picking up a few pens and papers. He was clearly packing up for the day.
"Erik, would you perhaps like to spend the evening with David?" He looked up at Charles and just stared. Clearly this man would never have allowed Erik anywhere near his son if he knew the sort of man Erik was, but Charles was ignorant of those facts.
"Come meet Blueberry Raven!" David shouted, too close to his ear, and then he was tugging on Erik's hand. "Please?"
"David..." Charles was laughing now, though, and tucking his bag over his shoulder. "You are very welcome to join us for the evening, Erik. How long are you in town?"
They exchanged all their meaningless pleasantries, Charles holding onto David's hand as they cut through the grass and then the pathways that made up Oxfordshire. David was clinging to Erik with his other hand, the three of them walking like that, David in between them, babbling, contentedly.
"You're a little young to be a Professor, aren't you?" As far as Erik knew, Charles had been an undergraduate only four years ago when David had been... conceived.
"Oh, of course. I'm just a grad student now, working on my thesis, teaching classes, that sort of thing." Charles gave him a bright smile, and Erik couldn't help but notice how startlingly blue Charles' eyes were. They reminded him a bit of David's, icy blue instead of green like Gabby's had been. "My sister Raven is taking a class or two, waitressing on the side..."
David started to whine and protest their pace, which, although leisurely was a bit much for a two and a half year old to keep up for too long and Charles scooped the boy up easily, nearly flinging him against his shoulder. It seemed that Charles was well acquainted with the behavior, but he kept grinning at Erik.
"Don't worry, he'll be more together once we're home and perhaps you could play with some blocks, do a puzzle, that sort of thing."
Erik felt odd, it was strange for Charles to be so accommodating, and he felt as though Charles was flinging the boy at him, and he wondered if the man was just uninterested in fatherhood or was making up for some sort of transgression he'd imagined. Erik saw no reason he deserved to be able to keep David in his life; it was likely best if he didn't, to be honest.
"What are you studying?" He finally asked, hand reaching out to hold onto David's, leaving him just a half step behind Charles as they ambled through the streets.
"Genetics," Charles answered. Erik froze. "Trait heritability, trait dominance, genome mapping, although my thesis is... Erik?"
Charles turned around to face him, and he looked so... soft and innocent and sweet like that, David wrapped up in his arms. Erik was struck by the desire to grab David, to take him away. What sort of man had Gabby fallen in love with? A man who could, with a straight face, less than a decade after the end of the war...
"That's monstrous." It was the only thing he could manage to choke out, and he watched as Charles' arms wrapped tighter around David, holding him close as though he could read Erik's mind and knew his thoughts. "How could you--? Your own son is a Jew and you--"
Charles pressed David's head close, pinning his ear with this palm of his hand. "Erik, please, calm yourself."
He couldn't. He had no idea how anyone could have, and he flexed his arms, mind searching out something - anything - metal, because he may be a monster, but he would be damned if he allowed Gabby's son anywhere near a man like Schmidt. From everything Gabby had told him, he thought Charles was an honorable and intelligent man, a man who had helped her through years of nightmares. He wouldn't understand the acute pain, the reality of the experiences of Gabby and Erik's childhoods, but he had thought... that was not something he had expected of Gabby's lover.
Charles jostled David slightly, hiking him up farther on his shoulder and gently stroked the boy's hair. "I am not a eugenicist, Erik, and I am more than aware of the immediate connotations of my work."
Erik didn't understand the difference, and he glowered at Charles as though that was his fault.
Charles had stopped his progress towards wherever they were going, stroking gently against David's neck, fingers brushing up and down in a way that Erik imagined must have been comforting. It was incongruous to him; Charles seemed to personify every extreme in Erik's life, he was so tender and easy with David although it had only been a few months since Gabby's death, it was hard to see him as a monster, and yet he brought with him all these feelings, things that bordered on hate and an intense jealousy that Erik had trouble understanding.
Erik didn't understand. He barely had a young man's understanding of science, although his understanding of literature and philosophy, cultivated over years spent reading while on the road between missions, was well enough. To him, science was the stuff of monsters.
"Genetics does represent something that could be used to vile ends..." Charles shook his head, just slightly, and to Erik it looked as though he was shaking out cobwebs or thinking of something far away. "But... I see it as an opportunity to investigate entirely different topics, the heritability of several traits... diseases that run in families, could provide medicine and science with all manner of information."
Erik took a deep breath, eyes still dark but he watched the way Charles' face moved, open and earnest. There didn't seem to be deception there, nothing but honesty. "So you want to track... diseases?"
"It is not the sole focus of my work, but yes, it is a major component of my research. Certain infirmities appear to run in certain families, familial interbreeding produces instances of other diseases, not dissimilar to patterns that were observed in livestock breeders centuries ago. It represents the possibility of recessive disease heritability as proposed as early as Mendel. If there are underlying genetic factors, perhaps there are ways to understand, maybe someday even repair such damage, although I doubt I will live to see that." Charles shook his head, and then continued on, not waiting to see if Erik was following him.
A few steps later, Erik scurried to follow after Charles. "Would you... mind if I carried David for a bit?"
Charles looked at Erik, watched as Charles' gaze slowly swept down him and then back up again. He could feel the judgment, the silent appraisal, perhaps like Charles was looking for the soul that was no longer there. He set his jaw, annoyed, but Charles handed over the boy, taking a moment to settle his bag more comfortably across his opposite shoulder. "Was my explanation sufficient, Erik?"
Erik took David and slung the boy against his shoulder. David was heavier that Erik remembered, and much taller, several inches at least, growing and becoming a child instead of a baby. "I still find I don't exactly understand."
Charles nodded, and then gestured down the street so they could continue to move. "Genetics is a tool. Like so many other things there is a capacity for good or evil in it. I like to think..." Charles sighed and shook his head. "I like to think that the tools in my possession will not be used for evil." Charles nodded, more for himself than for Erik, it seemed.
Erik brushed his fingers over the back of David's head, stroking slowly as he tried to process what Charles was saying. Erik had no experience with science that didn't revolve around Schmidt, around the other Nazis he hunted down to find Schmidt, and the men like von Braun and the dozens of other Nazi scientists who used their intelligence and fear of the Soviets to insinuate themselves in America after the War. Charles was the man who saw Gabby through years of sleepless nights. He might be a soft and sheltered intellectual, but he was not a bad man.
He nodded. "There are people who would use it for ill."
"Oh yes, my friend. Of that I have no doubt." Charles seemed wrapped up in his own thoughts again, staring out over the streets as they slowly continued to walk.
Inspiration struck. "Do you... do you have papers? Journal articles?"
Charles looked back at him, all soft smiles and a faint blush. "Were you interested in learning a bit about my work?"
"Maybe," he ground out the word, but he wasn't so certain he was. He might be, perhaps, if it could help him find what he was truly looking for. "Does anyone ever write you? The people who would use genetics to continue Sch-- Hitler's work?"
The set of Charles' shoulder, his eyes, and the quirk of his mouth answered Erik's question. Yes. Nazis wrote to Gabby's son's father, Nazis interested in eugenics. Genes are the key, yes? But their goals? Blue eyes? Blond Hair? Pathetic.
Perhaps he could stand to continue to visit with Charles, then, if so many Nazis were so good as to try to make his acquaintance.