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The Ethics of Progress

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Charles' flat was nice, comfortable, and more than Erik was used to. He was curious how a graduate student and a waitress managed to afford the expansive three bedroom flat in a pricey college town. The lounge was lush as well, with a desk, a couch, a corner stuffed with toys, and more chairs and tables littered about.

'Blueberry Raven' - Charles' sister - was apparently not in attendance, but Charles began to move around the kitchen, working with vegetables and some beef to begin a stew, with no salt pork. Apparently Charles and the rest of the Xaviers kept kosher.

Erik still hadn't quite incorporated the ideas he knew about Charles, the man Gabby had loved, the man who studied genetics and claimed it was not eugenics, the man who obviously loved his Jewish son, and the man who was so frightfully naive it almost made Erik want to grab him by the scruff of the neck, push him to the window, and tell him to look outside of the window of his ivory tower and see what the world really was.

Charles smiled, content looking, as he browned off stew meat.

"You don't like science," Charles observed. It wasn't really an observation; Erik had made his disdain well known.

Erik shook his head. "I've seen what evil men do in the name of science."

Charles arched an eyebrow, skeptical, and the gesture rankled, made Erik's shoulders hunch. A moment later the man turned around and set a teakettle on. "Would you believe I have as well, Erik?"

No. No, Erik would not.

He hadn't answered, but Charles seemed to pick up on the answer regardless. He left the teakettle, and the meat and headed over to the desk, rooted around in it, and withdrew a picture frame. Erik reached out with his powers and felt that it was one among many, just a thin metal frame to hold a board and a plate of glass.

Charles handed the photo to Erik. It was of three men he didn't know.

"Do you know who they are?"

Erik shook his head.

"This man..." He tapped, pointing to a thin man with short dark hair, dark eyes, and a sunken sort of look. "Is Julius Robert Oppenheimer. He is known for... truly only one thing."

"The bomb." Even Erik knew that.

"He has said a great many things, many of them important to me and near to my heart. The one you might be most interested in, however... he said of the men who worked with him on the Manhattan Project: 'In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose'." Charles was quite for a moment.

"This man is Howard Stark." Quiet again. "He was actually a man who Gabby admired a great deal. I think she rather fancied him, actually." Erik had no idea what Charles was driving at with that. He knew the name, Stark, he'd looked, no Nazis there, no private contracting of Project Paperclip demons in Flushing, New York. "He was involved in a wartime project, initially quite tangentially, but he became heavily involved after the lead was killed. I'm certain you've heard of that as well... the result was a man mostly known in the newsreels as Captain America."

Erik tried not to let his surprise show. He'd... actually met the Captain, right towards the end of the war, he'd been there when the Camp where Gabby and he had been kept was liberated.

"So I know both the heights and depths of the potential uses for science, Erik."

Erik looked back down at the photo. "The third man?"

"Brian Xavier, my father, a nuclear physicist on the Manhattan Project and... other projects of great interest to national security at all levels, in all branches." Erik heard the hard tone there, and he wondered, just for a moment, what these 'other' projects were that brought that tone to Charles' usually friendly voice.

"Their history was my practicum in scientific ethics." Charles' voice was exceptionally hard as he said that. "So if you have any doubt about my understanding of the potential ramifications of my work, then you must think me an exceptionally poor student of history."

There was... something there, for a moment, something that actually, legitimately, made Erik momentarily wary, maybe even afraid. Charles did not back down, however, short as he was, soft as he was, clear and sweet and pure as his eyes were, Erik was momentarily impressed.

A moment later, Erik looked back down at the picture, and nodded.

The teakettle slowly started to whistle, the whistle becoming a scream, and Charles returned to the stove, turning it off and pulling down three mugs.

David had toddled into the kitchen after that, and Erik watched the boy take Charles' pant leg in one tiny hand and tug. "Da! Da!"

Charles just smiled and slung a hand around David's waist, scooping this up. "None of that, David. What would you like?"

"Chocat peas!"

"Chocat peas?" Charles repeated, grinning, and setting the boy down into a sturdy looking wooden hi-chair. "That doesn't sound particularly good."

Nonetheless, David repeated himself and Charles nodded, almost distracted.

"There will be chocolate, young man, I promise." He was grinning now, pouring three cups of hot water. Erik was momentarily concerned about Charles feeding his son scalding hot chocolate. "What sort of tea would you like, Erik?"

Erik shrugged. He had no idea what tea Charles had. He actually found he wouldn't have minded some sort of green tea. It wasn't impossible to get in England, but he imagined Charles much preferred black tea. A few moment's later a mug of hot water with a steeper on a chain it in arrived in front of him. He sniffed... green tea.

Charles set his own on the counter near Erik as well; the distinctive flavor of earl gray wafting from it. Erik frowned.

A few moments later Charles began his prep of the hot cocoa, leaving it longer to cool as he cut up a few carrots and left the slices on the table in front of David's hi-chair. David gave the most adorable 'you must be joking' look in Charles' direction, so very cute that Erik found himself laughing.

"He gets it from his aunt," Charles explained, dumping a few more ingredients in the pot he was working on. "Come on, love, the chocolate will take a few moments to cool anyway."

David sullenly chomped on the carrot, looking... dubious.

"I've been meaning to ask, Charles..." He'd gotten distracted by David's father's occupation. He'd meant to make certain the boy was being well cared for and looked after. "How do you manage with David? You study, your sister works. Surely it must be difficult."

Charles shrugged, picked up his mug, and took a sip. "I have a nanny for him, of course, for when I cannot be there, classes mostly."

A nanny, a three-bedroom apartment, college at Oxford, fresh fruit and meat and vegetables... It bothered Erik. He had assumed that Gabby had never contacted Charles because she didn't think the man could help, but it turned out it might have been something of the opposite.

Charles, again seemed to have a guess as to the direction of his thoughts. "David is well taken care of. I would have been only too happy to do so years ago, but I assume Gabby was not interested in..." He shrugged. "I think you might have a better idea as to her motives than I did."

Erik didn't know, not precisely. "She said that you'd moved on."

The other man shrugged, took a sip of tea. "I'd just gotten into Oxford, I suppose that's rather like moving on."

"Not seeing anyone?"

Charles shook his head then, went back to cooking, and Erik watched the way his shoulders hunched slightly. "Occasionally casual, we do have women's colleges in the area. David had put a slight damper on that, I suppose, but it's not really a loss."

"Their loss." Erik said it by way of a commiseration of some sort, but he found it rang especially hollow, even to himself.

Charles just laughed. "I suppose so. I don't find myself particularly interested in anyone who would not want a precocious two and a half year old, anymore." The man picked up the mug of cocoa, dipping a finger in, presumably to check the temperature, and then he set it in front of David. "Carefully now, we don't want spills." And then Charles tweaked the boy's nose gently and David laughed, grabbing at the mug and cautiously sipping.

Erik had always wondered, in a distant sort of way, what it was about Charles Xavier that had so captivated Gabby. She's said Charles was kind, compassionate, easily understanding, and frighteningly empathic. He knew that some nights, when Gabby woke screaming, Charles just held her as she trembled. Charles must have known... at least suspected, what Gabby had gone through. Erik could almost see the edge of what must have drawn Gabby to Charles; Erik could almost feel it himself.

"How did you help her?"

It was so frightfully out of the blue that even Erik wasn't entirely certain where the question had come from, but Charles just cocked his head and seemed to consider it for a few moments.

"Stay a few days."

Erik thought about for a few moments, thought about the trail that would go cold if he lingered. "I can't."

Charles frowned. "After, then."

He couldn't see David, not after, not with that blood on him. "I can't."

Charles turned back to the stove, piled water and other things into the pot and set it to cook, not looking Erik in the eyes. "I can help you, Erik. I can help you find some measure of peace."

Erik considered the letters Charles must have somewhere in the apartment, letters from Nazis asking him now to perfect humanity... "Perhaps I can stay a few days." Peace. A way to Shaw. They were all the same thing.