Fandom X-Men: First Class
Pairing Charles/Erik, mentions of one-sided Moira/Charles and Hank/Raven.
Rating/warnings PG. 1960s homophobia.
Disclaimer I don’t own X-Men at all. Surprise, surprise.
Summary Months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Hank starts to realise how deeply Erik’s departure has affected the professor, and what it implies about their leader.
Author’s notes Written with this prompt, concerning the intolerance a gay couple might be met with in the 1960s, even by mutants, in mind.
‘Where is Erik?’ was the first thing the professor said when he awoke. Hank had expected him to regain consciousness gradually as the medication wore off, but instead he woke with a jolt so violent that Moira instinctively grabbed at him to keep him down. Desperately, he took hold of her shoulder and repeated breathlessly: ‘Where is Erik?’
‘Don’t you remember?’ she asked and the worry in her eyes, already weary with sleep-deprivation, grew. ‘He’s gone, Charles....’
‘No, he can’t be,’ he answered, shaking his head. ‘Where is he?’ Moira turned to Hank, looking at him helplessly, and he realised that she thought the professor must have lost his mind. He approached and said, so low that he hoped the patient would not hear:
‘It’s just the morphine confusing him. It hasn’t worn off yet.’ She nodded, looking dispirited. ‘I’ll get the nurse,’ he offered and headed towards the door. He heard how Moira started trying to soothe the professor, assuring him that it was all alright. Before leaving the room, Hank looked over his shoulder and saw how she held his hand, but instead of looking at Moira, Charles had covered his face with his arm, turning away.
‘I want him here,’ Hank heard him say weakly, and something in the emphasis on “him” made him think that there was an implicit rejection of “you” in that statement. But the thought only lasted a moment, and he turned to the task at hand.
The silence in the mansion grew oppressive the day Moira left. Hank did not have to be told about it; it was as if he felt something detract from the enclosed reality which was theirs. Hoping that his intuition was wrong, he made his way to the downstairs study. The French windows were open, despite the autumn cold, as if the professor had entered through them and not taken care to close them properly. He was at the desk, scribbling intently at some notes, probably to do with the setting up of the school.
‘Has Moira gone?’ Hank asked.
‘Yes,’ the professor answered, not looking up. He must have noticed the suppressed question of “why?”, because a moment later he put his pen down and met Hank’s gaze. ‘This place needs to be safe. I couldn’t risk her being here.’
‘She could have stayed,’ he said, because he had expected her to. She had seemed so fond of the professor, and very dedicated to the cause... But Xavier shook his head.
‘This needs to be a safe haven,’ he explained. ‘A place of sanctuary. It cannot be compromised.’ Then, as if forgetting the topic at hand, he leafed through some papers on his desk and asked: ‘How is rebuilding Cerebro going?’
‘It’ll take some time,’ Hank admitted. ‘We’re only just finishing the skeleton of the construction...’
‘How long would you estimate it all to take?’ Xavier asked, and something in his tone was uncharacteristically sharp.
‘A month?’ Hank said with a shrug, not at all certain. ‘Probably longer.’ The professor sighed, looking down in the desk and biting his lip. Hank shuffled his feet. ‘I guess you want to start recruiting as soon as possible...’
‘It’s not that,’ he said suddenly, cutting him off. ‘I want to find Erik.’
‘He knows about the mansion,’ Hank said, suddenly realising it. ‘He could attack...’
‘That wasn’t the primary reason,’ Xavier admitted, but smiled weakly. ‘Let me know if you need more funds or more manpower for the project. It’s very important, as you know.’
‘Of course,’ he answered and turned to leave.
‘Oh, Hank?’ He turned back, met by the professor’s apologetic smile. The past month he had aged him, and the white which had started appearing in his hair shortly after Hank had met him had spread to his temples. Before the events on the beach, Hank had never really been aware about the age difference between them, being so used always to be the youngest among older scientists, but now, there was a tangible avuncular air about him. ‘Would you be a sport and bring me a cup of tea?’
‘Sure,’ Hank said, but before he left he noticed how the professor rested his head on his hand, rubbing his eyes as if he was infinitely tired, or perhaps disappointed.
In the months before the accident, as Hank had decided to think of it as, for want of a better word, he had never noticed that the professor was prone to black moods. Now, it was not uncommon to find him staring out of the window with an expression of deep spiritual pain on his face. Most days, he would work on preparing for the opening of the school, planning the building of dormitories and study-halls and improvement of the grounds, but occasionally, although he would get out of bed and dress, he would stay in his room, and no amount of coaxing from any of them would make him even have dinner with them in the dining-room.
The others never discussed it; it would be overstepping the boundary of his privacy. Hank guessed that the professor had his reasons for feeling downcast. He tried to imagine being struck paralysed, but could not. Hank’s body had changed too, but his transformation, despite making him unattractive, had made him faster and stronger. The transformation the professor had gone through was the complete opposite. It must be frustrating and enraging, and such feelings were easily turned into despair. But Hank wondered if there was not another reason too. It had seemed to him that sending away Moira had been overzealous - he should not have had to sacrifice that merely for the safety of the school.
What was usually a comfort was that once the others had figured out what mood the professor was in, he was fairly predictable. Therefore, one day when he had seemed to stay in his room and Sean had come up to bring him lunch, it made them worried when he came back down still with the tray in his hands.
‘He’s not there,’ he explained to the others. They all exchanged perplexed looks.
‘I haven’t heard him leave,’ Alex said, frowning. Sean looked to Hank, who shook his head.
‘I’ve been working on Cerebro all morning.’ When he did not look away, Hank realised that he had ended up in charge. ‘Let’s search the house, then.’
When saying so, he had imagined a drawn-out search, but within only a few minutes, he heard Sean shout:
‘Beast! Havoc! Found him!’ Hank, who had been looking in the library, followed the sound of Sean’s voice. He was in the entrance-hall, waiting for the others.
‘Where is he?’ Hank asked, feeling worry flare up. He had thought that once they located the professor, it would all seem a little silly that they had lost him, just because he had gone somewhere, but suddenly there was nothing frivolous about the situation. Sean was looking far too serious.
‘He’s in the room beside the nursery,’ he said, jerking his head in the direction of the room.
‘Is he alright?’ Alex asked, and Sean bit his lip.
‘He’s not hurt,’ he said slowly. ‘But “alright” is a bit... optimistic.’ They looked at each other, and Hank started mounting the stairs. ‘Beast, I don’t think we should...’ he started, but his advice went unheard. A sudden filial protectiveness had seized him, and Sean’s hesitant answer had only made him more intent on acting on it. As he turned in to the right corridor, he could hear sounds from the room. He hesitated at the door for a moment, listening to the ragged breathing through the wood, and then, deciding that this was not the place for decorum, entered.
The room itself was sparsely furnished; the back of his mind supplied that it might have been the nanny’s room back when the professor’s family had lived here. However, the signs of habitation were far fresher. There were clothes neatly folded on a chair. The sheets of the bed were haphazardly straightened, as if the inhabitant had not had time to make it properly. One of the walls was covered by a map of Europe, the edges obscured by photographs, drawings and notes. That assortment of expressionless black-and-white faces and descriptions of movements was the most personal thing in the room. There were no family photographs, no tokens of community, giving the room a chilling emptiness.
In the middle of the room was the professor, his back turned towards the door. Hank had heard the sobs before he entered, but seeing the man’s shoulders shake so violently made it all the more real.
‘Professor?’ he said tentatively and stepped a little closer. Now he saw that he had wrapped his arms around himself, as if it would stop the convulsions the sobs sent through him. ‘Charles?’
He did not react straight away, but then came a deep, trembling breath to steady himself, and half-turning his face to him, he said:
‘Please, Hank... Leave.’ His voice broke again and he covered his eyes with his hand. Hank had time to glance how red the skin around them was with crying.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘Please, just leave me alone,’ the professor begged and turned away again. Hank lingered a moment, watching the man shake as he started weeping anew.
‘Right,’ he said at last, feeling awkward. ‘Let me know if you need anything.’ As quietly as possible, he backed out of the room and closed the door. It did not feel right to leave him in such a state, but he knew that he would not appreciate if he waited for him in the corridor. He stayed at the door for a few minutes, listening to the sobs of the man inside. At one point, he thought he heard him say, ‘oh, Erik,’ but it was hardly distinguishable from his whimpers.
That afternoon and evening, there was the sense of an emergency in the house. There was no actual reason for it - an hour or so after the incident, the professor had recomposed himself and gone back to his room - but the others remained on edge, as if expecting something else to happen. Without talking about it, they made up a kind of rota where they would drop in on him every so often to make sure that he was safe. Then they would return to helping with Cerebro, giving the others a short nod to show that all was in order. A little after nine, Sean broke the silence when he returned from checking on him.
‘He’s gone to bed,’ he told them in hushed tones, as if the professor was asleep in that very room rather than the other side of the mansion.
‘It’s early,’ Alex commented.
‘Did he seem okay?’ Hank asked. Sean shrugged.
‘Don’t know. Sort of.’ It was probably the best they could hope for, Hank guessed, and let the matter drop, instead going to work on the wirings on the new Cerebro.
He did not see either of the others until around eleven, when he went to the kitchen to find some coffee. Alex was sitting at the table, eating ice cream out of the tub. Hank briefly considered telling him off, but knew that it would only lead to Alex’s usual ridicule of him.
‘Is the professor still asleep?’ he asked instead as he started the coffee machine. Alex nodded.
‘Seems that way.’
‘Where’s Sean?’ Alex gestured at the window.
‘Trying out some night-time flying,’ he explained. ‘Navigating in the dark with sound-waves or something.’ Then he looked down, stabbing the ice-cream with his spoon in a way which looked like he were trying to find a way to introduce a new subject. ‘Are you worried for him?’ he said at last, obviously not meaning Sean. Hank shrugged and settled opposite him.
‘Not really,’ he said, and then corrected himself to: ‘Well, a little. But I don’t think he’s in any danger.’ Alex nodded in agreement and looked thoughtful again. Then he admitted, changing the subject yet again:
‘You know, I was always a bit creeped out by Erik. I didn’t understand what made him tick.’
‘I guess,’ Hank conceded, thinking of the map and the photographs in the abandoned room. There had certainly been something odd about the man - it had struck him even the first time he had met him. While the others had approached him, Erik had hung back. He had never explained his interest in Shaw, but his desperation to get to him had been obvious. It only confused him more that the long absence of a man whom Hank had found so distant yet quite intimidating could still make Professor Xavier weep.
Alex chewed his lip, as if trying to decide how to continue, and then looked up at him.
‘Hank, the professor...’ he said slowly. ‘He’s not really right in the head, is he?’ Hank frowned.
‘That’s a bit harsh,’ he answered. ‘He’s just upset. The past few months have been rough.’
‘No, I mean in general,’ Alex said, as if truly wanting him to understand. ‘Even... before. You know, with Erik.’ Hank looked at him, feeling as if he had missed a large piece of the puzzle.
‘Why wouldn’t he be right in the head?’ he asked. Alex looked very uncomfortable and, pushing the ice cream package aside, started twirling the spoon around his fingers. Then he clasped it and put it down, sighing.
‘I think he’s a queer.’ Hank stared at him. It had not at all been what he had expected.
‘You’re not serious,’ he said. ‘That’s absurd. Just because he’s British doesn’t mean...’
‘It’s not just a hunch,’ Alex said grimly, as if it offended him that he might have a hunch about such a thing. Hank gestured for him to go on. Alex shifted and sighed. Considering that they rarely got on, it was odd to find themselves suddenly having such an earnest conversation. As the other man leaned a little closer, so that their conversation might not be overheard, Hank felt almost as if they were conspiring.
‘That week after the CIA building had been destroyed,’ he explained, setting the scene. ‘I wanted to get into the cellar, where I was training, you know, and the prof had the keys, so I went looking for him...’ Hank nodded to show that he was listening, although he was not feeling entirely certain that he wanted to hear this. ‘Well, I had heard something about that he was going to his study, so I went there, and the door was ajar...’ He paused and blinked, as if trying to rid himself of the mental images. ‘He was in there, with Erik, and they were kissing.’
‘Are you sure?’ Hank said in a hushed whisper.
‘Of course I’m sure!’ Alex answered, flaring up. ‘How the hell is it possible to misinterpret a kiss, or don’t you know what one looks like?’ Hank shot him a look, which to Alex’s credit, he let pass. ‘It wasn’t just a peck either,’ he continued, sounding increasingly disturbed. ‘I mean, there were tongues. And...’ He fell silent and tried to comprehend what he remembered. ‘Just the way they held each other. It was so... It wasn’t right. It was too close.’ He seemed to think about it a moment and then said: ‘They were like that a lot, even in company. Very...’ He waved his hands together vaguely.
‘Tactile?’ Hank suggested.
‘Well, yes,’ Alex sighed. ‘Touchy-feely.’ They lapsed into stunned silence, and Hank thought it through, disturbed at how well it all added up. He remembered how the professor had asked about Erik after waking up in hospital, and how oblivious he had seemed toward Moira being there. Then he thought back to when he had first met them, and remembered with sudden clarity how they had looked at each other the first time Charles had used Cerebro. And on top of that, the recruitment trips which they insisted on doing on their own, the way it became impossible to see one without the other, and, later in the mansion, the way they had retired to Charles’ study in the evenings... They had said for chess - had that just been a euphemism?
‘Damn,’ Hank breathed.
‘I know, right?’ Alex answered, shaking his head disbelievingly. Then he looked up at the ceiling, to the upper floor where the professor’s bedroom was. ‘Do you think he knows we’re talking about this?’
‘There’s no way of knowing, I think,’ Hank answered. That thought made him feel particularly uncomfortable - what was to say that the professor did not poke around his brain daily? And this new knowledge that he was like that made it worse. Having his thoughts read would previously had been only a disrespect, but now seemed suddenly a violation.
‘This is too much,’ he said, half to himself, and stood up. Then turning to Alex, he said: ‘Better keep this quiet. For all our sakes. If people find out...’ He shrugged. ‘Well, being mutants is trouble enough as it is.’
‘You can say that again,’ Alex sighed. Hank weighed from one foot to the other, afraid what the other man was thinking.
‘You know, it’s not his fault,’ he said at last. ‘It’s a disorder. He can’t be blamed.’
‘Yeah, you’re right, I guess.’ Alex rose as well and put back the ice cream in the freezer. ‘Poor bastard. He has no luck.’
‘If you don’t count Erik,’ Hank answered bitterly, and got a snort in response.
‘He was a piece of bad luck if I ever saw one.’ Then he shuddered and said: ‘Don’t ever remind me of having seen that.’
‘Sure.’ They left the kitchen, nodding goodnight. Hank had completely forgotten about the coffee he had been meaning to get. This new realisation about the professor made it feel like the world had been thrown off its axis, while at the same time it explained certain aspects of the man’s personality which he had ascribe to quaint British customs. In a way, contemplating the whole thing felt absurd, because the man in question was crippled and by the look of it quite miserable. It was not like he posed a threat to any of them. Only if it were to become generally known might it compromise them, but then not on a personal plane but in the eyes of the law. However, considering how intent the professor was to protect the mansion, he would not let that slip. Except...
He remembered how he had pointed out that Magneto knew the location of the mansion, but the professor had not taken the threat seriously. He had left a gaping hole in their security, simply because of his own involvement with the man... Then again, despite it all, Magneto was not their enemy in the real sense of the word. Nevertheless, it did not change the fact that Hank did not trust him; his sudden disappearance from the beach when Charles had needed help had been enough to ensure that.
Wearied by all these thoughts, Hank gave up any plans to do more work on Cerebro tonight and went up to his room instead.
When Hank awoke, bright sunlight was flooding into his room. As he got up, he realised that he must have overslept. His alarm-clock showed that it was past nine, which meant that everyone else were probably up already.
When he came down to the kitchen, no one was there, so he helped himself to coffee, freshly made in the morning but going sour by now, and went into the dining room. Through the window, he saw something out of the corner of his eye, and when he looked, he realised that the professor was out on the terrace. He took a moment to think it through. He could return to the kitchen and have his breakfast there, but if he turned back the professor would probably notice him. He could have his breakfast in the dining room, but then he would certainly notice him, and it would look very strange for him to sit there alone. Resigning himself to the only obvious course of action, he passed to the French windows and went outside.
It was colder than he had expected, and for once he was quite glad for his fur. The professor had a bulky sweater on and was clasping a cup of tea, looking much more content than the previous day.
‘Good morning, Hank,’ he greeted him, offering him a smile.
‘Good morning,’ Hank answered, trying to sound completely unconcerned.
‘Long building session last night?’
‘I’m afraid not,’ he admitted. ‘I must have had sleep to catch up on.’
‘All for the best, then,’ the professor said and sipped his tea. ‘I find that nothing helps quite like a good night’s sleep. I, for one, feel much better than yesterday.’ Then, having breached the subject, he looked at Hank sincerely and said: ‘I’m very sorry you had to see me like that.’
‘I’m sorry I... intruded,’ Hank said, avoiding his gaze.
‘You were doing what you thought was right,’ the professor answered lightly. ‘I am very grateful to have such friends.’ He fell silent and took to looking out over the garden, but Hank had an odd feeling that he was waiting for something. Realising that standing up like this was rather ridiculous, he moved a garden chair and sat down beside him. The silence remained a little longer, then the professor lowered his gaze and said: ‘I believe you have something you want to ask me.’
‘No,’ Hank said and took a gulp of coffee. It was already going cold. The way the professor smiled knowingly at the lie unsettled him. Then the smile disappeared, and he observed:
‘You know about me and Erik.’ It was a plain statement of fact. Hank sighed, realising that there was no room for denial. ‘Go on,’ the professor coaxed. ‘No need to just think it.’
Hank had not wanted to talk about it - better to pretend he did not know and it did not exist, better to put up blinders and go on imagining that all was well. But if the professor wanted him to talk, he knew that he would. It was simply a question of whether or not he chose to himself.
‘It’s not right, is it?’ he said. The professor put his teacup aside and folded his hands in his lap.
‘Why isn’t it?’ His tone was not offended or ashamed, as Hank had expected, but genuinely interested. It was the voice of a scientist - “you understand this, and I do not. Explain it to me.”
‘Well...’ Hank said and scratched his head. ‘It just isn’t. It’s not natural. The continuation of the species is the first interest of that species, which implies procreation, which logically means that being disinclined to procreate would be counterintuitive. So such an inherent reluctance and a corresponding preference for one’s own sex must be an expression of a disorder of some kind.’
‘It’s a rather mechanistic view of life, don’t you think?’ the professor answered levelly. ‘You are certainly right in that a species must continue, but does that mean that it is the primary duty of every single person? And that is leaving aside the fact that attraction to one sex doesn’t necessarily exclude attraction to the other. Besides, if you are to take that view, consider how plenty of people - married couples - actively choose not to have children. Do we tell them that it is their duty to have them anyway?’
‘Well, no,’ Hank answered. ‘But you’ve got to admit, it’s a bit selfish.’
‘So is dedicating one’s life completely to anything,’ the professor answered. ‘And in a way, is it not more selfish to care only for your own child than to, say, do work which might improve, even save, lives?’ He glanced at him with a melancholic smile. ‘Just because something is crucial to the species doesn’t make it crucial to every being. After all, we are creatures with higher intelligence. Our lives are not pure biology. What of knowledge? Caring? Love?’ He looked down and interlaced his fingers slowly, as if to have something to distract him from the thought. ‘Yes, love,’ he said at last. ‘That should be the thing ruling our life.’ The professor looked at him. His eyes had suddenly grown intense. ‘Not hate, Hank, or fear.’
Hank sighed and looked away, uncomfortable with the implicit accusation that it was hate or fear, not scientific knowledge, which fuelled his concerns. He did not hate the professor - that seemed impossible. But yes, he did fear him, but he thought he had done that even before, because his power was the most frightening of all.
‘People hate and fear what is different,’ the professor observed; Hank could not tell if he was simply surmising what he was thinking or if he was reading his mind. ‘It is a survival instinct. But we need to be better than our instincts. Especially we.’
‘Because we’re mutants?’ Hank said, not liking where this was going. He could feel the professor’s eyes on him when he answered:
‘Yes. We need to show everyone else - and ourselves - that prejudice can be overcome.’
‘This isn’t about prejudice,’ he said, feeling rather helpless. ‘I’m just stating a scientific fact.’
‘Don’t you think that science can be influenced by prejudice?’
‘It shouldn’t be.’
‘That doesn’t mean that it isn’t,’ Xavier said with a shrug. Hank sighed, crossing his arms. ‘I don’t mean to offend you, Hank, but you must acknowledge that you are a child of your time, as everyone else. True objectivity is not possible.’
‘In that case,’ Hank asked, ‘why am I wrong, and you right?’
‘Prejudice is never right,’ the professor said, and Hank was surprised to realise that the man was smiling at him. ‘Hank, you should be above prejudice. Some people are not, and to them it remains a refuge throughout their lives, because they cannot face reality and accept people around them, but you are a brilliant scientist and a good man. And on top of that, you are a mutant - you have known how people can treat each other.’
Hank looked away from him again, hoping to hide his confusion. The professor talked as if he were the same as the people who had mocked him for his feet, the people he had hid from all his life... Surely it was different? His mutation was not unnatural. Even if he had often wished to be different, he had paid highly for that wish through his transformation, and he had started to realise that he had been wrong from the beginning to want to change himself, because his mutation was part of him. But the professor... That was a mental illness. It was not comparable.
His thoughts were interrupted by the question:
‘Have you ever been in love, Hank?’
Hank looked down at his hands. With sudden clarity he remembered when he had been hanging upside down from the Blackbird prototype and Raven had approached. It had been like he had never looked at another person properly before, and suddenly she had stood in stark contrast with the rest of the world. He pushed the memory away, afraid what the professor might say if he were reading his mind.
‘Then you know what a exhilarating, distressing thing it is. Is it possible to fight such a thing?Should it ever be fought?’ He fell silent, as if waiting for something. ‘Hank, look at me.’ He did, reluctantly. The professor’s vivid eyes locked onto his, and he wished he could look away again. One could see a hint of the power his mind held. But there was nothing commanding in his gaze. Instead, it seemed to implore him. ‘Love must be the reason and the means for all we do here,’ he said, emphasising every word. ‘What you see as a... a disorder, as you call it, is merely love, a love no different from any other. Love must never be stigmatised, because if we do that, we will lose ourselves to hypocrisy.’ The professor looked away and leaned back in his chair, as if the explanation had exhausted him.
They sat in silence for a long time.
‘I don’t understand,’ Hank admitted at last.
‘What?’ He gathered his thoughts and explained.
‘Moira adored you.’ The professor glanced at him, prompting him to continue. ‘Why not let her stay? I mean, not only to help with the school. She would have been... good for you.’ Now something almost pitying entered the professor’s gaze, as if felt sorry for him for not understanding.
‘Because I didn’t love her,’ he said simply. ‘I don’t. I love Erik.’ In the present tense, Hank thought. Leaving aside the point that he could not see how a man might love another, he could not see how anyone could love Erik, particularly not the professor, considering what Erik had done to him, and how he had simply vanished afterwards.
The professor, possibly interpreting his silence as more general scepticism, said:
‘I guess that I’m not going to be able to convince you in such a short time. No matter. I just hope that this doesn’t change how you see me.’ The smile on his lips disappeared. ‘I would be very sad if such a thing were to come between us. No one enjoys being hated.’ Hank looked away, suddenly guilty, even if he was not won over. The discovery had changed his perception of the professor, but with time, he guessed he could come to think of it as just another quirk. For once he was grateful for being lumbering and blue-furred - he was fairly certain that meant he was not the professor’s type.
It seemed like he did not linger on the question of trust, but was looking up at the sky now.
‘He’s dangerous,’ Hank pointed out, feeling rather like he were presenting his last defense. The professor smiled a little.
‘Yes, Erik is a dangerous man,’ he conceded. ‘But not to us.’
‘How do we know that?’ Hank said. The professor looked at him with a smile, as if endeared at his naivety.
‘Because I know him better than any other person in the whole world, and I know that he loves me. He will not hurt us.’
‘He hurt you,’ Hank reminded him. With a sigh, the professor said:
‘True. And to be perfectly honest with you, Hank, it wasn’t just my back he broke. I wished it had not happened. But all the same, it was an accident. I still feel that what I knew before holds true. I’m sure that what happened only strengthened his resolve.’ Hank wished he could argue with that, but knew that the professor would not have it. Sensing his uncertainty, he smiled and said: ‘Even if I can’t feel his mind now, I know that it is true. We may have our own goals, but it doesn’t change anything. Trust me.’ Hank sighed.
‘Alright.’ The professor nodded and patted him companionably on the shoulder before wheeling himself toward the doors.
‘Get some breakfast,’ he advised. ‘Then I want to see your new ideas for the wirings for Cerebro.’
‘Sure,’ Hank said and was awarded an appreciative nod before being left alone on the terrace. He lingered outside for a while, trying to absorb the conversation they had had. It had been quite different from how he had imagined it - he had not expected all that talk about love. He had to look into the matter again. There should be some up-to-date research on it somewhere, he thought. Perhaps there were other dimensions to it than just being a case of sexual deviance. Finishing his now completely cold coffee, he decided that in the meantime, before coming to that conclusion, he might as well try to pretend that none of this had ever been discussed. Besides, there was work to concentrate on, and he knew that the professor trusted him to do it well.
As he went inside, strengthened with that thought, he concluded that perhaps, just perhaps, he could grow used to this new insight.