Title: Charlotte Francine XavierRating: R/NC-17 overall, probably R for this chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Genderbend, violence, disturbing images, references to the Holocaust, references to past non-con in this chapter and child abuse. I delve into the darker implications of telepathy here, so please heed the rating – both of the fic overall and of the individual chapters.
Summary: Written for a kinkmeme prompt that wanted to see the events of the movie if Charles had been a woman. This story will also wander into psychic-bond trope territory, as well as being a shameless fix-it fic. Just so everything’s clear up front…
Deeper Than Thought
They’re a short plane flight away from Richmond, and in a part of this city that could be colloquially referred to as ‘the wrong side of the tracks’.
Usually, this is where Erik feels most at ease, where the violence and greed that underlay all human nature is laid bare, without any pretty words or false smiles to disguise it. Erik prefers his cruelty naked, and usually feels more at home in the shadows of these filthy streets than in all the expensive hotels he's visited over the years.
And that's the key word – usually. Because now Charlotte is walking beside him, insisting their mutant taxi driver is somewhere up ahead. She treads the pavement confidently, carelessly, as though unaware that they're being watched and evaluated by everyone they pass.
Erik knows it's ridiculous to feel protective – Charlotte is probably the farthest from helpless it's possible to be. She's a telepath, for god's sake; she'll know if anyone dangerous gets within twenty feet of them.
But it doesn't stop alarm trickling down Erik's spine like cold water when he becomes aware that of footsteps behind them, footsteps that dog them even through the labyrinthine twists and turns. Someone is following them.
Something flickers across Charlotte's face, concern and worry chasing each other in her eyes, before she stops abruptly and spins to face their pursuer. Erik turns a split second behind her, in time to see sunlight glint off metal – there's a knife in the man's hand.
He doesn't even think about it. It's automatic to use his power to tear the blade from the man's fingers and pull it into his, taking a light grip on the handle, ready to send it flying into the man's belly if he needs to...
Except the man hasn't reacted. His expression hasn't changed, his stance hasn't shifted – he hasn't even blinked. He only barely seems to be breathing.
I froze him, Charlotte's voice whispers in his mind. She's contemplating their would-be attacker with something that looks disturbingly close to compassion.
Then, as Erik is absorbing exactly how formidable an enemy Charlotte would be (there's no sign of strain on her face – it took little more than a thought to freeze that man in his tracks and how many people could she do that to before it even became an effort?), she reaches into her purse, removes several bills, folds them and tucks them in the man's pocket.
“What the hell are you doing?” Erik's voice is sharp, because is Charlotte honestly going to reward a man who would have attacked them?
“He wouldn't have hurt us,” Charlotte says – aloud, this time. “But he's been fired from his job, and his wife's just had a baby; that's the only reason he was even contemplating robbing us.”
“A lot of people are desperate for money at some point in their lives,” Erik scoffs. “They manage not to steal from people.”
Perhaps Erik's being hypocritical – god knows, he's stolen more money than he's ever earned. But the people he stole it from were those who bought their luxury with the murder and suffering of his people, those who grew fat off the spilled blood like ticks.
“He made a bad choice,” Charlotte says softly, turning away and resuming her course down the street as though there has been no interruption. “That doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a second chance.”
Erik has the uncomfortable feeling that she's referring to more than their would-be robber. Charlotte has a habit of looking at him like she can see good in him, like there's hope for him, and it irritates Erik – doesn't she know that there are no second chances for the likes of him? He's a murderer, and he's come to accept that of himself. And if a day of judgement truly exists, he'll gladly account for himself, so long as he can guarantee that Schmidt will first face retribution.
He remains staring at the motionless man for a moment or two longer, debating using the knife to give him a souvenir of this encounter, a warning not to accost women in the street...
But in the end, a reluctant mugger is small fry compared to the larger goal at stake here, so he leaves the man to catch up Charlotte. He keeps the knife though, tucking it into his coat. It's reflexive by now, to keep and hoard whatever weapons come his way.
When they turn the corner, Erik sees the man stagger, released from Charlotte's hold on him, but they're out of sight before he can recover enough to see them.
“A real bleeding heart, aren't you, Charlotte?” he mutters sarcastically.
She shrugs absently, her expression distant and closed. Probably checking to ensure she hasn't done any damage to the man – it seems the sort of thing she'd do.
“You didn't put your fingers to your temple,” Erik observes quietly.
“That gesture isn't necessary to activate my telepathy,” Charlotte admits. “It's more like a nervous tic. I developed it when I was young – it was a way of letting Raven know I was reading someone without saying anything aloud.”
Erik nods, though he can't deny he's a little unnerved by the idea that Charlotte can just slide into his mind without any twitch or gesture to indicate what she's doing.
But that's all he is – unnerved. By all rights he should be frightened, should be seeking advice on how to ensure that doesn't happen, how to defend himself if she tries it. But he isn't. For some reason, the idea that Charlotte can delve into his mind at any moment isn't frightening in the slightest, as though he knows she’ll never abuse that power.
Can it be he actually trusts her?
But Erik doesn't want to dwell on that question, and makes himself ask something else. “When did you know he was after us? I thought you usually shielded yourself from people's thoughts.”
“From their deep ones, yes,” Charlotte counters. “But I'm always aware of their surface thoughts, though I usually try to tune them out in pure self-preservation.”
“Why? Does it hurt you?” The idea doesn't sit well with Erik, and he won't examine why.
“Nothing quite so serious,” Charlotte says, with the kind of gentle smile she gives away so carelessly. “It's just that for every significant, purposeful thought a person has, they have about a hundred unimportant, nonsensical ones – it's like constant, low-level static. Usually thoughts rise above the morass when I'm paying attention to them, or when there's purpose to them. And there was plenty of purpose in his thoughts.”
Erik digests that, wondering why Charlotte seems so willing to share the details of her power with him, openly admitting weaknesses and limits. It's certainly not a confidence he would give, in her place.
“Can you understand different languages?” he probes, wondering just how far her comprehension stretches.
“Easily,” Charlotte replies blithely. “People rarely think in plain language, you understand – it's mostly images and concepts. Language shapes the way we think, but it doesn't dominate it, and when it does intrude, it's very easy to discern the meaning of the words from the person's thoughts. No one really thinks in structured, coherent sentences unless they’re muttering aloud to themselves or writing it down, but it's the only way I can articulate it. Oh, here we are!”
And with that, Charlotte throws out her hand for the passing cab.
This is the second mutant willing to join them – Armando – and Charlotte is truly, honestly thrilled. Even her wildest dreams for finding other mutants didn't match up to the reality; the sheer number that are out there, that they've found and the ones they have yet to find, the ones that have yet to born...
It's a dizzying thought. That there might be hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of other mutants out there.
Six hours is a long drive, so Charlotte is eager to take the opportunity to get to know this man. Armando keeps insisting on demonstrations of her power by playing the 'what number am I thinking of' game, and is equally impressed the eighth time she plucks it from his head as the first.
A performing poodle, are you now? Erik's thought arrows towards her, with enough direction that she knows he wants her to hear it.
Hush, I'm having fun, she sends back.
She so rarely gets to show off like this, with someone who thinks her telepathy is amusing and 'awesome', rather than terrifying, that Charlotte only realises she's let her shields drop perhaps a bit more than is prudent when terror flashes through her, so raw and primal she freezes in mid-sentence.
A sicking sense of weightlessness engulfs her, and Charlotte tries to pull back from whatever her mind has latched onto, but it's too late. Pain bursts through her mind – her ribs are broken, her leg is twisted, her own blood is hot on against her side and on her face-
Her mind tears free with an almost audible snap, scrambling for a foothold in a world that's suddenly lost all sense. For a brief moment she is pulling the car over, because that cool mind-reading chick looks like she's about to be sick, but that's wrong, that's not her, and then she's cupping Charlotte's face because she's gone as pale as polished bone and she's moaning, low in her throat, the way she heard the starving women moan in the camps and Charlotte should never, never make a sound like that and oh god she needs to shield, shield now...
And then she's back, back in her own body with her mind distinct and separate but still ringing with the aftershocks of pain/fear/blood/no-no-no! Her seat belt has been unbuckled and she's lying prone across the seat, Erik's hands tipping her head back, taking her pulse as he calls her name urgently.
Her mind is still open far too wide, blown open by the sheer force of the agony and terror she inadvertently picked up, because she can feel Erik's worry and frustration as if it's her own, feel his urge to shake her but not sure if that won't make things worse, if she isn't having some kind of seizure.
Charlotte has a perfectly calm, perfectly lucid moment where she's grateful that the car has stopped. Then she shoves Erik back with a hand on his chest, tears open the car door and make it two steps before she vomits into the grass at the side of the road.
She heaves once, twice, her legs shaking beneath her, the right one still not quite believing it isn't broken. Her knees dip and buckle and she hopes she isn't about to land in her own vomit-
She never hits the ground. Someone – Erik – is supporting her with an arm around her rib cage, just beneath her breasts, and Charlotte is distantly grateful he's not putting any pressure on her tortured stomach. His other hand is twisted loosely in her hair, holding it back from her face, and Charlotte tries to thank him but doesn't manage the first syllable before she's vomiting again.
It only stops when reduced to nothing but dry heaves and her mental shields are in some semblance of order. For several moments she does nothing but dangle from Erik's arm like a rag doll, trying to summon the energy to make her legs take her weight again.
Apparently recognising that it's over, Erik shifts her to lean back against his chest, releasing her hair to produce a handkerchief from his pocket and wipe at her mouth. If she wasn't mortified by the loss of control – she hasn't been so careless in years! – Charlotte might have laughed. Erik likes to think himself heartless, but really, he’s the exact opposite.
When Erik's weight shifts as though preparing to lift her, Charlotte forces herself to draw the line. “I can walk, Erik.”
“You're certain of that, are you?” Erik grits out, his voice tight and tense.
She's worried him and he's not used to being worried on another's behalf.
“I'm fine,” Charlotte murmurs. “Really.”
She's too exhausted to raise her head and so settles for speaking to his collarbone. He still hasn't let go of her.
“I don't mean to be rude,” she can hear Armando begin hesitantly. “But what was that and is it contagious?”
She can feel Erik's body tightening for a vicious rejoinder, and without thinking Charlotte lays her hand on his arm, fingertips rubbing tiny circles into the tense muscle there.
He doesn't mean any harm, she tells him, trying to soothe the dense storm of worry/concern/anger/bitterness radiating from his mind like heat from a burn. And anyway, I'm fine – no permanent damage.
“It's not me,” she says aloud for Armando's benefit as well. “There was a car crash up ahead, perhaps two miles or so.”
“And you can feel-?” Armando starts, then shakes his head and prioritises. “Shit, we gotta call somebody. How far back was the last phone?”
“No need,” Charlotte murmurs absently, her mind already stretching out to the nearest hospital – cautiously, avoiding the sucking black hole of pain and fear so close by.
It’s often frightening, how easily she can do this. How effortless it is to pull and tug at the right minds within the hospital to send ambulances their way, prepared for a car crash with three victims. Reading minds is one thing, but Charlotte often feels that altering them this way ought to be more difficult, ought to come with some kind of deterrent.
But it doesn’t. All that holds Charlotte back from becoming the worst kind of monster is her own morals and values. And she’s always afraid that one day, they won’t be enough.
“Ambulances are on their way,” she informs her companions, finally making herself push back from Erik to stand under her own power.
Both he and Armando still look a little rattled, and for a moment Charlotte is worried she projected her experience to them.
“Are you alright?” she asks, frowning in concern. “When I overload like that I sometimes project whatever I’m feeling-”
“Nah, I’m fine,” Armando says quickly, an easy, dismissive grin sliding over his face. “I think you worried your boyfriend a bit, though.”
Charlotte blinks, realising Erik has gone completely, unnaturally still, like a predator just before the hunt begins in earnest. His jaw is clenched so tightly it has to be painful, and his mind hasn’t calmed in the slightest.
If anyone else was this upset, their powers would probably slip a little – Charlotte would feel her metal buttons start to shiver, at the very least – but Erik is tightly controlled. So much so it actually breaks her heart, because she knows how brutally he learned that control.
And it’s a sign of how badly scrambled her brain is that she only then registers what Armando called him. “Erik’s not my boyfriend.”
“Sorry,” Armando says, looking a little embarrassed. “But since you two don't have rings-”
Charlotte laughs softly, ignoring the ache in her over-taxed abdominal muscles. “Not spouse either. Friends.”
As though he’s reached some kind of internal decision, Erik strides back to the car, getting back into his seat and slamming the door with such vehemence that it can really only be called ‘storming off’.
Armando raises his eyebrows. “You sure about that?”
Charlotte frowns, wondering if she’s missed something. Yes, she’s picked up on the occasional shiver of lust from Erik, but it’s always quickly suppressed and he certainly doesn’t seem inclined to act on those thoughts. And as a telepath, Charlotte knows that actions are really all that count.
The man happily married for twenty years might think other women desirable, but he won’t act on it. The good mother might think her daughter is ugly, but she won’t tell the child that.
Erik might think her desirable, but he’s made no attempt to take her to bed, so Charlotte shrugs that errant thought away.
It’s been a long time since Erik was frightened for another person, Charlotte knows. With Shaw, anything that Erik cared about automatically became leverage against him, became a weakness, and it’s a mindset that has followed Erik into adulthood. In a way, it’s a mindset that has governed Erik’s entire life.
Charlotte refuses to let it govern him any longer.
She’s hated very few people in her life – it’s hard to hate someone when you know the internal agonies and inadequacies that drive them to be mean or petty – but she certainly hates Shaw. For a moment, Charlotte closes her eyes and lets herself feel that hate and that grief for Erik’s lost childhood, lets it pass through her and pass her by.
Then she opens her eyes, smiles at Armando as she feels the dark wound of pain and fear ahead of them easing (the ambulance has arrived, the paramedics are doing their job and Charlotte needs to pull back now, she can’t do anything more to help them), and suggests they get back on the road.
She forces herself to be bright, cheerful and flippant as she slides in next to Erik – no matter how much Charlotte yearns to help him find a measure of peace, he won’t accept sympathy. To him, it feels too much like pity.
“I’m terribly sorry about your handkerchief,” she smiles. “I hope I didn’t ruin your shoes, as well.”
Erik gives her a hard look that suggests she has entirely missed the point. His thoughts flash by in a brief barrage of does she really think I care about that?/does she have no care for her own well-being?/how often has this happened?
And beneath them, deep and primal as his heartbeat; shouldn’t care about her/won’t care about her/I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I WON’T!
Charlotte wants to reach across the distance between them and take his hand, wants to tell him that it’s far too late, that he already cares about her – she can feel it. That he might try to build a fortress around his heart, but she’s already in there; all he’d be doing is trapping her inside.
But Erik’s not ready to hear that – there’s still a frisson of unease from him every time Charlotte calls him ‘friend’ – so she offered him refuge in the banal and inconsequential.
“Is that kind of thing normal for you?” Armando asks as he re-starts the car and pulls back onto the road.
“Being able to read people’s thoughts isn’t always pleasant,” Charlotte says quietly. “Our experiences and our responses to them are all relative, all in our mind, so to speak. Emotions I can usually maintain something of a distance from, at least nowadays, but pain…well, pain is a very immediate, very primal sensation. Telepathically speaking, it’s very loud, and when I’m open like that…”
Charlotte trails off, trying to explain the inexplicable. But she doesn’t think she can truly describe what it’s like – language might be subjective and variable, but there’s no language on Earth designed for describing what it feels like to be in another person’s mind.
“It’s as if it happened to me,” she eventually settles for. “As if I’m experiencing whatever they’re experiencing in that moment.”
“Sounds pretty nasty,” is Armando’s thought on the subject.
“Yes, that describes it very well,” Charlotte sighs. “And that kind of incident can often result in a rather physical reaction from my body, hence the vomiting.”
She smiles again at Erik, whose face is even darker than before. “And thank you for helping me with that, my friend – I’d hate to think what this suit would look like if I had actually collapsed halfway through.”
It’s light, teasing, meant to be a joke, and Armando laughs while Erik’s mouth tightens at the edges. He looks out the window, deliberately turning away from her.
His thoughts are still bitter waves of doubt and fear and self-recrimination, and there’s only so much Charlotte can take.
“It’s not a weakness,” she whispers. Breathes, really, so Armando won’t hear it, so softly she might worry about Erik hearing if she didn’t know how keen his sense are, trained from years of being on the hunt and on the run.
He doesn’t reply, but his eyes move away from the window to fix on her, evaluating her like he’s the telepath.
“Caring about others,” Charlotte murmurs, keeping her expression open and gentle yet sure and steady at the same time. “It’s not a weakness.”
Erik doesn’t reply, but Charlotte wasn’t truly expecting him to.
Charlotte’s fingers are quick and graceful as she removes his knight from the board, setting her rook in its place.
“Checkmate,” she announces, her eyes bright and teasing. “I did warn you – you have to pay attention when you’re playing me.”
There’s the barest hint of a gloat in her voice, but Erik thinks she’s entitled; he can only imagine how many opponents have underestimated her, to their detriment.
Society may say that men should seek out intelligent discourse in other men, not women, but not too long ago one particular society said to imprison people in death camps and systematically exterminate them. Erik hasn’t put much value on what ‘society’ dictates since then.
Besides, it’s not that he underestimated Charlotte when they began their chess match, only that his mind was absorbed with a myriad of questions. Questions that circle what happened earlier today – he can’t help but wonder if Charlotte’s experience with the car crash is a regular pitfall of her telepathy.
“Has it always been like that?” he asks, knowing Charlotte will understand exactly what he’s asking.
Charlotte sighs softly, her eyes dropping to the chessboard. “Yes.”
In this moment, she looks somehow ancient, older and wiser than any person should be, and Erik wonders how he ever thought her naïve.
He presses forward. “When did you first realise you could read people’s minds?”
He remembers grey mud in his shoes, rain soaking his clothes and a gate between him and his parents, and wonders if all manifestations are as traumatic. Are all mutants born in loss and pain? Or is it just him, the monster alone as he has always been?
“When I was six,” Charlotte says quietly. “That’s when it started. My father liked to hunt, you see, and one day there was…an accident. When they brought him up the house, so he could be taken to the hospital, I was playing on the lawn, and when I saw the blood…”
She trails off, swallows, then seems to steel herself. “It was like I was the one who’d been shot. I doubled over screaming, but everyone assumed I was just upset at seeing my father like that, and I couldn’t stop crying long enough to explain it to anyone. The pain only faded when he was five miles down the road.”
Erik remembers what it’s like to be in pain and know that no succour is coming. They aren’t memories he cares to dwell on, save when necessary to draw on the rage that fuels his powers, so he tries to move the conversation into safer waters.
“But it got better.” It isn’t a question – Erik knows it got better. It had to, or there’s no way Charlotte could still be sane.
‘I learned to control my powers very quickly,” Charlotte agrees.
“Did anyone ever notice what you could do?”
But Erik doubts it. There was never any Schmidt in Charlotte’s life, that much is obvious, and if someone had ever discovered a little girl could pluck secrets out of people’s heads…
Charlotte confirms his suspicions with her next words. “No – no one ever realised. There were certainly times when people felt I knew too much, but they always assumed I had seen or heard something I shouldn’t have.”
A slight bitter smile twists her lips, and her eyes are still distant, focused on the past rather than the present. “I was never very good at my parents’ parties. They wanted to show me off, you see – the beautiful, perfect daughter they’d been expected to have – and the illusion would be rather ruined when I asked why Mr. Rutherford’s wife was smiling at him when he’d been kissing their chauffeur two hours ago. And putting me with the other children was never very good, either – I knew too much too young, and didn’t understand why Bobby was dreaming of becoming a fireman when his father was determined he would take over the family business.”
Her voice is light, almost joking, but there’s a terrible loneliness in her eyes, the loneliness of a girl who outgrew her peers within the space of a few weeks, who was forced into an adult’s comprehension of the world around her before her age was even measured in double digits.
Erik can’t pretend that loneliness doesn’t call to him, but he steels himself against it. He won’t care for Charlotte, he can’t, because caring about something means you protect it, and he’s never been able to protect anything.
“My apologies,” Charlotte says suddenly, leaning back in her chair and shaking her head. “I’m getting terribly maudlin in my old age.”
Erik doesn’t dignify that with a reply. Instead he stares at the chessboard, picks out the pattern of Charlotte’s strategy and his defeat.
“Did it ever get easier?” He means the loneliness, not her telepathy, but she seems to sense what he’s talking about.
“Raven came along, eventually.”
Erik knows he should stop here. Should let them fall into silence until Charlotte rises and says something about it being time for bed…but he can’t quell the urge to push further, deeper.
Charlotte has seen him, all of him, from his most triumphant victories down to the dark corner of his soul where a coin rests on a desk and doesn’t move and there’s a bang like a firework and a thump like an empty suitcase hitting the ground…
Her power has laid his soul bare. Inadvertently, perhaps, but he still feels exposed.
He wonders if she’ll expose herself in turn.
He knows a good man wouldn’t push her. This woman is offering friendship and acceptance and belonging, and if Erik can’t give her the same then he can at least leave Charlotte her secrets. A good man wouldn’t ask this, but Erik has given up being a good man a long time ago.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve felt through your telepathy?”
Charlotte is silent for a long time, and at first Erik doesn’t think she’ll answer. But then she speaks, her voice flat and without inflection, as though she’s reciting lines she’s memories long ago.
“At one point, our house was participating in some sort of garden show. I don’t remember what it was – undoubtedly I pulled it from someone’s thoughts at the time, but it was hardly important to me. We had a fleet of gardeners staying at our house, and one of them…one of them had a seventeen-year-old daughter who was learning the ropes, so to speak.”
Unease tickles in the back of Erik’s mind, and he wonders if that’s his own discomfort or Charlotte’s.
Charlotte swallows harshly, and then obviously forces herself to continue. “On the last night before the show...I felt that girl being raped.”
Now it’s Erik’s mouth that has suddenly gone dry. Only a few hours ago Charlotte explained that she feels people’s pain as if it were her suffering in their place, and even though he’s the one who asked her, who wanted to know, he still didn’t expect anything like this.
“I felt it,” Charlotte whispers, as though almost afraid of being overheard. “And I…I couldn’t even call for help. I was stuck in her mind, trapped by Amelia’s fear and pain. It was only when she slipped into unconsciousness that I could finally wrench myself free.”
Erik knows he should stop there. If some part of him wanted quid pro quo, Charlotte exposed to him as he’s been exposed to her, then he’s certainly got it.
But there’s one more thing he has to know. “How old were you?”
Charlotte looks up at him, and her eyes are very deep, very sad, and very alone. “Ten.”
Erik quells the instinctive, nonsensical urge to reach across the chessboard and take her hand, and wonders why he even felt the urge in the first place. Holding her hand won’t help anything, won’t make the memory hurt any less.
So instead he gives her silence. Because he, more than anyone, knows that silence is often best.
Charlotte gives a soft, shuddering sigh. “And after Amelia had endured that…I ended up violating her again.”
Erik is at a loss. “What do you mean?”
“She was hurting so badly, and I…I just wanted it to stop. I didn’t mean to, not really, but I…” Charlotte takes a deep breath, and seems to brace herself, as though preparing for a blow. “I erased her memories of the rape.”
Erik isn’t good with sympathy. He’s seen the world in black and white for a long, long time, and he knows that if someone talked about robbing him of his memories of Schmidt he’d call it evil.
But this was a ten year old girl trying to stop a pain she should never have experienced, and that’s a shade of grey if there ever was one.
Besides, he can tell by the quiet misery in Charlotte’s face that she knows what she did was wrong, that the girl called Amelia had a right to her pain as surely as Erik has a right to his.
Usually, he’d give her silence, but this calls for a response. “You were doing what you thought was right.”
Charlotte’s smile is weak and tremulous, but she still smiles. “Isn’t there a saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?”
“I’ve seen the road to hell,” Erik says bleakly. “And I promise you, it’s paved with nothing of the kind.”
People can argue about the Nazi soldiers and guards who were ‘just following orders’, but in the end, they decided it was perfectly acceptable to round people up like cattle and send them to the slaughter. They saw human beings in pain, and perpetuated that.
Charlotte sees human beings in pain, and tries to heal it. Perhaps she didn’t always go about the right way, but what she did to Amelia was done because she couldn’t find another way to stop the girl from hurting. And Erik can’t condemn her for that.
“Besides,” Charlotte murmurs, almost to herself. “It’s certainly isn’t the worst thing I’ve done with my powers.”
'Erik ruthlessly suppresses the brief spike of anxiety which he feels at that comment. For now, there’s something he’s been wondering about ever since Charlotte described her childhood dinner party experiences.
“If you know all this, if you see all this and feel all this…how can you still believe people are inherently good?”
Charlotte smiles, and there’s a hint of real joy to it. “For all people’s differences, our fears and sorrows and regrets are remarkably similar. And stripped of all trappings, what we want is always the same; to be safe, happy, and loved.”
Privately Erik doubts that. Happiness has never really factored into his decisions, it’s been so long since he felt it.
“Even if we won’t admit it,” Charlotte goes on, her eyes intent, and for a moment it feels like she’s talking about him. “And if we’re so similar, at such a basic level…all we need to do is make others see past our superficial differences.”
“Easier said than done,” Erik comments grimly.
“I’m going into this with my eyes wide open, Erik,” Charlotte chides gently. “I’m certainly not innocent or ignorant of human nature. I’ve seen evil, Erik. I’ve felt it.”
She stands slowly, rolling her shoulders to stretch them, but her eyes never leave Erik’s. “And by that measure, I know how rare true evil is.”
Charlotte tucks her hair behind her ear and moves to leave, but she pauses at the doorway.
“I know evil, my friend,” she says, her voice firm with conviction. “And you’re not even close.”
Charlotte’s heart is pounding as she makes her way to her bedroom, and she can feel her pulse in every part of her body as though she’s just sprinted across the county.
She’s never told anyone about Amelia before tonight, not even Raven. That girl and what Charlotte did to her were locked in the darkest corners of her mind, a constant reminder she needs to wield her power prudently.
But when Erik asked her…she told him.
Charlotte lets herself collapse on the bed, staring at the ceiling as she remembers the way Erik’s eyes had darkened as she told the story. Sympathy and acceptance (and anger, always anger but on her behalf, anger that she should have suffered that) had bled off him so strongly Charlotte could almost taste it.
She hadn’t truly known what Erik would think of her erasing Amelia’s memories, hadn’t known if it would shatter the trust he places in her when he realised what her telepathy can do.
But she’d told him anyway, because he’d asked…and she trusts him. Trusts him even without reading his mind, which was previously an honour held only by Raven.
“I,” Charlotte declares to her ceiling. “Am in a lot of trouble.”
AN: Thanks so much to ginbitch, for helping me improve this chapter!