Title: Charlotte Francine Xavier
Rating: R/NC-17 overall, probably PG-13 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 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...
“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
Prison is unpleasant. This kind of rigid confinement goes against every instinct of human nature, and it shows. Overcrowd any animal, and it will become hostile and anti-social.
Still, Charlotte resents the implication that she can't handle the visit.
“Sweetheart,” the warden says in a conciliatory tone, the awful endearment grating on Charlotte's nerves. “This isn't a Sunday stroll through the park, this is-”
“A corrections facility housing men who have been charged with thievery, rape, murder and the other assorted crimes which currently carry jail time in our society,” she finishes crisply. “I'm perfectly aware of exactly what I'm walking into.”
The warden curls his lip, irritated at being interrupted, and Charlotte catches the whisper of fine, she asked for this/cold bitch/hope they give her a good scare.
But all that comes out of his mouth is, “Your funeral, sweetheart.”
“And don't call me sweetheart,” Charlotte adds.
The warden is clearly unhappy, but there's no rejoinder he can make without seeming like a crass bigot, so he remains silent. Verbally, at least – mentally, it's quite another story, and Charlotte deliberately veers her attention away from his thoughts.
Erik – who has been glaring from the moment the word ‘sweetheart’ first left the warden’s lips – is now smirking, as though he enjoyed the show.
I don't think you made a friend, he thinks with a very meaningful glance at her. That's not like you, Charlotte.
I didn't sleep well, she sends back.
She ensures that comment carries just a touch of her grouchiness, and her heart lifts a little when Erik chuckles in response.
It's true, though; she didn't sleep well. Charlotte was pondering her reactions to Erik for most of the night, and at some point around two o'clock she realised she is well and truly infatuated with the man – there's no escaping it. It isn't a problem, not really, (Charlotte's been infatuated with dozens of men in her life and is sure this will pass in time), but it could lead to tension in their friendship, so it's best to set it aside.
Though in her defence, Charlotte thinks it would be difficult not to become infatuated with Erik. She's seen what he's been through, seen how it colours his life every day, and to be so willing to trust her in spite of what he's endured speaks volumes of his strength.
He's listened to her worst experiences and darkest moments without recoiling in horror. He knows what she did to Amelia, and he still trusts her inside his mind.
How can she not love him?
As they approach the cell block, Charlotte deliberately strengthens her shields. She can already feel it, creeping towards her like a darkness with eyes and ears and voices – all those ugly, frustrated thoughts packed into so small a space are like a grenade waiting to go off, and she wants to be ready when it does.
'Charlotte's suit doesn't hide the fact that she is a woman, and the jeers and catcalls and wolf-whistles begin as soon as she steps in front of the first cell. She knows the warden would usually quiet the inmates, especially when the lewd suggestions start, but he wants to give her a fright; petty revenge for the way she trampled his authority not ten minutes ago.
But if he expects her to flinch, or cringe, he'll be disappointed – Charlotte has read much worse from the minds of supposedly upstanding citizens. In fact, compared to some of the fantasies she's inadvertently picked up at parties or in pubs, the imaginings battering at her shields now are rather tame.
Erik, on the other hand, is rapidly falling into a truly ill humour. His jaw seems to be clenching incrementally tighter with each raucous call for Charlotte to 'get over here', and she doesn't think it's a coincidence that Erik is between her and the cells, impairing the prisoners' view of her.
She understands where his protective instinct comes from – Erik has seen too many people he loves suffer and die to not want to throw himself between her and anything that can be remotely considered a threat – but sometimes Charlotte wishes he'd be a little easier on himself. The fact that the inmates are leering at her is hardly unexpected, and certainly not indicative of a personal failing on his part.
She puts her hand on his arm to get his attention, and then broadcasts, loudly and firmly, I'm fine. Trust me, this is nothing compared to a night at the pub.
Erik scowls, but Charlotte can see him force himself to relax and dial his tension back. I believe they’re more commonly called 'bars' in America.
I don’t care – they’re pubs to me.
Erik's amusement washes through her like a healthy swallow of hot coffee – warm with just hint of a bite to it – and Charlotte's cheeks pinch down to hide her smile.
She can feel Alex up ahead, convicted on multiple counts of possession and drug dealing. The police and judge assumed he was just an idiot looking for a high.
Charlotte knows better. Alex paid for the drugs and mixed the drugs and took the drugs like they were candy because they kept him sedate, kept him passive.
Kept his power safely locked away and under control.
God knows it's a route Charlotte considered more than once. Really, all that had held her back was the fear – what if the drug enhanced her telepathy rather than suppressing it? What if it left her telepathy completely unhindered, but wrecked her ability to shield herself?
Either way, the risk had never been worth the potential pay-off, and eventually, Charlotte had taught herself to control her power without chemical stimulants.
She only hopes she can offer the same to Alex – control without dependency
Erik can admit he's been – not worried, because he doesn't worry – but concerned over Charlotte's reception by their fellow mutants. After all, a telepathic woman who wears a suit is hardly mainstream, and Erik has seen the unthinking, automatic prejudice people can display towards those who deviate from what authority tells them is 'normal'.
But he's been pleasantly surprised thus far. There's such a longing for acceptance in every mutant they've met that they'd probably have followed a purple genie if it promised them other mutants. So a woman in a suit? Barely seems to register.
Until Charlotte leaves Erik with Alex while she closes their official business with the warden, and the younger mutant mutters a snide comment, low and almost under his breath.
“So what, you let a bitch give you orders?”
Erik can hear Alex's uncertainty through the paper-thin aggression in his tone, and knows this man is only trying to determine the pecking order of his new society in the only way he knows how. There’s no true contempt in his voice – Charlotte had to reprimand the unpleasant warden yet again for calling her ‘sweetheart’, and Alex’s eyes had gleamed with respect. This is merely an intimidated man trying to communicate that he will not be pushed around in the only way he can conceive of.
That doesn't mean Erik's inclined to forgive it, though. He not entirely sure why this irritates him so much, only that the idea of Charlotte being seen as less than what she is infuriates him.
Erik's knows his eyes are hard and his voice flat with threat when he turns.
“Let's get one thing very clear,” Erik says in the tight whisper he used with that banker in Switzerland. “Professor Xavier is the one who found you, and the one who wanted to get you out, so if I were you, I’d show her some respect in case she changes her mind.”
Alex blinks, and stays quiet until Charlotte returns. And then Erik suspects he only speaks up because it's difficult to remain silent in Charlotte's presence, with her sun-bright enthusiasm and bubbling excitement about your powers, all smile and wide blue eyes and promises that you aren't alone any more.
Erik knows he has a serious problem by the time they're back at the CIA, and blames his slow realisation on the fact he's not accustomed to keeping watch for this kind of threat.
For the first time since he was a child, Erik is invested in the life and happiness of another person. He has thrown his lot in Charlotte Xavier for the foreseeable future, and he doesn't even remember the precise moment when it happened. Somewhere between arms around him in a cold ocean (you're not alone) and a soft smile over a chessboard, Erik's given his loyalty to a woman who wears suits and think mutations are 'groovy'. To a woman who stands strong in the face of the world's disapproval, who can slide into people's minds and leave nothing but a gentle touch of warmth and laughter, who often comes quite close to glowing with the force of her optimism and compassion.
And all Erik can think is that he needs to get rid of this, or change it, or...dilute it somehow.
Given that he's led a solitary existence for over half his life, Erik is well-versed in taking care of his own needs, be it food or shelter or sex. And though his routine for self-pleasure has stepped up since he met Charlotte (her cheeks flushed with alcohol and eyes heavy-lidded and all-but smouldering, her look of astonished ecstasy as Cerebro bursts into life, her soaking shirt clinging to her breasts, sharply outlining her nipples), he's never actually fantasised about her when he brings himself off. It's always seemed somehow disrespectful, as though he's taking advantage of her in some way.
But now he won't hold himself back. Maybe this bond between him and Charlotte won't be as powerful if he turns it into something filthy and sordid...
But he can't. Because what he has with Charlotte is worlds away from everything that has come before. Try as he might, he can't imagine fucking Charlotte quickly and harshly in some dingy motel room, can't picture himself picking his clothes up from the floor and leaving afterwards.
Instead, his mind paints Charlotte sprawled on his sheets, naked and laughing, fearless to be so vulnerable because she would be fearless, would know she had nothing to fear from him. He sees her smiling as she bares herself, delighting in revealing her body, curious about Erik's, her eyes bright with trust as she pulls him towards her.
Even in his fantasies, it’s Charlotte’s joyful laughter and open smile and eager encouragement. Even in his imaginings, the appeal is less in the idea of sexual intercourse and more in the fact that it's Charlotte he's picturing with him.
His orgasm is swift and surprising in its intensity, and Erik climaxes with an image of Charlotte behind his eyelids; sweat gleaming on every inch of her exposed skin, hips writhing, breasts heaving with each breath, mouth open and eyes blind in ecstasy.
While his body is calming, Erik stares at the ceiling and feels fear creeping over his skin with the drying sweat.
Because his attachment to Charlotte has dug into him like a hook, buried in flesh and bone, and it won’t be removed easily.
Erik cares about Charlotte Xavier. And everything he's cared about, he's lost. Or, more specifically, Schmidt and blind human prejudice have taken from him.
If you care for something, you must be strong enough to protect it. And for all his power, Erik has never been strong enough when he truly needed to be.
When his mother would be shot unless he moved the coin-
When there was no food unless he opened the lock on the cell-
When the pain wouldn't stop unless he tore the instruments from Shaw's hands-
In the next instant he tells himself not to be foolish. Charlotte protects herself far more capably than Erik would ever be able to; she identifies threats before they're even half-formed thoughts and deals with them in the next instant.
Besides – and Erik hates that he needs to comfort himself like this, like a child who's wet the bed from sheer fright – Schmidt doesn't even know Charlotte exists. Schmidt will never touch her.
His exercise in diminishing their bond a failure, Erik concedes defeat. He cleans himself up quickly, then goes to the living area to find Charlotte for the chess games that have become a regular occurrence.
Charlotte's on the defensive – her experience in the prison left her more tired than usual, and Erik seems particularly devious tonight. She's already lost a bishop, both her knights, and a slew of pawns.
“Are you particularly religious?” Erik asks.
From anyone else, she might be taken aback at the sudden question, but not with Erik. These chess games seem less about the game itself nowadays and more about their conversation, feeling each other out, getting to know each other and how their minds work – differently, yes, but so similar in so many ways.
She knows Erik hasn’t practiced Judaism for years, since the ringing bang of a gunshot took away the last person connecting him to that world, and Charlotte can feel his honest curiosity behind the question.
“I’m not really sure,” Charlotte admits. “I’ll admit I can’t believe in any of the various gods religions follow today. I can’t believe there’s some inherent order or plan to the world, because everything is just too…random. Too nonsensical. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to people who have never deserved them.”
She does her best not to think about how much that last statement applies to the man in front of her. But she can’t help feeling a shiver of sorrow all the same, as she is vividly reminded that there is no inherent justice or order to the world. Only chance, and what you can make of those chances.
“And as for the afterlife,” Charlotte continues, “I’ve never felt a mind without a body, so whatever it is that makes us…us, it certainly doesn’t linger here. But on the other hand…”
She pauses, thinking about how to articulate her feelings on the subject. “I’ve touched people’s minds, felt their emotions, and it seems strange to believe that they just vanish into nothingness when we die. Energy can’t be destroyed, after all, merely transformed, and people’s minds – what theologians like to call our soul – I feel sure they’re a kind of energy.”
“But doesn’t that law also state that energy cannot be created?” Erik points out. “And what’s birth, if not our creation?”
“Point,” Charlotte muses quietly. “And I don’t subscribe to the idea of reincarnation. Maybe we just…dissipate, the way our bodies rot in the ground. Maybe all the pieces of ourselves somehow become a part of everything else. Maybe that’s our afterlife.”
“No heaven, no hell?” Erik pushes, something dark and jagged flickering in his eyes and across his mind. “No eternal reward?”
But Charlotte knows it’s not heaven he’s hoping for. Judaism doesn’t subscribe to the idea of hell, but Erik likes the idea of Klaus Schmidt suffering for all eternity.
“I’m not sure about heaven and hell,” Charlotte says, both of them tiptoeing around the shadow in the room by mutual, unspoken agreement. “It’s always seemed very arbitrary to me. I mean, we have perhaps seventy, eighty years of life to do whatever we’re going to do, and to be punished or rewarded for those short years for all eternity seems inappropriate in most cases.”
But not all cases, Erik’s mind whispers, so softly Charlotte isn’t sure if he intended her to know it or not.
She decides to go on as if she didn’t get another glimpse into the dark, labyrinthine workings of Erik’s mind. “Besides, I like the idea of essentially getting nothing – that what you do in this life has to be your reward, rather than something handed to you by an all-mighty power.”
The corner of Erik’s mouth curls, as though he’s amused by something. “You would like the idea of making your own reward.”
Charlotte laughs. “Well, there might be a touch of worry in that as well. After all, plenty of people have told me I’m going to hell for wearing improper clothing and all the premarital sex I’ve been having.”
Erik scoffs, “If there is a hell, you’ll never see it.”
His eyes are hooded and strangely intense, and Charlotte wants to dip beyond his surface thoughts to find out why, but holds herself back. She limits her mind-reading as much as she can when they’re playing chess – it feels like cheating otherwise.
“Confident of that, are you?” she grins, glancing back at the board. Erik will probably defeat her in the next three moves, and at the moment she can’t see a way out of it.
Her mood sobers as Charlotte reflects exactly why she should fear a hell, if one does indeed exist.
“I can guarantee, I’m no angel,” she says quietly, never raising her eyes. “You, of all people, know that.”
The rest of the game – what little remains of it – is played in silence. Erik does indeed checkmate her in three moves, and rises to leave instead of lingering and talking as he usually does.
Charlotte might be worried, if she hadn’t felt the concern radiating off Erik every time she yawned. He’s realised she’s tired and is letting her retreat to bed early.
It’s almost amusing, how much of a caretaker Erik is without ever knowing it.
The door is almost shut when Charlotte hears it, like a radio through static. Thoughts deliberately directed at her always seem somehow louder than others – the way calling her name in a crowded room attracts her attention – and thoughts about her are the same, which she’s often had cause to regret.
The fact that Charlotte isn’t actively reading Erik’s mind means that the thought is muted, but clear all the same.
…not an angel, but pretty damn close…
There’s a kind of puzzled admiration to it, as well as a whisper of bitterness, the sour taste of lost hopes. But the complicated tangle of emotions that runs underneath the words isn’t what makes the rhythm of her heartbeat kick up a notch.
She tells herself it means nothing. Given Erik’s experiences, of course he’s going to think highly of the first person to offer him the kind of friendship and acceptance Charlotte knows she’s offering.
It doesn’t stop her cheeks from flushing though, and Charlotte mutters a quiet curse to herself.
She’s in deep.
Sean Cassidy looks closer to seventeen than twenty-two, and seems to be spectacularly bad at picking up girls. And Raven mocks Charlotte for her groovy mutation line – she should have heard the fish one Sean employed.
It doesn’t take long, but then it never does. These people have thought themselves alone for so long, that the prospect of finally knowing there are others out there, finally meeting them, is a lure so potent it almost feels like cheating.
Sean is packing within the hour, telling his friends that he’s found a job out of state and might be out of touch for a little while.
They’re all very eager to go with us, Erik thinks as he and Charlotte help load Sean’s bags into the car. Do you have this effect on everyone?
What effect? Charlotte wonders, curious. Unless you mean my telepathy, and no, I’m not compelling them to go with us – that wouldn’t help our cause at all.
I didn’t mean your telepathy. There are deep undercurrents to that thought, undercurrents of why her?/what does she do?/what is it about her that makes people want to follow her to the ends of the earth?
And even deeper, beneath affection/frustration/bewilderment; what is it about her that makes me want to follow her to the ends of the earth?
Charlotte breathes through the almost painful warmth curling in her chest, and can’t help smiling at him. I admit my telepathy does come into it, in a way. Cerebro doesn’t just find them, you see – I feel them as well. And I can feel the ones who are searching for something more – it won’t always be us they want, but I have a fairly good idea of who’ll go with us and who won’t.
There’s a wave of surprise/amazement/wonder/what is that like?/how it that possible? from Erik’s mind, the same basic thoughts and feelings Charlotte usually picks up from this man when she expounds on an aspect of her powers.
Even Raven has never been entirely comfortable with Charlotte reading her mind, and perhaps that’s natural – there are some things you simply don’t want to know about your sibling – but Erik never pulls back, never turns away, never tells her to get out of his head after that first night on the boat. That kind of trust is quite intoxicating, and sometimes Charlotte worries about that, worries that this silly little crush of hers is about to turn something bigger (if it hasn’t already), worries about being spoiled for any future romantic prospects, now that she’s known such complete acceptance of her telepathy.
Charlotte sighs – at herself, at the world – and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear in a nervous habit she hasn’t indulged for years. Then she smiles, because really, what can she do? It’s not like there’s a way to stop yourself falling in love with someone; it either happens or it doesn’t. There’s no middle ground, no ‘sort of’ or ‘halfway’, no way of halting the headlong slide once it’s begun.
And if she’s already on it…well, at the very least, she can enjoy the ride.
Erik has come to the conclusion that Charlotte is either more oblivious than any telepath has a right to be, or…
Actually, he can’t think of another explanation.
He’s been off-balance for days, certain he was broadcasting his affection so loudly that Charlotte could have picked up on it from across the county, but if she did, there’s been no sign. She doesn’t address the subject the way Erik imagines she would if she picked up on his emotions over their chess game, doesn’t avoid him the way he’s half-feared she would if she got a mental eyeful of one of his fantasies.
In short, Charlotte acts like nothing has changed at all, and Erik’s unsure if she really has no idea of his feelings for her or if she’s simply too gentle and goddamn polite to verbally crush his hopes.
Erik’s always been the type to go after what he wants, but with this – with Charlotte – he feels a kind of hesitancy he hasn’t felt in longer than he cares to remember. If he wanted anyone else this way, he wouldn’t be like this – he’d just fuck it out his system and move on, and that’s worked well for him thus far.
But what’s holding him back is the horrible suspicion that if he ever takes Charlotte to bed (or the floor, or the table, as he’s sometimes imagined), it won’t end there. That he won’t be satisfied with just one night or one week, that he’ll want to stay with her even more than he does now, and that’s just…unacceptable.
Leaving aside the question of whether an optimistic, pacifist telepath will help or hinder his goal of killing Schmidt, there’s the question of what association with him will do to Charlotte. Erik knows what he is, and ‘murderer’ is one of the kinder names for it. Violence trails him like a faithful dog, and while his shadows might have touched Charlotte, courtesy of her power, they haven’t tainted her, not yet. And they won’t as long as he keeps his distance.
But keeping your distance from Charlotte Xavier is easier said than done. It’s almost automatic for Erik to seek her out when he finds himself becoming bored with the routine monotony at the CIA, instinctive to attempt to direct his thoughts at her rather than whisper when he doesn’t want to be overheard. Part of that is pragmatism – telepathy can’t be eavesdropped on, after all – but another, larger part of it is the feel of Charlotte in his head; warm and gentle and everywhere.
But perhaps this is a habit for Charlotte, being blind to those whose affections for her have deeper currents than friendship. Erik can see the hidden, wistful longing in Raven’s eyes when Charlotte puts an arm around her or kisses her forehead.
Perhaps Erik should be disgusted at the idea of a woman desiring another woman, but he isn’t. Homosexuals were in the concentration camps alongside his own people – the Nazis labelled them as disgusting perverts, and Erik doubts those fucking sadists could be right about anything. Besides, there are more important things to judge people by than their choice in bed partners.
So instead, Erik finds himself sympathising. It’s not easy feeling so deeply for a woman who seems so blind to her effect on people, in spite of her telepathy.
AN: Thanks so much to my fabulous beta, ginbitch