Title: Charlotte Francine Xavier
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 in this chapter, as well as philosophical discussion of questionable accuracy and morality. 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…
Beneath The Surface
“Keep looking below surfaces appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so just because you may not like what you find.”
Charlotte makes an effort to be at ease with her own desires, especially when it comes to sex. So many people are such disgusting hypocrites about it – condemning people for enjoying what they secretly fantasise about themselves – and she’s vowed she’ll never join their ranks.
Still, she’s never been tied up before, perhaps because it smacks too much of vulnerability, of ceding control. Most people would say that what’s sex is all about, but for Charlotte – with her shields and projections and layers upon layers of concealment – sex has always been the antithesis of losing control. With Erik, however…
Well, she’d liked the idea. When he was pinning her, an idle thought about it had floated to the top of her brain and then suddenly there was heat kindling low in her belly and every part of her was saying ‘yes, yes, let’s do that’.
She knows Erik thinks sex is all he can offer her, and she wants him to open his eyes and see how much he offers her every day, seemingly without even being aware of it.
She’s worrying at the constant puzzle that is her lover’s self-image and concepts of self-worth, which is why she only realises something’s gone wrong when she catches a blast of panic.
Charlotte knows Erik is training with Hank and Alex, training that mainly seems to involve Hank hurling enormous metal objects (that might have formerly been parts of Kurt Marko’s precious car collection, which Erik seems to take an unusually vicious pleasure in ripping apart) at Erik, who tries to stop them. It’s more difficult than it sounds, largely because it’s far easier and more reflexive for Erik to simply deflect the projectiles rather than stop them altogether and have to counter their inertia. And while that’s a perfectly sound strategy for a fighting force of one, it’s not such a good idea when you actually have allies on the battlefield, allies that can be hit and injured by a stray bit of metal.
Hank’s involved because while some of the metal objects are of reasonable size (pipes, engine parts and the like), most of them are far too heavy for anyone else to lift. And Alex…well, Charlotte suspects Alex just likes to throw things.
But the blast of raw panic/fear/oh, shit, the Prof!/it’s going to take her head off/duck, she needs to duck! tells her something has gone very wrong. She doesn’t bother turning around, just drops into a crouch, arms automatically coming up to cover her head…
But then, rising above the panic, is a strange calm determination, a NO that pierces the chaos like the single, clear note of a bell.
Charlotte looks up to find that the front half of a car is suspended in the air a foot away from her, at a height that suggests it would have indeed taken off her head and a good portion of her torso if it had continued on its course. Erik is panting, his hand extended, holding the car in mid-air, until he seems to realise that yes, she’s perfectly fine, and drops it back to the ground.
Hank immediately begins babbling apologies, Alex just seems impressed that Erik managed to stop it, Erik’s wondering if there’s some way he can run over there and scan Charlotte for injuries without giving the game away, and Charlotte can’t help but smile to herself. She remembers the icy, determined calm that had radiated from Erik’s mind, and the smile grows wider.
Her pet theory about Erik’s powers is looking up.
Just because they’re having sex now, doesn’t mean they’ve entirely neglected their chess games. Erik finds it almost relaxing – the thrill of challenge without having to fear consequences if he fails – and Charlotte always becomes very talkative, willing to ramble for hours about what she’s noticed about someone’s power and the possible applications.
Tonight, a lock of Charlotte’s hair is slightly singed – Alex set the bunker on fire again – and she’s babbling about a connection she’s noticed between the strength of Alex’s blasts and his exposure to sunlight. The sort of thing that only Charlotte would be looking for.
More than once, he’s wondered if she’s giving false hope to Alex; if a power that requires some artificial device to control it can’t really be controlled, and she should leave it alone before she does more harm than good.
But Erik isn’t drawn to Charlotte because she’s perfect or always right, but because she tries so hard. Most people are content to sit back and let the world do as it wills, but if Charlotte sees something that needs to be changed, she goes out and does her very best to make that change happen.
Eventually, Charlotte diverges into the possible evolutionary aspects of their powers, which Erik has to admit is rather fascinating, even if he’s not as wildly enthusiastic about it as Charlotte is.
“Though yours is a bit of a puzzle, my friend,” she admits to Erik.
Most people don’t call someone they’re having sex with ‘my friend’, but he rather likes that Charlotte hasn’t abandoned her previous title for him. Every time she calls him that it feels as though she’s promising that their connection is still there, that what they have isn’t temporary, and even if he knows he isn’t true, he can enjoy the fantasy.
Charlotte might have noticed his thoughts, but if she did, she hasn’t let that deter her from her point. “Speaking in evolutionary terms, forged metal is very recent invention – though I suppose all it would take was some clan warrior in the Bronze Age that could change the trajectory of his spear after it was thrown. It would certainly be an advantage, at least enough for the gene to be passed down…”
“I don’t see how there could be any advantages to looking obviously non-human,” Erik points out. “Raven, for example – you can’t tell me she’d have lasted long.”
Charlotte might argue for humanity’s better nature, but Erik’s seen too many people hunted and killed for being different to believe a blue girl could have survived for long in some ancient tribe.
He’s found himself taking an interest in Raven, and he doesn’t quite know why. It’s not because she’s Charlotte’s sister, but maybe because her mutation is the most visible of any of them (maybe because she seems lost in her own skin and he remembers how it felt to be like that, not knowing who or what you are). Raven often watches him as though she’s silently taking his measure – she knows about him and Charlotte, and Erik thinks he’d be just as wary in her place – but she does seem to listen him.
He honestly has no idea why. And it’s not just her – Hank and Alex and Sean listen to him as well, and all seem to like him, which is rather bewildering and not something Erik really knows how to deal with. He’s used to scaring people, not having them look up to him like he’s some kind of role model.
“What we think of as primitive societies tend to be a bit unpredictable in their reactions to differences,” Charlotte says, answering his earlier question. “Someone like Raven was equally as likely to be worshipped as the avatar of a god as to be persecuted.”
She smiles. “Needless to say, god-avatars tend to have their choice of consorts and spouses, and as long as the genes were present in a small fraction of the population…”
“You might want to mention that god-avatar spiel to her,” Erik points out. “It could help her confidence.”
“She doesn’t seem to hear it most of the time. I think she just expects me to say things like that because I’m her sister.”
“It doesn’t help that you’re always telling her to be careful about it when she’s in public.” And if there’s a shade of criticism in his voice, Erik thinks he has good reason for it.
“Just because I believe humans can accept us doesn’t mean I’m entirely blind to the way they react to something they consider a little too far out of the ordinary.” Charlotte’s expression is closed-off and somehow bitter at the same time. “And maybe most people wouldn’t care, or at least wouldn’t care enough to do anything about it…but it only takes one.”
Erik knows the truth of that better than most, and he can’t feeling a flicker of irritation and anger. “You keep preaching acceptance, but even you don’t believe that humans will follow their better impulses.”
“Yes, I do,” Charlotte’s voice is sombre. “I’ve seen it happen.”
“But not all,” Charlotte says firmly. “I won't do it, Erik – I won't write off humans, won't condemn the good people along with the bad. I'll fight the naysayers, fight the prejudiced and the bigots...but I'll never fight humans.”
She sighs suddenly, scrubbing a hand over her face. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading people’s minds, it’s that violence only begets more violence. Prejudice justified only asks for further prejudice in turn. Even if your vision of a mutant-dominated world comes true, it won't be utopia.”
Feeling a little stung, Erik narrows his eyes into an expression that would have sent most people running for cover (Charlotte, of course, doesn’t even blink). “Why not?”
“How long before they decide that some mutations are better than others? My own, for example – in this world of yours where mutants rule, how long before they decide telepathy is too intrusive, too invasive, and people begin to clamour for controlling measures, for telepaths being locked away?”
“That would never happen.” Erik’s trying for confidence, but he’s certain he’s not fooling her. Because he knows how easily bigotry can build, can flood into every crack and corner of society until it overflows.
“Why not?” Charlotte asks, not sounding chiding or reprimanding, but honestly curious. “You don’t mind me in your head, true, but I promise you, you’re in the minority, Erik. And if it's already permissible to oppress people based on what they can and cannot do…to begin making those kinds of distinctions between mutants seems inevitable.”
“It would never work, anyway,” Erik points out, mainly to reassure himself. “Telepaths are too powerful.”
“Shaw's helmet keeps me out,” Charlotte reminds him. “Where there's one, there can be others. And give a genius like Hank a few years and few thousand dollars and I'm sure he could come up with some kind of drug that could keep me under control. Besides, are you saying that kind of segregation is all right as long as it happens to those without a useful power? Make that kind of distinction between one person and the next, and more distinctions are soon to follow.”
She takes a careful sip of her drink. “In any case, history has shown us that any kind of society that elevates one at the expense of the others…doesn’t last long. At best, there’ll be constant civil war, and at worst…at worst, it will be Armageddon. We’ll destroy each other.”
Erik’s feeling brusque and defensive, reluctant to admit she’s actually raised some salient points, and asks harshly, “You keep telling us to give them a chance, but what would you do if they attacked – here and now, in your home? Would you neutralise them peacefully? Or would you do what you had to do to defend yourself and everyone here?”
“I don’t know,” Charlotte says quietly.
Erik’s temper flares and sparks, a lit match against sulphur. “Don’t give me that-”
“No, I mean I truly don't know, Erik.” Her voice is calm, her face set and grim. “When I’m backed into a corner…I'm capable of some frightening things.”
She lifts her drink again, but this time takes a large swallow, her eyes fixed on a point somewhere above Erik’s head. “Have I ever told you about Cain?”
Cain? Erik’s quite sure Charlotte hasn’t mentioned him, and he shakes his head. The prickle of anger along his skin seems to be compressing, focusing – everything about Charlotte’s expression and voice tells him this wasn’t a happy acquaintance.
“Cain Marko, my stepbrother.” Her voice is still very calm, disturbingly so. “Kurt Marko’s son from his previous marriage, five years older than me, an unrepentant bully…and Amelia’s rapist.”
Something in Erik’s gut goes hard with fury and at the same time strangely watery with apprehension. He thinks of the words Kurt Marko’s son and unrepentant bully and rapist and thinks of the young Charlotte he’s seen in the few photographs around her study, all wide blue eyes and brown hair with the slightest hint of a curl in it and just-developing body…and he prays this story isn’t ending the way he thinks it will.
And of course, Charlotte’s picks up on that – Erik must have been shouting his thoughts to her – because he feels a soothing touch of comfort/affection/it’s all right roll over that fury and fear like cool balm over an open wound.
I told Mother and Kurt what he’d done, of course, Charlotte continues, but now her voice is purely mental. But, given that Amelia had no memory of the event – a stab of shame/self-loathing/guilt that cuts like a scalpel and is swiftly pulled back – there was no wounded party to come forward, and he denied it all. I was called a liar, and Kurt punished me for it.
There’s no accompanying flash of emotion or memory with the last sentence, though Erik imagines he can feel it, straining against Charlotte’s self-imposed bonds like a prisoner fighting a barbed wire fence.
But he was afraid of Kurt – he abused Cain as well, you see – and he was too frightened of the consequences if he was caught to do it again while Kurt was alive.
But after he was dead? Erik thinks, deliberately articulating the words in his head so they aren’t drowned in the flurry of anger and dread boiling through him.
He started…looking again, Charlotte replies, her words delicate but her eyes as hard as flint. So I went to his room and confronted him.
Of course she did. Of course a ten (or maybe eleven? Twelve?) year old Charlotte Xavier would attempt to stand up to a rapist who was probably twice her fucking size.
He laughed, Charlotte continues, and now a thin trickle of anger/indignation/how dare he? is leaking through. And he asked me if I was jealous. I tried to move away, but he shoved me down onto the bed, put his hand over my mouth and tried to lift up my skirt.
Erik’s muscles are so tense they’re quivering beneath his skin, but he’s beginning to feel a hint of relief. Charlotte said ‘tried’, implying Cain hadn’t actually managed to undress her, that he was interrupted somehow.
“And?” he asks, voice tight.
And I panicked. Charlotte’s eyes meet his for the first time since she’s mentioned Cain’s name. He’s still in a coma. The doctors say he’s not entirely brain-dead, but…
She shrugs, a barely-there movement of her shoulders. But I’ve read his mind, and…there’s nothing there. It’s empty. And I did that.
“Good,” Erik says, and he means it.
He can’t deny feeling a tingle of apprehension at his proof of just how frightening Charlotte’s powers can be (accidentally putting someone in a coma when she wasn’t even teenager and god, what could she do now?) but in this moment he’s intensely grateful they were enough to save her.
He knows what it’s like when your own abilities fail you at the moment you need them most, and he’ll never wish that on her.
“But don’t you see, Erik?” Charlotte asks, her voice slightly raspy, as though speaking of this actually causes her physical pain. “I didn’t even mean to do it – I just lashed out. And if I could do that without intending to, all those years ago, I shudder to think what I'm capable now of when I do mean it. So to answer your question: if someone attacked the mansion, hurt my friends, hurt Raven, hurt you…I don’t know what I’d do. But I know it would not be pleasant.”
She takes another generous swallow of her drink, as though hoping the alcohol will bolster her. Charlotte’s always so bold, so fearless, that it’s startling how timid she becomes when she talks of her past or her power.
But perhaps that’s exactly why she seems so courageous – it’s easy to face the world when the only thing you truly fear is yourself.
And, Erik realises with a lightning flash of insight, this is why Charlotte struggles to encourage Raven the way she needs to be encouraged. Because Charlotte’s never had someone encourage her, so she has no idea how to encourage someone as a relative rather than as a mentor, no relationship to model their interaction on. Cain ensured that as far as a sibling’s concerned, Charlotte only know what she shouldn’t do, and so she did everything she could not to be like him. But what she sees as protective, sisterly concern Raven sees as smothering, and what Charlotte sees as sensible precautions Raven interprets as rejection.
“In many ways, Cain proves my point,” Charlotte goes on. “He didn’t rape Amelia or attack me because he’d inherited some sort of ‘evil’ gene from his father, or because humans are naturally inclined towards violence and hatred. He did it because Kurt had made him powerless, and terrorising another person was the only way he knew to snatch that power back.”
She sounds very detached, very impersonal. But Erik remembers what she told him about experiencing Amelia’s rape as if it were her own, and wonders if this cold, clinical outlook makes it easier for her.
It just makes him feel ill-at-ease, though, uncomfortably aware of the parallels between himself Charlotte’s abusive step-brother. He can’t say he didn’t enjoy ripping out those banker’s fillings, didn’t feel a rush of satisfaction when he killed those people in Argentina, won’t smile to himself when he stands over Shaw’s dead body…
You’re nothing like Cain, Erik, Charlotte’s voice rings through his head, firm with conviction/assurance/not possible/how can he believe that?
“You don’t know that,” Erik reminds her. “You haven’t seen-”
He breaks off when he remembers that she very likely has. He’s not sure exactly how much Charlotte has picked up on her various trips into his head, but given how many people he’s killed, one of those memories must be among them. It’s easy to forget when she seems so determined to believe that he’s capable of good.
When you make a habit of sexually assaulting people, I’ll re-evaluate, Charlotte comments, and Erik wonders how a mental voice can be tart.
Then she shakes her head lightly, as though making herself get back on topic – clearly, Charlotte has a point to make and won’t be deterred.
“We can’t judge people based on what is in their DNA,” she says. “Those strings of chemicals hold many mysteries Erik, but they don’t make us good or bad. That’s up to us. I’ve felt mutant minds, and humans minds, and morally speaking we’re certainly not more evolved – we have an equal capacity for evil as humans. Probably more, come to think of it – power corrupts and all that. But my point is that people should not be segregated or oppressed because their DNA is slightly different from what’s considered ‘normal’.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Erik snaps, frustrated all over again. “Mutants should be protected, not live in constant fear of exposure.”
“I agree,” Charlotte says easily. “But you’re advocating the other extreme. The one where humans are oppressed.”
“We’re the next stage of evolution – you said it yourself.”
Charlotte shrugs. “Maybe, maybe not.”
Erik’s rather taken aback at her lacklustre response. “You argue for it quite loudly.”
“Evolution isn’t a linear path, my friend,” Charlotte points out. “It’s more like a labyrinth – not every way leads to the centre of the maze. Take me, for instance.” She flicks her hand up and down her body as though inviting him to contemplate it. “This may be too much information for you, but I’ve had perhaps five periods in my lifetime. There were tests done, and I won’t bore you with the details of the poorly-understood stress hormones that seem to be involved in my telepathy, but they essentially mean I’m sterile.”
“Sterile?” Erik repeats, bewildered.
“Well, my odds of conceiving are extremely low, and the chances of carrying the child to term are even lower.”
She smiles ruefully. “The body is in a very delicate balance, after all – it takes very little to disturb it. Raven doesn’t seem to have the same problem, but who knows how many do? Who knows how many of us have mutations that damage our health? It’s likely I’ll never have children and in evolutionary terms, that takes me right out of the game. We may very well be the next stage of human evolution, but we may also be just a dying branch on the tree.”
“You never mention this,” he says quietly, wondering why he hasn’t heard this before.
Charlotte laughs. “Yes, well, it’s not quite as peppy or optimistic as ‘the next stage of human evolution’.”
“I want mutants to dominate,” Erik admits, pressing her to see his point of view. “But I won’t be…rounding the humans up in camps.”
“You wouldn’t,” Charlotte agrees, with an emphasis that feels a bit too pointed for Erik’s comfort. “But I can’t be part to a society where people are arbitrarily placed as second-class citizens from the moment of their birth – it’s not right.”
“Humans would have rights!” Erik grits out, frustration beginning to gnaw at him. “Mutants would just supersede them. It would ensure that we couldn’t be oppressed or targeted, if we’re dominating the government and police.”
Charlotte goes very still, and sets down her glass. “I have two X chromosomes.”
“…and?” Erik has no idea what her point is.
“The X chromosome contains more genetic information than the Y, did you know? Because I have two X chromosomes, I’m less likely to be colour-blind, have haemophilia and a whole host of other disorders that arise from a mutation on the X chromosome. In fact, one could argue that in many ways, my second X chromosome makes me healthier than if I’d had a Y.”
She shifts in her seat, and taps one finger sharply on the arm of her chair, like a punctuation mark. “And yet, in our society, because I don’t have a Y chromosome, I’m somehow deemed…lacking. Deemed not intelligent enough, or capable enough, and I cannot count the number of doors that I’ve had shut in my face, the university applications that have been rejected…”
Charlotte shakes her head, her voice grim. “I’ve lived my whole life in a society that tried to use my genetic make-up to determine my destiny. I won’t support another like it. I can’t.”
There’s no particular passion or desperation in her voice, but Erik knows she won’t be budged. Charlotte often seems so affable, so biddable, but her will and convictions are as firm as bedrock – he won’t change her mind about humans, and in some ways, Erik doesn’t really expect to.
But he keeps trying, and she doesn’t really seem to mind.
Hank has cooked again, which Alex calls ‘girly’ even as he takes a second helping. Charlotte sends him her best admonishing glance – learned from her fourth-grade teacher – and resists the urge to get into his head and make him apologise (and she must resist because that’s a damn slippery slope and she doesn’t want to go near it).
It’s harder to fight the urge to tell Hank exactly why Alex teases him so often when there are other targets well within mocking range.
It’s because Hank unsettles him. They’ve all seen Hank’s strength – Charlotte had been peering under the sofa for a book she suspected had migrated to the floor and Hank, trying to be helpful, had simply lifted the whole damn thing off the floor. Alex is accustomed to physically powerful men, but in his experience they have violent tempers and are eager to unleash that strength on anyone weaker. Hank, who never raises his voice, never gets angry even when drunk and thinks every interpersonal relationship problem is matter for his brain rather than his fists…Hank simply confuses Alex.
So he teases and needles at every opportunity because he wants to find Hank’s breaking point, wants to know when Hank’s temper will snap. Alex figures it’s better to do it deliberately and be prepared than to be caught off-guard and vulnerable.
It’s equally as tempting to tell Alex that he’s wasting his time. After being severely bullied in his childhood (always far too smart or far too young, never fitting in, no wonder he wants so desperately to be able to make himself fit in) Hank has vowed that violence will never be his conflict resolution of choice. Fortunate, really, given his immense strength.
But strangely, the mild animosity only makes Charlotte feel happier. Perhaps it’s because the animosity is just that – mild. There was no teasing in Charlotte’s childhood, only vicious words and shrewd blows and her mother’s indifference, which cut deeper than any belt or fist.
Alex and Hank may not be comfortable with each other, but if Shaw breaks down the door they’ll fight side by side without a second thought.
It probably helps that Sean sits between them at dinner. Sean, with his over-large and over-loud family (though none quite as loud as he), who’s accustomed to diffusing tension over food because no stupid argument is going to get in the way of his dinner. Charlotte often wonders if it comes with being the eldest sibling in a family of six children with over twenty cousins, but Sean’s quite relaxed about…well, almost everything. The only time he seems honestly apprehensive about something is when he’s trying to fly.
Raven’s clearly enjoying the food, and has obviously decided this makes Hank even more appealing. Of course, given that this is Charlotte’s younger sister they’re talking about she can’t help but feel the urge to give Hank the ‘hurt her and you’ll be mentally two years old for the rest of your life’ speech and order them to have at least three feet between them at all times, but she’s resisting.
As long she keeps her concentration off them and avoid picking up any fantasies (or, god forbid, something that’s actually happening), she thinks she’ll be alright.
Erik’s sitting opposite her with an almost bemused expression, as though he’s not sure how to react to this sort of domestic scene but is willing to give it a try.
And for the first time in her life, Charlotte feels as though she’s home.
AN: Thanks to ginbitch, my wonderful beta!