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The Blind Leading The Blind...

I don't know where the muses take me, I only know that I like it!


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X-Men Fic - Charlotte Francine Xavier, Part Eleven
eyesex
blind_author
Title: Charlotte Francine Xavier
Rating: R/NC-17.
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, past (and imagined) non-con and child abuse in this chapter.  I delve into the darker implications of telepathy here, so please heed the rating – both of the fic overall and of the individual chapters.
Pairings: Erik/always-a-girl!Charles
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…

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
 
Part Eleven
 
The Difference

“The difference between friendship and love is how much you can hurt each other.”
-Ashleigh Brilliant
 
--
 
Erik is finding you learn different things about someone you’re having sex with than you do about a friend.  As a friend, he knew Charlotte was capable of staying up quite late and still being reasonably alert in the morning.  In the last week, he’s learned that Charlotte’s sleeping patterns are very erratic – sometimes she’ll only doze for only an hour or so before she rises again – and that she never sleeps more than six hours.  He’d known Charlotte took pleasure in the little things, but now he’s realising exactly how sensual she is, how she loves to immerse every part of her sense in whatever gives her pleasure, be it food or sex or music.
 
And now he’s learning that if Charlotte’s on her back with her head tipped a little awkwardly and her mouth open, she’ll snore.  Not particularly loudly, but it’s definitely a snore.  It’s almost funny to think that this is the woman who thirty minutes ago, gave him a blowjob that had finished him for the rest of the night.  He’d brought her off with his fingers, and the memory makes smile with pleasure and just a hint of smugness.
 
He should probably leave, but Charlotte has a habit of latching onto his hand before she goes to sleep, and Erik hasn’t yet been able to quell the urge to keep his eyes on her.  He can’t stop feeling that he should enjoy it while it lasts…
 
He knows the pain of losing a mother, the pain of being helpless and at the mercy of a man with none.
 
When Charlotte leaves, he’ll know a different kind of pain.
 
--
 
The lab always seems far too bright and clean, as though it’s somehow removed from the mud and ash-choked air outside.  Erik’s always afraid he’ll dirty it somehow, and he doesn’t want to think what Schmidt’s punishment would be if he fouled this shining whiteness.
 
At least Schmidt’s found someone else who intrigues him for the moment, and Erik hates himself for the relief he feels even as he cowers in the corner and prays this won’t give Schmidt any new ideas for their next ‘session’.  He keeps his eyes on the wall but doesn’t dare put his hands over his ears – Schmidt likes to address his observations to Erik, and the one time he’d found Erik pressing his fingers into his ears and humming – no, he won’t think of that, he won’t, he won’t…
 
A loud click of the electric current being turned on, something on the table jerking and twitching in the corner of Erik’s vision, a high, keening wail rises over the sound of machines whirring and clacking.  Another click as the power box is turned off, a wet thump as a body drops back to the steel table, ragged gasps splattering through the air like drops of blood.
 
“Fascinating,” Schmidt purrs.  “I’ll need to open the skull to do more in-depth mapping, but the preliminary results suggest that the wiring of the brain differs significantly-”
 
Erik’s not listening, he’s not.  He’s not listening to Schmidt chuckling, not listening to the sharp clink as he picks up a scalpel, not listening to whatever’s on the table choking out a soft, wretched whimper.
 
“Please…”
 
And then suddenly Erik is listening, is even turning to look because he knows that voice…
 
Charlotte’s lying on the table, naked and bruised, thick leather straps digging into her wrists and ankles, shoulders and hips.  Her head has been shorn and electrodes rest at her temples, tiny drops of blood showing that the wires have been drilled into her skin.  Her skin is as grey as the tiny sliver of sky glimpsed through the window, her chin bloodied from where the electric current has made her bite her own tongue and lips and as Erik watches, Schmidt rubs his thumb through the blood, smearing it over Charlotte’s mouth like gory lipstick.
 
“Telepaths are so very intriguing, wouldn’t you agree, Erik?”
 
Erik reaches out, hard and fast, reaches for the steel table and the scalpel in Schmidt’s hand and every scrap of metal he can possibly find, ready to tear Schmidt away from Charlotte or die trying…
 
But there’s nothing.  It’s as though the room is entirely empty of metal, even though Erik can see the harsh gleam of the knives and cleavers and bone-saws hanging on the wall.  He tries to step forward, but there are chains around his wrists that anchor him to the wall and he can’t remember where they came from.  But they’re metal too, and he should be able to manipulate them but he can’t, and Schmidt is doing something with the scalpel that Erik doesn’t want to think about it because if he thinks about it he’ll have to look at it.
 
Charlotte is making what may be the most awful noises Erik’s ever heard – moans and strangled wails, as if she doesn’t even have the energy to properly scream.  He can’t help it – he looks, and his stomach cramps at the sight of the blade moving through Charlotte’s flesh, skin being peeled back to expose fat and muscle and stringy tendons, blood pooling on the table beneath her.
 
“It’s alright, sweetheart, it’s almost over,” Schmidt coos, cupping her cheek in a hideous parody of affection, wiping at the tears streaming from her eyes, leaving streaks of Charlotte’s own blood across her face.
 
The manacles are digging into Erik’s wrists so hard blood is dripping between his fingers and that should hurt but he can’t even feel it, can’t register anything but Charlotte’s low whimpers, her trembling as she begins to slip into shock, and the smile on Schmidt’s face, the speculative gleam in his eye as he runs his fingers down Charlotte’s body, not bothering to skirt around the bloody wound in her belly and chuckling when she sobs in pain.
 
And Schmidt is opening his pants and lowering himself down onto Charlotte’s naked and battered body, and Erik wants to look away but can’t, wants to shred Shaw into a million little pieces but no metal is answering his call even though the bloodied scalpel is lying right there and now Charlotte is screaming, twisting, trying to pull away from Schmidt as he moves on top of her and then Schmidt’s hands are at her throat and she’s choking and flushing, lips going blue and eyes turning red as tiny blood vessel haemorrhage and her struggles still and the last thing she mouths is his name…
 
“Erik…”
 
CHARLOTTE!
 
--
 
Charlotte is dragged into consciousness, her heart pounding and her skin unpleasantly slick with chill sweat. 
 
It’s not the first time she’s been woken by someone else’s nightmare, but it’s the first time she’s seen one in such graphic, sickening detail.  The sleeping mind is vastly more disorganised than the conscious mind, after all, and other people’s dreams are usually nothing more than vague impressions.
 
Erik’s nightmare had come through as if it were a memory.  Which is to say, still hazy around the edges but as clearly as if she’d been the one dreaming it.  But Charlotte will puzzle on that later – right now, she’s more concerned with waking Erik up.
 
“Erik,” she hisses, shaking his shoulder and mentally prodding his mind towards consciousness.  “Erik!
 
Erik’s eyes open so quickly Charlotte’s half-expecting to hear a snapping sound, and it probably wasn’t a good idea to be leaning over him because he simply reacts.  There’s no real thought process behind it, either, just a learned reflex activated so many times it’s become close to pure instinct.
 
Erik is rolling them off the bed before Charlotte’s even aware he’s moving, one hand spread over her collarbones to ensure her head and neck will take the brunt of the impact.  To hopefully knock her unconscious, or at least incapacitate her long enough for Erik to gain the upper hand.
 
Recognition spears through his thoughts when they’re halfway down and Erik shifts both intent and posture almost instantly.  An arm stretches to hit the floor first and brace them, while his hand moves to cradle the back of her head and protect it from the impact.
 
Charlotte barely even registers the jolt as they finally hit.  For a moment she lays there, catching her breath as Erik crouches over her, his eyes wild and panicked.  He is as tense and poised as a startled tiger, and Charlotte wonders if he’s about to run from the room.
 
But then everything in him seems to slump as he sits backwards with a painful-sounding thump, and she’s dragged off the floor into his arms.
 
Erik holds on so tightly it almost hurts, arms locked around her as if someone’s trying to drag her away.  His face is pressed into her shoulder, he’s breathing in stuttering gasps and his mind is a mantra of relief/fear/Charlotte!/she’s safe she’s safe…
 
For the first time, Charlotte realises Erik’s in love with her.  She has suspected before this, of course, but there are many layers to emotions, particularly love and affection, and it can be difficult to puzzle out the nuances between the love you feel for a friend and the always-and-forever type love of partners and spouses.  And perhaps Charlotte didn’t want to look too deeply, or think too hard about what she saw.
 
But now...she can feel what Erik feels at this moment when he realises it's only a nightmare, that she's unharmed.
 
She puts her arms around him, a little awkwardly given how tightly he’s holding her, and she moves her fingers through his hair, trying to soothe him.
 
It seems to bring Erik back to himself somewhat, enough to make him realise what he’s doing, and he lets go so quickly Charlotte almost falls backwards.  He scrambles to his feet, and while Erik usually possesses the kind of lethal grace you associate with large felines, this time ‘scrambles’ applies very well.  He’s trying not to look at her, discomfort/resentment/embarrassment leaking out like a dripping faucet, but then he glances over at the bed and his face goes blank, his mind suddenly ringing with shock/fear/did I do that?/how could I lose control like that?
 
Charlotte follows his gaze, to find that the metal bed frame – indeed, every metal fixture in the room – has been warped.  Bent and creased and folded like fumbled origami.
 
--
 
Erik isn’t truly surprised the after-effects of his nightmare reached all the way down into the kitchen.  In the dream, he’d been reaching so desperately for any metal he could find…
 
“Your range is quite extraordinary, you know,” Charlotte says conversationally, lifting a handful forks that have been crimped together with fascination in her eyes.  “I wonder if it alters linearly or exponentially?”
 
Erik shrugs, wrestling with what he knows is a baseless, paranoid urge to patrol the grounds, sure he’s radiating fear and uncertainty so thickly Charlotte can taste it.  Until now, his nightmares have always been memories, sometimes blended and blurred, true, but always rooted firmly in his past.  He’s never dreamed of something that hasn’t actually happened – why does his mind feel the need to conjure up new horrors now?
 
But in his heart, Erik knows the answer – because now, he has something he fears to lose.
 
“It’s alright,” Charlotte says quietly.  “I think it’s natural to fear losing something you love.”
 
His reaction is automatic.  “I don’t…”
 
“Love me?”  Her expression is very gentle, but there’s not a trace of doubt in her voice.  “Erik, we both know that would be a lie.”
 
But he wants so badly to hold onto that lie.  Because if he doesn’t love her…then maybe it won’t hurt quite so much when she’s taken from him.
 
It won’t be that easy to get rid of me, she tells him, fond affection seeping through the words like warm syrup.  Or do you somehow imagine you feel more for me than I do for you?
 
She smiles then, soft and welcoming with just a hint of daring behind it.  We’re in this together, Erik.
 
It can’t be that easy…but Erik realises that he no longer cares.
 
This won’t end – he won’t let it.  He’ll fight tooth and nail for it to never end.  Let the whole world burn to ash, as long as Charlotte Xavier is standing beside him in the flames.
 
And perhaps that’s a rather dark thought, but Charlotte doesn’t seem to mind.  Her smile only grows wider as she steps in close, sliding her arms around his neck and rising on tiptoe to kiss him.  He bends his head automatically, slipping an arm around her waist and a hand into her hair to hold her steady.  Her mind suffuses his with trust/affection/contentment/comfort like a miniature sun held within his chest and for the first time, Erik allows himself to think he can have this for the rest of his life.
 
For the first time, he allows himself to think there will be a ‘rest of his life’.
 
--
 
They end up going back to bed, but neither of them sleep.  Erik props himself up against the headboard and stares out the window at the darkened grounds, the realisation he’s so-recently come to settling in his mind like a stone dropping quietly into a river, sending tiny ripples outwards in ever-expanding rings.
 
Charlotte knows Erik will up for the rest for the night – his mind is too restless to go to sleep again – but that’s no reason to neglect common courtesy.
 
“I’m going to read,” she announces, lifting the latest scientific journal from the small stack on the chair – it was only delivered yesterday, so she hasn’t managed to get through it yet.  “Will you mind if I leave the light on?”
 
Erik shakes his head, and she feels his mind stutter for a moment before settling on a decision.  As she approaches the bed with the journal, he settles himself more comfortably and motions invitingly.  Charlotte gets a flicker of what he wants – her leaning against him, all-but snuggling into him – and even though Erik’s not much for prolonged physical contact without some kind of purpose behind it, she doesn’t hesitate.
 
She climbs onto the bed and slides in front of him, wriggling around until her back is pressed against his chest, his legs on either side of her hips.  She leans her head back on his shoulder, not surprised in the slightest when his arms come around, gently encircling her.  She lets him cocoon her, and wonders how often Erik will be touching her now that he’s essentially given himself permission.
 
“So, what’s new in the realm of genetics?” Erik asks, his voice rough, and Charlotte recognises this for the diversion it is.  Much as he might like to pretend otherwise, terror from his nightmare still lingers in Erik’s mind, like the ringing echoes after a bell has been struck.  So Charlotte reads aloud from the journal, telling Erik about cell division and chromatic spindles.  She feels him relax by slow increments.  His mind against hers is warm and bright and vibrant with energy, for once clean of the anticipation and dread of losing her.  Charlotte allows herself in bask in it like a cat warming itself in the sun.
 
She can feel when a memory drifts lazily across Erik’s mind, like a cloud scudding across the sun, a picture of his mother and father lying on the sofa in their home (the one they lived in before the ghettos), his mother reading aloud to his father.  For a moment, Charlotte freezes, wondering if Erik will realise that for the first time in years, he’s thinking of the past without bitterness muddying his memory.
 
But Erik doesn’t seem to notice, only pressing a kiss to her temple when her silence drags on, gently urging her to resume.
 
--
 
Erik spends the day in a state of surreal expectation.  He keeps thinking that something should be different now that he’s looking at this, this…at everything…as a permanent arrangement rather than a temporary interlude.  But no, Raven’s still eyeing him suspiciously at odd moments, Hank’s still spending almost all of his time in the lab, constantly modifying and adjusting Sean’s flight apparatus and Alex’s...whatever that thing is.  Some kind of conductor? 
 
Charlotte’s still watching their little group eat, with the same half-puzzled, half-pleased expression she always wears during dinner, as though she doesn’t quite dare to believe that everyone is really enjoying themselves.
 
Erik considers the idea of this scene repeating itself indefinitely for months and years to come, and surprises himself by finding it appealing.
 
Charlotte smiles at him and he wonders if she caught that thought – but no, there’s no hint of secret knowledge in her eyes (no more than usual, at least).  She’s smiling at him because that’s just something she does, something she seems to enjoy doing.
 
She’s still smiling when they move into the study and assemble the chess pieces, Erik getting them both drinks as Charlotte cracks a textbook open beside her chair – she reads it whenever she feels his mind getting particularly loud, in an attempt to distract herself and avoid inadvertently picking up on his thoughts and strategies.
 
Charlotte wins this time, and given how distracted Erik is he’s not truly surprised.  And certainly not complaining when she rises with a triumphant grin on her face and straddles him in his chair, making herself at home in his personal space.  Delicate fingers slide up underneath his turtleneck as she kisses him, slowly grinding herself down on his lap.
 
Light and warmth explode in his mind, and he can feel Charlotte’s relief at the contact, that she’s no longer deliberately ignoring his thoughts.
 
He’s never really understood why Charlotte seems to like being in his mind so much – surely it can’t be a pleasant place? – but he’s grateful for it, and eagerly embraces the affection/fondness/trust/desire/Erik/love you that pours from her like water released from a dam.  It’s just the same as it’s always been between them, but it feels…better somehow.  Sweeter and more powerful, now that he’s turned his mind to prolonging this rather than anticipating its end.
 
He hardens slowly, almost languidly as pushes his hands underneath her shirt, cupping her breasts through the thin material of her bra.  He keeps his touch light and gentle, just so he can feel her arch against him as a spark of frustration/lust/come on, Erik! smacks straight into his mind.
 
Charlotte’s never been this forceful with her telepathy before.  Perhaps he should be worried, but Erik only finds it intriguing and, god help him, rather exciting – it’s as though the last barrier between them has been lowered.  This time he can actually feel their desires meshing into some kind of feedback-loop, and he’s not sure whether it’s his impulse or Charlotte’s want that makes him shove his hand into her pants – he only realises what he’s doing when his fingers meet warm, slick flesh and slide in deep.
 
He can feel the tight, hot burn of pleasure as if it’s his own, and then…
 
And then his perceptions must have blurred a little, because he has no recollection of Charlotte shedding her underwear or of opening his pants, only a blur of touch/yes/affection/more/desire/please/need/want/ErikCharlotteErikCharlotte before she’s lowering herself onto him with a gasp and wash of pure, animal pleasure that makes his vision go slightly fuzzy at the edges.
 
Some part of him wonders if he’s having an out of body experience.  He knows their bodies are moving on the opulent armchair, but the physical pleasure seems dim and distant, muted and dull compared to the loud, vibrant mind blazing against his.  It’s like holding a star cupped in his palms, like drifting in a warm volcanic lake, and all he wants to do is hold it tighter, plunge deeper, somehow get closer
 
And then, quite suddenly, he is.  Closer than a heartbeat, closer than even a thought, close enough that he isn’t feeling a dim glow of sensation from her, but that for a moment he is seeing through her eyes.  For a moment he can feel the weight of breasts on her chest, the feel of his own cock inside her body, the flicker of her lids as she blinks in shock.
 
It’s dizzying and disorienting, and the world spins away in sickening kaleidoscope of images and sounds, blurring past like he’s looking out the window of a speeding train.
 
He is lonely and afraid, curled in his too-large bed and still feeling his side throb painfully from where Father was shot.  And he knows it’s from Father even if he doesn’t know why, knew it the moment he saw the blood and heard the shrieks.  His throat is raw from his own screaming and he feels sick and miserable, hearing/feeling/seeing/smelling/tasting the buzz of minds all through the house like angry flies.  He pulls the blanket over his head, just wanting it to stop, but it doesn’t stop (it will never stop) and so he cries and cries and cries, weeping softly for the peace he’s lost and will never have again.
 
He is young and confused and sad, looking up at his mother as she speaks with the nanny, telling her to keep him out of sight for the night because this dinner party is important.  He looks at his mother and reaches out with his mind and there is only cold emptiness when his mother looks at him, only distant regret of at least if it had been a boy he wouldn’t want another one and he doesn’t understand why.  Mothers love their children – he knows, he’s felt it, but his mother doesn’t love him and he can be better, mama, can be good and quiet and the perfect little daughter and maybe, maybe if he’s better his mother will love him.
 
He is cowering in a corner, wondering what he’s done this time to earn the rage and hatred that spills off the man coming towards him, unbuckling his belt as he goes.  He reaches out, tries to turn him away – you don’t see me, you don’t see me – but his mind is bitter and dark and twisted and cruel.  Like drinking poison, like holding naked skin over a flame, like being thrown into pitch-dark oil and drowning, choking on it.  Like a living thing that can hold him under the surface and infect him until there’s nothing of him left.  He kicks and writhes and manages to twist free of the painful, sucking grasp and the belt that comes down on his back – hard enough to split skin and cloth – is a relief in comparison.
 
He is trapped in the girl’s mind, her own fear and pain and shame and helplessness closed fast around him like the jaws of a bear trap, Cain’s face wavering before his eyes, grinning and gloating.  He wants to run, to hide, to smash Cain’s smirk off his face but he can’t, there’s only the hideous phantom weight on top of him that holds Amelia pinned to the floor and him pinned to Amelia’s mind.  And she can’t stop thinking about it, can’t stop reliving it and forcing him to relive it as well, and he just wants to get through dinner without crying or screaming and attracting Kurt’s attention so he goes into that weeping, ravaged mind and erases those hurts, glosses over them as if they had never been.
 
He is the only one that remembers Amelia’s pain now, and it fractures into his mind in bright, sharp shards like a broken mirror when Cain laughs.  He laughs and shoves him backwards, and his knees hit the bed and fold and then Cain’s on top of him, still laughing and shoving one hand over his mouth, the other up his skirt and hooking into his underwear as though to rip it away.  And the panic and fear crash out of his mind into Cain’s, and Cain screams and spasms and his mind goes perfectly, blissfully blank.
 
He’s staring at a blue-skinned girl standing naked in his kitchen, his mind a thrum of like me, like me, she’s like me as he open his home to her.  She eats quickly, hungrily, and he looks at her and vows that she’ll never know want or hunger again, vows that he will protect Raven as could not protect himself.
 
He’s graduating high school with top marks and his mother isn’t even there to see it, but that’s okay because Raven is there to smile and support and he basks in her feeling of pride.  It’s so rare that someone is proud of him.  They say he should be a teacher, but he wants to go to university, to untangle the mysteries of DNA, of his own and Raven’s mutations, and though so many of his classmates are feeling relief that their schooling is finally over, he knows that for him, the worst is yet to come.
 
He can feel the resentment and dislike and contempt against his skin like the blaze of the sun in a desert, but he doesn’t let it deter him.  He uses his telepathy to turn away any minds considering ugly practical jokes or more vicious methods of persuasion, keeps his head down and works.  They think he doesn’t socialise with them because they’ve intimidated him, because he’s seen that just because they have to let him in doesn’t mean they have to like him, when in reality their thoughts have never once influenced him.  None of them seem to understand that he’s not here to make a point, not here to prove anything to them or himself; he’s here to understand what makes him the way he is, to unlock the secrets of his thoughts and Raven’s skin.  His eyes are fixed on a much broader, much loftier goal, and while their thoughts may touch him they can’t hurt him, can’t discourage him, not while he still has his dream.
 
His mother has just died and he hates that he’s relieved.  She may not have loved him but she was still his mother, yet all his grief is for what their relationship should have been, all for that she should have been to him, not what she was.  He closes up the house and he and Raven move away to England.  He doesn’t bother to sell it, doesn’t bother with a caretaker, doesn’t even want to think about it.  Let it rot, let it go to dust, he won’t be going back there ever again.
 
He is greeting Moira in a small, out-of-the way pub, he is freezing the CIA all throughout the building, he is feeling a mind through the night, through the ocean, calling him like a beacon, like a siren’s song, and he hurls himself towards it because he can’t help but answer it.  He is seeing Erik’s face for the first time, meeting and revealing Hank in the same breath, wobbling towards a strip club in high heels and grateful for Erik’s support.  He is giving money to a man who would have robbed him, he is traversing the corridors of a prison and trying to ignore the crude fantasies battering at him, he is standing in front of Emma Frost and wanting to vomit because he knows what made her the way she is.  He is weeping for Darwin’s death and Angel’s defection, he is opening the mansion in the hope that it might be for them the home it never was for him, he is trying to help the others train while terrified of pushing his own limits.
 
He is smiling at Erik over chess and thrilling in their discussions, in being treated like he’s an equal, a partner.  He is kissing Erik for the first time with tears still wet on his cheeks and his lips salty.  He is sliding into Erik’s arms in the bedroom where he once cowered in fear of himself and those all around him, love burning a bright hole in his chest.  He is speaking to Erik about his past in a way he never has before, not even to Raven, knowing that Erik will understand that he doesn’t want pity.  He’s letting his telepathy free during sex, experiencing things he never thought possible, never thought it was possible for someone else to want, for someone to trust him enough to risk this and he loves Erik, loves him with a depth he was beginning to doubt himself capable of, and he wants so badly for Erik to stay with him…
 
Then it is gone, and Erik is left sitting in a plush armchair, Charlotte in his lap, his heart shivering in his chest like a frightened rabbit.  It looks like he came at some point, but the sticky aftershocks are a secondary consideration to the fact that he has no idea what just happened.  Charlotte is shivering his arms, and Erik can feel her fear and uncertainty, so clear and present he automatically pulls her closer as they gather the scattered remnants of their thoughts.
 
Erik doesn’t know, but he suspects he just lived through Charlotte’s entire life in the space of…what?  Minutes?  Hours?  He has no idea.  Charlotte’s skin is damp with sweat but she feels cold in Erik’s arms, trembling as she clings blindly to him, like a half-drowned man clings to a spar.
 
He remembers what it felt like to experience Charlotte’s telepathy, to see into people’s souls the way she does.  Their hopes and dreams and fears and secret shames, the hatred and the love, the selfishness and the selflessness, merging together and yet starkly different, the mass of contradictions that exists inside each and every person.
 
And he thinks he understands.  Charlotte sees all that people are, all that they can ever be…and she has to believe in the good in people, or what’s the point?  She has to believe most will follow their better nature, or she’d probably kill herself.  Or everyone else.
 
It belatedly occurs to Erik that if he’s just seen Charlotte’s memories it’s very likely she’s seen his, and feels a sudden rush of alarm and horror at the thought.  She said she knew, yes, but she hadn’t seen it, hadn’t lived it…at least, he hopes she hadn’t.
 
Are you alright? whispers through his mind, each word heavy with concern/worry/fear/did I hurt him?/please don’t let me have hurt him!
 
“Fine,” Erik says automatically.
 
Charlotte draws back, her eyes huge and her thoughts frantic, babbling apologies both mentally and verbally, and he can feel her mind drawing away from him, knows she’s preparing to lock down her telepathy.  Something in him panics, flailing in darkness, and he feels a momentary sense of vertigo as though he’s standing on a tossing ship and the floor has just dropped away from his feet.
 
Then he realises there’s nothing to panic over – she’s still there.  Dimmer, yes, a soft glow in the back of his mind instead of the bright sear she usually is but still there, and that same something that had panicked relaxes just as swiftly.
 
Charlotte’s eyes are still wide and frightened, her chest heaving with each breath as she whispers, “Can you still…feel me?”
 
Erik frowns.  “Of course.”
 
“...I think we have a problem.”
 
--
 
Charlotte is completely lost.  She has no idea of the specifics of what she’s done, but she can tell she seems to have tied Erik’s mind to hers somehow.  For a moment, she was quite literally inhabiting his body, reeling through his life…
 
She can still feel him at the back of her mind, far stronger than the vague awareness of other people’s thoughts her telepathy usually grants her.  She’s not deliberately touching his mind yet it feels as though she is, thoughts and emotions transmitting as clearly as if she were focused on them.
 
She can feel Erik’s confusion, and she owes him an explanation, deserves for her to tell him what she’s inadvertently done.  Even if he may hate her for it.
 
“I think I’ve linked our minds,” she says aloud, not wanting to risk telepathic communication for fear of strengthening…whatever this is.
 
At that rather useless afterthought (closing barn doors after horses have bolted and all that), Charlotte throws up the strongest shields she can manage, trying to sever the contact even as she longs to maintain it, to feed this link until it is deep and permanent…
 
Erik twitches, and his discomfort bleeds across the bond before Charlotte’s shields are complete.  She stops immediately, realising that Erik is just as aware of and connected to her mind as she is to his.  She’s not sure what would happen to his non-telepathic mind if she blocks or severs the link, but she’s not willing to risk it.
 
Of course, there’s also the question of what this prolonged contact with do to him, but Charlotte clings to the idea that she can manage it, limit it somehow.  And it has to be better than just cutting herself off from Erik’s mind and hoping for the best.
 
Erik’s concern/worry/uncertainty/distress/what’s going on? burns like sharp spice on her tongue.  “I take it this isn’t something that’s happened before.”
 
Charlotte laughs hollowly.  “I don’t know what…I’m sorry, Erik, so sorry – you have to believe I would never have touched your mind if I thought for even a second-!”
 
“Calm down,” Erik said firmly, his arms around her tightening so suddenly Charlotte topples into his chest.
 
It struck her that this was a strange conversation to be having while she was sitting in Erik’s lap, both of them mostly naked.  Of course, they wouldn’t be having a conversation at all if Charlotte hadn’t picked the worst possible moment to lose control of her mutation…
 
“Calm down,” Erik repeats, and the realisation that he is probably feeling her distress comes close to throwing Charlotte into an outright panic.
 
But she forces herself to take deep, even breaths, to clear her mind the way she does when she’s overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings of other people.  When she thinks she’s calmer (though calmer is a relative term when she can still feel Erik at the back of her mind and oh god what has she done now – no, calm, she’s calm…) Charlotte risks speaking again.
 
“I’m sorry.”  And maybe she’s already said that too many times, but it bears repeating.  She tied them together without Erik’s consent, without even knowing what she was doing, and if this proves to be somehow damaging Charlotte will never forgive herself.
 
Erik’s stroking her back as if she’s a wild animal to be gentled, and Charlotte might feel resentful of his calm, might think he was patronising her if she couldn’t feel his concern and worry.
 
“It’s alright,” he says.  “It hasn’t hurt us, and it doesn’t have to be permanent.”
 
Charlottes makes a small, choked sound, and even she can’t tell if it’s a laugh or a sob.
 
Erik’s hand freezes on her back, and his fingers tighten convulsively.  “It isn’t permanent, is it?”
 
“I'm not sure I can sever us without brain damage,” she says honestly.
 
Now fear begins to blossom in Erik, pulsing and bloating like a living thing.  “And what happens if one of us dies?”
 
It’s rather telling that’s the first question he asks.
 
“I don't know,” Charlotte whispers bleakly.
 
The flash of Erik’s anger is like a sudden jet of boiling water through an icy stream.  Charlotte mentally braces herself for his furious outburst, surprised when it doesn’t come.  In the next instant she realises it’s because Erik’s finding it hard to be angry at her when he can feel her apology and uncertainty and fear.
 
“It’s alright,” she says automatically, perversely feeling a little steadier now that Erik is just as worried as she is.  “We’ll work it out.  Together.”
 
She doesn’t mention that ‘together’ is likely their only option for the foreseeable future.
 
--
 
AN: Thanks so much to my marvellous beta, ginbitch!


Part Twelve



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I like writing dark and fluffy stories (which may seem like a bit of a contradiction, but I'm always pleased when I can pull it off).

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