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 non-con and child abuse. I delve into the darker implications of telepathy here, so please heed the rating.
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…
Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.
Hank knows he’s not the best when it comes to interpersonal relationships. But at the same time, he thinks even a child would know something’s wrong.
He’d risen early (he has a new idea for Alex’s suit he wants to try out), but as soon as he opened the door to his lab, he’d come face to face with Erik and Charlotte. But they hadn’t been facing him; they’d been staring at each other – well, glaring, really – as though they were having some sort of silent argument. Which, given Charlotte’s mutation, isn’t outside the realms of probability.
But Charlotte turns to him as the door closes, and her smile is tinged with exhaustion. “Hank, I was wondering if I might ask a favour.”
At first, he thinks they’ve come about the serum – but no, their mutations aren’t visible, and Charlotte always looks strangely sad when she glances at the vials sitting on the bench.
“Sure,” Hank says automatically. “Whatever I can do.”
He likes Charlotte, after all. She’s given him the run of this lab, and it’s nice to have someone who actually understands him when he rambles about his theories. And there’s a certain sense of fellow-feeling between two people who have always been on the outskirts of academia; Hank because he was always too young, and Charlotte because she happened to be born female.
Erik, he’s less sure about. It’s not that he’s afraid of Erik, just that there’s something…unsettling about him. A feeling of tightly-leashed violence, and while it’s certainly not directed at them, it’s enough to make Hank wonder how long Erik will stay with them before that tension inside him forces him to leave.
“Can you draw some of my blood?” Charlotte asks.
Erik crosses his arms, and the first response that springs to Hank’s mind is ‘not while he’s in the room’.
“I can,” he begins cautiously. “What do you need it for?”
Charlotte brightens, as if she actually thought he’d refuse her something so trivial. “You needn’t worry I’m giving you more work – it’s mainly to satisfy my own curiosity about how being a telepath might alter my body chemistry.”
Almost against his will (really, he’s got enough projects to work on in very limited time), Hank is intrigued. “That sounds fascinating – I’ve often wondered about that myself, actually. I mean, speaking from a purely physiological perspective, there should be no way for thoughts to transmit over distances, unless you’re somehow highly attuned to our brains’ electrical activity, and even then recent research suggests our thoughts are as much chemically based as electrical-”
Charlotte beams. “Exactly!”
And with that, she rolls up her left sleeve, presenting him with her bare arm, veins standing out beneath pale skin like blue threads.
Erik still hasn’t said a word. Hank collects the sterilised needle, vial and cotton swab as quickly as he can, eager to get it over with.
He’s really hoping Charlotte doesn’t flinch, if only because he suspects Erik will hurl him across the room if she does.
Charlotte feels guilty about lying to Hank, but this inadvertent bond she’s created with Erik feels like something deeply private, something secret and cherished.
But just because she cherishes it, doesn’t necessarily mean this is a good thing.
Erik hadn’t been comfortable with the idea of Hank drawing her blood – it smacked too much of Hank studying her, of lab rats and bright white tile, and she’d known better than to ask for him to donate some blood to the cause. Charlotte can admit she has no real idea what she expects to untangle from her blood, but there’s the vague hope that if they draw some at regular intervals, they’ll be able to tell if the bond becomes detrimental to their health.
Exactly how they’ll be able to tell that…well, she’s still working on it.
He’s still working on the serum, Erik points out as they leave the lab, his thoughts tinged with bitter anger.
I know, she sends back. But what do you expect me to do about it? He’s a grown man, not a child – I can’t order him to stop.
And Charlotte can admit some part of her doesn’t actually want to stop him. That some part of her wants her sister to have the best of both worlds – to be a mutant, but not experience the potential danger of being easily identifiable as such.
She’s not sure if that thought goes through to Erik or not, but she’s not actively shielding it, so he probably feels her indecision in some form
Charlotte had been immensely relieved to discover that, if she couldn’t sever the bond to Erik, she could at least muffle it. She’d been worried about Erik having a direct conduit to her thoughts and feelings – his mind simply wasn’t built to cope with that for hours on end – and is glad she can dim the link until they only feel a vague sense of the other’s mind. It’s almost like Erik is standing just behind her with his hand on her shoulder, a silent sense of warmth and presence.
Of course, that didn’t stop Charlotte from probing and testing, trying to see if there was a weak point in the bond through which it could be attacked (even if a part of her was screaming against the idea of removing it), until Erik told her that he could feel everything she was doing and could she stop it?
But that doesn’t mean she’s given up. The bond might feel like everything she never knew she was waiting for, but that doesn’t mean it’s good – after all, before she actually met Kurt Marko she’d thought he might be a second father to her.
Erik knows Charlotte keeps expecting him to pull back, for him to demand their bond be broken no matter the consequences. He’s not sure if he should be insulted at the idea she thinks him so spineless, or furious at what this expectation of abandonment implies.
Erik can admit there are some aspects of the bond he is most definitely not happy about. The fact that if he has nightmares in the future, Charlotte will most likely share them, for one. He doesn’t like the idea that his memories are in her head, memories of blood and pain and horror just waiting for her to trip over…but he doesn’t actually resent it.
When Erik makes a promise, he keeps it, no matter the cost. He’s vowed to stay with Charlotte, and in many ways, the bond makes it easier. There’s a tiny, selfish part of him that rejoices in the fact that the bond ensures she’ll find it difficult to leave him, and he hates himself for that. Then he’ll wonder what happens if he needs to leave (he can’t clearly picture why, but the fear is there, lurking at the corners of his thoughts), and feels a prickle of fear at what that might do to their minds.
Of course, his biggest worry is what will happen if one of them dies. If Shaw kills him, will Charlotte die too?
She’s tried to sever the link twice, but while she can muffle it – mute the bond until it’s just a dim awareness of her in the back of his mind – any attempt to break it makes both of them nauseous, gives them splitting headaches, and Erik worries Charlotte was right when she said severing it could result in brain damage.
He’s always been willing to die to kill Shaw, but now…he’s not so sure. If only because he has no idea what his death would do to Charlotte.
Erik knows his acceptance is probably made easier by the way Charlotte needs the bond – she might pretend otherwise, but it’s difficult for her to protest when he can feel her essentially using his mind as a shield when she gets overwhelmed. He’s not sure exactly how it works, but whenever Charlotte picks up on something upsetting (which is more frequent than he’d ever imagined), she seems to be using his mind to tune it out, rather than simply slamming up her shields.
At least she’s getting something out of this as well.
Charlotte has learned that distance is apparently no obstacle to the bond. She feels Erik just as clearly when he’s in the room with her as she does when she’s three hours drive away and the others’ thoughts have long since faded into the white noise of mental chatter that permeates Charlotte’s world. When the link is open it’s like having a constant conduit between their minds, thoughts and emotions flowing freely, though Charlotte can’t help noticing that fear and dread – in short, the emotions of peril and distress – seem to transmit far more clearly. Or maybe it’s just that those kinds of feelings grab your attention much more quickly than positive ones.
Still, trying to look on the bright side, it’s much easier to protect herself from others’ thoughts now. Where before she had to either shield entirely – the mental equivalent of shutting your eyes when you didn’t want to see something – or risk opening herself to other minds to blot out the unpleasant one, now she only has to open up the bond and let Erik’s thoughts drown out whatever is causing her discomfort.
Charlotte can admit a large part of her terror at the bond had come from the belief that Erik would find it horrifically invasive and would hate her for essentially trapping him in the telepathic link. But while Erik had harboured a tiny prickle of resentment at their link, she knows that his wariness of it is based on his fear of what happens if one of them dies – more specifically, what happens to her if he should die. In fact, sometimes she gets the impression Erik actually likes the bond, likes this tangible proof that he’s not alone.
Of course, that doesn’t stop Charlotte from worrying about it – she asked Hank to take blood for the second time today.
I wonder if it was an adaptation, Charlotte muses, staring at the chessboard.
Erik knows she’s talking about the bond and simply shrugs, moving his queen to take her bishop.
I mean, in some ways it makes sense, at least from an evolutionary perspective, she continues, peppering her thoughts with succinct summaries of various papers she’s read on natural selection and relevant portions of her thesis. I can’t count how many times my telepathy has overcome me and induced a fit of vomiting or a fainting spell, things that could easily be fatal several thousand years ago if they happened in the wrong place – like on a hunt, or during a battle with a neighbouring tribe.
So how is this bond an adaptation for that? Erik asks.
I think it’s intended to ensure I have a permanent knight in shining armour. Charlotte lets her wry amusement sparkle through that thought. Something goes wrong, I’m in distress, then you’re meant to feel that distress and do something about it.
Objectively, Charlotte can see how useful it would be for long-past telepaths to have a protector on hand whenever the situation called for it. But she can’t help feeling like she’s…trapped Erik, somehow.
“You do realise that this bond means I can now feel when you get guilty and self-sacrificing,” Erik mutters.
You can? Charlotte frowns, wondering if she should mute the bond a little.
“And if you’re thinking about what I think you are,” Erik continues, his thoughts a stream of half-formed ideas of consent and traps and manipulation. “Then I might remind you that the bond was just as much of a surprise to you as it was to me. If we’re going to talk about being trapped in anything-“ the emphasis Erik’s gives the word ‘trapped’ is enough to tell Charlotte what he thinks of that, even without the disdain washing through the bond “-then you’re just as trapped as me. Probably even more so.”
Charlotte’s a little lost on that last statement, and sends Erik a sense of puzzlement and gentle query. Erik’s answer isn’t in words, but in a sense of the cloying finality and permanence that has dogged her ever since she realised what she’d done. The sense that there can never be anyone else for them, not after this, in a way that makes ‘til death do us part’ take on a truly ominous meaning. And she can tell from Erik’s thoughts that he believes she’s the one with the raw deal, that she’s the one who should be complaining about being tied to him for the rest of her life.
That’s absolute rubbish, she thinks, infusing those words with as much conviction as she can manage. I love you and want to stay with you – the idea of being with you for life is actually rather pleasant…
She trails off at Erik’s pointed look and the swell of satisfaction that comes down the link. And you imagine I feel differently?
Oh, yes, very clever, she grumps, not quite willing to credit that Erik played such an obvious trick on her so easily. Why are you so calm about this?
Erik shrugs again, deliberately thinking as loudly as he can, The idea that your telepathy might hurt me is your complex, not mine.
But Charlotte knows it’s deeper than that – she can feel it. Erik has decided to stay with her, and he’s not a man for half-measures. The bond makes it easier, so he likes it; it’s really as simple as that.
Personally, Charlotte thinks he should be a little more concerned with his mental integrity, but she’s finding it hard to complain.
It’s eight days after Charlotte accidentally initiated the telepathic bond, and by this point she’s noticed some interesting side-effects.
Previously, Erik had been wary of physical contact – at least while he slept. Charlotte often drifted off with their hands entwined, but he’d wake up if she cuddled up to him in the middle of the night. But this is now the fifth day straight Charlotte’s woken up to find Erik wrapped around her like an affectionate octopus. They touch each other constantly now, often without either of them being really aware of it. Just yesterday Charlotte had been speaking with Erik and Moira in the library about possible leads on Shaw, and she’d only realised her hand was on Erik’s knee when Moira gave her a particularly knowing look.
She has a feeling that if there was ever any hope of keeping this quiet and discreet, it’s gone now. Charlotte’s not entirely certain why she wanted to keep it quiet, only that what she has with Erik seems…fragile. Ridiculous, perhaps, but she can’t quite squash the urge to tuck it out of sight and keep it all to themselves, where no one can interfere.
For now though, she lies still, enjoying the feeling of Erik’s breath on the back of her neck. One of his hands is resting on her breast, well away from the dark bruise on her abdomen – a relic of sparring with Raven, and the source of the dull ache in her lower body.
Except it suddenly occurs to her that Raven’s blow had been closer to her sternum, and this ache is settled in her pelvis. She lifts the blankets and chances a glance down – yes, there’s the bruise, just beneath Erik’s arm, but the pain is lower, and deeper somehow, less like a bruise and more like the burn of a pulled muscle.
Curious (because this feels vaguely like the last period she’d had, back when she was twenty-three and before her telepathic range grew so vast), Charlotte dips her fingers between her legs, not surprised to find lingering dampness, but when she draws them back they’re smeared with blood.
It’s probably quite telling that her first thought is that Raven’s blow did internal damage. But she dismisses that thought, telling herself not be silly, and carefully extricates herself from Erik’s arms to go clean up in the bathroom.
She’ll probably have to wash the sheets, and she’s quite sure there’s some kind of cloth for this thing, but she can’t remember where she put hers (the last time she needed it was over seven years ago), so maybe she can borrow one of Raven’s?
Charlotte lets the inner babble of her thoughts and the sluggish processes of Erik’s sleeping mind calm her turmoil. She knows that for most women, menstruation is entirely normal and they’d only become concerned if it failed to happen. But Charlotte’s not ‘most women’, and all the periods she ever had were before her telepathy fully matured.
So what’s going on?
She made Hank take another blood sample (and then had to sit down for a little while, and Hank refused to take anything from her for at least two weeks), and now she’s testing her oestrogen levels. Re-testing them, really, but they keep giving her the same results.
They keeping coming up…normal.
She’s looked at the blood samples taken earlier, of course. The one taken the morning after she accidentally forged the bond shows what the tests five years ago did – minimal oestrogen levels, and some of the hormones that have been tentatively linked to stress present in near-debilitating quantities. The second sample showed a drop in those hormones, and a subsequent increase in oestrogen.
And now, while this sample still shows high levels of stress hormones, the oestrogen is gaining ground. At least enough to give her a period.
In some ways, Charlotte supposes this makes biological sense. Telepathy is incredibly stressful in more ways than one, but the main factor being that she just cannot shut it off; not without shielding herself entirely, which is even more stressful. It’s like being stuck in the middle of a riot, with people shouting and jostling her all the time. She adapted – of course she did – but she always thought her telepathy sapped her body’s resources to the point that it simply had none to funnel into reproduction.
Except now, she has a buffer. Now, when she feels other minds pressing in too tightly, instead of just bracing herself and taking it and trying to do something relaxing afterwards, she can lean on Erik’s mind like crawling beneath a security blanket. And so her stress levels are dropping, apparently enough for her body to divert some of its energy.
It’s all rather surreal. Charlotte had accepted her sterility – it had been a fact of life, and now to know that fact might possibly be overturned…it’s strange. She’s not entirely sure how she feels about even the possibility of having children (there’s yearning there, for love and family where she had none, but there’s also terror – she had horrific examples set for her and would probably be a terrible mother), and anyway, this is certainly not the time to be pondering it.
Concern suddenly washes through the bond as Erik feels her distress, and Charlotte automatically soothes him, sending back calm/content/I’m fine.
In some ways, this development makes the telepathic bond even more logical, in terms of evolution, that is. Setting aside the stress telepathy places on her body, Charlotte had always doubted if she’d even be capable of carrying a child to term. Physical contact always increased her telepathy, and a developing mind that was actually inside her body? She’d be focusing on it almost constantly – she wouldn’t be able to help herself – and that much mental power concentrated on a developing mind could harm it. Maybe even enough to hamper development and induce a miscarriage.
Which, of course, explained why the tendency for psychic bonds had been passed on, and also why telepaths were such a small fraction of the population. Powerful female telepaths would be unlikely to reproduce – and maybe even male telepaths would have difficulty producing healthy sperm – unless they had another mind linked to theirs.
Charlotte shakes her head, just once, and pushes herself back from the laboratory table.
They have bigger things to worry about, after all.
Alex was a bit suspicious – still is, really – but he can admit that the Professor does know what she’s talking about. Most of the time.
This target practice shit still makes him think she’s crazy, though. Sometimes he just wants to scream ‘do you remember what I did to Darwin? Do you have any idea what I could do to you, without even meaning it?’ There was that one time he’d singed her hair, and while she just laughed it off Alex was half-expecting Erik to stab him with forks in retribution.
It’s not that Alex doesn’t like Erik – on the contrary, he thinks Erik’s pretty cool, really. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a fucking scary guy; hell, just look at the way he reacted when Alex insulted the Professor in the prison. Which was probably kind of a dick move, but he’d just been pulled out of solitary confinement (where he belonged) and told to go with what he thought were government mooks – he thinks he can be cut a little slack, under the circumstances.
So yes, the Professor knows what she’s talking about. And she’s also kind of hot, in a sexy-teacher kind of way, but Alex does his best not to think about that. Partially because she’s a telepath, and he really doesn’t want her to pick that up, and also because she and Erik are so in love it’s actually kind of sickening.
Alex has to admit, the Professor and Hank are onto something with this chest plate. It’s making the blasts more focused instead of the widespread destruction he’s used to, though he prefers practicing with the Professor – Hank gives him the creeps.
He does his best not to let on (can’t let them see any weakness), but he stills feels it. Hank is strong enough to pick up a car’s engine in one hand and quick enough to run laps around the Professor. When Alex went into the lab to get his chest plate measured, he’d caught a glimpse of the equations written up on Hank’s blackboard, and he hadn’t even been able to understand the symbols – the only thing that was comprehensible to him was the square root sign. And if he’s that strong, and that smart, it’s only matter of time before he loses patience or someone presses an invisible button and he snaps.
Alex has been trying to nudge out the guy’s limits, find out what kind of things get to him more than anything else, but it hasn’t been going well. He’s figured out that Hank’s feet are his weak point, but whenever Alex jabs him about them Hank doesn’t look angry so much as crestfallen and hurt, and it leaves Alex feeling like he’s just kicked a puppy.
Though sometimes Alex can’t see what the problem is. Sure, Hank’s got some really freaky feet, but he’s also got the Professor’s totally smoking sister panting after him – surely that’s some kind of karmic compensation or something right there?
Erik can feel Charlotte’s worry/fear/concern thrumming through the bond like a plucked guitar string as she raises the gun. He tries to send confidence and assurance back, but he’s not sure it’s getting through the adrenaline and the lurking rage he needs to summon to control his powers.
She’s squinting, as though blurring his features will somehow make it easier to pull the trigger, and Erik grins, already reaching out for the feel of the bullet, remembering the shape of Shaw’s smirk…
But then the gun drops from his forehead. He actually feels disappointed.
I’m not going to shoot you, Erik, she sends to him, and by this point Erik can recognise the exact flavour of determination that means Charlotte absolutely will not yield an inch.
Although, I suppose we could always-
She’s muffling the bond, so Erik doesn’t know exactly what she’s planning, only that she’s planning something, but then the gun starts to rise again, swivelling to point at Charlotte’s temple.
Erik has the gun in his hand before he’s even registered using his powers to yank it from her grip. He knows his mind is probably screaming with fear and anger, but he never wants to see a gun pointing at Charlotte’s head.
Alright, alright, we don’t have to. Charlotte’s thoughts are deliberately saturated in calm. In fact…I think I have a better idea.
She takes Erik’s hand and tugs him towards the edge of what he’s come to think of as the lawn-balcony, and while he’s aware there’s probably a better word for it that’s what it looks like to him, so that’s what he calls it.
You see the satellite? she asks, nodding towards the enormous dish that doesn’t look like it could be built with anything other than serious government money but is apparently part of her property too.
Through the bond, he gets a glimpse of what she’s planning. I don’t think that’s going to work.
With something that big, I need the situation, the anger. And summoning an image of Shaw’s smile is a paltry prod compared to actually seeing him.
Anger alone isn’t enough.
Erik’s starting to feel the prickle of indignation. It’s got the job done all this time.
It’s nearly got you killed all this time, Charlotte sends, somehow managing a huff without actually opening her mouth.
Erik stifles the childish urge to retort ‘has not’, but of course, Charlotte feels it anyway.
When we first met you were drowning in the ocean – I think I’m allowed to be sceptical of your instincts for self-preservation.
There are some things more important than my survival. The fact that Erik’s beginning to look beyond his confrontation with Shaw (shaky and blurry, perhaps, but he’s starting to glimpse something there) doesn’t make this any less true – she’ll never convince him otherwise.
He can feel Charlotte very deliberately decide not to argue that point (though she has no room to throw stones on the subject of martyrdom), and instead thinks, I believe true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.
‘Serenity’ isn’t exactly something Erik associates with his powers. The moments when they came to him, when they were strongest, are always those when he’s the grip of utter rage.
Perhaps, but do you remember what happened with the car?
Remembering half of a car flying at her head is not really making him feel serene.
You were calm, Charlotte points out. When you stopped it, there wasn’t the slightest trace of rage in you.
That might well be true – it wasn’t as though Erik was paying much attention to his emotional state. He just remembers the cold-wind chill of fear and the knowledge that he had to do something; the car couldn’t be allowed to hit Charlotte, and he was the only person capable of stopping it, so it had to be stopped. There were no other options.
Try, Charlotte’s mind whispers to him.
Erik should probably be disturbed by how automatic it is for him to obey, to reach out for the huge metal structure. He concentrates, willing steel beams and fixtures to bend, just a little, just enough…
But he can’t. It’s too big, too heavy – just like Shaw’s submarine. His power has limits, after all; he may hate it admit it, but they’re there.
Sweat has broken out on his face by the time he gives up. He’s half-expecting Charlotte to be disappointed, but on the contrary – what he’s feeling from her is more like anticipation.
May I? She wiggles her fingers near her temple, asking for permission to delve into his mind. Or at least, deeper into his mind – the bond ensures her being in his mind is pretty much a constant.
Having Charlotte deliberately reach into his mind is always slightly surreal, like falling into warm, golden water and watching shadows flicker on the surface above you. He can feel her sifting through memories, which always makes him a little nervous because Charlotte’s seen enough horrors in her day without taking on his own, but these aren’t his usual memories. They’re saturated in warmth and comfort and love…
Then there’s his mother’s face, and candles, and a feeling of peace and security he’d long ago forgotten.
Watching the satellite turn, Charlotte can feel Erik’s bewilderment and elation, his confusion as everything he knew about his powers is suddenly…well, perhaps not turned on its head, precisely, but certainly skewed.
She can’t deny that she’s feeling pleased as well – it feels wonderful to show Erik how much good there is in him, that’s he so much more than what he believes himself to be.
He grins wide, so wide it looks like it must hurt, and his eyes are shining with more than tears when he turns to her. A complex tangle of love/surprise/wonder/pride/mourning rolls through the bond like a warm, salt-tinged wave and Charlotte steps closer, feeling Erik’s mind hum enthusiastically at her proximity.
A sudden flash of nervousness/expectation/anxiety from the minds in the mansion makes her twitch, and then Moira is leaning out of the sitting room window.
“Hey, the President’s about to make his address,” she calls.
She and Erik trade cautious glances, Erik’s mind now seething with suspicion and cynicism, and then they turn for the house.
It’s actually more like calm determination, Erik comments as they enter through the kitchen.
The bond ensures Charlotte knows exactly what he’s talking about. Between rage and serenity is catchier.
Well, which are you going to remember? ‘The place between rage and serenity’ or ‘be calmly determined about it’?
The corner of Erik’s mouth quirks ever so slightly. I suppose the former is more poetic.
Charlotte laughs quietly, but then they’re in the sitting room and the time for lightness passes.
AN: Thanks so much to my beta, ginbitch!
Also, that bit about the biological side to telepathic bonds it just my headcanon for telepathy. In the comics, inherited mutations could be a bit mix and match, but telepathy was the only power that was practically guaranteed to be passed on. Basically if one parent had telepathy, the child would have it too, or telekinesis or some variant of mental power. And my biology-oriented mind wondered why telepathy hadn’t dominated the entire population on a global scale, considering how much of an advantage it would have been. This was my explanation.