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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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Charlotte Francine Xavier - Part Thirteen
charles drink
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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 non-con and child abuse.  I delve into the darker implications of telepathy here, so please heed the rating.
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
Part Twelve

Part Thirteen

Divergence

“In the end we are all separate: our stories, no matter how similar, come to a fork and diverge.”

-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

--

The whole house has been tense ever since the announcement, and while some part of Erik is glad that they’re taking this as seriously as it deserves, he can feel the headache it’s giving Charlotte.  She retreated to her room almost immediately after dinner, and for almost an hour now the only thing he’s picked up from her is the low-level calm that seems to denote her attempts to quiet her mind and block out the din of others’.

Erik’s been put in the very foreign position of being the one to reassure everyone else that they’ll be fine, that they’re prepared (which he doubts, but telling them otherwise is only going to lower morale).  He’s never been someone anyone turned to for comfort, and he’s not quite sure he likes it.

He’s doing one last circuit of the grounds, checking all entry points are safely closed off, when he feels a soft ripple of disquiet from Charlotte, flavoured with worry and emotional distress.

He’s halfway to her room before she reassures him that she’s not hurt, that there’s nothing to worry about.

He hopes his feeling of irritation comes across the bond.  He refuses to feel embarrassed about his reaction – this is probably Shaw’s last chance to abduct her, and some part of Erik is convinced he’s going to take it – but his irritation is derailed when Charlotte tells him exactly why she’s upset.

Hank has finished the serum, and Raven has refused to take it.  I’m not reading her mind, but I gather he said some…unkind things.

Erik’s anger returns at that, quiet and seething.  He doesn’t think about it, just shoves open the door and strides into the room.

Charlotte is sitting on the edge of her bed, Raven beside her in a bathrobe, her hair blonde and her skin pink, but her eyes are yellow and glimmering with tears.  One hand is entwined with her adopted sister’s, and Raven’s holding on so tightly Charlotte’s skin is turning white.

Raven looks up in surprise as Erik enters, and for a moment her eyes flash blue, as though she’s trying to hide behind them.  Then the blue fractures like stained glass and slides back into gold.  Instead, Raven hunches her shoulders and tries to turn away from him.

Charlotte doesn’t even glance at him – all her focus is on Raven, on finishing whatever conversation they were having before Erik burst in.  “If you came here looking for justification, Raven, I can’t really give you that.  It’s your decision, it has to be, and I shouldn’t really get a say in it one way or the other.  But you’re my sister, you’ll always be my sister, and that means that if you want to look like-” Charlotte made a vague gesture with the hand Raven wasn’t holding, trying encompass the blonde hair and fair skin, “-then I’ll support you.  And if you want to be…well, blue, then I’ll support you in that as well.”

Raven sniffs a little wetly, and looks like she’s trying to muster up a glare.  “You want me to look human, though.”

Charlotte winces slightly.  “Well, I can’t deny that I worry about exposure, about people hurting you…but you’re strong, Raven.  And in the end, it’s your choice.”

“You know what I think,” Erik adds, remembering their brief conversation (though perhaps conversation is being a bit generous) when he found her lifting weights.

He doesn’t really want to look too closely at why he hates Raven’s disguise (reminds him of yellow stars inadequately concealed under jackets and scarves), he only knows that he resents it, that her need to hide seems to perfectly encapsulate everything wrong with the human race.

“In fact,” he continues, getting into his stride.  “You might consider not wearing clothes at all.  You don’t seem to feel the elements in the same way we do, and since you can morph the appearance of clothes anyway…”

Alarm and a sense of please, stop comes to him through the bond, but Raven is looking intrigued.  “You really think so?”

“Have you ever seen a tiger, and thought you ought to cover it up?”  And all those philosophical discussions with Charlotte must have been good for something, because they’ve certainly helped Erik articulate his point of view.

“Let’s not take it too far,” Charlotte grumbles.

Raven looks crestfallen.  “Don’t you like the idea of me as…me?”

“It’s your choice, and I promise I’ll support you whatever you choose, but…” Charlotte grimaces.  “But please think very hard before you decide to go around naked in a house with three easily-distractible men in their early to mid-twenties.  We’d never get a straight sentence out of Sean again.”

You’re not including me? Erik asks.

I’m assuming you have more self-control – at least enough not to drop or break something if my sister walks by naked.  Should I revise that assessment?

“Oh, right,” Raven mutters, almost to herself.

“Although if you felt like making an entrance…” Charlotte offers with a cheeky smile.

Even Erik can hear the acceptance beneath those words, and he can feel Charlotte’s pride in her sister along their connection.  She and Raven both laugh, and Raven abruptly shifts into her natural form, sans bathrobe.

“Good god, Raven, you're my sister – warn me when you're about to do that!” Charlotte says in mock-horror, covering her eyes.

Raven giggles – the soft, furtive giggle of a child taunting their sibling – and the bathrobe reappears.  The blue skin, however, stays.  Charlotte runs her eyes over Raven, like she’s taking in a new dress or haircut, then smiles

“You look beautiful.”

Charlotte’s voice is soft, but her eyes are proud.  Raven makes a sound that suggests she’s trying to sniff back tears, and Erik suddenly wishes he never opened the door – this is feeling a bit too private.

It’s fine, Charlotte’s voice is in his head before he even turns towards the door.  She looks up to you – it helps, having you here.

Raven suddenly flings her arms around Charlotte and literally throws herself against her sister.  Charlotte rocks back at the impact – Raven’s taller than her, even if she is deliberately hunching her back so she can tuck her head beneath Charlotte’s chin.  Charlotte runs a comforting hand over Raven’s shoulders, resting her fingers at the nape of her neck, soft pale flesh a stark contrast to blue scales as she presses a gentle kiss to her sister’s crimson hair.

Eventually, Raven sighs and draws back, but she’s looking…not happier, but more settled than Erik has ever seen her.

“Now, do you want me to convince Hank the lab is infested with rats?” Charlotte asks.  “Or cockroaches – I can do cockroaches.  I can also make a very convincing illusion of an earthquake-”

“Like that one time that boy tried to bully me at school and you made him feel itchy for the rest of the day?” Raven sniggers.  “I think I can fight my own battles at this point, thanks.”

The reminder of battle sends a shadow flitting through the bond, but Charlotte’s expression doesn’t flicker in the slightest.  It’s moments like these that show Erik, over and over again, just how rigidly Charlotte controls herself, how much she works to prevent her true feelings from being detected – a habit forged over a lifetime of inadvertently learning all the ugly, shameful secrets of people you’re meant to respect.

Raven is still blue and smiling when she leaves, but Charlotte’s grin disappears as soon her as sister is out the door, and she lets her body flop backwards onto the bed with a soft groan.

Are you alright?  Sometimes, Erik wonders if he’ll ever talk aloud around Charlotte again.  He rather likes that he doesn’t have to – it appeases the dark, shadowy part of his mind that worries about overheard communication and leaked information.

I think it’s just hit me that in less than twelve hours we’ll be leading them all into battle.  Charlotte words are laden with worry/fear/regret/trepidation and a strange, bitter sense of inadequacy, like she thinks she’s not good enough to do this.

You’re the only person who could do this, he tells her, and he means it

Erik knows he’s a good taskmaster, good at pushing others into testing their limits, but he’s not good at the other side of it.  The gentle encouragement and verbal pats on the back Charlotte seems to do so effortlessly simply aren’t part of his vocabulary, they never have been.  And for all Moira’s grasp of tactics and strategy, she’s human and government-employed, all of which combine to give them a certain wariness around her, a sense of a gap they can’t bridge.  Except for Charlotte.  But then, ‘except for Charlotte’ seems to be Erik’s motto, nowadays.

I can feel them, Charlotte goes on, the words veiled with a kind of haziness that Erik is learning denotes the thoughts Charlotte only half-means him to hear.  All through the mansion, and they’re all so worried, so uncertain, and I don’t what I can say to them, if there’s anything to say…

You managed to deal with Raven’s crisis well enough, Erik points out.

Yes, but that’s something I can relate to.  I know what it’s like to be told you’re inadequate, that you’re somehow deficient simply because of the way you were born.

The words are underpinned with snippets of memories, of Charlotte standing in front of the mirror and hating the breasts and hour-glass hips that mark her as female, of Charlotte considering projecting the illusion of a male body into everyone’s minds and living as ‘Charles Francis Xavier’ because it would be so much easier.

I need to shut my brain off for a while, she admits ruefully.  Or at least think about something else.  Can we play chess?

Coming from anyone else, that might have sounded like some kind of euphemism, but Erik doesn’t need the bond to know that Charlotte doesn’t feel like having sex right now.  Chess has become a relaxing, almost meditative pastime for them both.

At least, when their conversation doesn’t take them into dangerous territory.

--

“Peace was never an option,” Erik says, and tries to ensure Charlotte can feel his determination through the bond.  Either Shaw will die tomorrow, or Erik will – there is no middle ground.

Charlotte tilts her head, and a sense of puzzlement trickles into Erik’s mind.  Erik, when did I ever say I didn’t want you to kill Shaw?

Erik pauses, trying to dredge up a memory of Charlotte doing exactly that, and comes up short.  All she’s ever said is that killing Shaw won’t bring him peace.

I’m not happy about it, she admits.  The thought is accompanied by a complex tangle of thoughts and emotions, most of which give him the impression that Charlotte’s main wish is that none of this happened to him in the first place, and Erik…doesn’t really know how to process that.

But really, what else can we do? Charlotte continues.  I don’t know any prison that can hold him, so the only alternative would be to trap him inside his own mind, which is essentially death anyhow, and death is possibly kinder.

There’s still a part of Erik that bristles warily when Charlotte does this – mentions something like trapping someone in their minds for the rest of their life like it wouldn’t take as much effort as cooking an omelette – and he’s reminded all over again that for all his power, Charlotte is really the more dangerous of the two of them.  It’s not suspicion, exactly, more like those self-preservation instincts that have always been strangely silent in regards to Charlotte are making a feeble attempt to be heard, screaming that he’s in love with someone who could destroy him without breaking a sweat, and shouldn’t he be more worried about this?

The bond actually helps with that, though.  Those brief glimpses of what it’s like to be a telepath he caught when the bond formed (not just voices as he’d half-imagined but images and tastes and smells and touches and even emotions and not for the first time he wonders how Charlotte escaped adolescence with her sanity intact), showed him exactly how strict Charlotte is with herself, how much she shies away from true manipulation without good reason.  Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s too easy.

A shiver of trepidation and unease through the bond pulls his attention back to Charlotte.

I just don’t want you to have any illusions, she whispers.  Killing Shaw won’t make it go away.

It would be easy to scoff, to ask her what she knows about it, if Erik didn’t know what her life had been like, hadn’t seen her secrets in excruciating detail.  Charlotte knows what it’s like to watch someone who abused her die.

But she’s also admitted that his death reassured her, and to be perfectly honest, there’s nothing she could say or do to turn Erik back now.  He’s spent most of his life plotting to kill Shaw and to stop now would be…unthinkable.

--

They don’t make love that night, and Charlotte wonders if Erik gets any sleep at all.  He’s curled around her when she falls asleep, muscles tight and tense, breathing a little too evenly to be purely natural, and he’s in the exact same position when she wakes up, three and a half hours later.  She’s the one who’s moved – turning into his embrace, her nose pressed into the hollow of his collarbones, her hair catching in his early-morning stubble.

She knows why he’s like this, thinks she would know even without the bond.  He’s afraid.

Not for himself, of course.  Erik doesn’t fear his own death…but he fears hers.  And Raven’s, and Sean’s, and Hank’s, and Alex’s and even Moira’s.  He’s worried about all of them because they don’t know Shaw the way he does, don’t know what will happen if he gets his hands on them (and she can feel Erik very deliberately not thinking of the interest Shaw’s already expressed in Charlotte herself).

She takes a deep, steadying breath, and wishes she could give him some kind of reassurance, in words or through the bond.  But any reassurance she can give now would be lies, and Charlotte’s made a promise to herself that she will never lie to Erik.

Of course, the bond may render it moot – he could probably feel if she was trying to deceive him – but it’s the principle of the thing.

“Well, I suppose we should get up,” Charlotte murmurs, speaking aloud to ease the early morning tickle from her throat.

She cranes her head back to look into Erik’s face, tight and worried with deep furrows around the mouth.

Charlotte tries to smile.  “Time to face the world.”

She wishes she was speaking metaphorically.

--

Sean has rarely seen anything more awesome than the plane that Hank calls the Blackbird.

And Christ, what happened to Hank?  He said something about a serum, and Sean vaguely recalls him doing something with Raven that would make them look human or something (he was never really clear on the details), but it seems to have backfired spectacularly.

Erik was kind of a dick though, with that comment about Hank ‘never looking better’.  Even Alex didn’t go there.

At least the Professor got Hank to let Erik go before he killed the dude.  But she’s good at getting people to listen to her.  She got Sean onto the satellite dish, didn’t she?  And this was before he knew he could fly.

But the Professor’s just the sort of person people automatically trust, Sean’s noticed.  It doesn’t have so much to do with her blithe smile or air of complete honesty, but more in the way her face seems to tell you that she knows exactly what’s going on and exactly what you’re really capable of, and that she’ll die before she lets you get hurt.

It was Erik that gave him the final push though – quite literally.  Sean gets why he did that, he really does – it’s like when his uncle took his hand off his little brother’s bicycle.  In many ways Erik does remind him of that uncle, who went to the Korean War and came back…different.  Not evil or anything, just quiet and sad and angry all at once, the way Erik can be when Charlotte’s not cheering him up.

Also, if the two of them think they’re being discreet about their relationship, they really need to get their heads checked.  Charlotte always smiles at Erik whenever he walks into the room, small and soft, like she barely realises she’s doing it.  And Erik, who’s usually all about personal space, seems to consider it some kind of mission to invade hers as often as possible.

Sometimes, Sean thinks he should be worried about that, but he’s not.  It seems like something out of the fairy tales his mother used to tell him – the rich scientist and the lone Nazi-hunter – but it works.  Charlotte often seems rather stressed (Sean supposes helping them with their powers and dealing with the government people is pretty much a full-time job), but she relaxes with Erik, as though she can somehow give her brain a break when he’s nearby.  Erik can be a bit of a hard-ass at times (but Sean gets the feeling it’s only because he simply doesn’t know how to deal with them – sometimes he looks at them smiling and laughing at one of Alex’s jokes like he just doesn’t understand how they’re doing that), but Charlotte smooths those sharp edges a bit, like she’s reminding him that not everything is some kind of life-or-death battle.

Of course, just because he’s (semi) forgiven Erik for pushing him off the satellite dish doesn’t mean he’s going to give the guy a chance to push him out of a moving plane.  Sean’s jumping when he’s good and ready this time, and not a second before.

--

The submarine falls from Erik’s grip as the summoned winds send them into a tailspin, and Charlotte knows she can only pull Erik onto the plane because he’s using his powers.  She can feel himself pulling his own body towards the metal ceiling against the force of the conjured typhoon – she’s merely acting as the fulcrum.

She loses her grip on his hand – his fingers slipping out of her glove – and for one terrifying moment she hangs weightless as the plane spins in the air.  Some small, hysterical part of her brain thinks that she’ll leave a very nasty smear across the shiny metal deck.

Then the plane hits the beach, and Charlotte slams into the floor, the impact driving every scrap of air from her lungs.  There is one split-second where everything is crystal-clear, time slowed by adrenaline, and the blind panic of everyone in the plane rings through her head like a gong.  Erik’s fear is louder through the bond, echoing like metal screeching against stone, but it’s being drowned by determination.

Then he’s on top of her, hands flat to the floor and locking them in place, his body keeping her pinned as the plane rolls along the ground like an empty beer bottle.  The drag of gravity, the phantom pressure along every inch of her skin demands release, and she screams because there’s nothing else she can do, wondering how long she can hold out before she blacks out…

But then it stops.  The plane grinds to a halt upside-down, she and Erik attached to the floor-turned-ceiling, Erik’s heart beating so hard she half-expects it to break his ribs.

“Ta,” she says, rather inadequately.  And aloud, because her mind is still scrambling to shut out the aftershocks of fear from everyone else in the plane

Miraculously, no one’s seriously injured – a few bruises and scrapes, and Charlotte actually trembles in relief for a moment before she can collect herself.

Erik lowers them slowly and carefully, grunting low in his throat when his back hits the ground, and she squeezes his wrist briefly before scrambling to her feet.

She knows there’s no time to waste.  The submarine must be telepathically shielded somehow – she can feel the minds there, but they’re…slippery.  Hard to fix on and grasp, sliding from her mental probes like oil.  It’s the reason the whirlwind-maker caught her by surprise, but she had just enough time to catch a glimpse of Shaw’s plan from the mutant – Shaw is going to absorb the energy from the submarine’s reactor, and turn himself into a bomb.

Charlotte would really prefer not to be caught in a nuclear blast.

She’s tempted to try to disable the three on the beach, but holds herself back – she trusts the others to take care of it, and she has a feeling she’ll need to reserve all her strength for Shaw.  Apart from the helmet, Emma’s memories have shown her Shaw’s mutation makes him resistant to telepathic control.

“I’m coming with you,” she says to Erik – aloud, for the benefit of those without a telepathic bond.

Erik’s mind practically screams a denial.  He’s accepted that she’ll have to get into Shaw’s head at some point, but there’s a very instinctive, visceral horror at the thought of Shaw laying eyes on her for even a moment.

I’m sure he’s in the void, she tells Erik, already picking her way to the place where the Blackbird was torn in half.  If you enter without me, it’s very likely our bond will be completely cut off.  And while I don’t precisely know how that will affect us, I don’t think it will be good.

She deliberately calls up memories of her own attempts to break it – the headaches and nausea and dizziness.  Side-effects they can ill-afford when tangling with a man who can make himself into a nuclear bomb.

I go in first, Erik thinks, and Charlotte knows this is non-negotiable.  She sends a feeling of assent through the bond, and is hard on Erik’s heels as he runs across the sand.

Alex and Hank are dealing with Angel and the teleporter, but the whirlwind-maker – Janos – is still standing.  Charlotte is considering the best way to take him out – order him to sleep?  Tell him to turn his powers on himself? – when Erik takes care of it for her, flattening Janos with a long sheet of metal ripped from the side of the submarine.

We need to make for the middle of the vessel, she tells him as she skirts around the unconscious man.  That’s where the blind spot is.

They enter through the hole Erik has created in the side, and find themselves in some sort of control room.  Several of the panels are sparking ominously, and Charlotte flicks through the remnants of Emma’s memories to find the location of the controls for the nuclear reactor.  It’s simple enough to pull the lever into the ‘off’ position, but Charlotte knows they’re not out of danger yet – Shaw must have already absorbed an enormous amount of power, and it’s not going to simply dissipate now that the reactor has been turned off.

She wants to impress upon Erik the need to be cautious, to not take risks, but Erik’s mind is a snarl of anger/fear/dread/anticipation underscored with a burning need for vengeance, thick and bitter as cigar smoke, and Charlotte knows anything she says now won’t make the slightest impression.  It makes her nervous – not of Erik, never of Erik, but for him.  Frightened at the idea that Erik might not survive this, that he might not even want to.

Erik opens the door at the end of the control room, holding out an arm to keep Charlotte behind him as he scans the room beyond.

Charlotte is expecting to find Shaw in there – they’ve reached the edges of the void, after all – but the room is empty.

He’s not here!  Erik’s thoughts are tinged with bitter frustration and deep, throbbing anger.  He’s left the sub!

He strides to the centre of the room, glancing up to check for some kind of door hidden in the ceiling, before whirling around and running his eyes along the walls.

Charlotte follows him into the room, feeling confused and a little lost.  This is the void – Shaw should be here, he has to be here.  And even if he isn’t, how did he leave without them seeing him?  The doorway they entered through is the room’s only exit.

Then the wall at the opposite end of the room parts, as smoothly and silently as a satin curtain.

Erik sees her eyes widen, feels her surprise through the bond, and turns to face the man standing in a room of mirrors.

“Erik,” Shaw greets, as genially as if they are old acquaintances meeting for cocktails.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

There are no thoughts accompanying his words, and even though Charlotte had expected that, it feels…wrong.  Like a gap in her vision – she knows it should be there and maybe if she just focuses hard enough, she’ll see it.  But there’s nothing; no thoughts, no emotions, not even the faintest whisper of them.  It makes Shaw seem more like a mannequin than a person – she almost wants to prod him just to see if he’s real.

For a moment, Erik is frozen, staring at Shaw like a child watching a snake.  Then Shaw breaks their gaze to look Charlotte up and down and Erik steps in front of her, his fear souring the bond like bile.

“So you’re the telepath,” Shaw muses.  It’s hard to get a good look at him with Erik between them, but Charlotte sees him smile.  “I’m so pleased to finally meet you – I’ve heard so much about you.”

Charlotte stares, caught in the sickening fascination of seeing someone move and speak without feeling anything from their mind.  It’s like seeing a corpse get up and dance.

The metal doors suddenly bend inwards, flying towards Shaw at Erik’s command.  He swats them out of the air like he’s batting away flies, sending them careening into the mirrors behind him which shatter into thousands of glittering shards.

Shaw actually smiles at Erik, looking almost proud, then his eyes land on Charlotte again.  “Just let me put Erik down, and I’ll be right with you.”

Charlotte, run! Erik screams across the bond as his powers lift one of the sofas by its metal frame.

But he never gets the chance to throw it.  Shaw suddenly moves, so quickly that Charlotte wonders if he can somehow translate his absorbed energy to speed, and deals Erik a blow to the side that sends him spinning into the wall.  His pain bursts across their link, and Charlotte automatically takes a step towards him, for a moment forgetting about Shaw’s presence because it’s so easy to forget when half her senses are telling her he doesn’t exist…

She remembers him when a large hand wraps around her throat and drives her back against the wall.  Charlotte coughs reflexively, her hands coming up to tug at Shaw’s arm, instinctively trying to ease the pressure on her neck.

It’s like trying to move a steel girder.  Without Erik’s powers.

But Charlotte doesn’t actually feel any fear – there are no thoughts behind Shaw’s movements, so he doesn’t seem quite real.  It’s why she’s never been fond of movies; without that mental hum, people just don’t seem real to her – it’s like watching a puppet show.  There’s nothing there, so in spite of the hand at her throat it feels surreal, almost dream-like.

No, not even dream-like.  Because even in her dreams, she can feel people’s thoughts, and this is just…blankness.  Erik’s fury and fear are the only things that seem real, the only thing alerting her to her peril.

She was always much more worried about the toll this confrontation would take on Erik rather than herself, but now Charlotte wonders if perhaps she will be the one who doesn’t survive this.

--

AN: Thanks to my wonderful beta, ginbitch, who humours me when I’m being paranoid.


Part Fourteen