Title: Charlotte Francine Xavier
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Genderbend, violence, disturbing images, references to the Holocaust, 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…
“When you push someone too far, they will push back and they push hard.”
The attack comes too fast for Erik to block or evade, and the sudden pain that lances across his right side is enough to make him lose his grip on the sofa. He reaches for the metal in the submarine walls, trying to push himself away and counteract the force of Shaw’s blow, to cushion the impact so he won’t be knocked unconscious immediately.
Erik hits the wall and drops to the floor, but his ribs aren’t broken and his skull is intact. He rolls to his feet, glancing wildly about for Shaw…
And he finds him on the opposite side of the room, pinning Charlotte to the wall. Erik can only just see her face over Shaw’s shoulder, eyes wide and dazed as though she’s been stunned, Shaw’s fingers wrapped around her throat, his thumb pressing beneath her chin to tilt her face up towards him.
Erik has never seen one of his nightmares come to life before. And he is painfully, horrifically aware of that fact that Shaw wouldn’t even have to squeeze to kill her.
Charlotte is pushing at Shaw’s arm, but he doesn’t even seem to notice. He’s staring at her the way he used to stare at Erik, intrigued and delighted, and the only thought in Erik’s head is to get Shaw away from her.
He reaches out to the metal girders that hold the submarine together and shoves them at Shaw. They’re carefully aimed away from Charlotte, which is more difficult than he thought it would be – that kind of fine control is beginning to get lost amid the familiar tidal wave of anger and fear.
Shaw doesn’t bother batting them away – they hit him and veer off course, smashing through walls and floor and driving upwards into the ceiling. His expression doesn’t even flicker; there’s no amusement or condescension or even triumph as he puts one hand on a steel support beam and pushes it towards Erik.
Erik tries to throw it backwards, but apparently his own mutant power is no match for the force Shaw is exerting. The bastard isn’t even breaking a sweat as he slowly extends his arm, until Erik feels cold metal touch his fingers.
Every scrap of Erik’s power is focused on pushing that beam back towards Shaw, the pulse at his temples pounding so hard he wonders if he’s about to have a stroke. But it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work, and the beam keeps coming.
Shaw takes a step towards him, and for a moment Erik hopes he’ll let Charlotte go in favour of pressing his point (and the beam) home. But of course, he should have known better – Shaw never relinquishes any advantage. He simply drags Charlotte along with him, his grip forcing her onto her tiptoes to keep from strangling herself. He can see her hand tighten on Shaw’s arm, but it seems less a ploy to make him release her and more a desperate attempt to keep her balance.
Humiliatingly, it’s only seconds before Erik is pinned against the wall with the beam he pulled from the ceiling himself.
The metal is shuddering with the force Erik is exerting on it, but it’s not moving. He tries reaching for more anger, or for that place ‘between rage and serenity’, but all he’s feeling is sick despair and a sense of inevitability. Shaw had always been stronger than him – why did he think this time could be different?
It’s alright, Erik, Charlotte sends into his mind. The link has been dormant since he laid eyes on Shaw, but now he feels the slightest whisper of wariness/hope/fear/dread. If he wanted to kill us, he would have done it already.
Which is not reassuring in the slightest. If Shaw doesn’t want to kill them, it only means he has a use for them, which is far more horrifying.
“You’ve come a long way from bending gates,” Shaw says to Erik, his tone genial and conversational.
Charlotte squirms in Shaw’s grip, and Erik recognises the diversionary tactic for what it is – she is trying to draw Shaw’s attention to herself, rather than on him.
He wants to shout at her, but instead settles for sending a blistering rebuke through the bond. There is no acknowledgement, not even an answering thought as Shaw looks at her, one casual glance taking in her flushed face, the strands of hair that have come loose from her ponytail.
He laughs, and drops his hand from the beam, only there’s no chance for Erik to take advantage of that because he leans his shoulder on it instead. It’s just his shoulder, but it might as well be the side of a mountain for the effect Erik’s straining has.
“I must say, your taste has certainly improved,” Shaw says in a low, almost intimate tone, his face far too close to Erik’s. “From an underfed human brat to this magnificent specimen? My compliments.”
As if the insinuation isn’t terrifying enough, Shaw uses his free hand to brush the hair away from Charlotte’s cheeks, to better see her face. But Charlotte doesn’t flinch or cower or even look away – she matches Shaw stare for stare, eyes wide and defiant and impossibly blue…
Erik jerks when Shaw raises his hand again, half-convinced he’s about to hit her, but he only grips her chin and turns her head to the side. Not painfully or even particularly forcefully, simply as though Charlotte is a doll he wants to inspect.
Charlotte doesn’t struggle. Erik’s grateful for it.
Thankfully, Shaw seems to lose interest in her soon enough and turns to Erik again, speaking as if there had never been any break in his attention.
“And you’re just starting to scratch the surface. Think how much further we could go…together.”
Shaw’s tone is soft, probably meant to be enticing, but all Erik can feel is a pervasive sense of disgust and the shrill, ringing terror Shaw’s presence always induces. Shaw leans in as if to whisper in Erik’s ear (a nauseating concept) but he suddenly freezes, his head swinging around to stare at Charlotte again.
“Extraordinary,” Shaw breathes. “Emma could never penetrate the helmet at all, but with you…does close contact enhance your abilities? I can feel something tickling at the back of my mind.”
Charlotte blinks, and the surprise/fear/astonishment that comes to Erik through the bond tells him she hadn’t even been aware she was chipping at Shaw’s mental defences. But then there’s a swift wave of something that feels like pure determination, and Erik knows she’s bearing down on Shaw’s mind, trying to turn him to her will.
The sudden crack of flesh striking flesh echoes like a gunshot and Charlotte’s head spins to the side, a thin line of blood whipping through the air. Erik just manages to stop himself crying out, feeling the shock of her pain jangle through him before she drags the sensation back. He knows that if Shaw weren’t holding her by the neck, the force of the blow would have knocked her to the ground.
“Don’t try that again,” Shaw says, perfectly calm.
Charlotte stares at him, and Erik wonders if she even notices the fat drop of blood welling on her bottom lip.
Erik! The bond thrums with fear/desperation/anxiety like a violin string plucked too hard. The helmet!
Erik might be able to yank the helmet off Shaw’s head, but the metal feels…strange. Almost slippery, as though his powers don’t quite have a good grip on it. He won’t risk reaching for it, only to have it just wobble on Shaw’s head and tip him off to their plans.
So instead, Erik manipulates the metal wiring in the destroyed ceiling above them, directing a coil to snake down, moving slowly and carefully so Shaw won’t see sudden movement in his peripheral vision and turn around.
“Fascinating, isn't it?” Shaw muses, still gazing at Charlotte. “How so much mental power can be contained in a body so small and...” His hand lifts to her face, thumb catching the bead of blood that was beginning to ooze down her chin. “...fragile?”
Shaw is staring at Charlotte’s mouth and the smear of blood with the kind of interest he once looked at Erik with. His finger drags across her lip, painting bright crimson across her skin.
It’s frighteningly close to Erik’s nightmare, and the metal ship groans with his terror.
Charlotte can tell Erik’s hold on the metal wires is slipping. She’s not surprised – the intensity of the anger and fear pouring through the bond is making fine control of his powers almost impossible. She’s trying to calm him down, but her determined waves of peace/focus/calm aren’t making any kind of impression on the rabid terror that has Erik in its grip. And it’s difficult to concentrate properly when she’s almost frightened as he is.
The helmet needs to come off Shaw’s head in the next thirty seconds. The wires aren’t close enough to grab for it, and she suspects that kind of control is going to be beyond Erik very soon.
Shaw’s thumb rubs across her lips, making the gash sting anew from the salts on his skin. Charlotte flinches in an abortive jerk backwards, not from the pain but from the sudden howl of Erik’s fear. She tamps down the bond, like drawing a curtain across a window when the sun is too bright, trying to muffle Erik’s panic enough to clear her mind.
But not before a glass-clear image flies through the bond – her panting and bloody, strapped to a metal table, Shaw tracing her lips with hunger in his eyes. This is Erik’s nightmare made flesh and Charlotte can see his face twist, see his lips form the word ‘please’.
She can’t tell if he’s begging Shaw or god and wonders if even Erik knows. All she can hear is the thought drumming in his mind like a hurricane.
Please don't hurt her.
Shaw’s fingers begin to tighten on her neck, enough to make her gasp and her lungs begin to burn. Slowly, inexorably, her trachea closes beneath the pressure he’s exerting, smooth and relentless, and Charlotte has a brief moment to think this is very similar to what Emma felt when Erik strangled her with that loop of metal.
She can’t read Shaw’s mind, but she knows he doesn’t want to kill her. She’s never been particularly skilled at reading body language – she’s never had to be – but Erik can tell that Shaw is curious about her, and he never destroys anything he’s curious about. At least, not physically.
Charlotte suspects – she doesn’t know, but she suspects – that his purpose in strangling her is to provoke Erik. She might think he’s doing it to subdue her, except he’s certainly proven he doesn’t need her unconscious to do that; with that helmet on, and his mutation, she’s helpless against him. No, he’s trying to push Erik into putting on a display for him. He’s seen Erik’s power, of course, but as a child – he wants to test the limits of Erik's fully-matured ability, and sees tormenting her as the best way to do it.
It might actually work. Erik’s fine control is deserting him, but the scale of his powers is growing. The actual submarine is beginning to buckle around them but she doubts Erik’s even aware of it, not when all his focus is on the beam Shaw is pressing into his chest.
She can’t get enough air, and another flex from Shaw closes her throat entirely, and she has to act now before panic (her own and Erik’s) completely overwhelms her.
She sends one thought through the bond, bright and loud enough to burn through Erik’s terror.
Then Charlotte spits in Shaw’s face.
She was hoping to catch him in the eye, but she’s never tried to spit accurately since she was thirteen and Raven invented that disgusting contest, so the saliva actually hits the cheek of the helmet. But Shaw’s head still snaps back instinctively, his weight shifting off the beam crushing Erik’s ribs as the dome of the helmet smacks into the wires dangling so invitingly behind it.
They curve around it like fingers and yank it off his head, and as soon as Charlotte feels even a spark of Shaw’s mind she latches onto it like a terrier with a rat. She locks down any kind of voluntary movement, leaving him a prisoner in his own body, frozen in the act of reaching backwards for the helmet.
She’s not sure how long she can hold him – his mutation seems to give him some kind of inherent resistance to telepathy, it’s like trying to hold a writhing eel with soap-slick hands – but for now, she has Shaw under control.
Charlotte prods at Shaw’s mind, forcing his fingers to release her throat, and she staggers back, dropping to her knees and gasping for air. The metal beam that had been pinning Erik falls to the floor, and the helmet follows it.
Then Erik is beside her, cupping her chin and brushing her cheeks, tucking her hair out of her face, the bond steaming with worry/relief/protectiveness/Charlotte/ar
I’m fine, she sends back, but she knows Erik doesn’t believe her. She’s still breathing like a bellows, though that comes more from her effort to restrain Shaw than the strangling.
Erik’s fingers are stroking her certain-to-be-bruised neck with the lightest touch she’s ever felt, like the brush of an eyelash or an insect’s wing. Charlotte wants very badly to just close her eyes and lean into Erik’s arms and Erik’s mind, but she can’t let herself relax yet.
There’s not even enough time for her catch her breath
Erik, I can’t hold him for long, she tells him.
Erik raises his eyes to Shaw and his face contorts, rage and hatred and remembered terror lashing down the bond like shrapnel.
He reaches into his pocket, feels the shape of the coin Charlotte knows is there, and stands slowly. Charlotte stays on her knees – she doesn’t think any attempts to stand right now will end well. Shaw is still raging, like a rhinoceros on a short chain, and she can almost feel the links slipping through her fingers.
“Can you shield yourself from him?” he asks, voice flat as he pulls the coin from his pocket, the metal hovering above his hand, deliberately positioned in Shaw’s line of sight.
No, she can’t shield herself, but she’s not going to tell Erik that. He would try to find some way of subduing Shaw that didn’t harm her, which will take time they don’t have to spare. Instead she battens down the bond, reduces it to a cell door with a single viewport, just enough to keep them from developing any inconvenient headaches or nausea.
“I’ll be fine,” she says. It’s not even a lie.
And he moves the coin.
Erik can admit he’d had some idea of pushing the coin through Shaw’s gut and chest, shredding his insides slowly and painfully. But with Charlotte in his mind, Erik doesn’t want to chance that she might feel something of what he’s doing, so he’ll send it through Shaw’s brain instead – there are no pain nerves inside the brain itself, but there are lots of blood vessels. With a little spin on the coin as soon as it’s past the skull, Erik can reduce it to pulp.
Erik, hurry! Charlotte urges.
There are no accompanying emotions, and the bond actually seems…muffled, almost non-existent. But Charlotte probably needs to shield herself entirely to avoid feeling Shaw’s pain.
Erik can feel himself grinning as he sends the coin slowly forward, the kind of grin that twists his lips and makes his cheeks hurt, the one he’s always showed people who are about to die. The coin meets the flesh of Shaw’s forehead and Erik feels a brief shudder of resistance, the coin wanting to rebound like it’s been thrown against concrete. Erik suspects that if he moves too fast, if tries to drive the coin straight through like a bullet it will be thrown back – whatever power that inhabits Shaw’s skin rejecting the intrusion – so he keeps the push slow and steady, feeling the metal to part skin and eventually bone.
Shaw’s expression doesn’t flicker, which is a pity (some part of Erik wanted to see fear on his face, for a change), but Erik hopes he’s feeling every moment of it. Charlotte gasps and chokes, as though in fear, and Erik steps between her and Shaw, so she won’t have to see what’s happening. It’s probably a ridiculous impulse – she’s undoubtedly seen and experienced worse, if she picks up car crashes and rapes on a regular basis – but he doesn’t bother to curb it.
Once the coin disappears from his sight, Erik spins it, rotating like the blades of a blender. Blood begins to cascade from the slit in Shaw’s forehead, running down his nose and mouth – staining his lips the way he’d stained Charlotte’s. It’s only when the blood has soaked half his shirtfront – the way it had soaked Erik’s mother’s frayed dress – that Erik deems it safe to send the coin out through the back of his skull.
Shaw slumps to the floor, and in that moment of blinding relief and triumph, from the corner of his eye Erik sees Charlotte do the same.
Triumph turns to dust and smoke. He whirls around, sure that he’s missed something, been too focused on Shaw to see that her trachea was crushed, that he’d broken ribs when he slammed her against the wall, that the backhand had fractured her skull…
I’m fine. Even her mental voice sounds exhausted – fuzzy and soft and slightly inarticulate, as if it’s taking her several seconds to think of the right words. I’m fine, just…drained.
Careful of any possibly injuries, Erik slips an arm under her shoulders and props her into an upright position.
I’m fine. And there’s a definite tinge of irritation/worry/concern to that one. Erik, I’m not the one who was thrown around the submarine.
The bond is still dim and muffled, and Erik wonders how long that’s going to last.
The others are still fighting, Charlotte points out. Help me up.
It feels strange to think of the world outside the submarine, that a struggle might still be going on now that Shaw is dead.
Now that Shaw is dead. Erik runs the words through his head, over and over, staring at the dead body, and still can’t make himself believe them. He half-expects Shaw to stand up and start swinging, and surreptitiously wraps a few wires around the man’s limbs so Erik will have advance warning if he moves.
He feels numb, almost dazed, as though he’s concussed even though he never hit his head. Shaw is dead, and while he’s certainly satisfied, he can’t deny that he thought he would be…happier, somehow.
He helps Charlotte to her feet and steadies her against him; her legs are as wobbly as a newborn fawn’s. He spots Shaw’s helmet lying on the floor, and raises one of the steel beams above it, ready to crush it into a useless hunk…
Don’t! Charlotte exclaims, a thin dart of denial/refusal/pain/no following it into Erik’s head.
“Why not?” he snaps, more harshly than he means to. But standing near Shaw’s body is making his skin crawl.
We need to understand it.
Charlotte totters over to it – brushing off Erik’s hovering hands – and picks the helmet up, tucking it under one arm.
It was the shield of an unrepentant sadist and psychopath, the only thing that can neutralise her power and make her vulnerable…and Charlotte wants to study it?
Of course she does. Erik doesn’t know why he’s surprised.
The bond is still muted, only the faintest whisper hinting at its existence, so Erik has no idea what Charlotte’s thinking when she reaches out one hand and closes Shaw’s blind, staring eyes. She closes her own eyes for a brief moment, her fingers coming up at rub at her forehead as though she has a headache.
But she’s not massaging her temples, or scrubbing her palm across her face. Two fingers are gently running up and down in the centre of her forehead, like she’s soothing an injury that’s only an inch long…
Exactly the size of the coin Erik dug into Shaw’s skull. Charlotte’s fingers are even tracing the exact location.
Horror blurs Erik’s vision. “Did you feel that?”
Charlotte snatches her hand from her head, and Erik remembers their conversation.
Can you shield yourself from him?
I’ll be fine.
Too late, he realises that wasn’t a ‘yes’
“He’s…not the…first person…I’ve felt die,” Charlotte says slowly, as though it takes effort to remember to speak the words aloud. “And I think…we have bigger…problems…right now.”
Of course, Shaw’s people are still out there – the teleporter, the wind-maker, and…her.
Charlotte is beginning to totter in the direction of the hole Erik tore in the side of the submarine, and it occurs to Erik that maybe a show of force will be much more efficient than throwing themselves into another battle. He reaches out for the wires wrapped around Shaw’s limbs, using the metal to levitate the body. Charlotte grimaces but doesn’t object (though the bond is still utterly silent and Erik is doing his best not let on how unsettling he finds that).
Erik is trying to think of something grand and attention-getting to shout upon their exit, but Charlotte is still looking wobbly and faintly sick, and it’s hard to think past the…Erik doesn’t think he can call it relief, but it’s certainly the absence of the crawling terror that itched at the back of his mind whenever he thought of Shaw, alive and out there.
In the end, he goes with the basics. “Stop!”
And it seems that’s enough of an attention-getter all on its own, though that might be the spectacle of Shaw’s hanging body. As soon as he’s assured that Shaw’s cronies are staring, Erik drops it, and the corpse hits the sand with a wet crunch.
All three of them stare down at Shaw’s body as if they can’t really believe he’s dead. Erik can sympathise.
He tries to keep his face blank and intimidating while thinking very clearly for Charlotte to hurry up and do whatever she does that makes people peaceful and conciliatory (Erik is secure in his ability to terrify people, but if they’re trying to get this to end without any further bloodshed then that’s Charlotte’s area, not his), when he feels a stirring from the huge metal ships, so far away from them.
Those enormous guns are turning towards this beach – towards them.
Slowly, Charlotte’s head turns to stare out at the ocean, and Erik’s not sure if it’s a side-effect of shielding the bond or whatever she went through when Shaw died, but suddenly her mental voice slams across his consciousness with all the subtlety of a train wreck. It’s as if nothing exists but her words, and for a moment he loses all ability to think about anything else – as though she’s lost the telepathic equivalent of volume control.
I THINK WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
Charlotte has never been able to find the words to describe what it feels like to die. Possibly because words have never been created for it – no one dies twice, after all.
Except for her. She died when her father did, and when her mother did, and when that girl hanged herself, and when that boy was beaten to death…
Really, Shaw’s only one more name in a long, long list. But she keeps the bond silent and tightly shielded while she tries to get a handle on Shaw’s memories – a deep connection like the one she was forced to sustain to hold him inevitably results in some spill over.
It’s why she closed his eyes. In those moments, Charlotte had seen what made him…the way he was. She doesn’t want Erik to see that – he deserves to hate cleanly, without the muddying taint of doubt or pity.
Charlotte doesn’t have that luxury, but she’s used to that.
She’s keeping the helmet to study of course, because you have to know your enemy to defeat them, and because, well…
She projects awfully when she’s sick. Every single barrier comes down, which means her thoughts bleed into everyone else’s even as theirs bleed into hers. Charlotte has only been seriously ill once in her life, but that was more than enough for both her and Raven, who was stuck with nursing her by sheer necessity – anyone else would have run as soon as they started feeling Charlotte’s projected nausea and fever.
Charlotte can’t help but think that if something like that were to ever happen again, it might be handy to have something that kept her thoughts to herself.
The display of Shaw’s body does seem to get everyone to stop fighting, if only in sheer shock. Charlotte’s just beginning to feel like she’s clawed back enough control to risk lowering her shields; in general, that is – the bond is staying tightly locked up until she’s sure no memory of Shaw’s is going to slither down the connection to Erik.
Slowly, cautiously, her mind unfurls, glancing and skipping along the tangled thoughts around her, relief and horror and confusion, and she risks a mental peek at the men on the ships…
And suddenly realises that Shaw’s people are the least of their problems.
Charlotte blames her shock and still-shaky bearings when she blasts into the others’ minds like that. Usually it’s easy to just whisper into their thoughts, to insert what she wants them to know without it becoming overwhelming and subsuming all other thought processes, but now she has to consciously rein herself in.
We have a problem, she repeats, trying to ignore the fear and wariness suddenly skittering through the minds around her – not directed at Shaw or the ships but at her, at the sheer force of her mind.
Erik is the only one who doesn’t seem bothered by it – he’s reserving his wariness for whatever has made her so worried.
She’s not surprised he knows what it is.
“The guns,” he says bluntly, staring out over the water. “I can feel them turning. Targeting us.”
Apparently both Russian and American militaries have decided that ‘the mutants’ are too much of a threat to be countenanced. Even if ‘the mutants’ have just prevented nuclear war.
Strangely, Charlotte doesn’t think of the unfairness, of the betrayal, but instead of her first laboratory class in university, all those years ago. Her lab partner had been nervous, unsure of what to do, but when she offered her assistance he’d slapped her gloved hands away and said scathingly that he ‘didn’t need some girl helping him’.
Charlotte had been so shocked that she’d frozen for a full minute, able to feel the resentment ringing from his mind like a gong struck too hard. Even though she’d only been offering help, his reaction had been to punish her for it. It isn’t the last time she experienced that – it isn’t even the first, but perhaps it made such an impression because some part of her had hoped that things might be different in university, that she might be accepted on the merits of her mind rather than her sex.
Charlotte thinks, for one brief moment, that if this had been the first time it happened, she probably would have been utterly useless. The shock of it would have left her reeling for far too long.
But it isn’t the first time. It’s not even the fiftieth, and her shock and stunned hurt have long since faded to nothing more than a quick spark of flint on steel; there and gone
Now, she’s just furious. She can feel them preparing to fire and the only thought in her mind in as clear as glass and as sharp as shattered obsidian.
No you don’t. Not this time.
AN: Thanks to my beta, ginbitch!