by Meredith Bronwen Mallory (garnettrees)
(Overall. NC-17/M chapters will be separated and marked.)
Disclaimer: X-Men, all associated characters and imagery are all property of Marvel Comics. I make no money by writing this, and intend no disrespect.
Trigger Warnings: Period-appropriate ableism and homophobia, discussion of interspecies hostility and violence, apocalyptic themes, religious references; issues with physical recovery and rehabilitation.
Additional Warnings: dark!Erik (
Summary: In the wake of the accident that cost him his legs, Professor Charles Xavier is trying to rebuild his life. Teaching at NYU, focusing on his research; he is determined to set aside the strange memories and impressions that seem to stem from that awful night. Odd echoes insist on bleeding into his every day life, making him question his sanity and-- in the case of the mysterious Mr. Lehnsherr-- fear for his heart.
A/N: I know I'm supposed to be working on 'Night Ocean'. -_-;; I was all set to hold off on anything else until after it was finished. However, this little serum-enhanced MUTANT PLOT BUNNY OF DOOM bit me while I was working on the second to last chapter. I know top!Erik is far easier to find than top!Charles, but I started wondering about the shoe being on the other foot. What would happen if Erik honestly felt he had nothing left to lose, and no limits to observe? So I guess this is Night Ocean's somewhat-nefarious-seduction twin. Um, with more plot.
"La volupte unique et supreme de l’amour git dans la certitude de faire le mal."
(The supreme and unique pleasure of love is the certainty that one is doing evil.)
"There are no doors in this stronghold,
Yet thieves break in and steal the gold."
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory (garnettrees)
It isn't until five months after the accident that the trouble really begins for Charles Xavier. That is not to say the accident itself was not devastating; only that what happened after took the mending flesh of his life and mangled it beyond all hope of repair. The accident cost him his legs-- in practice, if not in actual fact-- and left a fine layer of ash over the whole of his world. Though he had suffered a head injury in the collision, it had not had any lasting effects. That was something he was pathetically grateful for in the small dark hours before dawn. Later as he began to be drawn inexorably into the orbit of events and people he did not understand, he feared for his sanity. Sometimes, delightfully imprisoned in Erik's arms, he fears for his soul.
A romantic concept, especially for a scientist, but Erik has that effect on him. Dark and sweet, touching Charles so deeply he feels changed in the very atoms of his being, at once liberated and still Magneto's willing captive. If he could somehow go back and warn himself (and if all these astonishing events have been possible, why not that as well?) he's not sure he could bring himself to do it. That's where the fear of damnation comes in, that childhood peril of the soul and endless rosary beads. His Nanny read to him freely from the Bible, embellishing with bits of Catholic lore. The devil, said she, was the angel G-d loved best, the most beautiful of them all. Confusing, conflicting-- Lucifer, bringer of brilliant light, ruler of abandoned dark. Like any little boy, the thrill of the forbidden held a certain fasciation. What would such beauty look like? Years later, his first thought upon seeing Erik-- after the shock of recognition-- had been, 'Oh, Lord. That beautiful, I see.'
And of course, like every cautionary tale told in any human tongue, such knowledge can not be taken back.
Charles is a scientist, first and foremost. Everyone had childhood kingdoms, upside-down labyrinths of story and rumor. He'd long ago made a conscious decision to turn away from much of what he'd been bred to. The last thing Sharon Xavier wanted was for her son, her darling trophy of dimples and good impressions, was for him to waste his life as an academic. On that October night in Oxford, he'd been a professor of fully four months, not a student to his name, still fielding offers from various universities and blithely ignoring the family censure.
Transformative, is a good word. Not in the sense of blue scales shifting to human flesh, or red molecules teleporting elsewhere. It's far more mundane, and at the same time more hideous. The accident was like a volcanic eruption, veiling light and choking any life that remained. It's a good thing he wasn't a religious man, or one prone to fancy-- he might have felt the relentless wheels of the universe beginning to grind towards him, pulling him along a predetermined path. As though someone had set the clockwork of stars and photosynthesis and human life in motion long ago, and mercilessly walked away. He wonders if this sense of the inevitable is an honest one, or merely something to ease his guilt.
A little bit of both, in all likelihood.
He'd struggled gamely onward in the wake of his injury, if for no other reason than to throw off the sticky-fine layers of pity cast by family, colleagues, so-called friends. It really was as simple as not letting them be right. Beneath Charles' scholarly whit and charming disposition-- then, as now-- is something far more dense. Glaciers that move, silent and barely perceptible, at the poles of the Earth.
('You're just as stubborn as I am, mein schatz.' It's a beloved voice, and a half-dreaded one. It whispers to him often, during those long weeks in the hospital, gorgeous accent clinging to vowels. Charles has never heard it before; it sings to him with familiarity wending between bones.
'Who could stand against me, if not you? Hold on, Charles. Oh, my friend, if you will not stay for me, stay and buy your precious insects a little more time. You're the only one who can.')
Charles held on. Through the horrific purgatory of pain, and relearning what remained of his body. Through the the haze of medication, the anger and despair that had to remain unexpressed. (It made other people uncomfortable-- after all, he was 'lucky to be alive'.) He would lay there, minutes dripping by while he waited for the eight o'clock pill, and think, 'I cannot go on. I cannot go on.'
Then, distant and wry, 'I must.'
'They' were always telling him how lucky he was. Lucky he didn't remember much of the accident outside that Oxford pub; that he'd been in the passenger seat. After all, Amy-- she of blond hair and lovely heterochromia-- had died instantly. No one seemed to understand how parched and desperate it felt, to be constantly wishing back a handful of minutes. If only they'd stayed for one more song, if only he hadn't been out on the pull, or had perhaps chosen the more common mutation of red hair. Even now, Charles knows he will never get that time back. More than stolen, it's been wiped away, blasted into nothing.
(best not to think about that, my dear)
He'd known it then, too, though he'd certainly had plenty of other minutes and hours and years on his hands. Hours staring at the sickly, faintly green hospital tile; minutes in which he swallowed down retorts against Cain's snide digs, his mother's socially-acceptable concern. Years, during which he would be trapped in his wheelchair, picking at the tangled maze of perceptions and things lost in that moment of impact.
No, he doesn't remember the accident. When asked, he'd said he'd thought he'd heard a gunshot, not the squeal of tire and metal. The other car had been at fault-- Amy's baby-blue Hillman Minx had been parked, and in no way made to withstand the impact of the truck that swerved onto the pavement. The road-hullage man had died, too-- he'd been on the return trip, which meant that his trolly did some property damage, but didn't take the lives it could have. Just Amy and the driver, who'd ended up having a rather unsavory past. Something about war-crimes, though Charles may be getting his wires crossed, there. He was told a great many things by the doctors and police, and many of those facts had to be repeated several times. He'd been too embarrassed to ask later, when it might really stick. They'd said he was wedged in the wreckage for quite some time, pulled free only moments before the engine caught fire. What Charles remembered was a picture-blue sky above him (though it was night) and losing his footing in untrustworthy sand. Sunlight, too, glancing off chrome; please, please take it off, it feels like you're already gone.
He'd known better than to breathe a word of such impressions, or even write them down. 'They' were obvious as they watched him, thinking themselves artful and surreptitious, waiting for him to break.
Alright, okay, whatever. Head injuries and random neurons firing, anesthesia for surgery and opiate dreams. Charles had known all about that, and he still firmly believe he could have put the phantom images behind him, if not for what happened later.
He tells himself this in the darkest watches of their now-eternal night. When he wakes, clutched close to Erik's solid chest, listening to the storm-rumble of all-too-fallible heart. His own bracelets, piercings and collar hum to that same rhythm, the great Magneto caressing his power against the young professor, assuring himself that his prize is still safe. Breathing utterly even, Charles thinks about destiny and clockwork, truth and conceit and constructions needed to remain sane. Eventually, the warmth of his beloved lulls him back to sleep.
He could have put it behind him. It would have been okay.
The accident is in October, 1962. Aside from losing almost a week to the blinding white of pain and medication, he apparently missed the whole world tripping gayly along the precipice of nuclear war. Hardly surprising, and hardly something to regret. The world goes on, bigger talk and bigger sticks. Charles-- sometimes grudgingly, exhausted-- goes on, too.
By March he's accepted a position at NYU and is firmly back in the states. The Academic Board, at least, recognizes that he is still a freshly-minted genetics professor. Mother frets fetchingly, of course (mostly because she thinks she's expected to), and Cain regards the whole thing as a failure from the outset. Charles endures the quagmire of pity/distaste/shame for as long as he can, but he knows if he doesn't get out of that high street row house soon, he'll choke. At least his stepfather is no longer alive. Mother and Cain can guilt, manipulate and cajole, but in the end there's nothing they can really do to stop him. He works very hard to stay cheerful, to stifle the wild bouts of rage and despair and handle his situation 'gracefully'-- whatever the hell _that_ means. His anger upsets the young professor, too; it's uncharacteristic, and it feels too big for his body. When he tells himself to calm his mind, it sounds mocking in his own ears. Empty and off-key.
('Is it naiveté?" He can picture that smirk, even if his conscious mind does not have a face to go with it. "Or simple arrogance?"
'Combative friend', Charles thinks, poised on the edge of pill-blunted pain and artificial sleep. 'Treasured enemy. I don't know, I don't know anymore.')
He spends a healthy sum of money on appropriately out-fitting a penthouse in the Beresford building, and a small fortune on the house in Westchester. He's in a unique position-- financially-- to take care of himself, especially considering the trust his father left. For the first time in his life, Charles finds himself using that money as a shield. Aside from the academic community, the only people he interacts with are his newly hired staff, and he doesn't pay them for their pity. Anyone who radiates such an aura is properly compensated, but immediately leaves his employ.
'You're getting paranoid, old bean,' he tells himself, fighting for perspective. He's always been good at reading people. Guessing drink orders, favorite colors, birthdays-- parlor tricks, all. Even he is not so far gone as to believe he can read people's minds. Imagined or not, he cannot stand that over-ripe sense of condescension, how it clings in nose and throat. The 'oh, it's a such a shame' and 'pity, he'd be handsome if'.
Charles focuses on research; on teaching classes, and finding new ways to be more self-sufficient. It's crass and counterintuitive, but he sometimes wishes he his legs were gone altogether. He hates dragging their dead weight, like some kind of grotesque nereid, beached and drowning in the air.
('Verdammt, Charles!' In dreams, he knows this man's face, and his name. 'I have no right to speak, but I can't stand to see you like this! Oh, Neshama you are so much _more_, you must know that.")
Sometimes, Charles wakes with words already on his lips. 'Easy for you to say' or 'goddamn you', and once-- horribly-- 'oh no, my friend, we do not'. He makes himself set the dreams aside. It's just subconscious twaddle, extraneous information being cycled out of his brain. There are still things left that bear consideration-- lesson plans, university chess club, the laboratory he's designing for Graymalkin Lane.
Idle hands; idle hands and the devil, you know.
('Tell the truth and shame the devil,' is another saying, and perhaps more apt. Well, the dreams aren't _all_ bad. Sometimes he is held and kissed; sometimes he is still whole, wrestling playfully, running or jogging and thinking nothing of it. He is touched, watched by grey-green eyes whose pupils widen as he wraps his own legs around sturdy hips. His limbs are pinned-- gently, but with intent-- as he is pleasured and cosseted and loved.
'So beautiful … Meine schone junge,' That voice again, sweet and fine as the most damning sin.
He'll hear himself say, 'Please, Erik, please.')
When he wakes, he's hard (still possible, if a bit tricky), and the name is gone from him. Infamous Oxford skirt-chaser or no, Charles _has_ had one or two (clearly illicit, clearly _illegal_) experiences with men. This is more than furtive arousal summoned by strong shoulders or a chiseled jaw, though he gathers that _is_ part of it, from what little remains when he wakes. It is a feeling, like the most elegant of metals
(why is that important?)
carrying a charge of possessive devotion. A love that devours, and is so strong it will make that devouring a bliss. He wakes _wanting_, grasping back, open and longing to be taken.
It's frightening, and it makes the rest of his well-ordered little life feel very wrong.
March, then; New York City under a sheet of chill and constant rain. The Beresford is design which high windows to compliment its astonishing views; Charles' penthouse is no exception. Theodore Roosevelt Park sprawls before him, a relieved splash of green in the gray metropolis, cars and buses and people rushing alone 81st and 82nd. The typically jagged skyline is shrouded in mist-- he's banging away at a closer analysis of early hominids, typewriter trundling along like a train.
The sky is darkening diffusely; night is coming, not just storms. In a little while, his nurse will bring him dinner and, more importantly, a pill. He's down to two a day now (one in the evening, and one if he wakes in the night), though he's sure there's little more tempting than that blank-numb embrace.
(There is _something_ more tempting-- issuing such a challenge is the height of folly. Oh, that almost otherworldly sense of unity when he moves against his lover, his brother-in-more-than-arms, his friend! Whether the older man is moving in him, grip full of avarice and worship, or his own tight channel is welcoming the other's hard length; the pleasure is dreadful, marvelous, so good it _aches_. They are of and for each other, light in the darkness and shadow cast over light. Charles does not know this feeling yet, save as the most vague phantom-- and he cannot imagine it.
So many men have been conquered by things they couldn't imagine.)
"You control the pain," he tells himself curiously echoing and detached in his own mind. The remaining nerves in his lower torso throb in response, a snide Greek chorus. His fingers hover above the typewriter, intended motion scattering, suddenly still. Quite without warning, Charles is powerfully annoyed with himself-- for being so confident, for thinking things would ever get better, that humans would ever change. That last bit is apropos of nothing, but he doesn't have time to examine it. There's a pain exploding in his chest; agony like bristling anti-matter, swallowing the sun. The mind hides things from itself, out of sheer self-preservation. Thus, he doesn't really remember level of physical torture he experienced during the accident until in it actually happening again. Divorced from his form but held by the immediacy of the hurt as he watches his body shudder and seize. The marrow in his bones seems to vibrate and burn. Humorlessly, he thinks, 'Shake, rattle and roll' and then-- with even far less sense-- 'Ceramic bullet! They planned this all along!'.
He thinks he screams for help. Impossible, they tell him later-- he was busy choking on his own tongue. Rhonda, the private nurse, will swear she _did_ hear him call out, but the whole experience was traumatic and dreadful. The doctors, complacent in their holy medical halls, shrug it away.
Charles will say he remembers nothing; telling the lie guilelessly, with an earnest smile on his face. The falsehood does not shame him, and he doesn't think he'd tell the truth even if there _were_ a possibility of being believed. To share would be to lessen the thing, which is as precious as it is painful. Like the fury of nature, like lightening kissing the sane to glass.
If it _is_ a looking glass, then its broken. All kaleidoscope images and no narrative cohesion.
The dry lick of heat. Somewhere in the desert, sudden and bright.
('we'll be happy to negotiate in a secure location…')
Trepidation, but also real hope.
('At this point, making peace is the only way to ensure either-- both-- our races survive.')
Young faces, people who have served their country as bravely as any soldier, looking to him for guidance.
('Will you at least give me this, Erik? We averted nuclear war once already-- what good is it to inherit a barren rock? Come with me, fight at the table of diplomacy, rather than on the battlefield.'
'Old friend, you are far too trusting.'
A hand, offered across the chessboard. Accepted.
'We have to at least try.')
Everything bitter, everything ash. The look in those steel-jade eyes beneath the helmet-- no need to read his friend's mind. 'For once, I wanted to be wrong.'
('Charles! Charles _GET DOWN_!')
The projectile is unresponsive; it ignores the strong outstretched hand and buries itself in Charles' chest. The hollow-point breaks to jagged pieces once its under the skin.
(A sharpshooter-- and so quiet, too. Who among these cowards and dogs had possessed the intent to betray? No one he'd come in contact with, no one he could read. Those sent as human ambassadors scream and scatter, to be slaughtered in their turn. Collateral damage.)
Familiar arms, anchoring. Please, not again.
For a wonder, the helmet is removed. It seems they both still love just as fiercely, and as foolishly. There was supposed to be more time. Neither had imagined standing divided for long.
('Gott, Charles! No, please no!' That wide palm over his wound, trying to stem and instead feeling the useless spasms. 'Say something!'
--Can… hear me? Hurts… blood… airway no breathe--
There are black spots in his vision.
'I hear you. I hear you, my love.' The remaining red glove is tugged free with his teeth, work-roughed hand cradling his cheek. 'It's going to be al--' But the other can't finish, not and remain sane.
--love you best beloved oh, my poor darling… always… surely you knew?--
'Don't you fucking dare, Charles Xavier!' So calm, the eye of a squall. Hysteria boiling underneath. 'I forbid it!'
--'not…' Black spots multiply, become black webbing. Spreading rot. --not… choice in… the matter. hurts.--
'So help me, Charles, I will kill all of them, take this universe to pieces. You have to stay.'
He should be strong enough to beg for mercy on their behalf. Just a few men, his murderers, holding a species hostage. He should say 'no', and 'no, no, no'.
'…love you, Erik.
All is void and black. The stars are going out.)
Charles Xavier wakes in the hospital, machines a cacophony of screams. He is geneticist, an Englishman, a paraplegic, a professor at NYU. He has no close friends, he is no-one's anything. Nothing hangs in the balance save the quality of his own, mundane human life.
His throat is parched, he's drenched in sweat. Hot tears roll down his cheeks, spill into the cup of water the nurse tries to help him with. He thinks, 'The stars are going out.'
That known, loved yet nameless voice says, 'Don't worry, mikol libi. I will make them _burn_.'
mein schtaz- German. 'My treasure'.
neshama- Hebrew. The reasoning part of the soul.
meine schone junge- German. 'My beautiful boy.'
mikol libi- Hebrew. 'My heart'/'depth of my heart'.
You know what's better than gold? Feedback. Probably not better than naked Fassbender, but you can't have everything. ^_~ (Seriously, I'd be very much obliged if you could take the time to comment. ;-)