The best news of all, however, is the fact that the unemployment hearing officer once again found in my favor. I ended up representing myself (considering the fact no one from Ohio Legal Aid ever even called back to tell me whether or not I qualified-- I'm assuming 'no'. X_X''), which meant I ended up asking some rather direct questions to my former manager. In particular, I asked about her metric for my 'negative attitude', if I had ever been disrespectful, and if she had any specific incidents to illustrate her point. She said she 'felt' I didn't respect her or take her seriously. I asked if she felt perception was a concrete form of evidence, and she said nothing. I was really surprised the hearing office let me get away with that last one-- I was watching the words coming out of my mouth and thinking 'shut up, Meredith!'. Of the 94 pages of evidence I submitted, only 47 were consider admissible, but I think it was best to err on the side of caution.
I am so inexpressibly relieved by this, I can't even begin to find a frame of reference. My old employer has until Nov 2nd to appeal again, and I am fervently praying that they will let this go. I just want to box up my old 'life' and put it on a shelf to collect dust. I don't love my new job as much as I loved fighting fraud and investigating money laundering, but I'm learning a lot of skills that will eventually make me more marketable as a fraud analyst to larger banks, and maybe even government agencies. ^_^</a>
I can't thank you guys enough for the amazing encouragement and support you've given me. You are all such lovely people-- I feel honored to have you on my side.
To celebrate, I have a little sketch I free-handed on my lunch break. My new job is on a stretch of road in what is pretty much a factory and warehouse district, so there aren't a lot of places for me to go. So I usually find some place to tuck myself away for half an hour and read, draw, or work on fic. I definitely know I'm feeling better when I'm doodling again!
So, have some adorable bb!Charles, and a
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"Please don't be mad at me, Mr. Erik," the child Charles says, standing barefoot in the loose soil of one of the mansion's seemingly endless gardens. He's soft-spoken, consolatory, and about thirty years younger than he should be. Someone has dressed him in one of those ridiculous cardigans he so favors in 'normal' life-- it's not as if they'd had spare clothes for toddlers lying about. The garment is already falling off one shoulder, the hem just a few inches from dragging in the flower bed. Despite his best efforts, Charles cannot use his tiny body to shield the evidence of his crime. Namely, his attempt to bury the great Magneto's helmet in the soil that once housed Sharon Xavier's prized azaleas. Looking very caught, the pint-sized version of Xavier attempts to shove several fingers in his mouth. It's a nervous habit; he actually chews the skin off the tips if he gets too anxious, something the X-Men have simultaneously tried to prevent and avoided considering too closely.
"It's a bad old helmet anyway." How does he manage that tone of reasonable discourse, the sole soft spoken voice in a rowdy debate, when he's that small? "It makes it like you're not… there."
The maddening part, Magneto thinks, is that he isn't angry. Frustrated, a little irritated, frankly tired (the adult Charles has an exuberant personality, but this little slip of a thing will not sit still), but ultimately lulled into irrepressible fondness. It's a feeling unique to Xavier-- Erik can't fathom responding this way towards anyone else, and could never have imagined it prior to their meeting in those chill, dark Miami waters. His own Brotherhood is no longer astonished by his occasional lengthy and verbose tirades about the Professor's willful disregard of past history, political theory, Machiavellian psychology (to name a few)-- but Erik can damn the man in one breath and kiss him in the next.
Not now-- or at least, not in the way he's accustomed to. Right now, thanks to Hank's scientific enthusiasm (Magneto feels another lecture coming on-- this one in regards to proper protocols for lab experiments), Charles is approximately three years old.
"Three and a half," a high, sweet voice informs him. It is saved from being imperious by the boy's frankly cherubic face, and the muffled effect from the finger he still has in his mouth. Those astonishing eyes, blue like some artists dream of the ocean, peer up at him. Big, deceptively innocent, but not without their small shadows of fear.
'Ei, Großmutter, was hast du für große Augen!', a faded voice murmurs in the metal-bender's mind, and none is more surprised then the man himself. On the heels of astonishment follows the trepidation-- he won't call it dread-- he experiences at any stirring of his shadowed, seemingly theoretical childhood. It always seems to have happened to someone else, and it gives him a strange sense of doubleness he doesn't like.
He's been holding that azure gaze the whole time, and now the beginnings of tears are welling up. Charles didn't catch and translate the thought the way the adult version could, but he's definitely picked up on the emotions.
This little boy's telepathy comes in fits and bursts; unpredictable, uncontrollable, and something he seems yet to have put into context. Sometimes its as though he can't tell the difference between speech and thought, or as though he's dizzied by too much input. It will be a while, Erik knows from their long chess conversations, before this boy realizes that he is different, and that 'different' does not mean 'crazy'.
Awkwardly, Lehnsherr kneels before the child. He can't help it-- he'd thought Sean was ridiculously young when they recruited him-- but Charles has taken to him anyway. Whole-heartedly, without judgement, and with an alacrity that seems a great consternation to the others. Erik won't lie and say that doesn't give him a small measure of satisfaction. The moment his arms part in even the suggestion of welcome, Charles is in them, throwing those tender little arms about Magneto's neck.
"I'm not angry, liebchen," he says, the already surreal morning sharpened by just how small and breakable this Charles is. Like a little reed; all that ferocious thirst for knowledge and peaceably politic heart wrapped up in a form more vulnerable than ever. "But I do need my helmet, so I must ask you not take it again."
He doesn't need to see his miniature Xavier to know the boy is making a face. Using his own power, he easy pulls his helmet free and shakes of the dirt, making it twist and turn in midair. Peeking out from the little burrow he's made in Erik's embrace, Charles laughs delightedly.
"I suppose," he says a moment later, pronouncing the word with contentious completeness. He's such a polite little thing-- 'Mr. Erik', indeed. "But I like you better without it."
How much of this will Charles remember, once (and damn you, Hank, if you're not slaving over a solution _right_ _now_) he's been restored to his natural form? Lehnsherr can't imagine integrating those memories easily, even with the benefit of telepathy. Will it seem like a dream, or vanish altogether?
Since Erik has never flinched from risk, he says, "I like it better without it, too." With a vague wave of his hand, he sends the offending helmet up the relatively short distance to an open window on the second floor-- the room he has temporarily reclaimed. "But you cannot live in this world without fighting, and you cannot go into battle unprepared."
Before the boy can answer, Erik sweeps him up, holding him easily in the crook of one arm whilst capturing those abused fingers with his other hand. They're wet with saliva, nails bitten to the quick, bleeding a little where the skin has split.
"And you say I have an oral fixation," he jokes hollowly, burying thoughts of violence against those already safely dead far from where this little one might see. "Let's go in and bandage these."
"Very well," his charge agrees, with regal gravitas. Charles lays his head against the join of Erik's neck and shoulder, in the very same place the grown Professor favored. Warm breath puffs against the man's clavicle; he smells the softness of youth, the faintest whiff of Charles, and an abundance of strawberry-scented bubble bath the boy apparently pilfered from Raven's old stash.
He's like the smallest matryoshka doll in a set, Magneto thinks as he heads back towards the house. G-d save him from considerations of sentiment, but if he should think of this boy with fondness after the relief of having the Professor back-- well. That is how Lehnsherr will picture the little imp, too, as nestled inside the wonderfully complex man he knows. He wants the real Charles back more than anything; wants his friend, lover, brother and adversary embodied in one maddeningly mortal tangle.
Perhaps it's atavistic or overly picturesque, but it still pleases him greatly to think that, in some small way, every iteration of Charles is his.
'Ei, Großmutter, was hast du für große Augen!'- "Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"; Rothkäppchen by the Brothers Grimm (1837)
*title from Nina Simone's "Ooh Child"