The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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LA - in the land of hidden houses
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
I am so in love.

I'm told we are in the Hills, which I can't dispute, as there are a lot of hills, and getting here was a lot of 'up' and 'completely invisible streets' and 'wait, did you create that street?' magic. The house is built on the side of a hill near the middle, and there's a stone path that goes to a little stone walkway ledge and down to another stone path and then down some stone steps to where I am now, a stone lined ledge that now through the trees I can see a surprisingly close swimming pool and what appears to be another house. And apparently another one to the right down to the left. I think.

You know, theoretically, I could be surrounded by an army of houses; the trees and the contours of the hill make it impossible to feel anything but dreamy solitude; I am almost sure I saw a person on the hill next door, but its' difficult to say.

..there is a deer a few feet away and another one a few feet farther. They stop every so often to look at me in curiosity, then wander off to check out more interesting things, by which I mean food.

I have no idea how Koi lives here and gets anything done. I'd have wired ethernet down to this ledge and be here all day, writing and watching the deer and playing spot-the-manmade structure. I mean, I get I'm in LA and I should be touring, but instead, I'm writing this. Technically, it's prequel to the one snippet from yesterday. Sort of.

[warning: deliberate abelist language use, if that worries anyone]

ETA: Added two more sections to complete this scene.



A cold bottle is thrust into her hand; before she can gather herself, Alex is dropping on the step beside her, another half-empty bottle dangling between his knees; it doesn't feel like it's his first. "It's that kind of night," he explains as he reaches back for something and drops it on the step in front of them. Looking at the dutch oven spilling fresh ice onto the pavement and dotted with brown-glass bottles, Emma almost thinks she could come to like him. "Thank God," she breathes; the dark lager is the perfect bitter-sour and goes down in a single swallow; Alex has the next two bottles open and ready.

"SOP," Alex says, tipping their bottles together with a soft ping of glass. "Freak Week at the Xavier School; always a treat, let me tell you."

Emma nods, taking a more moderate drink; she's never been strong enough to block what she didn't want to read, and that didn't mix with alcohol. It makes it harder to pretend she has no idea why she's so shaken. "If this is your idea of recruitment for your pathetic little cause--" she starts, surprised to hear the pulse of anger in her voice; she's even more surprised to realize that it's not entirely on her own behalf.

Alex just nods, taking another drink. "Couple more hours of that, we're all rethinking the entire resolution of that little Caribbean missile crisis." He flashes her a sudden grin, and of all the things that happened today, that's the most surprising of all, especially from him. Opening two more bottles, he hands her one and takes the empty one from her hand; vaguely, she wonders when she finished it. "To thirty days before the next one," he says, clinking the bottles together with somewhat less than perfect coordination.

Emma swallows back an essay. "This happens--he does this every month?"

"Nah. Just during the summer. When school starts, just Christmas and this thing girls do--"

"Cotillion," Emma murmurs absently.

"That. We get the inspectors for the school too, but that's just photo-ops for them to dress up and play nice with all the slum brats. They mostly sit in Charles' office and get drunk, right, Charles?"

Emma almost drops her bottle as Alex tilts his head back, looking at Xavier with a wide grin. Turning, she watches Xavier wheel himself over the finely sanded wood of the porch, years newer than the rest of the house, the style less old money New York; looking around, she thinks it wouldn't look out of place in a suburban home, where children would spill juice and tightrope-walk the bannister when no one was looking. She can already see where the toys and chalk will be piled, jump ropes coiled messily beneath worn trucks that will doubtless be slammed into the support posts at high speed amidst high-pitched screams and warm laughter.

He was really going to try and do this; for the first time, she thinks she just might believe it.

Unsettled, she takes another drink, fixing her eyes on the last of the sunset dying soft-orange in the distance, the fast fall of night, darker than the city could ever be.

"Your palate, Alex," Xavier says, sounding so stiffly British she can almost imagine him holding a cup of tea, radiating disapproval of America's lack of manners as if being born in the the remains of the northern colonies somehow excluded him from the failings of his country.

"Beer bong," Alex says succinctly, giving Charles a smirk; leaning over, he fishes out another bottle, opening it and handing it back, twisting around to smile at Xavier. "Do you even *like** wine? And I know you avoid the brandy pretty much always, so…."

Xavier makes a faintly resigned sound. "Wine hangovers last *forever**," he complains, tossing back half the bottle and leaning back with a relieved sigh. "Everyone's doing their best to pretend they have no intention of breaking curfew; they'll all be more comfortable when they're sure I'm out of the house for a bit."

Alex stands up, frowning at Xavier with a speculative look--no, not at Xavier, at his *chair**. "There's no way I can hang the beer on there. I gotta talk to Hank about--"

"You do realize," Xavier says politely, "that I have no intention of adding shelves for your convenience?"

"I have lots of time to work on that," Alex says cheerfully, reaching down and pulling the remaining bottles free of the ice. Pausing, he tilts his head, studying the chair as he circles around it. "I'm not *married** to shelves. How about--" Alex eyes unfocus abruptly, and to Emma's astonishment, Xavier nearly drops his bottle, covering his mouth before he spits out the mouthful of beer as Alex says coaxingly, "Everyone loves racing stripes."

Emma had watched Xavier lets himself be pushed around the mansion like a child, condescended to by people who didn't bother to hide their satisfaction in imagined superiority to the poor invalid confined to a wheelchair who responded to their smug patronization with an oblivious smile. Watching Alex pile the bottles into Xavier's lap, "Alex!" Xavier says, voice rising, "they're *soaking**", and Alex responding with, "S'okay, you're wearing black pants still, right?," before expertly maneuvering the chair toward the far side of the porch, she's surprised to realize how different the same action can be when the motivation is so very different; they're nothing alike at all.

"Emma, come on," Alex says with a faint slur; when she looks up, they've come to a stop at the far edge of the deck, Alex's elbows braced on the back of the chair and Xavier leaning against the arm with the expression of someone who perhaps started drinking even earlier than Alex. "Sean's gonna get impatient and then he'll be grounded and um, you know his whine is an actual *weapon**, right?"

Emma thinks she'll say no.

"I promise," Xavier says, vowels clipping off just slightly too short as he opens another bottle, and she wonders how much he drank before he came outside. "I will not talk about peace with humankind even *once**. But no mutant supremacy tonight either," he adds darkly, tipping back his head and finishing the bottle. "There's a chance I might actually agree."

Emma can't help herself then. Getting to her feet, three--four?--lagers in quick succession hit just enough to form a careful image of Xavier on a wheeled throne with the entirety of New York society cowering at his feet and projects it at them both.

Xavier blinks at her, mouth curving in a smile as brilliant as a new morning--no, *Charles**, she thinks, and realizes she's smiling back. He's never shown her this side of himself, there's nothing smooth and flawless and coolly controlled about this man, nothing perfect, unreachable, untouchable; it's two different people in the same skin (and only with mutants can you wonder if that is literal).

Alex laughs like its' a brand new mutation as Charles says, slow and careful, "Are those *racing stripes**?"

*****

Her head clears a little after the first half-mile, listening to Alex and Charles talking about nothing and everything; she thinks of Xavier behind that massive wooden desk and watches Charles waving one hand to emphasize a point she's sure no one remembers, including him.

"What I don't get," Alex is saying, half-slumped over the chair and far enough from the mansion Emma can't even see its outline anymore; at this point, Charles is more or less simply dragging him along behind him when he realizes they've stopped and not starting again soon, "is how much they *eat**. I mean, they make Hank look like a light eater. Do rich people like, need more food?"

Ah, the donors.

"Alex," Charles says, very carefully, "why on earth do you watch them eat?"

"The duck pies. Less they eat, more for me." Emma gets a shoulder against Alex and pushes him away from the chair; Charles gives the ground a faintly surprised look, as if movement is a new and fascinating mutation meriting further study.

"Did you even get enough to cover the hors d'oeurves?" Alex says as he jogs to catch up and attempt to subtly push her out of the way. "Hey, what the hell--"

"Please, we'll be here all night at the rate you're going," Emma says, hip checking him. Alex's eyes narrow abruptly. *Charles, hold on.**

Charles half-twists on the chair, a newly opened bottle in one hand; taking it, she swallows half and shoves it back in his hand. *Now.**

*****

"I understand," Charles says, head tilted back far enough to look reproachfully at her, "but that was the *last bottle**."

"I told you to hold on," she says, feeling--she's not sure what she's feeling, and she's not sure what to do about it either. As they slowly ascend the ramp, Charles stills, straightening more as the dark recedes before the glare of the mansion's exterior lights. Pausing, she circles the chair feeling strangely awkward as she opens the door; Charles wheels by her, waiting politely as she closes the door and makes a deliberate choice not to lock it; Alex, after all, might still be drunk enough for a percussive solution to a locked door.

Xavier gives her an impersonally friendly smile, and--no. No. "I won't lock him out," she says, circling around until she's directly in his path. "I'll walk you up."

There's a brief, shocking flare, and Emma thinks now she understands what Alex meant when he said she'd never see Xavier get angry; she should have asked about Charles.

"I thank you for the thought," Charles says, with Xavier's practiced smile and flawless courtesy and the faint hint of something beneath it trying to break through. She think of the men and women here today and endless, endless ways that people find to make another person feel like *less**. "But I--"

"How do you stand it," she says suddenly, angry. "This--you could make them beg to give you whatever you want and even make them think they want to, and you *grovel** like you aren't--"

"More evolved?" Charles says, acid and too-quiet. She lets him get a foot before she blocks him again, and no fucking wonder Erik can't even say his name; he could inspire anyone to find new heights of rage. "Emma--"

"Don't you fucking *dare**," she breathes "What you did--what you let them *do to you**, how you let them *treat you**, what do you think that tells every mutant *here**? Preach peace and light and be proud of the fact you get the privilege of begging on your knees to get it?"

Charles stills; even this close, she's not sure he's even breathing. Taunting a telepath is never wise; she's taught that lesson to more people than she can count. She suspects Charles has never taught anyone at all; if he had, it would only need to be once and the world would have long since learned.

"Sixty two thousand dollars," Charles says, tilting his head, blue eyes studying her with clinical interest. "Roughly."

Emma stares at him: what? "Money. You do this for *money**?"

"Well," Charles says, "yes. They pay me very well for the privilege of being exactly what they are. Most people have to deal with it for free." Leaning into the arm of the chair, he adds, very serious, "I'm still very drunk, and you must be, too. You know I can't get down on my knees."

"How have you survived this long?" she hears herself say helplessly. Before he can answer, she circles the chair and starts to push, because while nothing makes any sense, and Charles least of all, this may be the one thing that still does. She knows what it is to wear your skin scraped to raw nerves that never seem to heal; Dr. Xavier's smiles are only easy when you don't remember that Charles has to pay for every one.

She knows.

He'll go to his room, he'll go to his desk, he'll clean away blood that can't be seen from scars that can't be healed and block the hurt that can't be ignored. He's a telepath and so is she, and if they share one thing, it's this; their world contains multitudes where nothing, nothing remains unspoken, and the luxury of ignorance can be a choice only sometimes, but never, ever a right.

"Emma," Charles says, as politely as a man asking for a second cup of tea and , "I can take care of myself. I don't need your pity."

"I know, you don't need anything or anyone and you're going to change the world," she says, shoving the chair two more frustrated feet. "But maybe tonight, just tonight, you could *want** something. Why is this so fucking *hard**?"

"Stop it."

"For God's sake, I'm a *telepath**. I *know what that felt like.** I--" she stops, feeling all the energy run out of her. He's a telepath, and so is she, and that's the unkindest cut of all; with her, unlike anyone else here, there's no way for him to hide and she understands the humiliation of it bone-deep. "It's not pity," she breathes. *Maybe I need this, too.**

For a moment, there's only silence. Then, surprisingly, she feels a tug of her hair; opening her eyes, Charles' face is only inches away, and the faint, bitter smile is so real it makes her ache and makes her smile, because he's not hiding anymore. "Do you play chess?"

She thinks maybe she's seen Xavier for the last time. Reaching down, she touches his face, the faint prickle of stubble nearly invisible in the dim lights and soft beneath her fingers; he lets her. He *lets her**. She thinks she may be the first he has in a long time; maybe years. Maybe two years. "You can teach me."

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/89016.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

  • 1
I hope you keep going with this. Emma's a fabulous character.

Thank you!

I'm curious about her in how she gets from this to the White Queen, if Erik's any indication of Shaw's general treatment of vulnerable mutants (I'm getting twitchy on his methodology in the fifties with a young female mutant if torture and emotional abuse are SOP for dealing with male mutant children, especially if borrowing from one of her canons, she was institutionalized when she manifested).

Plus, drunk telepaths are awesome.

helpful productive comment

yes please

Re: helpful productive comment

Hee! Thank you!

dafklnadfewin

your fic will never not be awesome.

May I say, I adore your Emma, and the dynamic between Emma and Charles? This is superb.

  • 1
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