Still looking for my perfect X-Men First Class vid. Until then. It's been ten months and I'm tired of this lack of productivity.
say your fault
This is or might be a work in progress, or maybe just a snippet.
Charles hasn't spoken in twenty-two days.
"How long?" Erik says, quiet, without even a grate of metal to compliment the two words that lock Hank's eyes to the floor, big hands clenched behind him to control the instinctive flinch. In a race between Hank's enhanced reflexes and anything metal in the room, it's never been other than a draw; Erik will test it tonight if he must, even if he prefers not to. They've lost too many for him to willingly risk even one more if it's not required. "This time."
"Twenty-six hours," Hank answers flatly, the growl beneath the voice only nearly absent. "Raven--" Erik makes a dismissive gesture; two levers tremble, an accident that's rare enough to capture what attention Hank hasn't already offered Erik willingly. "I can't overrule him. You know that."
"You can turn it off," Erik bites out, almost suiting action to words, but-- "Bring him out."
I can hear you quite well. Erik watches as the eggshell-thin eyelids flicker up, blue eyes focusing with an effort as Charles divides his attention; behind him, the readout prints on, barely slowing. Just a few more.
It's never easy meeting those eyes now; whatever looks back is a vastness without name or form. There's no word or meaning to encompass it, only a stretch of eternity, unbound and alien, something that has never wore flesh or shed blood or breathed air. Erik doesn't know how to be afraid anymore of something that has no context; to know that it's held by the strength of Charles' will, that is, that will always be, enough.
A moment passes, then another, then Charles' eyes squeeze shut, a faint sound that's like pain; Erik reaches for Charles, wrapping one hand around the thin, narrow wrist, bones too-prominent, able after all this time to sense the moment Charles is disconnected enough--as disconnected as he can willingly be--to flip the switch himself.
Charles gasps; Erik catches him before he reaches the floor, and not for the first time, wonders how anyone alive can feel this light, as ephemeral as imagination. Charles pants against his shoulder, and Erik catches a series of disjointed images smoothing into a single movie-reel strip of place and feeling--people, haggard and skeletal, bodies piled beneath grey-coated skies in preparation to burn, uniforms and shouting and the almost subliminal memory of Charles' own imposition of silence in a suburban home of bodies both uniformed and not and a frightened child huddled in the closet. They didn't get him. We have to, we have to, we have to--
It's too easy; frighteningly so, if it wasn't so familiar. Erik gives Hank the coordinates that scroll through his mind, fighting down the too-easy potential for subsuming in Charles' memory before he remembers how to be simply Charles, letting go of what he becomes in Cerebro that's not Charles Xavier at all. "Send Raven."
Hank hesitates before nodding, turning away reluctantly at Erik's stare; this is private, when Charles finds his skin again, ill-fitting and too small, when he finds his mind again, tiny and closed and silent, when he finds himself again, in Erik's Charles Xavier, who is still only a man and not the vast space that is all men and all the world entire. "It's time to go."
Charles nods uncertainly; it's more faith the words have meaning than any agreement or understanding of them. It's been too long and Charles has forgotten, again, the uses of language. You're an idiot.
He can almost feel the curve of Charles' smile as Erik eases them to their feet, taking Charles' weight as he rediscovers flesh and bone, weight and height, and most important of all things, gravity.
When Charles seems to have grasped physics once again, Erik tells the broad expanse of Hank's back, "Tell Raven I will hear her report in the morning."
Charles calls it a pre-echo; not quite words but the pre-verbal gathering of thought that the brain translates to verbal expression. Language cannot and perhaps never will capture the fine variations in meaning that are forced into the crude construct of a single spoken word, much less a sentence, but We will hear it, Erik. tells Erik that Charles has returned enough to remember the concept of speech, at least.
Do you think you will understand it? Erik frowns at himself. "Language, Charles."
Charles opens his eyes again and this time, there's nothing there but Charles Xavier, professor of genetics, Brotherhood operative and partner, telepath and mutant, and quite possibly the single most aggravating part of Erik's life.
Charles' smile widens, and for a moment, they are those two men standing outside of CIA headquarters who just met and had known each other for the length of their lives. Charles is saying I could, but I won't, and Erik believes him. Believes in him.
"Words," Erik says, the sliding metal door opening obligingly as Charles tests balance and weight, remembering the shift of muscle and bones that are walking; it's a discovery each time, sometimes protracted and sometimes only seconds, but always a strange delight, at first a tourist discovering the customs of a newly-discovered country before reclaiming his citizenship. "Twenty-two days."
Charles hesitates, searching for context for abstracts before sighing. "I--" He pauses, grinning again at the rough, grating sound of his voice, fascinated by his own accent when his current frame of reference is only Erik's. "They are finding them too quickly. I couldn't--" wait, they have a telepath, they have to, but I can't find them, it's blank space and space isn't a word or a meaning, but a foul twisting something, like jagged, broken metal and shattered rocks and chalkboard-scrapes and bile-taste and the smell of something long rotted and rotting still, I understand Erik says, breaking his own rule when a squeal of strangling metal is added because in Charles' world, there is never too much illustration when translating something sensed in abstract to something concrete in concept. Willing?
It's not quite a hesitation; the trade they make means if Erik has little privacy, Charles spares himself even less. Probably.
They've lost too many to risk willingly, but he's always been adept at giving up what cannot be acquired. "Where?"
"I don't know." The frustration is the reason for twenty-two days, then; it's also a lesson on what leeway to permit himself and what instruction to give to Hank and Raven, what failsafes to include. Charles can see them, of course, because Erik permits himself the luxury of one warning, but only one. "I understand."
It's an uneventful journey from basement to the second floor of the mansion; Charles rediscovering his body means his body rediscovers exhaustion. Erik eases him onto the bed as consciousness fades. "Go to sleep. You're going to feel terrible when you wake up and you will deserve it."
"Of course, Erik," Charles says, sounding almost normal; there's a softness to the fading mental touch. "Tell Raven--" Do not let the child see.
Erik pauses, Charles' shoes now removed. "What did you tell them?"
There's the barest slit of blue now. "'You need not continue to breathe.'"
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