I offer a snippet of two telepaths playing very complicated games in return
(This story will never. Ever. End. Thirty thousand words of The Adventures of Charles and Emma Learning Telepathy Things And Having Ethical Debates and no end in sight. No beginning in sight. My life. Argh. I need inspiration.)
"Just show me," Emma answers irritably, planting her feet on the floor and shutting her eyes. She can feel Charles' hesitation. "In case we need this stated, I know you won't hurt me."
"Well, now I feel better," Charles snaps. "Because that was the entire problem."
"You being an idiot is the problem," Emma answers patiently. "Get on with it."
Ruthlessly, Emma opens her mind to his presence, offering up her senses, the complex sensations of another body for Charles to explore. Professor by title, geneticist by avocation, teacher by occupation, sure, but this is what he really is--an explorer, an eternal student forever captive to the fascination of what mutants are and what they could be, helpless delight in the infinite stretch of possibilities they represent.
In a school he created for the purpose of teaching mutants to understand and celebrate what they are, she doesn't think--no, she knows that no one's ever offered him the opportunity to do just that. She understands the reasons, but that doesn't change the anger that even here, among those who know him best, he's respected, trusted, maybe even loved, but always, always feared. For all his care and restraint, for the pains he takes to reassure, he still has to hide what he already is and the possibility of what he could be; he'll stand there and let them practice their powers on him (Alex in the training room, the memory bright and sharp, warm with delight and pride, of course he could do it, there was never any doubt), but they'll never offer him the same (Even mutants can fear other mutants; how can you, how can anyone think simple humans could do better?) The creation of unassuming Dr. Xavier was too late for some; they all remember Charles.
That's not fair, Charles murmurs, a lifetime of resignation and bleak understanding coloring the thought; he's never questioned anyone's fear of him (Raven, you promised you would never read my mind, unwilling to offer trust without guarantee; Erik on the beach wearing a helmet like a banner written by the one person that knew him best, an indictment for all the crimes that Charles would inevitably commit that everyone could read. They both knew him and doubted him and then they left. Nothing had ever hurt like that. Nothing ever would.)
I don't care. Show me what you can do.
The slow insinuation moves behind her eyes and her ears, slipping over her skin; she can feel him in the muscles of her shoulders, down her arms, tingling in the tips of her fingers as he reaches further, down her body to--oh, her legs. The recoil lasts only a second, and then she feels something settle inside her, and it's Charles, a little dazed by the sense of standing; when they move together, one stumbling step; he shivers at the feel of it, to be able to walk. It's not a memory to be handled with fragile, wistful care; it's something he can do.
"Yeah," she breathes, and it's both of them as they take an awkward step, and then another; he's a visitor still, not quite settled inside her skin, not quite right, not quite there…. Can you--
It's--unpleasant, he says, and projects the process, brief and shatteringly bleak. Words can't frame the concept, but she understands the memories he took from others of being pushed aside, pushed away, seconds that are no time at all and last forever. I don't let them remember how that felt.
She swallows, but-- I trust you. I won't remember anyway.
No. It's unshakable; he won't let her see what he had to remove, but the fact he won't tells her everything. This is enough, Emma. It's more than enough.
It's not, it's not even close.
"You don't owe me anything," Charles says from the bed, easing back. "Emma--"
"There's got to be a way." He's a passive observer inside her, reading her senses without the immediacy of experiencing them. Frowning, she circles the bed, sitting beside him and reaching for his hand; skin to skin removes the need to project outward and simply be. Which-- "Wait, I have an idea."
Before Charles can object, she pushes up on her knees, straddling his lap. Tilting his head back, Charles looks up at her thoughtfully; neither of them are shielding, and she's pleased to feel the hot flare of attraction and nearly subliminal arousal. Relieved, too: it's uncomfortable to want someone this much and not get some kind of feedback. "Well," Charles says, eyes wide and mockingly innocent. "You are a very beautiful woman. What do you expect? If I'd met you before--"
"In your Oxford pubs?" She grins down at him. "What, meeting a woman for the first time to interrogate her is off-putting? Or you think this," she taps his hip, "means we can't have some fun? Where is your imagination?"
One corner of his mouth quirks. "Really, Emma."
"Bet you'd be surprised what we could do." Leaning down, she kisses him, slow and messy and wet, glittering heat running through them both; it's tempting to toss the entire experiment and get them both a lot more naked, now. Try again. I think--I feel like there's something we're missing. Like--
I told you how it works.
Then let's do something new. Opening her mind, she bites his lip and waits until he's touching all her senses; the remove is slight, but it's still there, not quite enough. For her, it's been a passive process, simply letting him in; however, what if she reached for him--
It's almost too much, too sudden; if they'd been able to, they both would have pulled away, but the split second shock melts when she opens her eyes and it's both of them, together, and then it's just them, an electric current running through her body as their thoughts synch into something that's more than the combination of them both, and of course, of course, Charles hadn't known it was possible; he'd never had anyone who would allow him to try, and it's a lesson it takes two telepaths to learn.
"Oh," she breathes--they breathe--and then she's sliding off the bed and she shares Charles' wonder at the difference, not of being in a different body, but being in a different body that is also their own. Slowly, she takes a step, and then another one, she and Charles both, together, using their hands to slide down over the curve of her waist, her hips, across her belly. Like that, yes. Keep going.
It's like touching herself and someone else touching her at the same time; Charles' curiosity at the feel of a body, the strange-familiarity of it belonging to a woman, fascinated by something he'd only explored and understood from outside it and never from within.
In the adjoining bathroom is a full-length mirror (Charles' mother had installed it on a whirlwind visit to remind herself of the existence of a son); Emma watches herself (them) in it, amused at the faint hesitation before reaching for her shirt. All the way, sugar. Like what you see?
I think you know the answer to that.
She wants to laugh at him as she strips her shirt away, shivering at the feel of her hands--their hands--sliding to her breasts, hesitant, curious, surprised at the soft warmth of arousal and the shiver from the touch. Women's bodies weren't so very different from men's except in the mechanics of it. This is what it feels like when we're being touched, feeling his memories of the women he's enjoyed guiding him, her memories on what she likes reinforcing it. There's a faint hesitation again, but No one likes a tease, Charles. Keep going.
Faintly, Alex's mind sends up a flare for attention; she hadn't realized how attuned they were (Alex was always relentless, as ruthless teaching Charles to accept the offer of a mind that he would always be allowed to touch as Charles with his students; Charles' eternal surprise every time he's not rejected, the helpless gratitude that Alex doesn't fear him and the certainty that if Charles isn't careful, he'll lose him, too, the only mind--other than mine, Charles--that didn't taste of fear.)
He's not afraid of you at all. Before they can think better of it, they reach for her shirt, pulling it on and following the request to the kitchen, where Alex is apparently making a go at cooking again. "Alex?"
Alex turns around, looking vaguely surprised. "Hey, did Charles--" Then he stops, head tilted for a second, before he adds, "I'm making dinner tonight. Wanted to know if Charles wanted anything specific."
"Sandwiches." Because they really didn't need to renovate the kitchen again. "Do we have any--"
"Huh." Turning back around, Alex gives them a searching look, then crosses the kitchen, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Charles would never read Alex without invitation, of course, but there's something--
Sliding an arm around their waist, Alex leans down and kisses them, easy and slow, a question whose answer will be respected, projecting uncomplicated attraction and interest. There's no reason to refuse; Alex is an attractive man, and he's not afraid; it's been so long since anyone touched them and opened their mind, too/sex always edged with the knowledge of what they were and the careful restraint of giving away too much, none of those lovely, willing girls knew they were taking a mutant to bed and it wasn't fair to read their minds for any more than what would please them but it was hard to deny an entire sense, like shutting your own eyes and never allowing them to open/Shaw was graphic images of what he wanted her to do and how he liked her to feel and she was there for their pleasure but sometimes didn't feel like he saw her at all/Erik shut her out, like going to bed with no one there, absence, never close enough, purely physical and still alone even when he was inside her/one time, in the mansion, Erik opening his mind and it was the first time he ever touched someone that knew what he was and wanted him and wanted that, This is what you are, I want everything, all of you, Charles, I won't accept anything less, this extraordinary man that Charles wants to build his entire world around, there's never been anyone like him, there's nothing Charles wouldn't do to keep this, no one's ever wanted what he was as much as they wanted him….
"Emma." Alex's sucks a kiss into the side of their throat, then warm lips press against their ear. Bracing against the wall, Emma wraps both legs around his waist and pulls him in; Charles has a moment of shock being on this side of that kind of maneuver, but Alex's hands on their ass distracts him thoroughly. "And Charles."
They pull back, Alex's easy acceptance and trust are always a surprise. "How--"
"I know you," Alex says easily, letting go. Eyes narrowing, he looks them up and down. "The body language is unreal."
Alex grins and wanders back to the refrigerator, not hiding smug satisfaction or the sharp pulse of want, and it's not just Emma's body that's part of the equation. "So sandwich. Turkey or ham?"
Alex gives them the luxury of time to untangle themselves; it's harder than either of them expected, and it's not just the feel of a body that can do what Charles' no longer can, or even mostly that. If Emma's honest (if Charles is honest), it's hardly that at all.
Predictably, Charles is embarrassed, staring at the sandwiches as if they could supply an answer to all the questions she can sense he won't let himself acknowledge, much less ever ask.
"You know," Alex says, sitting at the foot of the bed and tucking into ham and rye, "for a guy who went through coeds like it was a competitive sport--"
"Alex!" Charles does indignation badly. "I was very young."
"Three years ago, yeah, you're totally decrepit."
"How do you even--" Charles' eyes narrow. "Raven."
"What did you think we did after a long day of training?" Alex picks up his third sandwich, eyebrows raised. "You and Erik played chess; we made fun of you. Gotta pass the time somehow."
Emma watches as Charles finally reaches for a sandwich, amused and sympathetic; it's hard to keep up any level of awkwardness around someone who doesn't seem to understand the concept or it's applicability to real life. It takes a very specific kind of personality to keep slamming at Charles' reserve until it breaks beneath the pressure, and Alex is a force of nature with no plans to ever let up.
"So that was new," Alex says, oblivious to tact. "With both of you." Alex glances between them, transparently curious. "It wasn't hard to figure out. Not just you feel different. You move completely different."
"I didn't realize you studied body language that closely," Charles says in transparent relief, finding safety in pure academic exercise. "What was different?"
"Nothing." Alex considers for the length of another bite. "And everything. You don't move the same. You're not now, by the way." He glances at Emma and takes another bite, thoughtful. "And Emma's channeling the BBC like you have no idea every time she talks. How long does that last anyway?"
"I have no idea." Even really determined awkwardness can't surpass sheer delighted academic curiosity; Emma tries to remember how she'd sounded; she hadn't heard any difference. "What--"
Alex rolls his eyes before putting down his sandwich; Emma can feel him open his mind, the memories right at the top, offered up without hesitation to them both. Through Alex's eyes, Emma watches herself--watches them with her body--and tries to spot the differences as more than a vague awareness of something that's not quite her and not quite Charles (is both of them, her and Charles).
Charles, however, is focused on Alex. "Fascinating. I knew your spatial awareness was unusually high, but I didn't realize the extent of the detail you were able to process." Alex gives Charles an exaggeratedly blank look. "No, you wouldn't consciously note this. In training, you always know where everyone is."
"Can remember where we parked, too, unlike some people I know." Picking up his sandwich, Alex finishes it off. "It's not hard if you pay attention."
"And you always anticipate when someone is about to attack," Charles continues thoughtfully. "Almost as fast as I can."
Alex frowns. "Yeah. Not rocket science."
"I wonder…" Picking up his sandwich, Charles ruminates on the phenomenon, calling up the memories of Alex as easily as accessing a file and flipping through the pages. Emma knew about Charles' eidetic memory, but the thread of awareness between them lets her experience how he uses it, how he trained himself to conceptualize and organize a mind that never has the luxury to forget anything; that includes, she realizes, even those memories that aren't his own. She has the same ability, a latent arrival that only manifested itself when she was able to control her telepathy, but it's still unfamiliar territory and exploration is hit and miss when finding one memory triggers all the associations and she has to retreat before she's overwhelmed. "Yes, it's disconcerting," Charles answers absently. "My tutors became quite cross until I learned how to organize it all."
The memory of a schoolroom (east wing, third door, now a bedroom shared by two of the newest arrivals) and a bewildering range of impatient men from the perspective of the desk of a small boy, huge and terrifying at first, then smaller as he grew larger, ending in the last one that never left and the addition of a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl who liked him and for whom Charles applied himself to learn how to control his memory so the man would stay and the girl would be happy. Emma follows the associations instinctively and finds the first time Charles learned to remove a memory; Raven flashing into her blue skinned form and the man's horror, the split second that it took for Charles to exercise a talent he hadn't known he possessed, stripping away shock and horror along with the memory and then the lesson continued without pause. Raven continued reading, oblivious to the way Charles' world had changed.
It makes sense, in context, in the kind of man Charles is; Raven's protection was the catalyst for Charles' testing the potential of what he could do. Left to his own devices, she suspects it would have been merely the curiosity of a mind that loves a mystery, but Raven's presence made everything a life lesson to be tested on the spot, all born on that sunny morning in Westchester when Charles experienced the bone deep terror that she might leave him if he couldn't prevent her being hurt; soon after, older, the sickened realization that those minds that glimpsed her saw a monster and she might be taken away.
He'd never told her what he was doing when he taught her to always hide, never understanding the lesson she was learning wasn't the one he meant to teach. Emma's not sure it matters if he had.
As Charles questions Alex, each answer opening another avenue of thought, Emma pushes a pillow out of the way and appropriates Charles' lap, content to observe the method that Charles utilizes to understand and categorize mutant abilities, watching the bright-sharp flares of a mind that can pull apart each answer and add them to the incomplete whole again. He follows by instinct a pattern that only he can sense until he has a working hypothesis and a set of assumptions to be tested and discarded and revised as required in a field of study without a precedent to follow, where nothing could remain untested and nothing could be carved in stone.
Comfortable? It isn't a protest; she wonders at the start of surprise at the easy, casual touch. She'd touch him all the time if she could get away with it. Ah.
Smart boy, Get on with it. This is interesting.
Charles resumes his questions without noticeable pause, and Emma concentrates on working out his method. This is what makes Charles able to instruct mutants no matter what their power might be, how he can teach them to control what they could do even when it was something entirely new. She can remember their initial interview, the carefully phrased, almost formal questions that he seemed to be repeating by rote like he'd asked them a thousand times before; some of them he had, but some had been this, Charles Xavier taking what was said and what was not and fitting it together like the world's most complex, most impossible puzzle. Before their interview had been completed, he'd known that what she'd already learned to do was far less than the potential she had never known she carried.
I did tell you, Charles answers, amused. It's hard to see yourself as others see you.
And impossible sometimes to see what you really are, she answers sleepily, wondering if he grasps the sheer irony. Keep going. I like to listen.
ETA: The second section was cut off somehow, added back in.
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