the heart is the philosopher's throne
X-Men || R (sex, language, mention of canon child abuse) || Charles/Erik, Raven || 1,760 words
The thing about Charles was that he wanted too badly to fix people.
- For this prompt (poor timing and character flaws) from the 1stclass_kink meme.
- Title from Saul Williams, "Coded Language" and pretend it isn't also the same title as my journal, I just really like this line and it actually seems appropriate here.
- Spoilers for the First Class movie.
The thing about Charles was that he wanted too badly to fix people. Guide them, teach them, make them realize their full potential or whatever, and Raven had lost count of the number of times she wanted to slap him for it. She actually had, two or three times, when his tone went a little too condescendingly I know better than you, a little too arrogant, a little too blindly idealistic. Didn’t help that he’d developed an honest-to-god Big Brother Complex, and going from no family to a family that maybe only had one member but who was a telepathic genius could be rather overwhelming.
(He’d promised never to read her mind, but she had her doubts sometimes.)
Raven knew why he acted like that, though. Or at least knew it as well as anyone could understand Charles’ big convoluted head. Maybe her chosen form was blonde and maybe she only studied waitressing, but she wasn’t stupid, thank you very much, she’d been able to keep up with Charles for this long just fine on her own. So Raven could guess beyond a reasonable doubt that his need to guide and protect and fix had something to do with the empty alcohol bottles in his absent mother’s bedside table, or possibly the few suspiciously long, thin, faint scars on Charles’ lower back, a stepfather’s headstone on the manor grounds. Maybe even the unsmiling boy she saw in the very few black-and-white family portraits she’d managed to find (not Charles – another boy, just around his age, something malicious in the twist of his mouth).
Raven had the feeling that even rich people can be as cruel as the poor people who throw away daughters not on the list of people with acceptable skin colors.
The day that the Brotherhood learned Charles Xavier had been paralyzed from the waist down because of that shot, maybe a month after the beach incident (incident, yes, it was always just an incident and death a goddamn statistic for the history books), Erik very calmly left the others in the Miami hotel. He went down to the docks, essentially abandoned this late at night, and found a warehouse made of steel girders and sheeting. He raised a hand and spent the next few hours twisting the steel into a screeching, sparking mass of useless metal that looked a little like the mushroom of a bullet in his pocket.
The next day, Raven said, “You really don’t know, do you?”
Erik pointedly ignored her. Riptide was driving the SUV that Emma had charmed and tricked out of the car dealer – amazing what a set of breasts and skillfully applied illusions of cash could do – while Emma sat beside him, quietly murmuring directions to the next nearest place to find more mutants. This left Erik and Raven in the backseat, Azazel more content to just bamf in occasionally before teleporting away to do whatever he did on his own.
“People in a lot of pain project pretty loudly,” she continued.
Erik kept his arms crossed, his half-closed eyes on the passing scenery.
“It isn’t very difficult for a telepath to pick up.”
Erik contemplated what his next move should be. He didn’t want to keep randomly crossing the country.
“Especially when the telepath is already inside that person’s mind.”
“If you have something to say, then say it,” he said, quiet and sharp. Normally Raven would’ve drawn back a little, but now her golden eyes narrowed. Good. Her self-confidence was improving.
“Charles would’ve felt it when Shaw died.”
Erik had told her the day after: He froze Shaw, and then I killed him. Apparently he shouldn’t have said even that much.
“If those missiles had hit those boats, he would’ve heard the thoughts of thousands of people dying.”
His fingers curled into the red fabric of his sleeves.
“His mother, she – he felt it when she drank herself to death, he knew his stepfather hated him and why his stepbrother hurt him.”
Erik’s body went so still that for a moment he thought his helmet had stopped working and Charles had reached into him, taken control. Raven’s angry, surprisingly bitter stare was nearly palpable. After a long moment Erik licked his numb lips and said, “And he wants to save these people?”
“Yeah, well, geniuses aren’t always the smart ones,” she half-growled.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because Charles never did. Or would. And if this is how things are going to go, I, uh. It’s not like…” Her eyes flicked to his left forearm. “It’s not like that, I don’t think anything could be and I…I wouldn’t even pretend to understand what that was like. But he’s not as naïve as you think he is, and he cares about you more than I think you know.”
“I imagine you meant that in past tense,” he said wryly, because if she didn’t then things would somehow get more complicated than they already were and he couldn’t – he couldn’t think about what ifs.
“No, I didn’t.”
But then, things were never simple, and often the things you thought you saw were just lies you told yourself.
It’s difficult to hate someone when you can sense not just their thoughts but also their fear, love, pain, loneliness, ecstasy, pride, insecurity, anger, sorrow. When you can know someone more intimately than anyone else possibly can, you either freeze out all shred of empathy and turn hard as diamond or you accept it all.
Or you tear the person down and remake them into something better. Something easier to control. Charles could do it, but he won’t. People fight back when they think they’re being attacked; guidance, diplomacy, those are the things that truly change minds in the long run. Let people believe it was all their own choice.
He won’t be another murderer/rapist/child abuser/Nazi/Kurt/Cain/Shaw.
Sweat-slick skin, stained sheets rucked up around knees and elbows, metal creaking in the background of a mental loop of lustwantneed goddon’tstop please. Erik sprawled boneless on his back, Charles’ weight across his hips with thighs spread, back arched, body tight. Charles had the lean thinness that came with regular morning jogs and a tendency to forget meals when he was in the nearly manic grip of a discovery.
These were the only times that Charles lost the slight distance that always lay behind his sympathetic words, when his sometimes startlingly cold fascination with other mutants became gasps and pleas for more. Harder, he couldn’t help begging in Erik’s mind as his normally strict control slipped, let me feel you, remind me that there’s a real world, god, just you, don’t ever let go. And Erik would leave bruises on Charles’ body as he held him down and thrust up hard, determined to force his way deep into this infuriating, self-righteous, blind, generous, openhearted brilliance of a man.
You’re afraid of your own power, aren’t you, Erik once said.
I am merely aware of the effect I can have on people, Charles replied.
You can’t admit it. Or you won’t.
Charles didn’t respond.
Do you even know the extent of what you can do?
I don’t need to.
You don’t want to. Charles was silent as Erik moved the black knight and said, Check.
It took Charles a while to realize how badly he’d misunderstood Erik. All the evidence right in front of his face (and god, so much of it, there’d been a few times at the manor that Charles had fallen to his knees on plush carpet and woken up some indeterminable time later with his head ringing in screamed, hissed, snarled, whispered Yiddish-Polish-German) and he’d come to the absolutely wrong conclusion. Bad science right there, mate.
The problem with speaking in metaphors is that it complicates the problems already inherent in language. One person says something, another person hears it, but that second person hears it through the filters of their experiences, knowledge, and morals and suddenly what the first person meant is already altered. So when Charles said, “We’re the better men,” he meant that they shouldn’t stoop to the level of ultimately self-destructive hatred and violence. But when Erik heard, “We’re the better men,” it was reaffirmation of the fact that the weak die and the strong triumph, the same as it’d been for millions of years of evolution.
When Charles said, “They’re just following orders,” he meant the men and women who had no idea what was actually going on, who probably thought they were firing on Russian or American enemies, some who were in the military because it was the only place left that would take them. Who would look at a jet pulling a submarine from the sea and think ‘mutant powers’ before ‘brand-new military technology’? But Eric heard the words in the voices of men in the war tribunals who had turned his people’s genocide into Blut und Ehre, who went unpunished because they were just following orders. Both Charles and Erik were right, and both were wrong, but sometimes fate threw missiles at you and didn’t give a person enough time to think. To allow for the grey areas.
(Charles had promised Raven privacy and Erik had been wearing that bloody fucking helmet and it’d been like trying to talk to people with one side of his mouth paralyzed. Although now that he’d lost the complete use of his legs, maybe he should pick a different metaphor.)
Philosophy versus practicality, academia versus real life, the mind versus the heart; it was really all quite droll, when Charles thought about it. Rather Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and maybe just plain ridiculous, but there you have it; which roles you assigned to the doctor and the beast were up to personal preference. Plato had advocated for a utopia ruled by philosopher-kings, and now that Charles realized where his scientific method had gone wrong he could guess what Erik would’ve thought of that idea.
Then again, Charles didn’t need to guess when he had the metaphor written by the blood-streaked silver coin locked safely away in his first-floor bedroom. He would never tell Erik that Shaw’s last thought had been, I’m so proud of you.
Charles kept the coin to remind himself how he’d failed the person that should have been able to trust him the most.
Erik kept the bullet to remind himself how the world had failed the person it should have believed the most.
They were only human, after all.