kaydeefalls: winters silhouette on paris street at night (another winter in a summer town)
[personal profile] kaydeefalls
The DC Pride parade route goes right past my theater today. The actors and I will be watching from the ginormous windows on our 2nd-floor green room. It will be fabulous.

Also, inevitable X-Men fic is inevitable. At least it kicked my writer's block? And trust me to find the only gen prompt on a kinkmeme. But hey, I've never written anything for a kinkmeme before. That was kinda fun.

Five Lessons Charles Taught (and One He Learned)
by kaydee falls
fandom: X-Men: First Class
characters: Charles/Erik, Angel, Hank, Darwin, Alex, Raven, Sean
rating: pg-13
disclaimer: not mine, no profit, don't sue.
notes: written for this prompt at [livejournal.com profile] 1stclass_kink

1. Flying

It's a pretty nice car. Sure, Angel's been in nicer -- she and Gabriella got hired by a movie producer this one time, stretch limo with a full bar and wood paneling, the works. More privacy behind tinted windows than a flimsy red curtain, that's for sure, though it was kinda challenging to adapt the swing of her hips to the stop and start of Los Angeles traffic.

She's not working now. That ups her opinion of this car. She knows nothing about makes or models, just the buttery-smooth feel of leather seats under her skin. Nice to not have to sit on some rich asshole's lap instead.

She expected a government car to come with its own professional driver. But one of her new friends got behind the wheel himself, without formality, without a thought. He's the taller one, Erik something, with pale, hard eyes, his face chiseled into harsh angles. Not a very kind man, she thinks, but an honest one. She liked his straightforward gaze when she showed them her talent -- coolly assessing without undressing her with his eyes. Like he was only interested in her, not what she could do for him.

The other man, Charles, opened her door for her like it came naturally to him, instead of being a show to flatter her. His whole attitude is warm and friendly, like a trusted older brother. Angel has an older brother, point of fact, a smooth-talking charmer who found her her first paying customer when she was fifteen. Maybe that's what puts her off Charles. No one's really as good of a person as he pretends to be. She should know.

Angel always prefers the honest men over the nice ones.

Charles twists around to face her from the front seat. "Our flight back to Virginia doesn't leave for another three hours. Is there anywhere you'd like us to stop off before we head to the airport, Miss Salvadore?"

She gives them her address, so she can pack a bag with a few of her own things, and Erik just exchanges a look with Charles and starts driving. He doesn't even ask for the route. He must've been in LA before.

"Airport, huh," she says, to fill up the quiet. "I never been on a plane before."

Charles looks back at her again, smiling gently. "But it's hardly your first time flying."

Angel smirks. "Hardly," she echoes. "Think Virginia might be a bit too far for my wings to manage, though."

She meant it as a joke, but something changes in Charles's eyes. "There are no limits on how far you could fly, Angel," he says intently. "Never let anyone tell you otherwise."

She still doesn't trust him, but maybe, just for a moment, she lets herself believe him.


2. Fleeing

"How long today?" Erik asks.

Hank wonders if he realizes exactly how threatening that simple query sounds, coming from him. Erik never raises his voice, never brandishes a weapon, just looks at you like you are an insect under his steel-toed boot. There are rumors that this guy interrogates ex-Nazis in his spare time. Hank believes them.

The connection between Hank's brain and his mouth shorts out for a few seconds, like it usually does when Erik gets that look. Not in the fun way. Erik raises an eyebrow ever so slightly. This is the first warning you get when he is becoming impatient. There is no second warning.

"It was a really quick session, I swear," Hank says. "I just wanted to fine-tune the calibrations of the echo-locating algorithm in reference to--"

"How long?"

"An hour?" Hank guesses, voice cracking. "Give or take--"

"An hour," Erik repeats flatly. His face gives away no emotion whatsoever. Not good, not good. "I've seen what fifteen minutes in your little machine does to him, and you let him stay in for an entire hour--"

"I insisted." Charles stands in the doorway to the lab. He still looks kinda pale from their earlier session with Cerebro, but his voice is calm and steady as always. "You oughtn't to blame Hank for it, Erik. I can be very persuasive."

Erik's lips twist into something caught between a smirk and a grimace. Hank takes a prudent step back while they figure out whether this is going to be a real fight or not. Maybe they'll forget he's here.

Well, telepath, so probably not. Hank yearns for the nice, clean, safe space of his algorithms and Bunsen burners.

"It was only sheer luck we were able to hone in on the Summers boy. The device is ingenious--" Charles gives Hank a smile. "--but still imprecise. We can do better."

"How much better will it be when you fry your ingenious brain spending hours on end--"

"I trust Hank to know his invention's limitations," Charles says patiently. "As you should trust me to know mine."

Erik shakes his head, snorting. "Limitations? The great Charles Xavier? Heavens forfend." He stalks out, shouldering past Charles in the doorway. Charles allows it without comment.

The lab feels much larger once Erik is gone.

"Um," Hank says eloquently.

Charles sighs, massaging his temple. "I apologize, Hank. He had no right to take his frustrations out on you. At any rate, I only came up here to see if you'd like to join us for dinner. Raven's been asking after you."

Hank fidgets, picking up a clipboard and fumbling with the pen. "I've still got a lot of recalibrating to do--"

"Hank." Charles's voice is firm. "Erik wasn't entirely incorrect, you know. It helps no one if we burn ourselves out in here. That goes for you as well."

"I'm not the one 'frying my brain--'"

Charles looks around the lab pointedly, somehow indicating all of the stacks of paperwork, graphs, instruments, monitors... "Aren't you? Listen, if you continue skipping meals, I shall assume it's because I've given you too large a workload, and then I'll feel obliged to assist you, and then Erik will become very cross with the both of us."

Hank coughs. "Think it's maybe a little too late for that."

"Oh, believe me, you've never seen him truly angry," Charles says wryly. "Do you really care to?"

He makes a very good point.


3. Faking

Darwin doesn't mind the labs -- he likes Hank, anyway, kid's heart is in the right place even if his head's got no space for anything but charts and test tubes -- but he's not too fond of the White Room. That's the very particular laboratory where the men in black suits peek in at you through reinforced plexiglass windows and watch you show off your talent.

Not that he's got anything against showing off, mind. The CIA Suits are just so...judgey.

But he goes along with it, like he goes along with all the other random crap life has flung at him so far. Darwin's always known how to roll with the punches. Besides, apart from the Suits, this is a pretty good gig. Good food, comfy housing, sweet techno-gadgets to play with. And surrounded by his fellow freaks, the first people he's known that he can just be himself with. Animals in the zoo always do get happier when you throw in a few friends of their own species, right?

None of them like the White Room any better than he does. Angel deals the best -- she loves flying under any conditions, and she says she's used to men standing around gawking at her anyway. The others range from awkward discomfort up through to open resentment. As for the "grown-ups" (yeah, like Charles has more than six months or so on Darwin, if that) -- well, Erik flat out refuses to set foot in the place. Whenever the subject comes up, his eyes burn blue fire in kind of a scary way, and then Charles always touches his arm or shoulder and gets this weird sympathetic-strained look on his face, like he's obviously talking Erik down with his mind-speech. It's uncomfortable to watch, like an invasion of privacy somehow. They learn not to mention the White Room when Erik's around.

About a week in with the CIA program, Darwin emerges from a more than usually irritating session in the White Room with his customary Smile For The Big Man still plastered across his face. Hank was working on something else, and the technician supervising in his place always speaks to Darwin as though he's a particularly bright dog with a new trick. So Darwin, still smiling, walks straight out of the labs, down a hallway, around a corner, turns his fist into granite and punches the wall as hard as he can.

That conference room needed a window there, anyway.

"It's all right to be frustrated, you know."

Darwin nearly jumps out of his skin (huh, interesting mental image, he should play around with that in the next training session), but it's just Charles, of course. Sneaky bastard. He's probably been reading Darwin's growing anger for the past half hour and came out here to wait for him.

Charles is watching him with his usual disarming earnestness. "They treat us like Hank's lab rats," Darwin mutters, anger defused somewhat but still prickling hot under his skin. He shifts his hand back to human form, cracks his knuckles. "Like we're things they can cut open and study."

"I know." Charles seems older, for a moment, his blue eyes tired. It's a faint echo of the way he looks at Erik, whenever anyone's dumb enough to talk about the White Room in his earshot. "And it's true that many of them think of use as tools designed for their express use."

"Tools? You mean weapons, right?"

Charles meets Darwin's eyes without flinching. "I'm not terribly fond of their methods myself, but you must remember it's for a good cause, Darwin. Our cause." A small smile plays at the corners of his mouth. "I could change their minds about you, if you'd like. I would prefer not to, but I could."

"I don't think a private chat is gonna--" Darwin cuts himself off, thinks about what Charles just said. "That's not what you meant. You really could change what they're thinking, couldn't you?" He'd never really followed the ramifications of Charles's talents to their logical conclusion. "Shit. Do the Suits know everything you can do?"

Charles smiles. "Have you demonstrated the full extent of your abilities in the White Room?"

Darwin hasn't. None of them have.

And there's no way in hell they ever will.


4. Feeling

Their first night at the mansion, Alex can't sleep. It was tricky enough adjusting to a real bed at the Virginia facility after nearly a year of the rock-hard cot in his prison cell; the opulent four-poster here (they call this a guest bedroom?!) is just plain ridiculous. He tosses and turns in the suffocating sheets while the grandfather clock in the hall chimes once, twice.

The hell with it.

He finds a pair of gray sweats in a dresser drawer and pulls them on, then pads barefoot down the corridor and out onto the grounds. At least he can breathe out here.

It's a starry night, not too many clouds, though the haze around the crescent moon and the scent in the air probably mean rain tomorrow. The grassy lawn feels cool and damp between Alex's toes. He puts some distance between himself and the mansion, wondering how grass feels beneath Hank's weird, flexible, sensitive feet. He wonders if Angel is out flying tonight, somewhere, or if Shaw has hidden her away out of reach of the starlight. He wonders how Darwin felt, in those last moments, burning bright as though he'd swallowed a sun, going supernova through the cracks in his skin.

Alex hugs his arms to his chest, drawing the red heat of his power into a tight sphere around him, and then releases it, screaming his own supernova out into the night.

He's never created an energy burst this large before. Drained, he falls to his knees on the dew-damp lawn, still hugging himself tightly.

Something brushes his mind like a sigh. He doesn't have the energy to look up. After a few moments, he hears Charles sit down on the grass beside him, close enough that Alex can feel the warmth of his body but not actually touching him in any way.

Alex doesn't want his pity, or even his sympathy. Doesn't want to be reminded how late (early?) it is, or how dangerous that raw explosion of power could have been. So it's just as well Charles reads minds, because he knows better than to say anything at all.

He doesn't know how much time passes, but eventually he notices that the damp earth has soaked all the way through his sweatpants, and it's kind of cold. He glances over at Charles. He looks as rumpled as Alex has ever seen him, like he dressed quickly and haphazardly in the dark. Well, he probably did. His trousers must be as uncomfortably damp as Alex's, and his shirt looks a couple of sizes too big. Weird.

Charles just watches him patiently. And to his surprise, Alex realizes he's glad the other man is here. Maybe this is Charles telling him that it's okay to just be, but he doesn't have to be alone. He spent enough time in solitary confinement already.

He shifts, knees creaking, and winces. Charles helps him to his feet with a gentle smile, and doesn't say a word.


5. Foreshadowing

It feels good to be home. Or home-ish. Raven hasn't actually lived at the Westchester mansion in years. But she definitely prefers it to the CIA facility, where guards or security cameras followed you everywhere you went. Here a girl can always find a spot of privacy when she needs it -- there are entire wings no one's set foot in for years. And besides, this is the first place someone saw her in her own skin and smiled, and that's something. That's important.

Charles was never put off by her natural color, even if he did spend those first few young years helping her learn how to conceal it. He accepted her right from the start. She tries to remind herself of that sometimes when he's being particularly pig-headed -- which is more and more often these days. Just this morning, for example.

She finds a long-abandoned study and slams the door behind her as loudly as possible. In this wing of the house, no one's around to notice anyway. She slips into Charles's body as she stomps across the room, yanking the window open to air it out a bit. "Oh, that's just brilliant, Hank," she spits out in Charles's voice. "My goodness, just one little shot and my dear darling baby sister can be normal for the first time in her freakish life!"

Raven's skin ripples, shifting into Hank. "No, really, Professor, the pleasure will be all mine! Now I won't have to worry that your lovely sister might lose control and slip back into her hideous natural form at a particularly inopportune moment! Gosh, that would really kill the mood -- assuming I can ever derive the formula that shows me where to put it!"

Back to Charles, opening her/his eyes wide with feigned shock. "You mustn't say such things, Hank! She's only a child -- how could anyone possibly consider her a woman--"

Through the open window, she hears a sudden CRASH, and someone shouting. She instinctively moves toward the potential danger. Ground floor, back of the house -- maybe a seven foot drop from the window to the lawn, no problem. She hops out without a thought, racing off in the direction of the noise.

Alex, Sean, and Hank are gathered around -- well, she thinks it used to be an oak tree. It's kind of in pieces at the moment. Very large, scorched pieces. A few flames lick around the edges of one chunk, and Hank stomps frantically at the sparks where they hit the grass.

"What on earth is going on here?" Raven demands. And it's not until she hears the words coming out of her mouth that she realizes -- she's still playing Charles.


She should put her own form back on -- or, well, the "normal" version she chose that everyone's used to. But something in the way the boys all turn to look at her -- the deference in their eyes -- like she's someone with an opinion that matters--

True impersonation is more than just mimicry. Charles taught her that once, long ago, when she was desperately clinging to the awkward fit of his mother's body over her childish skin as she failed to bluff this strange boy with his intense eyes. But she's let herself forget the lesson, too busy learning to wear her mutation like a disguise, a costume that chafes.

For the first time, Raven realizes -- what it really is, is power.

She deals with the boys and their silly accident easily, problem solved, none of the grown-ups ever need to know. She does it. Just like Charles would. She knows him better than anyone, after all.

Next she thinks she'll try on Erik. Just to see what he feels like.


+1. Falling

Now that they've gotten Sean flying, he never seems to want to stop. Charles can hardly blame him. It's thrilling enough to see him soar across the estate -- what must it be like to fly oneself? True, he could experience the flight through Sean's eyes if he so chose, but he prefers not to deliberately invade his friends' minds without express permission. Accidentally overhearing surface thoughts are one thing; hitchhiking uninvited is another matter entirely.

One must draw lines in the sand somewhere.

Long after the others have tired of the game and returned indoors, Charles and Erik remain, watching. Charles stays because he considers Sean a student, his personal charge, and moreover one who's already proven himself prone to mishap. And perhaps also because Sean is broadcasting his joy so freely that Charles can't help but indulge him.

As for Erik -- well, Charles often wonders what keeps Erik at his side. He supposes he could wrest the answer from Erik's mind, but there's that line in the sand again; and honestly, he doesn't believe Erik knows for sure himself. But he is here, and that's enough for now. (But for how long? someone whispers in a dark corner of Charles's mind; he does his best to brush it off.) Erik observes Sean with a calculating air; every now and then, he fiddles with a silver pen, levitating it slowly. Pondering the possibility of flight himself, perhaps. All he needs is a metal frame and the proper application of control.

Charles realizes he's watching Erik more closely than Sean, and guiltily returns his attention to his student. If he feels a flash of humor from Erik's direction, he ignores it.

Eventually Sean wears himself out, tumbling back to earth with only a slightly worrying THUMP. When Charles and Erik jog across the lawn, they find him flat on his back on the grass, as though having just completed an imaginary snow angel, a blissfully exhausted expression on his face.

"That was so groovy." Sean's voice is hoarse from hours of screaming. "Thanks for the push, man."

Erik smirks. "Anytime."

"All my muscles feel like jelly," Sean confides. He flops his arms, apparently in demonstration. Charles swallows back a laugh.

Together, the two of them manage to pull Sean up to his feet. Walking is a haphazard compromise at best. Perhaps Sean should have been rather less ambitious regarding the duration of his first flight.

(Think Virginia might be a bit too far for my wings to manage, Angel murmurs in his memory -- There are no limits on how far you could fly. How had he failed her?)

"You know what's the difference between falling and flying?" Sean asks, grinning widely. He stumbles over his own feet and Erik catches his arm firmly to keep him upright. Erik shoots Charles a wry look over Sean's head.

Charles manages a smile. "I'd imagine it has somewhat to do with when one lands."

"Nah." Sean flaps his hand dismissively. "I mean, sure, you can try to control that, but everything's gotta end sometime, right? So who cares? Matters more what you do on the way."

Charles may be a telepath, but every now and then, someone can still surprise him. It's marvelous.

"So what's the difference between falling and flying?" Erik can't help but ask.

Sean beams. "There isn't one."

Hours later, when all the others are abed -- their sleeping minds gentle and hazy at the edges of Charles's consciousness, and it's always a relief to be able to let go his mental defenses like this, if only for a little while -- he watches lazily as all the metal trinkets in his bedroom float up into the air. "Showoff," he murmurs.

Erik's hand traces cryptic patterns down Charles's spine, coming to rest warm and heavy on his hip. His breath ghosts along Charles's neck; Charles leans back into him willingly. "Practice," Erik retorts, voice rumbling low against Charles's back. "Someday, I could take you flying."

Charles considers the difference between flying and falling, and thinks, perhaps you already have.


Date: 2011-06-11 11:34 pm (UTC)
helens78: A man in a leather jacket, seated on the ground, looks up hopefully. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helens78
Oooooo, that was great. :D

Date: 2011-06-14 04:11 am (UTC)
jeeps: (xm ♡ [no kwds #2])
From: [personal profile] jeeps
oh, this is wonderful. I love having my new pairing to obsess over, but I've also been hoping to find some really good gen fic and this absolutely fits the bill. I love the way you bracketed the story with flying, and how each vignette ends on a note of poignancy that makes my breath catch. I particularly loved Raven's; so creative, and such an efficient way of hinting at her future and communicating the complexity of her feelings regarding Charles and, well, herself. I honestly wish that had been a scene in the film, but barring that it's definitely headcanon.

plus, as long as I am obsessing over my new pairing: Charles considers the difference between flying and falling, and thinks, perhaps you already have. ALL MY TEARS. gosh. Charles' voice was amazing throughout, and I adored that at the same time I appreciated that it never overwhelmed the voices of the other characters.

Date: 2011-06-18 04:54 pm (UTC)
mrkinch: albatross soaring (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrkinch
Wonderful! I love the kids in this but everyone is so right, and the too-big shirt made me laugh.

Date: 2011-07-08 02:28 am (UTC)
apagon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] apagon
THIS IS AMAZING... pitch perfect characterizations... I particularly liked angel's voice... raven's one man puppet show was gorgeously done and the thoughts on falling and flying, and especially that little scene at the end with the floating trinkets, so beautifully visualized... thank you for the breathtaking read :)

Date: 2011-07-21 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
How are there only 8 comments?

This story is amazing!


kaydeefalls: blank with text: "white. a blank page or canvas. so many possibilities..." (Default)

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