kaydeefalls: charles looking at erik with hearts in his eyes omg (charles/erik)
[personal profile] kaydeefalls
So as you may have guessed, while I did not sign up for Secret Mutant this year, I did pick up a pinch hit. Which I wrote most of in one frantic all-night session and then finished up the next day, and huge thanks to [livejournal.com profile] pocky_slash for the last-minute beta on top of her writing three pinch hits of her own AND, y'know, running the entire exchange.

I didn't try to make a guessing game out of it this year, but this one was mine:

Tabula Rasa (6224 words) by kaydeefalls
Fandom: X-Men (Movies)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Erik Lehnsherr/Charles Xavier
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe, Alternate Universe - Modern Setting, 5 Things, all the aus, Meet-Cute, ...sorta
Summary: Five ways Erik might have first met Charles.

[Seriously, if you have any interest in reading the fic, please do that before reading the rest of my commentary. Because spoilers.]

So I wrote this one for [tumblr.com profile] rozf, who prompted: "I adore AUs so run wild with your favorite." I figured, sure, easy, I can come up with some kind of AU and write it in a week! HAHAHA oops. The only AU I had any ideas for is the Firefly fusion I've already written (and already have a good chunk of a third fic in that series languishing in my WIP folder), which wouldn't work for this challenge for obvious reasons. I spent hours trawling AU prompts on tumblr, trying to find something -- ANYTHING -- that would click in my brain. Mostly I just saw ideas for a whole bunch of meet-cutes, which I often enjoy reading but can't write for shit. I wracked my brain for other fusions I could do (i.e. not Inception or Firefly, for fuck's sake). I pored through a backlog of Roz's tumblr and DW posts to figure out what other fandoms she was into that I could feasibly use for a Charles/Erik fusion. And at some horrible point very late at night a few days before the fic was due, all of the prompts merged in my brain in some kind of horrible Moment of Truth and I realized: I could write ALL OF THE MEET-CUTES and still have them take place in the same AU 'verse.

So I wrote a goddamn Dollhouse fusion. And then deliberately did not label it as such, so that it would look like an ordinary Five Things fic of possible meet-cutes. And then hit up several of my fandom friends in private to crowdsource good scenarios for each meet-cute, so thank you AGAIN to Kait and also to [livejournal.com profile] tricksterquinn to helping me through that difficult time. And then had to figure out how to work in a proper trigger warning without spoiling my own damn fic.

At several points while writing this, I had to stop and step away from my laptop and say I AM A HORRIBLE PERSON aloud. And also double- and triple-checked Roz's letter to reassure myself that she was okay with dubcon and a not-exactly-happy ending for her gift fic. I mean, I made it as non-skeevy as possible within the context of the scenario -- Erik and Charles together worked out the plan for Erik becoming a Doll, so Erik knew what it would entail going in and Charles did his damnedest not to violate Erik's consent on engagements, and they never had sex when Erik's mind was not his own. (In a weird sense, it's almost more dubcon-ish from Charles's POV, since he's being romanced by virtual strangers in Erik's body and can't say no or he'll fuck everything up.) But yeah. As someone who dislikes reading dubcon, writing it -- even a watered down version of it -- was...not my favorite thing ever. But it's inherent to the Dollhouse scenario, so. (And part of why I love Dollhouse is that the show explicitly portrays how completely fucked-up and wrong and violating the relationships between Dolls and clients are.)

There were a few different directions I could have (and almost did) take the fic. At first, it was gonna be Erik as Doll and Charles as his handler; I also considered Charles as Doll and Erik as handler, or Charles as Doll and Erik involved in some other way. But in terms of infiltrating the Dollhouse, it made the most sense for the non-telepath to be on the inside (so as to evade detection) and Charles on the outside. Plus Charles had the money (and mental manipulation) to successfully pose as a client. Also, I played with the idea of varying up POV characters between scenes -- the last one was gonna be Charles POV being shown around the Dollhouse by Emma Frost -- and nearly had a +1 scene at the end flashing back to Charles and Erik coming up with the plot in the first place, to explain everything better. (And to switch around the order of the scenes, having the actual first meeting at the Mutant Rights rally come in later in the fic.) But for the structure of the fic itself, it made the most sense to stay close in Erik's POV and stick to chronological order, and to keep the plot exposition to a bare minimum. The first two scenes look like unconnected meet-cutes; the third is where shit starts getting weird and uncomfortable; the fourth starts as another meet-cute but then flips around to explain what's going on; and then the fifth starts with Erik as himself again but then ends with him back in blank Doll state, meeting Charles for the first time all over again.

My goal was for the fic to work even if you know nothing about Dollhouse; I hope it was at least somewhat successful. Obviously I didn't tag it as a Dollhouse fusion, in order to preserve the slow reveal, but I did drop a lot of hints in the first couple of scenes for people familiar with the show. At the rally, Erik namedrops Clive Ambrose (one of the Rossum bigshots) along with X-Men scientists Worthington and Trask, and Charles mentions Senator Perrin (a recurring character in S2 of Dollhouse); the second scene introduces the trigger phrase, which is meant to echo the Doll/handler call-and-response triggers; the third scene directly mentions Rossum for the first time and gets truly weird when Erik's handler asks him if he wants a treatment, which should clue in any remaining Dollhouse fans. I came up with a lot of backstory that never made it into the fic, as per my usual, and I'm toying with the idea of a proper sequel expanding on everything (likely from Charles POV), but dunno if that will happen. Anyway, if anyone's interested: Emma Frost runs the NYC Dollhouse, and much like Adelle DeWitt, she's more of a stealth antihero than a straight up villain; Stryker is the Topher equivalent, but less inspired and more of an asshole. Angel is one of the other Dolls (and Shaw is a regular client of hers); I'd imagine most of the usual suspects are also Dolls. The naming pattern for this particular House is the mutant names -- Magneto, Mystique, Havok, etc. Moira is Erik's handler, but she's also a CIA mole (like Dominic was an NSA mole on the show), and she'll eventually team up with Charles & co. And so on.

So...that. I am far too fond of fusion AUs, clearly.
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