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X-Men (XMU) fic: A House Divided (1/1)

December 19th, 2016 (12:02 pm)

feeling: frustrated

Title: A House Divided

Disclaimer: I do not own anything.

A/N: For sendintheklowns. I am only marginally better at writing Charles whump than I am Chekov whump. You deserve better, but I hope it’s still the thought that counts :) Unbeta’ed. Fills my panic attack square for hc_bingo.

Summary: When plagued by doubts, Charles has always retreated into his own mind, a powerful fortress that none could breach. Until now.


It’s an hour into the flight when Charles excuses himself to use the bathroom.

This is not entirely easy, of course. His wheelchair is gone, and the plane Moira arranges is hardly made for people with extraordinary needs. Hank finds a rundown alternative that gets him on and off the plane, but the passageways on the plane are much too narrow to navigate without help.

This makes the simple task of going to the bathroom more than somewhat inconvenient. It’s downright embarrassing, and even if Charles does not consider himself prone to pridefulness in excess, he’d like to have some of his dignity spared after serving as the puppet to Apocalypse. There’s no shame in needing help -- Charles believes this, wholeheartedly -- but the entire experience has left him raw and exposed.

He would give nearly anything for a bit of privacy at this point, but he's not an impractical man. He knows, better than anyone, especially now, his limits.

Hank helps him to the bathroom -- easier with him still in beast mode -- and Charles does his best not to notice the curious stares of the other passengers. The fact that this is a private flight might make it easier, for these are his friends, his allies.

But no matter how easily he avoids their curious looks, he can’t escape the bombardment of their thoughts. He lacks his usual self control right now, and he feels too spent to get it back.

Pain, fear, uncertainty, power, hope.

It’s almost too much.

Hank deposits him in the small bathroom and lingers uncomfortably. He's a natural protector, Hank, and these events have been hard on him, too. While Charles appreciates the sentiment, he cannot relish its venue at the moment.

Stuffed into a small bathroom over the Atlantic is hardly the time or place for this sort of thing.

“I can get it from here, thank you,” Charles says, using his upper body strength to maneuver his way over.

“Um,” Hank says. He swallows. “If you--”

“Hank,” Charles says, managing a small smile. He does not begrudge Hank his concerns. “We just conquered an ancient mutant more powerful than we’ve ever seen before. I think I can take care of a bathroom.”

Hank lets out a breath, chuckling in relief. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll be right outside.”

Smiling gratefully, Charles waits until the door is secure before going about his business. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Charles isn’t new to this. Besides, after what he’s been through in the last twenty-four hours, an airplane bathroom for a cripple really isn’t that tall of an order.

When he’s done, Charles pivots enough to wash his hands, scrubbing them clean as he takes a moment to look at himself in the mirror.

He’s surprised.

Not just the cuts and bruises, which are darkening around his cheek and eye. But the smoothness of his skin, glinting the reflection of the lights in the claustrophobic space. He’d known that his hair was gone; the doctor Moira had arranged had remarked that his hair was not just shorn off but entirely obliterated by Apocalypse’s power. The entire follicles had been burned out of his scalp. With a polite laugh, Charles had declined information on wigs.

Charles did not consider himself a vain man; he made no pretenses about his appearance, and he had minimal concerns where his looks were concerned. And though he liked his hair long, it had been nothing more than a fondness in recent years. He’d never assigned any confidence or worth to his hair, and in any other circumstance, going bald would have been nothing to think about at all.

But the exposed skin is more than a vanity. It’s a representation of what he’s lost, of what he’d surrendered to Apocalypse to let his allies win. It would be easy to pretend, standing on this side of victory, that they came through the battle unscathed, but that’s not how it works. Winning and losing are not discrete entities, and they often feel just the same.

Because Charles didn’t just lose his hair. He lost friends; he lost innocents; he lost his school; he lost his carefully constructed control. He lost his sanity, his mental cohesion. He lost the simple sense of confidence that everything would be all right.

He closes his eyes and lets out a staggering breath.

He has no idea, if he’s honest.

He has no idea if everything’s ever going to be okay again.

When plagued by doubts, Charles has always retreated into his own mind, a powerful fortress that none could breach.

Until now.

He can still feel the whispers, feel the presence like a ghost.

You need a bigger house.

Charles swallows hard, bile rising in his throat.

You’re mine now.

His head spins and his balance falters.

End him.

He feels it, slipping away. His pride, his vision for the future, his school, his sanity.

A gift, from the past you left behind.

His breathing catches, and he feels himself laid out on stone, trapped, stuck, vulnerable, weak.

We’re still joined.

The power courses through him with a sickening jolt, and for a second, it’s like Apocalypse isn’t gone at all.

You can never strike God.

Charles whimpers despite himself, feelings himself start to tremble.

All will be revealed, my child.

Destruction, death, power.

His breathing quickens again, but this time Charles can’t control it. From outside, he hears Hank knocking.

“Charles? Charles, are you okay?”

He wants to answer, but his voice doesn’t work. The words escape him as the golden energy surges toward him, inching through his veins and settling into his brain.


He wants to say he’s fine, he’s perfectly okay, but he’s a little too busy having a panic attack to provide much in the way to convince anyone.


His vision darkens; his head goes light.

Just like that, Charles explodes into unconsciousness.


Just like that is so reductive.

As if this hasn’t been coming since they got on the plane.

As if this hasn’t been coming since Erik helped abduct him from his own school.

As if this hasn’t been coming since he first formed the X-Men twenty years ago.

As if this hasn’t been coming since he first heard the voices in his head, so loud and persistent that he nearly lost himself entirely.


He knows what they won’t tell him; he knows that his school is in rubble, and that Alex Summers is in millions of little pieces, so small, so trace that no one will ever identify him.

This is what he gets, he knows, standing in front of the blast.

Alex turns back, face somber. “This is what you get,” he says. “When you wreak havoc.”

This is what you get, Charles knows, his heart stuttering almost to a stop, when you ask for everything someone has, and they give it to you.

He closes his eyes as the light consumes him, and the imprint of Alex’s outline before it disintegrates is the last thing he sees.


Halfway around the world, a girl is hungry on the streets. She steals food, just enough to stay alive. This is what survival is, a pickpocket in a city that does not know how to have compassion.

She steals what she cannot have, and when she’s offered more than she could ever want, it’s no surprise she takes it. No one will blame her for that, except herself. He wonders what it would have been like, if she’d grown up in the United States, if he’d met her when she was younger, more impressionable.

“You can’t stop a storm,” she tells her, her eyes wearied with the weight of the world. “The trick is to rage with it, not against it.”

He reaches out to touch her, to beckon her home, but she slips through his hands like the wind. He moves to follow her, but her force sweeps him farther and farther away.


He can feel the tears as they burn in Scott’s eyes. When he blinks them back -- and he does, he does, he does -- they build up inside of him, feeding the pent up energy that rests behind his eyes. He’ll explode one day, if he’s not careful. He’ll explode and consume everything around him.

Scott will be careful, though.

Scott knows what destruction is, rubble on the ground and no brother left to bury. He knows that it is a city in ruins and the pulse from his eyes that rips through the world. He understands the power of letting go, and he knows the danger of it as well.

This is why Scott will be more careful than all the rest.

“Eyes wide open, Professor,” he says solemnly. He takes off his glasses and Charles just manages to flinch as the red light bursts forth. “Eyes wide open!”


Charles disappears, and when he finds himself again, he has no idea where he is.

Dark, cool, and dank, it feels like a cave or an abandoned building.

“It is a sanctuary,” Kurt explains, his accent heavy. This boy is not enrolled at school, but he is still one of Charles’. They are all one of his. “Any place can be a sanctuary, if you so choose.”

Stepping forward, Charles finds himself in a cavern, wide and vast. Kurt is perched in the corner, fingers folded and eyes closed, as if in meditation.

“True respite is hard to find,” Kurt continues. “So you must make it for yourself, you must.”

Charles looks up, trying to see how far down they are, but there’s no ceiling in sight. Just endless darkness, stretching above him.

“Father, forgive them,” Kurt prays, bowing his head. “For they know not what they do.”

Charles likes to think he’s a man capable of faith.

But he’s just not sure what he believes in anymore.

Kurt’s eyes open, and he cocks his head at Charles. “Are you afraid of the dark, Professor?”

Before he can answer, Kurt is gone, dissipating into a flash of blue and the scant light in the cave disappears.

And Charles yells at the yawning oblivion.


Then, in the blink of an eye, he’s back on solid ground, outside his school again. The day is sunny, puffy white clouds drifting across the sky, and Charles can hear every insect, every wisp of the wind, every blade of glass as it crunches beneath his feet.

The world is in slow motion, dragged almost to a halt, while Charles’ heart pounds anxiously.

“I used to wonder why everyone else moved so slowly,” Peter says, squinting across the grounds. The school is still intact on the horizon, perfectly situated against the cultivated grounds. “It seemed like they were all wasting time, all those agonizing seconds they spent on nothing.”

Peter shrugs, taking a bite of a Twinkie. “But it’s not really about how fast you go,” he says with a sigh. “It’s about the quality of the time you spend. I could do more in one second than most could do in an hour, and what do I have to show for it?”

Charles draws his brows together, contemplating an answer.

Peter turns back around, watching as the school blows up.

“What do any of us have to show for it?”


On the streets of Cairo, Hank is still a beast. He stands, watching as the buildings go to pieces around him. When he tries to stop one, it slips through his hands like sand.

“It’s really kind of ironic,” he muses, running his fingers through a car as it disintigrates next to him. “How much time I spend fixing things that don’t need to be fixed, but when something really falls apart, there’s nothing I can do.”

Charles steps forward, the apology lodged in his throat. He’s done no explicit wrong to Hank, but he can’t deny, he’s taken him for granted. Someone steady and loyal who he will never care about as much as he cares for Raven or Erik or any of his children.

Hank’s bushy brows twitch as his clawed hands flex. “It’s even more ironic,” he says with a sardonic snort. “That I spend my whole life at a school, trying to get kids to embrace their powers, and I hate everything about my own.”

This is not Charles’ doing, of course. He holds no culpability. He can’t fix everyone.

But he’s let this go on for twenty years, and he pretends like he’s doing it out of respect of Hank. But the truth is, Charles may be a powerful psychic, but he’s only one man. Something, someone is going to fall by the wayside.

Hank smiles sadly, turning himself toward the wind.

“Being a hero is the easy part, because I’m not afraid of dying,” he says, closing his eyes and spreading his arms wide. “Living is harder.”

The wind sweeps him up, turning him to dust while Charles’ voice is still lodged in his throat.


Moira stands in an underground bunker. She’s hot and tired, and she doesn’t quite notice that she’s left the door open behind her. It’s her way out, she reasons. In case things end up hostile.

The four chanting would-be devotees don’t pose much of a threat; to be fair, they seem just as surprised as she is when the light spreads throughout the cave and the walls begin to shakes. It’s all falling apart around them, but Moira doesn’t run for cover.

“I didn’t know!” she screams so loud that Charles flinches. “I didn’t know!”

There’s an ex-husband and a child, but that’s not what she’s thinking about when the whole thing caves in. She’s thinking of the ghost of a memory, of a loss she can’t understand even if it defines everything she is.

“I could have done things differently,” she says beneath the roaring noise. She pleads with the forces around her, but nothing she can say or do will ever be strong enough. “If I’d only known.”

The force of the explosion destroy the world around him.

But it’s the force of her words that leave him gutted.


Somewhere, in the wide vast world, a woman walks away. Her fists are clenched tight to her side, and she doesn’t look back.

Psylocke is her name now, but she’s not sure what to do with that.

It’s not that she wanted to take over the world.

It’s that she finally wanted to embrace herself.

Everyone’s looking for acceptance.

Charles has to face the fact that one school, nestled on scenic grounds in upstate New York, might just not be enough.


“You can’t save everyone, Charles,” Raven says, and she’s standing in his kitchen and he’s just a child again. “You try and try to be a hero, but we’re all people. We all get to choose. Not even you can make everyone do the right thing.”

She’s so young, here, and just as beautiful as he remembers. He remembers, even now, that he fell in love with her here, not for how she looked but for the thoughts in her head.

Maybe he doesn’t need to save everyone.

Maybe he just needs to save her.

“You can read my thoughts,” she admits, stepping back from him. “But there are times when I don’t think you know me at all.”

Just like that, she’s gone. She’s the cook, the maid, the gardener. She’s his father, mother, the kids at school. She’s a stranger on the street.

Charles will read a million minds.

But he’s not sure he’ll ever find her again.


In the woods, Erik is still holding the bodies.

“I tried to do the right thing,” he says, voice hoarse. His eyes are dry; the tears are gone, turned to iron in Erik’s heart. “I tried.”

He presses a kiss to the top of his daughter’s head, dipping his forehead to touch his wife’s.

“It didn’t change anything,” he murmurs, closing his eyes while he pulls them closer.

Charles stands among the bodies, and he can smell the blood. Their throats are ripped out, eyes still open in surprise. They’d tried to do the right thing, too.

That’s the problem, of course.

Sometimes the right thing is the wrong thing.

“I envy metal, if I’m honest,” Erik explains. “It’s hard, cold. I’ve had to make myself steel in this life, or it would ruin me.”

Because it’s not two bodies in the woods. It’s all the bodies before that. It’s the friends he’s buried, the family he’s mourned. It’s that flesh and blood are weak and vulnerable.

“I was wrong, though,” Erik says, taking a deep breath. He lifts his head and looks at Charles. “With enough pressure, with enough heat, even metal melts.”

This is what it is, then. This is the broken, jagged truth that cuts down to Erik’s soul. This is what makes him Magneto; this is why Erik is never strong enough.

“The good news,” Erik says, getting to his feet. He crosses over to Charles and looks him in the eye. “Is that metal can be reforged.”

A lump rises in Charles’ throat; tears burn in his eyes.

Erik smiles, a small, ghostly image that spreads over his features with serenity. “What do you think we should make this time,” he asks, stretching out his hand, “old friend?”

Charles reaches back, but Erik’s hand is just out of grasp, just out of reach, and the whole thing is falling through his fingers and then, piece by piece, he is swept away.


Apocalypse still rages. He’s gone, wiped cleaned from this world, but he’s still there.

He’ll always still be there.

“This,” he says, hands splayed over the corners of Charles’ mind, “Was meant to be the center of the universe.”

Charles knows this threat is not real, it’s not really there, but he’s afraid.

Apocalypse holds his hands out, inhaling deeply. “Give your life for theirs.”

This time, it’s not a threat. Not a tempting refuge.

Charles would rage, but the fight is all gone. Charles would argue, but there’s nothing to argue against. People fear lies, but it is the truth that is more dangerous. It is the truth that threatens everything, especially the rawness of hope.

His blue lips smile, and though his flesh is burned away, the look is almost kind. “It’s over, Charles,” he says, and it’s a promise this time that Charles cannot and will not resist. “All is revealed.”

Then, before Charles can even think to move, Apocalypse bursts into flames, burning so bright and furious that Charles has to pull away. The roar of it fills his ears, and the smoke clogs his nose and throat.

He stumbles, back and back and back again.


The sun keeps the earth alive, and when Charles steps back, he falls among the stars, tumbling head over heels until he’s face to face with its molten surface.

He stares a moment, transfixed by the image.

He’s still standing there when it dies.

In the ashes, Jean pulls herself up. The soot clings to her clings, staining her hair and smudging her cheeks. She comes near to him, gazing at him intently.

“That’s the problem with being psychic,” she says. “You can tell what everyone else is thinking, but you’ve got no insight for yourself.”

She tips her head, smiling fondly.

“The greatest powers are the greatest risk,” she admits. “But they’re the ones that keep everyone else alive.”

Something sparks in her eyes, and her skin starts to glimmer. The flames rippling along her skin, burning away the ash until she’s gleaming and new.

“That’s why it’s worth it, Professor,” she says, and she reaches her hand out to cup his face. “That’s why I’m not afraid anymore.”

Her hand touches his skin, and he feels it like a jolt. It spreads through him with an electric intensity, so deep that he’s wrenched backward. He’s burning, too, now; caught on fire. It burns through his clothes and skin, burns him all the way through.

Burns him until all that’s left is his heartbeat, pounding time throughout the universe.


Just like that may be reductive.

That doesn’t mean it’s not true.


Just like that, Charles opens his eyes with a gasp. He’s still in the bathroom in the airplane, plastered against the back wall. His arms are straining to keep him up, his limp legs dangling in the small space, tangled with the toilet. There’s a cold sweat on his forehead, and he can feel it acutely on the smooth skin of his head.

His heart is thumping; his cheeks are wet. His throat is raw; his chest is tight.

He exhales heavily, trying to steady himself.

Shakily, he inhales, using the burst of oxygen to fully clear his vision and regain some semblance of control.

Not only is he still in the bathroom, but it seems like he’s having something of a panic attack.

There is pounding at the door and voice.

Charles closes his eyes and stifles a groan.

He’s had something of a panic attack with everyone listening.

“Step back,” Erik orders on the other side. “For all your needless hesitation--”

There’s flush of voices, and Charles can’t tell which ones are thoughts or words. They’re worried, naturally, about what Erik might do. A man who can control metal, flying in a tin can -- it’s a dangerous proposition. Hank is considering a show of strength. Even Raven is contemplating an intervention. Peter, whose leg is barely set, is wondering how much damage he would do to himself for a split second of heroism. Jane is halfway to committing her mind to the act.

It’s all for naught, though, for as concerned as they all are about Erik’s intentions, they have a more pressing concern.


They’re worried about him.

Hank is nearly beside himself; Raven is practically hovering. Peter is hobbling on one leg to get a better look. Scott takes Jane’s hand, steadying them both, and Kurt shrinks nervously behind them, as though he fears the worst. Storm stays back out of respect, but she’s perched on her toes to get a better look. Even Moira, surrounded as she is by those with more power than she, has pushed her way to the front, desperate to make sure he’s okay.

It’s a hard thing to face everyone else’s pain, no one truly understands that.

It’s a humbling thing to know the truth depth of their love. That’s the greater travesty to misunderstand.

He’s composed himself marginally by the time Erik has the door off. The pins from the hinges have been removed, and the door falls easily away. It’s somewhat anticlimactic, but given what they’ve been through in the last week, that’s probably for the best.

By the sheer force of his presence, no one contends for Erik’s place at the front of the group. They are strong, smart and loyal, but none of them are leaders yet. Some by choice; some by circumstance; some by virtue of how young they are. They may be someday, but Erik already is.

He always has been.

It’s just up to him to know how to use it.

He steps forward, face taut.

“Charles,” he says, giving the bathroom a quick once-over. He’s looking the threats, dangers, intruders. He’s looking for a fight; he’s looking for an enemy. “Are you all right?”

“Oh, fine, you know,” Charles quips, trying to relax himself in the confined, private space. He knows, after all, that sometimes the greatest enemies you face are the ones inside you the whole time. He shrugs, flushing at the rush of incredulity from his friends. “More or less.”

With the exception of Jane, none of them would be able to know for sure he’s lying.

They still know, though.

Erik is the only one willful enough to call him on it.

“I’m fine,” Charles deflects, allowing himself a small chuckle of self-deprecation.

Erik raises his eyebrows.

“It was a small panic attack,” Charles explains, as though it’s not a big deal. And, to be fair, it’s not. Not in the much grander scheme of things. “Trust me when I say I’ve had much worse.”

The truth has always been somewhat open to interpretation as far as Erik is concerned. His skepticism deepens.

“I’m fine,” Charles says, trying to be definitive. He has the faintest impulse to use his power of mind control to convince them, but he’s schooled himself against that sort of thing. Besides, he’s honestly too tired for that sort of thing right now. “At least, I will be.”

This answer is not only the truth, but it is a more palatable version that acknowledges their concerns and relies on his own perseverance. That’s what this is about, after all. Apocalypse thought he was starting the war, but in truth, he was just one foe among many. This is a war Charles has been fighting since the X-Men formed so many years ago. Winning and losing are not as different as people might think. It’s a struggle to cope with both.

The struggle, though, is largely the point.

The struggle means the fight isn’t over yet.

There’s no winner; no loser.

Only hope.

Erik moves a little closer, keeping his gaze steady on Charles. “Are you sure?” he asks. He hesitates, thoughts going to the other people on the plane. His own doubts are clear as he meets Charles’ eyes again. “After all that we’ve lost?”

That’s a question worth asking, especially where Erik is concerned. Charles knows better than anyone just what Erik has endured. He knows the horror of the Nazis. He knows the pain of his family’s death. He knows why he’s made every choice he’s ever made.

Charles knows what they’ve all lost. He knows about Peter growing up without a father; he knows about Scott’s grief over his brother. He knows about Jane struggling to get a grip on her powers, and Storm wondering if there is a path to redemption for someone like her. He knows the Moira regrets the twenty years Charles took from them, and Raven still wrestles with who she really is when all is stripped away.

His own life is rife with loss, though it is gilded with privilege. The loss of the X-Men had hurt him worse than the loss of his legs. His school imploded -- twice -- and he let the woman he loved go when the people he counted on most betrayed him. He understands addiction; he understands what it is when hopelessness consumes you. He knows the most profound death you can witness is that of your own hopes and dreams.

Their pain screams out into the void, but there’s more to it than that. Charles sense more.

He feels healing. He feels friendship. He feels confidence.

He feels family.

Most of all, he feels hope.

You will never win because you are alone, and I am not.

All he’s lost.

Is worth it for all he’s gained.

“Yes, old friend,” Charles says, accepting Erik’s outstretched hand as he hoists him up and out of the bathroom. He’s weak and loose-limbed in Erik’s grasp, but Erik’s hold is steady as the others clear a path. “I think I’m quite sure.”


Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: January 9th, 2017 01:00 am (UTC)
Bloody Charles Xavier

I'm not sure what this says about us, you for writing it or me for being utterly charmed by it, but you've placed a good portion of the action in a bathroom and it totally works. Instant classic. Of course I'll always be a sucker for a scene between Charles and Erik as well. You've outdone yourself.


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