|All Along the Watchtower
Author: NezumiPi PM
A series of vignettes expanding the story of the First Class movie, mostly focused on the relationship between Charles and Erik. Philosophy, agony, sarcasm, profanity. *The ONLY story on FFN to include the phrase "Quit reading my torso." I checked. *Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Friendship - Xavier, C. & Magneto - Chapters: 25 - Words: 54,530 - Reviews: 334 - Favs: 208 - Follows: 121 - Updated: 07-24-11 - Published: 06-22-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7106954
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
faithunbreakable – I think the source of the chapter titles is already apparent or will be apparent soon, but if not, Google that shit.
Little Draca – I think it is safe to assume his choice of record was not a coincidence. And I forgot about Lilandra's sister. I suppose I was just pointing out that in the comics, Charles is neither as sexless nor as saintly as he was in the movies. Actually, in the comics, he has pretty poor judgment pretty damn often.
The Singing Duck – (1) Raven overheard something Moira said (based on her incomplete information about what happened) and interpreted it to mean that Eric killed several people. It may be that Charles did not feel that correcting her was going to move the conversation forward. That being said, there is obviously missing action between when he enters the building and when he and Charles barge in on Emma Frost and Captain Masturbator. There is a scene in the promos wherein he makes a Russian guard stab himself with his own knife, which could easily be a fatal wound. (2) A few words have distinctly different pronunciations in American English and British English. Lever is pronounced with a short-e sound in the first syllable in American English (which is what Germans in that era would have been most likely to learn), whereas it is pronounced with a long-e sound in the first syllable in British English. They're just bickering over the pronunciation for no good reason.
samseaster – The implication is that, having certainly witnessed and possibly experienced starvation, Erik still on some level perceives food as scarce and grabs it when he can. At least that was how Sean interpreted what he saw.
Thank you all for the wonderful reviews! They keep me excited and keep me writing!
Totally irrelevant: I was rewatching the movie and I decided that my new favorite moment is when Moira, Charles, and Erik interrupt the young mutants' party and Alex is just repeatedly hitting a transformed Darwin with what looks like a chair leg. Even after the grownups show up, he gets another couple of whacks in before giving them his full attention. That cracks me up.
I love my brother. I really do. But sometimes I can't see how somebody can be so smart and so stupid at the same time. He told me that he used to have a lot of trouble telling the difference between his own thoughts and other people's thoughts. He always says it in the past tense. I know it sounds weird, but I think he still has some trouble telling the difference between himself and somebody else. Bodies draw a clear dividing line, but he's always saying that it's really only minds that matter and I guess if you're Charles Xavier, minds don't stay separate like they're supposed to. Sometimes he says we when he means I.
I really believe that my brother is a good man. He wants to help people. He always wants to repair everything, make everything better. But he gets so focused – obsessed really – with these plans of his that he ends up doing really stupid stuff. He thinks he's always got to fix and build.
My brother is a screwdriver and everybody gets screwed.
"C'mon," said Charles. "We're going on an adventure."
Raven looked skeptical. Having recently turned eleven, she felt she was starting to get wise to people's tricks. "Is this some stupid school thing?"
"How come Kurt let you take the car, then?"
"He didn't. This is...sort of a secret mission," Charles winked at her.
"Are you gonna get in trouble?"
"Probably." Charles sounded unconcerned.
"I don't like it when you get in trouble."
His face brightened and he smiled, affectionate. "I know it looks scary, but remember it doesn't really hurt me." He tapped his temple. "Everything that matters is all in here."
For the first time, Raven wondered if perhaps her brother was lying to her, but she shook off the thought and said, "So what's our adventure? Are we finally going to rob a bank?"
"No! Of course-" He frowned, then added, "Stop asking me that."
"Are we going to rob a zoo?"
"No, we're not robbing anything. And why would we rob a zoo?"
"We could get a pet monkey."
"I already have a pet monkey," he said as he tousled her hair. She smiled.
"So where are we going?" asked Raven, once they were on the highway.
"Binghamton, New York. You can find it in the atlas if you like."
"How far is it?"
"About three hours."
"So there-and-back is six hours? You're going to be in big trouble!"
"Don't worry about it," said Charles.
"People don't stop worrying about things just because you tell them to."
"Come on, Raven, focus. Secret mission. We've got work to do."
"Well, what do we gotta go to Binghamton for?"
"We're going to the hospital there."
"Well...Cain is...sick," he explained.
"Is he gonna die?"
"No, it's not that kind of sick."
"Damnit," she pouted.
"Okay, first of all, you shouldn't be disappointed that someone isn't going to die and second of all, don't swear."
"Damn, damn, damn, damn."
Charles rolled his eyes, but he flashed her a smile via the rearview mirror.
Raven smiled back. Then she remembered to focus on the mission. "So we're going to the hospital to get Cain medicine or something? Why can't we get it in the hospital in Westchester?"
"It's...it's complicated. Don't worry about it."
Raven leaned back into the seat and thought People don't stop worrying about things just because you tell them to.
"If I had known this trip was gonna take so long, I would have brought something to do."
"We could play Geography."
"That's school stuff. I'm not doing school stuff on a Saturday."
"Ok, how about this. I have a friend named Jack, who...likes to yak and yak."
"I'm too old for that game."
"Oh, you think you're too old for everything. Come on. Jack, likes to yak and yak."
"So I kicked him the back."
"Yes, I went on the attack."
"Then stuffed his body in a sack"
"And hung it up with a tack."
"Which made some ducks start to quack."
"So what's the plan?" asked Raven. "What are we gonna do at the hospital?"
"We're going to...oh, I guess it's stealing. But we're just stealing some paperwork."
"You are the most boring criminal ever."
"Do you want to hear the plan or not?" Charles sounded slightly stern.
Raven crossed her arms.
"It's pretty straightforward. I'm going to use my powers to distract people until I see someone in charge of records who is leaving or taking a lunch or something. I'll indicate that person to you with my mind. Then you go to the ladies' room and transform into her." He sighed. "I don't know very much about how this hospital is set up, so we might have to improvise."
"It means make things up as we go along."
"That sounds like the opposite of having a plan."
Charles laughed. "True enough."
"So what's the papers we're stealing, anyways?" When he failed to immediately answer, she added, "I'm going to see what it is when we get them."
He sighed. "It's Cain's medical records from before he and his dad came to live with me."
"How is that going to help?"
"Well...hmm, let's see. How do I explain this? There are holes in his mind."
"Is that why he's so stupid?"
"It's not about being stupid," he said. "It's...remember last year, when his arm got broken?"
"When Kurt broke it, you mean." Charles always talked about bad things like they just happened, like nobody did them. It bugged Raven.
"Okay, fine, when Kurt broke it. I saw the X-rays of his arm," Charles said. "There were wires in there."
"Are you saying you think he's a robot?" Raven contorted her face in derision.
"No, sometimes doctors have to put wires in a broken bone to make it heal correctly."
"Like they did in your fingers?"
"Yeah, sure. But here's the thing. I've read Cain's mind, and he has no memory of his arm being broken before last year. That's what I mean by holes."
"You want to do some impressions?"
"Okay!" Raven concentrated on transforming her voice box, deepening the lungs, then spoke with a British accent, "I'm Charles and I think I'm smarter than everybody else and I have a stupid accent and-"
"That's Frank Sinatra, right?" They both laughed.
Once they were out of the hospital, Charles threw the files in the back seat, but stopped before getting in the car. "You know what?" he said. "I think that was such a successful mission, we should walk over to McDonalds before we go back."
"Yes!" Raven pumped her fist in the air in triumph.
He let her eat in the car. "In for a penny, in for a pound," he said.
"What's that one mean?" asked Raven, in between loud slurps of her milkshake.
"It's like...if you're already in trouble and it can't get any worse, you might as well do whatever you want."
"I'm pretty sure that trouble can always get worse."
"True enough, but in this case, I think it won't matter."
Raven stole several of Charles' fries. "That was a really easy mission. There was hardly anybody there. How come you needed me?"
"Because together, we are an unstoppable team."
"Don't patronize me," said Raven, using yet another word Charles wished she had never learned.
"Okay then, I brought you along because I didn't know what the hospital was going to be like, and I wanted to be ready for anything. Besides, I enjoy your company."
Raven finished eating and opened up the file. "What's FLK mean?"
"I have no idea and put that away. You don't need to be nosing around in there," said Charles, apparently unaware of the concept of hypocrisy.
Raven continued to flip through the pages.
"Knock that off!"
"So really, how come you brought me along?"
"Because I really did not want to have to make this trip twice."
Raven thought, I don't see why you had to make it once, but she kept that thought to herself. Instead, she said, "Because you're going to get in trouble?"
"Yes," said Charles, exasperated, "now would you please leave it alone?"
"Okay." But it was like picking at a scab. Once she knew it was there, it was impossible to ignore. "Did you even tell Kurt you were taking the car?"
"No, I did not."
"Did you tell him you were going to be gone all day?"
"I left a note."
"He's going to be really angry."
"Raven, would you please shut up?"
"It just seems like kind of a stupid thing for you to do."
"Look," hissed Charles, "I know bloody well that I am going to get the shit knocked out of me tonight and I am not looking forward to it. So I would really like it if you would just shut up and let me enjoy my Saturday."
Normally, Raven apologized when Charles got angry. He didn't get angry very often, and it was usually when Raven did something dangerous. But this time Charles had done something dangerous, and for no good reason. She looked up at him and saw the twitch in the corner of his eye and something clicked. "You're a liar," she whispered.
"It does hurt, doesn't it? You've been lying to me!"
Charles furrowed his brow for a moment, then shook his head. "No, I- I just don't like it because it's rather annoying and it's inconvenient. Have you ever tried getting bloodstains out of clothing? I've lost quite a few shirts that way."
Raven pressed back into the seat, as if moving away from him. "First of all, you don't do your own laundry. Second of all, you have, like, a million shirts, and third of all, you're a liar! You've been lying all this time!"
"Raven!" he protested.
"Liar!" she yelled. She unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed into the backseat, curled up on the drivers' side where he couldn't see her. She said nothing for the rest of the ride home.
Charles is laying flat on his bed, face up, no pillow. It is sometime after midnight. He is concentrating very hard on the mind of his brother, Cain, a mind that has never seemed to have a normal capacity to wait, to control itself, to feel concern or worry or generosity. A mind that is sleeping down the hall.
He is only vaguely aware when Raven climbs into his bed, something she did regularly when she was very young, but almost never as of late. She must be sorry about the fight.
He sees Cain's mind and it is like a picture with many tears, bits ripped off and burned through. Other pieces are distorted as they try to fill gaps they were never made for. There is no coherent image, no I, no order, no self. Charles spends many minutes orienting himself. The landscape is familiar, but it is always changing. There is no steadiness. Cain, where are you? he wonders.
Once he has his bearings, Charles moves from one fissure to the next. At each, he searches for the memory that belongs, using what he learned from the medical records as a guide. As he moves, he sees a creature in his peripheral vision, always briefly, never quite real. As he fills in the gaps, the picture that is Cain's mind begins to take shape and take color, though it has no form. There is one gap left and it is a strange moving shape. He sees the creature again, like scaly, solid smoke. He knows what belongs in the final hole and stops to wonder whether he should rejoin this thing with his brother's mind, but his wondering doesn't matter as the creature scuttles past him, through him and leaps into the last gap. The mind begins to rumble and roar. The mind begins to toss as if at sea.
Charles is laying flat on his bed. He is Cain Marko. He is reaching beside his bed for a length of pipe. He is hunter. He is pressing his teeth together. His feet are on the floor. He has no thoughts. He has no mind. There is no more terrifying beast than he.
Charles shakes his sister. "Raven," he whispers, eyes unfocused, "get under the bed. Stay hidden no matter what happens."
He is Raven and he is truly afraid because he knows what Cain is capable of, even if Charles does not.
He is Cain and he is walking down the hall and he cannot hear his footfalls for he has no thoughts and he has no mind.
He is Charles Xavier and he is beginning to think he may have made a mistake.
Charles is standing when Cain throws open the door and he does not need telepathy to see that there is murder in his brother's heart.
"Cain...please," he whispers.
"Cain please Cain please Cain please Cain please Cain please Cain please," is the response. It is not teasing and sing-song as it was when they were young. It is dead; it is vacant.
The pipe strikes Charles in the side of the chest. He feels a strange sensation, like gagging. There are snapping noises, like twigs. He falls to the floor. Cain drops the pipe and lifts his brother by the throat with both hands.
Raven can see her brother's feet kicking at the air, but then they stop kicking. They fall still, toes pointed down, useless, and she knows that she must do something or he will die.
"Cain please Cain please Cain please Cain please."
Raven creeps out from under the bed; there isn't enough room to transform underneath. She lies silent in the bed's shadow as she switches, and thinks Don't let Charles be dead and don't let him kill me either. Then she stands and hopes Cain is every bit as stupid as she has always said. "What are you doing making all this noise at this hour!" she yells. Her voice is deep. She is Kurt Marko.
Cain is startled. He drops his prey. Raven is relieved to hear Charles gasp. He scrambles to his feet and sprints out of the room, Cain right behind him.
Raven knows she is breaking the rules. Never transform when someone else could see you. Never turn into anybody at the estate. She remembers Charles sitting next to her, saying, "I don't want to scare you, but if they catch you doing those things, we'll probably have to leave. This won't be our home anymore." And she remembers that she felt glad, because he said we'll have to leave, which meant he would go with her. Right now, she is panicking, because they were making a lot of noise and someone would come check soon and this is the worst possible person and she is face-to-face with the real Kurt Marko.
They hear glass shatter. Kurt runs toward the noise. Raven runs away.
The pipe falls to the ground below, surrounded by shards of glass and Charles knows that he has to follow it because the only other direction he can go is right back toward Cain. It's only the second floor he tells himself, the high dive at the pool is a bigger drop. And he leaps. He means to roll when he hits the ground, but the muscles in his chest don't want to work properly, so his right leg bears the brunt of his weight.
He keeps running across the grounds without looking back because there is no doubt Cain is following. He thinks calm at his brother, but this does nothing. He thinks sleep at his brother to no effect. He will not think die. He chooses not to. His leg hurts terribly and he is aware of this, but somehow unconcerned, as if his body knows how to prioritize his senses.
He tries to feel his brother's mind, but he feels nothing. Whether this is from his own pain and exhaustion or some trick of Cain's, he does not know.
Charles sees that he is nearing the stables. He has an idea. He pulls a lighter from his back pocket. He doesn't smoke, but he thinks it's cool to carry one.
Here is the problem with Charles' idea: He understands oxidation and combustion temperatures from chemistry books, but he never played with fire as a child. Given time, given calm, he would come to a full and deep understanding of the likely outcome of his plan, but does not have the intuitive and immediate sense that comes from personal experience.
Cain catches up with him as he enters the stables. Charles sets fire to the straw.
There is smoke everywhere, thick and black and liquid. There must be flames, but Charles cannot see them. There are loud and panicked whinnies from the horses as they kick and buck. He tries to crawl away, but Cain grabs his leg.
"I'm sorry," yells Charles, "I'm sorry!"
"I'm sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry," in a blank monotone is the last thing Charles hears.
When Raven leaves the mansion, she doesn't know where to go. Charles is probably dead, but if he's not, there's no good reason he should have to leave too. She morphs into one of the many throwaway forms Charles had helped her gather from nearby towns and she starts to walk.
The first time Charles wakes up, it is dark and he is in an unfamiliar room and an unfamiliar bed. He moans softly in pain. Someone does something. He doesn't know what, but he sleeps again.
The second time Charles wakes up, it is daytime and he sees the hospital machines around the room. He looks to his side to see who he shares a room with, but the other bed is empty. He can't stay awake for very long. His thoughts are heavy.
The third time Charles wakes up, a nurse says, "Wait here, the doctor wants to talk with you," and Charles thinks Where else would I go?
There's a hand on his uninjured shoulder. "You awake, son?"
Charles nods, tries to keep his eyes open. The doctor comes into focus.
"How are you feeling?"
"Well, if you can make jokes, that's a good sign."
Charles smiles weakly.
The doctor pulls over a chair and sits. "I need to talk with you about what happened. I know you're not feeling too good yet, but it's not going to be any easier if I wait."
Charles feels something heavy spread throughout his body.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
The doctor nods. "As best we can tell, you and your brother were in the stables when the fire started. You both probably passed out from smoke inhalation. You've got some other injuries, probably from the horses kicking." Actually, the boy's injuries look nothing like hoofprints, but he knows that family – the Xaviers, Markos, whatever – could buy and sell this hospital several times over, so if he was told horses, he will say horses.
"It seems your father ran in there after you, dragged you boys out. He saved your lives." He pauses. "One of the horses must have kicked him," he says. That injury did look like a hoofprint. "The blow hit him right in the back of the head. Your father probably died instantly, no pain. I'm very sorry, son." The hand on Charles' shoulder again.
"What was that?"
"He was my step-father."
"Oh...is there, is there any family we can call for you?"
"What I meant was-"
"Where's...what about my brother? Cain?"
"We were hoping you might have some ideas on that one. He came in with you, with burns and smoke inhalation. We wanted to keep him overnight for observation, but once we patched him up, he got up and left. You have any idea where he might be?"
Charles shakes his head. His face feels hot and light, as if it were separate from his body. "Where's my sister?" he asks.
The doctor furrows his brow. "Your medical file said you just have the one step-brother."
Tears are falling and stinging. "I need to find my sister. Where's my sister?" He presses his fingers to his temple. "I can't find her. Why can't I find her?"
The doctor adds something to his IV. Charles sobs until he sleeps once more.
FLK is an abbreviation for Funny Looking Kid. It's a slang term sometimes used by obstetricians and various early childhood specialists to refer to a child who has some kind of malformation of the face or body (such as eyes very far apart, arms very small for body) that doesn't readily correspond to a known disorder like Down's Syndrome, but is obviously indicative of some sort of general developmental condition. Most professionals wouldn't use the term when talking to parents or write it in a report, but they might use it when talking to a colleague, as in, "We need a physical therapy consult for the baby boy in 207. He's a little FLK." And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.