Disclaimer: This is an Elseworlds and qualifies for my own genderswap challenge. I decided to write it now because I just wrote a grueling nasty alternate universe Xavier, so i needed to write a relatively happy story. :-)
Originally it was supposed to be yet another first person soliloquy to no one in particular in a poetical voice, but i got sick of them, so now it's a letter.
I would ask what you were thinking, when you told those reporters my married name, but I already know. You do not say so in your letters, but I know you too well. And when I watched you being interviewed on that television special on women in physics, and you spoke of me, you revealed what you think of my life choices. It is not as if you've never said such things to my face, either... I still remember your anger when I told you I was moving to America, to work with my husband.
It's your memories of Aaron that haunt you. You fear I have made the same mistake, with Charles. But you don't know Charles, and you don't know me any longer, I fear. For two so close as we have been, it pains me that we have grown apart, and this time I do not think it is fear that pushes you away. I think it is your anger that I am doing, in your eyes, the same thing that proved disastrous for you.
It is not the same. And if you had only had the courage to ask me, to my face, why I have done as I have, I would have told you it is not the same.
My husband is a dreamer, you see. He has brave fantasies of a Utopian world where mutants and humans can work together in harmony, and what is more, mutants will willingly turn their powers toward humanity's aid, ushering in a Golden Age. You see the problem I face. We two, we know differently from harsh experience. My husband is a fool to believe in his Utopia, for he's depending on humans not to hate and fear what is different, not to feel jealousy and greed over what they cannot have. And we have learned to our cost that humans are driven by hate and fear, jealousy and greed. Charles wants to appeal to humanity's hopes and dreams-- has anyone successfully built a society on such ground? It violates everything I know of human nature.
And that is why I work to make his dream a reality.
Now you laugh disbelievingly. "Erika," you say, "you've just said you don't believe in what he's doing. Yet you're working for him anyway. Don't you know what you're doing to yourself?"
You probably think I'm doing this for love, as you did for Aaron.
Oh, I haven't forgotten, Rena. I haven't forgotten how you turned a blind eye to his affairs, how when I accused him of stealing my work you backed him up, how you threw me out of your home when I tried to force him to admit to what he'd done. I haven't forgotten how you suffered in Auschwitz while he remained safe in the United States, working on their atomic bomb, and how his compassion for your ordeal extended to divorcing you because you could no longer bear children. I have never forgotten how you worked for him for love, sacrificed your own Ph D so you could put him through school, did all the mathematics for his famous theorems and received no credit, and how he cast you aside for a younger woman. I remember that I gave you a place to live, that I coerced Aaron into paying you alimony, that I talked you into collaborating with me, doing the math for my theorems, and giving you half the credit and all of the money. You would not be the world- famous Dr. Rena Schoenberg-Strausser, celebrated mathematician and one of the co-writers of the Unified Field Theorem, if I had not stepped in. So I imagine it must gall you to see me making the same "mistake" I saved you from.
Let me make it clear, then. I don't work for Charles out of love. I love him, but if serving his beliefs didn't serve my purposes, I would not. I tried that with Binyamin, I tried being someone I wasn't to make my husband happy, and he walked out the door when Anya was three months old because he couldn't deal with her illness. He didn't so much as come to her funeral. If I didn't have your experience to learn from, I have my own. I don't serve men out of love.
You see, I do not believe Charles' dream is possible. I have seen the future, and it is a nightmare. The spectre of a second Holocaust rises up before me and mine; it is almost inevitable that humanity will turn on us because you fear us, because we have gifts you do not. Or, perhaps, we will be able to rise up before you can send us to the gas chambers, perhaps we can make bloody war and overthrow you as rulers of this earth. In my younger days, shortly after I met Charles, I seriously thought that was the route we should take. That we should seek to become masters of the Earth before you humans, the current masters, could destroy us all.
I thought about this long and hard, Rena. Charles and I debated it and discussed it endlessly. And I realized something.
If there is war between mutants and humans, then you, my dear friend, will be on the other side from me. And I do not know if I could stand against you, Rena.
If there is war between mutants and humans, then the mother of my stepson will be on the other side. As annoying as I find Gabrielle sometimes, I cannot imagine allowing David to suffer the trauma of a mother on the other side of the conflict.
If there is war between mutants and humans, then my doctor will be on the other side. Moira saved my sanity, and likely my life. I know I could not bear to stand against her.
And I am married to a mutant, barren, and without any family. What of the mutants with living mothers, fathers, siblings? What if a mutant could give birth to a human? Our people are wholly entwined with yours. I remember when I first learned I had a kind, that I wasn't, as you and I had speculated, a freak one-of-a-kind occurrence but an actual forerunner of a new kind of humanity. I was giddy with delight, with the sense of belonging, and I was willing to envision a world without humans, a world where only mutants dominated, a world where my new people ruled supreme. It never occurred to me then, I'm ashamed to say, what the cost of that would be. My best friend. My doctor. My stepson's heart. And every human mother and father who has ever loved their mutant child despite it all.
It can't happen, Rena. I can't let it. A war between mutants and humans would cost far, far too much. My people face either total destruction and genocide, or the bloodying of the soul we would suffer if we won, and killed our parents, our friends, our siblings. It cannot be.
And it will be. The conflict is embedded in human nature. It's going to happen... unless Charles is right.
Somehow, my foolish dreamer, who can see into the hearts and minds of men and knows the evil, and the good, there, can see a path to safety, a path out of the blood that's the only future I can see. Is he deluded? Is what he sees nothing but a mirage? Very possibly, and I am prepared for that possibility. But if there's any chance, any at all, that what he sees and I cannot is because I am the blind one, I must do everything in my power to see that his Dream comes to pass, and not my nightmare.
Let the world think I have succumbed to the fate of many women in the past, that having married I will give myself over to my husband and quiet obscurity. It suits me that Erika Xavier, wife of crusader Charles Xavier, is never tied to Erika Lehnsherr, controversial famed physicist. People underestimate me, and that's how I would have it. I will do little parlor tricks with my powers, and play the role of Charles's token mutant political wife, smiling and nodding at idiots while I am secretly bodyguarding my husband from assassins. I will dress fashionably in public, and stand at his side, and make everyone think I am nothing, a middle-aged woman with silly little magnetic powers. I will let the world think I serve as Charles' administrative assistant and housekeeper, while behind closed doors I am training the army that will reshape the world to Charles' dream.
You know what I am, Rena. You've seen my power. Do you think for a moment the world would leave me alone if they didn't drastically underestimate me? The world may think I am the staid and safe political wife, nothing but a proper helpmeet to her husband. In reality, I am the dragon secretly laired away, nurturing her treasure and her clutch of dragonets until she may take on the world with them, and woe betide the adventurer who braves her lair.
Because Charles is naïve. He has his dream, and he sees his path to it, and that is all well and good but in the real world, training mutants to be heroes will just earn people's resentment unless you take control. We've done things-- I've done things-- well, I won't commit them to paper. Let's just say that I'm willing to do what it takes to makes Charles' dream a reality, and if it involves destruction of property or the forcible altering of minds, we will do it. Charles balks at many things he considers unethical, but I've successfully pushed him to do what must be done in cases where what had to be done didn't involve killing. Fortunately, it's rare that a telepath would need to kill. If it ever needs doing, though... well, you know me.
So, I would like to ask you, as your friend, to stop telling people that Erika Lehnsherr married Charles Xavier and is currently crusading for mutant rights with her husband. I want you to tell them you don't know where I am. And while I would be happy if you told them I got married and dropped out of science, I don't want you to feel that I have sacrificed anything. Truth be told, Aaron was right about one thing-- physics was less of a challenge for me than for normal humans, and the main reason I threw myself into it was that it took my mind off my tragedy with Anya, and later, that it would provide me security and fame. Remember, in those days I was a freak of nature, believing no one in the world was like me, and after what poor Anya suffered I would never be so cruel as to try to have another child. Fame and success in physics was the only outlet I could imagine, the only way I could make a permanent mark on the world. That isn't true anymore, and to be honest, I care far more about the welfare of my people than I ever did about physics. I am doing what I want to do, not out of love but because it is my crusade, my desperate behind-the-scenes battle to ensure that my husband's ridiculously naïve vision of the future is the one that comes to pass... and not the all- too-plausible nightmares that haunt my dreams.
Rena, you saved my life in Auschwitz by giving me something to believe in. Don't denigrate what I believe in now.