Author: punahukka / Jester
Fandom: X-Men (First Class): Girl, Interrupted/Sucker Punch AU (featuring an ensemble of other Marvel characters)
Disclaimer: Playing with Marvel’s toys in Susanna Kaysen’s, James Mangold’s and Zack Snyder’s sandboxes. Any other pieces of work you may recognize don't most likely belong to me either.
Pairing: Charles/Erik (+ Charles/Tony Stark, Charles/Loki, Charles/Moira, Loki/Mystique, Logan/Jean, others)
Warnings: mental illnesses, mentions of child-abuse and suicide (attempted and committed), language, sex, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, some cross-dressing, era-specific homophobia and racism, screwed timelines
Summary: Have you ever confused reality with a dream or a good story? Or a bad one? Have you ever stood on a bridge and not jumped because you cannot trust the laws of the physics and you’re afraid of the ever after? Have you ever been kissed? Have you ever been kissed like a frog and not turned into anything at all? Have you ever met anyone you know from another life or timeline than this?
A mental institution AU for this prompt @ xmen_firstkink.
A/N: I don't even want to count how many times I've written and deleted and written and re-written this chapter, but here it finally is. The Wind in the Willows quote from Kenneth Grahame, naturally. Feedback makes me all warm and fuzzy. :)
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Names are like clothes, lady. I have many."
"And which one do you wear tonight?"
The god smiled. She could see he liked her words. He pulled her to him, pressed his wolf lips to hers and said, "My name is Misery, and would you know yet more?"
"Yes," said the girl, breathing in his scent, the scent of something beautiful, strange and burned. "I would know more."
He flicked at her lips with his tongue and whispered, "So is yours."
Charles dreams of a stone wall penetrating the thick white clouds overhead and digging its way under the soil to the core of the earth.
It’s wet and cold and drops of water freeze on Loki’s brow, but he doesn’t notice, too concentrated on the task at hand.
The runes gleam silver when carved into the ancient stone.
Loki touches the marks, the manifestation of magic crackling blue on his fingertips.
“Honestly, sleepyhead, get up before Goldilocks eats all the porridge!”
Startled awake, Charles blinks his way to full consciousness while Loki tosses a heap of clothes on him and takes his oath to be ready for breakfast in three minutes. Judging from his tone Loki has been trying to awake him more than once.
He gets dressed, his hands clumsy and obviously still asleep, and takes a quick trip to the toilet before hurrying to meet the others. He’s not paying attention to the murmur in the TV room before he comes to the doorway and a thick magazine lands at his feet with an angry flap.
“Just fuck you!” Alex shouts, jumping to his feet from the couch, but Nurse Grey stands her ground without blinking - she’s obviously the target of his outburst. The other patients are gathered around the scene showing varying amounts of interest. “It’s a breakfast, what the fuck do you care?”
“You know the routine, Alex. I’m sure you don’t want to go down the round-the-clock supervision road anymore,” Grey says evenly, as if trying to calm a panicking animal. “But you can always discuss this with Doctor McCoy when you see him this week. For now, this is how it rolls.”
Alex lets out a frustrated groan. “You just don’t fucking get it! It’s you who should be locked up if you enjoy this bullshit so much!”
“Give it a rest, bub,” Logan interrupts seemingly relaxed in his armchair but something in his presence screaming alert, even under his very comfortable looking plaid flannel shirt.
“And how is this your fucking business?” Alex snaps back.
Logan leans forwards, and Loki quickly steps beside him to place a hand on his shoulder.
“Talkin’ to the lady like that, it kind of makes it my business.”
“Logan,” Grey says warningly before turning back to the younger man. “Alex, please go to your room, I’ll see you there.”
With everyone’s eyes on him Alex storms off, half-accidentally pushing Charles on the way, and within seconds they hear a door banging shut.
Grey lets out a huff before making a dismissing gesture with her hand. “Gentlemen, the show is over. Now run to Darcy, she’ll take you to breakfast.”
“It seems that Goldilocks has once again had it with the porridge,” Loki mutters to Charles, throwing the now almost familiar arm on his shoulder as they stroll down the corridor. For once, Sean has joined to the silent club of Erik and Bruce. “Consider yourself lucky, that was only minor drama.”
“Morning, guys!” the young woman with a warden’s outfit at the door grins at them. This Darcy (as Charles has to presume) has big glasses on her pretty face, quite shockingly pink lipstick and a fall of dark brown locks gathered in a messy ponytail. “Did you miss me?”
“Of course we did! Where have you been?” Loki beams back, and as Sean comes close enough with a shy smile on his face, Darcy seizes him into a half of a hug with one arm.
“I was taking that course with the rest of the folks the whole week. Please don’t tell me you’ve caused any nervous breakdowns to Jean and Darwin and Thor. Was Scott here too?” she babbles on as she leads the way to the lunch room, but Charles notices she’s watching them behind the carelessness, undoubtedly taking in the reappearance of Erik and the absence of Alex.
“Darcy’s the best. She’ll probably be the first female president of the United States,” Loki fills in for Charles as they line up for their porridge, bread and orange juice.
Now that he has time to notice it, the smell of Loki and the occasional brush of his hand against Charles’ colors his cheeks red. “About the…”
His roommate gives him a dazzling smile. “Hush now, sweetheart, your poker face is terrible. Let’s talk later.”
Charles doesn’t say anything and can’t decide if he’s relieved or offended, but then there’s Raven and the morning takes a step towards something he’s already considering normal.
“Good morning, Charles. How did you sleep?”
It makes him a little uneasy that Emma Frost is taking notes before he has said anything. He closes the door of her office behind him after Darcy promises to fetch him back in forty minutes. “Surprisingly well, thank you.” (Kissed my roommate, slept like a baby, pretty sure that he’s got more magic powers than those pills of yours.)
“That’s good.” Frost scribbles down a few more words before gesturing towards the chair in front of her desk. “Do sit down. I was hoping we could talk about people in your life.”
Charles shrugs. “Okay.”
Frost is wearing a white dress with matching rims on her reading glasses. Her eyeshadow is white, too. “I’ll start with a few questions to lighten things up for me, and we can discuss them in detail later. I won’t force you to answer but it would be a great help if you did.” She picks up a form from a stack of paper and writes Xavier, Charles F. on the top of the page. Charles’ fingers make an instinctive move towards his pocket, and Frost sneers, pushing a quite fancy decorative ashtray closer to him. “You can smoke if you want.”
Charles lights a cigarette and Frost gives him one of her overall piercing glances before starting the interrogation.
“You’re the only child of your biological parents, but you have a step-father and a step-brother, right?”
“How would you describe your relationship with your family?”
“Were you any closer to your father?”
“I think I was, but then again I was so young when he died that I don’t remember him that well.”
“Does it bother you? Being distant?”
“We’re all happier when we can keep away from each other’s way.”
“Do you have any close friends?”
“Not really. I do have friends but… no.”
“Are you lonely, Charles?”
“I used to think I am. Then I stopped seeing it as a problem.”
“Let’s detour from friends to foes a bit: do you, in general, have problem with getting along with people?”
“No. I don’t think so. I like people. In general.”
“Does living with a roommate make you uncomfortable?”
Poker face, Charles thinks vigorously. “Not really. Or it hasn’t yet. Loki’s great company.”
“So they teamed you up with Loki? I don’t think you’ll have any problems in the future either. What about the less platonic involvements? Have you been in a long-standing relationship within the past two years?”
“How many sex partners have you had during the past two years?”
Charles blinks. Frost doesn’t.
“You want me to count?”
Frost raises an eyebrow and there just might be a smile hiding in the corner of her mouth. “Make it a year.”
He tries not to let anything show on his face as the thought of Tony crosses his mind. He thinks of Moira MacTaggert and feels a dull pang of guilt. He thinks of Susanna who needed to get back home before her husband. He thinks of Polly who wanted to remember and Georgina who wanted to forget. He thinks of Daisy who never drank a drop of alcohol, and the needle marks on her arm he noticed only in the morning. He thinks of faces without surnames.
“Ten? Maybe twelve?”
“Most of them.”
Frost’s pen moves on the paper so fast that he knows he’ll be in trouble.
Charles has been somewhat aware that there’s a notice board on the wall opposite to the TV room (mostly phone numbers of therapy groups), but as Darcy guides him back to the ward Grey is pinning a sheet of paper on it. “Good, you’re back too. Okay, guys, now that we’re getting back to normal schedules after the training week almost everyone of our staff has been taking part in, we’ve rearranged some of your personal teams. I’ll leave this here and be in the nurses’ room to take complaints. Please come and yell one at a time.”
She turns to Charles and continues with less volume: “Your personal nurse is the one responsible for your case, the one you work with and hopefully the one you’ll go to when in need of help of any kind. In your case that’s me, so let’s have a chat later today, alright?”
“Sure.” Now that he has a chance to take a closer look, Grey looks more tired than anything else, but she’s smiling.
“Good. I’ll seek you out.”
Grey leaves them and Loki, obviously materializing out of nowhere since Charles hasn’t noticed him among the men in the room, takes her place beside Charles. It’s casual enough, but Charles quickly concentrates on the note.
Bruce Banner - Janet Van Dyne
Sean Cassidy - Warren Worthington
James Howlett - Jean Grey
Loki Laufeyson - Bobby Drake
Erik Lehnsherr - Ororo Munroe
Alex Summers - Janet Van Dyne
Charles Xavier - Jean Grey
It’s weird to think that on the previous list there has been a Steve Rogers instead of him.
“Read aloud, it’s not like we all have to drag our asses there,” Logan comments from behind the book he’s reading by the window. Alex’s still not there, and neither is Bruce, but Erik (Charles wonders if he’s thinking about Steve) with his newspaper and Sean with a puzzle on the table seem to wait for Loki to do as he’s told.
Loki smirks and clears his throat dramatically. “Sean, you’re still with Worthington. And oh shit, for reasons unknown to the mankind, Logan, you’re with Miss Grey. What in the name of fuck are they thinking?”
It takes Charles a moment to process the connection between Logan and “James Howlett”.
Logan raises one fist into the air as a sign of victory. “They can’t fight forever.”
“It’s your funeral,” Erik comments and gestures Loki to read on.
“I’m a bit disappointed that Janet has abandoned me, but I’ve got Iceman.”
“Jan’s life is fucked-up enough without you in it,” Logan concludes.
“Jan’s still got Bruce and Summers. Lehnsherr, you’ve been re-grouped with Miss Munroe.”
“And Charles is with Miss Grey, too.”
“You, Chuck, keep your hands off my girl.”
Charles raises his hands where Logan can see them and puts on his most innocent smile.
“Grey is actually engaged to Mister I Wear Sunglasses Whenever I Damn Well Please,” Loki says, rolling his eyes. “Mr. Howlett just has some trouble respecting the fact.”
“You’d have too if you’d actually talked to the guy. He’s a moron.”
“So he’s different from you how?”
Logan throws a pack of cigarettes at Loki who gracefully evades and catches it, continuing the same movement to throw it back. This time it’s Erik who stretches out an arm, makes the catch and picks a cigarette for himself before tossing the pack to Logan. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” Logan huffs, lighting one for himself as well. “Now, if you excuse me, I’ll be in my bunk.”
“Charles,” Erik says as Logan has made his exit, and Charles wonders how his own name can sound so strange and so right at the same time. “Would you like to play?”
Chess, Charles’ brain helps a little too slowly. Loki snickers. He determinedly ignores it.
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
Erik folds his newspaper neatly with the hand that’s not holding the cigarette and gets up to fetch the board from the shelf.
“No fainting this time, you hear me?” Loki says and brushes his shoulder gently. “Hey, Sean, would you like me to read to you?”
“Do you have any good books?” Sean asks reservedly, but there’s a hopeful smile making room for itself on his face.
“I have The Wind in the Willows.”
Sean nods approvingly and Loki goes to find the book.
Charles takes the same seat he has occupied during the first game and lights a cigarette to keep himself from thinking too much. Erik settles down too and they set up the board, Charles calling white.
Meanwhile Loki makes himself comfortable on a couch, Sean and Mister Marvel curled at the other end of it, and as Charles makes his opening move, Loki starts reading:
“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.”
It’s a pleasant game, really, without imaginary warps in time and space. Erik is a good strategist but Charles is sure he has played more (countless hours in the mansion, his father’s old butler with infinite patience and encouragements teaching him the art of the game); still, it’s only fumbling and scouting compared to the potential there is. It’s over in an hour, Erik risking one sacrifice too many and Charles taking advantage of it.
They haven’t talked much (Loki’s perfect story-teller’s voice keeping the silence away), but Charles knows he hasn’t been the only one watching, avoiding eye contact but observing.
“So it seems,” Erik grins, and the black king falls on its side. “Well played.”
“I had a worthy opponent,” Charles smiles back, shrugging in what he hopes passes for a modest manner.
“Charles?” The swift efficiency of Grey’s moves is something Charles will have a hard time getting used to; even when she stops at the doorway she looks like she’s ready to bounce in any direction if needed. “If you’re done, we could have that talk.”
“The loser cleans up after?” Charles suggests and gets to his feet with a stretch.
“Sounds fair enough,” Erik admits. “Have a pleasant ther-raping.”
Charles raises an eyebrow but doesn’t ask, and he definitely doesn’t look over his shoulder once he’s started walking. He follows Grey down the corridor to a door between a toilet and what looks like a broom closet, and after a few tries of unlocking it they enter a small room with a table and a few chairs.
The room is ridiculously ascetic, not as much a conference room as a bunker; no windows, no additional furniture, nothing on the thick white walls. Claustrophobic. There’s no one present who doesn’t feel the word captivity nagging in the back of their head, no matter how strictly formal or casual they look sitting around the table. Charles and Jean are the last ones to arrive, and Jean triple checks the door before believing it really is locked. Loki and Raven greet them with matching happy grins, and Hank waves his furry paw; the rest settle for nods and grunts.
“Good, you’re here,” Emma Frost states the obvious from the head of the table and makes sure they understand to be sorry for being late. “Let’s get straight to business, you can take care of the pleasantries when I’m not forced to witness them. You all got the memo, you all accepted, and if someone feels like walking, now is the last chance to do it with your current memories and personalities.”
No one moves.
“I thought so. You’ve all got the cover stories so you know you’re not officially here. From now on and for as long as this mission takes we use codenames and stick to them. Hank’s Beast. Jean’s Phoenix. I’m the White Queen.”
“Why don’t I ever get to be the White Queen?” Loki protests.
Emma rewards him with one of her death glares. “Because you’re the Trickster. The rest of you…” She points at each of them in turn: “Mystique, Havok, Banshee, Magneto, the Hulk, Wolverine and Professor X. Your contact will be called the Black Widow.”
“Our contact where, exactly?” Loki slips, and a very puzzled looking Alex next to him gives him a good smack on the head.
“Don’t make me do that again,” Emma asks, this time sweetly, and it’s much scarier than the sourness she’s usually serving. Charles hides his smile knowing that it bugs Emma more than anything to be unable to get a hold of Loki’s mind.
“But now that you asked, it’s good that at least Magneto speaks Spanish.”