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title: Five Times Charles Wasn't a Part of the World (And One Time He Didn't Even Want to Be.)
fandom: X-Men: First Class
pairing: n/a, gen about Charles (with mentions of Erik & dates with girls)
rating: PG-13
summary: Five times Charles' mutation made it impossible for him to be a normal part of society and one time he didn't even try to be.
spoilers/notes: Written for a prompt at [ profile] 1stclass_kink & also posted there (link). 1170 words.

Charles Xavier is six years old and he’s crying because he knows the nurse is about to tell him that his mother’s liver has failed and that she’ll die. He's crying because, when the nurse tells his step-father, his step-father isn’t even sad. He tries not to listen, he tries, but suddenly everything is pressing in on him and he can just feel the sadness and grief irradiating in the waiting room. He swallows, closes his eyes, and tries to feel just his own grief. The nurse is impatient and wants to go home.

My mother is dying, he tells himself, and that should be the only reason he has to cry.

No-one ever bullied Charles at school, not really, but when he saw the girl that everyone called Fat Fran crying in the corner of the yard at lunch, he felt for her more than he could ever tell her. There was no end to the number of times someone had turned and looked him in the eye and he’d found out exactly what they thought of him. Most of it had to do with him being rich or posh but sometimes it was just that he was weedy or that they felt sorry for him. The pity was the worst - much worse than the few times anyone had actually bullied him about how rich he was or the way he talked. Every teacher he’d ever had during the short period when he’d attended a real school had looked at him with sad eyes and thought poor thing, I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up without a mother and no father either, far as I can tell. It almost broke my heart when I realised the woman who was with him at the parent-teacher conference was a maid.

Years later, during home-school, he’d try to remember those times and tell himself that he was better off this way. It was easier to be alone and not to have to deal with other people’s feelings, their thoughts and their pity.

During Charles’ first ever date, he tries not to read the girl’s mind. He tries so hard that he almost can’t think about anything else.

“Charles?” she asks, beautiful, brunette, dimples, all of sixteen, “Are you alright?”

“Yes, just a headache. Sorry, do carry on with your story. Did you manage to find them, in the end?” He dropped his guard a little as he said this and heard her thinking, he’s not interested in me, he’s not even really listening, he probably only likes me for my breasts - I thought nerdy boys would be different. The worst thing is that he knows he can’t rebut it because, well, how could he bring any of it up. So he just smiles and tries to be a gentleman, gives up on trying not to overhear her thoughts and, at the end of the date, he tells her that he’s sorry that the date hadn’t gone better and that she’s clever and beautiful and she’ll find someone who deserves her eventually.

Charles Xavier waits outside his Oxford entrance exam, surrounded by his fearful peers, and he can feel their anxiety as well as hear it. It's oppressive and frightening and he hadn't even been terribly afraid when he'd got up that morning. With this level of fear and worry and all the insistent minds listing important information that they've revised and can't let themselves forget for even an instant, he knows it's going to be a difficult exam. He spends the whole two hours attempting to write his own answers but unable to block out what everyone else is thinking. In his interview, months later, he overhears one of his interviewers thinking it's a pity about his exam result, he seems like such a good candidate and he'd feared that meant he wouldn't get a place. At least the letter he got a month later couldn't tell him what it was going to say before he had a chance to read it for himself.

By the time he’s twenty, Charles has almost complete control over his telepathy. There are only a few occasions when thoughts press in too close. Mostly, it’s when he’s tired or stressed or surrounded by people who are a swarm of emotions.

He gives his first lecture at Oxford to a lecture hall full of people whose emotions read as a swathe of dull boredom. It feels blunt and stifling, in sharp contrast to the hammering heart in Charles’ chest as he steps up to the lectern. “The human genome,” he begins, and he tries to tell himself that at least he’s unlikely to make them any less interested.

When they applaud at the end, Charles realises that he’s managed to stop hearing how they feel because he isn’t afraid anymore. He’s done it: he’s delivered the lecture and their applause sounds so genuine that he doesn’t want to ruin it by discovering that it masks a polite ambivalence. He slips up though, as his supervisor comes over and claps him on the back, and he feels it all and he can’t forget about it when he tries. He tells himself that, at least they’d pretended to like it and he knew he shouldn’t feel disappointed - probably most of the crowd would never share the fact that they’d been secretly bored throughout with anyone other than their spouses. It still hurt though and even Raven’s smile as they left wasn’t enough to make him forget it.

He was in a helicopter. Probably a CIA medical helicopter, he realised, but he couldn’t be sure of anything right now. The last thing he could remember was lying on the beach in Cuba and realising that he couldn’t feel his legs. Now, all he was conscious of was the woman who was standing over him, examining his body, who was thinking that he’d probably never walk again, god, not even probably: he’d never walk again.

Charles closed his eyes. He tried not to hear, tried instead to focus on the pain - the pain that was all over his upper body but not in his legs.

He could hear other voices, too: his team, his friends. I can’t believe Erik is gone, and Raven, too, and Charles-- and what will they do with us now? How will we ever be safe? I should have gone with them. We should have gone with them. We’ll never be free. We’re all-- They know about us. I’ll never be accepted into society. They’re going to kill us all, probably. I should never have sided with Charles. I should have gone with Erik and that last thought, that last thought of all of them, lodges in his mind and becomes his own thought.

I’ll never be like them, Charles thought, they’ll never accept me. I’ve never been one of them. And, as he lost consciousness again: I should have gone with Erik.

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