The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked.
'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland
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?
Maybe it was the 60’s. Maybe I was insane. Maybe I was standing on a threshold of revelation.
Maybe we were only lost and needed each other to find ourselves.
* * *
Charles wakes up in the E.R., the lights are too bright and there are way too many serious faces gathered around his bed (a portable one since the lights in the ceiling are moving past him).
He needs to throw up and he does, partly on himself.
“That’s right, let it all out.” A nurse with a short haircut. (Shit my shift should have ended already I have to pick up the children.)
“Let’s give the kid some Valium.” Must be the doctor, the one with the glasses. (It’s usually the girls a guy should be able to finish himself off not ending up here poor little bastard.)
“Here, let me take that.” Another nurse. (Oh he’s so cute I would kill for eyes like that.)
“Could you please get out of my head?” Charles mutters weakly.
But someone hears.
“You have said that you can hear people’s thoughts.” Dr. Stryker is a friend of his mother’s, a retired psychiatrist but kind enough to have a talk with him.
Charles lights a cigarette, wondering if there’s a point in opening up one’s soul to a man who has a book on his table with his own name on the cover. “Sometimes.”
“Is that why you tried to kill yourself?”
“Happy birthday, Kurt,” he says and everyone is smiling, including himself, knowing there is something wrong with that smile that will get him beaten up by Cain when the guests have left and more bottles of champagne have been consumed.
His mother is already drunk, and now that she has committed her duties as a mother and a wife and dragged Charles to the ballroom, they can go months without having to look at each other.
He is sure his brain is going to explode from all the faked pleasantries and sealed emotions that make the air in the room hard to breathe.
He excuses himself from the buzzing crowd, heading for his mother’s medical stash for aspirin before escaping to the quiet of his room.
“I didn’t try to kill myself.” Lighting another cigarette seems like a good idea since he has no memory of smoking the first one.
After a couple of hours there’s a knock on the door with a whispered “Charles? Are you in there?”
(Oh fuck not now.)
He’s changed to his pyjamas for bed even though sleeping feels like a very bizarre idea. “Go away. Please.”
The intruder doesn’t hear or doesn’t care, since the knocking continues. “Charles, I need to talk to you.”
He opens the door and Moira is there in a little black cocktail-dress, a nervous index-finger tapping the rim of a champagne glass. “I just wanted to say that I don’t want…”
“Yes, I know, I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“What happened was a mistake but -“
“Miss MacTaggert, please.”
“I don’t want it to change any plans you’ve made for you studies this fall. I still want you as my student.” (And I still want you but that’s wrong and I can’t take the risk what is this boy doing to me I hate myself but oh god I still want you.)
“Good night, professor.” Charles closes the door, resting his forehead against the wood until he hears her steps leaving.
Then he finds the bottle of vodka.
“You must know that painkillers don’t go well with booze,” the shrink says trying very hard not to sound mocking.
Charles shrugs. “I just wanted the shit to stop.”
Dr. Stryker takes off his glasses, frowns at them in the soft afternoon light peeling from the window and sweeps the lenses with his sleeve. “What are you planning to do with your life?”
He grinds his teeth through graduation, feeling the hum of questions and shock and disapproval as he fetches his papers and the spectator of the show does not tell the hungry crowd which university he will continue his education in. He hasn’t applied anywhere because the spring has just skipped him and all he wants to do is to crawl somewhere soft and dark and he doesn’t want to care.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
The party on the night of their graduation is luckily a bit more fun than the ceremony. He gets a little high, dances some of the night away and hooks up with Tony Stark, a couple of years his senior, who has some amazing ideas about world peace and technological development walking to the sunset hand in hand. Charles talks about the possibilities gene research can bring, and somewhere along developing renewable energy resources Tony says “You’re pretty” and kisses him.
“I’ve been talking with your parents.” (Kurt is not my parent thank you very much.) “We agreed that what you need right now is a good rest.” (And this is where my stepbrother comes in and knocks me out with a shovel and buries me in the backyard?)
Charles rolls his eyes. “Good. You know, I was having a rather pleasant nap right before I was summoned here.”
Dr. Stryker clears his throat. “I was referring to a… longer period of rest.”
Charles blinks at him. Once. Twice. Oh, shit.
“Luckily the best place for people in your situation is only twenty-five minutes’ drive away.”
“You’re not seriously talking about Shaw’s, are you?”
Tony’s the first man he’s ever fucked, and it has nothing to do with his (or his) sexuality and everything to do with sex.
“I mean, can you believe that there is some sense in evolution if I want to end my own life? Well, I know what Darwin would say, but have we come to some kind of an end as a species?”
Charles doesn’t know if he’s talking to the ceiling or the guy lying beside him on the bed, but Tony answers anyway: “I think evolution somewhat gave up on us after creating a brain capable of free will.”
“Freed us from being subdued to our basic instincts and left us alone.”
Tony stretches his limbs and checks his watch before rolling over and ending up pinning Charles to the mattress with his body. “Are you ready for round two or do you need more weed?”
Charles places a hand on the back of his head, his fingers playing with the dark slightly curling hair, and brings their lips together. “Once more for Darwin.”
When their bodies fit together just right he can forget himself for a little while; just feel and avoid feeling anything.
When he lights his third cigarette his hand are shaking.
The sun is rising as Tony calls him a cab and walks him to the door of his apartment. “You’re lucky to be pretty, Xavier, ‘cause you talk way too much.”
Charles smiles, but it’s a smile doomed to die at early age.
Tony pats his shoulder, hesitates a moment and then gently strokes his cheek. “I’m going to Europe in a few months. You should come with me.”
“Maybe I should.”
They leave it at that, and Charles escapes by the stairs ignoring the elevator because he just hates traps.
“We have already ordered a cab to pick you up. Your mother packed some things for you so you don’t have to worry about that.” Stryker has a very pleasant voice to mask the fact that he isn’t going to take no for an answer.
“Shaw’s is for crazy people,” he states but is more concerned about his mother being in his room.
“Charles, I’m not saying you’re crazy. Most of the people who go there aren’t. You just need a place to think and talk things over.”
So Charles lets Stryker shake his hand and shoo him to the backseat of a yellow car waiting outside. (Well hello, little piggy, ready for the ride to the nice slaughter-house?)
It takes him twenty minutes to empty the bottle, and once he’s finished he feels proud for the first time in months. Possibly in years.