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04 September 2011 @ 12:51 am
by virtue fall (part one).  
by virtue fall (part one)
erik/charles (x-men: first class in the format of the mentalist). 8,579 words. r. former celebrity psychic medium charles xavier works as an independent consultant for the westchester county bureau of investigation. senior special agent erik lehnsherr, head of the homicide department, wants to know his damage. warnings: graphic violence, major character death.

(note! previous knowledge of 'the mentalist' is (hopefully) unnecessary, but helpful!)

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
- William Shakespeare ; Measure for Measure, Act II Scene I

( 9:00AM, Monday )

The first thing that Agent Moira McTaggert notices about Senior Agent Erik Lehnsherr as she steps onto the crime scene is his mouth. It's wide, but not generous, pursed thin and tight, almost stretched across his face as if it’s quite displeased to be there.

It is not a mouth to be touched, though judging by the hard set of his jaw and his somber, professional black suit, it’s only complementary to the rest of him. She supposes it’s effective for investigations, but it doesn’t exactly bode well for the nature of his character. That’s alright—she’s not in the business of solving crime for the recognition of her peers.

"Agent McTaggert, I presume." He greets her with a terse nod, but does not offer her his hand or any other form of welcome. True, after her briefing she was not exactly expecting one, but she would be lying if a small part of her didn't hope that the reports may have exaggerated. No such luck, apparently.

"Yes," She clears her throat and recomposes herself, giving him her most beatific smile. Just because he looks to be in person exactly how he looks on paper doesn't mean she needs to dispense of her own manners. "And you must be Agent Lehnsherr.” He inclines his head but does not say anything further so she continues efficiently. “They sent me up from Washington to investigate the case. Why don't you bring me up to speed on what's happened here?"

Erik turns toward the crowd of agents and officers crowded around the corpse. "Darwin!"

An agent stands up and approaches them, a clipboard in his hands. Moira recognizes him as Armando Muñoz, commonly known as Darwin, a former coroner who was on loan from the New York crime lab for the Kitridge case last year but who fit so well into the WCBI (hence the nickname, she supposed) that he was granted a transfer after the case closed.

“Agent Moira McTaggert; I’ll be assisting on this case.”

“Good to meet you. You can call me Darwin.” Moira does get offered a hand and a warm smile this time and she takes it gratefully. Just because she’s dealt with the Erik Lehnsherrs of the world too often in her own department to be surprised or upset doesn’t mean that she can’t appreciate the simple decency of the gesture.

“So what can you tell me about this case, Darwin?”

Darwin flips the top sheet of his clipboard over and reads her the victim’s profile. "The victim's name is Danielle Strong, female, age twenty-seven—preliminary reports say that cause of death is repeated blows to the head from multiple angles.”

“She was bludgeoned to death.” Moira grimaces—one of her least favorite ways to go, and it’s disturbing that she’s investigated enough homicides during her career to even merit ranking them. “Was there more than one attacker?”

“It’s entirely possible,” says Darwin, flipping through the sheets with an eyebrow raised critically. “There is severe blunt-force trauma to both sides of the head. Would you like to take a look at the body and confirm? We haven’t yet determined the murder weapon.”

“I would—”

Xavier!” The rest of Moira’s reply is cut off by Lehnsherr’s sharp exclamation. Both she and Darwin whip their heads around to where he is stalking off into the orchard, two agents scrambling up to follow him, as if they did it every day, as everyone else went back to poking around in the dirt. “Xavier—for god’s sake, come back!”

Moira hadn’t come across anyone named Xavier in her briefing, but the name sounded vaguely familiar. Before she can rack her brains as to where she had heard it before, Lehnsherr and the two agents reappear, led by a man who looks completely out of place, like he belongs in an Ivy League lecture hall rather than the scene of a homicide.

The man casts around, a bit theatrically, stepping neatly out of the way as Lehnsherr makes to grab for his left arm. He looks altogether too pleased to be here in contrast to Lehnsherr’s grim expression, dressed in a smart, cobalt blue waistcoat and trousers with his white dress shirt rolled up to the elbows, a jacket matching the waistcoat slung over his left arm. Spying Moira and Darwin, his startlingly blue eyes light up and he strides energetically toward them, practically bouncing on the balls of his Oxfords. As he nears, she sees something gleaming in his left fist—that must be what Lehnsherr was trying to take from him.

“Ah, you must be Agent McTaggert—” He says when he reaches them, slightly out of breath, sliding his left hand in his trouser pocket as he extends his right, palm-up. Moira, momentarily disoriented by his light English accent, puts her hand in his and he bends over it, pressing his lips to her knuckles in the way that she’s quite certain no one who isn’t trying to be ironic does anymore. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” He murmurs, wavy brown hair falling into his eyes, and she can feel him smiling against her skin. “Truly.”

“I—um—” She blinks and stammers, which gives Lehnsherr enough time to catch up to them, a displeased downward twist to his mouth that makes Moira involuntarily think of broody Victorian heroes. “The—pleasure is all mine—”

“Xavier.” Lehnsherr growls, and Xavier turns, giving him an innocent, full-wattage smile.

“Why, good morning, Erik. Lovely day for a walk, isn’t it? A bit brisk, but fresh air does everyone good.”

Erik closes his eyes with a long exhale and Moira can practically hear himself counting to ten in his head, trying not to do anything that would be deemed anything less than professional. His right index finger twitches, an involuntary flex, like he’s pulling a trigger.

“Xavier,” He says flatly when he opens his eyes again, gritting out each syllable between his teeth. “You cannot just take unbagged evidence off a body, especially not with your bare hands. Don’t act like you don’t know the procedure.”

Xavier makes a thoughtful noise, tapping a finger against his pursed lips. “But would it still be evidence,” He asks, tone suddenly grave, “If no one knew of its existence?”

“I don’t have time for your games today, Xavier.”

“I’m not playing a game, Erik—I’m merely presenting a curious philosophical conundrum, similar to the age-old question of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no one is around to hear it—”

Charles, please.”

Moira gets the distinct feeling that Lehnsherr is not used to saying ‘please’ to anyone. Xavier stops then, looking surprised, and there’s a moment of tense silence between them before his cheeks dimple and he laughs, the air around them dissipating like clouds after a storm. Moira realizes that she, like Darwin and the other two agents, had been holding their breath, as if waiting for a bomb to drop.

“There we are, then. That’s all I wanted to hear.” Xavier pulls the shiny thing out of his pocket—it’s a hypodermic needle in a small plastic baggie. “You know that I would never compromise your evidence—in fact, I have your murder weapon right here.”

Erik doesn’t snatch it from his outstretched palm, though it seems to be a very near thing, and holds it up to the light, examining it. “The murder weapon?” He asks, eyes narrowing. “But Darwin said that the cause of death was blunt force trauma; the amount of blood is unmistakable.”

“Aye, but there’s the rub,” Xavier leans in conspiratorially, glancing from Lehnsherr to Moira to the other agents, as if they’re all sharing in some great secret, “I think that if you took some samples and had them tested back at the lab, you would find that most of the blood isn’t hers. In fact, I believe that after the initial test, you would be able to determine that the blood is not human at all, but that it came from the species Sus domesticus.”

Everyone stares.

“…what?” says one of the other agents finally, a gangly redhead with a half-vacant gaze. Moira remembers him vaguely as Sean Cassidy, formerly of the NYPD before taking a job with the homicide department of the WCBI as their resident ballistics expert. The second, a blond, fitter young man she recognizes as Alex Summers—he’s had quite the colorful past, including a stint in juvenile detention followed by four years in the Special Forces, where he retired with honors—raises an eyebrow. Moira and Darwin look at each other, confused.

Charles smiles at each of them in turn and continues indulgently. “The domesticated pig—terribly clever creatures; it’s unfortunate what’s happened to this one. If you were to look at the skin between the forefinger and middle finger on Miss Strong’s left hand,” He holds out his own, indicating the place where the skin meets, “Beneath all the dirt and dried blood, which the murderer took particular care to rub on her, I might add, you would find a peculiar sort of puncture wound.”

“Filled with…what?” Darwin asks, taking the evidence bag from Lehnsherr and turning it over in his hands. “Was she an addict?”

“Most certainly not an addict—she was in the prime of her life, didn’t drink or smoke or abuse anything. If I were to venture an educated guess I would say simple oxygen, injected into her bloodstream, suffocating her from the inside out. It would take less than two minutes for her to die. The blows to the head occurred after the fact—they’re…ornamental, if you will, meant to throw the pursuers off the trail. He poured pig’s blood all over her to make it look as if she died in this meadow, but look more closely and you’ll see how some of the grass around her is flattened down. She was dragged here from another location entirely.”

“That sounds like a lot of conjecture, Xavier.” Lehnsherr straightens up.

Xavier smiles. “It always does.” They stare at each other for a moment more before Lehnsherr finally looks past him to where Sean, Alex, Darwin, and Moira still stand.

“Well?” He says sharply, “You heard him. Take the samples back to the lab and start on the victim’s family. Find out who has motive for killing Danielle Strong and dumping her here.”

“Yessir—” They scatter, all looking visibly relieved, leaving Moira, Xavier, and Lehnsherr standing in an awkward semi-circle.

Xavier is the first to break the silence, clasping his hands behind his back. “Well, Erik, why don’t you finish up here? I’ll take Agent McTaggert back to Headquarters and help her to settle in.”

Lehnsherr fixes his gaze on Xavier for a beat before nodding. “To be honest, I’d rather keep you in my sights so I can make sure you don’t get us all fired by tampering with evidence, but if you cause a ruckus at HQ, at least you’re someone else’s problem.”

Xavier does not look put out at all—on the contrary, he’s beaming more brightly than ever. “Thank you for your vote of confidence, Erik.” Strangely enough, he doesn’t seem to be sarcastic.

With a jerk of his chin and a pithy parting acknowledgement from Lehnsherr (more than Moira expected at this point, to be quite honest), he too departs, jaw set in what Moira is starting to suspect is his default expression.

“Well!” She turns to see Xavier, looking nonplussed as ever, smiling at the Senior Agent’s departing back with a strange sort of fondness. “Quite a morning, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes, quite.” Moira inhales, ready to ask something before realizing that it would probably sound needlessly accusatory any way she could put it, but Xavier stops her, pressing the tips of two of his fingers to his temple briefly.

“You want to know how I could possibly have come to the conclusions I did in so short a time.”


“Come with me and I will tell you on the way to headquarters.” Xavier holds his hand out to her again, this time sideways, to give her a warm handshake. “I don’t believe I was ever able to properly introduce myself. My name is Charles Xavier, and I’m a consultant for the Westchester County Bureau of Investigation.”

It’s only later that night in her new apartment, as Moira unpacks the last of her clothing and organizes her closet, that she remembers where she has heard the name Charles Xavier. When she realizes, she almost hits her forehead against the wall for not having made the connection sooner.

The Juggernaut case. Of course.

( Three years ago )

“Welcome back. If you’re just now joining us, today’s guest is celebrity psychic Dr. Charles Xavier, who has been helping the WCBI investigate a string of serial murders committed by a man who calls himself the Juggernaut. Thank you for talking with us today, Dr. Xavier.”

“Thank you Gwen, and please, feel free to call me Charles. Dr. Xavier was my father.”

“The influential nuclear physicist, Brian Xavier.”

“That is correct.”

“But you yourself hold multiple doctorates as well—least of all in Psychology, Anthropology, and, most surprisingly, Genetics. It’s also common knowledge that you graduated from Harvard at the age of sixteen. Tell us about why you’ve chosen clairvoyance over, say, becoming a professor or a scientist.”

“Well, Gwen, the sciences were always my first love. I suppose you could say that my desire to help people reconnect with loved ones who have passed really stemmed from my studies into exactly what makes us human, and I’m not talking about opposable thumbs or the history of our civilization, though those are some of the things that make humanity so extraordinary. I’m talking about DNA, the essence of what makes us who we are instead of the single-celled organisms who first washed up on earth’s shores eons ago.”

“Fascinating. And how did you discover your gift, Charles?”

“I’ve actually always felt that I’ve had…a sixth sense, if you will, though my studies always took precedence so I had no time to really examine it when I was young. A few years after I first graduated—pursuing my second degree in Psychology at Columbia University, coincidentally—a colleague of mine learned that her mother, with whom she had been very close, had passed away. And, um, I wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but I felt myself engulfed by this incredible, unearthly warmth and I felt this…beautiful, golden presence, very much like a mother’s embrace—the way we all remember being held by people who have loved us. Without really knowing what I was doing, I asked it if it wanted to speak to my colleague, and she conveyed to my colleague through me that the presence was indeed her mother, that she was no longer in pain, that she forgave her daughter, and that she hoped she and her fiancé would live a long and very happy life together.”

“You’ll forgive me for sounding skeptical, but that sounds like a reply you could get from just about anyone who called themselves a psychic. What makes you the real deal, Charles?”

“Well, the interesting thing is, I learned afterward that my colleague had been engaged for two weeks to a man her family did not approve of. They had planned to elope but the bond between she and her mother was so strong that she could not bear to keep such a secret. Her mother was the only one who knew about it and they did not part on the best of terms before she passed. To be able to give my colleague her peace of mind back was a reward beyond any research I had done in my life up to that point.”

“That’s amazing! And then you switched to clairvoyance?”

“Oh no, that took many more years. I was a scientist, so of course I was prone to my own skepticism, and I had a degree to finish besides. Over the years, I had to my own theories and dispel my own misconceptions countless times before I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that the dead truly do live on and that I could speak to them.”

“And the living? It’s said that you can read minds as well.”

“To a point, though I won’t say it’s not more difficult. The dead are…refreshingly concise, I suppose you could say. I have learned that certain things just become unimportant after death.”

“Can you read my mind right now?”

“Well now, telepathy isn’t quite my specialty, but I can give it a shot. Sit towards me, put your hands in mine, palms up, and calm your mind, focusing on a singular thought. Narrow your universe down to that one thought and just hold it there, like a single sentence printed on a blank piece of paper. …yes, I am starting to see it now, it’s becoming clearer—you are thinking that I have the bluest eyes you have ever seen; that’s very flattering, thank you.”

“I—oh my god, that’s—wow. That’s incredible! Everyone, give a big round of applause to Charles Xavier.”

“You’re too kind.”

“Now, back to our original topic. Tell us about your involvement with the Juggernaut case. How does a psychic find a place as a criminal profiler in a government agency?”

“It’s not much of an involvement, if I must be honest. I told the Westchester County Bureau of Investigation that if they would let me assist, I would use my gift to help them discover the identity of the Juggernaut. Unfortunately, but also unsurprisingly, they refused my offer.”

“Do you have any idea as to who the Juggernaut may be? Official reports tell us very little and no one has ever seen him and survived.”

“I don’t know for sure, but I have felt his presence—I can feel it, even from here, Gwen—and I can tell you that there is no good in his heart.”

“You say that in with a lot of certainty.”

“Well, he is a vile creature—that much is for certain.”

“And do you think he’ll kill again before he is caught?”

“Undoubtedly. I have known those like him and they never stop. It’s a terrible addiction, one that will cost him both his life and the lives of all those he will take until he is apprehended.”

“You say you’ve known people like him before. What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve spoken to many who have passed on, Gwen. For some, their thirst for sadism and mind games cannot be slaked and it is only death that can stop their cycle of violence. I would not hasten to call them people.”

“If the Juggernaut is watching this program, do you have anything you would like to say to him?”

“Only that he is a sad, lonely, depraved little coward who kills because it’s the only semblance of power he has in his pathetic excuse for a life. I have every confidence that justice will prevail—I can only hope that it will be sooner rather than too late.”

“Wow, what a powerful message. Thank you very much for your time, Charles. All the best to you, and we hope that you’ll keep up your good work.”

“Thank you, Gwen. It was a pleasure to be here and, ah, if you’d still like to get that drink you were thinking about earlier, I’ll pick you up outside the studio lot after the show.”

All the house lights are on when Charles pulls into the driveway, a little half-past eleven. That’s curious. It’s a Friday night, which means that Raven should be at a friend’s house. Maybe she wanted to stay in and if that were the case, she really should have called him; what if Charles had decided to bring Gwen home?

Then again, who was he trying to fool? He knew he had to drive himself back at the end of the night—he wasn’t going to drink that much.

Shrugging, he lets himself in and throws his coat over the back of his favorite armchair, heading into the kitchen for a glass of water to help clear his head.

“Raven?” He calls, but there’s no answer. Perhaps she had already gone to bed, which, given that first of all, it’s a Friday night and second of all, it’s Raven, is still unlikely. His sister is not forgetful—she always turns the lights out before leaving and a quick peek into the garage confirms that her car is still parked inside. If she took sick, she would have almost certainly called him, if only to guilt him into bringing her back pint upon pint of chocolate ice cream to ease the suffering.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Dumping the rest of his water in the sink, Charles sets it on the counter and pulls out his cellphone, pressing “1” on his speed-dial and holding it to his ear.

Some Top 40s radio hit that he recognizes as Raven’s latest ringtone blares tinnily and he startles, glancing around for the source of the noise before pinpointing it as coming from upstairs. Frowning, he climbs the stairs two at a time and slowly opens the door to her bedroom. It’s empty. The sound isn’t coming from here.

Feeling a ripple of unease now, Charles shuts the door and cranes his head down the hall. All looks normal, until his eye catches on a small square of white pinned to the bathroom door at the very end.

The ringtone has stopped and suddenly he has become all too aware of the silence, ringing in his ears and seeming to echo down the hallway as he takes one step, and then another, eyes transfixed upon the paper. He doesn’t know where this sudden sense of foreboding is coming from and his hand shakes as he detaches the paper from the door and unfolds it.

Dear Doctor Xavier (or do you prefer Charles?),

I do not like to be slandered in the media, especially by an arrogant, money-grubbing fraud. If you were a real psychic instead of a dishonest little worm, you wouldn't need to open the door to see what I've done to your lovely sister.

– Juggernaut

It is written in red ink. Charles runs one finger over the words and a tiny bit flakes off.

Not ink, then, he realizes. Blood.

He can’t breathe.

His lips form the words oh god or something like it as the paper flutters to the ground and every instinct in his body is telling him to flee, to leave, to get away, to wake up because this is a bad dream it has to be there is no way this is happening—

But all he can do is turn the knob slowly.

Oh, so slowly.

The light is turned off, but there is a small window about eye-level next to the mirror. A solitary beam of moonlight shines against the porcelain tiles, highlighting a grotesquely smiling face, stark red against white, smears of red drip, drip, dripping down.

Charles is afraid to turn on the light.

He sucks in a breath and doesn’t let it out again.

His hand inches towards the light switch.

( 8:13AM, Tuesday )

“Yo, Bigfoot, I got some blood samples for you to test—woah, Professor X, wasn’t expecting you here.” Alex almost drops the bag of test tubes he was holding to see a wavy-haired lump on Hank McCoy’s ratty old couch.

Charles peeks sleepily over the edge of his jacket, swinging his legs off the side of the couch where he had previously been sprawled, blinking furiously against the light pouring in from the hallway. “Oh, Alex. Hullo, is it morning already?”

“Yeah, it’s like, eight in the morning. Did you sleep here?”

“Oh yes, Dr. McCoy’s couch is actually quite comfortable.” He rolls his shoulders back, cracking his neck, before straightening his hair and collar, turning himself back to rights.

“The boss is going to be pissed if he finds out you didn’t go home again.”

Charles favors him with a slight quirk of the left corner of his mouth that grows into a smile with a flash of teeth, the kind meant to put people at ease. “Ah, well, then perhaps we ought to make sure he doesn’t find out—Erik is stressed out enough about the Strong case as it is and I’d hate to cause him any more distress.”

“You got that right.” Alex resists the urge to roll his eyes. Erik has been in a bad mood all morning; the questioning portion of yesterday hadn’t gone as smoothly as it could have and ended with the boss and Sean chasing down the victim’s brother-in-law, who thought they were after him for his connections to a local drug ring (what part of “I’m Special Agent Lehnsherr, this is Agent Cassidy, and we would like to ask you a few questions regarding the murder of Danielle Strong” was not immediately understood as 'sit the fuck down and don’t do anything stupid'?). The chase had gone on for four city blocks before Erik leapt and caught the brother-in-law with a running tackle, pushing them both out of the intersection just as a truck whooshed by and saving them both from becoming urban roadkill.

Sean thought it was one of the most badass things he has ever seen Erik do. Erik looked like he was about to burst a blood vessel.

They deposited the brother-in-law into a holding cell to cool down for the night and Alex is supposed to interrogate him properly this morning. Judging from the way the brother-in-law twitched every time either he or Erik mentioned Danielle’s name the day before, they might be able to get some interesting information out of him.

“You’d best get upstairs so Erik can brief you before the interrogation. You can leave the samples on Dr. McCoy’s desk; I will personally make sure he gets them.” Charles’ voice brings him back to the present.

“—right, thanks.” Alex crosses over to the desk quickly and puts the baggie on the largest empty section of desk he can find. He has never remembered a time where McCoy’s desk was clean. There are files everywhere, parts of unfinished reports and clippings from various scientific magazines, rolls of readouts from all of the tests run through his lab daily. It was suggested by almost everyone on the team at some point that he should really look into getting an assistant, but Henry Phillip McCoy has his own way of doing things and makes a point of hand-delivering his results, which are never tardy and always exhaustingly thorough, so they’ve let him be.

“And Alex?” Alex turns at the door to see Charles looking at him with his head tilted, fingers steepled beneath his chin thoughtfully.

“Yeah, Professor?”

Charles chuckles softly, inclining his head. “You know I prefer Charles, but I don’t mind if you want to call me that. However…” His tone turns thoughtful and quiet. “Perhaps we might begin to call Dr. McCoy by his name, and not ‘Bigfoot’? I can’t help but feel that it’s counterproductive. I know that you and he are not always on the best of terms, but Hank is as much a member of the team as I am and we ought to make him feel a part of it, don’t you think?”

Alex is taken aback by the sudden reprimand, gentle as it is. To be honest, he didn’t even realize Charles took notice of the nicknames (though in retrospect, that was a stupid lack of assumption as Charles notices everything)—they just sort of developed when they first became a unit. Sean was christened Banshee after he fell out of a second-story window during a chase with a surprisingly ear-splitting shriek, completely unhurt but for his slightly bruised ego (having partly fallen on the suspect, who was just a little too slow to get to his feet). Darwin is Darwin because of how quickly he fit into becoming a field agent after coming in from a crime lab, and Alex himself became Havoc after he may or may not have accidentally incinerated an entire warehouse full of cocaine after a bust operation. Not his proudest moment, but considering that they were able to round up almost the entire cartel in the process, all he got was a slap on the wrist from the superiors and a pat on the back from Erik.

And Hank, well—Hank does have big feet and he tends to slouch around the office. He’s never mentioned that it bothers him. Erik is the only one on the team who doesn’t have a nickname beyond the obligatory ‘boss;’ Alex would like to keep his balls securely attached to his body, thank you very much.

Charles, despite what he appears on the surface, actually keeps most of his opinions regarding the team to himself. Of course, there are times where he laughs and teases, perches on Darwin’s desk whenever he shows them a new mind trick, and makes the occasional joke at the boss’s expense when he finds him to be in a particularly prickly mood, but other than that, he’s usually seated somewhere off to the side with a cup of tea in his hand and his nose in the day’s newspaper, oblivious to everything else that goes on around him until the boss, exasperated, growls “Xavier,” and pulls the paper down to finally get his attention.

If it were anyone else but the Professor, Alex is sure they would be out on their asses by the second day. In fact, Charles seems to get away with a lot under Erik’s nose and though he grumbles and swears and warns and makes serial-killer faces as he jabs his index finger threateningly, the boss never seems overly-inclined to actually make good on his threats. Alex wonders what Charles has on Erik to make him look the other way so often, and if he can possibly get in on it.

“…yeah, okay. I’ll remember that, sorry.”

“Oh, no need to apologize.” Charles smiles, shaking his head and settling back into the couch, stretching with a lazy yawn. “I just thought it prudent to let you know. I will see you later this afternoon? I should like to go to Miss Strong’s home to see if I can’t figure out what she may have been doing to have gotten her killed in such a fashion.”

“Of course.” Alex nods, trying not to look too abashed. Charles’ nickname is pretty accurate; despite the fact that he’s always nice about it, sometimes he makes Alex feel like he’s back in the principal’s office. “And—thanks.”


He closes the door behind him quietly and is halfway up the stairs before he realizes that he never asked Charles why he was sleeping in McCoy’s office to begin with. He almost makes the decision to go back and ask when he is suddenly jolted with the memory of Charles on the night of the incident with the Juggernaut. Alex had only been able to catch a small glimpse, but what he saw stayed with him.

Charles Xavier, clutching desperately at the shock blanket he was huddled beneath, staring blankly up at Erik as he asked him questions in hushed tones, unable to do more than give tiny jerks of his head, “yes” or “no.” Once in a while his throat would convulse as he swallowed, the light of the ambulance dying his skin red as paramedics and police streamed around them. He was completely separate from the confident, grinning man they had all met when he strolled into the WCBI last month and offered his consultation services as if it were already a given.

Erik had turned him away personally, and everyone thought that had been the end of it.

At the time of the incident, Alex wondered if he had already spoken to his dead sister, the one whose blood painted the walls of the upstairs bathroom, but that had been before he had learned the almost more-impossible truth.

It’s been three years and Charles’ smile may be back in full swing, but now that he thinks about it, the bags underneath his eyes haven’t really gotten any less bruised.

Alex sighs and runs a hand through his hair, taking the rest of the stairs two at a time and mentally preparing himself for the meeting with Danielle’s brother-in-law. Let the man sleep some more—god knows he must need it.

( 11:45AM, Tuesday )

Danielle Strong had been a very pretty young woman.

Charles runs his fingers over the glossy five-by-seven color photograph attached to the rest of her profile, silently committing all the parts of her he could glean from the snapshot to his memory. Her hair, strawberry waves that fell to the middle of her back, whipped behind her as she laughed towards the camera, caught in the circle of her husband’s arms. She had a dotting of freckles on her nose and even in this frozen moment of time, her glass-green eyes seem to sparkle. Her husband’s eyes are closed, too busy burrowing his nose into her hair, his expression one of complete and utter bliss.

The photograph was taken, according to the timestamp in the corner, merely a week after their wedding, which also meant that it was taken exactly a week before she disappeared.

They were happy, of that Charles is positive. There is nothing in this photograph to suggest that her new marriage was the cause of her death, or that, indeed, her husband had anything to do with it at all. Their body language is open and honest. They loved each other, leaned into one another as they twirled on the lawn in front of the tidy bungalow they were to call home.

Danielle Strong had grown up in Chesterton, Missouri, a small-town girl with dreams of traveling the world. She was accepted to NYU and received her degree in Journalism, receiving an offer to write for the Boston Globe. She met her future husband at a press conference for his father’s company, he invited her out for drinks afterwards, and the rest was history.
The husband’s secretary, whom Erik had disliked instantly (judging by the way his back stiffened and the corner of his mouth twitched ever-so-slightly) for the way he simpered at him when they first arrived at his office, stared in shock as Charles rattled off these facts while they stood in the waiting room. Apparently, there are still people in the world who believe that he has psychic powers even though it was painfully clear that he was just reciting word-for-word off the biography he found on her website. Well, their gullibility is his benefit—it always has been.

Somehow, he doesn’t think that Danielle’s widower will stay in New York for much longer; no, most likely he’ll go back to Boston and take back the corporate position in his father’s company that he had left. He had married her because she promised adventure, something that his own silver-spoon upbringing lacked. Now that her promise had brought unbelievable joy and grief in the span of just one month, he would seek the safety of the past. The man that Danielle left behind was a good man, if not a brave one.

Charles takes careful stock of the jewelry she is wearing in the photo: beads of turquoise woven into an elaborate but elegant necklace, silver bangles on her left wrist, a small wooden eagle totem dangling from the ear that is not obscured by her hair, and her extravagant wedding ring. The first three represent places she had been sent on assignment—Egypt, India, Alaska—and if Charles were to look in her jewelry box (as he plans to do later today), he is certain to find other small mementos. The wedding ring looks out of place; her husband grew up with two older sisters who spoke often of judging a man by the size of the stone he could afford. Danielle did not have the heart to tell him that a simpler ring would have sufficed.

He takes her smile and her laughing eyes, and in his mind, superimposes it over that of the pale, unseeing face he first examined when Erik called him in. She deserves to be remembered as the vibrant and beautiful woman she was in life—he can give her that much, at least until he finds her murderer.

This is not because her smile reminds him of Raven. In fact, he very carefully does not think about his sister as he tucks the photograph into its manila folder and sets it back on Erik’s desk. “Well, that was indeed informative.”

Erik stands up from where he had been sitting behind his desk, watching Charles examine the photograph. “Is the ring a motive for murder?”

Charles shakes his head. “Unfortunately not. That may have been what the killer wanted us to think, but she was not moving when the oxygen was injected into her bloodstream, and the method is too sophisticated for a mere robbery gone wrong. No, I think the answer may very well lie in her jewelry box.”

“Her jewelry box? Take Summers with you, then. He was with me when we spoke to the husband yesterday.”

“If I may ask, what will you be doing?”

“Agents McTaggert and Cassidy will be accompanying me to check on a lead. The brother-in-law mentioned a few points of interest involving hostility in the victim’s workplace. It’s possible that this may be a case of muckraking gone wrong.”

This is precisely what Charles wanted to hear and he must wear his excitement quite plainly on his face for Erik raises his eyebrows, watching him bounce on the balls of his heels with something akin to amusement. “Something about that interest you, Xavier?”

“Immensely.” Charles claps his hands together. “When you’re questioning her co-workers, please do me a favour and ask about whether or not anyone remembers what Danielle was wearing last Thursday, paying particular attention as to if they can recall the color of her shoes.”

The amusement slides off Erik’s face. “Knowing better than to ask for clarification, I’m going to assume this is crucially related to the case and that if I ask, the murderer will immediately get nervous and slip up, revealing everything and closing my case.”

“Perhaps. Call it a personal line of inquiry if you’d like.”

Erik rolls his eyes towards the ceiling, but eventually consents with a long-suffering sigh and slides Charles the keys to the Escalade, telling him to get a move-on. Charles knows Erik hates it when he’s being evasive, but that’s half of what makes it such fun.

“Alex?” He calls once he shuts the office door behind him, and the agent in question looks up from where he’s pretending to read paperwork at his desk while really engaging in a secret paper-throwing war with Sean. “I assume you would like to drive?”

“Hell yeah, thanks, Prof!” Charles tosses Alex the keys. Alex catches them with one hand and scoots out of his rolling chair in one smooth motion, looking considerably brighter. “I need to burn some rubber to make up for the torture of having to deal with the interrogation room all morning. Seriously, it took me half an hour to get him to even open his mouth and when he did, he sounded like Banshee after one of his really bad hangovers—”

“Hey, c’mon man, that was one time—”

( Three years ago )

“I’m not a psychic.”

That’s the first thing Charles Xavier says, voice wavering dangerously when Erik sits him down on the sofa of the hotel room they’ve booked for him. It’s a bit extravagant with its antique wallpaper and French doors leading out to a spacious balcony (Erik takes care to keep Charles away from the balcony’s line of sight in case the Juggernaut decides to return for a second round), but then again, this is Westchester County—it’s hard enough to find a hotel that isn’t adjacent to either a seaside resort or a country club. Usually they will put witnesses up with nearby family members or friends, but Charles stated matter-of-factly that he now has neither, so this will have to do.

Erik, pre-occupied with checking all the windows to make they are secure, doesn’t let it register until he straps his handgun back into his hip holster as Charles repeats himself, more forcefully, “I’m not a psychic.”

“What?” He looks down to see Charles resting his head practically between his legs, held up only by his palms pressing against either side of his temple. At first he doesn’t really understand what Charles is saying—he’s never been much of a believer in anything, God or ghosts or otherwise, so this shouldn’t be surprising to him in the least. He finds himself taken aback, enough so to merit sitting on the edge of the coffee table to better try and understand what exactly Charles seems to be admitting to.

He’s seen Charles in interviews and demonstrations before and was sure that the audience member was a plant. The only thing that Charles really has going for him is his manner and his accent, and Erik hadn’t even been sure that that wasn’t part of the act as well, another way to get gullible socialites to hand over a portion of their inherited fortune for the chance to absolve themselves of petty sins.

They know nothing of sin, not when they’ve been drenched in it from birth.

And when Charles himself all but strutted into the WCBI headquarters and declared that he could help them hunt down the man that eight months and every single one of their best agents couldn’t find, Erik hadn’t been in the mood to be kind. Usually he just humors people he finds arrogant before shutting them down abruptly; he finds it brings his point across more effectively. Alex and Sean, back then the only other members of his field team, had discreetly settled themselves into the small kitchen adjacent to the lobby to watch the fireworks go down as curious agents milled about, waiting for the fireworks.

To their disappointment, there hadn’t been any. “We aren’t in need of your services at this time, Dr. Xavier.” Erik, in his customary black turtleneck and crossed arms, stood at least half a head taller than Charles, whose blithe smile faltered for an instant. “Or ever. When you are able to give me the real name of the Juggernaut and his location with solid, tangible evidence to back it up, then I will welcome you onto the team with open arms and give you a medal for your trouble. Until then, I advise you to stay in your own sandbox.”

Charles had barely closed the door behind him, tail between his legs, when the entire department erupted into loud bursts of laughter.

“Aw, man—” Sean smacked the table with the heel of his hand, rocking back on his chair. “Shot down! Did you see his face—”

“Like someone shit in his coffee,” Alex snorted, “—or, his tea I guess, since he’s English and everything.”

“Nice going, boss!” Sean held his hand out for a high-five that Erik ignored as he passed him to open the refrigerator, rummaging around for a bottle of water. He pulled it out, flicking the condensation on his hand at Sean. Coming from someone else, it might have been playfulness.

“Alright, enough sightseeing. He’s not coming around here again; back to work, everyone.”

“Aww, c’mon, boss! Don’t leave me hanging!”

Honestly, Erik thought that had been the end of it. An entire month went by without any new developments on the case, the Juggernaut lay low, and Charles Xavier was pushed from his mind by new cases that actually merited his attention until that damned primetime interview with Gwen Worthington, which he caught the second half of on a rebroadcast in the kitchen on his lunch break, shutting it off with an irritated snarl as Charles made eyes at the host, undoubtedly thinking himself smooth for saying out loud what had been apparent on her face from the moment he opened his mouth. Delusional, smug bastard.

A short twelve hours later, he was driving the black Escalade away from the house where the Juggernaut had claimed his thirteenth victim, twenty-one-year-old Raven Xavier, leaving behind a dismembered body in a bathtub full of blood.

Charles Xavier may be a lot of things that Erik dislikes in a person, but none of those qualities, even combined, merited the brutal murder of his sister.

“I’m not—” Charles begins repeating himself a third time, but cuts himself off with a sharp exhale, sitting up straight and rubbing at his eyes. “Agent Lehnsherr,” He begins again, wearily, “I owe you an apology.”

This is the second time he has surprised Erik with his words tonight. “For what?”

“For making a fool of myself at your workplace. You were correct—I was ill-equipped to deal with the Juggernaut and I should have known better than to bait him as I did. I…grossly overestimated my own abilities and my sister paid the price.”

There is not much Erik can say in response to that, so they sit in silence instead, staring past each other at opposite sides of the wall. Once in a while, he’ll glance at Charles, just to make sure he’s not going to go into cardiac arrest when the shock finally settles in, but no, he just sits there, unmoving.

Eventually, minutes or hours later, there’s really no telling, Erik’s cellphone buzzes and a text message from Alex confirms that they’ve secured the perimeter of the hotel. Erik taps back a quick thank you and an order for him and the rest of the unit to go home and get as much sleep as they can before tomorrow. “You’ll be staying here until we can figure out what to do next,” He announces to Charles, who jerks as if startled.

“I—oh, yes, thank you very much.” Charles swallows, looking around with his eyes still very wide. His voice is fainter than it was, tired, though Erik knows all too well that it will be a long time before he allows himself to succumb to the exhaustion. “You wouldn’t...you wouldn’t know where I could get a cup of tea, would you? It would help to keep me present, I can’t—“

Thankful for the opportunity to do something other than attempt interaction with a man who has been traumatized in perhaps the worst way, Erik stands up and motions for Charles to stay where he is, striding towards the kitchenette. “I’ll go take a look.”

Charles smiles, thin and watery, though Erik suspects it’s more out of courtesy than anything else. “Thank you.”

Luckily, there’s a teabag in the basket of complimentary instant coffee and Erik makes two cups of boiling water with the coffee maker, dunking the teabag in one flimsy styrofoam cup and dumping the packet of coffee into the other. He hands the cup of tea to Charles and sits down in the armchair next to the sofa, blowing the steam away. Charles does the same before raising his cup in a mockery of a formal toast and Erik touches the rim of his cup to Charles’, smirking humorlessly before they both sip.

“—that’s—awful.” Erik peers at the brown sludge inside his cup, smacking his lips to try and get the taste off of his tongue, then forces down a larger mouthful. Caffeine is caffeine, as years of stakeouts have taught him.

“Foul,” agrees Charles, wearing the same grimace. “It tastes like someone—”

“Took a shit in it?”

“—Excuse me?”

Erik almost spits out his mouthful of sludge, not having meant Charles to hear that. Usually he has greater restraint, but it’s at least two in the morning and, oh, the man in front of him just walked in on his sister’s dead body less than two hours ago. Tact is one of his lesser problems right now. “Nothing, just—” –something Summers said once, when it was all just a big joke.

He looks up in alarm when Charles makes a choking noise, worried that he might have just tried to swallow the teabag in a fit, but then he realizes that Charles is laughing, fingers half-covering his mouth and shoulders heaving from the force of it. Erik isn’t actually sure if it can be qualified as a laugh—it’s more half-hiccup, half-sob. Charles flicks his eyes up, meeting Erik’s, and Erik finds the ridiculous urge to laugh bubbling up in him as well, though he’s able to confine it to a slightly delirious upward tilt of his lips.

Finally, Charles seems to relax a bit, his shoulders sagging back against the couch as the last of his moment of hysteria leaves him. “I’m really not, you know,” He murmurs, lacing his fingers around his cup, eyes slipping shut. “I don’t have any powers.” The words are frank and quiet, but still it seems like some kind of grand confession.

“I never thought you did.”

“In that case, will you accept my apology?”

Erik considers. This could be the one chance he has to get a lead that could help him with the Juggernaut investigation. Up until Raven Xavier, the killings have been random—there has been no connection between the Juggernaut and any of the victims, their friends and family, or each other. Even if everything Charles said on-air had been folly, he must have hit upon something that made the Juggernaut tick enough to strike again.

“I will, under one condition.”

Charles cracks one eye open, a careful sliver of blue. “Anything.”

“What’s the real story, Dr. Xavier? If it’s not all some sort of elaborate trick, how did you get so many people to believe that you had supernatural powers?”

“Would you prefer a condensed version, or shall I tell you the entire sordid tale?”

“Seeing as neither of us will be going to sleep tonight, you had better give me the long story. Start from the beginning, and don’t exaggerate or make anything sound like more than it is. I’m only interested in the facts.”

Charles sighs, tilting his head back and kneading at the bridge of his nose. “As you wish. I only ask that you wait until the end to ask me any questions. There are some very important things that I have not told anyone else, and I fear that if I am interrupted, I will lose my nerve. I beg you bear with me.”

Erik leans back, folding his arms across his chest and settling himself into a more comfortable position. He considers taking notes for a moment, but Charles mentioned secrets and Erik is no hypocrite when it comes to secrets. Everything important he will retain to memory naturally. “This is all off the record, then.” He agrees, and Charles nods with a wan smile.

“Thank you.”

And the thing is, Erik still isn’t sure that Charles has anything to thank him for.

▩ First of all, thanks forever to my partner-in-crime, the wonderfully talented Anne, who makes writing 'Dragon Age' fanfic look effortless, for keeping me on-track and wading through my inability to comprehend the concept of "less is more."
▩ Your comments would be so appreciated. ♥
▩ Watch 'The Mentalist.' Simon Baker as Patrick Jane will forever change your life for the better.
▩ Cut text is from "Pursuit of Happiness" by Kid Cudi (feat. MGMT).
▩ Thank you for reading! We should be friends. ♥
bforbahati on September 4th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)
I'm not even sure where to start. This story is amazing. When I pick up my brain I'll comment again with more detail @_@
undesirable number oneelizabethisboss on September 4th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
This was delightful! The entire time I was reading it I was struck with how well you write Charles. He's perfect! And I, of course, had to read this story because of the Kid Cudi lyric in the cut. Excellent choice. But yes, I can't wait for the next part!
judi42: Sexy McAvoy :Djudi42 on September 4th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC)
This is wonderful, so so wonderful. I love each bit of this!

Waiting for more :)
the dark cavalier: [x] listen to me very carefullycerulean_sky on September 4th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
This is so wonderful. I can't wait for more. :)
a cat-like creature - almost human: happytigertale7 on September 6th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
Anyone who can combine XMFC and the Mentalist so brilliantly is someone I need in my life. This is wonderfully done and I am gagging for more, which is the true sign of an amazing story. Lovely job and thanks for sharing!
Gryvongryvon on September 6th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
Ooo. That was delicious. I loved the way you fit the two worlds together. Charles is absolutely perfect as Patrick Jane.

Edited at 2011-09-06 06:26 pm (UTC)
Orionorion_nightbane on September 8th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
wow! This is really good, and really interesting! :D I'd love to read more! ^_^