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11 October 2011 @ 10:36 pm
it's not too late (to feel a little more alive)  
It's Not Too Late (To Feel A Little More Alive)
erik/charles, charles & the doctor (x-men: first class crossover with doctor who).4,113 words. pg. there is a strange man rummaging around in his refrigerator.




i. prologue - Westchester County, September 1943.


There is a strange man rummaging around in his refrigerator.

Charles raises his baseball bat as high as he can, ready to whack the intruder over the head (well, between the shoulder blades at least; he’s not yet quite tall enough for the bat to reach the man’s head) as soon as he is noticed, but lowers it almost as quickly when a steady stream of fish fingers and custard fish fingers and custard fish fingers and custard runs through his head. He barely has time to process such a strange combination before the stranger shuts the refrigerator door with a rather loud clap and is leaning down to eye-level with Charles, so close their noses are almost touching. Charles takes an involuntary step back, bat falling from his hands and clattering on the linoleum.

“Well,” says the man, the largest grin Charles has ever seen spreading across his face and the corners of his eyes crinkling up. "What have we here? Last thing I’d expect to find here on earth is a telepath. Aren’t you just extraordinary?”

You can—

“Yes,” answers the man, straightening up and walking in a circle around him, examining him, patting his cheeks, and ruffling his hair, Charles too stunned to do anything but stand there as he is poked and prodded without a single hint of malicious intent—just an unfathomable amount of curiosity. The man is tall and lanky, all long limbs and angles, in a tweed jacket with elbow patches and a maroon bowtie, elbows jutting out comically as he finishes his rounds and looks down at Charles again. “Of course I can. As to your question, used to like apples, don’t like them anymore, hate them actually, but fish fingers and custard hit the spot every time. I'm getting a distinct sense of déja-vu, but isn't that always the case?” That last part is muttered, almost as if to himself, but his grin, if possible, widens even more. "Now, then—"

But how—

“No time to explain, on a bit of a time crunch, literally a time crunch, just dropped by to grab a snack; the more important question is…who are you?”

For a moment, all Charles can do is gape. There is a strange man in his kitchen, one who speaks very quickly, has a taste for fish fingers and custard, and who knows about his ability (can use it himself?) and acts as if this is an everyday occurrence. “Ch-Charles,” He says finally, still waiting for his brain to catch up.

“Charles…” The man mulls over his name thoughtfully and Charles suddenly realizes that he is speaking with an English accent much like his own—recognizable, but milder, cobbled together, as if he too doesn’t belong to anywhere. “Charles, you don’t by chance go by anything different, do you? Charlie? Johnny? Robbie?”

Johnny? Robbie? “N-no, just—just Charles. Charles Xavier.”

“Charles Xa—Charles Xavier!” The man’s entire face lights up with pure, unadulterated glee and he claps his hands, spinning around on his heel so quickly that Charles fears he will fall over, but for all of his perceived ungainliness, he is actually quite light on his feet. Charles doesn’t think anyone has ever made his acquaintance with so much exuberance in his entire life. Once he stops, he looks around the kitchen as if everything has suddenly fallen into place, though Charles has absolutely no idea what that ‘everything’ entails. “Ah, no wonder everything looks so familiar. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant—tell me, Charles Xavier, what is today’s date?”

How could he not know the date? “It’s the first of September, 1943.”

“1943, that would make you—eleven, you’re still just eleven years old.” The man murmurs wonderingly almost to himself, “Huh, I’m Eleven, too. How about that?”

Charles hears the capitalization of ‘Eleven’ in his head, but he has no idea why this is important. “Who are you?” He asks, having half a mind to pick up his baseball bat again to give himself back a single semblance of control, though he knows that won’t do himself any good. This man, strange as he is, means him no harm. “How do you know how old I am—how do you know me?”

Almost on reflex, he reaches out to the man’s mind again in search of answers and blinks, reeling in surprise when he cannot read anything. It’s not like hitting a brick wall, but rather more like falling face-first into a mass of pillows or what he imagines an embrace must feel like. It’s soft, and again he feels no hostility, but the man’s mind is definitely impenetrable. The man quirks a smile at him but makes no comment upon it.

“That’s right, we haven’t yet met in your timeline, have we? I’m the Doctor.” The man holds out his hand for Charles to shake and he takes it, at a loss for what else to do. His grip is warm and firm, the handshake of a familiar friend.

“What do you mean—in my timeline? I’ve never met you in my life.”

“Ah, but I’ve met you, Charles Xavier.” The man—The Doctor smiles and it’s a different smile than before, a little more wistful, and suddenly Charles is stuck by how old his eyes look, like he’s seen the entire world, beyond the entire world. “And oh, you have absolutely no idea, do you, of how absolutely amazing you’ll be? Not yet—Charles, you must trust me when I tell you this.”

The Doctor lowers himself onto one knee and puts both of his hands on Charles’ shoulders, looking into his eyes with a gravity that he can’t escape. “You are not alone in this world. You must remember that, Charles Xavier; you are not alone. Everything is changing—in a year or two, you’ll see.”

“I don’t understand—can’t you explain—”

“Haven’t the time, I’m afraid!” And just like that, the Doctor has a jovial expression on his face again, elbows tucked into his body as he springs, more than stands, up. “I was just on my way to see an old friend on Avos Fortuna—the engineering hub of the universe in the twenty-fifth century—extraordinary place, you know, they’ve developed a hovercraft that folds up so small you can put it in your pocket? Astoundingly groovy stuff!”

At Charles’ blank stare (Avos Fortuna? Galaxy? Twenty-fifth century? What is a hovercraft? What kind of a word is ‘groovy’?), the Doctor just ruffles his hair fondly again.

“Good-bye for now, Charles Xavier. We’ll meet again one day, you and I. Don’t forget what I told you. You are not alone.”

The Doctor turns to leave and before Charles can ask how he got into the manor in the first place, he opens the kitchen window and clambers out. By the time Charles recovers himself enough to rush after, all there is in the darkness is the fading light of a lantern and a peculiar whooshing sound.

The event is so singular that even years later, Charles will not be able to completely convince himself that he did not dream it, that somewhere in the universe there is a man he has not yet met, but who knows him, accepts him wholly for who he is, and believes him to be capable of extraordinary things.

Could such a person truly exist?

It’s only when Charles wakes up in the middle of the night, months after he has forced the smiling man to the back of his mind for more pressing matters to take precedence, and goes downstairs cautiously with the old baseball bat in a manner all too familiar to find a beautiful blue-skinned little girl searching for food (not fish fingers and custard, thankfully) in his refrigerator, that he begins to believe that it could be true.

Charles doesn’t realize it just then, but the fluttering feeling in his chest, fragile but strong like the butterfly he caught and cupped between his hands for an entire afternoon last summer, is hope.







ii. epilogue - Westchester County, September 1962.


“Good afternoon, Doctor.”

The Doctor steps out of the TARDIS and freezes, giving Charles a chance to drink in the sight of him, the first breath of air after drowning. True to form, he really hasn’t aged a day. Charles, on the other hand, feels hundreds of years older, wearier. How long ago since he returned home with the one-hundred-and-eighty-four slightly-crumpled pages of his thesis to see an antique blue police box appear in the living room of his flat in Oxford.

But it’s not really a fair comparison. The Doctor has seen the births and deaths of countless lives, witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations—of planets and galaxies, worlds beyond imagining. Most people can’t dream of living past one-hundred, and here is a man who has lived nearly ten times that. Charles is barely a microbe in comparison and yet the Doctor looks at him now as if he is the most important thing in the universe. They watch each other, unwavering, for—how long, it doesn’t matter. For the first time since he watched the trees swallow up the car carrying a sleeping Moira back to her apartment in Washington DC, Charles is not counting the minutes, hours, days since Cuba. That in it of itself is relief enough.

“Charles—oh, I am sorry, I am so, so sorry.” The Doctor’s voice is quiet and tinged ragged, full to the brim with something beyond mortal sadness.

“Doctor, you of all people should know that there is nothing to apologize for.” Charles tries to smile, to reassure him, but the look on the Doctor’s face contains so much remorse that his own mouth can’t do more than give a little upwards twitch as he shuts his book and folds his hands on top of it, thumb running over the well-worn leather cover. The Doctor shoves his hands in his trouser pockets and approaches him, his familiar brown boots crunching the gravel, and Charles suddenly remembers the first time he stepped out of the TARDIS and looked down to see honest-to-god stardust coating his loafers. “You said it yourself—there exists both fixed and malleable points in time. It would be impossible for even you to be able to distinguish between them all.”

And he has had time (two weeks, three days, and approximately fourteen hours) to come to terms with this truth, weeks of lying awake in the darkness, idly running his fingers over his unfeeling legs, composing letters he will never write, let alone send. When that was no longer enough, he began to reach out with his mind, far past the boundaries of the manor, hoping desperately for a brush of any familiar mind, any familiar thought. It’s exhausting and lonely work, grieving.

“Doctor—” Charles stops himself, shutting his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. He thinks about all the people—and extraterrestrial life forms—he’s met in his life. He thinks about their lives, the choices he has watched them make. Bloodthirsty, selfish, self-sacrificing, senseless, surprising, tragic, terribly clever, necessary, inevitable; he does not think about where in the spectrum his own decisions would fall.

“Doctor,” He begins again, words coming out thick and stilted, “if, if in the future, if Erik is right, if it—does come down to an impasse and this planet can only tolerate one dominant species—”

The Doctor places his hand upon Charles’ shoulder. He didn’t realize he had been shaking.

“What happened, Charles?” he asks gently.

“You mean, what didn’t happen?” Charles licks his lips wearily, wheeling his chair to face the satellite that still stands vigil over the forest. “I couldn’t—I thought it would have been enough, but I could not stop him.”

“Did he—”

“Kill the men on those ships?” Charles smiles, trying to keep his voice from descending into bitterness—or perhaps, self-pity. “No. I was able to prevent that, at least.”

He replays the scene in his head as if it were happening to a stranger. The first time he witnessed it, it had been on a wondrous space-and-time machine that had the ability to make herself and her inhabitants invisible. They hovered amongst the missiles, singing as they were suspended by a stupendous magnetic force, and Charles’ heart had flooded with relief as one by one they dropped harmlessly into the water, controlled by a man he did not yet know but would one day slot himself into all of the empty spaces in Charles’ life.

“Congratulations, Charles Xavier.” The Doctor murmured in his ear as they watched the man turn back to the group on the beach, opening his arms for an exuberant embrace from the future him. “You and yours have just averted World War III.”

Erik, Charles heard himself say distantly. You did it, Erik. The sun shone down and illuminated the faces of the tiny group of mutants converging around them. Joining hands, nine in all, they disappeared in a puff of pomegranate-colored smoke.

The door to the TARDIS shut itself gently and Charles collapsed against it, breathless as they swung back into space. So this was their future—how exhilarating, that he would one day find a man who can stop a war single-handedly. “When will I meet him, Doctor?” He asked, unable to keep the giddiness out of his voice. “Erik. When will I meet Erik?”

And the Doctor had just ducked his head, grinning knowingly. “Spoilers.”

Much later, on a cold night off the coast of Miami, Charles looked over the railing of the ship to see a small dark figure being pulled underwater by a submarine and it’s as if something has suddenly snapped into place in the very core of him.

He remembered what the Doctor told him, all those years ago. You are not alone.

You’re not alone. Erik, you are not alone.


Without hesitation, he dove, that distant sunny day clutched to his heart like a totem that will save them both.

“Charles?”

Charles opens his eyes to see the Doctor looking at him very carefully and he realizes that he had unwittingly slipped back into the safest recesses of his mind, to the corner where he kept all the softly glowing memories of the past few weeks carefully tucked away. He searches for a way to pull them up so that he might finally be able to explain, but the words will not come. “It would be easier if I could…” He hesitates, though he knows they both understand his meaning, then asks, almost timidly, “…may I?”

The Doctor is silent, uncharacteristically still, the cogs in his head never ceasing to turn as he weighs the risks of letting Charles into his head. Charles can hear them now, what once was a warm and muffled silence is now a cacophonous but somehow impossibly elegant tick-tick-tick. Finally, the Doctor lowers himself onto one knee and looks Charles in the eyes and not for the first time, Charles is struck by the clarity of them. No one who has lived so much should have eyes that clear. “Be very careful, Charles Xavier,” He warns, “Don’t get lost.”

Charles nods, pressing the tips of his fingers against the Doctor’s temple and leans forward as he presses their foreheads together. His skin is warm and it weren’t for the beating of both his hearts, Charles could forget that so much of who he has become can be attributed to this man.

Charles once asked him, giddy on adrenaline and perhaps a few too many fingers of Coclaxlot brandy—the strongest and finest in all of the Hathorian Galaxy, enough to knock out a sabertooth bullfrog if one is not careful (Charles wasn’t aware that bullfrogs were capable of being sabertoothed, but then again, they were too many light years away from earth and everything he has ever known for the regular rules of genetics and biology to stand)—if having two hearts was a secondary mutation and the Doctor just laughed, said that it only meant he could run faster.

No, don’t think about that right now. Focus. Let him in.

He exhales and shuts his eyes. He can feel the Doctor anchored in his mind, almost a physical presence right behind his eyes, and wonders if this is what it’s like for others when he enters their consciousness. When he blinks his eyes open, he finds himself once again standing on that now-familiar beach in Cuba with sand and engine grease from the ruined Blackbird smeared across his face. He turns to Erik, his hand held out in invitation to the hundred or so missiles floating above the crescent-shaped bay, and his heart starts to jackhammer against his ribs, his breath shortening.

Erik just isn’t listening. Charles said what had to be all the right things, there was nothing else he could have said, not knowing all the things about the universe that he knows now, but the missiles still sail serenely on, harbingers of destruction packaged in stainless metal bullets that gleam softly in the sun.

Doctor! Doctor, please. I know you’re there. If there was ever a time that I needed you, it’s now. Please.

Charles calls out but there is no answer, not even a nudge. This is only a memory, he reminds himself, a record of what has already happened. There is nothing the Doctor can do, nothing that Charles can do but watch.

He scans the skies, wondering if the younger version of him is out there too, watching but not yet understanding, but his eyes are pulled towards the horizon and suddenly he can’t wait anymore.

He dives with a strangled scream.

There was never any hope for Charles to gain the upper hand. The next few moments are little more than a barrage of sensation as his momentum fails him and they fall to the ground, swirls of yellow and blue that are almost cartoonish in the blinding sunlight and the weight of Erik’s body pressing down on him like an anvil.

Through the pain, dull in his head but sharp in his lungs, he scrabbles upwards for the void where Erik’s mind should be, fingers slipping uselessly against the almost-frictionless surface until a fist drives solidly into his jaw, snapping his head to the side and filling his mouth with grit, blood, and salt. He moves his hands instinctively to shield his face from another blow and the moment is enough for Erik to roll away, redirecting the fallen missiles back into the air.

Distantly, Charles hears the voices of the captains bidding their crews farewell and he forces himself to rise, still reeling from the collision, kicking up dirt as Erik deflects one of Moira’s bullets, then another, then another, then ano—

The link is severed like atomic fission as Charles slingshots them back to the present, too overwhelmed to reveal what happens next. “I’m—sorry, Doctor—” He stammers, rubbing at his temples and looking up to see the Doctor doing the same, wincing in pain as his eyes slowly refocus.

Such profound connections need to be eased apart over time—he and Erik discovered that together—but the words that follow belong to them alone, are too intimate, too wounding, to be shared by anyone else. Memories don’t just end, they feed into each other, and there are mornings and dead-of-nights and quiet hours in-between that no one else can ever know about, not even thousand-year-old Time Lords. Charles keeps these too selfishly to his breast, wrapped tightly around his bones, a cast for wounds that he fears may otherwise tear him apart.

“Do you still think me magnificent, Doctor?” Charles laughs and it comes out of him strangely choked and fragmented like a skipping record player. “Now that we have truly met each other, seen ourselves as we really are?”

“Oh, Charles…” The Doctor murmurs, straightening and resting a hand in Charles’ hair, shushing him quietly. Charles can’t help but smile, allowing himself to be pressed into the Doctor’s torso, tweed scratching lightly against his cheek and soaking up the wetness that is spilling from his eyes. “There was never a question with you.”

They say little more for the remainder of the time the Doctor stays, which isn’t very long—it never has been when it comes to Charles. They go together to the TARDIS when it’s time for him to be on his way and Charles pats her familiar blue paneling.

Hello, old friend, He thinks, and fancies for a moment that he can feel her warming happily in response beneath his touch. They always did get along splendidly.

“What do you say, Charles?” The Doctor pulls open the door and Charles can see the console gleaming. “How about one last adventure, for old times’ sake? You can pick the place this time, we’ll take you anywhere you’d like.”

The Doctor is grinning so enticing that for a single slice of time, Charles wants to accept the offer with every fiber of his being, wants to go to a distant star, to a world where there are neither humans nor mutants, where he can shed the skin of mild-mannered professor with telepathic powers and be someone—anyone else. The realization that this desire exists leaves a rotting taste in his mouth.

“I can’t.”

The Doctor’s face falls. Charles thought that it had been a good-natured jest, but now he sees that he was indeed serious.

“I’m sorry Doctor, but I must remain here. The children need me and—besides, I’m afraid I won’t be as efficient at running as I used to be.” The last bit is meant to be a joke, but from the way they both avert their eyes for a moment, there is still too much truth for comfort.

“A professor, you say?” Charles looks up to see a slow smile spread over the Doctor’s face, his eyes lighting up again. “I knew a professor, once. The most brilliant woman in the universe. Professors are always heroes, aren’t they? She saved my life nineteen times, she did—well, five of those times were because she was also trying to kill me, but that’s really of no consequence—Professor Charles Xavier. I like that. It’s—”

“Please don’t say ‘groovy.’” Charles winces pre-emptively. “I can’t believe I picked that up from you when I was eleven. Where did you get it from?”

The Doctor looks slightly confused. “I learned from you, that night in the pub where you were trying to teach me to pick up women? I do hope your technique has improved since then, by the way, because back on Gallifrey—”

Charles does not want to think about how a temporal paradox taught him the word that would cause most of Raven's secondhand embarrassment during his university years, nor does he exactly foresee the opportunity to improve his technique anytime soon.

“Doctor—you will come back, won’t you?”

The Doctor stops, chewing on his tongue. “Very soon,” He says kindly, and Charles doesn’t mention how ‘very soon’ for the Doctor often means ‘decades’ for anyone else. If there’s anything that Charles has learned, it’s that perhaps it is best not to spend one’s life waiting.

“I should like that. Well then—thank you, Doctor. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Charles Xavier.”

It does not sound like a parting of the ways, but they both know better; the greatest farewells never feel as such. The Doctor waves to him, turns on his heel, and disappears into the depths of the console room as Charles wheels his chair backwards a few feet to give the TARDIS some room.

She disappears with that familiar whooshing sound, revealing the gleaming white satellite in the distance behind her, still tilted towards him like a sentinel, beckoning. Charles goes to the edge of the terrace, traces the slow, perfect curve with his eyes, and bows his head slowly until it’s resting upon the marble balustrade.




iii. interlude - Oxford University, September 1958.


“Doctor, hurry!”

Doctor?”

“Yes, hello, sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry, can’t stop to chat—” The gangly blur in plaid yells as he elbows past Charles, almost knocking his freshly-printed dissertation from his arms as he chases a hurricane of bright red hair through the crowd.

For a full thirty seconds, Charles can do nothing but stare at the space where he had caught the last glimpse of his retreating back. The students flow past him, jostling each other and so caught up in their own conversations that they barely notice him.

Shoving the thick stack of paper into his messenger bag, heedless of how many pages end up crushed at the bottom, he rushes after them.



notes.
▩ Thanks to Anne & harbor for pushing this along.
▩ s6 upset me. This was cathartic.
▩ Thank you for reading--we should be friends. c:♥
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
my hat is deep & full of magic.: james • all things bright.chezvous on October 11th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC)
judi42: Sexy McAvoy :Djudi42 on October 12th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
I love your fics!!

So lovely ♥ The caracterizations, the mood in each bit, the Doctor and the paradox of Groovy. Wonderful :)
my hat is deep & full of magic.: amy • in loving you with my whole heart.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! ♥
black_betty_26black_betty_26 on October 12th, 2011 02:05 am (UTC)
this is so lovely---I'm playing catch up on DW and am only now starting season 6....but you have the Doctor's voice (and Charles'!) down pat here! Although, it also kind of broke my heart in the way Doctor Who always manages to--with time lost and people left behind, and horrible things happening that even the Doctor can't change :(

the bit with Charles resting his head on the marble railing was so simple, yet beautiful, and so, so sad....but still!! I love this! and I will always love imaging the Doctor and Charles Xavier running around and having adorable adventures together!!

my hat is deep & full of magic.: river • antoinette with a gattling gun.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:44 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you! I get such anxiety writing The Doctor; I'm always worried about overthinking it and losing allthe wonderful eccentricity in his voice.

It's true--they would have the best adventures. B)b
bringing the party to you: 『seifer almasy』→ ❝ final fantasy viii ❞scintillulae on October 12th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
aaaah, this is the best crossover! I love how you write Eleven. ♥ and Charles is just so sad, b'awww. ;3;

The "groovy" paradox is so the Doctor. xD
my hat is deep & full of magic.: chekhov • i came back for you.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:45 am (UTC)
Thank you, darling o///o♥

I thought so too!
ilovetakahana: eleven+tardisilovetakahana on October 12th, 2011 04:55 am (UTC)
Perfect. Wistful and gorgeous and bittersweet and absolutely perfect. Thank you.
my hat is deep & full of magic.: river • count your blessings.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:45 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, love. ♥
Sera: xmen charles erik picnic heartseratonation on October 12th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
Omg I loved this so much! I loved that it was a beginning and an end, and oh man things going differently, and Charles wanting to keep certain things to himself. Oh Charles. Also loved how the doctor arrived, so much like himsf, you got him down so well, his expressions and his eyes and his twirl :D:D

And lol a red head? I'd love to see more of the adventures they had :D
my hat is deep & full of magic.: amy • in loving you with my whole heart.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:46 am (UTC)
Thank you! Given the time, I will totally write about their adventures sometime. :)♥
caitri: Life is groovycaitri on October 12th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
HEARTS. Just-- **HEARTS**!
my hat is deep & full of magic.: james • all things bright.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:46 am (UTC)
♥ ♥ ♥
Pinigir: Doctor & Masterpinigir on October 12th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
Loved it! Loved the way Charles and the Doctor interacted. And the paradox with "groovy". :-)
my hat is deep & full of magic.: river • our lady of grace.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:47 am (UTC)
Thank you! ♥
Pau494pau494 on October 12th, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is absolutely lovely. You've got such great voices for Charles and the Doctor! Now I want to read about all their adventures together, and I wonder if Erik ever meets Eleven. This was heartbreaking and heartwarming, much like the show itself, right?

The paradox is perfection! :DDD
my hat is deep & full of magic.: michael • before we start to vaporize.chezvous on October 13th, 2011 08:48 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I feel like Erik would just make disgruntled faces at The Doctor and Charles nerding out together.

Aha ♥