TITLE: Long Time Gone
AUTHOR: Tiffany Rawlins
SUMMARY: Which way the wind's blowing. 1970.
ARCHIVE: Please let me know where.
CREDITS: Title/summary by Dylan and CSN. Beta by Punk,
Elizabeth and Jamie. Men by Marvel et al.
LONG TIME GONE
it's been a long time coming
it's going to be a long time gone
Erik's hair curls into the collar of his shirt, an
inch that brushes the base of his neck. He's two or
three weeks past needing a cut. His square-checked
button-down is worn open over a silk-screened Black
Panthers t-shirt. He's too straight for the longhairs,
too radical for the Establishment.
Erik has always excelled at not fitting in. Charles
hasn't been able to for a while now.
Erik's also too old for this crowd, but the draft-age
dilettantes welcome him anyway because they've never
met a survivor who didn't come to America old and gray
and tired. Erik is too young to be their parents, too
angry and unforgiving to be ignored. They don't
question the source or scope or quality of his bloody
rage, because he knows how to build bombs.
Better, he wants to set them off. He wants to damage
more than property. He says he wants to overthrow the
government, to witness anarchy in the streets, and
they believe him because they think they agree.
Charles can always tell how few of them really mean
it, but even so it's harder to distinguish just how
fast and hard disillusionment will strike. They left
the last commune in a hurry. Erik's expertise was
suddenly a liability, a smoking gun that made scared
little kids realize they were murderers, just like the
kind they spat on in parades. Charles could have
changed their minds but it wouldn't have been the
It wouldn't have been enough for Erik, who called them
traitors and fled, heartbroken at all the lost
opportunity. He'd lifted Charles' body into the hotel
bed, hand hard between Charles' shoulderblades, then
sat smoking by the window, pushing fingers against the
loose resistance of the screen and melting mesh
together into a solid shield.
Erik, hurt by small-thinking humans. If there had been
a war that night Charles would have fought by his
Erik found this particular band of outcasts three
months ago. They are the third group of radical
Americans Erik has infiltrated in two years. Not
infiltrated, Erik would say, befriended, befriended
and then abandoned when their politics were found
lacking, their suspicions of Erik and Charles' motives
"There's something here that feels more...committed,"
Erik says, the first dawn after a night sitting around
the battered coffee table, eating curry and talking
revolution. Everyone feeling each other out, paranoid
and pushy. One of the women, Leona, is a mutant but
Charles doesn't think even she knows it. Leona thinks
her consciousness is more raised, has no idea what an
empath is or what she could do on her own. Charles
watched them all, sitting quietly in his chair behind
Erik, and he knew when Erik took a long toke and
rested his cheek on Charles' knee that the others
would assume they were lovers. They aren't always
There are five other men, two women, and Erik and
Charles. The house in Flatbush that serves as base
camp looks run down but isn't falling apart. Four of
the nine have day jobs. The rest listen to free radio
and maintain a small printing press, running off the
latest manifestos from their coalition of friends and
allies. The women cook and clean and make peasant
shirts out of old bedsheets. Charles doesn't need
telepathy to see Erik's obvious disappointment that
the underground continues to so greatly resemble life
in depressed villages.
Charles earns a decent amount by translating texts for
a sympathetic Columbia professor, enough to cover his
and Erik's share of expenses. The last house was from
each according to his ability, and Erik's contribution
to the collective was supposedly his labor. This time
Charles isn't taking any chances with doubt borne from
He is quiet and they trust him only because his
presence is clearly non-negotiable. The two of them
have a tiny bedroom on the first floor under the
stairs, as there's no lift and Charles is willing to
be invisible but not pathetic. Erik hides in the
basement, building increasingly sophisticated ordnance
that defy basic physics. The others turn their backs,
willfully ignorant, as he bends metal with his mind.
"It is the great American arrogance," Erik whispers
into Charles' neck one night. "They want to destroy a
civilization whose power they can barely understand."
The third group in two years and they've only just
stopped arguing all the time, Charles screaming into
Erik's head, Erik thinking so loudly and violently
that Charles can still feel leftover bright pricks of
pain between his eyes. They broke each other into a
million pieces and then finally into a cease-fire:
Twelve more months, a study in human interaction, in
war-mongering and self-made militias. In what people
must lose or feel is threatened before they fight
back. An experiment in self-defense, Erik says.
For Charles it is an experiment in compromise, but not
with his beliefs. With Erik. He does this for Erik,
because Erik with a promise of revolution on the tip
of his tongue is insatiable, undeniable, so mad with
inspiration Charles is almost convinced Erik's
forgotten the world is his to destroy..
Erik wants to believe he'll convince Charles of the
necessity of force, says he's just drawing a blueprint
for the measures by which their kind will be required
protect themselves. Erik thinks that if he is
single-minded and Charles is devoted, they can mold
their two minds into one. Erik says they are born to
do something greater than coddle would-be Communists,
that their gifts make "by any means necessary" a
reality, a possibility. An inevitability. This is
merely a training exercise.
Charles doesn't argue with that, not this year. That
was the arrangement, and he can't deny they were born
into something different. Something their comrades
can't begin to guess at, something they've never given
serious consideration to sharing here. Mutant rights
will have its time, they agree on that much, not now.
Soon, perhaps. Even the most radical of this group
still has basic standards for equality, chiefly
"Why be humane when we are anything but human?" Erik
says, lips and teeth on Charles' collarbone like a
copper wire run from a battery to a trigger. *You make
me like this,* Erik thinks clearly, biting down. *You
make me think we can rule the world.*
Do you Yahoo!?
The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.