Title: "As imperceptibly as grief" (PG)
Author: Sarah T. (harriet_spy@...
Notes: Feedback, positive or negative, welcome.
Summary: For Charles and Erik, winter draws near.
It is easy to blend in with humanity in Washington Square Park in
the spring, even for the two greatest leaders of mutantkind. They
sit, two men dressed well but out of fashion, between two hustlers
clearly playing for drugs and a pair of students more intent on
their pizza than on the game, and no one gives them a second
glance. Though the game-table they're playing on is stone, it's
chipped and scarred, testament to its decades of survival of the
stresses incident to urban life. Erik sits up very straight across
from him, but Charles suspects that the cold from the stone bench is
leaking into his bones. He recognizes the symptoms of arthritis
when he sees them.
"You're playing more quickly than usual."
"I have somewhere to be," Erik says, pushing a pawn.
Erik says nothing.
"All right," Charles concedes. "But if we can't talk of the past or
the future, that only leaves the topic of politics, and that never
seems to end well between us."
"Do you know who is memorialized in this park, Charles?"
He sips his coffee. "Washington, of course."
"And Garibaldi. He has a statue over there. Both revolutionaries.
Americans love revolutionaries--as long as they are safely dead."
"Do you think they'll build statues of you someday, Erik?"
He smiles, the ironic smile of the man rather than the militant.
Charles wishes he could see it more often; it is Erik at his most
human. "I certainly hope so. For the convenience of the pigeons."
"Will it all be worth it then?"
"Will *what* be worth it?" Erik glances meaningfully at the
students, who appear to be getting interested in their
Charles lightly redirects their attention to the pepperoni and extra
cheese. "The life you lead."
"I lost my chance at a normal life in 1939, Charles. I don't
believe I've missed it."
"That was a long time ago. You could have...settled down." Charles
castles and glances across the open space. Teenagers are standing
close together by the benches, laughing loudly. Some of them are
couples, arms around each other's waist or shoulders. A tiny,
heavily beribboned poodle leads a woman by. An old man hobbles
slowly along on a cane, stopping every few feet to look at the
flowers that bloom along the edges of the sidewalks. Charles looks
back at Erik; he's watching the man, too, with expressionless pale
blue eyes, and it will always be strange to think that this is how
they appear to the world now.
"Social security payments and a fixed income. A rent-controlled
apartment. Slow walks in the park, while the sun's still up and
there's no fear of muggers. Chess in the evenings at the local
senior center. Visits from grandchildren once a year. Is that what
It's so far from what he had been thinking of--the mansion, new
generations to oversee, authority, dignity, comfort, love--that it
actually hurts him. But Erik will always argue every point to
extremis; Charles has to face the full implications of his thesis if
he wants to meet him. And, seeing Erik sit so stiffly, he finds he
can. "Instead of the life of an internationally-hunted fugitive?
A different city every night, eating what you can, sleeping where
you must, constantly worried about being caught and sent back to
prison and torture? Yes."
"Are you concerned for my comfort now, Charles?" he asks mockingly.
"You're seventy-five years old today, Erik. Revolution is a young
man's game. Where does it end?"
"You *know* the answer to that." He slashes his queen across the
"You've never found your successor."
"That's not what I meant."
"But that's *why* you can't stop until death."
"Or victory, Charles. Let us not forget victory, please." He moves
his bishop. "Checkmate."
Charles meets his eyes, thinks of his own medicine cabinet full of
drugs, the failing strength of his arms, the new concerns at every
physical. "Do you really think you can keep it up?"
"For as long as necessary," Erik declares, rising, and it's only the
stray thought that betrays the pain. The cause, the cause, always
the *cause*--he will look no further for comfort. Certainly not to
"Erik," he says, though he knows it's hopeless, "where are you
"Don't ask any questions, and you won't hear any lies." Erik puts
on his hat and glances about casually, obviously checking to ensure
that the police command post at the south edge of the park has not
registered his presence. "I'll see you again."
"I hope so."
He bows his head, thinking Erik is already gone, but then he feels
the hand settle on the back of the wheelchair and Erik bending
down. Erik murmurs, very close to his ear, "If one of us has to
bear this burden, old friend, I'm glad it happens to be me."
But this time he *is* gone, and there is nothing for Charles to do
but roll to the edge of the park, where the limousine waits.