Only Young Men in Libraries

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Only Young Men in Libraries
by templemarker

Notes: Thanks to [info - personal]samjohnsson for beta. For [ profile] selenak in the [info]xmmficathon.


Of the many things Raven had needed to learn upon coming to Xavier House, knowing when she was allowed to enter a room required the most adjustment.

Though she had crept her way in, initially, and might very well have slipped away unfound had Charles not felt the childish disquiet of her intruding mind one night, she was terrifically uncomfortable with entering uninvited. The moment Charles had decided that yes, Raven should be his sister, believing them to be genetically closer than any of his given family, she had become so in the minds of everyone who knew the Xaviers. In his youthful arrogance and willful tampering, by the following morning everyone behaved as if young Miss Raven had been a part of their lives all along.

Xavier Sr. paid as much gentle neglect towards Raven as he always had towards Charles, and his mother only smiled on her way out the door, heading into the city for any one of her grand soirees. “Goodbye, dears,” she cooed, patting them both on the head with no recollection that she had just gained a daughter in the space of a night.

Charles did not understand the scope of his influence until much later, but it was thorough and complete. Yet as easily integrated as Raven became, for a child can adapt well enough to a change in circumstance–particularly for the better–there were some quirks of her particular history that did not whittle away easily.

Charles was at his books again, always at them, door barely cracked a sliver. He felt Raven come up against the door, and held back a sigh as she broadcast her hesitance to enter even upon knocking. She had generally become very adept at shielding her thoughts from him, but from his own small experiments over the six years they had been siblings showed him just how unlikely it was that anyone could ever successfully hide from his awareness.

“Come in, Raven,” he said quietly, back still to the door. It swung open cautiously, and even her footsteps on the flooring were muted.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” she apologised; she was not actually that demure, that solicitous, when she felt comfortable and fully herself. At fourteen, she was growing into the beginnings of a self-assured woman, their mother being something of a model for how to present one’s outward appearance no matter her nurturing skills. Charles endeavored to encourage that streak of confidence in her, but it remained a work in progress.

“You’re not,” he assured, marking his place in his text and turning to smile at her. Six years gone by, and he was still delighted to have found her, this remarkable creature who was closer to him than any other. A minor interruption in his train of thought was a small price to pay for the pleasure of not being alone.

She opened her mouth as if to speak, then shut it, moving to sit upon Charles’ bed. She looked down at the floor, at the blue-and-white rug beneath her feet, and curled her hands in her lap.

“There’s a boy in my class,” she began, wavering a bit. “His name is Mark, and he…he keeps looking at me. Talking to me.” She looked up at him, met his eyes. “What do I–I didn’t ask him to–” Her eyes flash blue-green-grey in panicked succession, and Charles darts out of his chair, kneels before her and takes her hand in a moment’s breath.

“Let it go,” he said, which was their phrase for her transformation, back to the blue, pebbled skin and bright yellow eyes. She didn’t shake his gaze as she changed, and he didn’t allow her hand to fall from his even as it transformed, became thinner and longer, differently textured skin beneath his palm.

He knew what she was, and encouraged her to mask it, to become ever more skilled at refining her craft, because he knew something of the persecution she would face if she didn’t pass. But he loved her either way, copper-shining hair or unremarkable brown no matter to him.

“You don’t have to do anything at all,” Charles assured her, squeezing her hand in his, coming to sit beside her on the bed. “The boys in your year, they’ll forget and move on soon enough.”

“No,” she protested, “no, Charles, I didn’t mean I wanted you to–”

“What?” he said, confused. “Oh, no, I would never–I wouldn’t do that, Raven, not to some silly freshman who wants every pretty girl to know his name.”

“Oh,” Raven said softly, and he couldn’t quite read disappointment or relief.

He drew an arm around her shoulders, kissed the fine threads of her hair. She wore clothes, though she could easily have created them herself, and the cotton felt warm beneath his fingers.

“Give it a few weeks,” he promised. “He’ll go away.” Charles paused. “Unless–you don’t want him to?” he ventured, not sure of what answer he’s hoping for.

Raven didn’t say anything for a long moment, playing with a loose thread in her skirt. “I don’t know,” she said finally, mouth in an unhappy frown. “I’m supposed to want him to look at me that way, aren’t I? But he’s just–” She fell silent, and Charles had little of an idea of what to say. He didn’t know all that much about girls, always too focused on reading for his Oxford entrance examination, always head-deep in one of a dozen books. And Raven was his sister, not some flighty creature who thought she could tempt Charles away from his studies. Women, apart from the composition of their chromosomes, were not well known to him.

“Well,” he said awkwardly, tightening his hand on her shoulder, tugging her close. “You don’t have to do anything at all, but should you decide to, don’t mention him around Mum and Dad–they may not pay attention much of the time, but should their only daughter start talking about a boy and they’ll demand to meet him.”

She gave him a weak smile, and dropped her head to his shoulder. He supposed he could be a better brother to her at times–she endured his endless revising with the amusement and patience of a lesser god–but in this he felt at a loss. What he knew of the habits of teenaged boys was whatever he’d bothered to overhear during physical education, the one course in which he was barred from reading; and even then he tried very hard not to pay attention to their particular brand of idiocy.

But of all the things he’d learned in the last six years about having a sister, the one that had always come quite naturally to him was the comfort of being there. For want of something useful to say, he drew her into an embrace, and let her spill all her thoughts and emotions into the private space between them. If nothing else, he could certainly bear it all.

2 Responses to “Only Young Men in Libraries”

  1. Rubynye Says:

    What a beautiful look at Charles and Raven as siblings!

  2. Kernezelda Says:

    I quite like this look at the interim – at Charles’ acceptance of Raven’s self, their parents’ benign neglect, his uncertainty about what Raven wants and how to help her, yet willingness to do so. I like them as siblings, this home she’s found/been given, and her acceptance of him and her as chosen siblings.

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