Speaking My Mind by syrian_iceberg
FeatureSummary: Pairing: Charles Xavier/Erich Lehnsherr Excerpts from “Speaking My Mind”, the autobiography of Charles Xavier. Alternate Universe, based more on our own than on the comics or the movies. Xavier’s life, 1930-1943. Lots of background, not much love. More of both to come in future installments.
Categories: X-Men Characters: Other
Genres: Alternate Universe (AU)
Warnings: None
Series: None
Chapters: 17 Completed: No Word count: 39371 Read: 46756 Published: 11/18/05 Updated: 05/19/13
Part 1 by syrian_iceberg
When my so-called “X-Men” were at their height in power, number and public profile, it was often said, to the dismay of insurance companies worldwide, that although it was a mystery where they were going, you could always tell where they’d been. So it is with me, their founder. In January of this year I celebrated my ninetieth birthday. I’m very grateful for the excellent health I enjoy, but it would be foolish to believe I have decades more to live. It’s time to write the book I’ve considered writing for many years now, the full, unexpurgated story of my life. Although it’s a mystery where I may be going –heaven, hell, reincarnation, oblivion - I am fairly certain of where I’ve been. I can only hope the reader will not find my life as characterized by property damage as the exploits of my students. Still, there may be some shocks in store; your mental house may lose a shingle or two, perhaps a watery crack may appear in the basement of your mind. As an old man, it is just this power to tell the unadorned truth that I hold dearest. The expressions of dismay and embarrassment that come over the faces of my younger companions are reason enough to do so, but I also long, as so many people do, to be well and truly known, for good and ill. So be warned: explicit descriptions follow.

Son, psychic, spy, Nazi, friend, savior, playmate, brother, student, lover, mentalist, agent, soldier, teacher, mentor, cripple, superhero, crusader, father, consort, expert, mutant, ambassador, grandfather, sage, sinner. It’s very difficult to say which of these pigeonholes were the best fit, which the most restrictive. Perhaps that’s the same quality. All doled out pain and pleasure and all were challenging.

Nineteen hundred thirty now seems, to most of Earth’s eight billion inhabitants, as far away as our colony on Mars and, naturally, less accessible. It was, to borrow from Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times. While the rest of the nation had begun the year with the creeping disease of unemployment and bankruptcy, I was born, that wintery night, into the loving, even slavishly devoted, arms of Brian and Sharon Xavier, my father and mother, in the sumptuous aerie on Park Avenue that they called home. The attending physician and my mother, I was told later, were deeply frightened by my refusal to cry, despite repeated slaps to my bottom. Nevertheless I did soon breathe and suckle and settled into the life of a pampered only son.

My father was himself the only son of a shipping magnate. From him I gained a head for business which has served me well and a genuine love of life which has served me even better. His prescient retreat from the stock market in August of 1929, two months before the Crash, not only saved our family’s fortune, but also made me wonder just how much of a mutation my own psychic powers were.

My mother was a famously beautiful socialite who had dallied in theater before marriage. She passed along to me a desire to help others –she cooked in soup kitchens during the Depression, washed bedpans in Army hospitals during the War, both of which were shocking activities for a woman of her social status, a fact I’m sure helped inspire her- and she also gave me a reverence for nature, most poignantly in the vast Westchester estate which she’d inherited from her own parents and which she passed on to me. The uses and abuses to which I’ve subjected that lovely land might have made her regret her gift, but I nevertheless cherish the property with all my heart.

Although many mutants experience a single, unforgettable moment in which their powers are made manifest, many others do not. I myself cannot point to any one day on which I discovered my telepathic abilities. It seems they were always with me, as constant as the radio was in those days. The day they came to the attention of my parents, however, is clear: July 27, 1938. I was then eight and a half years old, intensely involved in reading, tin soldiers, and teasing my ever-patient governess, Anna. Whenever she had been out on a date with some beau, I’d know it and would pose the most embarrassing questions that I could think of. Anna blushed easily and I delighted in the game. It was just after one such interrogation that Anna left me alone in the nursery of our twentieth story penthouse. She went to use the water closet and I, at the behest of some unknown call, took the opportunity to crawl out onto the ledge of our building. It seemed at the time quite wide and accommodating, but of course it was actually only eighteen inches or so. From my room I crawled along the brick outer wall past the bath all the way to my parents’ sitting room.

I hadn’t been out there long, enjoying the view, unafraid and yet nagged by some unseen sadness, when Anna let out a shriek I can still recall today. I looked back along the stretch of parapet to see my governance in absolute horror, halfway leaning out the nursery window. This seemed an entirely new and fabulous game to me, but of course it nearly frightened her to death.

Within minutes my father had opened the sash of the sitting room, pulled me in, and for the first and last time in my life, spanked me. He then turned me over to my ashen-faced mother. She clutched me tightly, consoled Anna –who no doubt feared for her further employment- and tried to find the reason for my unprecedented high wire sojourn.

“John Warde, mommy,” I said without knowing why. “John Warde jumped.”

Only then did my parents turn on the radio to hear how a distraught young man by that name had indeed plummeted to his death off the 17th floor ledge of the Gotham Hotel, long blocks away.

In years to come my mental feats became something along the lines of a party trick for my parents’ friends and acquaintances. Some children sing or play piano; I guessed birthdates, maiden names, favorite artists. At first. My parents quite suddenly forbade me further to amuse our guests in this manner when I announced without prompting that not only was the Duchess of Cornwall’s first pet named Scottie, but also that she was actually sixty-eight and quite bald.

The Duchess, no doubt, would have taken great pleasure in seeing me lose my own hair my age twenty-five.

I was an obedient child. Thereafter mind reading was a ‘family only’ entertainment. After parties both my mother and father would at first hesitantly, then assiduously, ask me to tell them what so-and-so really thought of the hors-d’oeuvres, how Mr. A’s health truly was, and where Mrs. B actually got her millions. It was great fun for all of us. Although my mother did regularly make weak protestations not to pry in the future, she also laughed heartily at my innocent revelations.

Over nightcaps and sherbet after one such gathering when I was perhaps ten, my parents were taking pleasure in just such an uncovering of peccadilloes when I told them the funniest thing I’d heard someone think all evening.

“Dad, Grace Higgins thinks you must have the biggest cock in all New York!” I was greatly pleased with what I’d said. I’d saved the best for last, I felt, because stupid Grace Higgins, who pinched my cheeks very hard every time she saw me and always smelled slightly dank, had thought my father raised roosters. I continued spooning sherbet through my smile.

“Charlie,” my father said gravely, “you must never do that again.”

I looked up into his very stern, mortified face, then turned to see that my mother had begun crying. Her tears ran down her nose, then dropped onto the lace tablecloth, but she wouldn’t look up despite my entreaties. She simply continued to eat delicate spoonfuls of orange and was doing so when I ran out of the room bawling.

Afterwards I did begin to try blocking out other people’s thoughts. Mental repetition of the times tables worked very well, as did recitation of the Elements, the countries of Africa in alphabetical order, and any number of popular songs of the day. By the time my twelfth birthday rolled around, the United States was at war and I had gained a considerable degree of control. I could read or not read thoughts at will, although projecting my thoughts into other people’s minds had not yet occurred to me to try.

In those days spies were supposedly everywhere. My father, out of a deep sense of patriotism, took me to Washington, D.C. There he presented me to General Maxwell Fordyce, a stone of a man who scoffed at my father’s claims up until the point I described the breakfast he’d wolfed down that morning. I was immediately scheduled for further testing.

On one later such visit to the Pentagon my father and I ran into Henry J. Kaiser, a rival ship builder. My father gave in to self-interest and asked me to verify what he suspected: Kaiser was soliciting a contract with the government to build ‘Liberty Ships’. It was true, I told him, and supplied the names of all his contacts.

It is not enough to say “I was doing my duty”, but I was a dutiful son and I loved my father passionately. Thanks to my telepathic probing, Xavier Shipping was able to win the very lucrative contract that might otherwise have made Kaiser a household name.

Soon, despite teary protestations from my mother, it was decided that I should sail for England in the service of my country and, in fact, the summer of 1942 saw me, accompanied by General Fordyce and several destroyers, aboard a ship on the Atlantic. There weren’t actually very many spies in the US for me to interrogate and it may even have seemed wise to the powers that were to send a telepath far away from the minds of America’s war planners. To a reader of today’s enlightened time, such a scenario must seem nothing less than child abuse. Much of what I did, much of what was done to me, is profoundly regrettable, of course, but I wasn’t living in 2020. It was 1942 and there was a very serious war on. Americans understood what duty was and I considered myself extremely fortunate. Other boys my age had many years to wait before they could be of service.

I had never been away from my parents before, but I imagined myself a grown up and had for some time. Being privy to adult thoughts mistakenly led me to conclude I was mature myself. Certainly I acted the part. I never failed to speak in full, well-considered sentences which generally made liberal use of the expectations I read in the minds of those around me and refused most entreaties to ‘play’. Sailors around me thought me queer in the old fashioned sense because I scoffed at their invitations to throw a baseball around on deck or join in a craps shoot. It wasn’t until some years later that I rediscovered the child within me, stuffed into a long-forgotten mental cedar chest. Ironically I had one of the most serious men I ever met to thank for that.

My training in London was twofold: the German language and Mind Control. At the urging of British agents I found that I could indeed send my thoughts into other minds. With time and concentration I even became capable of significant mental deceit. It’s very difficult for a person to detect intrusive thoughts; “I’m hungry” feels very much the same whether it’s one’s own brain that generates the idea or someone else’s. Nine times out of ten such suggestions caused the receiver to act accordingly. Sudden, inexplicable desires to hop or pick up a pencil were child’s play to cause. Within a month I could make my target strip to his skivvies or kiss the man next to him as if it were his wife.

In the young men I was generally paired with, sexual arousal was both easy to detect and cause. Memories of girlfriends, alleyway conjugations and midnight masturbations flooded over me in the nearly all-male atmosphere. I had no brothers, had only the most casual of school chums, and so had never seen male bodies in such numbers before. The very air at the training camp was charged with eroticism. If young men were such a mystery to me, young women were practically undreamt of. The only woman I dealt with regularly was a frumpy Irishwoman named Molly who oversaw my nutrition and health. She was hard on the outside, but of course I had access to her inner being and knew she lavished on me all the love she missed giving to the son she’d lost to war.

That fall I was smuggled into Germany. A moonless night’s crossing of the Channel during which I was called upon to alter the perceptions of a Nazi patrol, help evade another, and find our way when the navigator on our tiny craft had lost his. In Calais I was delivered into the hands of a handsome French Resistance fighter named Martin. He fondled me in the coup of our train to Cologne. I’d known it was coming, of course; he’d been debating the act ever since I’d met him, but I didn’t stop it. He himself was so wracked by guilt afterward that I considered erasing his memory of it. I only held back because that was something I’d never achieved before. He hadn’t hurt me and I didn’t want to hurt him.

Eventually I was placed with a double agent in the very heart of the Reich, Berlin. Fritz Schlussmann was ancient in my eyes. He’d been a student with Sigmund Freud in the previous century, had battled the French during World War I, and now ran a small Konditorei just a few blocks from the Reichstag. I was passed off as his grandson, Karl. My telepathic powers had helped in perfecting my German and I could easily pluck the answer to any question the authorities might pose. I enrolled in school and discovered a life of camaraderie I had never known before. Up until then I’d been tutored privately or in small groups with children of my own social standing, but now I mixed with the sons and daughters of miners, streetcar conductors, soldiers, bureaucrats, and laborers.

All this was quite apart from the mission I’d been given. Every week or so Opa Fritz would take me for a walk as near as possible to important buildings and officers’ homes. While idling tying my shoe or feeding nuts to squirrels, I was to try to penetrate stone and wood faades in the hopes of gleaning information on troop movements, V2 rocket development, code deployment, and the like. Unbeknownst to the plain-clothes men whom we met irregularly and to whom we imparted all this intelligence, Fritz also had me probing for Hitler’s whereabouts.

Although Der Fhrer was constantly in public, extolling the virtues of the master race or exhorting Das Volk to greater and greater sacrifices, his schedule was deliberately kept secret and subject to last minute changes, exactly because he’d already been the target of assassination attempts like the one Opa was planning.

At this point my story no doubt stretches the reader’s credulity. No official acknowledgment of my stay behind enemy lines will ever be made by the US government. The British expunged all record of my training and Germany, of course, was completely ignorant of the whole operation. Nevertheless this is where I was between October 1942 and June 1945.

I must also make it clear that the training I’d received in England crossed deep into the territory we would now call ‘brainwashing’. I was, after all, a very young man, eager to please, and determined not to succumb to anything as childish as ‘homesickness’. To that end I used my telepathy against the very organ of its origin; once I’d arrived in Germany, I became Karl. I still knew that I had a mission, that I was not Fritz Schlussmann’s grandson, and that I’d come across the Channel, but beyond that my memories became vague. The necessity of fitting in, of keeping up pretenses, meant that I shoved my parents, my home, and my past into a box marked ‘Do Not Open Until War’s End’. No one in the British Intelligence Agency could have guessed the success his efforts would yield.

In late 1943 Opa finally attempted to assassinate Hitler. He’d become increasingly maddened by the course of the war, its toll on the Germans, and the dim prospects of Allied invasion. He built a bomb which he hoped to hurl, miraculously, into Hitler’s very lap. He managed only to blow up himself and our home above the Konditorei.

I was informed at school, although very little was happening scholastically by that time. Now that I was approaching fourteen and the war was not going well, paramilitary duties and pseudo boot camp took up most of my day. I was escorted home briefly, then spent a harrowing night under interrogation. The cause of the explosion had been discovered quickly. Some non-fascist sympathies in Opa’s past had come to light or been invented, and my own parentage was under question. I was terrified by the growing suspicions I found in the minds of my captors and acted to save myself as only I could. The commands I gave had nothing so mischievous in mind as stripping or kissing. I used my power to save my mission and my life, in that order. In short order I was released and forgotten.

I couldn’t return to school. Instead I wandered north of Berlin, determined somehow to continue my mission. That would have been quite an accomplishment, now that all contact with British Intelligence was severed, but still I had only that to go on. In a bakery shop where I paused to rest, I met a woman who took an instant liking to me. My blond hair and troubled face reminded her of a young man she’d been in love with long ago but had not married. I claimed to be an orphan, which actually seemed true to me in my amnesiac state. With no prompting from me, she took me in and brought me home with her.

Her home, it turned out, was just on the other side of a large concrete wall from a labor camp run by her husband, Colonel Friedrich Dunkelheim. The locals, my new mother included, deluded themselves about what was happening inside the camp, but in fact it was neither a concentration camp for the imprisonment of undesirables nor a death camp for their extermination. It was instead a large tire producing factory staffed by a mix of people the Reich had seen fit to work to death instead of kill outright.

It was in this place devoid of hope that I met Erich Lehnsherr.
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