Characters/Pairing: You, Erik, Charles, Hank, Raven, Kurt
Warnings: Heavy references to the Holocaust. Potentially triggering.
Summary: Take the path of least resistance. Stay safe. Don't speak up, if you're not one of them. What does it matter to you?
Written for this prompt on the X-Men kink meme.
They picked Akanni up one morning
Beat him soft like clay
And stuffed him down the belly
Of a waiting jeep.
What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?
- Niyi Osundare, ‘Not My Business’
You have one unread message.
Subject: Protect Your Fellow Humans
In 24 hours, the United States Senate will vote on the truly barbaric Mutant Registration Act, a law requiring all mutants to register themselves as ‘sub-human’ or face deportation or imprisonment. The laws also allow the removal of many of their human rights, including the right to a fair trial, the right to protection from unlawful search or seizure, and the right to be protected from ‘cruel and unusual punishment’.
In short, what this act could do is force mutated humans to carry registration or face the potential for torture.
The ‘Mutant Rights’ movement is completely opposed to this action and many mutants are protesting for the dignity they deserve as people. Our website contains real life testimonials and a video made by the Brotherhood of Mutants, which we are trying to spread on a viral basis in support. Our movement stretches over 9 million people. If even a tenth of you sign the petition, it could make all the difference to getting them to stop this appalling betrayal of a country’s own founding principles.
Please pass this on, and help in any way you can.
You see the message in your inbox, flashing up, and read it. You read the testimonials with a mug of coffee in one hand, scanning them rapidly, eyes flickering. They cut to the bone, real people in panic and terror. ‘Disgusting’, you mutter, your heart heavy with liberal guilt, and without a moment’s pause, you sign the petition, and forward it to everyone you know.
It surprises you, really, given the riots on TV that your peaceful little suburb looks just the same as it did yesterday. Paperboys throwing today’s offering onto the lawn, hassled executives running for their cars with toast in their mouths, Mr Lensherr next door watering the cornflowers on his front lawn.
“Morning,” you say as you walk past his gate, and he looks up with a distant expression that suggests that today his mind is not on the gardening.
“Good morning,” he says, finally. He twists the hose in his hands, and turns back to the flowerbeds, apparently forgetting you’re there. He’s a grumpy sort, but not unkind. Children at his house on Halloween leave with a flea in their ear, but also a bag of candy. If he's in, that is; he disappears for weeks, days at a time, and never explains where he's gone. Sometimes he comes back smiling, sometimes even grumpier than before.
You catch the bus to work, as ever, and settle down at your desk. It isn’t long before Charles pokes his head over the cubicle and smiles weakly at you. He’s far too clever for this job by half, but he sticks on as some sort of scientific advisor anyway, unable or unwilling for some reason to advance far in industry. You’ve been friends for a while.
“I got your email,” he says. He's been looking thinner recently. (He was barely there to begin with.)
“It’s revolting, isn’t it?” you say. “Did you sign it?”
“I already had.” He leans forwards, and squeezes your shoulder gently. “Your support is so much appreciated, my friend.”
You don’t understand at first, just smile and turn back to your computer screen. Then you realise the implications of his words, and look up, your jaw dropping.
“You - are you a -”
His eyes widen, worried and a little confused. “That’s - it’s not a problem is it?”
“No,” you say, slightly too quickly, “no, of course not. I mean, some of my best friends are… mutants. I just - thought you were normal, that’s all.”
Charles presses his lips together and tries not to look offended.
“Shit,” you add, “shit, I didn’t mean normal, sorry, that’s offensive, isn’t it?”
“It’s alright,” he says, sitting back down, “I understand what you meant. Human.”
“Yeah.” You don’t know what to say, so you say the thing in the forefront of your mind. “Are you scared?”
“Scared?” Charles looks up from his work again, his brow furrowed. “About the bill?”
“Yeah,” you say, “I mean, will it be bad, for you, if it’s passed? I mean, really bad?”
Charles rubs his hands together, presses them to his forehead and pulls them over his eyes.
“Yes,” he says quietly, “I’m scared shitless.”
You feel bad for the rest of the day, or at least until something else distracts you.
Hank comes round that evening; he’s got a new girlfriend, and you spend some time teasing him about her before you flop down on the sofa with a sixpack and a pizza and a DVD. It’s not a hugely taxing film, and Hank mocks your ‘philistine’ choices. You punch him in the shoulder, not too hard, and when it finishes you flick over to the news.
The headline is brutal; RIOTS IN WASHINGTON AS MUTANT VOTE APPROACHES. Both of you go quiet, looking at the screen. Hank is blue, seven feet tall, and covered in fur, but you knew before the accident. You’ve known since high school. You freaked out when you first saw his feet - well, mutants were practically unknown then - but you learned to deal with. Hank’s practically normal anyway.
“Is Raven-” you begin, unsure of how to continue, but thankfully Hank understands.
“Yes,” he says, wiping his glasses, “she is.”
A man on the screen whose face is distorted in a scream roars that human beings are the inferior species, and that this act will only end in facism. The leader of the Brotherhood, a terrorist organisation, a group of mutants set on destroying everything humans stand for, known only as Magneto. Thus far, a mask has covered his face, but a sharp profile glistening with sweat is just visible in the light., and one that is strangely familiar. The police are a stoic line in the glare of the fire, and the crowd of mutants - some looking human, some looking far beyond it - are roaring with him.
You let Hank out a few minutes later, unsure for once of what to say to your best friend. In the end, you settle for nothing more than a pat on the back, and he nods and heads off down the road. You look, in the silence, next door to the darkened porch and flowers in the moonlight. Mr Lensherr’s house is deserted. It’s nothing unusual - he often disappears for days at a time - but tonight of all nights it’s probably not safe on the roads.
These people, you think sadly. Why can’t they just protest peacefully? How do they think this is worth it?
You turn back inside with a shake of your head, and shut your door on the answers.
You’re saddened, angered even, but what can you do? You watch the broadcast in silence, milk dripping from your spoon into your bowl, and try to convince yourself that it’s no big deal.
After all, as long as they all submit to registration, everything should be fine.
Charles isn’t at work today. You presume he’s gone to get his license. Work carries on, much as normal, with laughter and banter and the long monotonous tedium of office life. Lunch is had over a discussion of Carrie from Accounts, and whether you’re going to her housewarming, and you go home in a better mood than you went in.
You’re woken up at 3am by shouting and a loud banging. The first thing you think is Fuck, burglars. You don’t stop to ask yourself what exactly you have stealing, but grab the baseball bat that you like all well thinking people keep beside the bed, and storm down the stairs.
Then you realise it isn’t coming from you, but from next door, as a large cracking noise tells you the front door has just been broken down.
You’re not a hero. You never have been. But you’re damned if you’re going to let your neighbour’s house be broken into whilst he’s away so, mobile in one hand, you jump over the fence in your pyjamas and peer in the front window.
There are two men in black jumpers and balaclavas, and they are crowded round something on the floor. With a jolt, you realise it’s Mr Lensherr.
“Did you think we wouldn’t be able to find you, Erik?” asks one of them, and he sounds like he is suppressing a chuckle.
“Fuck you,” says Lensherr, and the second man kicks him in the stomach hard.
“You didn’t even wear a mask this time, Erik. That was stupid of you. And you haven’t signed up for registration.”
“You can’t prove anything,” he gasps.
“Yes,” says the first man, kicking him in the back so he jerks forward on the floor. “We can. And we will.”
“You’ve been inciting violence and hate crime. That makes you a prisoner of the state.”
The next kick comes to his balls, hard and fast. He cries out, chokes on the pain, and when he does, the handle of the lounge door rips from the wood and flies towards the first man, who grabs it in one hand and throws it to the floor.
“I think that’s all the proof we need, Magneto,” he spits - literally spits, a huge gob rolling down Lensherr’s cheek as he doubles over, clutching at his crotch and hissing.
“You forget, man,” says the other, “you don’t have any rights any more. Only human beings get those.”
The blows rain thick and fast after that, and you turn away, unable to face it. You are bewildered, lost at sea. You clamber back over the fence without even realising you’re doing it, flinching when you hear a crack, a cry, and a thud in quick succession. Then, as you are opening your front door, suddenly there is silence, the only sound in the whole wide night the thumping of your heart.
Lensherr’s door is thrown completely off its hinges and the two men stumble out, dragging an indistinguishable, heavy shape that might once have been a man between them. It groans, and one of them kicks it in the shins and throws it onto the back seat of the jeep with blacked out windows sitting outside on the drive.
One of them looks up, sees you on the porch, nudges the other one. You freeze. Your blood quite literally runs cold.
“Everything alright?” one asks, sounding incredibly polite and calm, and oh god how can he be this calm after what he’s just done?
“Yes,” you manage, “just - just can’t really sleep.”
“I hear you,” he says, absently, and then, with a nod, the two men disappear into the jeep, and the jeep disappears up the road.
Over the weeks, the house next door will be empty and silent; the cornflowers will be strangled by the weeds, and a For Sale sign will make it onto the lawn.
(Must Have Proof of Humanity) will be in the small print, but it will be noticeable nonetheless.
Days go by. Charles comes in after three days, looking extremely tired, and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Nonetheless, he laughs when you make some joke about him ‘not even being able to pass for human looking like that’, and you feel better for that.
You receive a card in the post, accompanied by a letter thanking you for your continued co-operation with the Board of Mutant Registration, and explaining that this identity card is Proof of Humanity when carried at all times. Your DNA, it mentions, is shown to be completely clean. It knows how much this will relieve you, and thanks you again for your help at this dangerous time. If you have any questions, it says, it urges you to call.
On the news, eventually, the anchor mentions that those mutants who have not completed a form by the deadline on Friday will be considered by implied consent to have given up all claims to citizenship, and as such the police will be given permission to use whatever methods they deem necessary to make arrests or deportations.
She suddenly smiles, and brightly adds ‘We now have a government sponsored film to show both species, to reassure you that the police will be acting in the best interests of both humans and mutants.’
The film begins in darkness; informs you that mutants are a drain on society, that they are damaging the human genome, and that they hold dangerous views tantamount to communism. The mutants it shows are monsters, humanity twisted beyond all recognition. It adds, a trifle cautiously, that not all mutants are like this, and that some who have complied with orders live happy lives, amongst other mutants, not interfering with the lives and laws of humanity. ‘Humans have the vote,’ the voice trills, ‘but it’s their world you get to live in.’ It then merrily describes the new, safer world; a world where humans and mutants can live seperately; a world where humans are not afraid, and where they will not therefore attack the innocent and compliant mutants, and where mutants can feel protected like all endangered animals.
‘That’s why the government is introducing Safe Zones, where all Homo Mutantis will be encouraged to relocate to peaceful, luxurious areas with the promise of work. If you are a registered member of this subspecies and capable of understanding written word, documents will be issued to you with details of your imminent move by the end of the week. Unregistered mutants will be viewed as criminals and detained appropriately.
The Board of Mutant Registration - Keeping Society Safe From Corruption For A Brighter Tomorrow’.
You turn it off, and think in silence for a moment. Then you pull your mobile out of your pocket, and call Hank.
“Hey,” you say, “haven’t spoken in a while.”
There a pause on the other end, and then a half growling laugh. “Thought you’d forgotten about me,” says Hank.
“Did you see the news?” you ask.
“Saw it?” Hank laughs. “Raven and I got our papers today. We’re being moved on Wednesday next.”
“Anywhere nice?” you ask.
“Rushdale,” he says, “it doesn’t say where. It says we get our own place, though, and that we won’t be seperated.”
“Well, that’s - good.”
“Listen,” he says, urgently, “come round for dinner Tuesday evening. You haven’t even met Raven yet.”
You miss him. But deep down, you aren’t sure now is a good time to be seen with mutants. Even if you’re as human as they come. “I… I think I’m busy on Tuesday,” you lie, awkwardly.
“Please.” Hank’s voice is pleading, and there’s a note in it you haven’t heard before. It makes you feel ill.
“I’ll see what I can do,” you manage.
“Great,” says Hank. “Six o clock, then. See you then.”
He hangs up. You stare at the phone for a while before burying your head in your hands. You need to say something. You need to tell him something - anything - to stop him sounding so scared. But you can’t find the words, and your lips are too busy quivering to form them.
It is on this day, walking to the office from the bus station, that you first notice the sign. A small white rectangle in the window of a diner; barely noticeable at first, but obvious if you’re going to enter.
NO DOGS OR MUTANTS.
You stare it, stood in the street, for far too long. And then a hand grabs your arm.
“Please,” a blue skinned boy says in a thick Germanic accent, “I hav no money.”
You shake him off, almost with a shudder.
“Please,” he says again, “hep me, I hav no money, no money fur registration.”
“I’m sure you can explain that,” you say, desperately pulling yourself from his grip. People are starting to stare from inside the diner, and it’s making you nervous. “Have you tried talking to them?”
“I hav lost my job, I work hard, I am fired, I am so hungry,” he tries, but you have crossed the road, never more thankful for a red light, and are half sprinting to your office by the time he has got the words out.
Charles doesn’t say anything when you come in; doesn’t mention letters, or moving, or anything. He just carries on typing like his life depends on it, so you leave him to it. If he’s going to sulk, that’s his problem.
It’s about noon when a man in a suit and odd looking metal helmet enters; flashes a warrant at the receptionist and walks straight up to his desk. Charles doesn’t look up, just keeps typing. He doesn’t look like he’s slept in days.
“Charles Xavier,” says the man, “my name is Agent Warren Milstrom, and I’d like you to come with me, please.”
Charles doesn’t even seem to hear him. His eyes are flickering back and forth across the screen, lips muttering words you can’t quite hear.
“Xavier,” he says again, more firmly, and Charles finally looks up then, finally sees him. His eyes are wild and cold.
“I’m working,” he says, quietly, “I’m doing my job.”
“It’s not your job anymore, I’m afraid, Mr Xavier,” the man says, almost kindly, you think, like he’s talking to a child. “You have to come with me.”
“No,” says Charles, closing his eyes tight shut. “No, no, I don’t want to.”
“Mr Xavier,” he says, squatting beside the desk, “you received the letter last week, and you didn’t present yourself for detainment.”
“I didn’t receive-” he tries, but the words drift off into nothing but murmurs.
“Your mutation has been analysed and you have been deemed too dangerous to be allowed to transfer with the other mutants. You’re going to have to come with me now. And please don’t try anything.” He taps his helmet. “It won’t work, and I will have to put you down.”
He places handcuffs on Charles’ wrists, and Charles flinches.
“Are we going to see Erik?” he whispers, as Milstrom helps him to his feet.
“You associated with Magneto?” Milstrom asks, looking at him intently. Charles meets him with staring eyes.
“I can’t… hear him… any more,” he says, brokenly. “Just screams.” Milstrom nods, and takes the walkie talkie from his belt.
“Corrs, this is Milstrom. I’m going to need to request a transfer to Holding A,” he says, “creature has admitted terrorist associations. Bringing him in now.”
“I don’t want to go,” Charles whispers, and then shouts “I don’t want to go.”
“Calm down, Mr Xavier,” Milstrom says, wrapping an arm round his shoulders and leading him to the door.
“Please,” Charles shouts, “please, you can’t, I don’t want the tests, I don’t want-”
And in your head, you hear the screaming twice as loud, so pained and frightened it makes your heart beat in your mouth, help me god please I’m your friend help me I’d help you help me don’t let them kill me help-
Charles looks straight at you, stares right into your eyes as he is dragged past your desk, and you meet his for a moment as he thinks in words of fire please just say something, make it stop.
But you don’t say anything. You turn away, back to your computer, and back to a world that makes sense, and doesn’t ask you to risk your life for anyone at all. The world you know the best.
There is a poster stuck to the wall by the bus stop where you get off. It is government sponsored, and it shows a mutant with large teeth wrapping a tail round a human child to draw it closer to its jaws.
DANGER! WILD ANIMALS! it reads. TEACH YOUR CHILDREN MUTANT SAFETY - ONLY TALK TO TAME MUTANTS.
You hurry past, won’t even look at it. Won’t even admit it exists, because if you don’t look, you didn’t know.
That’s what you can tell them, you think. You never even knew.
You go to Hank’s for dinner, and enjoy a nice steak. The atmosphere is tense, the fear on both of them palpable, but they are welcoming and friendly. Around them, everything is in boxes.
“They didn’t say what we could take,” says Raven, who as it turns out is also blue, “but we’ve got some essentials in suitcases as well, just in case.”
“I’m sorry about everything, Hank,” you say, halfway through the meal, desperate to say something.
Hank looks surprised, but grateful.
“That’s alright,” he says, after a beat, pushing his glasses up his nose. “It’s not like there’s anything you can do.”
The knock at the door comes halfway through dessert, and there is a pause before Raven stands up. “I’ll get it,” she smiles, and she flickers into another form - a beautiful, blonde nymph that frankly you can see the appeal in - before walking out into the hall to answer. Hank waits a moment and then stands.
“I’ll just - I just want to -” he says, and then he follows her out.
You sit, and strain to hear, but you can’t make out words in the low murmur coming from the voices - not until Hank shouts “This is ridiculous!” and a responding voice says “Sir, do you have your cases or not?”
You stand on wobbling feet, and follow them into the hallway, half clinging to the door. There is a soldier in full military gear on the doorstep, holding a gun, gesturing to a jeep outside. You freeze. He looks puzzled, then look at his list.
“I’ve only got one male and one female down for this dwelling,” he says, sternly. “Have you got an unregistered here?”
“No,” you say, desperately, “no, I’m - I’m human, look.” You scramble frantically in your pockets and pull out your registration card; hand it to the soldier, who scrutinises it closely before handing it back.
“My apologies, sir,” he says, and then to Raven, “If you’re not prepared to co-operate with the relocation order-”
“Co-operate,” she shouts, “we’ll fucking co-operate, we’ve said we’ll fucking co-operate, but I’m not leaving until tomorrow, which is what the fucking letter said!”
“The buses don’t leave the holding area until tomorrow, miss, but -”
“Holding area? Nobody said anything about any holding area-”
“Miss, please get in the jeep,” he says, getting irritated now. You hug the wall, afraid to get involved, clinging to your registration card like it’s life support.
“Fuck you,” she says. He grabs her by the arm, and suddenly they’re all shouting, Hank ripping Raven from the soldier’s arms and shaking him roughly.
“You have to come with me-”“
“-don’t touch me, don’t you dare touch me-”
“-take your hands off her-”
And then the shot, the burning smell, the terrible sound as Hank falls, doubled over, the bullet passing through his brain with no resistance at all, because even monsters fall to guns. Raven screams, a noise of sheer fury, and throws herself at the soldier, blue once more, and suddenly all claws and nails and teeth, and he shoots her too. She falls to the ground on top of Hank, and their blood is mingling on the floorboards.
The soldier breathes out heavily, and you too let out a breath, almost a hiccough. You look at him, face flushed, for a moment almost accusatory. But his gaze is cruel, and you avert your eyes.
“They resisted arrest,” he says. “Two dead freaks, and someone’s going to have to clear it up.”
You nod, swallow.
“Why were you here, anyway?” he asks. “Did you know them?”
You look down at the bodies on the floor - the body of your childhood best friend and the woman he loved - and you look back at the soldier.
“No,” you say, trying to sound casual, “not really. They were just neighbours, you know. We put up with them, but - you know -”
“No,” he replies.
“Well, you know. Relief to be honest.” You nod at the bodies. A smirk tugs at the corners of his lips, and he nods in response.
“Damn right,” he says. “World won’t be right ‘til we’re rid of all of them. Still, the camps ought to see to that. Make your streets safe again.”
“Yes,” you mouth, your lips so dry they feel they might crack.
He sniffs. “Anyway. As you were, sir.” He rips off a salute, and marches back to the jeep; signals to the man driving, hops in, and is gone. You don’t look at the white faces peering from the back seat. You just don’t.
You step over the bodies, and walk down the street. You can hear howling in the distance, and nothing; nothing at all, in your mind. Because it’s a harsh new world these people are waking up in, but you’ll never wake up at all. You’ll convince yourself they deserved it; you’ll try your best to forget.
“I didn’t know,” you’ll say, one day, to camera crews and harsh reporters, in the light of the blinding truth.
“I didn’t know. God forgive me, if I‘d only known.”