kindkit: Erik Lehnsherr wearing an awesome suit and hat (XMFC: Erik has an awesome hat)
[personal profile] kindkit
Title: Self Defense (One Black Man, Two White Men, One Jew, Two Homosexuals, and Three Mutants in a Taxi)
Fandom: X-Men: First Class
Characters: Darwin, Charles, Erik
Rating: Teen
Warnings: Period-appropriate offensive (homophobic and transphobic) language.
Word count: 715
Summary: A talk on the road from New York to Virginia.
Notes: Written for [personal profile] lilacsigil, whose prompt was Darwin and escape. This veered away a bit thematically but I think still responds to the prompt. Also, I know nothing about Darwin's comicsverse background; everything here is my own speculation based on what we see in XMFC.




They're a little past Philadelphia when one of the white guys who've pretty much hijacked his cab--it's Charles, the English one, the one who talks, not the one with the watchful eyes and the crazy smile--says, "You've got an extraordinary gift. Surely you're not going to waste it driving a taxi all your life?"

Nope. Never was. Darwin takes accounting classes three mornings a week. His textbook's on the passenger seat with his page marked. He promised his mom, before she passed, but he would've done it anyway.

"That's admirable," Charles says.

Darwin didn't want to believe this guy could read minds--he's white and he's rich enough that he paid $400 cash in advance, what else does he need? But some people really do inherit the earth, and it's not the meek. "Hey, you mind sticking to what I tell you?"

"Sorry. I only want to understand."

Crazy Smile--Allan or Eric or something--snorts out a laugh like he's heard that before. He and Charles smile at each other, and it's crazy in a different way. Charles's arm is still stretched out along the seat behind his friend.

Uh huh. They're gonna get in trouble if they're not careful. For the first time, Darwin likes them a little. "All right," he says. "I know I'm different. But I don't see what good it'll do you. Whoever you're working for."

"We just want to help you develop your potential," Charles says. Crazy Smile gives him a look.

"What potential? I adapt. That's all. I don't control it, it just happens." Sometimes it's goddamn embarrassing, like when he fell down the stairs at the 125th Street station and turned into a Michelin Man lookalike. Good thing it was late and nobody saw him bounce but a couple of drunks. And sometimes it's freaky. Once, taking a shortcut through the wrong part of Brooklyn, he turned white and didn't even notice until he saw his hands.

"Your potential to be yourself."

Sure. Happens all the time, the government--they must be government--asking you to quit your job and come and live in Virginia all expenses paid so you can be yourself.

It might be a good idea to drop them off at the next rest area and get the hell out of here.

"You can't keep it a secret forever," Crazy Smile says. The first words out of his mouth since Manhattan. "The world's going to know about mutants before long. And how can you hide what you've just said you can't control? Anyway, hiding's not safe. Not in the long run." The way he says it, like somebody who knows, makes Darwin look in the rearview mirror. Their eyes meet for a second. Darwin sees Charles's hand brush Crazy Smile's shoulder, reassuring or protective or something. Crazy Smile glances at Charles but doesn't move. "We want to make sure you--we--don't have to hide. We're going to look after ourselves, not wait around to see if we're tolerated or not."

"Actually," Charles says, "That's not quite - "

"It is, Charles. In the end, that's what we're doing. You just don't like the words."

Goddamn, Darwin thinks. It's the Nation of Mutants. And you don't even have to pray. Or wear a suit. "Self defense, huh?"

"Yes," Crazy Smile says. Charles shrugs.

Darwin's defenses are built in. But he's seen what can happen.

For ten miles or so he thinks about mutants. Most people, they've got a way to band together. You can see it on their skin or hear it in their accent, know it from their names. Even fairies have fag bars where they can find each other, and Darwin's seen enough of the trannies around the Village to know that they watch out for their sisters. But mutants, they're random. Pure chance, 'cause that's how natural selection works. They must be scattered everywhere, thousands of them and each one totally alone.

What would the world be like if they came together?

What would his life be like as one of them?

A hell of a lot more interesting than being an accountant.

"Tell me more," he says. The two white men in his back seat smile their different smiles.

The third mutant smiles back as Charles begins to talk.




The first commenter can make a new ficlet request. Details are here on DW and here on LJ.

on 2011-08-24 09:30 pm (UTC)
dingsi: The Corinthian smoking a cigarette. He looks down thoughtfully and breathes the smoke out of his nose. (creativity)
Posted by [personal profile] dingsi
I love how you can show so much with so little words -- your writing is always sparse but efficient, which sounds like very dry praise probably but I mean it in a very positive sense. It's... distilled, and it's a style I like. And there is so much going on there, with their different experiences, different outlooks and privileges and intersections of minority status. (Which is why I also grinned at reading the title. A joke set-up, but if it's funny at all then it's probably the dry gallow's humor coming from living your life as a minority.) Sentences like "For the first time, Darwin likes them a little." have a lot packed into it.

Oh, and thanks for the warning. I usually flinch at some of these words but this helped and I could just take it as Darwin's (well-meaning but cis-and-hetero-privileged) viewpoint.

Oh, almost forgot: don't know if I'm still the first commenter when I hit "send", but if I am then I'll need some time to think about a good one as I'm on my way to bed and tomorrow will be stressful with the plumbers checking my bathroom and such. If it takes too long for you to be feasible, feel free to pass it on to someone else, ok?

on 2011-08-26 06:37 pm (UTC)
dingsi: The Corinthian smoking a cigarette. He looks down thoughtfully and breathes the smoke out of his nose. (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] dingsi
I thought of the title as the setup not so much to a joke as to a riddle: how many people were in the taxi?

*nod nod* I suppose my first connection was the well-worn trope of "An X, Y, and Z walk into a bar ..." heh. But it works really well as a heads-up that the three people in the taxi have several angles of identities and although each angle can (and sometimes ought to) be looked at individually, what you cannot do is divide the person. (I am very wonky with words today, it seems... I hope I'm being clear enough?)

I'm glad the warning took some of the flinch-factor out for you.

After some thinking, I discovered that Darwin calling the trans women trannies but also sisters immediately afterwards helped too. He was using a slur but he didn't call them men or freaks, instead he used a term that was appropriate for their gender.

on 2011-08-24 09:55 pm (UTC)
elaineofshalott: Drawing in black of white stick figure on pink background, a heartshape cut out of its chest. (love)
Posted by [personal profile] elaineofshalott
eeeeee this is lovely! "Crazy Smile," hee hee hee.

on 2011-08-25 03:29 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
Posted by [personal profile] lilacsigil
This is wonderful! I love the way that Darwin sees various people hanging together (and though his language is judgemental, he is not) and wants that for himself as a mutant, and his "Nation of Mutants" comment on the recruiting speech. Though I have to say that single Malcolm X reference was about 10,000 times more relevant and subtle than the entire XMFC movie. Darwin's different adaptations - physical and social - and his observations of Charles and Erik were terrific. Thank you!

on 2011-08-26 06:46 pm (UTC)
dingsi: The Corinthian smoking a cigarette. He looks down thoughtfully and breathes the smoke out of his nose. (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] dingsi
I worried the reference might be too obscure, especially for non-US readers.

Commenting as a non-USian: I admit that it would have escaped me, had I not read about the Nation of Islam in a (fairly terrible) novel. I can't even remember if Malcolm X et al were covered in our history classes, only briefly perhaps. Apart from a few catchphrases or iconic images, there just isn't much awareness. That being said, I still vastly prefer subtle jokes like this to the metaphorical anvil getting dropped on me. *g*

:D?

on 2012-01-12 11:36 pm (UTC)
elaineofshalott: A white volume knob. (volume)
Posted by [personal profile] elaineofshalott
Hey--I was wondering if you'd mind if I podficced this.

Re: :D?

on 2012-01-13 09:03 pm (UTC)
elaineofshalott: A white volume knob. (volume)
Posted by [personal profile] elaineofshalott
Will do!

on 2012-01-21 11:07 am (UTC)
oxymora: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] oxymora
OMG. I found this through the podfic, and I'm so glad I did! How is this not recced everywhere? There's so little XMFC fic that really tries to deal with the time period and its implications; most writers follows the movie, which equates the '60s with mini skirts and "groovy" (never mind that the former weren't around in '62).

I love Darwin and his perceptiveness.

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kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)
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