Characters: Eugene Sledge, Snafu Shelton, Charles Xavier, Erik Lensher
Pairing: Sledge/Snafu, Charles/Erik
Disclaimer: I don't own The Pacific, nor do I mean any disrespect to the real men in K company, and their families. This is based on the actors' portrayal of real men in a fictional setting not the actual men themselves. X-men is owned by Marvel Comics
Warnings: PTSD, mentions of death and wartime, AU
Summary: Eugene Sledge returned to the US after the end of war, but it doesn't feel like he's come home.
A/N: This started out as writing experiment really, binni thought it was great and beta'd it for me. That and a submission for Team-Pacific on Tumblr. I just, I really wish I could delve into this AU more. Half of me still can't believe I wrote this since we all know Fassy and McAvoy were in BoB and not the Pacific and there really should be no connecting ties but w/e. Sledge's powers are based on Avalanche
One day, Eugene Sledge hopes to return to Mobile. On that day, he'll be able to face his family again, and maybe even finish school. He's not expecting any miracles, but it would be nice to be able to walk up the wooden steps into his family’s house, look into his mother's eyes and not see the fear. He'd left in such a hurry, barely cramming his sketchbook and a few clothes in his bag, and following two strange men who had asked for his help and promised to acquaint him with others like him. Sledge doubted they would be similar to him in the least, and yet he couldn't stand to be there much longer, locking himself away. He needed to leave, for everyone's sakes.
He remembers leaving with a strange feeling of detachment; nodded once to his father, gave a stiff hug to his mother. Edward had been at work. He didn't--couldn't--say good bye to Sid.
He hopes that one day, he'll be able to face him; too; be able to stand seeing Sid. It's asking too much to hope that maybe, when he did see Sid, he'd have found a way past this strange mutation. That on that fateful day, they'd both be able to be both men in each other’s eyes.
For now, Sledge sends scattered postcards with no return address. On the rare occasion he can go into town with Charles and the others, he calls them. He never calls Sid, barely able to talk to his mother. She's so sad, so worried--but all Sledge can think of is the sharp look of concern, something that was twisting to horror as the land shook around them. He's always blunt in his calls. He keeps them short, and, above all, makes sure to never reveal where he is. He'll make it up to her one day, as well.
Sledge still can't bear to see his reflection. He can't stand to see the person who came back from the war all wrong, and nothing like a war hero.
His enlistment is only mentioned on rare occasion: once, when the CIA casually checked his paperwork and registered him in their system. Sledge remembers staring straight ahead, ignoring the look of incredulousness on the man's face.
"This has got to be some joke! There's no way this kid served in World War II." Sledge remembers stiffening, feeling a small tremor under his feet before Charles cut in. A warm voice in his mind, "He doesn't know Eugene; none of them do. They just don't understand yet."
Outwardly he heard Charles rushing forward, quick to explain away. He didn't need to turn to feel Erik boring holes in the back of his head.
It was nothing like what Snafu used to do, and Sledge remembers going back to staring at the clinical white of the wall, the sudden tremors around them quieting.
Sledge isn't nearly as nervous of Charles as he probably should be. Maybe it's because despite appearances, he knows he's older than all of them. Or maybe it's just because he feels like his pain's already exposed, that he can't keep the war out anyways. Might as well just let it be, feels it draped around him like a funeral shroud.
Sometimes Sledge thinks that maybe he's actually dead. That he died with Ack-Ack and Hillbilly, or that he never made it out of Okinawa. That maybe his body never got the memo and let the war take over it--that all the earthquakes, the rumbling of the ground, is the spirit of the tanks, the make shift bull-dozers clearing the beach. Maybe the explosions possessed him, maybe all of the artillery have ghosts too, and they all decided to take over. It'd certainly explain why he has so much trouble controlling his powers--the artillery doesn't know how to stop, only keep going.
Outwardly he never shares this theory with anyone. But for some reason, he can picture Snafu in his mind, snorting with a "Jesus, Eugene. You fucking stupid?"
It actually makes him laugh for the first time in what feels like forever.
Once, Charles does approach him about looking into his mind to maybe find something to help control his powers. He remembers staring at the wallpaper above Charles's head, ignoring the way it actually hurt to keep staring, the sun getting in his eyes and the dull throb of silence in Charles's room as he felt his mind getting picked apart.
He couldn't stand to look at Charles; look into his face and see the disgust at what he'd done. See that Sledge had done so much—see the bodies lined up on the beach, feel the entrails on his hands as he shoved them back into his friends.
When he does look up, though, all he sees is grief. It's a sadness that Sledge recalls seeing on so many faces, and it hurts worse than he thought. He feels almost like he's been struck. It leaves him sick to his stomach. He remembers getting up quickly, mumbling and stumbling out of the room.
He avoided Charles for days after, unable to stand what had just occurred and apologetic for what Charles had seen.
They don't come up with a solution, and for the next week Sledge can't sleep.
Erik catches him one day waiting outside the CIA library. For some reason the hours seem to change whenever Sledge tries to enter and it closes far quicker than the time listed on the plaque on the door. He's not stupid, but there's really not much for Sledge to do besides read and sketch. He's still awkward around the rest of the group, all of them far younger. He doesn't avoid them exactly, but he doesn't go out of his way to keep their company.
"You shouldn't bother," Erik greets, seeing him sitting in front of the closed double doors. "Your attention isn't worth their time anyways."
"Guess you’re right. I got a book in my room anyways." Sledge pushes himself up off the ground and decides to head out anyways. His hands itch for his pipe.
Erik had followed out after him, not making any attempt at conversation. If Sledge hadn't been so used to that kind of behavior, he probably would've been at edge.
"So you served in the Pacific Theater." It's not a question, and it's said in such a strange tone that Sledge just has to turn and regard him.
"Something like that." He really doesn't feel like talking about it, and he knows that things are still uncomfortable with Charles.
Erik doesn't say anything else, just walks past. Sledge feels a ghost of a touch on his shoulder, however, and sees something like respect in his eye.
Charles and Erik disappear often, and Sledge has been around long enough that he's settled in a polite cohabitation with the others. He accepts their invitation one late Friday night and sits on a chair at the edge of their little circle as they talk. No one gapes at him, no one acts any different, and Sledge thinks briefly back to sitting side by side with Snafu, eating canned peaches and trading quips.
They eventually take to showing off each other’s powers, and even Sledge is enraptured with the many different powers the others possess.
"What's your power Eugene?" Darwin asks, as they all pile in from witnessing Alex's demonstration. The others all round on him and Sledge feels strangely nervous. He takes a sip from his cola and it burns a little.
It's so strange to suddenly be prodded to show what's brought him here in the first place, what's separating him from his life. From home.
Sledge thinks for a minute, wraps his arms around himself almost subconsciously. Realistically he knows he can’t hide from his powers forever, will have to accept them as a part of himself. He can’t stop though, can’t stop that alien feeling that he’s just not right. He swallows, glancing up to see the others staring intently, curious without any fear. That alone feels just as foreign to him.
“It’s ok Sledge, we’re all friends here.” Raven soothes, she doesn’t reach over to touch him, but she tries to give him as much comfort in her gaze. He nods, trying to keep in mind he’s faced much worse than bored super powered teenagers before.
Reluctantly, the words spill out from him, coming out in more of a whisper. But out loud for the first time he says, "I was born in 1923."
It's...almost acceptance; not quiet there, but it's admittance at least. It’s not in his head any more, it is there out in the open.
When he looks up he sees the confusion on their faces--he never really had clarified what his powers were.
"Wait, so your power is never aging?" Angel actually sounds envious, and for some reason it hits Sledge as funny. He hadn't exactly thought of it like that.
"Not Exactly," He gets up from the chair, walks into the courtyard, judges the now destroyed statue for a bit trying to test how much/how far he can try with the very little self control he has. He closes his eyes and soon feels the tickling sensation flood down his veins. The astro turf is shaking, the area around the statue wobbling and spreading. He can't let it get too out of hand, and almost immediately tries to dredge up memories to get the tremors to quiet: snapshots of a dark night, laughter rolling around as flares flashed above him. The ludicrousness of the situation, just how strange war had made men. A long gone voice in his ear.
Finally the ground stills, he trots back inside with measured steps. He’s surprised to find them cheering and applauding.
"That's SO awesome! You get to never age and start earthquakes!" Sean crows, staring at him in awe. "I'm jealous."
"You should have a code name!" Raven chirps in, and as they all surround him, excited and buzzed, anything but afraid, Sledge can't help the slight twist to his mouth upwards. He stares at them expectantly however, eye brow raised.
"Hey, so like, do we have to call you Mr. Sledge?" Alex asks and Sledge feels the grin slip from his face.
Hank, however, interrupts quickly, almost as if he senses his discomfort. "You don't mind that we call you Eugene do you?"
"I'd prefer that you do, actually," he finds himself saying wryly, before Darwin clasps his shoulder warmly. Something strange is settling on Sledge’s skin, and he feels a strange sense of belonging, nothing as strong as the Corps (nothing could ever be that strong) but, he does feel a bond form. His mutation still hangs over his head, but he doesn’t feel its weight as heavily, it’s almost a light press.
He doesn’t talk about Mobile or his family, and certainly doesn’t talk about the war (much, much later, through the span of years, he still really won’t except to one person) but the company’s pleasant and the stories are plentiful (and entertaining, if a little strange). He isn’t a teenager again by any means, but he is a man enjoying the company of friends and it’s just as good.
Despite his protests, they even gift him with his own code name: "Landslide".
It's not ‘Sledgehammer’, but Sledge is very much ok with that right now.
A few days later, as he sketches from the window in his room, Charles knocks on the door. The red cardinal near his window flies away, and Sledge knows an omen when he sees one.
He feels a strange stirring even before Charles can say anything. Instead he focuses on the picture of the mug shot in the telepath’s hand and feels everything drain away.
He doesn't even remember walking over and taking it out of his hand, but now it's in his and all he can do is stare.
"I guess that solves the question of if you know this man…." But Charles's words are lost on Sledge. His breath is shaky and his whole body feels like it's pulsing.
"He's been arrested and placed in solitary confinement, much like Alex."
Sledge swallows his mouth suddenly so very dry.
"Take me to him," he croaks. Everything in his life is suddenly focused on the man in the photo. "Please. I need to go with you."
Once, Sledge dreamed he would meet Snafu again; that he would turn and Snafu would be there. He would apologize, they would talk again, and, maybe, he could make the ache go away. Make some of this pain, this ugliness just disappear. In some of his more desperate moments, he almost thought that maybe that is why he can't age--that some weird desire was keeping him from changing before he could see Snafu again.
Looking at the worn man in front of him, Sledge just feels all his nerves alight. The thudding in his ears is so loud that he almost can't hear Charles over it.
"We'll leave you two to it then. We'll be outside." Sledge barely nods in agreement; he can't look away.
"Jesus..." Snafu doesn't look nearly as old as he should be, but he's aged a little more than Sledge has. Sledge doesn’t focus on that, not yet—later, when they’re back at the facility, he will. Instead, his mind buzzes with so much, so many emotions in him, whirling around in his head and making him feel almost dizzy with them all. More than a lot of him feels anger, and he has to clamp his jaw, think and think before a tell-tale tremble. No, this isn’t how he wanted to introduce himself to Snafu again. Especially not looking the way he does and not with the knowledge that his control hasn't improved.
Snafu breaks the silence and takes Sledge’s anger with him with a single phrase: “Fuck, you better be fucking real.”
Everything in Sledge stops, Snafu leans forward on his knees and peers up at him. On any other man he’d look almost crazed, hunched over himself, staring at Sledge unabashedly, like he’s all there is to this cell. Instead he looks just as sad as Sledge feels.
“I see you everywhere, in everything. Tell me you’re fucking real this time.” Snafu’s voice sounds hoarse from shouting, as if that’s all he’s ever done, and something in Sledge breaks just the littlest bit. “Please, Eugene.”
He leans forward and gently takes Snafu’s hand, pushing in worn dog tags he can’t bear to wear, but can’t even part with. Snafu feels the brail of his name in his hand and looks at him with such an honest gaze that it almost makes Sledge breathless.
“You never change, you know that?” Snafu's laugh comes up as a sob, and he grip turns iron tight, pressing the dog tags into his skin, almost like he’s trying to tattoo them into himself. It’s said with more emotion than any kind of apology could hope to have.
It really doesn’t matter that there’s only a thin wall separating them from outside, from Charles and Erik, from the police, from a war they’re hoping to prevent. What matters is that Sledge feels something that he hasn’t since he's returned. He hasn’t felt like he’s finally returned home until now.
One day, Sledge will return Mobile. One day, Sledge will be able to control himself and the constant buzzing and shaking his hands want to do to the earth. And one day, far in the future, he’ll see his mother, his father, and Sid. He may never be able to age, maybe he’ll die that way, but it doesn’t matter—not right now, even when later Sledge’s life gets even more needlessly complicated, when he’ll be asked to choose sides. When he’ll have to deal with the knowledge that people are probably never going to see him again as Eugene Sledge, or the son of the respected Doctor Sledge and his name will fade along with the ages.
All he'll ever really be known by his code name, all he’ll be seen as is a freak, a monster, sometimes a hero—none of that will really matter because he’ll always have one person to anchor him. Remind him he’s not a ghost, he’s not a monster, he’s not any of those things really—because even when he makes the ground shake, when his photo never changes—he never truly loses himself. Not when Snafu’s got his dog tags around his neck, his arm around his shoulders and his name on his lips. Not when Merriell Shelton, later known as “Delusion,” wraps his own dog tags around Sledge’s neck, and anchors himself to him.
“Let’s go, Snafu. Ain’t nothing for us here.”