Title: Century 21
Disclaimer: Don’t own them. And they were already broken.
Summary: Charles/Erik. Against the backdrop of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and it’s three themes.
Written for: Vagabond_Sal. Thanks to C.J. for the beta.
Pairing and Scenario Requested: Charles/Erik, no stipulations. Hard enough to get them together as it is.
We are at a point in history where a proper attention to space, and especially near space, may be absolutely crucial in bringing the world together.--Anthropologist Margaret Mead
The steel railing was warm beneath Charles’s fingers, and slippery. May in Seattle was cool and damp. Quite a contrast from warm and humid New York. They were standing side by side on the observation deck of the Space Needle, five hundred and eighteen feet above the ground, suspended thirty miles below the stratosphere.
Charles supposed the writer who had dubbed it “The Needle in the Eye of God” was onto something. Erik was a statue beside him, utterly still, eyes closed, immersed in the structure itself.
Erik moved then, a slight tilt to the dark head. Charles knew it for what it was; an invitation. The briefest glide across the surface of Erik’s mind, a gentle push, and he was inside.
And the great metal skin was peeled back in his mind’s eye, to reveal a living, breathing organism.
The metal breathed, inhale and exhale, behind concrete ribs. Expand and contract. The vertebrae of reinforced steel, climbing six-hundred feet above the ground. The give and take of electrons, push and pull of cations and anions at the cellular level. A great metal skin stretched over the entire surface; that glowed the same color as Phidias’s Bronzes in the proper light.
The little frisson of power that went up his, no Erik’s spine, at the knowledge that he could destroy. And rebuild it.
Charles tasted copper, and wondered if he’d bitten his lip. “Beautiful,” He breathed.
“Yes.” Erik smiled.
Charles brushed his fingers over Erik’s left hand. “I wasn’t talking about the view.”
There was a faint crackle in the air, like after a rainstorm. “Neither was I.”
The most important scientific revolutions all include, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of the previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.--Stephen Jay Gould
The life-size model of DNA stood near the center of the Science Pavilion. The blue and red helixes rotated a full hundred-and-eighty degrees every minute.
“How long do you think it will take to crack the rest of the genetic code, Charles?” Erik was intently studying pictures of Monod and Jacob, beside the half-size model of RNA.
“Five, or ten years perhaps.”
They skipped the German exhibit and the scale models of the Minutemen and Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. There were no exhibits from the North Koreans or Chinese or U.S.S.R.
When the rain began to fall, they ducked for cover under the food court canopy and ordered over-priced, stale coffee. The couple sitting at an adjacent table were whispering excitedly about the possibilities of computers that fit on a desktop and cordless phones the size of saltines. Peace.
Charles sipped his coffee and traced his lower lip with his thumb. “I’m greatly comforted to know my tax dollars are going to fund new ways to create a nuclear winter.” The coffee tasted especially bitter.
“And the cockroach shall inherit the earth,” Erik said, as he stirred another packet of sugar into his cup. "Human beings may have harnessed the atom, but it doesn’t change the inexorable Law of Nature.”
“And that would be?” Charles knew where the conversation was heading, but he had a weakness for retreading Rubicons.
“The strong survive. Change is inevitable.”
Charles shook his head. “You know my thoughts on that philosophy,” His temple was already beginning to ache. “I know you’ve had doubts for sometime, that we are human.” In Israel, he and Erik had stayed up countless nights going over that very question, never coming closer to an answer.
Erik set his cup aside. “We’re human Charles,” He smiled. “Homo superior.”
“Looking forward from the illusion of the past and uncertainty of the present, into the reality of the future.”--Rejected slogan for the 1962 World’s Fair
Charles stepped out onto the hotel balcony just as Walter Cronkite reported the latest FLN attack in Algeria. He could still hear the tinny sound of the CBS Evening News theme music playing in the background.
The omnipresent, precipitation-laden clouds had parted. The Space Needle was a crown of light set against lavender and orange and pale gray. It would, Charles thought, make a perfect postcard.
He was reminded of Israel, thirteen years prior. Only then, it had been minarets piercing the sky, the Dome of the Rock glittering against a jeweled sky.
He was ready to get home to Westchester.
Erik was leaning against the iron railing, cast in one-third light and two-thirds shadow. “Well, what’s in the news this evening?”
“The Israeli high court announced the date of Eichmann’s execution.” A year ago, they had watched the trial of Adolf Eichmann on television. Two hours into it, the television receptor tube had exploded. Erik had stalked out and not returned until the next morning.
He stroked the line of tension that began at Erik’s shoulder blades. Brushed against the edges of Erik’s mind as delicately as he traced his collar bones.
“Don’t.” He shrugged off Charles’s touch and walked to the far end of the narrow balcony, face tilted to the ground. He felt Erik lock the darkness behind it’s irons gates.
The past was looking over their shoulders.
When Erik looked up, his face was pale, eyes shadowed. “What, do you feel Charles,” Erik swept his arm in a 45 degree arc over the fairgrounds below. “Out there?”
He pictured the red-haired girl tossing pennies in the International Fountain, dreaming of being an Ambassador to China. The freckled-boy who wants to be the first one on the Moon, eyes glued to the Friendship 7 space capsule. The patrons of the bars on Capitol Hill, at the corners of Pioneer Square. “Excitement, possibility, trepidation…hope.”
“Hope is dangerous.”
“And despair isn‘t? The ‘Sickness Unto Death‘ as Kierkegaard rightly called it.”
“Resorting to rhetorical questions and Existentialism in the same breath?” Erik quirked an eyebrow .
“Isn’t the former a rhetorical question,” Charles paused. “And, as for the latter, you’re the one who introduced me to Camus and Kierkegaard.” He wondered if they would still be doing this at seventy.
He could hear Erik’s exasperated sigh, only an octave deeper than his sigh of pleasure.
“To hope, is a dangerous thing, Charles.” Erik fingered a button on Charles’s white shirt.
Charles slid his arms around Erik’s waist. “Then we’re dangerous.”
“Yes,” Erik said. And he kissed Charles hard; in the shadow of the future.