Housekeeping: I have largely moved to AO3 due to the ads here now being a pain and due to AO3 having increased its functionality while not forcing me to use the parts I don't need (yes, I'm looking at you, story covers), but I haven't fully crossposted everything to either account. This is the start of my crossposting spree getting the new challenge-related fic from AO3 onto FF.
Author's Note: Also, so sorry for the original character and the canon one (heresy: a child of Emma Frost and Scott Summers), but I didn't feel like resurrecting Jean. Jenny is the daughter of Phil and the cellist.
Prompt/Challenge: For FiKate. So the prompt was about how humanity sees mutants and how that changes over the years due to Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr and their actions. Written for the I Need My Fics 2013 exchange.
1. Magic Trick
Mutants were a new and foreign concept to the agents at the CIA. Charles had experienced some amount of frustration in his life before over the issue of comprehension, but on the other side of belief and disbelief: He had spent years cleaning up after all the times he or Raven had been outed or compromised.
"You say these mutants would be valuable." The words were neither question nor acceptance, but a grimly hopeful challenge to prove this was not all a waste of everyone's time.
For all that Charles was the telepath, it was Raven who was growing concerned and impatient because of what she was reading off of the agents. They didn't believe him. Their skepticism was warranted but tiring, and Charles wasn't entirely certain it was worth it to make them understand.
Preposterous! whispered the dark undercurrent of gathered minds around them. Impossible. Flickers of disbelieving hope. This could change everything. Moira's solid support. I know what I saw. And Raven. Always impatient, sensing his frustration with her knowledge of her brother past all need for telepathy.
A demonstration then. Charles kept it simple. Reading another's mind was fraught with tension. Too accurate and he would anger and alienate them.
The slap of disbelief hit him before the words: We're being had. Nothing but a magic trick. Oh, bother it!
Raven stood and shifted into one of them and the world shifted with her. The agents stared, and Charles bit back his own dismay at her flash of anger, her willingness to perform. What was telepathy good for if you couldn't hide your feelings? He buried it in a tight ball under fierce vindication, even as the tenor of thoughts in the room changed.
"How's that for a magic trick?" Charles demanded, catching the startled reaction of the agent who had thought those very words.
We could do this. What a powerful tool. This changes everything.
"Best I've ever seen." Wonder.
Charles watched his sister become herself and hid his sorrow in the grim face of duty. In a word, in a moment...
2. Track Record
Carol clenched her resume folder just a little tighter when she saw a female agent, Maria Hill, at the conferenece table instead of Director Nicholas Fury, who she'd been scheduled to meet. She made herself unclench her fingers however and shake Hill's hand lightly without crushing anything. Superstrength had its drawbacks.
The women exchanged military-like pleasantries and settled in.
"I know you were told this would be the final interview," Hill opened the real conversation abruptly, "but I imagine you are aware that things have changed."
Carol looked—and felt—surprised. "No," she said slowly. "I am not."
This time, Hill looked surprised. "You haven't seen the news?"
Carol forced herself not to clench her fingers, or even her teeth, that an old schoolmate's powers gone crazy might have put Carol's own Department of Defense career in jeopardy. She didn't force the hard edge out of her voice when she answered, "I am sure my military record speaks clearly to my own control and loyalties."
Hill sighed and shuffled her papers before setting them down. "Ms. Danvers, let me be frank. While your record is excellent, SHIELD has had reasons to investigate various mutants previously, and your record is not better than that of the late Jean Grey."
"I'm not a telepath."
Hill agreed. "Which is why we have not declined your application to join SHIELD. You will have to undergo the same testing that several other agents have gone through."
Carol wondered if that would include the Black Widow.
Hill went on. "Nothing serious—though we will have to table talk of putting you with the Avengers team. It is too public after this fiasco."
Carol didn't let Hill move on, but leaned forward quickly, "Which is why now is the best time to put a proven mutant with a proven record in the public eye. To make Americans feel safe again."
Pause. Maria Hill seemed to be considering it, then she shook her head. "I'm sorry, Ms. Danvers. But SHIELD is not in the business of public relations. If you would like to continue the hiring process, we'll be happy to do that, but it will be as a SHIELD agent."
It stung. Carol had gotten where she was through sheer strength of will, determination, and discipline. To be rejected for something she had no control over at all... She nodded. "I would like to continue."
3. Show's Back On
Megan Summers rolled her eyes at her roommate, a girl named Jenny Coulson. Jenny's response was to stick out her tongue.
The two had been watching too many made for television movies, teasing each other about actor crushes, and making fun of the Avengers and X-Men merchandise on commercials. Megan didn't tell Jenny that she had good authority to do so: her dad used to lead the X-Men before her mom saved him from his ex-girlfriend come back to life. (Life with the X-Men went waaaaaaaaay beyond weird.)
"I'm telling you," Jenny said, waving her hand royally before digging back into the popcorn. "One day, administrators will rule the world. If they don't already. My dad was in administration before he died. He didn't need half that much costume to be awesome."
Megan snorted in amusement. "It ain't the costume, girlfriend."
But then her own under-the-costume fritzed on her and she suddenly realized that Jenny hadn't told Megan she had good authority to do her mocking. Her dad had been Phil Coulson and a big part of the Avengers forming in the first place. He hadn't even known Jenny existed.
"Whoa, whoa." Reeling, Megan tried hard to blink away tears at sentiment and nostalgia that weren't even hers. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know—"
Jenny shot her a funny look. "That my dad's dead?"
"That, that..." Megan shut herself up. She tried not to tell people she was a mutant. Her mom always told her what they didn't know couldn't hurt them.
Jenny kept looking. "You're a telepath, huh?" She shrugged, went back to munching popcorn. Uncaring. She might as well have suddenly realized Megan had blonde hair. "Iron Man is so overcompensating. Oh!" She elbowed Megan. "The show's back on."
Megan was still staring. She had heard of so many reactions to mutation, but it had never occurred to her that she might just get indifference. Then she smiled, more to herself than Jenny.
The mutants came, they lived, they were here. And that was all.