Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men. Marvel does.
A/N: Writer's block buster. I've taken on the challenge of posting anything I write. Wh00t. Anyway, I'm probably wrong on all the ages. Oh well. :)
Warning: Dark sensitive themes ahead. Hinted at: child abuse, suicidal thoughts, murder, etc. Don't like, don't read.
Charles is only eleven, but he can hear as, every night, a piece of his mother shatters behind her bedroom door.
He can see her breaking during the day when they share meals, her facade cracking with every sip of alcohol she drinks. Her eyes always stay on him, but her smiles are empty and forced and so close to dead that all he does is look away.
Eventually he learns to pretend back.
But for now, his own wounds are still deep, though the ones that are physical have turned to thick, white scars that crisscross and ridge. They are more like a tight, woven binding rope that keeps his mind from breaking open and just taking it all - a reminder of what happens when he does.
He's tired of the images of fire and faces and screams and blood. He's tired of the phantom pain that is as real as it's not.
His mother's thoughts of allyourfault and whyaren'tyoutheonewho'sdeadIhateyou are not silent to him, but even at eleven Charles can't hate her for it. Won't hate her for it. Because her first husband is dead and her second husband is dead and he is still alive and alone because of it.
Eleven, and completely alone.
Erik is fourteen, and death has become as natural to him as the ever overcast skies that have shadowed his life. He can look at the dead and dying and show nothing.
He shows nothing even when Herr Doktor takes him downstairs for another medical examination and uses the tools that he should be able to control but can't because he's weak.
Herr Doktor, whose hand on his shoulder is firm and constant and unrelenting every day. Right on top of the scars he had caused. Scars Erik secretly relishes in seeing in the reflection of his mirror when he's alone.
He has lived in the camps for a year and six months (he's kept count, though he doesn't know why), but now he's in a small room Herr Doktor gave to him as a reward when he killed a Jewish man and his two young sons by the metal collars on their throats. His own room, with his own bed, and his own soft pillows, and a colorful blanket that's too thin for warmth and too frail to string up and use as a noose. Which he knows for a fact.
He's tried. Several times.
But he's fourteen, and he fails, as he has always failed, and every night, Erik twists and turns for hours he cannot afford to spare, before falling asleep to his mother's voice and the echoes of a single gunshot and an endless count of one, two, three...
Raven doesn't know how old she is, and frankly she doesn't quite care.
It is a wonder she knows or even wants her name.
She knows that once, there were strong hands - warm, familiar, safe hands - holding her under freezing water in a river somewhere. She knows she got away, and she knows that she hates her parents, even if she can't remember their faces.
She has tried, a few times, to show herself to people, to find someone who can look past her appearance of blue scaly skin and large yellow eyes, and maybe give her a chance. Her voice is high-pitched, her height short, and she knows she is not much larger than the little girls who walk with their daddies down the streets. And people love little girls, so why not her?
But every time, people scream and curse, and sometimes they hit, and sometimes they hurt, and Raven finds herself escaping again.
She learns to pretend. Watches as her skin turns to black to white to old to young to normal and natural. She can hold her transformations for a full thirty minutes before she gets tired.
And so spends her days hiding in plain sight, mingling and exploring and trying to find a way out, and she spends her nights stealing what she can - bits of food off of the plates of outside diners, wallets when she can - to survive. It hasn't yet occurred to her what she is capable of doing. All she knows is that she isn't normal, and that she's alone, and that people hate her so she has to keep moving.
Curling up in the back of an alley, eating, and pretending she doesn't want to cry.
When Ana was ten, she did not understand why no one else thought the wings that suddenly sprouted from the rash on her back were pretty like the ones on the dragonflies during the summer.
She didn't know that when her mama took her across the border to an American city, it was to save her pretty wings, and her life, from her papa's axe.
Her mama said her wings were a curse, a punishment from God, and made her kneel and pray for forgiveness every hour. She was thirteen before her pretty wings, not so pretty anymore, wrapped themselves around her shoulders and her back to form tattoos of their skeletal structure. She was thirteen when her mama left to return to Mexico and to her papa and left her alone because, though hidden, her punishment was still there and still unforgiven.
She didn't stay alone for long. Dark hair, long legs, face defined by Spanish features -she was exotic. And people of the wrong sort took notice.
Ana is fourteen when she takes her first steps onto the stage, her tattoos completely exposed, and becomes "Angel".
And that night, vomiting in the trash and holding more money than she's ever known, she curses her mama and spits in the dirt, and watches as it sparks.
Sean is nine. He has red hair, countless freckles, dimples that show brilliantly when he smiles, and the faintest hints of a quickly fading Irish accent.
He lives with his immigrant aunt and American uncle in a pretty suburban area where half of the neighborhood coo over how adorable he is, and the other half ignore his outsider existence all together.
Sean never really notices them, because the sky is pretty and the sun is warm and his aunt tucks him into bed every night with stories of parents he can't remember.
And he feels safe.
Until the night his uncle, smelling of that yucky drink that makes his aunt so mad, creeps into his room and tells him not to say a word. But Sean screams, and screams louder still when his uncle hits him across the face. Screams and screams until the glass is suddenly cracking and breaking and the neighbors' dogs are howling and there is blood leaking from his uncle's ears and eyes as he finally flees the room.
Screams until the sobs take over.
At nine, Sean is sent away. His aunt says it is the best for him, but he notices the way his uncle smiles, and the way she clutches his hand.
Hank is fifteen. Fifteen, technically, is still considered a child. Fifteen, technically, means that Hank should still be with his parents, in his parents' house, eating his mother's cooking, talking about his father's day at work before a game of catch. That is what fifteen means. Hank has asked.
But Hank does not have parents - he does not even remember them. He has never eaten his mother's cooking and he has never asked his father about his day at work and he has certainly never played catch. He has never seen the point.
Hank is fifteen, and he is preparing to graduate from Harvard along with other men who are almost twice his age. He is quiet and shy and keeps to himself, offering up mumbles when addressed by anyone who is not a professor and completely respectful when it is a professor. He is intelligent - beyond intelligent - and bright and honest and kind and he writes once a week to the nuns who raised him at the orphanage, telling them everything he can fit onto paper.
They always write back, telling him what a good boy he is, how wonderful life is for him, but never failing to remind him that, no matter how wonderful things are, he cannot stop hiding. Because if he does, then life will not be so wonderful anymore.
And so Hank walks through his final days of campus when his legs want to run, speaking softly when he wants to roar, and lets his too-small but perfectly normal shoes pinch the feet he keeps hidden from the world.
And tries not to flinch when the Dean pulls him aside, ecstatic, to tell him the CIA wants to speak with him.
Armando is fourteen, and doesn't speak.
Every day he walks two blocks to get to the bus to head to work, head down, and doesn't speak when the driver barks "to the back, boy!" while the white passengers snicker.
His name is Armando, but his friends call him Darwin to the point where it sticks. It's not a nickname lightly given. If anything, it's always said with a sneer, with a little bit of hate and a whole lot of anger. Darwin, after of Charles Darwin, whose theories of evolution go against his own religion.
Because Armando adapts to survive. He doesn't stand up against the white men even as they're shoving him off the sidewalk and into the road because the sidewalk is a "white man's right". He doesn't report his beatings to the police, even as they gather around asking questions about the fight, because they're already cuffing him and just begging for a reason to add to his bruises.
He does, however, speak up when, one day, an older white gentlemen pushes his older sister to the ground for moving too slow, spitting "colored trash" like poison and aiming a kick. Armando gets there just before the foot hits her, and instead it hits him in the back.
And he doesn't feel a thing, even as more kicks come flying, even as his sister stares up at him from under his arms with wide, horrified eyes. He feels nothing.
Armando is fourteen, silent, and being led away to jail by false claims from an aggravated attacker. His sister is safe and dismissed, and he has no injuries to speak of while the man's foot is completely shattered.
When asked for his name, he only says "Darwin".
Alex is seventeen, and has not considered himself a child in a long time. Not since he was fifteen and blew a hole through the room in a moment of anger and red that almost killed his baby brother.
He can still remember the screaming and the toddler wailing from a still-forming blister on his stomach from too close of a call.
His parents kick him out then and there. And Alex doesn't blame them, though he wishes they would have just hugged him and helped him and let him stay.
Because the lasers that shoot from his body scare the hell out of him, too.
He's been in the county jail four times for bar fights that he doesn't give up until he's cuffed, but keeps getting released because they don't know he's homeless, only that he's young and has a "bright future if you would just try to make something of yourself, buddy".
The words only fill him with more anger, more self-loathing, and every morning he falls asleep to the memories of his family that turn into nightmares of screams and fires and deaths caused by him. Wakes up every night with damp eyes he scrubs away and a body humming with so much fire that he just wants to explode and be dead already.
His fifth time in jail starts with him beating up some drunk in a pool hall who doesn't understand that when a girl says "no", she means "no" - he hasn't stopped throwing punches even after the man was unconscious and bleeding more than he should. Alex is angry - beyond angry - and he's been on edge for days, and it's just all done. When the man's friends step in to save their drunken buddy and take his place in the fight, something in Alex snaps, and suddenly all he sees is red.
No one knows exactly how the fire started, or how the men were so badly burned, but every witness is quick to blame Alex anyway. Since he's already got a record, the cops take him away, his knuckles still bloody and his body still humming. They get to the station and give him a phone call to let his parents know what's going on. He doesn't tell them that they won't care.
But he does use the call, and it is to ring his parents, but only to say "I love you you were right I'm sorry I never met to hurt him". He doesn't mention his arrest, or the pool hall.
He's seventeen, but the judge decides this offence - with so many people injured and the violence he exhibited - on top of his others is worthy of a harsher punishment.
Five years in prison.
Alex is seventeen, and in prison he pleads for solitary confinement, before he punches a guard and knocks out two inmates to get there.
It's safer that way.
Childhood is never easy. Not when the child is different.
But somehow, it works out.
Raven stumbles across Xavier Mansion in Westchester, New York, in the dead of night. She's so hungry that she sneaks right in, disguising herself as a woman who frequents most of the pictures, and digs around for food. It is there that she's confronted by Charles, twelve, and for the first time finds someone who isn't afraid of her natural appearance. He gives her food, a home, and an age for the first time, even if it's just a guess - she's ten.
Erik is thirty-two and drowning, using his abilities to hold onto a submarine he can't force from the water - a submarine caring Herr Doktor. Schmitt. Shaw. His lungs are burning, but all he can hear is the count of three, and a gun shot that makes him flinch. He almost doesn't believe that the arms suddenly wrapping around him are real, or the voice inside of his head assuring him that he's going to be fine. Not until he's above water, pushing away from the man who introduces himself as Charles Xavier, who reveals that he, like Erik, is very different. Who tells him he isn't alone.
Hank is nineteen and still hiding, deep within the labs of the CIA facility, when his boss brings in three others - three others who are like him. Three other "mutants". One who steps up, all smiles and happiness and respect, and accidentally reveals Hank for what he truly his. But, in spite of his reluctance, Hank will never deny how wonderful it felt to free his feet, to be himself and receive awe instead of disgust, to have a pretty girl stare him in the eye even as he's hanging upside down, and tell him, for the first time that he's genuinely heard it, that he's amazing.
Angel is seventeen, dancing for cash as she's done for years, when two men walk into the club and offer her more money than she's seen in a long time. Even though she knows what such dough entails, she takes it and leads them to a private room. But instead of letting her start, they speak oddly, and then the ice bucket containing the champagne is suddenly floating in thin air, under one of the men's command. The knowing looks they cast her, the encouraging and understanding vibes she can just feel coming from them, brings out her first real smile in years, and she finally lets her pretty wings loose. She almost cries when the other man gently asks her if she wants a job where she can keep her clothes on.
Alex is eighteen and hasn't spoken more than three words to anyone in a year. He sits in his tiny windowless cell, and every day grinds his teeth against the pain the unused energy surges through his body. He refuses to go out for exercise, knowing outside means socialization means confrontations means anger and he refuses to hurt anyone else. So he's surprised when his cell opens to reveal two distinguished but unofficial looking men who say they are there to get him out. He's suspicious, and unwanting - it's not safe out there - but there's a voice in his head, kind and soft chanting it'sokayAlex heretohelp it'sokay you'resafenow that pushes him to leave with them. And when they stop the car a few miles away in an empty field to let him release the energy that's killing him, the taller man patting his shoulder after he lights the whole thing on fire, something feels okay.
Sean is sixteen, and he's still all red hair and freckles, but his accent is completely gone and he never smiles enough anymore for his dimples to show. He's lived in foster care until last year, when he skipped out with his eighteen-year-old "brother" to live in a communal apartment with six other people and a very nice bong that gives a high he loves and erases images he doesn't. In fact, said bong is currently the reason he's alone in an aquarium (honestly, he hates fish), shot down by a beautiful girl whose name he didn't even know and currently cornered by two men who are smiling in a way he's not familiar with. But when he opens his mouth to scream (and seriously, screw the fish), one of the men taps his head and Please don't do that Sean we aren't here to harm you in his mind keeps his mouth closed, because that man's lips didn't move with his voice. His eyes are so wide he feels like they're growing, and the other man, looking between the two of them for a second, simply shrugs and says "Did you think it was only you?" And Sean doesn't like men, but for some reason, maybe the way the metal moves in ways it shouldn't be able to or the soothing words still coming to his mind, he goes with them.
Armando ("Darwin, please. Friends call me Darwin") is twenty, sitting in the front seat of a taxi cab and waiting for customers that either don't care about the color of his skin, or consider it well-suited for the job. He's become more chatty - it's almost like a job requirement - and relaxed. The near immortality that has invaded his life for the past six years has admittedly made him cocky, but he's blocked four knifing attempts and a bullet in those six years, so he feels entitled. Nothing phases him anymore. At least not until two gentlemen, grinning in an annoying way, slip into his cab, and answer his question of destination with a request for a six hour drive and the flick of his meter to on. Without touching it. "Chauffer doesn't suit you," the taller of the two says, and the other one laughs good-naturedly in a way that makes Darwin laugh too, shaking his head and putting the car in drive. Other people with other tricks? He could dig that.
Charles is thirty. He has a degree, PhD, and is working for the CIA on a mission to save the world from Nuclear War. It should make him feel proud, important, deserving. They have a debriefing in a few hours, and that's important. But what has him smiling is the scene around him. Seven of them, himself included. Mutants, exposed and nonfearing and together. Shy, new, but welcoming. Relieved. Happy. Their feelings wash over him like the effect of drugs, pushing against the shadows of his mind and soothing over his scars of alonelostunwanted like balm. He hasn't been alone since Raven came into his life, but this ... this is different. He's eternally grateful of his sister, would do anything for her, but she's smiling too - the same smile on his face, and her cast-over glance tells him she knows what he's thinking.
"What's going on in your head, Labrat?" Erik's voice is welcome, a click to his mind he can't begin to decipher. The older man is leaning in towards him, even his gaze locked on Alex and Armando (Darwin. He prefers Darwin. Remember that, Charles old boy) as the former violently and successfully rules a pinball game. But Erik's attention, Charles knows, is focused mostly on him, aware of him, waiting for an answer that will not deviate it. It makes Charles smile.
He takes in Raven and Angel, pressed together as the shapeshifter tries endlessly to bring the girl into more active conversation, complimenting the exposed and fluttering wings. Watches as Sean argues the laws of physics with Hank, using the jigsaw rules produced by hallucinogenic drugs (Charles will have to do something about that addiction, but that's another battle) to contrast what the other is patiently explaining. And then there are Alex and Darwin and a pinball machine Charles knows will see more than endless play.
"Charles?" Erik prompts again, and the telepath turns to see the intense metal gaze locked on him, questioning and a small bit concerned. And he smiles, and shakes his head.
"My friend," he declares, slapping Erik on the back, and it speaks wonders when the other mutant doesn't flinch away. He laughs at the wonderful absurdity of it all. "We truly aren't alone anymore." Family, he thinks silently, bursting with happiness.
And while his face shows nothing, Erik's eyes glint in understanding of something else.
Commonality beyond mutation.
I'm clueless. Should I change the rating on this? I've seen lemons be posted under "T", but sensitive themes seem to bother people more …. I don't know. :/
Also. The "post anything you write" challenge, is literally that. No matter the length, if you write it, you post it. So that's what I'm doing … I think you guys should too. We need more XFC fics. … More X fics in general. So. Yes. :)
Anyway. Could I bug you guys for a review? Please? :3