X-Men-First Class: Rise or Fall
Warning: This is a fiction centered around family, pain, and discipline of all sorts, plus further controversial components. If one finds this troubling, leave now or forever hold your peace.
NOTE: Property of Stan Lee, Marvel, and just about every entity but me.
Over the first two months at ye Olde Xavier Mansion, things sailed along smoothly. Charles set up training for everyone in order to get a better hold on the individual powers. In-between warm-ups, Charles with the help of Hank and Erik worked on an update of their previous CIA device, Cerebro. As soon as it was on-line, they took it upon themselves to venture forth and continue the search for others like themselves.
After dinner one evening, Charles sat in the study, working on the files for the trainees. Only at night, when things seemed to calm all around, did he get a chance to put effort on such things. The closest file he had to completion was the one containing information on Rebecca Douglas, the "brain child" of sorts who had come to the mansion the same day as the others. Then there was the next arrival, newly turned twelve-year-old Franklin Tolbert, who they had discovered living in the city. The latest and youngest mutant they had happened upon was Joseph Reynolds out in the Midwest; all of eight years and completely abandoned.
With the painful and disappointing losses of Darwin and Angel respectively, the new children had proven to be, more or less, a blessing in disguise. All of the recruits together made the once empty mansion feel a great deal more active.
Removing himself from his work momentarily, Charles looked up to see the reading lamp flickering. When it continued to do so even as he shut it off and on again, he glanced back to find the newest member of the household standing in the doorway.
"Joseph," Charles acknowledged with a friendly countenance as he gestured for him to enter fully. "Come in."
The child went to stand at the older male's side. "It's Joey, Charles, please," he requested as he often did.
"Right. My mistake," Charles immediately apologized. "Joey." He rested a hand to the boy's light blonde hair. The gentle touch seemed to send a wave of easiness throughout the child as the lamp functioned normally again. "Are you all right? Your powers seem a tad volatile."
"I'm sorry," Joey said immediately. "They do that at night a lot."
Charles nodded understandingly. "When it's quiet, that's when the real noise begins." When Joey stared at him strangely, Charles explained, "Well, during the day we're surrounded by so much sound and chaos that we have very little time to think about certain things we might find troubling. Then the moon comes up, things quiet down, and our harshest thoughts seemed to all but implode on us."
"Yeah. Sometimes it's all right. Other times, I feel like I'm going to blow."
"Well, we can't have that now, can we?" Charles leaned back, opening up his lap space. After Joey climbed up to sit on him, Charles put an arm around him. "We're going to have to start increasing your mental exercises. When the negativity starts affecting you and ultimately your powers, you have to focus your thoughts elsewhere."
"That's easy for you," Joey stated, gloomily resting a hand against his cheek.
"Hm. I can understand how you would think so. But once upon a time I was a small lad just like you, often confused. Many times I wished I had someone to turn to. That's the part where you, Joey, are lucky." He rubbed his arm tenderly. "You have me to chase the negativity away."
Joey sat quietly for several minutes before shifting slightly to face the desk. "What are you doing?" He reached for the brown file with Franklin's name on it.
"Nosy, nosy," Charles chided playfully, gathering up the documents. "These are confidential I'll have you know."
"Is mine that real thin one?" Joey asked. "That's good, right? 'Cause it means I never get in trouble."
Charles pretended to ponder over that. "Perhaps or perhaps it means you have several outstanding demerits I have yet to site. Hm?" He gave the boy a gentle nudge, causing him to laugh softly.
Managing to tear himself away from the microscope long enough to give into the overwhelming desire for a nighttime snack, Hank headed towards the kitchen. He completely ceased movement when he spotted Raven in there, unloading plates and glasses from the dishwasher. She wore her usual favorite attire of a dress several inches above the knee line. However, instead of her normal chosen footwear of high heeled boots, she currently wore white bedroom slippers. Hank watched for a moment as her long golden hair shifted with a swan-like elegance whenever she bent slightly to pick up another dish.
For the last several days, Hank had been spending the majority of his time staring at close-ups of blood samplings and trying to find the courage within to mention the upcoming weekend to the girl before him presently. What could be a more entrancing way to spend a Saturday than with an early dinner and a full evening of Shakespeare in the park? Well, for a gorgeous female like Raven, Hank was pretty sure a twenty-four hour seminar on paint drying would interest her more.
That's it, Hank thought, you're going to spare yourself the inevitable embarrassment and not say a word. Now, leave quickly before she notices you're even here.
He then glanced down at his large feet, currently contained inside his loafers.
Why aren't you moving? Move, blasted appendages!
Raven paused for a moment then looked behind herself. "Hank."
At first, the troubling thought that the years of exposure to Charles had caused her to develop telepathy and that she had heard every word of his inner battle made Hank jump slightly. However, her normal kind grin set him at ease.
"Raven, I didn't expect to find you down here," was the first thing he thought to say.
"Well, I figured we'd all need something to use for breakfast tomorrow." She indicated the fork in her hand. "Though I do enjoy the image of my brother having to slurp his grapefruit."
Hank let off a healthy chuckle at the joke. "Yes, I can just picture it. Well, I only came down for a bite. I won't make a mess. I promise."
As he headed for the refrigerator, Raven said, "I'll stay out of your way then."
"Good." Hank quickly looked back at her. "Not that you could ever be in my way. Or anyone's way."
Raven smiled widely. "There are a few differing opinions on that around here but thanks."
As she flapped her hand to throw some irritating hair over her shoulder, Hank stuck his head into the refrigerator. He suddenly found a great need for the cool air.
"You need a spotter?"
"Hmmmm… what?" Sean glanced up at Alex.
"Do you need a spotter?" the older teen repeated slowly. "Or are you just holding the equipment down with your new butt-lock power?"
Sean shifted slightly and resumed doing leg lifts while holding onto his notebook. "No, I'm fine."
"Just a thought," Alex said, toweling himself off. "You might want to work on your upper arm strength if you want to get airborne without Erik having to push you off a building."
"That was one time," Sean defended then rethought it. "Maybe twice. Besides, according to Charles, the muscle I need to worry about is right here." He indicated his throat.
"Until your arms get tired," Alex pointed out simply.
Putting his pad down for a moment, Sean asked him, "Well, what about you? How's your training going?"
"Only four manikins were harmed this week."
"That's progress," Sean commented before picking up his pen again.
Dear Mom, Dad, and Tommy
So far so good this week. Charles is helping me out a lot with my vocals. I already told you that I finally soared. It was so far out! Right now I'm in the gym with Alex. I told you about him, right? Well, Mr. Know-it-all is giving me power pointers. This coming from the one known for starting fires.
Tell the grandparents I said hi and Happy Anniversary.
Yes, Mom, I'm eating alright. Raven is actually a pretty good cook but she's still no match for you.
No, Dad, I'm not getting into any trouble.
Tommy, stay out of my room.
Staring decisively at the numerous colorful orbs on the floor in front of him, Frank made special care to factor in air resistance and size ratio, not to mention his luckies from his unluckies. Of course, he had also been doing so for well over two minutes.
"Frank, would you take your shot already?" the currently bored Rebecca requested as she played with her hair.
The boy immediately shushed her. "I'm trying to concentrate. Don't rush me."
"If you keep concentrating like this, I'm calling quitsies."
"Don't you dare." Frank finally made a choice and rolled out his bumblebee.
Not needing nearly the same amount of time on her end, Rebecca sent out her steely, which immediately knocked Frank's onionskin out of their invisible circle.
"Ah, man," Frank groaned. "That's your third lucky shot in a row." He eyed her suspiciously. "Are you really doing this or are you just making it look like you are?"
Rebecca rolled her eyes so far back the pupils looked as if they may never return. "Why is it every time I beat you at something you think I'm using my powers?"
"All right, all right," Frank conceded.
A voice from over his head interrupted his thinking process. "Becky taking you to the cleaners again I assume?"
The little girl smiled at the presence of the adult and stood, going to him. "Hi, Erik. He thinks I'm cheating."
"I do not," Frank denied. "Besides, if I owned five steelies I'd be way ahead of you."
"It's not just the arsenal," Erik informed him, resting a hand at Rebecca's upper back when she leaned against his side. "It's in how you use it."
Frank's response was a distracted, "Arsenal, right, sure."
While the boy focused on his next marble move, Becky looked up at Erik. "This will take a while."
He let off a low chuckle then began to walk with the girl down the grand staircase. "Chess would be a day's journey for him."
"How was town?"
"Not terribly interesting," Erik replied. He hoisted her up to a sitting position on the rail post when they made it to the first floor. "Quaint little countryside we live in but far from the most this state has to offer."
"That's what Frank says," Becky put forth. "Wish I could have gone with you."
"Supply runs? Much too boring for you. Besides, you're safer here."
"I'm safe with you," she countered.
"Safest." Erik clamped foreheads with her for a moment. "And don't you forget it." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the light radiating from the study. "Let's go see what Charles is up to."
Working with the use of only one hand presently, Charles used the other to rub soothing circles over the back of the tiny vessel currently in his possession. The droopy-eyed Joey propped up slightly as Erik entered with Becky at his side.
"Erik," Charles acknowledged his friend pleasantly. "You're back. How was your drive?"
"No complaints," Erik told him. "I took a little jaunt at the bookstore. I found some new material we could use for the lesson plans." At seeing Joey's eyelids flutter tiredly, he said, "And I believe that young man has the right idea. You three should be heading to bed."
"Oh, not yet," Becky protested lightly. "Just let us have one last round of marbles. I can't have Frank thinking I'm a cheater."
Erik considered it. "Straight to bed afterwards. Go on."
"Here, love," Charles said to Becky, standing Joey up. "Take him upstairs with you, please."
Becky came over and took the younger child by the hand.
"Charles," Joey called back, rubbing his eyes, "will you read me my book?"
Giving the innocent youth a smile, Charles assured, "You have my word, sir. I'll be up soon."
"'Kay. Good night, Erik," Joey waved as the two children headed out.
"Good night," Becky said over her shoulder.
"Night, imps." Erik watched them go then looked back at Charles. "You're back." The other man looked at him with confusion. "I heard the way you said that. As if you weren't expecting me to actually return."
"I don't know what you mean," Charles denied.
Erik sat in a nearby chair. "Come off it, Xavier. Even after everything, there's still that part of you that sees me as a half-cocked renegade."
"That's only because even after everything, you have a tendency to behave as such," Charles pointed out.
"Things are different now," Erik insisted. "There's a bigger picture. I know where I'm needed."
"That's very good, Erik. It really is. Because we have more than just the younger mutants in our care. We have to hold each other accountable."
"I'm fully aware," Erik stated nonchalantly.
"Good." Charles gestured to the floor over their heads. "I'd best get to Joey. He's really enjoying The Sword in the Stone."
Erik nodded, reclining in his seat as Charles took his leave. Sticking his hand into the pocket of his brown leather jacket, he retrieved his familiar coin. He watched mindlessly as the tiny piece of circular metal danced along his palm and in-between his fingers. There really was a bigger picture and he saw it in full crystal clear view more than anyone else.
The kitchen buzzed with noise as bacon and eggs sizzled on top the stove and the coffee brewed. Raven went into the refrigerator and took hold of the container of orange juice. As she started filling the glass pitcher with it, Frank re-entered from setting the dining table. He turned the oven burner cooking the bacon off and slid the slices onto a serving tray with the help of a spatula.
Raven gave him a smile. "Thanks for all the help, Frankie."
"No problem, Rae. I was up, anyway," Frank said.
Truthfully, he rather enjoyed helping the young woman prepare the meals. There was a time living back in New York City when such a thing remained reserved for himself and his mother. Now at the mansion, it was the most time he got to spend with just Raven.
"Good morning," Hank greeted in his usual good-natured way as he came in, adorned in tan slacks and a blue sweater.
"Good morning," Raven returned sweetly.
While checking on the eggs, Frank managed to steal a glance at the two of them every so often. He had immediately picked up on Raven's face lighting up the minute the other mutant had entered. Also, while he knew that Hank's "good morning" had been in general, Frank had not missed the fact that his eyes had been firmly focused on Raven as he said it.
"Frank, would you like to help me some more this afternoon?" Hank requested. "Around the lab?"
Ah, so Hank had noticed his presence after all.
"Sure," Frank responded.
"Come on," Raven said. "We better get this food out to the troops."
"Oh, let me help," Hank immediately offered.
Using his rather long arms to balance four different sized trays, the lanky young man made use of his foot and gestured for Raven to walk ahead of him. She did, giving him an appreciative gaze as she did. Frank pretty much knew what their problem was. He had seen it enough times back home with his own brother. One thing he knew for sure; older kids could be so strange about that stuff.
Humming contentedly to himself in the presently empty dining room, Charles smiled when Alex burst in with tiny arms and legs wrapped securely around his neck and waist. He gave a quick spin about the room, causing a giggle spree from Joey. Charles eyed the blonde duo fondly. Although it had been quite the unexpected but completely welcomed surprise, Alex provided a big help since Joseph's arrival. He often saw to getting the younger mutant up and helping him dress in the morning. The tot certainly brought out a more serene version of Alex, as opposed to the usual brass teenager.
"All right, Joe, last stop."
"Okay, Al. Down, please."
"Oh, you want to go down?" Alex promptly lowered himself until he was stomach down and cheek to cheek with the plush carpeting. "This down enough for you?"
"Alex," Charles chuckled with a shake of his head.
Joey jumped and hurried over to the owner of the outstanding home. "Is that good?" he asked, pointing at the sliced grapefruit.
Sprinkling just a tad more white sugar onto it, Charles replied, "Oh, it's frightful. You wouldn't like it at all." He shot a special look over the tyke's head to Alex.
"But you eat it all the time," Joey pointed out. "And who ever heard of putting sugar on fruit?"
"True. It's such a strange practice. Ah, well." Charles waved it off. "You'd best stick to that cold cereal you're so fond of."
"Can I try just a little?" the small boy requested.
"Well, if you insist." Charles took the nearby teaspoon, dipped it into the fruit then held it out to the child.
Joey ate it and hummed delightedly. "Mmm. Hey, it is good."
"Really?" Charles feigned surprise. "Can I interest you in my other half then?"
Joey agreed eagerly, sitting at his usual place at Charles' left side.
"Real smooth," Alex commented, plopping down beside Joey.
Sean came in next, chivalrously holding the swinging door open for Becky.
"Oh, Sean, I've been meaning to speak with you," Charles said to him.
Sean sat down carefully next to Alex. "Is everything all right?"
"Everything's fine," Charles assured him. "I got a chance to read your paper on the themes found in Ivanhoe and it was very good. Gave me a couple things to consider actually."
"Thanks, Charles," Sean smiled.
Alex leaned over to his ear. "Professor's pet."
Sean did not respond but did his usual of quietly keeping his peace.
Hank, Raven, along with Frank soon brought out the food, setting things up along the table.
At the sight of Joey sprinkling a slice of grapefruit with sugar, Raven asked, "No cereal today, Joey?" She'd had trouble getting the picky boy to eat anything substantial at mealtimes.
"Not today," Joey confirmed.
Looking on as Hank slid the trays in his possession stylishly onto the table, Alex quipped, "Taking the show on the road now, Bozo?"
"Shut up, Alex," Frank chimed in before Hank could even speak.
"Franklin, we don't use "shut up" in this house," Charles reprimanded lightly then looked at Alex. "We also refrain from name-calling, Alexander."
At hearing Alex's rarely used full first name, a few laughs ignited from Frank, Becky, Joey, and Sean.
"What's so amusing? I want to laugh, too."
Becky answered the last one to the table, Erik. "Just Alexander." She never appreciated his little cracks at Hank.
Not missing the dirty look the agitated teen shot in the little girl's direction, Erik required no further explanation. He instead took up his regular seat on the right of Charles.
Once all were finally seated, the platters started getting passed around.
"Who am I working with today?" Alex asked the table.
"That would be me," Erik told him.
"Do I get to train, too?" Joey wanted to know.
"Absolutely," Charles said, pouring the boy a glass of milk. "After grammar, reading, science and just a bit of arithmetic."
Joey groaned immensely.
"Hey, first you gotta be as smart as me," Alex said to him. "Then you can be as powerful as me."
This seemed to suffice for the child as he happily returned to his breakfast.
"Hank, how are the repairs to Cerebro coming along?" Charles asked.
The young scientist lowered his glass and cleared his throat before speaking. "Still offline. My estimate is it'll be another couple weeks before we can locate another mutant signature and we'll be lucky if we get readings out as far as the west coast."
Erik and Charles exchanged a look, both having expected that less than favorable response.
"You'll get it up and running again," Raven said reassuringly to Hank. "And we'll be able to reach out to every mutant on the globe."
"Well said, Raven," Charles complimented his sister.
Alex threw out as dryly as ever, "Come on. Let's all hold hands and sing."
"No one wants to hold hands with you," Frank told him casually. "You're ugly."
"Well, we'll see how pretty you look when I use you as target practice instead of a manikin," Alex shot back.
Frank scoffed. "With your aim? I'll still look better than you, Paste Face."
"Ohhhh. Keep talking, star light star bright."
"Boys, please, not at the table," Charles urged.
The pair in question shared a quick look then promptly stood and left the dining room, where their verbal slaughter quite audibly continued.
The younger mutants laughed and Charles cast his gaze heavenly while Erik chuckled into his mug.