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children of the atom

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Thorin stretched his hands above his head, feeling his back click as his fingers scraped the top of the door frame and squinted at the clock that hung above the stairs.

Five to seven.

Pulling down his shirt that had ridden up from his pyjama bottoms, he stumbled across the landing, dragging his toes through the carpet and trying to blink the sleep out of his eyes. Fíli's door was slightly ajar, a slip of morning light slanting across the rug outside, splitting the otherwise dim space overlooking the stairwell.

“Fíli?” Thorin called, his voice croaky with tiredness as he pushed one hand through his hair and placed another on the cool wood. “It's school.”

When no reply came, Thorin took a tentative step inside, a floorboard creaking beneath his foot as he shifted his weight. The room was empty, a twisted duvet lying halfway off the bed and the curtains billowing around the open window in the early morning breeze. Sighing, Thorin closed the door gently, leaving the room largely undisturbed, before turning to face the door at the end of the hallway.

The handle made a quiet scraping sound as he turned it, the ill-fitting wood sliding against it's frame as he pushed it open. The bed was again empty, barren of any covers or even a pillow, the duvet instead bunched up in the very corner of the room, two indiscernible shapes just visible under the brightly patterned material.

“Boys?” This wasn't the first time this had happened, finding his two nephew sharing a bed, curled round each other like overgrown cats and stubbornly unrepentant. He'd tried stopping it before, trying to tell his boys that they shouldn't make things harder for themselves, not when they where already under fire. He'd received one smashed in bedroom door and a week of the silence for his trouble. They'd sat down and talked about it after a while, the brother's almost-relationship never being questioned since. They needed as much support as they could get.

“Thorin?” A head of brown, messy hair appeared over the top of the mound of blankets, Kíli's patterned skin just coming into view as the boy pushed the covers under his chin to look up at his uncle.

“School time, you'll be late if you don't hurry.” Thorin said, trying to scowl but failing as the bare arm and the sheepish face of his eldest nephew appeared next to his brother's.

“What's for breakfast?” Kíli muttered sleepily, twisting to press his face into Fíli's neck and stretch his legs so bare toes appeared from under the covers.

“Eggs. Now get, we can't let you be late again.” Thorin left his boys to get ready, grabbing at the jeans that hung ready for the day on the banister and stumbling downstairs to the front door, bending down to get the post.

Throwing the envelops across the table, he started to prepare breakfast, humming as the sound of the boys fighting over the shower echoed through the little house and the gas stove flared to life. He reached across the pan to flick on the radio, the static voice of the newsreader filling the kitchen and successfully muffling the scuffle that had broken out upstairs. Cracking an egg, Thorin listened half-heartedly to the distant rant about stock prices and looked out over the garden, the little patio stained black by last night's rain.

“Have you seen my shirt?” Thorin mumbled a yes and turned to face his nephew, caught short by the sight of Kíli's bare chest reflecting circles of light over the beige walls. The boy looked down at himself, noting Thorin's expression and groaning loudly, falling down into a chair. “I'm a human disco ball.”

He had settled into his mutation shortly after his mother had died, plates of metal intercepted by little clutters of precious jewels around his joints spreading from his right index finger.

“Stop being such a drama queen, the shirt's on the radiator. Go pack your bag.” Kíli scrunched his nose up and gave a very good world-weary sigh. “And give you brother his gloves!”

Said brother audibly stumbled down the stairs, cursing as he tripped and earning him an unimpressed stare from Thorin. The boy's damp hair was bundled up into a ponytail, the gloves his brother must have given him disappearing up into the long sleeves of his shirt.

“Morning.” he mumbled, carefully settling down at the table and pulling his hood up over his ears, smiling tired as Thorin put two plates opposite him.

“Good morning.” Thorin answered distractedly, trying to scrape burnt egg white of the pan and failing miserably. “Rules?”

“It's only been a week of holiday, I remember them.” Fíli said with a frown, Thorin's usually quieter nephew almost growling the words.

“Humour me.” He gave up trying to serve the food in favour of leaning heavily on the counter, fixing Fíli with a look.

“Keep my gloves on.” he said moodily, tapping his fingers against the table to illustrate his words, the sound of his nails swamped by the wool.

“And?”

“Keep Kíli safe.”

“If someone hits Kíli again?”

“Hit them back.” Fíli spat, his mouth set in a grimace even as Thorin took a menacing step forward.

“Try that again.”

“Make sure he doesn't retaliate, I know.” Fíli's shoulders suddenly dropped, his chin falling onto his chest as his hands came up to cradle his head. “I know. I just don't want to go back.”

Thorin dropped the now empty pan, reaching around the table to put a careful hand on his nephew's arm, running his thumb along the seam of his hoody.

“It will be fine, just keep your head down and Kíli out of trouble. You'll be out in no time.” Fíli looked up, edging away slightly from his Uncle's touch, his face twisting up into a frown.

“The entire school hate us, we're the only mutants left.”

“It'll pass.” Thorin said quietly, balling his hands into fists so hard that his nails dug into the soft flesh of his palms. A loud bang broke the tension, Kíli stumbling into the kitchen, the side-cabinet in the hall now sporting a large dent from where the boy had tripped.

“Sorry, sorry.” he muttered almost to himself, not noticing the stares as he patted the furniture in apology. He glanced up with a smile, eyes zoning in on his plate even as he did up his tie. “I thought you'd ruin them again, congratulations on the sub-par but not awful cook-”

Thorin's nephew stooped talking as quickly as he had started, this mouth still hanging open mid-word but his eyes fixing on the radio. Thorin moved to say something but a flick of Fíli's hand shut him up, focusing for the first time on the stream of sound coming from the speakers.

 

-have reported this change in legislation. Seen as a controversial move by some, the House of Lords finalised this law in the early hours of the morning, being issued to the press in a conference within the last hour. Registration forms have been sent out in order to fulfil this new act, every mutant receiving licenses in return for proper documentation. Mutants are being urged not to resist, for the continued safety of themselves and those around them. Breaking this law, or harbouring someone who is, will result in anything from a hefty fine to a long-term sentence, taking into account the power of the mutant involved. Now, to explain the repercussions of this is the man a the forefront of this law, MP of  Dane County, Smau-

 

Thorin stopped listening, reaching for the thick envelop that sat innocently in the middle of the table, a lump of dread slowly rising in his throat as he looked at the words emblazoned on the front in bright red ink. The boys sat in silence as Thorin slipped his thumb under the manilla paper and prized it away from the glue, letting the paper inside fall onto the tablecloth with an unceremonious thump.

“They must have been printed even before it was passed.” Fíli whispered, his face deathly white against the yellow of his hair and his eyes wild with anger and fear. Kíli had reached for of the pieces of paper, mauling it in his tight grip as he stared blankly down at the words.

 

Ministry of Mutant Affairs.

 

“Sit down, both of you. Now.” Thorin said, slumping into a chair of his own and reaching for the next page. “We need to discuss this.”

“Should we sign it? Do we sign it?” Kíli said desperately, Thorin distractedly noting that the table was already being crushed by his nephew's hands.

“It's up to the two of you.” Thorin said gravely, watching as Kíli looked to the side of his brother's despondent face. “You have high level mutations.” Dangerous mutations.

“And?” Fíli said quietly, moving to grip his brothers hand and pry it away from the buckling wood.

“It says they might take you away from me.” Thorin said, scanning the paper and refusing to look up. “Away from each other.”

“No.” Fíli said with a violent shake of his head, Thorin's stomach flipping at the whimper in his nephew's voice. “I could hurt someone. I could really hurt someone, and without Kíli no one could help. They can't do this. He's my brother.”

Kíli was absolutely silent, his mouth forming noiseless words as he ran a hand along the form.

“Either you register or we go on the run. It's now or not at all.” Thorin said firmly, something clicking into place in his head that screamed at him to keep rational and calm. It sounded like Dis.

“People did this before. Registering.” Kíli stopped to look at his hands, his face creased up and painfully worried. “Singling out anyone who was different.”

“I belong with my brother!” Fíli snarled, a fist slamming down and jarring the wood.

“Calm down.” Thorin snapped, almost laughing at how stupid he sounded. “Decide.”

“We stay together.” Fíli said, faltering when Kíli didn't stop staring fixedly at the mess of paperwork. “Kee?”

“They're not going to ruin our lives. I'm a- a freak but I'm proud, and I'm not going to let them take that away from me.” Kíli's mouth stretched into a grotesque kind of parody of his normal smile, his entire body relaxing at once. “Let's get packing.”

After a beat, a flurry of motion took place, Thorin making for the door as Fíli crushed his brother in what must have been the world's most uncomfortable hug. He dragged the camping equipment from under the stairs, pulling the rucksacks from underneath tent poles and ignoring the niggling feeling that he'd been unconsciously preparing for this. He also, less successfully, tried to deny the growing warmth of relief in his stomach, guilt only slightly undermining the overwhelming wave of emotion that came with the idea of keeping his boys safe and away from any political shit.

“Grab any cash you have! And for god's sake take a change of clothes!” Thorin shouted up to the sound of hurried feet on floorboards, hoping Kíli didn't try to smuggle his x-box along. Looking down at the dusty bags at his feet he paused for a moment, because what the actual hell were they doing? The government would be on there tail wherever they went and it was not like The Brotherhood would take them in, not with Thorin as human as he was.

He stood, buckled over banister and breathing hard, his pyjama top sticking between his shoulder blades and his hair shadowing his face. Nothing as dramatic as this had the right to happen so fast, not again.

But they were Durins, he thought to himself, the ground spinning in front of his eyes, Family first, not matter what.