Sean Cassidy knew many things about Charles Xavier and his family that would make the average kid run for the hills. He and his sister Raven were mutants, which was always a big shocker for people, Charles was an empath so powerful that sometimes it seemed like he could read your mind, Charles' son David was a ridiculously powerful telepath and a telekinetic, and apparently Charles Xavier's reaction to finding a young kid scrounging around in the refrigerator for food and casing the joint for things to steal was to pretty much adopt you.
'The last time this happened, I got a sister,' Charles had said.
So, after about six months of living with Charles, Raven, and David Xavier, Sean pretty much had become a big brother and an oldest son, and also a manny. He did night school four days a week, and would have his GED in a few months and after that... well Charles had said the sky was the limit - slightly less metaphorically where Sean was concerned. But Charles had promised him tuition, and maybe a few chances at some mutant-specific scholarships, which was more than he had expected with a criminal record.
The whole 'criminal record' thing had apparently been a bit of an issue when Charles had started at MCIS, something about being susceptible to blackmail or coercion, but Charles had just taken one look at the investigator, smiled, and said that he absolutely wasn't ashamed of Sean, and that had been the end of it.
In short, Sean Cassidy thought that Charles Xavier was badass and would absolutely set anyone straight who said otherwise. He was so badass, he didn't even carry a gun.
He was also so badass that he somehow managed to make feeding his son Cheerios while making breakfast for three look easy.
"Sean, please stop reflecting and give me a hand, orange juice all around."
"Right!" He raided the cabinet and got and poured glasses for the three adults, and filled up David's sippycup. David chucked it back at him without even touching it. "Hey, it's a little early for that, don't you think?" He took the cup and set it back down, ruffling David's dark brown hair.
He returned the cup to David and the boy actually sipped it this time before banging it against his highchair. Sean left him to that, and Charles passed him a plate with an omelet and a piece of toast which Sean ate one handed while hovering over Xavier Jr.
"After breakfast," Sean answered the psychic babble without even thinking. David had never been much for talking, apparently, even before his mother's death, but afterwards his powers had emerged, and at least he was able to communicate some. "I need to eat and your dad and Aunt need to get to work."
"Blocks and crayons."
He nodded, and David picked up on his agreement, going back to his sippycup and drinking it down in a few gulps.
The absolutely creepiest thing about living with Charles Xavier, was that Sean was pretty certain his son could blow his mind, literally. He'd had one or two days where he spent the entire day playing blocks with David, only to snap out of it as soon as Charles came home. He knew it was crazy, but Charles had taught him all sorts of tricks and he seemed to be able to stay one step ahead of David's growing powers, at least for now. Thankfully, Sean was pretty good natured and hadn't run screaming for the hills - yet.
"No cases today, Charles?"
"Not yet, you never know, though, the day is still young." Charles sat down at the table, leaving another omelet for Raven who would likely be down in another minute. "We've finally managed to clear the paperwork from my first case and I do believe that Erik will not allow me to avoid weapons training and certification any longer."
Sean smiled, poking at his breakfast more. "Why don't you tell him you're already good enough to get certified?"
"I must admit, Sean, it's mostly because it's far too amusing to wind him up."
"You've got funny way of showing you care."
Charles ignored the criticism in favor of eating his breakfast. He was halfway through when David sent his juice cup flying again and Charles barely managed to catch it one handed before it hit the side of his head. Like Sean had said - badass. He watched the standard dance, Charles picking his son up and carrying him around the kitchen, bouncing and jostling him even though he was three and getting a little big for the treatment.
Somedays it seemed like David was just a normal kid, blocks, psychic babbling, and all sorts of things, but other days he was what Sean's mother might have termed a 'holy terror' and almost impossible to communicate with, and today was shaping up to be the latter.
"Everything is alright, David, really." Charles ran his fingers through David's hair - a mess of dark waves that looked so much like his father's it was impossible to miss. "And you cannot be throwing things like that, someone could get hurt."
Kids who manifested young were always hard - Sean had read books - but telekinetic-telepaths were something else entirely. If Sean weren't so easy going it would have freaked him right out, he was sure of it.
"K, no throwing..." The instruction might last a day if Sean was lucky. Still, he ruffled David's hair as well and the boy grinned up at both of them.
Raven came downstairs and slid into her seat, downing a quarter of the omelet in one huge - unladylike - bite before she started in on the rest of the food with slightly more reserve. "We're going to be late," she groaned.
"Unlikely," Charles answered, sliding back into his chair.
Sean left his omelet and scooped David up and turned him around slightly, offering him a bite of his own omelet which David slightly grudgingly chewed.
Raven and Charles were out the door five minutes later with a peck on David's cheek and a hug for Sean... He ended up hit in the back of the head with a sippy cup not two minutes later. It was going to be a long day.
* * *
Raven had decided today was a blue day, which meant that she had kept her natural form rather than the blonde face she often used when she was playing the part of a human. Charles had - in solidarity - donned his gloves as well, and they made quite the pair on the subway heading downtown from the Upper East. She didn't have to be a mindreader to tell that they were getting a few decidedly uncomfortable looks, even from the neighbors who knew that the Xavier household was one hundred percent, full on mutie.
Charles pressed his fingers into the back of her neck, easing the tension there. "Take it easy, no reason to get wound up this early."
"You are the most patient person on the planet!"
Amusement bubbled down her spine, twisting and curling just enough to make her smile despite the glares all around them. There were a lot of benefits to a telepathic big brother, and one of the greatest was how effortlessly he had come to understand her. It had been a long time coming, and even though she hated it, it helped that she had never had to hide what she was. Sometimes she wanted to hide what she was, but she never had to.
"David was being a bit of a terror this morning... Raven sent the thought to her brother, and she could feel his fingers stiffen slightly at her neck. Charles knew. Raven had only seen a few minutes and she could already tell Sean was going to be in for one hell of a day. "Have you reconsidered...?"
"Not up for discussion, Raven. David can barely talk without telepathy, I'm not going to put my son in a collar. I managed telepathy almost from birth, he will, too."
Charles hadn't watched his mother get incinerated by mutant terrorists when he was two years old...
Beside her, Charles closed his eyes and leaned up against her, definitely stealing some support. They both knew David was... odd at best, didn't talk almost at all, and she didn't have to peek inside of her nephew's head to know that he was having a difficult time processing everything. He'd been a kid, but it had left something in there. She could see it from the way Charles looked after he'd spent an hour or two trying to help David order his mind more. Lessons were always haphazard at best, relying on Charles having his own strength, Sean not being in the house, and David not being in a horrible mood.
It was trying at the best of times for Raven, and she knew it must have been so much harder for Charles to see his son like that, especially since she knew that Charles really could see his son like that, could see all the ways that trauma had seeped into his mind and hurt him.
"Please, Raven, not today."
She realized she must have been projecting and tried to pull back her thoughts and make them a little less David-shaped. "Do you have something special in mind for pulling Erik's pigtails today?"
Charles answered with a soft snort, and Raven shared in his humor. "I'm happy to let the pigtail pulling develop at its own pace, thank you very much."
"I'm your sister, you can't hide from me!"
"Then you'll be open to discussions of pigtail pulling and a certain bespectacled and gawky genius who lives down in the lab?"
That shut her up for the rest of the ride in.
* * *
Charles scanned the bullpen as they arrived at MCIS, his mind was slightly fuzzy from the collar around his neck, but he would be used to it shortly and had no desire to dwell. Carefully, he set down the coffees he had gotten from the shop around the corner, coffee - way too much sugar - for Erik, some mocha-latte contraption for Angel, Earl Grey for him, and another mocha-thing for Alex, who would have denied it with his dying breath.
He settled in at his desk and scanned the news, only Angel was at her desk, but he could see signs that Erik and Alex were still around somewhere.
"Angel." He craned his head around, no Emma or the rest of his team. "Where's Erik hiding?"
"Moira wanted to chew him out about something or other."
"Making breakfast out of the vending machine."
Charles winced in sympathy, maybe he should have brought the kid a donut from the coffee shop.
Angel looked up from where she was obviously searching the internet - probably for mutant rights stories if Charles had her number right. "You were a grad student, Doc, you can't tell me you didn't eat out of a vending machine on more than one occasion."
"No, I can't, this morning, however, I had a spinach, feta, and mushroom omelet." Which was a little on the decadent side, to be honest, but he'd really wanted one and coddled eggs were just not going to cut it that morning.
"God, you are so wholesome I bet you fart daisies."
Charles snorted. He was constantly lying about his mutation, was actively conducting espionage, and he had an illegitimate kid, wholesome had nothing to do with it. "I'm a lush, and a horrible flirt, just ask Raven."
"Already knew the horrible flirt part." Angel tilted her head, lip quirked. "Do your lines ever work?"
"It's not the lines, it's the delivery."
Angel quirked her eyebrow, dubious.
"A little smiling, a little discussing of groovy mutations..." Charles didn't resist the urge to hop up on her desk, leaning in a little, head cocked to the side. "Listening and nodding at appropriate intervals, and--"
He winced from the impact of a few papers to the back of his head. "Quit flirting with your teammates, Xavier."
Angel grinned over to where Erik was still standing behind him. "Bet you wish you were telepathic, huh, Doc."
"It would be handy," he admitted, completely ignoring the slight tension in Erik's frame as he walked passed. "Do we have a case, or were you just struck by a compulsion to touch my hair, Erik?"
Erik opened his mouth, closed it again, and realized that Charles hadn't left him with any clean way to answer that question. "No case, which means it is a perfect time for you to work on your shooting. We've already had this discussion."
"Yes, weapons certification." He pouted slightly.
Erik arched his eyebrow and his mouth set into a firm line, clearly the pout was not going to work. "Alex, you and the Professor here are going to go to the range and not come back until he's ready to be certified."
Charles turned to see the youngest member of the team had finally returned from his breakfast exploration, loaded down with SunnyD, a honey bun, and a sleeve of pop tarts. Alex paused for just enough time to turn the pop tarts and honey bun into a sandwich that made Charles simultaneously wonder if he'd ever actually been a teenager and become slightly frightened for the day David became a teen, also slightly nauseous.
"Sure thing, Boss."
Erik, at least, looked exactly how Charles felt, which was a small comfort of being lumped in with the adults in the room. "Get some practice in while you're down there," Erik added.
Charles could see Alex's face sober and change into something a lot more fragile. He frowned, curious, probing the emotional undercurrents in the air, a mix of fear and frustration from Alex, and something concerned and proud from Erik. Interesting. He likely could have snatched more than subtext from Erik's mind, but one of the downsides of being a mind reader who wasn't registered as one meant that he did his best to avoid having too much information with no viable way to have found it out. Being a little surprised was better than being a lot caught.
"Just this once," Charles agreed, finally sliding off of Angel's desk. "But only because you asked so nicely."
Alex put on his gun, holding his crime against breakfast sandwiches in his teeth at the same time. Charles thought that had to be some sort of safety hazard, but said nothing.
"Seriously, Charles, it's important." Erik put his hand on Charles' shoulder, squeezing tightly. "Just because you don't need it when you're at the top of your game doesn't mean you can rely on your powers."
He could accept that, at least, but he really couldn't care for guns, they were needlessly dangerous and Charles would have preferred to never have to use them. Violence, true violence, with intent to cause harm, not play fighting, was something that he found intensely uncomfortable. Shooting someone, causing them pain, or even taking a life, were not things he could do, not without causing himself harm. He gave Erik a nod and a smile, however, and then headed off with Alex, putting a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"What, exactly, do you need target practice for, Alex? Erik seems to have something of a fetish for gun certification, I can't imagine you're lacking." The answer came, unbidden, through the contact with Alex's shoulder. Alex's own powers were wild and difficult for him to control, and he considered himself lucky when he would get through the day without accidentally setting something on fire.
"I'm... not great with my powers," he answered as the elevator closed behind them. "I shoot these plasma bolts when I'm angry."
"Well, I consider myself somewhat understanding on the general principles, although it would be more practical to get training from someone like Erik."
"Definitely not. Have you seen Erik try to teach someone? He's more of a... push you into the deep end of the pool until you swim sort of guy." Alex shrugged, one hand hiding in his pocket as he continued to nosh on his sandwich. "The nicest thing he did was have me teach you instead of him doing it. He'd be all growly. It's intimidating."
"Paternal," Charles corrected. Even without pushing into Alex's mind he could feel the idea. Family, Alex was thinking about family.
"I guess..." He took another bite, turning the mess over in his hands as he chewed. "I thought you were supposed to stay out of our heads."
"It's a two way street, Alex, it helps if you stay inside your own head as well." Still, the point was well taken. He was too used to Sean and Raven - and David - for them the mental semi-communication was second nature, responding to nuance and undertone, not just what was said, kept him sharper and more on top of what was meant, ignoring what remained unsaid didn't make it less true. "There's no reason to be embarrassed, Alex."
Charles smiled, he remembered this part of being a teen, at least. "Yes, says me. People are endlessly embarrassed by their own emotions, but it's particularly counterproductive. Carrying around shame concerning your anger only serves to amplify it."
He'd hit his mark, but not in a good way, Alex tensed, backed himself into the corner and glowered at Charles. "This is about you, you know, training, not me."
"I believe it was to be about both of us."
Alex crossed his arms in front of his chest, glowering, and the glower turned into the beginnings of panic, which only served to scare Alex further. The emotions in Alex's head quickly started to get away from him and Charles grabbed his shoulder tightly and pushed an artificial calm into his mind, suppressing the beginnings of a cycle that could have ended with an explosion.
"See! Dangerous!" Alex pushed Charles away, fleeing from the elevator even though it only gave him a few minute reprieve on the way to the range. The teen was sulking in the corner of the empty range when Charles arrived a bit later.
"All our powers are dangerous, Alex, you are hardly unique in that." Charles held out his arm, gesturing for Alex to step up to one of the long, narrow rows that were meant for practicing. At the end there was a clamp dangling where a paper target could be held. "The emotion that first unlocked your powers, was it anger? Fear?"
"Anger," Alex answered, softly, standing where Charles put him even though he wanted to be anywhere else. "I was... so angry."
Charles nodded, patting his shoulders again. "And you also carry a great deal of fear, fear you are going to hurt someone?"
Alex nodded, silent.
"I don't think it's a mistake that our powers are triggered by strong emotions, puberty, certainly, but children well before, and adults well after, all manifest their powers, usually as a result of a great trauma. It does us a disservice to think that the only way we can tap into our powers is through anger or fear." Charles had had this conversation before - with Raven - her own powers had been rooted in fear, the fear of people trying to kill her the moment she slipped up, fear of losing herself in a tide of faces.
"Erik says..." Alex stopped, uncertain. Charles nodded for him to continue. "Erik says that a gun - that powers - are a weapon that you have to respect or you might hurt someone."
"And he is absolutely right, but respect isn't fear or anger, respect is understanding the good and the bad of the tool."
"Do you respect guns?"
"Touche," Charles answered, smiling. "I do, but I do not like them. A gun is not me, not my powers. Mutants who distance themselves from their powers are, at best, sad and ashamed, and at worst dangerous. Distancing myself from a gun causes me no great angst or personal crisis."
Alex turned to look at him, resting his back against the lane wall and really looked at Charles, for the first time since they'd met a little over a week ago, he didn't avoid Charles' eyes. "Do you..." Alex looked down, took a deep breath and back up again. "Does it make you sad when people hate you and are scared of your powers?"
"Always, but I know when people think I'm groovy as well, it balances out." Sometimes. "The key, as always, is balance, the point between fear and over-confidence, between anger and peace."
Charles took the boy's shoulders and turned him around, facing the target again. "Over-confidence..." He felt Alex take a deep breath, nod his head, and try to psych himself up. Charles could feel the fear though, not the confidence he needed.
"I believe the kids today call it 'swagger'."
Alex laughed. "What are you, fifty?"
"Close enough," Charles answered. "Go on, then."
"You should step back... and hide behind something."
Charles dutifully stepped around to one of the other lanes, completely hidden from view of Alex, but he kept a close eye on his mental state, trying to maintain a perfect calm that wouldn't let him use his powers, he waited, not correcting him. Alex continued to try, pushed for confidence and came up short, pushed for assurance but found himself lacking.
"I have every confidence in you, Alex."
He infused his words with as much confidence as he could, reasonably, not wanting to push too hard, but Alex latched onto the spark and managed just enough to send a bolt of energy flying down the range. Charles peeked around the edge. The lane - about forty feet down the sixty foot range - was now smoldering and on fire. Alex seemed incredibly pleased, however.
"Wow, I've never actually..." He grinned at Charles. "It actually went mostly straight."
"Again?" Alex nodded, too enthusiastic. "May I stand here?"
"Yeah... you should totally watch."
"I will 'totally' watch, then."
Alex glowered at Charles, but it turned into a wide grin and the teen turned back around and shot another bolt, this time making it even farther down the range. Charles pressed his hands back into Alex's shoulders.
"You're imagining... an arm cannon, perhaps? Shooting directly from the body?"
"The bolt is more circular, accounting for the physics of the circular motion will help."
"Doc, not all of us have PhDs in smarty pants."
He grinned. "Genetics and bioethics. No, don't worry, the mind understands physics, before you are two years old your body has learned how to move dozens of muscles, near-autonomously, to control your relationship with the Earth's gravity. We also call it walking. Think of a frisbee, you twist your arm but it flies straight, physics."
Alex mimicked the motion of throwing a frisbee once, set his body at a slightly different angle and tried again. He hit the far end of the range about four feet above where the target would have been if they set one up.
"Did you see that?!"
Charles smiled, leaning back against the wall. "Yes, it makes you wish we had a longer range, doesn't it? I don't think we should shoot for a field test, yet, but your mind and muscles will grow into it."
They were still practicing, Alex's internal reserves of energy almost completely exhausted, when Erik came to check on their progress.
"How many times have you fired a gun today, Xavier?" Erik asked, with a tone that said he had a guess at the answer and he wasn't going to like it.
Charles gave Erik his best completely innocent look and got an eye roll in response.
"Alex..." Erik started, and Charles winced, not looking forward to whatever tongue lashing the boy was going to get because Charles hadn't felt like practicing. "Good job."
Alex blinked, obviously thinking that Erik was being sarcastic at first, but a few moments later he seemed to catch that Erik was actually being serious. "Oh... um, thanks? Prof helped a lot."
"Yes, well, 'Prof' is now going to receive instruction from someone a little less easy to distract. Back to work."
Alex fled, Charles continued to lean against the side of the range, innocently. "I think he did a good job."
"You are incorrigible."
"But what about my bad qualities?"
"I am beginning to make a list. It's already quite long." A collection of annoyedamused floated around Erik, and Charles gave him a wicked grin. "You, pointed in that direction, no getting out of this."
"Yessir!" He looked down the row. "Maybe one over, this one is still on fire."
The two of them moved, and Erik curled his finger to call the target clamp forward before he pinned up a paper target and pushed it back to about twenty feet. He placed a pair of safety glasses on the lane head and then snapped ear protection onto Charles' head hard enough to box his ears. "Safety first."
"Of course!" Charles answered, taking the gun Erik had set down. "I point this way, right?"
"I know you're not stupid, Charles."
"Naive, though, right? Inexperienced?"
Erik took his head in his hands, turned Charles so he was actually facing the target, eyes forward, shoulders forward, hips forward, and then toed Charles' feet apart just a touch. "Annoying."
Charles emptied the clip into the paper target, ten shots, all of them in the eight ring or better. He then casually pulled out the clip, set the gun down and turned back to Erik, who was staring at him with a mix of awe and annoyance. "Can I go now?"
"You did that on purpose."
"Strong emotions trigger strong mental connections and make your mind easier to read." In response, Erik's face went instantly stoney, but the emotions underneath continued to roil. Charles kept his eyes level with Erik's. "That's how an empath - or a telepath - interrogates, press at a nerve, see where it goes, take a look and keep pressing. It's the easiest way to slip in undetected."
"Why are you telling me that?"
"Because you wanted training to keep me out, and the first step to that is to know how someone else gets in."
Erik was distinctly uncomfortable, emotions a jumbled mess behind his eyes. "What did you see?"
"I didn't look, Erik." For the first time since they met, Charles can tell that Erik actually, truly, believes him.