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The Unstable X-Men

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Before he was a leader, Scott Summers was a tightly wound ball of trauma and anxiety. 

His power was dangerously strong and without control it would end up with extreme levels of destruction, which didn’t bode well for anyone - unless they wanted mass destruction and death, but that was something else entirely.

He was terribly crude, unable to speak without stuttering - unless he was cussing someone out, and flirtatious with anyone with a pulse that wouldn’t beat him up. This was all true...unless Jack Winters was around. Then he’d go back to being shy and quiet and extremely socially awkward. 

The way his personality changed in front of authority figures he respected - or feared, in this case - was astounding. But truly, no one could blame him. After all, Winters’ cruelty could sometimes be down right abusive. His anger and greed burned like the cigarettes he puffed on. Even being a mutant himself, he had no sympathy or loyalty to his own kind.

The neighbors noticed. Of course they noticed. Hell, some had even cared enough to come over and confront Winters. Of course, with a smile he told them, “He’s a mutie,” and they’d be on their merry way to ignoring him. 

Winters, though, was not completely satisfied - a man like him could never be - and so Scott learned to talk, scream, and cry quietly. But sometimes it wouldn’t matter and he’d be thrown into the closet for a day or two - he couldn’t decide if being beaten or being starved of food and sunlight was worse. 

It turned out to be quite beneficial for Winters. Unfortunately it was immensely terrible for Scott. Especially when Winters heard him cuss out other kids, or flirt with the friendly prostitutes who helped patch him up. 

Winters drilled a motto into his head: Don’t do anything that won’t lead you to getting more money.

That meant no cussing out and getting into fights with other kids because they were anti-mutant or homophobic. Meant no more flirting and smoking and drinking with the women on the curbs who slept around for money. And most of all no giving back stranger’s wallets after he’d taken the cash - it usually led to them finding out and chasing him anyway.

The only good thing that came from their ‘partnership’, Scott supposed, was that Winters was a scientist and as such had created the glasses that allowed him to see without destroying things. And that apparently without a few days of sun, he didn’t need them for at least the same amount of days he was in the linen closet.

Scott knew he could run away for good, but he also knew that there would be nowhere to run to. 

No other person would give food and shelter to a dangerous mutant. They’d probably beat him or start yelling for him even looking at them. Plus, Winters would probably just track him down with those damned mental powers.

No other person except for the oh-so-kind Professor Charles Xavier.  

He was Scott’s lucky break. 

Scott had been wandering around after being temporarily kicked out by Winters after a fit of rage. Apparently stowing away a little of the money he’d stolen - not Winters, he’d always made others steal for him - was cause to be beaten, burned, and thrown out harshly. The words Winters always repeated no matter the reason behind Scott’s beating were these: You owe me. I own you. 

And wasn’t that just lovely? 

Kicking at rocks, he kept his head down, his hands had other plans though. It was always good to come back to Winters with some money, just to appease his greed. After all, his greed was greater than his anger. 

But what he didn’t expect was to find that Winters was still angry, and now he was drunk. Usually he’d just be angry drunk. That was better, reflexes were slower and he fell asleep quicker, but when he was angry and then he drank…

Scott gasped, the money scattering onto the floor like ugly, green snowflakes. His hands were occupied with tugging at Winters’ larger one, which was wrapped tightly around his neck. 

“Aw, Scotty, you’ve come back for more,” Winters cooed, a smile sharper than a knife stretching along his face, “And you’ve even brought me money! You’re getting soft on me, aren’t you?” 

“Please...can’t...breath,” Scott wheezed back. Black dots danced across his turning-blurry vision. 

Winters tightened his grip, “Oh, you dumbass boy, that’s the fucking point,” he snarled, throwing Scott on the ground to gasp for the much needed air, “I got you off those dirty streets, brought you in, and raised you to survive. You owe me, Scotty. I. Own. You!” 

The last three words were punctuated by sharp kicks to his ribs. Winters was always careful enough not to break anything, but made it painful enough that any harder and there wouldn’t just be a little blood and bruises. 

“Always remember that, understand?” 

Scott nodded, curling up and clutching at him stomach. His vision was blocked by tears as he tried to will the pain away.

Winters, seemingly satisfied, nodded to himself and went back to him room - probably to drink some more and then pass out. 

On the floor, Scott realized that Winters didn’t find him as valuable anymore. He was being thrown away like a piece of trash. And the next time he angered Winters might be his last, even if he delivered all the money he’d stolen. 

So he stayed there, still and hurting until the pain dulled to a throb. As the noon sun shone, he crept up and out of the apartment. Out of the building, away from the block, and he was running. 

He hadn’t realized he was running, but then he did and as he came to the conclusion that Winters wouldn’t wake up in a fit of anger and track him down, he let himself slow. A tentative smile lit up his face. Something real, the ones reserved for the women whos corners he stopped by. The ones left better for the dead of night as he had one of his few dreams instead of nightmares. 

But then his body was shoved, glasses jarred, and a red beam of light shot out, releasing a wrecking ball. Pushing himself up desperately, he sent out another shot and hoped that maybe, just maybe, it would hit the ball and not some innocent person. 

To his relief it did. To his horror, he realized what he’d done. That the humans were closing in on him, screaming, throwing things at him. And then he was running again. 

Running to the subway, and to wherever it took him. 

Running until he was shaking more from fatigue than fear. 

Looking around his surroundings, he realized he was far, far away from where Winters was. The sign read: Westchester, NY. 

A breathless laugh left him, and that’s when a man in a wheelchair came up to him. The man gave a little smile, before offering his hand and his home to the broken boy in front of him.

“Hello, my name is professor Charles Xavier.” 

---

It had been one month, two days, and twelve hours since Scott had arrived. 

The three weeks Scott had stuck to only saying, “Good morning”, “Thank you”, “Sorry”, and “Good night”. One week and two days after he’d started to be able to answer some of Charles’ tentative questions. And for the twelve hours after that, Scott had been able to answer most questions verbally, though not without a stutter. 

“Professor, this picture...you knew my brother?” Scott’s quiet voice rang in his ears. Charles turned as quickly as he could in his wheelchair to see a picture. 

A memory and reminder of people who’d turned on or left him. 

Charles gave Scott a tight smile, not surprised that even after the Summers brothers had been separated he’d recognize the other, “Yes. And I think you know just what that picture is of, don’t you, Scott? You’re a smart boy.” 

“You...you’re Professor X. You founded that mutant gang, ‘First Class’.”

“Co-Founded. Erik...Magneto, helped.” 

Scott made a noise, part understanding and part confusion, as he traced his brother’s face. Gripping the arms of his wheelchair, Charles remembered the day they had disbanded. 

Angel and Darwin had died in the fight with Erik and Raven, who decided to make their own gang: ‘The Brotherhood’. After that, Alex and Sean...they didn’t want anything to do with him. Not anymore. 

Shaking off the memories, he turned to observe Scott. His lips were thinned and turned downward, eyebrows pushed together as he comitted the picture of his brother to memory.

Charles could hear Erik taunting him now , ‘Look at him, the boy’s all jagged edges and no soft place to land. And now you’ve come along, trying to play God again, Charles?’

Well fuck off, Erik. He wasn’t trying to play God, he was trying to help. That’s all he ever wanted to do: Help. 

And he did. He helped Scott, made those memories turned nightmares a little softer. The dreams of burning planes, his brother leaving him behind, and Winters’ abusive hands weren’t gone. They just...hurt less. 

Charles wouldn’t take away Scott’s memory. It’s what made Scott...Scott. He just made the edges a little less jagged and the nightmares a little less vivid. For both their sakes. 

Scott was a fast learner, and after the first week he’d stopped projecting his nightmares; the ones that woke both of them up sweating and tearing up in horror and fear. And if Scott didn’t want Charles coming into his room to comfort him, then so be it, but Charles couldn’t just not help. So he did what he needed to, not that it made Scott less anxious or less broken, thank you very much Erik.

“Professor, do you have-do you have any other pictures of Alex?” Scott asked, the hint of hope in his voice making Charles develop a lump in his throat. Hope...he hadn’t heard that in such a long time, despite the things he lectured about. 

Nodding instead of speaking, Charles rolled over to his desk. Unlocking the very bottom drawer, he drew out a well-kept scrapbook. On the front they stood united, Erik’s neat cursive underneath: ‘First Class’. 

“Here,” Charles slid the book over his desk to Scott, “You can look through this, take any pictures of Alex that you want.” 

Scott froze, placing the framed group photo down, he grabbed the book with shaky hands, “Are y-are you sure?” 

“Yes, of course. He was your brother.” 

“But these are your memories...this isn’t my Alex, this is yours.” 

Charles slowly placed his hand on Scott’s, who flinched slightly anyway, “These are pictures. My memories are up here,” he tapped the side of his head, “If you ever want to know about him, you can ask me. You deserve to see who your brother grew up into, even just by pictures. Okay?” 

“I-okay...thank you, Professor.” 

“Of course. Would you like to take that up to your room and then come down for dinner, or look through it first?” 

Scott hesitated, slipping the book off Charles’ desk before answering, “I’ll look later.” 

“Right, see you down here in about five minutes?” 

He nodded before soft footfalls turned softer until he was out of sight. 

---

Dinner with Scott was a quiet affair. 

It wasn’t that Scott thought Charles would go into a rage if he so much as opened his mouth. And it wasn’t as if Charles thought Scott would become a puddle of embarrassment if they tried making small talk. 

If either of them was being honest, it was because they were used to quiet meals. Charles because he was alone and Scott because he didn’t want to wake Winters out of his alcohol induced sleep. 

Though, Scott would admit, Professor Charles Xavier was the strangest man he’d ever met. 

A rich man, and a powerful telepath no less, had brought him - a thief - into his home. His very big home. Full of very valuable things. Scott’s hand twitched just thinking about how much even one spoon would get him at the pawn shop. 

Charles must have known Scott was a thief, even if he hadn’t used his telepathy. He did though. Scott sometimes felt Charles’ presence in his head, and he knew Charles was the reason why he had fewer nightmare. That Charles knew he was a broken, terrible person, who probably should be in jail.

Though sometimes he’d start to wonder, in the darkest corner of his mind where even Charles couldn’t see, what Charles would have done if he wasn’t a mutant. Would he have left Scott to die? To wander the streets? Or would he still open his home and heart to the poor little orphan boy? Such questions were carefully filed away, and pushed out of his mind. After all, he probably would have been dead without Charles, no need to wonder now that he was there. 

Living with Charles and getting actual sleep, somewhere truly safe to live, and real food - not just scraps - he’d started to relax. He was filling out, and could no longer see more bone than skin. 

Still, thinking back, he couldn’t see why the women on the curbs would tease him for being a handsome boy. Wasn’t as if they had reason to lie, he never wanted to sleep with them or had the money if he did. Then again, there wasn't really competition where he'd stayed.

Shaking away the thoughts of his past life, he watched as Charles ate his own slice of pizza. Yes, pizza. But it was rich people’s pizza. At a table. In a mansion!

“Scott, are you happy here?” 

“Wha-yes! Um, very happy- I’m very happy here, Professor,” Scott replied hastily.

“I’m glad.”

Scott hesitated before asking, “But if this is a school, where are the other kids?”

“It’s a new school, you’re my first student, Scott,” Charles informed, “I’m a little surprised you hadn’t asked before, but I understand this was a strange change for you.”

“It was a good change, though. I’ll always be thankful.”

With a warm smile, Charles asked his own question, “Why do you ask? Are you anxious to have more people here?

“The, um...opposite, actually,” Scott muttered, staring at his pizza as an embarrassed blush painted his cheeks. Charles’ mouth formed an ‘O’ as he realized Scott was nervous. That he didn’t want more people to try to impress, or to look out for, or hide away from.

Shaking his head, he assured, “You don’t have to worry, Scott. This is a safe-haven, but you don’t have to get along with everyone who walks through these doors.”

“Ah, o-okay.” 

Despite his hesitant response, Scott’s mind calmed and was shuffled back in order. Charles couldn’t help but like Scott’s mind, it was so organized and calming.

A fond look passed over Charles’ face. Shy and stuttering, though something darker lurked that Charles wouldn’t look into because he respected peoples’ boundaries and kept his promises Erik, a different boy than Alex was before he’d left though the calmness of their minds was astounding. His expression wavered at the thought of his ex-friends, and he focused back on his pizza.

Charles wasn’t twenty-three and running a dangerous gang with barely college-age, incredibly powerful mutants. He was thirty, and trying to open a school. 

Everything else was in the past, and here was Scott: the future. 

There was an chance to help this boy, and he would. He’d do everything to help Scott grow into the man - the leader - he knew lurked under all the sharp edges of Scott’s mind. 

He swore it.

Chapter Text

Jean Grey

Jean Grey was beautiful, smart, and patient. 

She was also extremely powerful and could cause mass destruction if she lost control. 

At 10, her powers developed suddenly and strongly. Jean felt the pain her best friend did as she was hit by a car and combined it with her own of losing her. The pain created such strong mental feedback that she fell into a coma as her best friend died. Her family was deeply distressed, and her doctors were unable to do anything to bring her back. And wasn’t she just so lucky to have a loving family like the Greys? 

They called in someone they said could help.

Someone who would bring her back. Who could be a mentor to pretty little Jean Grey when she woke up. If she woke up, that is. 

Charles Xavier was that someone and he must have been the strangest man Jean had ever encountered.

With her out of control powers, she accidentally dipped into his mind and realized he was more powerful than she could describe. Despite that, he stayed kind, if a bit condescending - though she supposed that it was difficult not to be when he could make people bow to him with a thought. 

He came and went from the Grey house after waking her from her self-induced coma, working with her to control her powers. He’d offered her a place to stay and train safely, but her parents - loving but oh, so stupid - turned him away. And he did not come back. 

It didn’t make her very sad back then. Didn’t make her sad now either. 

She had better things to worry about, like boys and homework and being exceedingly beautiful with powers beyond her understanding. 

Although only 16, her body blossomed like a model’s and a pretty face developed to match. It was the attention of boys and the jealousy of girls made her truly beautiful though. 

When she realizes that when she bends over, boys try to peek at anything they can, she knows she is beautiful. When they trip and stutter and stare, is when she knows she’s beautiful. It’s when the words ‘SLUT’ and ‘WHORE’ are whispered when she walks past groups of girls and spray-painted onto her locker in large letters does she know: beauty is not without a price. 

But she knows she is beautiful. 

She’s beautiful and brilliant and if they want to be jealous, so be it. She didn’t care, why would she? She was beautiful, they were not. It was simple as that, but she would not stand for them to think otherwise. 

And she knows just what to do. She was not a teacher’s pet for nothing, she knew just what to do with her intelligence and how to use her beauty.

- - -

“Hey, Candice, can I talk to you?” Jean asked after school, a cute smile on her face as she cornered her prey. 

Candice smiled back, but her’s was ugly and mean, “Of course, Jean, and please, call me Candy.”

A nod and they were off, walking away from the school and onto the football field. There they sat side by side, on the bleachers as the football team practiced - it is always good to have witnesses when you're about to make someone mad.

They made quite a sight - Candy with her dark hair and dark eyes, a true southern belle; and Jean with her fiery red hair and emerald green eyes, far more precious than any gem - they were, without a doubt, the prettiest girls in school or the whole town. 

“So, Jeannie, what’d you like to talk about?” Candy purred, her narcissism shining through her accent like a lighthouse. Jean resisted the urge to shudder and sneer. No, she was going to do this in a civilized way because pretty people were civil - and she was very pretty. 

“Well, honestly, it’s about my locker,” Jean sighed, a small pout forming - she pushed down a smile as some of the football players looked her way, much too easy to get attention, “Some high-schoolers can be really cruel to people who are prettier than them, you know. Those words on my locker are very hurtful and untrue.”

Candy nodded, as if she would know anything about beauty, a sympathetic hand patting Jean’s shoulder, “Yes, I’m awful sorry about those, and I definitely know what you’re talking about. Beauty is a gift and a curse.”

“Mhm, which is why I don’t understand how you can relate.” 

Candy’s face dropped, fake nails dug into Jean’s skin but it was worth it to see such pure shock, “ Ex-cuse you. What are you implying there, Jeannie?”

“I’m just asking how you can relate to someone pretty, like me,” she shrugged, detaching Candy’s hand from her shoulder, “I know you’re the one who wrote those. And only ugly, jealous people do that.” 

“Oh, please, you’re not pretty. You're everything I've written on your locker and more,” Candy hissed, lip curling into a sneer. 

Jean hummed, pointing to Candy’s face, “Poor darling, I guess I was wrong. Ugly can get uglier," Candy gaped, an indignant look as Jean continued, "Now, I just wanted to point this out before I told you why we’re really here: I’m much more beautiful than you. But the words on my locker are untrue. If you don’t stop them,” she trailed off, putting her hands in her lap. 

“Shut up!” Candy hisses, the boys looked over once more. Jean let confusion cross her face as some came over. Oh, this was going to be fun. 

“Hey,” Duncan called, crossing his arms as he and his group stood before them, “What’s going on?”

Candy struggled with her words, floundering as she tried to regain composure, “Jean and I were just having a conversation. That’s all.”

“Yes, just a conversation,” Jean nodded, doing her best to look scared. What a rush it was, to know that she was winning. The boys looked skeptical, but weren’t ready to defend her. They needed a little push. 

So she turned a bit, letting them see where Candy’s nails had bit into her skin. Really, this was all too easy. 

With gasps, they were berating Candy, Duncan especially, what great power had her beauty gifted her, “Candy, really, you need to leave Jean alone. If we see any more messages on her locker or her looking hurt we’re going to have to talk.” 

“Bu-but,” Candy seemed so put-out. It would be sad if it weren’t so funny, “Oh! Whatever, who needs you meathead jocks?!” 

Jean forced herself not to look as Candy stomped away. The other girl had gotten the message of who was the ‘fairest of them all’ at the school. Just because she was destroying Candy’s popularity, didn’t mean she had to be cruel about it. That probably made her more beautiful, Jean realized with glee. 

“Hey, Jeannie, you okay?” Duncan asked, trying not to look too far down even with her low-cut top. Cute, but she knew what kind of person he was. Even if she didn’t read his mind, it was fairly clear to see. 

“Yes,” she replied with a smile, “Thanks for coming to my rescue guys, I think I’m going to head home though.” 

Duncan nodded, shoving at the other boys as she made her exit. A smile appeared on her face as she swayed away.

The way she feels their eyes on her let’s her know: she is beautiful.

- - - 

When her parents finally decided to send her to Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters did she realize she was powerful. When the man himself placed blocks in her mind so her mutation didn't hurt her or others, did she know she was powerful. But when Scott flirted and smiled and blushed did she know she was still beautiful. Power and beauty is such a dangerous combination. 

She handled them well.

With a smile, she patiently flirted back with Scott, breaking through the shell and shyness he’d developed with Winters. She charmed her way into Charles’ and Scott’s hearts. She calms her mind and tries to work with her power. 

To learn control. 

Although cunning and knowing her worth, she didn't want to hurt anyone - then there would be no one to observe her beauty and power. And if there were no one there to observe her beauty, how could she know she was truly beautiful?

Sometimes, just sometimes, she thought of Bayville High. Of the boys who worshiped her and the girls who envied her. She thought of her tiny, cozy house in the middle of the block. She thought of her father who was annoying and loving in a way that only a father could be; Her mother who cared and helped her in a way only a mother could; and her sister who teased and told her things that only sisters could say. 

And just for a moment, she missed them. Missed the way boys wanted her, and girls envied her. The way her father ruffled her hair just to laugh at her; her mother smoothing it back down and telling her that she’s beautiful; her sister teasing her about growing up.

But then she remembered that she was Jean Grey.

She was beautiful, and smart, and loved, and powerful Jean Grey. Her family was there, unlike poor Scott’s, and her confidence boomed. 

There are times when she wondered if she hadn’t been a mutant if Charles would have come to see her. The girl in the coma. If he would have used his power to wake her up because she was extraordinary, just not a mutant. And then she realized that she doesn’t know the answer.

That she didn't need to either way.

Jean was there, and there to stay. She wasn’t leaving anytime soon. 

“Professor, when did your mutation develop?” She asked, one day. Scott was downstairs in what they’d dubbed the ‘Danger Room’. Hard-working, though a bit of a perfectionist, but still hesitant. 

Charles gave her a patient smile - like she’s a child, she’s not a child, she may be younger but she is wise beyond her age - and replied, “I’ve had my mutation since I was ten, just like you.”

Jean hummed back, content with the knowledge. 

Dinner with Jean wasn’t much louder than dinner with Scott. She asked more questions and with more frequency, she’d even gotten Scott to talk more. Charles knew she was good for him.

There was a way Jean held herself that Scott should have been able to as well. The way that someone holds themselves when they know they’re better. That they’re good looking, or smarter, or just simply that they’re more. 

It reminded him of Erik and Raven. How they stood tall as they left, with their wounds and their pain. 

Mutant and Proud.  

Charles knew that Jean, herself, was dangerous. That her power was a raw force unlike any other he’d encountered. She believed her powers and beauty are above anyone else’s - other than his - despite her outward humbleness. And he knew it to be true. 

Which is why he worked her just as hard, if not harder, than Scott. 

Scott may have been his son in some sense of the word, but Jean was his prized pupil. A diamond amongst coal. A light in the shadow. A star in the dark night. 

She wasn’t his daughter, no, she was in some ways his equal. They way they knew that they were both dangerous, both hiding things, and both acting oh-so-kind in spite of it, connected them in ways they didn’t - couldn’t - connect with others. She was his sister, despite the large gap in age. His success versus his failure with Raven. 

Jean knew this. 

She noticed the way he talked to her and the way he talked to Scott. The way he praised and criticized Scott in a way that only a mentor, or a father, could because he needed that in his life; but he told her of things she did right and wrong like he isn’t speaking to a 16 year old with too much power. Like he’s speaking to someone who is his equal in most - if not all - ways. 

Though to the outside observer, there wasn't any difference, Jean knew better. It may have been only a slight difference, but there was a difference just the same. 

And she loved it. 

She basked in the knowledge that Charles knew she was special. She knew that he made her train hard because her power was dangerous. That he liked her determination and patience. And so she trained and trained and trained. 

Jean listened to the professor and did whatever she could to stay in his good graces. It wasn’t as if it was difficult, considering his forgiving nature and the way she worked so hard.  

Scott encouraged her, and talked with her because of things beyond her beauty. Beyond his own loneliness. 

He’s sweet, despite things in his past holding him back and lurking in the dark. His mind was a comforting place, organized despite - or maybe in spite of - the pain in his life, and she could not help dipping a little further down than simple surface thoughts. 

It’s not like he couldn't sense her. If he wanted her out, he’d block her out or shout and snarl the way he learned to with Winters, but he didn't. 

The bond between them is strong despite not knowing one another long. It transcended words like ‘romance’, like ‘love’. And what a funny four letter word love was. Charles could see in the way they looked at each other, it was how he and Erik had looked at each other. How Angel and Darwin supported one another. How Sean and Alex gravitated to each other. Hopefully they would end up like the latter instead of the former two. 

Scott let her rest in his mind when they sat on the couch in front of the T.V. He let her lay in his lap, and his fingers brushed out the few knots in her hair. Jean let his thoughts lull and whisper. She let him just sit and be. 

With his sunglasses all he saw was monochrome red, and Scott confessed he was scared to see the day when he stopped dreaming in color. So she projected what she saw. Projected the blueness of the sky, and the rolling green of the grounds, and the sparkling clearness of the pond. She chose his outfits, what he wore and how to style his hair. 

He trusted her. 

Trusted her to not lead him astray. To not leave him. Even though it went against some of his knee-jerk reactions, he’s relaxed around her. 

She was beautiful and patient and kind. The princess of the castle.

He liked her. She liked him too, and she’d have him. But she was young still, Scott even younger, so she decided to wait. 

They had time.

Chapter Text

Henry ‘Hank’ McCoy

Henry McCoy, well known as ‘Hank’, was athletic, popular, and handsome. 

He was also dismissive, cold, and brilliant. 

The only problem with his dismissiveness was that others took it as awkwardness. Anxious about interacting with others. Nothing could annoy him more than to see people he was talking with’s faces dawn in what they thought was the perfect explanation for his rudeness. Assuming, as always, made an ass out of everyone.  

Only by his mom’s request for him to try to be involved led to his joining the football and chess teams. And both places he was a star. 

Girls - usually cheerleaders - fawned over and tried to seduce him. Boys - both nerds and not nerds - tried to ‘hang out’ and befriend him. Recruiters tried to persuade him to go and play for their college. All were disappointed by his blatant way of ignoring them. 

Despite his rudeness, they still wanted him. It was irritating. 

He wanted to lash out, to snarl and snap at them to leave him alone, but he knew that would disappoint his mom, so he stayed quiet. Let them talk at him, and then left with anger burning in his chest. 

All they wanted from him was status, not friendship. 

Even the nerds he could talk science with were desperate for his popularity. Hoping that if they claimed to be friends the girls would notice them and the boys wouldn’t bully them. 

Those who were not fawning over him were jealous. Peers that were spurned and uninterested in pursuing further relations with Hank developed animosity toward him. They sneered at the football star and chess prodigy, making fun of the large limbs that would have made him a target if not for his athleticness and popularity. 

But it was all in the name of envy, so truly Hank could not care less. In fact he largely ignored them, which made them angrier. 

Pitiful. 

Everyone seemed to be a little beneath him; some in big ways, others in small ones. 

He was incredibly strong and smart, and obviously it wasn’t simply because he was a prodigy despite what conclusions others had come to. Eventually, he knew, he would encounter more people like him. 

People who were genetically superior. 

Some days he thought maybe he had and their ‘gifts’ were more subtle, others he realized he could be the first of whatever he was. And the latter, regardless of his dislike for most people, almost scared him if he was being honest.

To be utterly alone was a terrifying thought. 

Professor Charles Xavier agreed. 

When it came to intellect and wisdom Charles Xavier must have been leagues higher than Hank. Charles was - in terms of power, money, and mind - far superior, and that alone was reason to respect him. It was not, however, enough to keep that respect. 

In fact, that respect was soon lost as soon as Charles had offered him ‘sanctuary’. A school in Westchester County for ‘gifted youngsters’ where Hank could be safe. It was utterly ridiculous considering Hank didn’t look much different, and he had his strength under control. School may have been a bit constricting, but there was an opening at the Brand Corporation as a research scientist waiting for him as soon as he was finished with school - be it high school or college. Hank even told him as much. 

“I know it must be strange, Hank, but I assure you the choice is yours,” Charles said, strangely calm when others would have been offended. Maybe Hank hadn’t lost all respect for the man - just most of it. 

Edna McCoy, of course, was one of the others that would have been offended. She came back into the room - though she couldn’t quite remember why she’d left in the first place - after Hank and Charles had discussed the ‘gifted’ part of the school name, “Hank, please, don’t be rude to Mr. Xavier, this is a perfectly nice offer.” 

“It’s quite alright, Mrs. McCoy,” Charles assured, “My school is far away, and he is right about the strangeness of being transferred for a senior year - though I will mention we offer college courses too.” 

“Yes, you said it was like a boarding school, right?” Mrs. McCoy asked, not really knowing when Charles had mentioned it. Honestly, she wasn’t that old, but she supposed that she wasn’t that young either and dismissed the gap in memory.

Charles nodded, “Like a boarding school. He’d be provided a room and three meals a day. The school also has a large yard that can double as a baseball or even a football field if he wanted.”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful,” Mrs. McCoy sighed, an image of perfect grass and the bluest pond coming to mind. She wanted to laugh, her imagination was really amazing sometimes. If only it worked like that when she wanted Norton McCoy’s attention on her or their son. 

“Yes, but totally unneeded,” Hank dismissed, and the image Mrs. McCoy had in her mind went away. She wandered back into the kitchen wordlessly. “Professor, I’m honored, truly, but I fit in fine and I have a job waiting for me as soon as I want it.” 

Charles sighed, he understood, really, and he had known Hank would be a challenge to convince but it was like arguing with Erik - if a bit more civil, “I know this, and I agree it seems extremely perfect. I also know that you want to know more about you, your mutation and how the X-Gene works. If you come to my school I can teach you - though I don’t doubt you know a great many things - and I have a lab waiting for you if you’d like it.”

“So, what? You’re offering your other students to sate my curiosity so I’ll come with you?” Hank scoffed, continuing as Charles opened his mouth to protest, “Professor, I can respect a - what did you call us, mutants? - mutant like you, but you as a man...as your ideas, well, it’s a bit idealistic.” 

“There is nothing wrong with being idealistic.” 

“No, there’s not, but there’s being idealistic and there’s fooling yourself.” 

Charles winced at the wording. Hank could not have sounded more like Erik if he’d seen Charles’ memories. Maybe this would prove more of a problem than he originally thought, “Hank, if you truly do not want to go, tell me instead of arguing about the world I wish was.” 

“That’s the problem: I do want to go,” Hank said, leaning over and resting his forearms on his knees, “I want to go and find what it really means to be a mutant without having to strain to stand straight and be able to show off my intelligence. I want to see other like or maybe better than me. I want to study this X-Gene and see how it works, if you can get rid of or enhance it. Unfortunately your dreams and ideas are not something I agree with.” 

“I see.” 

“Do you, professor? Because it seems you’re not really evaluating the other side of the argument.” 

“I do see, Hank. I’ve even had a friend who had the same argument as you,” Charles sighed, remembering just how much they had argued, “He thought humans would never accept mutants. Never accept the ones with claws or beaks or green skin, and especially not the dangerous ones. He turned his back on a world where mutants could live in harmony before it could turn on him, and I’m not saying you’re doing the exact same thing or that it never hurts to try, but you both forget the humans who would accept us. Maybe they won’t be family or people you thought of as friends, but there will be humans who support us.” 

Hank frowned, one even forming between his eyebrows, “I understand what you’re saying, professor, but even with humans who support us, is that really enough? Would even a few supporters make such a difference?” 

“We have to believe they would.” 

 - - -

Hank frowned up at the mansion looming before him, grip loose on his bags. His mother stood anxious beside him; his father was still at home, though he’d made time to say goodbye before they left to travel to Westchester.

From Illinois to New York, how lucky. 

Most people would have been ecstatic to travel and get to live in such a luxurious place - Hank was not most people; his mother was.

“Oh, Hank, this is such a beautiful place. You’re so lucky to be gifted,” Mrs. McCoy sighed, looking up at the beautiful building, “I bet you’re going to get treated so well here. It will look great on a resume too!”

“I know, mom,” Hank sighed, going up the steps with his suitcases and backpack with ease. Charles had said something about super strength and intelligence; he wondered what it would be like to need help with carrying his bags or not being able to figure out the square footage of the school simply by looking at it.   

Mrs. McCoy knocked on the door, it swung open to reveal Charles and two kids on either side of him. One wore shades and the other had the reddest hair he’d ever seen - it almost looked like fire. 

“Welcome, Hank, Mrs. McCoy,” Charles greeted warmly, he gestured to the kids beside him, “This is Scott Summers and Jean Grey, they’re some of the best students at my school.”

Mrs. McCoy smiled her too wide, too innocent smile - his mother was so ignorant about so many things, he hoped she’d be okay without him - and said, “Oh, it is so nice to meet you two, I’m Hank’s mother, Edna.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Mrs. McCoy,” the redhead - Jean - responded with warmth like the sun, “It’s also nice to meet you, Hank.” 

Princess of the castle, huh? Hank wondered what her mutation was, responding politely with a smile closer to a sneer, “Nice to meet you too.” 

Shades - Scott - stayed silent, head lowered in a disgusting show of submissiveness. Hank wanted to ask what the hell had happened to him, but he had a pretty good idea already. He just hoped it meant that Scott would stay quiet and out of his way. 

They made their way to what would be Hank’s room - on the right beside Scott’s and diagonal to Jean’s, Charles’ resting at the end of the hall - and Hank put down his bags. He put the suitcases of clothes in the closet and the backpack of electronics on the desk, making no move to start unpacking.

“So, professor, where are the other kids?” Hank asked, a mocking undertone to his voice. He knew exactly where the other kids were: still out in the world. They hadn’t been chosen by the good professor. No, they were still out there rotting or confused; which begged the question: what did it take to be a part of Xavier’s school?

Charles gave him an infuriatingly patient smile, explaining without answering, “Well, it is summer break, Hank. Most of those who have family will go with them, but if they’d prefer to stay here it’s also fine.” 

“That sounds so nice,” Mrs. McCoy commented, though assuming that Jean and Scott had stayed by choice - not because they were the only ones in attendance, now including Hank - sympathy was written on her face, “This means you can come back to visit your mother in her old age, Hank.” 

“You’re not that old,” Hank grumbled, rolling his eyes at the obvious attempt to tease him. Parents would want to make a good impression one moment and start making things awkward in the next. 

Maybe it was a mutation that developed when you had kids. 

Mrs. McCoy shook her head, “Well, you’ve already given us the tour, so I guess I’ll take my leave-” she turned to Hank, “-give your mother a kiss before she leaves?” 

Hank sighed, pressing a kiss to Mrs. McCoy’s cheek, “Good-bye, mother.” 

“Good-bye, Hank,” she started to the door, stopping once in confusion before smiling and walking again, “Oh, and goodbye professor, Jean, Scott. Have a nice year.” 

“Have a safe drive back, Mrs. McCoy,” Charles responded easily. Hank frowned at him, knowing that his mother’s confusion was from the memory of a tour that wasn’t. “Hank, I know you don’t approve of me being in your mother's head, but if she hadn’t left, I wouldn’t be able to show you your lab.” 

“My lab?” 

“Yes, all yours. Scott is more interested in mechanics, though you two could probably talk about physics together. Jean is interested in psychology, but you both have a common love of poetry,” Charles informed. 

Jean sighed, shaking her head, “Professor, those are the kinds of things we’re supposed to learn slowly about each other. I guess it cuts out some of the more difficult steps in the process of being friends,” she turned to Hank and held out her hand, “I’m Jean Grey. I’m a telepath and telekinetic, I don’t have much control though so I apologize in advance if I answer any surface thoughts.” 

“Hank McCoy, super strength and intelligence,” he said, shaking her hand. He turned to Scott who shifted to stand a little taller, though Hank know he was still looking at the ground by the tilt of his head. Jean lightly tapped his hand - they must have been close, Hank wondered how long it’d been just the two of them. 

Scott’s gaze snapped up temporarily to Hank before shifting stiffly, “Scott. I, uh, I have concussive blasts...from my eyes. Can’t control them, so,” he gestured to his face.

Hank nodded, “Got it.” 

“Alright, do you two want to show Hank to his lab?” Charles asked, already turning his chair away, “I’ll give you some space to bond. We’ll have pizza for lunch around twelve. You can start to work in your lab, but I ask that you not be late, we eat together.” 

He didn’t bother waiting for a response, knowing despite Hank’s wavering respect he would be obeyed. Perks of being of a respectable status. Sometimes he forgot what being in power felt like despite being powerful. Having the highest rank...being the leader. 

No, that wasn’t it anymore. 

It was just that he was the professor. Their principal, the owner of the school. 

“Alright, Hank, let’s show you to the lab!” Jean smiled, linking one arm with Hank’s and the other with Scott’s. She led the way cheerfully, talking about a few rooms they passed as they made their way to a hidden elevator.

If Hank was being honest, he could respect them - maybe even be friends with them - but he wasn’t the kind to have friends. He wouldn’t make the ‘first move’, but he wouldn’t not answer questions. Sure he’d pass them to salt and watch T.V. with them, but getting to know each other? Caring for them? 

He couldn’t see it.

Then again, he didn’t think ‘mind readers’ existed or that he would meet someone he actually respected - if only in terms of power. Anything that could happen probably would, he supposed. 

It was a brave new world, and Hank was going to learn all about it.

- - -

At dinner Jean talked the most. 

It wasn’t that she had a lot to say, it was just the others didn’t have anything to say. Hank thought it to be sadder than his family dinners - and those were pretty sad. She was like his mother - no, scratch that, that was weird - the only one really talking. Scott hummed or mumbled out a few responses; Charles talked a measure or two, though mostly stuck to one sentence answers.

Hank did not try to be a part of any discussions. In fact, he shut them down 90% of the time - the other 10% by Scott, who liked to stay monosyllabic in the face of Jean’s chatter. 

“So, when did your mutation occur?” Jean asked him brightly, placing another piece of pizza on her plate. For such a petite thing she could eat a lot, and he’d never seen or heard her throw it up before she digested - if she did, he suspected the professor would have dealt with it.

Hank shrugged, eating his own piece, “I think I’ve always been like this.” 

Jean coughed, trying to cover a laugh as she swatted Scott in a poor attempt at subtly. Scott had probably thought of something funny - he had, after Hank said that he’d always been big, Scott’s first thought was ‘His poor mother’, accompanied by the rather comical picture of a boulder of a baby being pushed out of her uterus - and Jean had reacted aloud.

By the way they seemed so close, he had to guess Scott allowed her into his mind as she’d promised never to read theirs without permission. She cleared her throat, no longer hiding her smile, “That’s really interesting, mine manifested when I was ten.” 

She delivered a sharp kick to Scott’s shin, who hissed and said, “Thirteen.”

“Really?” Jean looked surprised, “So you’ve only had your mutation for a year.”

“You’re fourteen?” Hank asked, squinting at the boy - who looked like he got just enough food - in front of him. Scott seemed to bristle at the shock in Hank’s voice - not being able to tell if he’d thought Scott was younger or older than fourteen.

Charles chucked, trying to dispel the strange tension, “Jean, you’ve been here for a few months, I’m a bit surprised you hadn’t known that about Scott.”

“Well we don’t talk much, we just hang out,” Jean shrugged awkwardly at the realization, turning to Hank, “You can hang out with us, I mean not like you needed permission, but just so you know.”

Hank made a vague noise of understanding. The rest of evening was spent quietly. Jean and Scott laid on the couch in front of the T.V.; Charles had retired to his office; Hank was back in his lab. 

He would most definitely put it to good use.  

Chapter Text

Ororo Munroe

She was a thief, and a goddess, one in the same. 

If someone had told Ororo Munroe she’d be able to have a roof over her head and a mostly loving, albeit odd, family, she wouldn’t have believed it.

Her power of weather manipulation was annoying at best and deadly at worst. It was also a good cover for when she snatched wallets from tourists. And that’s exactly how she’d met the oddest man in the world: Professor Charles Xavier.

He offered her a home, a place to stay. To help her develop her powers and herself into something more than she was. 

She didn’t believe him. Told him and his lies to leave her alone. She expected yelling, spitting, a sneer, an attack.

Instead, he’d nodded. Said he understood, and gave her a card - a name, a place, a number - told her to use it to find him. Just in case she ever came to New York, ever needed a place to stay.

Despite her disbelief that someone like him would want to help her, she kept it. And even years later when she’d turned 16 - when she was in the height of her glory, when she was a goddess - she kept it.  When deciding to step down, and travel to New York, following the promise of ‘Family’, she kept it, close to her heart and in the forefront of her mind. 

She may not have had much, but she knew a liar when she heard one, and Charles was not - or at least not intentionally.

So she traveled to him. To his home in Westchester. To his want to help her. And to his promise of a so called ‘family’. 

She was a quick learner. Her hands still slipped into pockets and purses, discarding anything that wasn’t money. An old habit triggered by the masses and desperation for cash.  A girl needed money to travel after all. 

And what a trip it was.

Several steps from the doorway, she stared up at the large mansion before her; the whole trip all came down to this. Her eyes took in the greeness of the grass and the blue of the sky so far away from people. 

Charles Xavier was a rich telepath and he’d invited a thief from the streets into his home. His very, very big home. Probably filled with...expensive things. 

She shook her head. Even as a goddess she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about how much she could steal from a person. But no, she wasn’t here to rob him, she was there for ‘help’ and ‘family’.

A man in a wheelchair came out of the house, and she realized it was Charles. This man who’d stood mutant and proud in front of her in Cairo was crippled, but not any less proud. He was powerful, and Ororo wondered - not for the first time and definitely not for the last - if she’d made the right choice.

“Welcome to my school for gifted youngsters, Ororo,” Charles greeted as she walked up the last few steps, “How are you?” 

Ororo thought in another life he would be an AI that welcomed people into buildings, “Fine. I see much has happened between you asked me to join you and now.” 

“Yes, tends to happens over the years. Would you like a tour? The other kids are in the yard right now, if you’d like to meet them,” He changed the subject quickly. Obviously anything pertaining to his wheelchair would make him uncomfortable; she felt equal part stupid and guilty, but if she apologized it would just dredged the subject back up, so she waved the thought away.

“Tour first. I’ve traveled too long to try to make small-talk with other kids,” Ororo said, rubbing a crick in her neck. Flying would have been so much easier, but those things were too small; boats - although much to unsteady - were better. At least there she could get fresh air.

Despite how large the mansion was, a tour didn’t actually take too long. None of the rooms were skipped, neither was an explanation for every one of them. Then came the time when the tour ended, and her few belongings were packed, when she needed to meet the other kids. Ororo didn’t want to admit it, but she wasn’t very good at talking with people. 

That was what her priestesses were for when she was a goddess, and you never really had to talk if you were a pickpocket. 

Charles led her outside, and they went down a gravel path. Under a tree beside the pond, a redhead and a boy with sunglasses sat. Ororo’s eyes were drawn up, and there sat a muscular, slightly hunched, boy on a thick branch. Charles did...something and all three turned to gaze at her. She straightened, shoulders drawing near her ears and hands twitching. 

“Ororo, this is Jean, Scott, and Hank,” Charles introduced as the three stood in order in front of them, “You three, this is Ororo, our newest student.” 

The first to smile was the redhead, “Hi, Ororo, it’s nice to meet you!” 

“Nice to meet you too,” Ororo murmured, giving her a quick once-over. Pretty, a little over-the-top with her kindness, but there was a underlying honesty to it. 

Charles cleared his throat, obviously giving the three a little mental nudge to make small-talk as he started to roll away, “I have a few things to attend to inside, but you four may stay out here and get to know each other.” 

They nodded and hummed their understanding and Jean beckoned her as the other two started back to the pond, “Come with with us. It’s a lovely day to be outside.” 

“So, what do you three do?” Ororo asked as soon as they were situated. Jean sat between her and Scott, the latter going back to his book. Above, Hank wrote in a notebook full of strange numbers and letters - math was a language in itself. 

“I have telekinesis and telepathy,” Jean stated proudly, though a tendril of a thought echoed in Ororo’s mind, “Though I don’t have the best control, I do my best not to read other peoples’ minds.” 

Jean elbowed Scott and he fidgeted uncomfortably, lowering but not closing his book, “Concussive blasts from my eyes. Can’t control them,” he gestured to his sunglasses and went back to reading. 

“Super strength,” Hank’s voice called down, Ororo tilted her head up to look at him, “And super intelligence.” 

“What’s your mutation, ‘Ro?” Jean asked, making Ororo look to her again, confusion on her face, “Sorry, do you prefer Ororo?” 

Ororo shook her head, “‘Ro’ is fine. And I can manipulate the weather.” 

“That’s really cool, could you show me?” Jean asked, actual interest in her eyes. Ororo felt a bit startled that someone would be interested in her - or at least her powers - outside of Cairo. In Cairo her powers were needed, something that was a necessity, not a point of interest. 

So she nodded her head and stood. She had done the same for many years, standing on top of the mountain at her alter; she closed her eyes focusing on the movement of the clouds, the water in them, the slightest hint of wind. 

Clouds gathered in front of the sun, grey and heavy. They moved with unnatural speed and precision.

And then it started to rain. 

Ororo opened her eyes as she felt the water hit her skin, and looked over at the other three. Scott had closed his book, gaping up at the sky; Hank, too, was looking up with wide eyes; But Jean- Jean was focused on her, an awed smile on her face, “That’s amazing, ‘Ro.” 

“Thank you. I...think we should head inside,” she suggested, the rain starting to get heavier as she walked away. Ororo head the squelch of grass as the others hurried behind her and it started to pour. 

“You can control the weather patterns,” Hank muttered under his breath, eyes on the window as they finally got inside, “Astonishing.” 

Ororo shrugged, she was used to the praises but it still made something in her squirm uncomfortably, “I sort of just nudge the weather into what I want. Can’t make it disperse after I change it, yet. The professor says I probably can if I practice.” 

“It is still quite impressive that you have enough control to make it rain over such a large area, Ororo,” Charles’ voice was muffled as he rolled out of his office. A slight smile was on his face as he approached, “It’s getting close to dinner, so I’d like you to change before coming into the dining room.” 

There was a symphony of ‘Yes, professor’ before the children went upstairs to their rooms. Charles watched as they left, and felt a warm feeling in his chest.

For the first time in years, the house didn’t feel so big anymore.

- - -

There was quiet chatter and the sound of forks scraping on plates.  

Around the table, Charles sat at the head to watch his students. He watched how they interacted, saw the little looks and touches and small talk. Wondered how much they’d grow - because they would, he knew. 

Scott had chosen to sit to his right, and Jean beside him; they often held hands under the table, and Jean would whisper encouragements whenever he’d had a particularly bad day.

To his left was Hank, though he’d chosen to sit three chairs down to spread out sheets of equations and notes written in illegible handwriting - though Charles had now banned him from bringing chemicals to meals after an unfortunate mix of acid and wood that had been around longer than Charles had been alive. 

When she came through the doors - eyeing everything as if she were still a thief on the streets - Ororo had hesitated before sitting to his immediate left, though looked at the space between her and Hank that was filled with paper with some sort of curiosity. 

During meals Jean still did most of the talking, with Charles enabling her and Scott chiming in every fifth sentence or so. Hank - settled in but weary to make friends - made the rare comment, but usually sat quietly and ate. 

Ororo, for the most part, answered and asked her own questions to carry her end of the conversation; only with a slight lull when Ororo hesitated over answers and didn’t know how to continue.

They seemed to be getting along well, especially after Ororo’s presentation in the yard. 

With the addition of Ororo, Jean seemed to be delighted to have another girl in the house - a slight jealousy lurked in the corners of her heart. Ororo had beauty and power that could almost rival Jean’s, but she ignored it when Scott had dismissed Ororo’s presence as less important than her’s. 

Scott was still her’s, no one could take him - not Hank with his brilliance and the way his eyes lit up with curiosity when Scott discussed mechanics or looked interested in his scientific rambles; not Charles with his kind, but weary heart; and definitely not Ororo with her shock of white hair and almost-control over her amazing powers. 

As she looked at the room, Ororo seemed content enough with the knowledge that the three were barely along as friends - much less a family - despite Charles’ promises. But Charles seemed to be a man of his word, in time Ororo would have her family. Before that she would ease into their lives, steal their trust and give little of her’s, and make them her family.  

Time, it seemed, was something they had a lot of.