So...I appear to have written XMFC fic. I don't fucking know anymore, you guys, I just work here.

Children of the Atom
by gale

SUMMARY: The world is different now. (XMFC AU, canon-divergent; 2,045 words.)


The world is different now.

Sometimes Raven wonders what would have happened on the beach, if things had gone differently: if Charles hadn't admitted that yes, Erik was right about needing to protect themselves first, but that didn't mean they needed to throw anyone's life aside so carelessly. If Moira had tried to shoot Erik, God forbid, or if Erik hadn't let the bombs go. If the humans had succeeded and torn them apart, all of them, put on different sides by people who had no standing in the war they were starting.

She's never quite worked up the nerve to ask Charles if he wonders, too, but she doesn't have to. It's in his face when he comes back from meeting with Moira that final time, having wiped her memories clean. This is for the best.

There's a war coming. And if they can stave it off, that's for the best, but if they can't--

Well. Then they can't. But it won't be for lack of trying on anyone's part.

*

The list of recruits is laughably small, so far. Cerebo 2 isn't as conspicuous as the one Hank built for the CIA, but it's also not as powerful. That means Charles has to spend longer periods of time inside it, which makes Erik twitchy, which means everyone else is on eggshells. Raven, not so much; her brother is more than capable of taking care of himself, and if he isn't, she knows damn well Erik will just go up there and drag him out. Possibly literally.

The first one they find actually has nothing to do with Charles, or Cerebro. It's Alex.

"I have a brother," he says one night, in the study. "A little brother. Or--I did. I got adopted, he didn't. He--" He looks out the window, arms crossed over his chest. Alex still doesn't do well in groups, even if it's just them. "There was a plane crash. Killed our parents. He hit his head. They called it brain damage. He was fine, but you put 'brain damage' on a form and no one'll even think about taking you as a foster kid." He pauses. "He'd be fourteen now. That's--that's the right age, right?"

"There is no right age--" Charles starts, but relents when Erik and Raven shoot him looks. "About then, yes. It'd typically manifest at the onset of puberty."

"Okay." He nods. "So we should go check. Right?"

He's not trying to look hopeful, Raven knows. There's no way of knowing, without meeting him, if Alex's brother is a mutant, and if he isn't, they can't bring him back. It's too dangerous, for him and for them. No one says it, though. No one needs to.

But all Hank says is, "Right, yeah."

And considering that Hank spends most of his time avoiding everyone if at all possible, that sort of decides it.

*

Two minutes into the conversation--in Alaska, because people are apparently from there--Alex good-naturedly cuffs his little brother, Scott, upside the head and knocks his red sunglasses askew.

The beams that shoot out of Scott's eyes shear the tops off six trees before he can fumble the glasses back into place.

"Okay," Raven hears herself say, "so. Probably don't need to do any tests."

*

"It makes sense," Hank babbles as soon as he watches the first test run in the bomb hangar the Xaviers built--the "Danger Room", they've started calling it--and sees Scott cut more mannequins in half. Sometimes Raven wonders what the hell the delivery people think of them. "They're brothers, and that's--it's like having siblings both have dark hair or green eyes or something. If they're both mutants, the chances of them having similar mutations is exponentially--"

"Hank," Charles says, mildly exasperated, and puts a hand on Scott's shoulder. "Very good, Scott."

Scott smiles a little, nervous.

"Come on," Raven says, nudging his shoulder. "I'll show you where your room is. It's right next to Alex's."

Scott looks at her--bright blue skin, yellow eyes, red hair; wearing clothes because there are teenage boys around, and because Charles keeps yelping when she doesn't wear anything, because her brother is apparently a secret prude--and grins. "Okay."

*

Erik and Charles go on the next one, to Africa. Raven stays behind; she's nominally in charge, since she and Hank are slightly older than the others but Hank has a tendency to stay to himself unless you make him interact with people. If they keep getting students, they're gonna need some sort of actual line of seniority or something. That, or either Erik and Charles is going to have to stay behind if the other goes, and that's not going to happen. Charles might--might--let it, but not Erik. The idea of Charles suggesting it makes Raven snort-laugh.

They come back three days later with a white-haired girl named Ororo who can control the weather; she can also pick pockets like a champ, though that's not so much her mutant ability as it is a practical skill. They also come back with Charles looking pale and exhausted, and Erik glaring daggers (not literally, though it's close) at Hank when he wants to run tests.

"It's fine," he says shortly. "There was an incident."

"Seems we're not the only ones out there with a good idea," Charles says lightly. "Hank, would you show Ororo around, please?"

"Professor--"

"Please," Charles says again, and Hank just nods and leads the girl away from the hangar and towards the living areas. Raven stays behind, mouth pinched into a line.

"What happened?" she asks, not entirely expecting an answer.

"There was another telepath in Cairo," Charles says. "He was more powerful than I. Ororo worked for him." She starts to ask how, exactly, but Erik cuts her off with a look. "It. There was a fight."

And he doesn't say any more. Charles, who could talk the ear off a total stranger--and frequently does, in his vaguely charming way--shuts up and looks...fragile. Quiet.

She looks at Erik instead. "What happened?" she asks again.

"What he said," Erik says, not unkindly. "There was a fight." He emphasizes "fight" strangely, like it's something worse than just bare-knuckled punches in a pub somewhere. "Charles won."

"Yeah, I got tha--" Raven starts, and stops.

She's a lot of things, but "stupid" isn't one of them. Charles looks exhausted and strangely small; Erik looks...not smug, but not surprised, either. He curves his hand around Charles' shoulder.

Ah, Raven thinks, and finds she's not that surprised.

"I'm sorry it upset you," she says, "but I'm not sorry you came back." She hugs Charles tight, earning a surprised oof that makes her relax her grip a little. She is a little stronger than most people, after all. "I'm never going to be sorry about that. So you shouldn't be either."

Charles blinks at her, eyes wide, then relaxes into the hug. "Thank you, Raven," he says, and lets her keep him upright.

*

The training isn't just in their powers, it turns out. There are other practical considerations.

"We're none of us particularly good at hand-to-hand combat," Charles says one night, keeping himself awake by sheer will and strong tea.

"Excuse me," Erik says dryly, "but some of us--"

"Yes, fine, with one exemption." Charles waves a hand. "And Alex could presumably do well enough, though I wouldn't be at all shocked if he loses control during the fight. No, he needs training, the same as the rest of us."

"Not just that," Raven says. She's not quite sure why she's been added to this ad hoc...whatever, but she'll take it. Hank, at least, makes sense; he's younger than she is, but he used to be CIA. "Ororo used to be a thief. She can pick pockets."

"And locks," Hank adds. "She keeps triggering the lab sensors, but she gets past the actual physical locks."

"Most of them," Erik says. This is not a surprise; of course a guy with control over metal can keep his locks shut. "And if we start that, we might as well have some of the others learn to fly the blasted plane--and don't growl at me," he warns Hank, "if something happens to you we're in trouble."

"Uh," Alex says from the doorway, leaning in on himself, "I--there's a problem--"

And then he's coughing and curled in on himself, coughing something out, something like a fine mist that's coalescing into the shape of a man, with eyes and a confused expression, and holy shit that's Armando.

"Hey," Armando says, becoming solid as they stare, shocked. "What'd I miss?"

*

"I don't know," Armando says, halfway through Hank's comprehensive (and utterly useless) series of tests. "I--Shaw did that thing--" he makes a vague hand gesture "--and the next thing I know, I'm here. Where are we, anyway? This doesn't look like the CIA."

"We're in New York," Raven says. "You don't remember anything?"

"Not r--Raven?" Armando blinks at her. She glances at herself, equal parts self-conscious and mad, then back up.

He's just grinning. "You look good. The other way is nice, too, but you look...I don't know. More like you."

Raven smiles back, relaxing a little. "It's been a few months," she says gently. "You. We thought you were dead."

"You were dead," Alex snaps, getting off the table. "And now we can, what, come back from that? Like that's not even a thing?"

"He wasn't dead," Hank corrects. "He adapted. That's his power, remember?"

"He adapted in my lungs--"

"Alex," Armando says, "I'm sorry. I didn't--I don't remember why I did that. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable."

Alex just glares at him and grabs his shirt, storming out of the room.

"He'll calm down," Raven says. "Eventually. I think. The important thing is, you're back."

*

Charles and Erik are gone again--together, to absolutely no one's surprise, up in Annandale-on-Hudson, with the red-haired daughter of a college professor named Grey--and Raven is in town with Sean and Ororo when someone says at her elbow, "Raven?"

Her name makes her turn. She's probably recognizable to some people in town, but she's fairly certain no one knows her name. They might recognize Charles--the Xaviers have had a home in Westchester for years before he was born--but not her. "Yes?"

"Took you long enough," the girl says. Well, girl; she's a couple of years older than Raven, really closer to Erik's age, and she has her ash-blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her most prominent feature, though, isn't a feature at all, but an enormous pair of sunglasses. "Then I figured you were never going to get to me, so I might as well come find you."

Raven blinks. "I'm sorry?"

"I'm Irene," the girl says. "Irene Adler. Can you get my bags? I can carry them, but it'd look a little weird--"

She takes off her glasses, revealing scarred cheeks and mostly-clouded-over eyes.

"--if a blind girl carried her own stuff," she finishes.

"You." Raven blinks. "How did you--"

"Precognitive," Irene says. "I see things before they happen. Not all the time, but often enough."

She's really pretty, Raven realizes, and is momentarily glad shapeshifting can keep her blush from being obvious. Irene isn't particularly curvy, but she's lean and muscular, and she's wearing a man's trousers and shirt, a kicky fedora. She looks like something out of a movie.

"We should get the others before we go," Raven says. "S--"

"Sean is at the arcade," Irene says, "and Ororo's. Hm." She tilts her head. "--no, you should go there first, she's about five minutes away from being arrested for pickpocketing a plainclothes detective."

Raven grabs Irene's bags. "Goddammit," she mutters, and storms off. "Which was she--"

--oh, shit, she just up and abandoned a blind girl. Raven turns around, horrified, apologies already on her lips.

"No," Irene says. She puts two fingers to Raven's mouth. "Don't apologize, it's unnecessary." She grins. "It's actually kind of nice, you treating me like I can keep up."

Raven means to answer, she really does, but there's a pretty girl touching her mouth and she's distracted. Anyone would be.

"And for the record," Irene says, taking her hand away, "my favorite color is blue." She straightens her hat. "Now let's go find your friends."






YES I AM APPARENTLY DOING THIS, OH GOD. I really did not want to be this person? But...then this happened, so. Yeah.

I am, for the record, one of the people who thinks that neither side is actually right; Xavier tends to be way too lenient towards anti-mutant sentiment, while Magneto immediately goes to Defcon 1 and starts putting people in camps. (No, really. Read the Morrison run.) You guys! Compromise is the soul of marriage!

--therefore, this is an AU from the end of the movie, where Charles conceded that Erik was not, in fact, entirely wrong, and Erik conceded that humanity should maybe get one or two more chances before he becomes, you know, a terrorist. Riptide, Angel and Azazel left; Raven stayed behind.

The red-haired girl is, of course, Jean Grey; Scott is Alex's actual little brother, which is why I'm pretty sure this is an Elseworlds from the main trilogy/Wolverine movies; Ororo (Munroe) is Storm; the incident in Cairo involves Amahd Farouk, the Shadow King, another telepath that Ororo once worked for. Irene Adler is, of course, Destiny, and Mystique's (not-quite-canonical, DAMMIT MARVEL) lover.

I don't have casting on the rest of them, they're a little young for that yet, but in my head, Irene is played by Melanie Laurent.
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