Characters: Charles, Hank
Disclaimer: Not mine, as nice as it would be
Author's notes: First foray into XMFC fic, and not even the story I was intending to write... *headdesk*
Summary: For many mutants, family is not something you are born into. It's something you create.
The sound of knocking was so quiet that Charles probably would have dismissed it as the settling of the old house, had he not already sensed the presence loitering on the other side of the door.
"Do come in, Hank," he said, and the door creaked open.
Hank's new body was one ill-suited to nervousness. His previously awkward, lopsided gait was exaggerated tenfold, reminding Charles of a stage production of Frankenstein that he had attended many years ago. Sadly, the parallel was not so far-fetched. Hank was as gentle mannered as the fictional creature had been, but his appearance rendered him a monster to the masses.
Charles smiled warmly and patted the space next to him on the sofa.
Hank looked down and slightly to the side, a familiar nervous habit, and nodded. He lolloped over to the chair, settling down into it and clasping his oversized hands in his lap like an errant schoolboy. Charles put a great deal of effort into exuding warmth and welcome into the chilly room..
"Is there something troubling you?" he asked gently.
"I wanted to..." Hank hesitated for a moment, his words drifting away into silence. Clearly looking for a distraction, he turned to look at the unoccupied wheelchair. "I keep meaning to ask, is the chair all right? Did you need anything adjusted on it? Anything at all?"
"The chair is magnificent, Hank, a true marvel of mechanical engineering. The only complaint I have with it is that I need it at all, and that is something neither of us has any control over." Charles leaned back in the sofa, studying Hank thoughtfully. "But that's not what you want to speak with me about, and I would very much like to know what is upsetting you."
Hank tensed further, muscles freezing up along with his words. Charles waited patiently, as Hank took a deep breath.
"I know we're supposed to be a secret, and that anonymity is our first defense, I understand that, really, but I took every precaution first, and I'm absolutely certain there's no way that anyone could trace us back to here... But I thought I should tell you anyway because... Well, because I made a telephone call this morning." Hank confessed.
"Breathe, Hank," Charles soothed, suppressing his own amusement at Hank's nervousness. "That's fine. I'm sure you took all reasonable precautions. May I ask who you chose to contact?"
The blue of Hank's face turned a powdery mauve, and he dipped his head in embarrassment.
"Oh." Charles said, blinking in surprise.
He considered this new piece of information for a moment. He should have expected it, of course, and not just because of the advantages of telepathy. For all their recently acquired maturity, the young mutants in his house were still exactly that: young. If anything, he ought to be surprised that it had not happened sooner.
After a few moments, when it became apparent that Hank was not going to continue under his own power, Charles prompted him, "What did the two of you talk about?"
Hank gnawed at his bottom lip, and Charles had to use a considerable amount of will power not to pluck the words direct from his companion's head. If Hank had sought him out, then it was because he needed to say these things out loud.
Eventually, Hank took another steadying breath.
"She thought I was dead. I think the CIA told her that I had died. Then when I explained that I was alive and that I was one of the mutants who helped end the missile stand-off..." Hank took a shaky breath, "I didn't even tell her about my new appearance, she still thinks I look mostly normal, but..."
Finishing his sentence aloud would have been redundant at this point, as his thoughts were bellowing to Charles.
"She told you to stay away." Charles supplied.
Hank nodded slowly. His brow was creased, exaggerating his animalistic facial features, and his arm muscles flexed absentmindedly under his poorly fitting clothes.
Even without engaging his gift directly, Charles could feel the soft waves of self-loathing emanating from his friend, tinged with loneliness and rejection. The feelings filled the room. Charles hesitated, searching for words which were suddenly, traitorously elusive.
"Hank, you understand that I cannot force your parents to feel differently about you. I cannot use my abilities in that way without reinforcing the fears they already have."
Hank's head jerked up, eyes wide in surprise.
"No! I would never... That's not why I came, don't think that I want that. I wouldn't even... I would stop you if you tried!" he protested. Charles placed his hand lightly over Hank's, placating, and Hank lapsed back into silence.
"I'm not going lie to you and say that they'll probably come around, either. Fear is a very powerful motivator, and..." Charles sighed, squeezing Hank's hand, "I think you already know that no one will ever be able to take that place. No one will ever be to you what they were."
Hank nodded solemnly, exhaling in a way which made his shoulders slump.
"I know, and it was stupid of me to call, but I thought that if I just spoke with them and explained... They're not idiots, Charles, they're smart people. My father is a physicist, and my mother is brilliant at mathematics. I thought if I could just explain, that maybe they would understand." Hank took a halting breath and looked away from Charles once again.
Charles allowed Hank several moments to compose himself.
"Hank, what I'm trying to explain is that no one can fill the role of your parents, but... Over the years with Raven I did acquire some experience in the role of surrogate older brother."
Hank looked up then, brow creased in confusion over slightly too bright yellow eyes. Then, after a few seconds, his eyes widened in understanding.
The waves of negative emotion that Charles had sensed earlier collapsed into a thin mist of longing, and for the briefest of moments Charles found himself remembering a tiny little blue girl with yellow eyes standing in his kitchen. Then he was back in his sitting room with a young man who was anything but tiny, yet who had fur which was equally blue, and who had the same startling yellow eyes. Charles impulsively reached an arm around Hank's exceptionally broad shoulders and gave a gentle tug.
Hank made a small sound of surprise, but the rejections of the day weighed heavily enough on him that he accepted the implied invitation and leaned into Charles' side.
They sat there for several minutes, Charles occasionally stroking Hank's cottony fur, very carefully not noticing the hitches in Hank's breathing.
When his breathing eventually calmed and evened out, Charles broke the quiet.
"So do I start calling you Henry Xavier now?" He teased gently. Hank huffed.
"Only if I can start calling you McCoy." He countered.
"You think? Charles McCoy," Charles sounded out, but paused when Hank sat up again and shook his head.
"No, my family was big on shortening everyone's names. You'd have to be 'Charley'."
Charles pulled a face of mock horror.
"Oh, that will never do at all. I'm sorry Hank, but there is no other option. You'll have to be an Xavier, I will not abide being called Charlie."
"I'll mention that to Alex and Sean tomorrow. I expect they'll find that information immeasurably useful" Hank teased back, and Charles reciprocated by giving him a playful push.
"I suppose we could just keep this an informal arrangement, and stick to the names we have now." Charles acquiesced.
"It would be less confusing." Agreed Hank, a familiar smile curling his upper lip. Charles could understand how that could look threatening to someone who had never met Hank, but the overwhelming impression he got was of a kitten dressed up in a comically oversized lion costume.
"I should let you get back to your reading." Hank said, slight embarrassment returning. Charles allowed himself one more, self indulgent squeeze of Hank's arm, and nodded.
"It is getting quite late," he agreed, and Hank rose, ambling to the door and away to his room as casually as he was able.
Charles followed Hank's movement with his mind, watching to make sure that he found some peace and quiet for the evening, before turning his attention to the unoccupied wheelchair within easy reaching distance of the sofa.
He hadn't been exaggerating. It really was a marvel of mechanical engineering. Light, responsive, supportive. It was such a shame that the world was not ready to give it, or its creator, the respect and consideration they deserved.