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Fics: More than a Poker Game

More Than a Poker Game
Beta-Prompt 08-11: First Class/White Collar, something with Byron and June
Word Count: 700




The white kids didn’t belong. They were rich, far richer than any other in the club.


June noticed them first since Byron was playing the back table. The man –honestly, he was barely twenty- stepped in first. He glanced over the busy room. He didn’t react to the fact he was one of six white men in the club. The blonde girl was a step behind. She wasn’t happy, but June didn’t think that it was because they were on the wrong side of town.


June approached them, trying to keep the peace with the other customers.


“We could fit in,” the girl was murmuring. “Just let me…”


“No, Raven,” the boy ordered her. “We’re here for an entirely different experiment.” The boy saw June and smiled at her. “Good evening, madam,” he addressed her as if she was a beautiful, rich, white woman. There was nothing patronizing in that smile. “We’re looking for a poker game. Is there any to be had?”


June should have said ‘no.’ These two were nothing but trouble. Then Ezra decided that such rich marks were too good to leave alone. Ezra brushed by the man, picking his pocket.


Unsuccessfully.


The man caught his hand and retrieved his wallet, only to place it in his other pocket. He never took his eyes off of June. He was calm, the perfect conman under pressure. The girl though –there was something ugly –mean- in her eyes.


“Calm down, Raven,” the boy said. He looked at Ezra and brushed his fingers against his temple (a tell?). “Sit in your chair and stay there until we leave.” Ezra turned to do just that. The boy smiled at June once again. “A poker game?”


Byron’s winnings had been slim recently. This boy could put a lot of money into play. June smiled at him. “Of course, if you’ll give Lily your hat and coats…” Lily stepped right up to do her job. “Right this way.”


The boy had perfect manners, June noticed, as he introduced himself and his sister to the whole poker table. Byron lifted an eyebrow at June and June offered what she thought the Charles Xavier’s tell might be behind his back. Raven pulled up a chair directly behind her brother. Though she nodded at the other poker players, she didn’t have Charles’ impeccable manners.


The game started and June drifted away to attend to her hostess duties. Several times she met Raven’s curious eyes. She had twisted in her chair and was watching the members of the club laugh, dance, sing and play. She looked intent and confused. Charles played as impeccably as he spoke and walked. He played well; it wasn’t too long until the pile of money by his left hand grew. Byron’s mouth crinkled in a manner that June knew that he was confused. June was sure that she had seen the finger-to-the-forehead tell several times. Byron had worked with less before. He shouldn’t be losing. There was something different about Charles, more than being respectful.


Finally, Raven kicked Charles’ chair. Charles sighed and expressed his regrets. He counted his money, handing a good wad to Raven. She pocketed it with a grin. The rest he split between the other poker players. “Thank you for the game, gentlemen,” he said. “It was an educational experience.” He stood and offered an arm to his sister.


June was waiting for him at the club’s exit. Lily was ready with the Xavier’s outer garments. Charles helped Raven with her coat and then slid into his own. He smiled at June and tipped his hat with as much style as anyone from the Rat Pack did. “Thank you for the wonderful evening, June.”


June’s blood ran cold. Byron would not have told this rich, white boy her true name. It had to be a warning, but a warning for what?


Why had Charles Xavier (was that his real name?) walked into their club? June suddenly felt like a mark, but she had no idea what the con had been. It didn’t fall into a pattern of any of the cons with which she was familiar.


She would be checking the club safe as soon as possible.


***


Less Than a Scale
Beta-Prompt 08-11b: First Class/White Collar, something with Byron and June. Many years after More Than a Poker Game
Word Count: 1400




June’s granddaughter had slowly become secretive. When June asked Neal about it, he admitted that he hadn’t spoken to April in months. Whatever was the problem, it wasn’t due to Neal. June started asking around quietly. Every response was the same, within the last couple of months April had pulled back from others. No one knew of any event that could have precipitated it or if anything horrible had happened to April. Everyone was as worried and uninformed as June. Neal and Peter had even checked all violent crimes that might have crossed April’s path. Nothing revealed itself. Neal also told her that they had checked for drugs. June wanted to be offended at the thought but Neal assured her that they hadn’t found any evidence of any addictive substance (except coffee) and that April wouldn’t know that they had tossed her room.


The answer to April landed literally on her front stoop. An older man in a wheelchair with a beautiful, African woman with white hair at his side asked to speak to June and April. June asked the kitchen for tea and some privacy. As expected, the two did not discuss more than small talk until all of June’s help were out of eavesdropping distance.


The woman introduced herself as Ororo. She was a teacher at the man’s boarding school, Xavier’s School for Gifted Children. Ororo and Professor Xavier were sure that April would be perfect for the school. April seemed interested but she kept looking to June for her opinion. June knew that there was something happening. Ororo and Xavier were playing a con of some sort and April was moments away from joining in the same con against her own grandmother.


Xavier raised a hand slightly and Ororo paused, somewhat surprised. “I’m sorry,” Xavier said. “It took me this long to place the name. June, it’s been a very long time.”


June leaned back. “We’ve met?”


Xavier smiled, slightly abashed. He touched two fingers to his temple. “I was barely out of school and I visited one of your husband’s gaming halls. It was before I earned my degree. I introduced myself as Charles Xavier.”


And just like that, June could clearly see this man, younger and with the hard blonde teen at his side. The tell of the two fingers to the forehead. “I remember you. You won at the Byron’s table and…”



Please don’t mention Raven, a voice spoke in her head. Yes, I am a telepath. Charles confirmed June’s thought before it could be fully formed. Ororo and I are mutants. Our school is designed for mutants.


“You gave back all the money you had won,” June finished smoothly.


Charles smiled at her with a twinkle in his eye. He was very pleased with how she covered the telepathic conversation. He sobered and cast a glance at April. June finally faced what Charles had been hinting.


April was a mutant.


Considering how vicious the local riots and protests against mutants had been, June tried not to be hurt that April had not shared her problem. June wrapped her arms around her beloved granddaughter. “I will love you no matter what,” she whispered in her hair.


April started crying, not the pretty crying that she had practiced in the mirror, but the horrible body-shaking sobs of inner torment. June held her close, murmuring words of comfort and acceptance. Finally, April settled. She gulped and breathed shaky breaths. Then she leaned back and looked at June.


“I was so scared,” she admitted.


June tried not to show her disconcertment; April had not shed one tear. Her make-up was still perfect. April shuddered and breathed again. June watched as what looked like contacts slid off of April’s irises and under her eyelids. June focused on the child she loved who was afraid of abandonment. The mutations didn’t matter. Reacting the wrong way now would burn bridges. June was enough of a con-woman still to save her reactions until later, until she had privacy, until unrestrained body language would not hurt her granddaughter. “You have nothing to be scared of. We will take care of you.”


“What my school would teach you,” Charles diverted April’s attention and gave June a moment to gather her reserves, “would be to take care of yourself. We would teach you how to use your mutation to your advantage and to give you a safe place to completely be yourself. You would not have to hide anything at the school. There is nothing you have for which we haven’t prepared.”


April looked at June again for guidance. June offered her an encouraging smile. April took another deep breath and this one was less shaky than the last. Finally, she pulled up her skirt and lowered her knee high socks to reveal black scales on her legs. It must have developed in the last couple months. June suddenly remembered April in a store isle looking at creams for dry skin. April looked at Charles and Ororo and both looked interested and nothing else. Definitely no pity to be found there. June imitated their expression. She was horrified, but because her granddaughter had had to suffer through these changes alone. June was very careful to keep such thoughts off her face.


April relaxed, nearly boneless with relief.


“We can go now,” Charles offered. “And let you two discuss your options.”


“Can I go to his school, Grandmama,” April pleaded.


“Of course,” June said. Anything to make April’s life easier. She addressed Charles and Ororo. “If you could give me all your contact information so that I can start the process to transfer April’s records?”


Charles nodded, with as much regality as June remembered from him long ago. I do ask, he spoke into her head again, that you be wise with who you would use to investigate us. We have many students who have been hunted for their deformities and have police records, mostly for theft.


June nodded. She would be very careful. She wouldn’t want to endanger those other students any more than she wanted to endanger April. Not to mention that those same students would probably be April’s classmates soon. June remembered that April’s school was ending a semester and beginning a new one and April would have gym. April had been worrying about the future. June hoped that her granddaughter had not been planning to run away to avoid exposure, but there were tiny indications of just that all over the house. Xavier had wonderful timing. June would need to push to change schools soon. When April needed to suffer through the horrors of gym, it wouldn’t happen where she would be harassed for being a mutant.


Ororo was speaking of special classes and opportunities, of the phone in every dorm room so she could call home whenever needed and the infirmary stocked to deal with sudden mutations. June was pleased with the information. Of course, she would visit. Often, if at all possible. Her granddaughter would know her love. June was not hiding her away from the world as if she was ashamed. April was growing excited with the prospect, even if she grabbed June’s hand and held on tight. She was still worried but not as much. She was opening up, returning to the cheerful, upbeat, mischievous person that June had missed.


Charles voice was in her head again. Thank you, for accepting her. Accepting us. This has been the most pleasant student recruitment of school history.


June mourned for the other students, the ones where their parents hadn’t been conmen and women, the ones who couldn’t keep their surprise and fright out of their body language when faced with the mutations. The parents that reacted first and then thought about it must still be paying for their inexperience. June was sure that some of the children were loved, but their parents had been too shocked to show it at crunch time. She was just as sure that some of the children had been thrown out of their homes for being too different.


June knew that Xavier’s School for Gifted Children had just become one of her favorite charities. For however rich Charles Xavier had been, he was raising and caring for many children just because regular society didn’t accept them. June knew first hand that children were expensive. June would lighten his load, in thanksgiving for helping April.


more of the 'verse

***

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
jedibuttercup
Jun. 25th, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)
I've just started watching White Collar from the season 1 DVDs; this is very timely. And thoroughly, entirely awesome. =)
faithburke
Jun. 25th, 2011 11:21 am (UTC)
yea! I'm so glad you enjoyed it (and that you are watching White Collar. It's so much fun)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )