Hank hated the public. It seemed like no matter what good you did, the public at large would still hate you for one bad thing you did, or even for nothing at all. He hesitated to think how people would see him if he was a mutant. Or worse, Spider-Man. It was as if people just wanted to be offended and spiteful to justify their own existence. Admittedly, Hank wasn't exactly guilt-free.
He had been undergoing a severe mental breakdown at the time, attacking defeated opponents and displaying hostility towards his allies. After being suspended from the Avengers by Cap, he had begun development of a new robot to attack the team, that he could 'defeat' and regain his place on the team. His wife, Janet, had discovered his plan and begged him not to go through with it. He had only meant to gesture dismissively at her, but somewhere along the way, his anger had reached boiling point and his harmless gesture transformed into a fierce strike that sent Janet flying.
Needless to say, Hank's Avengers career had almost ended there and then, but as they say, time heals all wounds and he was slowly able to recover from his breakdown and earn his place on the team again. But to some, his actions were completely unforgivable.
Even years later, the news of his new membership on a team caused controversy. There were protests outside Stark Tower in opposition to the announcement and Tony was adamant that Hank be escorted into and out of the building for his own safety. No other Avenger had ever received this much venom spewed at them by the public. Not former villains, not mutants, not even Spider-Man.
Once inside, Hank headed straight to the upper floors, ignoring everyone he passed and hoping the self-important wails of the banshees outside wouldn't reach that high up.
He entered one of the offices and slammed the door behind him, sitting in a chair and letting out a deep sigh. He was at the end of his rope here. One would think that if there had to be one thing Hank would never live down, it would be the creation of Ultron, one of the greatest threats the Avengers had ever faced; not lashing out in a moment of anger.
There was a knock on the door and Hank looked up to see Janet on the other side of the glass. He turned away, not wanting to be near her right now. He heard fluttering coming from the direction of the door, knowing immediately that Janet had shrunk down and was flying in through the keyhole.
"Hank?" There was concern in her voice, concern Hank didn't deserve. What Hank hated most about the protesters was that they were right. He didn't deserve forgiveness for his actions, but he didn't need to be reminded of that constantly. "You okay? Is this about the protesters?" Hank's silence was all the answer Janet needed. She sighed and returned to normal size, hands on her hips. "Don't let them get to you. You're not a bad guy."
"But that's just the thing, Jan," Hank replied, finally acknowledging her presence. "Even when I try to be a hero, try to make something positive with my life, I always screw it up and make something bad out of it."
"Oh, really?" Janet asked, slightly irritated. "And what about the Avengers? The Ant-Man legacy? Us?"
Hank stood up immediately. "I didn't mean it like that, Jan. You were the best thing to ever happen to me. But everything else... I've never done anything positive for the Avengers. I made their greatest enemy, I plotted against them, I hit you. Those protesters are right. I really am just-"
Janet slapped him. As he recoiled from the swift and sudden blow, he found Janet jabbing a finger into his chest as she looked up at him with an expression of irritation.
"Now you listen here, buddy. Nobody gets to tell me whether what you did to me was okay or not. You hear me? Nobody. I'm the one who was hit; not you, not our teammates and not those vultures outside."
"Just shut up for a minute, Hank. I won't lie, you hurt me. Emotionally more than physically. It was the betrayal that stuck with me long after my cheek stopped hurting. I'm honestly not sure I can ever get over that."
Hank couldn't bare to look at her anymore and turned away, but Janet gripped his chin firmly with her hand and turned his head back towards her.
"But, Hank, I know you were in a dark place. We all go through those rough patches. Carol and Tony have both fallen into alcoholism; Clint, Wanda, Pietro, they were all villains once, not to mention Wanda's mental break; and Hulk waged war with the whole world once. Even if we leave out the fact that you were having a mental breakdown at the time and weren't really responsible for your actions, I still get that you didn't mean to hurt me. You were angry and you lashed out. Hell, I just did that to you not two minutes ago. It's okay, Hank. I forgive you. And I love you."
Hank could barely believe what he was hearing. Janet forgave him for the deepest, blackest mark on his record. He felt so relieved and happy at the vindication that he couldn't stand and fell to his knees in tears.
Janet knelt down beside him and placed an loving hand on his shoulder. "Here," she said softly. "I want to show you something." She took him by the hand and gently pulled him to his feet before guiding him outside.
The protests had gotten fiercer since Hank's arrival, prompting Cap and Tony to attempt to calm the crowd to little effect. The sky turned suddenly dark as everyone in the area looked up to see Janet and Hank now as tall as skyscrapers. Janet held Hank's hand tightly before pulling him in and kissing him for all to see.
Surprised, Hank pulled away a little, but Janet held him firm. "Jan, what-?"
"Hank, you're one of the smartest people on the planet but you need to learn when to shut up and let me lead."
"But, everyone can see-"
"That's the idea. If this isn't a big enough indicator that you're forgiven, then screw 'em. N-Not literally; I don't think we need two Tonys on the team."
Hank chuckled and kissed her again. There truly wasn't anyone as kind and caring as Janet, and Hank knew that at the very least, their marriage was one thing he had not made a mistake with.
This is a pseudo-sequel to a previous short, Small Problems With Small Solutions: s/11439248/1/Small-Problems-With-Small-Solutions
I was inspired to write this after reading a comment on the posting of the aforementioned story. Took a couple hours to write.