Title: The Three Laboratories of Doctor McCoy.
Word Count: 756
Rating: PG
Summary: The stages of Hank McCoy's life can be measured in laboratories.
Disclaimer/Author's Notes: I own nothing. I am a Textual Poacher. My personal X-Verse doesn't really acknowledge X3; this follows the story of Hank's mutation as set up in Chris Claremont's X-2. It also follows the events of my previous X-fic Fragility (Shandra is the main character from that story), but it can stand pretty well on its own.

His first 'lab' was an empty bedroom on the Mansion's top floor, dusty and bare until he had Scott help him haul workbenches and equipment up the stairs. It was relatively private (any teenager's favorite feature in a room); and when they weren't studying or drilling or out fighting, he could usually be found there, poring over some book or another, chemistry set bubbling away. Scott would join him up there sometimes, leaning against the doorframe, trying hard not to let it show that he was fidgeting and impatient to be doing something (science, in Scott's teenage mind, did not count as "doing something"); and from time to time Jean would poke her head in to make sure he was taking care of himself – but for the most part, he had that first lab to himself.

His second lab, the one he moved into after he left the School, was both much more high-tech and significantly less private. It was also less quiet; he found he had a taste for playing music in the background while he worked – anything from Dvorak to the Rolling Stones. Between that and the string of lab assistants, supervisors, and suits who progressed through at a fairly steady rate, his second lab was hardly the haven of quiet research his first one had been – though the budget made up for it, and he was unlikely to be called away from his work to stop a mutant bank robbery. He was in that lab when the Cerebro2 wave hit – and afterwards, he found he couldn't quite bring himself to go back there (even if they had wanted him to do so).

When he made his way back to Xavier's – no longer recognizable as the selfsure teenager who'd left years before – he found a lot more than the handful of students he'd been expecting; his old lab, and every other aboveground bedroom, was occupied. But the School had expanded since he'd left – not outwards, but down. That was how he came to his third lab, a sprawling, well-equipped affair in one of the sub-basements.

This is his favorite lab yet. It has all the technical advantages of the second one and then some, including a sound system for that ever-present quiet music; and he is free to arrange it as he likes without interference from humorless men in suits.

It is also, true to form, even less private and less quiet than his previous two labs. Scott will, from time to time, join him – leaning against the doorframe, trying hard not to let it show that he is impatient to be doing something (there are things in the world that will never change). But there is also a seemingly never-ending parade of students bringing him their hurts, large and small; paper cuts and skinned knees, sprained ankles and nasty injuries from powers gone awry, science homework they don't quite understand and math problems they're too intimidated to take to Scott. It seems not an hour passes that he doesn't have to turn away from a microscope or a test tube, ready to mend something.

The door behind him whooshes open with a very faint noise, and small footprints patter across the room. Hank adjusts his microscope slightly as someone rolls an extra office chair up to the bench next to him and then clambers up to kneel on it.

There's the small but pointed sound of a six-year-old girl clearing her throat. "Doctor Grover."

He pushes back slightly from the microscope and looks up at her. "Yes, Shandra?"

The School's youngest student tosses back her brown hair and props her chin on one gloved hand. "I gots a question."

"Have." Hank amends absently, tugging his glasses down from the top of his head and regarding her through them. "You have a question."

She nods and swings her feet absently back and forth for a moment. "How's a volcano work?"

Hank spares the briefest glance at the microscope and the various experiments spread out in a seemingly perpetual state of mid-completion. All the gentle chiding Professor Xavier does about respecting boundaries has never taken with any of the students – Shandra in particular – but Hank can't bring himself to really mind it. It's not his lab so much as it's theirs, a little space in the home they all share.

Sometimes he thinks that may be the real reason it's his favorite lab yet.

"Well," He says, leaning forward slightly as Shandra's face lights up with delight, "Down inside the earth . . . "