Hank followed Alex outside of the bunker. "Alex!" he called. "Come on, it wasn't even that bad..."
The blond whirled at that, "Hank, I lit the bunker on fire again! I can't do this!"
"But," Hank started and adjusted his glasses. "We can always put fires out..."
"I'm making no progress! What part of that are you missing?"
"But, I mean," Hank tried again, aware he was going to lose this argument. "You've made plenty of progress..."
"How? Give me a list of ways I've 'improved', Hank!"
"Well, I mean, you can control when your powers manifest..."
"Great, dandy. So my chances of accidentally blowing you up have decreased minutely."
"Alex, come on, if you're going to be like that then we never are going to progress!"
Alex scowled at him, "How do you want me to be then, Hank? I'm sorry! I don't see progress here, I'm a ticking time bomb and nothing's changing that!"
"But, it," Hank tried, leaning back slightly and adjusting his glasses again. "Being... being angry about it all the time is only going to make it worse."
Alex looked at him for a long moment, "Anger's what I've got, Hank. I...you know what? Forget it. I can't do it, I just can't. I can't control it; I'm barely getting hold of it all the time with the adaptor. I'm going for a run." He turned on his heel and exited the mansion, the door slamming behind him.
Sean, who had been leaning on the banister of the stairs waiting for them to pass or finish, leaned further over the stair railing and looked at Hank, "You do know he channeled that power of his without the adaptor, right?"
Hank didn't seem to hear him a moment, staring forlornly after Alex. "Wait... what?" he asked, snapping his head around.
"Alex. Controlled and aimed his power. Without the adaptor," Sean shrugged. "I figured you knew."
"No, I..." Hank blinked, trying to figure that out. "Against who?"
"Angel. She'd taken out his adaptor and was gunning for us both. He aimed and hit her wing."
Hank blinked at that. "Oh. I must have still been dealing with the teleporter. Damn it."
"Anyhow, he can aim. And he can use it without his adaptor. It's still dangerous, but..." Sean shrugged, "I'm going to go see if I can locate Warren and make sure he's not getting into too much trouble."
Sighing, Hank pushed his glasses up and rubbed his hands. "Right, yeah, okay."
"Good luck," with that Sean slipped out, looking for Warren.
Hank just sighed again before stepping out of the mansion, and glancing around to figure out where Alex might have gone.
Alex had gone for a circuit around the mansion and had stopped on the other side of the building, leaning against the wall. He knew he shouldn't take his frustrations out on Hank, it wasn't his fault. He just got sick of dealing with the power.
Following not only his instincts but his sense of smell, Hank stopped several feet away. "Sean has informed me you've used your powers without the adaptor before, you know."
Alex looked up at that, "He what?"
"You've used your powers—well—without the adaptor before, according to him. On the beach."
"I..." he paused, thinking about that, "I did?"
"Apparently," Hank said, leaning against the wall and sliding down. "First time I've heard of it in the last year."
Alex drew his knees up to his chest, "That day's kind of a blur. I didn't really remember it."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Luckily someone did." Pausing, he reached what basically was a paw out to Alex, rubbing at his shoulder and neck. "You'll be fine. Powers like this... it takes so much time to control. Years. You can't give up after only one."
Alex sighed, "Did he say how I did it?"
"Um, you aimed and let off the blast. You might have to talk to him about it more."
The blond thought about that, leaning into Hank's paw, "I...think I might have to do that."
Hank smiled and nodded. "Yeah. He's actually grown more insightful and probably intelligent than I want to give him credit for."
"Maybe he was just holding out on us?"
"I think so," Hank said, smiling.
Alex offered Hank a faint smile, "Sorry I snapped at you. It...wasn't your fault."
"No, but it happens," Hank shrugged. "I hope none of this is my fault but... I can't really blame you for getting frustrated either."
"Still. I shouldn't take things like this out on you."
"I can handle it when you do," Hank murmured. "Not to say you shouldn't but... I won't break. And I'll still be here, okay? Just don't make this a habit."
Alex drew a deep breath before nodding, "Alright."
"Okay," Hank said, and nodded. "Good."
"Well...anyhow. What do you say to seeing how far we can explore the grounds before dark?"
"Um," Hank considered and then smiled, nodding. "We can try that. Maybe a thicker coat first?"
Alex smiled faintly at that, "Yeah, a thicker coat would probably be good."
"Alright, here," Hank said, pushing himself up and holding a hand out. "Shall we?"
The smaller man took Hank's hand and hauled himself to his feet, "I think so."
Warren was perched on the roof of the mansion, looking down at where he could see Betsy talking with Sage on the porch. Hank was lurking around somewhere too, but he was focused entirely on using his Christmas present from his father, the only mark of affection he'd gotten all year—a brand new camera.
Charles came out of the mansion, glancing up as he sensed Warren. He smiled faintly and made his way toward where Sean had set up some glass panes to practice with.
Tilting his head, Warren snapped a couple pictures of the professor too for the sake of different models, before taking off to find Hank.
Alex was perched on a garden wall, watching Hank, "So, what are you working on exactly again?"
"Something for Sage," Hank replied, not quite looking up as he was fiddling with something only about as big as his hand, enjoying the scant sunshine the winter day was offering.
The blond tilted his head at that, leaning in for a better look, "How's that going?"
"I think well?" Hank offered just as Warren landed behind him with a bright greeting and the technology went skittering across the floor as Hank jumped. "What?"
"Can you build me a dark room?" Warren asked, picking the device up, which was looking a bit mangled and holding it back out.
Alex's brows arched at that, "Dark room?"
"For photographs," Warren said, giving Alex a less than impressed look.
"You do know the best way to ask involves a 'please' and a not breaking what he's currently working on, right?"
Warren just huffed at Alex, turning all his attention back to Hank. "Well can you? Can you?"
"I... could..." Hank said, blinking at little. "Have you asked Charles about using a room yet?" Warren looked quite put out a moment.
"Might do that first," Hank replied.
"Since it is his house after all," Alex supplied, rolling his eyes at Warren's behavior.
Hank glanced at Alex, supressing a smile as Warren took off, intending to do just that. "You two rub each other entirely the wrong way, don't you?"
"He's more than a little entitled. Has had everything handed to him and expects it to continue," Alex muttered.
"And you haven't so he annoys you," Hank said.
Hank reached out, setting the device down carefully before touching Alex's hair. "He's not so bad."
Alex sighed, "I know. Doesn't mean I like him, though."
"Alright, I might let you get away with that," Hank laughed, but he was already considering how exactly to put together a dark room.
"Think you can manage a dark room on top of all the other projects?"
"Oh, I'm sure I'll figure out something," Hank said quietly. "After all, I'm not actually doing much besides projects right now."
"Which you're good at, but maybe should see about other things too?"
Hank blinked at him. "Like what?"
"I don't know...have you talked to Charles about...I dunno, actually teaching here or something?"
There was another long pause. "Teaching?"
"It's just a suggestion, but I think you'd be good at it."
"Well, I mean," Hank considered. "Maybe when we get a few more students. Strictly speaking I'm listed as a teacher but..."
"You could do it, I mean if it came down to it. It was just a suggestion though."
"Yeah," Hank said. "Thanks. It'll work out, I'm sure."
Meanwhile, Warren perched on a branch above Charles' head. "Hey!"
Charles tilted his head back to look at the teen, "Yes, Warren?"
"Can Hank make a dark room in the mansion? Also, I don't think Summer's likes me very much."
"Can he, or may he?"
"Well, he said to ask your permission before we did anything."
"I don't see why not. It could be useful to have one, potentially."
"Great!" Warren chirped, intending to fly off again.
"Warren, hold on a moment."
"Yeah?" he asked, glancing down.
"You and Alex really don't get along well do you?"
"Not really," Warren said with a shrug. "Why?"
"Your comment about him not liking you very much. You're from different worlds. You might both try remembering that."
"Sure, professor," Warren said, managing not to roll his eyes. "I will if he will."
Charles pinched the bridge of his nose, "Very well. That's all, go on Warren."
"Thanks, sir," he said, taking off again.
Charles shook his head and turned his attention back to Sean and the pracitce Banshee was doing.
Hank was seated in his lab a while later, looking at something through a microscope and taking notes.
Charles tapped lightly on the door which stood slightly ajar, "Hank?"
He sat up, nearly falling over in surprise. "Ah, Professor. Can I do anything for you today?"
The telepath shrugged, entering the lab, "Not really. I was just coming to see how you're doing."
"Oh, fine. Nothing really new here," Hank said with a shrug. "Everything alright with you?" He glanced down at Charles' legs, considering. "You might want to make sure you're still using a cane."
"Everything's fine with me. I've been using the cane pretty close to consistently. You, however, have been brooding somewhat over something."
"I hardly brood, I mean, I ignore issues and lock myself in my lab but..."
"Which you've been doing. Alright, so brooding isn't the right word, but it's the closest one I can find. Avoiding might be more appropriate."
"Oh, well, avoiding," Hank murmured. "Is there anything specific you wanted to bring up?"
"I'm hardly going to go delving into your mind for the issue you're avoiding. I was rather hoping you'd talk to me, or to someone about it before it blows up in your face later. But that is entirely up to you."
Hank gave the professor a long look. "That's... really quite vague actually."
Charles shrugged slightly, "I already said I won't go delving into your mind to be specific, but you've locked yourself away, taken on more projects than is even usual for you, and...well, mostly that's it. But I do rather wonder why."
"You do?" Hank asked, arching a brow. "Even a year later I would think it would be obvious."
The professor watched Hank for a moment, "I do see that problem, but as I said you're picking up even more projects than you have over the last year."
"Well I don't really have much else to do," Hank shrugged. "I can go around and pick up students, I could even attempt to teach some of them, but it's not like I can have much of a thriving social life outside of the mansion or anything else."
"Are you working with the others on training? It might give you something else to do as well."
"Train what?" Hank asked with an arched brow.
"Your strength, your agility, your speed. Just because it's innate doesn't mean it can't be honed."
"Honed, sure. Professor, I have claws. Are you going to tell me to train in melee weapons or something?"
Charles sighed, "No, Hank. But training how to avoid accidentally using them in the case of some sort of fight might not go amiss."
"I've already used up the Jekyll and Hyde metaphor," Hank murmured, glancing down at his hands.
"Then forget it," the professor murmured, leaning against the lab table. "Focus on something else, beyond Stevenson. It's not merely a matter of controlling the animal side, it's a matter of coming to terms with it as well. You're still human, Hank. Even if it doesn't always feel like it."
"Doesn't look much like it either," he murmured. So most days he could live with it, but that didn't mean he quite accepted it yet.
"Perhaps not, but perhaps that's not always a bad thing."
"Not always a bad thing?" Hank couldn't help but gape at him.
"No, hear me out, Hank. It makes life difficult, sometimes even impossible, when there's a visible difference between you and the next person. But at the same time there's an opportunity for growth, for you if not for them. You're a wonderful, brilliant scientist, Hank. You have people here who see you as you not as it. You even have someone who loves you. You just have to find a way to work with your fears, not against them."
"Is that what you've been doing?" Hank couldn't help but ask. "Work with your fears?"
Charles dropped his gaze, "It's what I've found works in the past."
Pausing for a moment, Hank finally nodded. "I... I'll see what I can do."
"I'm here if and when you need anything, Hank. My door's always open."
"Yeah," Hank nodded. "Thanks."
Charles nodded slightly, pausing for another moment before slipping out of the lab. It was up to Hank to sort out his own problems, as much as the professor might wish otherwise.
Alex came into the mansion from the garage, wiping his hands off on a rag. He glanced at the clock, frowning slightly as Hank was usually in the kitchen or nearby at this time, "Hey, Sean?"
The redhead looked up from the book he was reading, "What?"
"You know where Hank is?"
"Again?" The blond looked confused.
"What do you mean 'again'?"
"He's spending a lot of time down there. It's kind of getting old."
Sean just stared at him for a long moment, "You are the biggest idiot I think I know."
"What?" Alex scowled at him.
"I cannot believe you just said that, anymore than I can believe I have to tell you this. You don't have a corner on the dangerous mutations here, Alex."
"Sean, get to the point."
"Hank. Come on, it has to have come up sometime right?"
"The fact that he's bigger, stronger, furrier, and has freaking claws and fangs? How do you think he's handling that?"
Alex shrugged, "I...well enough? I mean it's been a year..."
Sean looked about ready to beat the other over the head with something, "Yeah? How long have you had your power?"
"Have you come to terms with it? I don't think so. Hank's entire life turned upside down a year ago last October. He's trying, but you aren't picking up on it at all. It's painful watching you two, honestly. You bitch and moan about your power—I'm not saying some of it isn't justified, but for god's sake we get it already—and he listens quietly, does his best to comfort you about it. What do you do in return? Ignore the fact that he's terrified of himself."
"I'm not done. Actually, never mind. I am done. I've said my part and you can take it to hell for all I care," Sean offered Alex a shake of his head as he finally rose and stormed from the room.
Havok stood, blinking at the seat Sean had just vacated for a long moment. He tried to process what the other had said and when it finally sunk in he tossed the rag in his hands aside and headed for the lab.
Hank was once again bent over the same microscope, considering a mutation of cells that Charles had brought to his attention a while ago, hoping that if he could figure this out he might be able to tune Cerebro to types of mutation as well as finding them.
Alex tapped on the door softly, "Hey..."
"Oh, hey," Hank said, glancing up and turning his gaze to the clock. "Oh. It's just about dinner time isn't it? Give me a minute to finish up and I can start cooking..."
"Sean and Charles can handle dinner tonight I'm sure. Sean might even press-gang Warren into it if we know him."
"Oh, why?" Hank asked, blinking.
"Because I think we need to talk?"
"Oh," Hank blinked again. "That's rather abrupt. Did something happen?"
Hank just continued blinking at him. "Alright. We're talking. About what then?"
Alex hauled himself up to sit on the lab table, "How are you doing?"
If possible Hank just looked more confused, though he leaned back. "Fine. I mean, as fine as I can figure. Is there a reason I shouldn't be?"
"Not saying there is."
"Then... why are you asking?"
"Because it's the sort of thing that should be asked once in a while?"
That got a small nod out of Hank. "Well, things haven't really changed much recently..." he tried.
"Not sure that's really an answer."
"Well, what do you want me to say, Alex?" Hank said, almost snapping. "Things haven't been changing. We've been getting a trickle of students in, Charles is still running off with Erik, I'm still blue and furry with claws, and we're not really progressing much. I don't mean you and I, I mean this entire campus."
Alex managed not to flinch, "Well, that's a start. The student thing will change, the school's only just gotten started, really. Less than a year. Charles and Erik...they're a law to themselves, and there's nothing to be done there though God knows they shouldn't be." He drew a deep breath, sliding a bit nearer to the other, "Yeah, you're blue and furry, and yeah you have claws that even dulled are sharp, but it's something that you can learn to work with. You can figure out how to control some things about it."
"Control? What about this is controllable?" Hank asked. "Do you remember the fuss I put up about not being able to take my shoes off? And you want this to be controllable?"
"I'm not talking about your appearance, Hank. You told me back when Chris showed up that you wanted to hit him, and it could have sent him through a wall. The fact that you didn't means you control your temper a hell of a lot better than a lot of people. And look around, when's the last time you broke a beaker because you put too much pressure on it? You instinctively control your strength for small things. You could do it on a bit of a larger scale too."
"And when I stop being able to?" Hank asked in a small voice.
"There shouldn't be a when there, Hank. Maybe an 'if', but not a 'when'. You don't know you would stop being able to," Alex hesitated before placing a hand on the other's shoulder.
Hank glanced at the hand. "And when I have a nightmare and end up clawing you up?"
"And I could discharge a plasma blast into your chest, but I haven't. And you won't. You haven't so far, and I'm pretty sure we'd wake up before anything drastic actually happened."
"It just..." Hank sighed softly. "I'm sure you're right but..."
"But it's something you worry about. You're bigger, stronger than you used to be, and you have claws now. Your brain goes into overdrive thinking about possibilities, even ones that aren't likely, and some that may be a bit more likely." Alex drew a deep breath, "You're freaked 'cause this is something you have no idea how to quantify, or control. You're used to things being one or the other."
Hank offered him a thin smile. "Been there too, huh?"
Alex's lips quirked into a mirthless smile, "Sort of. I know my life's out of my control. It hasn't been mine to control since I was born. I'm freaked 'cause my power's just one more thing. Different reasons, same result. But we can do this. Both of us."
"Okay," Hank said softly and paused. "As much as I love you... I just sort of wanted to slap you some days when you said you couldn't do it with your powers. I just... I hate how much that made me angry at you."
"I...was being a prick. I'm sorry, Hank, I really should have seen it sooner. A lot sooner."
"It's alright, you were dealing with things but... I mean," he shook his head slightly. "We'll just have to deal with them a bit better now is all."
"It's not alright," Alex responded. "We'll get the hang of this though, right?"
"Alright, then we'll get the hang of it," Hank said, finally laughing softly.
Alex grinned faintly, "What are you working on to distract you from the issue you've been avoiding for the last year and a half?"
"Um, some cells. Trying to calibrate Cerebro better."
"Think you can pull yourself away from that for the night?"
"I think I'll manage," Hank said with a thin smile.
Alex leaned over, running a hand over Hank's nearest ear, "Maybe we should go make sure Warren wasn't press-ganged into making dinner? He might poison it out of spite."
"He wouldn't," Hank laughed. "But food is a good plan."
"He might," Alex repeated with a grin.
"He wouldn't!" Hank protested again. "He wants to have the dark room finished, remember? Your food he might poison but not mine."
"Great, I am doomed, as is Sean for forcing his highness to such a menial task."
"Well, you can switch plates with me in full sight of him so if he freaks we'll know not to eat it, and if he doesn't we'll assume it's safe."
Alex grinned, "I'm good with that plan."
Hank laughed again, finally rising.
Alex hopped off of the lab table, offering Hank another grin before heading out of the lab. Pausing a long moment, Hank followed him out, shutting the lab down on his way.
Hey all! We just wanted to give you a heads up that this story is going to be going on hiatus for a bit. We've run into some problems with the timeline and have to completely revamp it. As such we can't really say when it will be updated again, but we do promise you an update in the not too distant future. Until that time we have a couple of other X-Men based fics. For the Alex/Hank fans out there we have "Pick a Little Trouble" (which includes a side of Erik/Charles) and for our Erik/Charles fans we've just started posting "The Ghost of the Chateau D'If" (which includes a side of Alex/Hank).
Thank you for reading and we'd really appreciate you letting us know what you thought. We have anonymous reviews enabled and it's been a stressful couple of weeks, reviews brighten our days and tend to wake our muses up a bit. It lets us know people are interested in the story enough for us to feel more motivated to continue it sooner.