A/N: Finally got this giant Halex ficlet out. ;) This features Hank and his fucked up issues, and some of Alex's fucked up issues. Basically, I figured that post-transformation, Hank would not just be like, "ooh, lemme go do it with the guy who used to treat me like shit!". So, yeah.
Warnings: slash, Hank/Alex, language, beast!Hank, mentions of Erik/Charles, mentions of drug usage (aka, pothead!Sean), extremely benevolent!Charles, slightly-depressed!Charles, post-beach-weirdness, slight sexuality crisis, Hank's severe self-esteem issues.
Disclaimer: I don't own X-Men . . . unfortunately. :( The title is from the Nick Lowe song of the same name, because it kind of reminds me of Alex's pigtail-pulling-attitude towards Hank.
Hank blinks behind his glasses, startled. Ears twitching slightly, he turns his head towards the door. "Alex?"
" . . . What do you want?" Hank asks, feeling rather childish talking through the door like this.
"Can I come in?" Alex says. His deep voice sounds rather dull, as though he's keeping it toneless on purpose. Hank wrinkles his nose and resists the urge to point out that the polite way to ask permission for entry would have involved the word 'may' as opposed to 'can'. (That would have probably earned him an "oh, fuck you, Bozo". And he's not sure if he could still handle Alex's mockery in this form, so better to hold his tongue.)
"If you must," he grouses. A few seconds later, the large metal door to the lab swings open, and Alex steps in. Hank raises an eyebrow at him. Alex is wearing his sweat-suit and a pair of scuffed Converse – not exactly bedtime attire, since it's at least midnight.
Alex looks around the lab with tired interest. "You got the place cleaned up, I see."
Hank frowns. "It's been a month," he mutters. "I couldn't really utilize the lab if the equipment was strewn all over the place."
"'Utilize' and 'strewn'. You sound like a thesaurus," Alex comments blandly.
"Do you not understand the meaning of the words?" Hank snaps back coolly, making his opinion of Alex's intellect quite clear. "Utilize – to put to use. Strewn –,"
"I know what the fucking words mean," Alex snaps. "I didn't come down here to fight with you, Bozo."
Hank can't suppress the snarl that rips out of his throat. His claws, sharp and long, suddenly seem like they would be perfect for tearing Alex limb-from-limb. "Don't call me that."
Alex takes a step backwards, probably expecting to be tackled to the floor and mauled. "Relax, man."
After a moment of mental grappling (Hank versus the Beast – an odd power struggle, when you consider that Hank technically doesn't have multiple personality desire and is therefore fighting himself), Hank regains his composure. "I'm sorry," he mutters, ashamed. "I – I can't control my emotions as well, in this . . . state. I'm not going to . . . attack you."
Alex is frowning. "I'm not worried about you attacking me."
Hank raises an eyebrow at him wordlessly.
"Stop making that face at me," Alex says. "You look like the professor."
Hank holds back a wince. Charles doesn't do much eyebrow-raising anymore. Hank hasn't seen Charles but a scant few times since the beach, and even he knows that all the professor does is stare into space, lost and alone. "I doubt that. The professor doesn't have . . . blue skin and fur."
"Good point," Alex says, and with that, he calmly walks over and makes himself comfortable on a stool at the other end of Hank's lab table.
Hank stares at him as though he's just grown two heads.
"What are you doing?" he asks, too curious to even be annoyed.
"Well, I wasn't just going to keep waiting for you to invite me to have a seat," Alex says bluntly. "You're normally so prim and proper that you would have offered me your right arm if you thought I wanted it."
Well, I'm nowhere remotely near normal anymore, Hank longs to point out. "Alex . . . I really don't understand what you're doing down here."
It is Alex's turn to quirk an eyebrow. "Isn't it obvious?"
" . . . Not really, no."
Alex sighs. "Damn. And you're the genius here. I'm trying to extend a hand of friendship, or something like that."
Hank stares at Alex as if he's just grown eight hundred heads. " . . . What on earth are you talking about?"
Alex shrugs. "Sean said I should try it. He finds it really depressing that you hide in the lab all day, and he thinks that maybe if I, of all people, am nice to you, it will magically bring you out of your funk. Since, you know, I'm never nice to you."
Hank stares at him for several more moments, before Beast takes over and his lips curl into a disdainful snarl. "Well, you've apparently tried, in your own way, to 'extend a hand of friendship', and clearly, it is not going to 'bring me out of my funk'. So why don't you try again some other day, when you actually have the decency to want to be nice to me yourself."
Alex blinks, surprised, and pauses for a moment. "You've got more balls than I gave you credit for, McCoy. I'll just go, then." The blond stands and makes his way to the door without another word.
Hank watches him leave, annoyed and more than a little confused. Alex Summers comes into his lab in the middle of the night and only consciously insults him once or twice, and then starts talking nonsense about wanting to be friends. Hank is, apparently, not the only one in some sort of strange funk.
Hank doesn't deign Alex with a reply, although he is admittedly shocked nearly out of his mind that Alex is outside his door for the second night in a row. Is he trying to actually make Hank snap and maul him?
"Paging Dr. McCoy? Earth to Beast. I know you're in there."
Hank grumbles something unintelligible under his breath and storms over to open the door himself. "Can I help you?"
"You can help me by letting me come in and explain myself."
Or I can help myself by slamming the door in your face, Hank's inner voice snaps. But he's still got a shred of nerdy politeness about him, and so he wordlessly steps out of the way to allow Alex to pass. Alex brushes against Hank's furry arm as he slips by, and Hank barely stops himself from yanking said arm away.
They move to the lab table. Hank stands at one end, Alex leans against the other.
"Well," Alex finally begins. "I just came to tell you that I lied."
" . . . About what?" Hank inquires.
"About the whole Sean thing," Alex said. It may or may not be Hank's imagination, but Alex looks as though he's blushing a little bit. And he's definitely avoiding Hank's gaze. "I didn't come down here because he suggested it. Well, technically, I did. But I made it sound like he told me to make friends with you, and he didn't. I asked him for advice on how I should say sorry to you, because I feel like you deserve it, since you saved my life from that red-skinned freak."
So Alex is capable of uttering the word 'sorry', Hank thinks. And he thinks I deserve to get an apology. In the game of unpredictability: Alex, 1. Hank, 0.
Hank is quiet for a moment, absorbing this, before he says, "I should have known you were lying. Why would anyone ever listen to anything Sean suggests?"
Alex surprises him by letting out a rare, genuine laugh. "I know, right? Well, I was stoned at the time, so it seemed like a smart idea. You know, come down here and try to apologize-without-apologizing. Brilliant."
"So you were – . . . wait, you smoke marijuana with Sean?"
Alex is still smirking. "What do you think we do when we hang out? Have fiery discussions on mutant rights?"
Hank can't hold back his wince this time, and Alex realizes what he's said almost immediately. Alex's smile slips off his face like a runny egg off a plate. "Oh. Um – well. I can tell you one thing – Erik and Charles definitely weren't smoking pot."
Hank can't bring himself to laugh at that. The pain that they all feel over Erik's departure (betrayal) is still far too fresh. "Yes. Well. Um."
There's a brief, awkward pause. "Anyway," Alex says. "Enough about Herr Traitor."
"Herr Traitor? That's so rude –,"
"It's not just because he's German," Alex interrupts. "And I don't have anything against Germans. 'Herr Traitor' just sounds better than 'Mister Traitor'. Too many syllables or whatever. Besides, do you think I give a fuck about being rude when it comes to him?"
"Alex . . ."
"Let me be an asshole about it," Alex says flatly. "It's the only coping mechanism I have."
Hank blinks, stunned, and then nods slowly, but doesn't speak.
"Anyway," Alex says after another moment. "Back to my first point. I came down here to apologize."
Hank waits. And waits. And waits.
Alex bites lightly on his bottom lip, like he's thinking. "I'm sorry," he finally says. "I'm sorry for calling you Bozo. And Bigfoot. And Sasquatch. And Ronald McDonald. And –,"
"That's enough," Hank cuts him off sharply. "I get it."
Alex has the decency to look embarrassed. "Yeah. Well. I am . . . sorry."
Hank is this close to gnawing on his own lower lip before he remembers the whole fang situation. Not a good idea. "I . . . um . . . I accept. Your apology, that is."
Alex raises one blond eyebrow, and Hank notes somewhere, in the back of his mind, that Alex has nice eyebrows. (Nice eyebrows? Am I stoned?, Hank wonders.) "You don't sound very . . . sincere. You know, in the whole accepting-my-apology thing. Was my apology not good enough for you?"
"No," the scientist says quietly. "I mean – no, it was good enough. I just . . . give me some time. To accept it."
Alex eyes him for a minute, and then nods slowly, as though he understands. As though Alex can understand anything about bullying, and the wounds that words leave behind. "Okay. Time. Got it."
The younger boy (man, really – they're both legal adults, after all, Hank reminds himself) pushes himself to an upright position off of the edge of the table. He turns and walks towards the door (swaggers, really – but Alex always has had that jaunty way of walking). Before he leaves, though, he pauses.
He turns his head to look at Hank over his shoulder. "I hope you decide to accept my apology. I'd hate to feel like an asshole for forever."
Hank raises an eyebrow. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Good," Alex says, and with that, he's gone.
"Have you had enough t– Jesus, man, what the hell are you doing?"
Hank nearly jumps out of his fur. "Ah! Alex! What the – you just – have you ever heard of knocking?"
Alex just stares at Hank as he fumbles to cover himself. "Are you – taking a shower?"
"It's not a foreign concept, is it?" Beast snarls, before Hank can stop him. (Oh, mother of all things holy. The whole multiple personality disorder is starting to look a little plausible.)
" . . . In the lab?" Alex questions, eying the makeshift shower Hank has set up, which consists of a very large plastic tub for him to stand in (a tub which drains out into the sink via pipes and duct tape, thanks to Hank's crafty engineering skills) and a water hose.
"Er – yes."
" . . . Why? There's probably ten bathrooms on the first floor of the house alone." Alex pauses. " . . . Have you even left this room since . . . ?"
"Of course I have," Hank says, a little hotly. He's still awkwardly trying to cover himself. He really, really wishes Alex would just go away. "I have to eat, don't I?"
"Oh. So you must come out only at night."
Just like a real beast, Hank thinks miserably. "Um. Yes. Alex – would you – I'm still –,"
"Oh, yeah," Alex says. He turns around so that his back is to Hank, but regrettably, he doesn't leave the room. "Yeah, um. Sorry about that."
Hank briefly debates trying to strangle himself with the hose, but eventually decides against it, because Alex would probably hear him choking and rescue him anyway. (Or maybe he'd just let Hank die . . . Hank still hasn't quite processed the concept that Alex Summers might have a heart somewhere, deep down.) "It's . . . alright. Just . . . knock next time." (Next time? Hank wonders when this became a normal thing, anyway. This is the third night in a row, for Heaven's sakes.)
"So I guess what the blue bitch said is true," Alex muses aloud. "Except not completely, because my feet are kind of small, I guess, but I'm –,"
"Oh my God," Hank says, scandalized. "Alex. Learn to think inside your head, please."
"Does it bother you to hear me talk about your girlfriend?"
Hank growls. "She's not – she wasn't my girlfriend. But don't call her a blue – don't call her that. And no, that's not what bothers me. I just really don't want to hear details about your – privates."
Alex snorts. "You're not five. You're allowed to call it a –,"
"Okay, okay. God."
Hank cuts off the water hose and shakes himself out like a dog (it's horrifically degrading, but it works). Alex reaches up and touches the back of his neck.
"Sorry," Hank mutters. "Didn't mean to wet you."
"It's okay," Alex says. "You shook that pretty far, man. How do you not get everything in here soaking wet?"
"I have plenty of time to mop up," Hank points out as he towels off.
"I guess you do," Alex agrees. "Is that where you sleep?" he asks, pointing at the large cot in the corner.
"Yes," Hank says, tugging on clean clothes. "You can turn around now, I guess."
Alex does, and he raises his eyebrows at the sight of Hank, his fur damp and probably sticking up in random, wild tufts. Hank's cheeks heat with a purple blush, and he resists the urge to start grooming himself out of embarrassment. After a moment of awkward silence, something occurs to him, the thought spawned by Alex's last question.
"Alex . . . do you ever sleep?"
Alex gives him a look that clearly reads 'you are such a dumbass'. "Of course I do. That's kind of one of those basic needs for survival, isn't it?"
"Well, yes," Hank says. "But what I mean is – do you keep any kind of regular sleeping hours?"
"Do you?" Alex asks evasively, an eyebrow raised. Hank glances at the clock in the corner of the room (the clock's face has a large crack down the center of it thanks to Hank's rampage a month ago, but he repaired it as best he could). It's two o'clock in the morning – Hank normally doesn't go to sleep until four.
"No, but I don't need to," Hank explains. "Not anymore. I usually only need three or four hours of sleep now."
Alex rolls his eyes. "So do I."
Hank shakes his head. "Actually, in order to maintain optimum function, you probably need at least –," he abruptly notices the dark half-moons under Alex's blue-gray eyes, "– eight hours of rest. If you don't want to be crabby all day."
Alex's expression hardens, his gaze sharpening into a glare. "So I'm an insomniac. What's it to you, B– Hank?"
That might be the first time Alex has ever referred to him by his real name, but Hank's pretty sure a 'Bozo' was about to slip out first, so the moment is ruined. "Nothing," he says coolly. "I was just trying to let you know that it's unhealthy for you to stay awake when you need sleep."
"S'not like I do it on purpose," Alex says flatly.
"Oh," Hank says, mildly surprised. "So you really can't –,"
"Why not?" Hank queries. Apparently he's pushed too far, because Alex starts moving towards the door.
"Gotta go, Bozo," Alex says. He points at Hank's large blue feet. "You made kind of a puddle, by the way." Hank's reply is silenced when the door slams shut.
Note, Hank thinks to himself, every bit the scientist. Alex reverts to nicknames when questioned about his inability to keep a normal sleeping pattern. Personal questions clearly make him uncomfortable. Mockery, therefore, must be a way to hide vulnerability. That actually makes sense.
What makes no sense, however, is the fact that Hank actually cares a little.
Alex doesn't show the next three nights, but on the fourth, he's waiting in the lab when Hank returns from a food raid on the refrigerator. Hank raises his eyebrows and sets down his handful of food (leftover spaghetti, milk, and several slices of bread).
Alex raises an eyebrow and indicates the plastic container of spaghetti. "I wouldn't eat that, if I were you. Sean made it, and the noodles, like, turned into gray mush on my fork."
"Thanks for the advice, but the fridge is rather bare."
"Yeah, we haven't gone out for groceries in a while. I'll do it tomorrow. Or better yet, I'll get Sean to do it."
Hank sighs quietly. He'd kill to be able to leave the mansion. But for the foreseeable future, he is stuck in hiding. He can only imagine the terror he'd cause by simply walking into a grocery store.
"You should eat with us," Alex suggests, surprising Hank. "At least eat dinner with us. Sean's scared to come down and talk to you, because he thinks you'll yell at him for disturbing you. And Charles is . . . he's still kind of bad off. Having an annoyingly long discussion about science with you might make him feel a little better."
"I doubt that," Hank says honestly. Besides, I don't want to leave the lab. I don't want anyone to look at me, because I know that Sean will stare and I know that the professor will just pity me, if he's not too busy pitying himself (not that he doesn't have a right to). It's bad enough that Alex barges in here so often, even if he barely pokes fun at me anymore.
"Yeah, well, it's worth a shot," Alex says resignedly. "But whatever. Just stay cooped up in the lab, if that's what you want to do. But don't you think it's crazy, to just stay down here all the time –,"
"No, I don't," Hank snaps.
Alex raises a hand as though to say 'I meant no harm'. Maybe he's just used to his own huge, blue, clawed hands now, but Hank has never noticed until this moment just how pale Alex's hands are, how long his fingers, how thin his wrists. Alex is by no means a small man (in fact, before his . . . transformation, Hank had envied Alex's muscular physique), but his hands are surprisingly delicate. "Alright, alright."
Hank takes a sip of milk. "I still don't understand why you come down here all the time now," he says after a moment.
"'Cause I'm bored," Alex says. "I get tired of just wandering around." He points at Hank's face. "Milk mustache, Hank."
Sheepishly, Hank wipes at his upper lip. "You must do something besides wander around, if you don't sleep." Inside his head, Hank is still trying to come to terms with the fact that yes, he is sitting in his lab, eating and having a relatively normal conversation with Alex. Pre-fur, Hank would have believed he could breathe underwater before he would have believed that this would happen.
"I watch TV in the library sometimes," Alex says. "Try to read occasionally. Lift weights. Draw. Wander the halls."
"What do you draw?" Hank asks, before he can stop himself.
Alex suddenly looks as though he hadn't meant to reveal that tidbit of information, ever. "Stuff. Mostly people."
"Are you . . . good at it?"
Alex gives him a look. "You'll think I'm an ass if I say yes."
"I already think you're an ass," Hank points out. He really should put a stop to this whole "speaking before he thinks" thing. It used to be so easy to keep his mouth shut.
Alex, to his surprise, snorts. "God-damn, McCoy. You've got a pretty decent backbone. I never would have believed it."
Hank growls quietly, before he realizes, oh, he's kidding around. "Well. Yes. I guess I do, now."
Alex reaches over and calmly helps himself to slice of bread. "Yep. Guess you do. Oh, and by the way, Hank, next time that someone steals food from you like I just did, try to use that backbone of yours, okay? Believe me, you give me a big, scary growl, and the bread's all yours."
Hank can't stop the growl that comes out, his lips curling up, teeth gleaming threateningly.
Alex merely chomps down on the bread and raises his eyebrows cockily. "Too late. It's all mine now."
"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full?"
Hank takes note of the strange expression that flits over Alex's face. It's gone a second later, when Alex sticks out his tongue and reveals a wad of chewed-up bread.
"You walked right into it, Hank."
Two more weeks (and ten more nighttime visits from Alex) pass before Hank finally mans up and leaves the lab for dinner.
All three of the other mutants are already at the table, eating quietly. Sean chokes on a sip of water when Hank sheepishly drifts in, and Charles looks rather stunned. Alex, after a moment of initial surprise, greets Hank with a, "Hey, man."
Charles offers Hank a faint smile. "Hello, Hank. Are you going to join us for dinner?"
Hank nods quietly, and makes his way over to the table, sitting down next to Sean and diagonally across from Alex. The chair creaks at his weight, and Hank tenses, wondering if it will hold his increased bulk – but it doesn't collapse, and he huffs a little breath of relief. He doesn't think he could survive the shame if he broke a chair his first night back at the dinner table.
After filling up the plate he'd retrieved from the kitchen prior to entering the dining room, Hank sits still for a moment, his gaze traveling up the length of the table. Ordinarily, it would have been Charles at the head of the table, Erik to his left, Raven to Erik's left, with Hank next to her, and with Alex at Charles's right, Sean next to him, and Moira next to Sean. Even though only three people are missing, the table looks shockingly empty without them.
Charles, either reading Hank's expression or simply just reading his mind, smiles slightly. It's a sad smile, yes, but it's not completely forced. "I think I speak for everyone when I say we're very glad that you've decided to join us, Hank."
"Yeah," Sean says, having recovered from his shock. "What made you decide to grace us with your esteemed company?" He grins a little in his cheeky, good-natured sort of way, clearly meaning no harm.
Hank glances without thinking at Alex. "I just realized how crazy it is to . . . hide in the lab all the time."
Alex takes a sip of his water. "Hmm. Doesn't take a genius to figure that out," he says, gaze meeting Hank's.
Charles raises a reproving eyebrow at Alex and opens his mouth to speak, but Hank shakes his head and sighs heavily. "He's right."
Charles's eyebrow returns to its normal position, and the Brit smiles, trying to ease the awkwardness of the whole situation. "Well. At any rate, Hank, it's good to have you here with us."
Hank tries to smile back, he really does. "Thank you, Professor."
The professor beams at each one of them in turn like they're his favorite people in the whole world, and now Hank has to smile, because with the professor smiling at him, and with Sean grinning at him, and with Alex trying to restrain a smile himself, how could he not smile back?
Another two weeks pass (this time, eleven visits from Alex) before Hank finally figures out the source of Alex's insomnia.
Hank becomes quite accustomed to Alex's nightly visits – so accustomed, in fact, that he's stopped complaining about them (aloud) or wondering why they occur. Alex isn't completely terrible company after all; he might be an asshole, but some of the things he says are actually funny and occasionally pretty smart. (Not that he ever thought Alex was stupid . . . but he's smarter than Hank expected him to be.)
Alex is sitting in his usual spot at the other end of the lab table, and Hank is busy working. The conversation has lapsed into silence, and after a moment, Hank's advanced hearing detects the slight change in Alex's breathing. He glances up and blinks, surprised to find Alex asleep sitting up at the other end of the table, upper body propped up on his elbow, his chin resting on the heel of his hand.
After a minute, Alex rouses himself and rubs his face. Hank drops his gaze and pretends he wasn't just watching the blond mutant sleep, but he's a second too slow.
"Am I that boring?" Hank inquires after a moment, still looking at his work.
"Yes," Alex said with usual sarcasm, "you bore me to sleep, Hank. That's why I come and hang out with you all the time."
Hank finally looks up, arching an eyebrow. "How much sleep did you get last night?"
Alex sighs. The shadows under his eyes are prominent today. "I slept fine, Hank."
"Your periorbital dark circles would suggest otherwise."
"The shadows under your eyes."
"Why couldn't you just say that," Alex grouches. He's even crabbier than usual tonight.
"Really, Alex," Hank presses. "Did you sleep at all?"
Alex rubs at his eyes (which, Hank notes, are still a nice shade of grayish-blue, but are pinkish from lack of sleep and no doubt from Alex's rubbing) and sighs again. "A little bit. But it was . . . bad."
"Bad?" Hank questions.
"Nightmares," is all Alex says.
"Oh," Hank says, blinking his large yellow eyes. "Do you want to talk about them? Your nightmares?"
Alex is avoiding Hank's gaze. "Do you want to hear about them?"
Hank is, by nature, a curious individual. However, 'curious' is different from 'nosy', in his book. "Yes, but if you think I'm prying, I'll leave you alone about it."
Alex sighs. "I dreamt about my brother last night."
Hank blinks, surprised. "You have a brother?"
"Yep," Alex says dully. "His name's Scott. At least, it was. I don't know where he is. He could be dead by now. The foster care system is a bitch, man."
"I'm sure he isn't dead," Hank assures Alex automatically.
Alex raises an eyebrow. "I ended up in prison and then on a CIA mission to save the world from nuclear war," he points out. "My brother being dead is way more likely than what happened to me, isn't it?"
Game of logicality: Alex, 1. Hank, 0. "Okay, yes," Hank agrees reluctantly. He's not one to lie, but he's also never been one to be brutally honest. "So you were separated from your brother in foster care?"
"Yeah," Alex says, voice low. "It's been six years. I hardly even remember what he looks like. I hardly remember anything."
Hank quirks a blue eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"You know what retrograde amnesia is?"
Hank resists the urge to say 'of course I do'. (That's another one of those comments that will earn him an "oh, fuck you, Bozo".) "Yes."
"I have that," Alex says flatly. "Apparently, my folks died in a plane crash, and me and Scott were there, in the plane. We survived, obviously . . . jumped out, with a parachute. According to what the doctors told me, I must've hit my head on a tree branch or the ground or something, because I don't remember shit of my childhood. Everything right after the crash is a little blurry, too."
Hank stares at him for a moment, stunned. "Wow," he says. "That's awful, Alex."
"Yeah," the ex-con mutters. "But anyway, I always have this one nightmare about Scott, where we're falling . . . and everything is dark . . . and he's screaming in my ear and holding on to me so tight, squeezing me . . . and something, the parachute maybe, is on fire . . . and I always wake up feeling like I'm going to lose it, like I'm going to go off and blow everything up."
Hank has the strangest urge to move close to Alex, to touch his shoulder or his arm, to comfort him. That would earn him the worst "fuck you, Bozo!" of all, so he resists the urge and murmurs, "So when you do get any sleep, you usually have nightmares?"
"That's the gist of it, yeah," Alex says flatly, his expression sealed off. Hank's honestly surprised the word 'Bozo' hasn't come up yet. Alex has never, ever revealed anything this personal to Hank before – Hank wonders if Alex has ever told anyone this, period. "The insomnia didn't get really bad until right before I went to prison. And then, in jail, it got worse. And it hasn't gone away."
Hank frowns. He assumes it's just his scientist's need to study and cure things, but he has a sudden desire to help, though he's certain that his attempts would probably be scorned and rejected.
"I think it would get better if I knew where Scott was," Alex murmurs, abruptly looking as though he's lost in thought. "If I knew he was safe, and I had him back. If I could remember anything from my life before the shit hit the god-damned fan."
Hank pauses for half a second, thinking. "There might be a way to help you with your amnesia, and find your brother."
Alex stares at him. "Care to enlighten me?"
Hank waits. And waits. And waits.
And then it hits Alex, too. "The professor!"
Hank nods emphatically. "Yes. I'm sure he could do a little, er, poking around in your mind, if he's willing and you're comfortable with that. And of course, I can rebuild Cerebro, and he can use it –,"
"To find Scott," Alex finishes for him. "Jesus Christ on a fucking cracker, Hank, you're brilliant."
Hank can tell that his cheeks must be the color of an eggplant right now, and he barely suppresses a pleased growl at those words. He's not exactly unused to being complimented on his intelligence, but from Alex, of all people? "I'm not brilliant," he protests half-heartedly. "It's a logical conclusion –,"
"A logical conclusion that I was too damn stupid to jump to," Alex says. Despite those words, he isn't angry – in fact, Alex is grinning. Full on, ear-to-ear grinning. "Don't try to deny it, Hank, you're wonderful."
Hank's face twitches happily as he barely forces back a smile, and Alex continues, still beaming like he's just won the lottery. "Do you think Professor X will help me? I'm sure he will. Of course he will. And will you rebuild Cerebro? Can you?"
Hank nods. "Of course. I'll just have to get the professor to acquire the materials for me, but that shouldn't be too hard."
"How long will it take?" Alex asks eagerly.
Hank thinks about that for a second. Well, he doesn't exactly have any pressing projects that need to be completed immediately. "A month, perhaps? The original machine took me ages to build, but this time I know what I'm doing, so it should be fairly simple. Getting it operational shouldn't be too hard at all."
Hank could get used to the happy expression on Alex's face. "You're fucking brilliant, Hank. Brilliant."
Hank finally has to grin, baring his sharp white teeth. "Thank you."
"No," Alex says fervently, getting up off of his stool and coming around the table to stand by Hank. He reaches out and grabs Hank's furry arm at the elbow, squeezing it gently, in a way that is perfectly friendly, maybe a tad – stop that train of thought right now, McCoy. "Thank you, Hank."
Hank looks down at the hand on his arm, his eyes slightly wider than normal. After a moment, Alex drops his hand. His smile is unusually soft, and part of Hank has the funniest urge to purr, while the other half of him is wondering when the insult is going to come flying at him. He feels oddly like a kicked puppy, constantly expecting to be struck again.
After a moment, Hank clears his throat and says, "You look awful, Alex. I mean, your eyes and all."
Alex waggles his eyebrows. "Thanks for that ego boost, I guess?"
"You should go get some rest," Hank says. You should go away right now, so that I can stop thinking about how warm your hands are, or how nice you smell, or how I've never noticed until now just how plump your lips are. "I'll talk to Charles in the morning. If I rebuild Cerebro, it might be just the thing he needs to pull him out of his depression –,"
"And you out of yours, maybe," Alex says easily.
Hank stops, blinks, and nods. "Perhaps." I doubt it, he's really thinking. Building Cerebro isn't going to do anything for me but make you happy.
. . . Wait, what?
Alex smiles, pats Hank on the arm again. The touch of his hand feels a little warmer and more tingly than it did a few short moments ago. "I'm off to bed, then. Thanks again, Hank."
"You're welcome," Hank responds a little faintly as he watches Alex leave the room. "Sweet dreams, I suppose."
Sweet dreams – what the hell am I playing at? That's probably so awkward – he's a man – oh, God, I am doomed.
Alex turns and raises an eyebrow. "You, too?" he says, faintly amused.
"Um. Yes. Thank you. Good night."
As Hank had expected, Charles gives the okay on rebuilding Cerebro as soon as the words leave Hank's mouth, and he seems excited to help with finding Alex's brother and fixing Alex's amnesia. Hank kind of suspects that Charles is just a tad pleased to have permission to explore the inner workings of someone's psyche.
"Now, Hank," Charles says, with a raised eyebrow. "You know I just want to help Alex."
Hank blinks. "Um –,"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Hank. I didn't mean to eavesdrop on your thoughts, it's just – you have a very bright mind, Hank. Your inner musings are quite loud."
Hank's cheeks heat up at the praise, and he awkwardly runs a hand through his blue hair (mane, really). "Thank you, Professor."
"You're quite welcome," Charles replies easily. "Anyhow, just tell me what you'll need and I'll get it for you on the double – ah, I see you've brought a list – and when you leave, would you please drop by Alex's room and ask him to come and see me? I can begin trying to help him right now, if he's comfortable with it."
Hank nods and hands Charles the list he's made of every little thing he'll need to recreate Cerebro, and then rises to his feet. "I'll go get Alex."
"Alright, then," Charles says, with more cheer than Hank has heard in his voice in a while. He doesn't sound nearly as happy as he once might have, but it's a start.
Hank finds Alex's door closed, and knocks quietly. "Alex? It's Hank."
The door swings open after a moment. "Hank?" Alex says curiously. This is the first time that Hank has ever sought Alex out, as opposed to the other way around.
Hank is momentarily unable to respond, because Alex has chosen to answer the door without a shirt on. He looks for half a second, long enough to note Alex's muscular chest, taut abdomen, and the light burn marks on the center of his chest from where his chest-piece caught on fire. He then forces himself to look up, berating himself mentally (don't look again, don't look again, it's not right, it's creepy, he's a man!)
"I talked to the professor," Hank says. "I'm going to rebuild Cerebro."
Alex grins. "Fuckin' awesome."
"He wants to talk to you," Hank adds. "He thinks that he can start helping you right now."
Alex practically shoves past Hank to get into the hallway. "Brilliant, Hank!" he calls over his shoulder. "You're fucking brilliant!"
"Alex . . . you should probably put a shirt on if you're going to go talk to the professor."
Alex pauses. " . . . Good point."
The effect on Alex's psyche is not immediate, but it's quick enough – three weeks later, he's watching Hank craft Cerebro, sitting on the floor nearby and humming tunelessly to himself.
The humming is distracting, but not terribly so. After a while, Hank pauses to look up at Alex. The other mutant is currently sketching . . . on one of Hank's papers.
"Alex, I think there are notes on that sheet of paper."
Alex pauses in his drawing, lifting his pen (well, Hank's pen, but Alex has apparently decided to borrow it) and flipping the sheet over. "All I see is a bunch of letters, squiggly lines, arrows, and equal signs. Sorry, do you need this?"
"No," Hank says without thinking, mostly because Alex just looked quite happy while he was sketching. "I've got all the formulas I need to know –," he taps his temple with one long, clawed index finger, "—up here."
Alex smirks. "Know-it-all."
"I don't know it all. Just most of it."
"Ha, ha, ha. You're hilarious, McCoy."
"You're oozing sarcasm, Alex."
"I should probably get that checked out, then."
Hank shakes his head with an air of bemusement. "What are you drawing, anyway?" he asks after a moment, curious.
Alex pauses, as though debating whether or not to show Hank. After a moment, he lifts the sheet and holds it up so that Hank can see. The drawing is of four people – two young boys, a man, and a woman. The man reminds Hank of Alex with his height and build, and the woman is clearly beautiful, with long hair that Hank imagines as blonde (although, since it is only an ink sketch, there's no color). The boys are smiling and clutching at the woman's skirt.
"Your family?" Hank inquires.
"Mmhmm," Alex says quietly, looking down at the sketch. "I got a new memory today. We went to a park or something, and I remember me and Scott begged my mom for ice cream."
(The professor had been working on slowly bringing Alex's memories to the surface of his mind – essentially, Charles was triggering the memories, but he was carefully allowing Alex's mind to draw them up itself. Charles had, in private, told Hank the reason for this slow process – "I don't want to just . . . pull half of his memories to the surface at one time. It could very easily overwhelm him, and I'm not quite sure that he could . . . handle it." Clearly, the professor did not fancy being accidentally burnt to a crisp.)
Hank actually finds himself smiling softly, a rare occurrence. "That's nice, Alex. Your drawing is superb."
"It means –,"
Alex rolls his eyes. "I know what it means! It's just a pretty powerful word."
Hank blinks. "It's a compliment."
"So if I let you call my drawings 'superb', will you let me call you 'brilliant'? I mean, will you let me do it without blushing and squirming?"
Hank pauses, the corners of his mouth twitching. He looks back to Cerebro quickly, trying not to smirk.
"Oh, God," Alex says. "Are you seriously laughing at what I just said?"
"Of course not."
"Yes, you are. You're totally having a little laugh inside your head about the whole 'doing it without blushing and squirming' thing. Are you secretly a ten-year-old or what?"
Hank glances quickly at Alex, searching for cruelty in his expression, but there is none. "Give me a break. Just because I graduated from college at fifteen doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor."
"A childish sense of humor," Alex teases easily, going back to his sketch.
"Don't make me throw this wrench at you."
"Please, don't. You'll ruin my flawless countenance."
"Someone's been studying their vocabulary words."
Alex grins. "You noticed!"
Hank shakes his head again, even more bemused than before. This is so bizarre – here he is, cracking jokes with Alex, his former bully. Hank hasn't even thought about his skin color, his fur, his feet, his size, his claws, his eyes, or his teeth in at least the past five minutes.
Being completely bizarre: Alex, 1. Hank, too many points to count.
In two more weeks, Cerebro hums to life for the first time. Two days after that, Charles smiles triumphantly from underneath the helmet, and announces, "I do believe I've found him."
The machine begins to spit out coordinates, and Charles says, "His mind reminds me of Alex's. They've got to be brothers. And he's definitely a mutant – his power is quite similar to Alex's."
Hank moves to shut down the machine. "Professor?"
"Yes, Hank?" Charles says, opening his eyes.
"Can I tell Alex? That you've found his brother?" Hank asks, hiding his sheepishness as best he can.
Hank prays that he's imagining the knowing twinkle in Charles's sky blue eyes. "Of course, Hank. Go right ahead."
Hank tries not to smile. "Thank you, Professor."
He doesn't know anything. There is nothing to know! Hank wails mentally. "No thanks needed, my friend. Now . . . help me get this helmet off, would you?"
Hank beats Alex to the punch that evening, showing up at the younger mutant's door at exactly eleven o'clock (for some reason, they can't seem to break this habit of nighttime visits). He knocks quietly. "Alex."
"Come in," Alex replies. Hank does so, opening the door and shifting sideways ever-so-slightly, so that he can fit his broad shoulders through the narrow entryway. Alex is sitting on his bed, wearing the same t-shirt and jeans he'd been wearing all day, his perfectly normal feet bare. (Hank pretends to ignore the spike of jealousy he feels at that sight.)
Hank shuffles over to stand by Alex's bed. To his surprise, Alex makes a motion as though to indicate for him to sit down. Slowly, and fearing rejection like the plague, Hank perches at the foot of the bed. To his surprise, Alex scoots closer to Hank, his gaze resting on Hank's face.
"Well?" Alex says, with his usual blunt attitude.
"We found him," Hank says. "Well, Charles did."
Alex's eyes are very wide, and very round (and very lovely). "Are you serious?"
There is a moment of silence, and then a grin breaks out on Alex's face. A beautiful, ecstatic grin. Hank wants to purr at the sight of it, and this animalistic urge makes part of him want to vomit with shame. "Holy fuck," Alex murmurs, awed.
Hank smiles just a tad, recognizing the joy in that short, vulgar phrase.
"That's so fucking amazing," Alex says. "So – oh, Jesus. So you know where he is? He's alive and safe?" At Hank's nod, Alex's grin broadened. "That's great. Fucking great. Thanks, Hank. I never, ever would have found him without you."
"Well, it wasn't really me," Hank offers, embarrassed, and suddenly aware of how Alex is leaning towards him. He's just trying to listen to what you're saying, Hank's inner voice babbles nervously. "It was Professor Xavier who located your brother –,"
"Hank," Alex says, still smiling. "Shut the fuck up and take a compliment." And with that, Alex kisses him.
Hank's brain, so huge and active and powerful, slows to a halt and then promptly turns to grayish-white sludge inside his head. For a moment, Hank is absolutely, totally still while Alex presses their lips together. He doesn't even blink, because he can't, he can't do anything, he can't even think (and Hank can always think), because Alexander Summers is kissing him.
At this point, the Beast kicks Hank out of the metaphorical window and takes over. (Hank really should look into the whole multiple personality disorder thing. He really should.)
Beast is eager, kissing back, opening his mouth into it, making a hungry noise against Alex's plush, oh-so-soft lips. Beast reaches out with his huge arms and draws Alex's comparably thin body closer to his own, yanking so that Alex is practically in his lap. And the Beast is happy, the Beast wants more –
And then Hank forces himself to take control, and he shoves Alex out of his lap so hard that Alex literally goes flying, landing on the floor with a thud. The expression on the blond man's face would have been comical, if this were any other situation.
"What the fuck!" Alex shouts, his eyes flashing with anger.
Hank stares at him, huge chest heaving as though he's just run a marathon. Alex is glaring up at him with those wide blue eyes, those fucking gorgeous blue eyes. His eyes aren't gorgeous, why do I think his eyes are gorgeous – for God's sakes, I used to hate him.
"You kissed me," Hank says, his horrified tone clashing with his growly, deep voice. "You – you're bleeding?"
There is, indeed, dark blood on Alex's lower lip. Alex reaches up to wipe it away, and flinches slightly. Almost unconsciously, Hank's tongue darts to the front of his mouth, flicking over his sharp fangs. Oh, my God. I bit him. And I didn't even notice. It's true, I am a monster – I am a beast – oh, God.
"Hank, are you having a little breakdown right now?" Alex asks icily. "I kissed you. I didn't even tongue you, you tongued me!"
"No, I didn't!" Hank snarls without thinking. "It was – it was instinct, I didn't – I shouldn't have – you shouldn't have kissed me, Alex! You're – you're a –,"
"I'm a guy? It didn't seem to matter to you that I'm a guy about five seconds ago, when you were moaning into my mouth and biting my lip –,"
"Stop!" Hank orders, standing bolt upright. Alex scrambles to his feet, but he's still dwarfed by Hank. His lip is bleeding heavily, and Hank is suddenly painfully aware of just how easy it would be to break Alex, to damage him, to hurt him.
"This is a joke, isn't it?" Hank says abruptly, voice getting closer and closer to a snarl with each word. "You did this just so you could have something to mock me about later. That's all you want, isn't it –,"
"You are fucking nuts right now," Alex says flatly. "Why would I kiss you to make fun of you?"
But Hank is too far gone to care. This all makes perfect sense to him – this is all an elaborate joke, some sick way for Alex to torment him. "I'm not crazy. You're going to end up making fun of me –,"
"No, I'm not!" Alex says hotly. "Hank, for God's fucking sakes, you're blue and furry. I wouldn't have to kiss you to have something to mock you about!"
A primal snarl rips from Hank's throat, and he is so close to hurting Alex. Alex, who is shaking slightly, who smells of fear and anger and hurt, whose own blood is still dripping from his lower lip, who is glowing a faint shade of pinkish red in his anger. Hank restrains himself, but only barely.
"I'm done with you," Hank snarls, and he turns to leave.
"Hank!" Alex shouts.
Hank slams the door so hard the whole house rattles.
The next morning, there's a knock at the lab door.
"Go away," Hank growls in response.
"Hank, it's Charles."
"Please go away," Hank says, respectful even in his current state.
"Hank, I just want to speak with you."
Hank pauses for a long minute, collecting himself. "Alright."
The door swings open, and Charles wheels in, his expression far too gentle for Hank's tastes. He pities me, Hank thinks miserably. And with good reason. I'm a crazy, dangerous beast. And to top it all off, I think I might be homosexual.
Charles wheels over to Hank's cot, where Hank sits. He reaches out and very gently touches the furry mutant's shoulder. "Hank – it's alright, my friend."
"No, it's not," Hank growls. "It's not alright. You know what happened, don't you?"
"Yes," Charles admits. "I saw it in Alex's thoughts this morning, when he came to me to tell me that he . . ."
Hank looks up when the telepath trails off. "He came to tell you what?" he presses.
"He came to tell me that he was leaving," Charles says gently, holding Hank's gaze. "Alex is gone, Hank. He left about an hour ago."
Hank's lungs suddenly feel as though they've shriveled to nothing in his huge chest. "What?"
"He left," Charles explains, "to find his brother. I think he would have told you himself, if . . . last night's events hadn't transpired."
Hank drops his head into his large hands. "I lost it last night, Professor. He was going to mock me –,"
"No, he wasn't," Charles soothes. "I can assure you, from what I saw in his thoughts, Alex's intentions were utterly pure when he kissed you."
"He should never have kissed me!" Hank cries. "Why would he – why would anyone ever –,"
Charles pats Hank's shoulder again. "He kissed you for the same reason that anyone would kiss someone – he has feelings for you."
Hank lifts his head slightly, searching Charles's expression. The older man seems utterly unperturbed to be talking about this – one would think that someone would be a little disturbed by the thought of two men – and then it finally hits Hank. Oh. Erik. I can't believe I never guessed.
Charles winces slightly. Hank hadn't meant for him to hear that. "Yes, well," Charles says softly. "At any rate . . . Alex wasn't kissing you out of a desire to bully you any further. He honestly does feel something for you, Hank. And for good reason – you are not an animal, Hank. You're a man, just as I am, just as Alex is."
Hank wonders when Charles got to be quite this wise. Perhaps being left behind will do that to a man. "So, basically, I went off on someone who merely kissed me. Because they . . . like me."
Charles blinks. "In a nutshell, yes."
Hank's head again drops back into his hands. "Oh, God, how am I going to fix this. I screamed at him. He must think I'm completely insane."
"He does," Charles admits, in his usual honest-but-kind manner. "But I hardly think Alex is gone forever, Hank. No, I don't think so, at all."
"When do you think he'll come back?" Hank says, voice muffled by his hands.
"When he reconnects with his brother, I think," Charles says. "And when he connects with himself. I don't think you're the only one who needs time to find themselves, Hank."
Hank sighed. "You're right," he says. "Of course, you're right. Do you think he'll . . . understand?"
Charles drops his hands to the wheels of his chair and smiles kindly at Hank. "Most definitely, my friend, most definitely."
They get exactly one letter from Alex, a month and a half after he leaves to find his older brother. It's addressed to the professor, but Charles reads it aloud to Hank and Sean at the dinner table.
Dear Prof. X,
Found Scott. He's okay. Actually, he's pretty great. He's really nice, and really smart, and he's a mutant, like us. He shoots red laser beams out of his eyes. He can't control it at all. He has to wear sunglasses all the time so that he doesn't kill everyone. Maybe you can help him with that?
We're staying in Anchorage, because it's where we're from. I've told him about the school, and he wants to come back with me. Don't know when I'll be back, but definitely soon. Hope you're doing well.
P.S. Tell the guys I said hi.
Hank frowns. "Is that it?"
Charles glances at the back of the paper (it's a thick sheet, clearly sketch paper) to check for more writing. "Apparently."
"Aw, man," Sean says. "I hope they get here soon. I want to meet a guy with lasers coming out of his eyes! And without Alex around, there's no one to smoke with. Unless, of course, you guys want –,"
"Oh, come on, Professor. You're a mind reader, it's not like you didn't already know!"
The professor immediately starts lecturing Sean about his drug use, and Hank ordinarily would join in, but he's too preoccupied with thoughts of Alex. It's been a month and a half, and Hank actually misses Alex – he especially misses those many nights spent just talking with Alex. He never thought he'd see the day where that would be the case, but it is.
He also never thought he'd see the day when he'd be more preoccupied with thoughts of Alex than with thoughts of his condition.
Another four weeks later – two and a half months after Alex's departure – Hank shuffles into the kitchen for breakfast, and comes face to face with a complete stranger.
Hank stiffens, instinctively wary, and the man turns to look at him. He's wearing dark aviator-style sunglasses, a plaid shirt, and worn jeans. The man jumps, his expression turning to one of shock, before he relaxes slightly.
"You must be Hank," the stranger says. "My brother told me a lot about you."
Hank's yellow eyes widen with realization. "You're Scott Summers."
The dark-haired man grins. "I am. Nice to meet you, man." He extends a hand, and Hank, still rather surprised, grips it with one of his much huger hands and shakes.
This is Hank's first time meeting someone who's never seen him in his human-looking state, and it's easier than he expected it to be. But perhaps that's because Scott is wearing sunglasses, so Hank can't see what sort of look is in his eyes. Plus, Scott was clearly warned about Hank's appearance by his younger brother.
"Pleasure to meet you," Hank says. "Welcome."
Scott smiles. His smile is a lot like Alex's, Hank notes, only a tad more reserved. "Thanks. I'm happy to be here. Alex told me you're a scientist – he told me that maybe you can help with my eyes?"
Hank raises an eyebrow. "I can certainly try. He wrote the professor and told him about your eyes – maybe I can design something to help you control your power."
"That'd be great," Scott says fervently, and Hank can practically feel the eagerness coming off of him, even if he can't see the other mutant's eyes. He has the same need to be made safe that Alex once did.
"Where's Alex at?" Hank asks, suddenly nervous. He's suddenly terrified at the thought of having to see the blond mutant, and the whole speech he'd come up with in his head that he was going to use on Alex has suddenly disappeared entirely from his mind.
"He's upstairs, unpacking his bag," Scott says. "Although, I don't know why it's taking him so long, it's not like he has a lot to unpack. He told me to wait here until someone came in."
Hank nods. "I've, er, I've got to go," he says. "Sean should be down here in a moment to start breakfast –," Hank tilted his head slightly, listening, "—ah, yes, I hear him on the stairs now. It was nice meeting you, Scott!" He turned and headed out of the kitchen quickly, praying to God that Alex wouldn't choose that moment to come downstairs.
"Nice meeting you, too," Scott calls after him, sounding vaguely confused as the large blue mutant basically scrambles to get out of the room.
Hank's in his lab that evening, pretending to be concentrating on his work, when there's a knock at the door. At first he expects it to be Charles, who drops by occasionally to see and discuss whatever Hank's working on at the time, or Sean, who has lost his fear of bugging Hank and usually comes by and offers illicit substances, but it's Alex's voice that calls through the door, "Hank."
Hank tenses briefly, and then looks up. "Come in."
The door swings open, and Alex steps in. He, like Scott, is wearing jeans and a loose-fitting button-down shirt. (Clearly, Alaskan-wear involves a lot of plaid.) He looks surprisingly well-rested, his skin a healthy, peachy color and the shadows under his eyes faded almost completely away. "Hey," he says, his expression hard-to-read.
"Hello," Hank responds quietly. His cheeks have begun to heat up, and all they've done is exchange greetings.
"Can I talk to you?" Alex asks.
"Of course," Hank says immediately. "Please, have a seat."
Alex smirks slightly, but says nothing until he's taken his old spot at the opposite end of the table.
"What're you working on?" Alex finally asks, indicating the empty beaker in Hank's hand and the papers strewn about.
"Nothing, really," Hank admits. "I haven't been able to concentrate on it all day."
Alex raises an eyebrow. "Have you been in here all day? Because I came looking for you this morning, right after I got here, and you weren't in here. I even checked your bedroom."
So that's where Alex had been earlier, when Hank met Scott in the kitchen. "I was in the kitchen. I met Scott."
"I know, he told me," Alex says, with a nod. "He said you were nice, but then you ditched him."
Hank frowns, embarrassed. "I was just –,"
"Trying to avoid me?" Alex says, giving him a knowing look.
Well, yes, Hank wants to say, but doesn't.
Alex sighs, and then changes the subject. "How've things been, while I've been gone?"
"Normal, I suppose," Hank says. "Quieter. Especially in here."
"Don't tell me you've missed me coming by to bother you nonstop," Alex says, with a hint of a smirk playing at his lips.
Hank blushes. "I didn't say that."
"You meant it," Alex says stubbornly.
Hank's silent, his natural social awkwardness setting in. Finally, he gets the nerve to speak. "Alex, we should talk about – the – about what happened."
"You mean when I kissed you and you flipped out?" Alex asks, eyebrows rising towards his hairline.
Hank gives him a 'duh' look. "Yes. That's what I mean."
"Talk away," Alex says.
"I'm sorry," Hank finally says.
If Alex's eyebrows go up any higher, they'll disappear into his hair. "Sorry? I'm the one who kissed you, man."
"Yes, but I – to use the colloquialism you used – 'flipped out'."
"What in holy fuckdom is a – oh, never mind," Alex says, shaking his head. "Yeah, you flipped out. But I can kind of understand why, I guess."
Hank blinks. "You can?"
"Yeah," Alex says, his voice calm. "You couldn't understand why anyone would want you – because of the way you look – and so you assumed that me kissing you was some kind of trick. Especially since it's me, and I'm a notorious asshole."
Hank pauses, and then says, "You're exactly right."
Alex looks surprised. "Holy shit, seriously? . . . Well, I have had three months to figure that out, so I guess I oughta be right." He pauses. "You've got no idea how pissed I was after that, Hank."
Hank winces sheepishly, but in this blue, furry form of his, it just looks a little like he's snarling.
"I – it was like – I let myself like you, and I put myself out there, and you completely rejected me. Not only rejected me, but threw me away from you like I was poison. I don't handle rejection well, Hank," Alex explains, with astonishing honesty.
Hank nods. "I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't think that you liked me – I didn't think that you could. I didn't know you – had any feelings for me at all. Not until after you left, when Charles told me why you kissed me."
Alex's eyes widen. "He told you? Damn telepath," he grumbles, without any real malice. "Did he give you any bullshit about 'finding yourself'?"
Hank nodded. "How'd you know?"
Alex snickered. "He told me the same thing. Jesus, I think he might actually be smoking pot. The only time anyone wants to find themselves is when they're high."
Hank shakes his head with amusement. "The professor is not smoking marijuana, Alex."
"Whatever, tell yourself that," Alex says, with a shrug. "He was kind of right, actually. I think it was good for me to get away – really good. It was nice, just being alone with my brother. I was able to . . . really think about shit, you know? Like being in solitary, but so, so much better. But I missed being here with you guys. I especially missed you." Alex is looking at Hank with almost an air of shyness, but with a constant wariness, just as terrified of rejection as Hank is.
Hank smiles. "I missed you, too, Alex."
A slow grin breaks out on Alex's face. "Really?"
Hank shyly runs a hand through his thick blue hair. "Really."
"Hank," Alex says abruptly. "Now would be a good time to get over here and kiss me. If you want to."
Hank nervously begins to make his way around the table. "I want to," he says honestly. He stops about a foot from Alex, and then finally, he grabs his courage, steps forward again, and leans down to kiss Alex, who, even while sitting on the tall stool, is a lot shorter than him.
But Hank can't think about height differentials right now, not when he's kissing Alex. Alex is kissing back, his small, warm hands coming up to rest on Hank's cheek, cupping Hank's blue face. Hank kisses with as much skill as he can manage, but he's sure he's all eager and unsure, inexperienced and desperate – but then, Alex kind of is, too.
After a moment, Alex has to pull away to gulp in oxygen. He drops his hands from Hank's face and licks his lower lip, and Hank can't suppress a soft growl of want at the sight.
Alex grins. "Checking for blood," he explains. "See, I was careful. You didn't nick me this time."
Hank smiles back. "Good," he murmurs, leaning forward without a single thought and kissing Alex again.
After a few more moments of languid kissing (Hank officially decides that besides science, kissing is his utmost favorite pastime. At least, for now it is. He can think of several things that are probably equally as great as kissing, and they all involve Alex, and Alex's hot mouth and hot hands and equally hot body), Hank has to pull away and say, "Alex . . ."
"Hmm," Alex says, opening his eyes and looking up at Hank.
"Why do you want me?" Hank asks sheepishly. "I know it's not a trick this time, but – why?"
"Because I like you, that's why," the blond says. "I have for a little while now, ever since I apologized to you. You're smart, and you're nice, and – as corny as it sounds – you've got a really big fucking heart. You forgave me for being an asshole to you, and even though you're pretty badass now, you're still kind of clueless and nerdy. You're not scared of me, even though you've seen what I can do. And I'm not scared of you – you, your growling, or the way you look."
Hank pauses. "I'm not clueless," he mutters petulantly after a moment.
Alex laughs. "Yes, you are."
Hank smiles and rolls his eyes. "Who would have thought that you were capable of saying such nice things about me."
"Don't be an asshole about it," Alex says, scrunching up his nose rather adorably (in Hank's opinion). "I'm not a total jerk. I just act like one."
"Of course," Hank murmurs, and kisses Alex again. Once they part for air again, he smiles down at the other mutant.
"This might . . . take a while, Alex," he says honestly. "I know I still have . . . issues. I always will, probably."
"I've got problems, too, Hank," Alex says. "It's alright."
It's not quite alright yet, Hank thinks, but it will be. Someday.
They kiss again for a little while longer, and by the end of it, Alex's arms are twined around Hank's neck, and he's starting to look a little flushed. "You still have that cot in the corner, I see."
It takes Hank about ten whole seconds to catch on. "Alex, we're in the lab! It's inappropriate –"
Alex grins. "It's perfect. This is where all of this really started, isn't it?"
"Well, yes," Hank says after a moment, and then, with a smile, he leads Alex Summers, one-time bully and not-quite-complete-asshole, to the bed.
Lab, fur, and insomnia – 0. Hank and Alex – 1, and counting.
A/N: I could have gone all smutty, but I didn't want to. At least I didn't kill Alex this time! Anyway, thank you for reading. Reviews are very much appreciated.