A/N: Let me explain myself. I found this old unfilled prompt on the kink meme asking for a Hank/Alex Life as We Know It AU, where Hank and Alex were parents of adorablebabyginger!Sean. So this idea got stuck in my head, and this fic came out. It's based loosely on the plot of that movie (which my mom actually made me watch with her not too long ago XD). The title comes from a line in David Bowie's "Young Americans".
Warnings: language, AU (canon age fuckery!), baby!Sean, Hank and Alex being epically dumb about emotional things, heavily implied sex, Hank/Alex, Erik/Charles, Alex/Darwin, background Raven/Azazel, past Hank/Raven, mentions of past Alex/Lorna Dane. Lol, onesided Kitty/Hank?
Disclaimer: Sigh. You know the drill.
"Sean – Sean, that's Papa's ear."
Charles snickers lightly under his breath, then reaches for the child. "Oh, hand him over, Erik."
Alex raises an eyebrow at Erik. "Why does he pull on your ear?"
Erik hands the squirming child to his other father, then says with a shrug, "Maybe that's just how he likes to show affection."
"He does it because he's a baby. Or maybe he already knows that it annoys you to have your ears touched," Charles teases, grinning cheekily. "Erik's ears are ticklish."
"I kind of don't think that's it," Alex says with a smirk, leaning back in his chair. "Remember that party you guys had, what, last Christmas? He wasn't ticklish then, because you got drunk and started biting his ears and rubbing his –,"
Charles turns roughly the color of a tomato. "That's enough," he says hastily, covering his son's ears. "Young ears, Alex! Really!"
Alex rolls his eyes and snickers. "Sorry, man."
It's Erik's turn to smirk. "Wasn't that also the party where you ended up throwing up on Hank's shoes . . .?"
Alex's expression sobers immediately, and he glares at Erik. "You've got it backwards, Ear-Kink-Erik," he replies snarkily. "The nerd threw up on my shoes like a little baby lightweight."
Just then, there's the distant sound of a doorbell ringing. "I'll get it," Charles says, getting up from the table and heading off, carrying Sean on his hip.
Moments later, Charles returns with a tall, lanky young man following him. Erik seems to find the grimace that comes over Alex's face to be extremely comical, because he snickers under his breath and then exchanges a knowing little glance with Charles.
The other young man doesn't look at all pleased to see Alex, either. "Hi, Erik . . . Hello, Alex."
"'Sup, Bozo," Alex greets, leaning his chair back on two legs and giving Hank a dismissive nod.
Hank's lips quirk slightly, but he doesn't say anything – instead, he turns to Charles. "So – I came by early to see if you needed any help setting up for the party."
"That's why I'm here," Alex interjects. "So you're kind of unnecessary."
Hank glances back at Alex. "You don't seem to be doing anything but sitting around."
"O-kay," Charles says, before Alex has time to respond. "Hank, you can help me set up the food, if you'd like. Here, one of you take the baby –,"
"I'll hold him," Alex offers. Charles deposits the wiggling baby into Alex's lap, and then he and Hank leave the room, Hank muttering something under his breath as they go.
"I can't stand him," Alex says once Hank and Charles are out of earshot.
Erik rolls his eyes. "I'm well aware of that," he reminds the younger man. "Everyone who's ever been within twenty miles of you two at the same time is aware of that."
"It's a damn shame he's got such a pretty face," Alex grumbles, as Sean lets out a random baby-gurgle. "But he's such a – nerd. And an annoying one. With his stupid bowties and khaki slacks. Who wears khaki slacks anymore, anyway?"
"Charles does," Erik says reasonably. "People with real jobs, generally."
"You don't have a real job, and you wear khakis. And turtlenecks," Alex points out.
"Black turtlenecks are essentially the uniform for sculptors, remember?"
"Hmm, I must have missed the meeting where all artists decided on official uniforms."
"Who says you're an artist?"
Alex snorts, grabs a wax pear from the bowl of fake fruit on the table, and throws it at Erik's head (Erik dodges easily, of course). "Fuck you!"
Charles, with his insane bat-like hearing, shouts from somewhere in the huge house, "YOUNG EARS!"
Alex feels mildly freaked out by that. "How did he hear that?"
Erik shrugs. "Sometimes I feel like he can read minds or something . . ."
"I cannot stand him," Hank confides in Charles, after Charles yells across the house to Alex. Hank and Charles are currently finishing setting up the cupcakes into what Charles calls an "adorable little display".
"I know, I know," Charles sighs.
"He's just such a . . ." Hank searches for a non-vulgar word, and, finding none, he finishes, "a dick!"
"Shh!" Charles says, before remembering that there are no babies in the room. "Oh. Sorry."
"You know, I really don't think you should be so worried about Sean repeating those things yet," Hank says. "You guys don't swear a lot, and he's not talking much yet anyways."
Charles frowns. "I just don't want his next word to be a bad one, obviously. But anyway, back to Alex . . . you know, he's really not all that bad. Sean adores him."
"Only because Alex has the mind of a child himself. It's understandable that Sean is comfortable around his intellectual peers," Hank mutters. Ordinarily he doesn't say things like that about others, having been the victim of bullying enough times in his life to dislike trash-talking others (aloud, that is), but he knows that Charles understands. Charles understands almost everything, especially personal issues, since he spends so much time putting up with college students who are usually a bit more interested in social dalliances than genetics.
Charles barely suppresses a snicker. "Yes, well, Alex may be a bit . . . rude at times, but he can be quite funny, too. He and Erik have been best friends for a while, and Erik says he's a talented painter. I can't concur, because I've never actually seen his work, but –"
"I know, I know, you trust Erik's judgment implicitly," Hank says. "You trusted Erik's judgment when he thought Alex and I would be a good match, didn't you? And look how well that worked out, Charles!"
Charles sighs yet again and starts digging around in the cabinets for something. "We've apologized time and time again for that. But really, how were we to know that he'd show up an hour late?"
"Not just an hour late," Hank reminds, adjusting his glasses. "On a motorcycle. Arguing with some ex-girlfriend on the phone."
Charles winces. "He really couldn't help that last bit. Lorna was a bit obsessed with him. From what I've heard, she went a bit crazy after they broke up."
Hank rolls his eyes. "I just can't believe he used to date girls," he mutters. "Especially girls with green hair and . . . God knows what else."
"You used to date girls," Charles points out. "Well. A girl."
Hank winces. "Please don't remind me," he pleads. "Wait! I don't mean to offend . . ."
"I know, I know," Charles says reassuringly. "Trust me, I've heard all the details of the relationship and the break-up from my sister."
" . . . All of the details?" Hank inquires a little worriedly.
Charles nods. "All of them. The good, the bad, and the ugly ones. Especially the bad and ugly ones."
Charles gives Hank a quick, reassuring pat on the arm, and says, "The guests will be arriving soon, so I've got to go and get Sean into his party clothes. Do you think you can manage to avoid Alex for at least a few hours?"
Hank sighs. "I doubt it, but I'll try."
Mission: Avoid the Douchebag is initially a success, but halfway through the party, it abruptly fails. Thanks to the d-bag himself.
Hank is sitting in a chair that's been set up in the backyard next to a huge sculpture of Erik's – a giant metal tree. Hank's not an aficionado on sculptures – or really, art in general – but he can tell just by looking at this sculpture that Erik has talent, and a lot of it. He's sipping punch and looking up at it admiringly when an annoyingly familiar, "sexily" deep voice assaults his ears.
"Wassup, Doc," Alex Summers says. Hank lowers his gaze from the sculpture and finds Alex standing there, casually eating a baby carrot from the food table.
"Are you supposed to be Bugs Bunny?" Hank asks. "I'm afraid I don't get the joke."
"Are you supposed to be such a loser?" Alex retorts. "Because no one gets you."
"Another zinger," Hank mutters under his breath, his cheeks heating up.
"Sorry, what? Didn't quite catch that," Alex says. He's smirking, as though antagonizing and squabbling with Hank is the absolute highlight of his day.
"I said –," Hank starts in a low voice, before he's cut off by Charles, who comes into the yard singing and carrying a cake that looks to be at least as tall as he is. Erik hurries to help his husband with the cake before it (or Charles, or both) topples over.
Hank half-heartedly joins in with the singing of Happy Birthday, while Alex just stares at him, amused. The man (or, well, baby) of the hour, Sean, just looks around at everyone like he has absolutely no idea what's going on, but like he's loving every second of it.
When the singing is done, everyone crowds around to either get a slice of cake or watch the absolutely adorable spectacle that is Sean, stuffing his tiny face with a slice of cake and rubbing baby blue icing everywhere – on his clothes, on his face, into his short orange hair, and on anything he can reach. Hank stands, fully intending to escape Alex by getting in line for cake, but Alex inexplicably follows him.
Charles spots them, hurries over, and grabs both of them by an arm. "I want to get Sean's picture with both of his godfathers while he's eating cake," he says cheerfully. "It'll be adorable!" Hank's about to whine and say, eugh, don't remind me that I share a title with this guy, but then he reminds himself that he's twenty-five, not five, and just smiles and nods and allows himself to be dragged over to Sean's high chair.
Hank gets on one side of the baby and Alex gets on the other, both of them bending over slightly so that Erik can get them all in the picture. Hank's smiling awkwardly and hoping that the flash won't reflect off his glasses when he feels a warm, sticky little hand touch his cheek.
He turns slightly to look at Sean, and finds the child grinning broadly at him, having smeared blue icing and baby slobber all over Hank's cheek. Hank laughs, surprised, and Sean squeals exuberantly, and Alex laughs, too, and then beep, beep, flash!, Erik takes the picture.
Hank straightens up and takes the napkin that someone proffers, using it to get the sticky stuff off of his cheek. Alex is still grinning at him. "He got you good," Alex says, giving Sean an approving look. "Nice one, Seanie."
Charles beams at them. "See? You two can forget how much you hate each other for long enough to take a nice picture, at least. I'm proud of you!"
"Well, I'm proud of Sean," Erik says, plucking the baby up out of his high chair and squeezing him gently. "One year – he's growing so fast, isn't he, Charles –?"
Erik is cut off as his son reaches out and smears a handful of cake and icing all over his face. Everyone, even Erik, dissolves into laughter, and Charles reaches out to stroke the baby's orange hair affectionately and laughs, "That's my boy . . ."
A week later, Alex gets the call that changes everything.
Later, he won't even remember exactly what the woman on the other end of the line says. He'll only remember hanging up his cell phone and heading out, leaving behind everything of importance in his studio. Erik's studio is next door to his, and he makes a strange, half-choked noise as he runs past the closed door on his way out of the building. He yanks his keys out of his pocket and gets on his motorcycle. He won't remember the drive, either, but that doesn't really matter to him.
He hurries into the building to find Hank already there, sitting in a hard plastic chair with his head in his hands.
Alex dashes forward. "Sean – is he –?"
Hank lifts his head, and his cheeks and eyes are reddened from crying. "He's okay. He was with their babysitter, Kitty."
Alex feels weak in the knees, like at any moment he's going to hit the floor. He sinks into the chair next to Hank. "They're – Erik and Charles – Erik and Charles . . ."
"I know," Hank whispers. "Oh, God."
"Jesus fucking Christ," Alex says, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees and pressing a hand to his face. His brain still can't even fucking compute it, can't wrap his mind around the fact that they're gone.
Hank surprises Alex then – he rests a gentle arm over Alex's shoulders. Alex shudders, but not in disgust at Hank's touch, like he ordinarily might have. "They can't be dead . . . it's not . . . A car crash? But they were both so . . ."
"Some woman – I don't even remember her name – told me that it was a drunk driver," Hank whispers. He's crying again, but his voice is relatively easy to understand. Alex sounds like he's swallowing nails if he tries to talk when he's crying.
"Fucking bastard," Alex hisses, barely under control. He's half an inch from losing it. The only thing that's keeping him from getting up and punching a wall right now is Hank's arm around his shoulders, which makes no sense at all.
"I know," Hank says. "I know."
There's a moment of silence, while Hank wipes his tears on the sleeve of his free arm and Alex stares at the floor, thinking, dead. Dead. Dead.
"What about Sean?" Alex finally asks in a low, shaky voice. "Where is he?"
"CPS has to keep him for tonight," Hank responds. "They'll give him to – to us tomorrow. That's why they called us."
"Give him to us?" Alex repeats dumbly.
Hank nods. "We're – they listed us as guardians. Joint guardians. In the event of their . . ."
"Okay," Alex whispers, "okay." But this is not okay, nothing is okay right now. It doesn't even make sense, that Erik and Charles would trust their precious baby to them, of all people – even if they are "godfathers". But there's nothing else he can think to say right now but okay.
Hank gives him a squeeze and then removes his arm. Hank's the one who's been crying, yet he's acting like Alex is the one who ought to be comforted. Strangely, Alex doesn't mind being comforted too much.
"They're gone," Alex says after a moment. His brain is finally catching up, it's finally sinking in. They're gone.
"Gone," Hank echoes, voice hollow. "They're gone."
Erik's and Charles's joint funeral is probably the saddest thing Hank's ever seen.
Nearly everyone is weeping or has been weeping. Alex sits beside him, and after two days, he's finally broken down and is crying silently. Hank feels so emotionally overloaded that he's devoid of any more tears. He's spent the past two days dealing with a nearly-silent Alex and a squalling baby.
Right now, Sean is in a baby carrier at Hank's feet. He's sleeping soundly, unaware that his daddy and his papa are being eulogized right now. Oh, but he's noticed their absence. He cries more often than Hank's seen him cry in his full one year of existence, and it can take ages to quiet him when he really gets going. It doesn't help that both Hank and Alex are wrecks right now and that they've been forced to stay at the giant Xavier family mansion for the past two nights (their CPS case worker, Ms. MacTaggert, said that was best for Sean, though, and so they had stayed there. But staying there makes Hank feel as though Charles and Erik are just going to reappear, even though he knows they're not).
He spends most of the funeral watching Sean sleep. He's usually uncomfortable around babies – not because he doesn't know how to take care of them (he's a scientist – caring for an infant's general needs really isn't too difficult), but because he's always been too afraid of doing something wrong. Though he's been told that he's a fine, upstanding, responsible, and all-around nice guy, he's not generally a good . . . comforter. Alex, though, will just take Sean and wrap his arms completely around him, like a strong, warm cocoon, and rock him gently until he quiets. It still shocks him, seeing Alex hold a screaming baby like it's not even a big deal. When Sean cries, Hank tries to fix the issue and when there's no issue and Sean's just crying, he feels frustrated and confused and – oh, God, Charles, why did you pick us.
After the graveside service, everyone goes back to the mansion for a meal – Hank has no idea where all this food came from, but he suspects it has something to do with Charles's and Erik's female friends and coworkers, who've spent the majority of their time today crying and mother-hen-ing Alex, Hank, and the baby.
Sean wakes up and Hank feeds him some applesauce (the only thing he seems to want to eat) and then just sits on the couch in the parlor with Sean sitting beside him, kicking his chubby little legs and clutching a stuffed rabbit. After a while, Alex comes into the room.
Hank stares at him for a second, then goes back to looking at Sean, who's babbling to himself. This situation with Alex is incredibly awkward. It would be bad enough if Hank was entrusted with this child by himself, but he's stuck with having to make decisions with Alex, too? But, he has to admit that things with Alex haven't been as bad as they could be. Mostly, they're both too shaken by the loss of their best friends to argue. Or even talk to each other, really.
Alex sits down in a chair across from the couch. "We have to figure out what we're going to do with Sean," he says quietly.
Hank nods in agreement, and Alex continues, "There aren't many choices, really. Erik's an orphan, and if he has any other family, I never heard anything about them, which means that he probably didn't speak to them. And they're probably in Germany, anyways. But there's Charles's sister."
Hank shakes his head. "She'll be busy with a baby of her own soon, and she told me that she doesn't think she can take care of Sean, too," he says. It had been so odd at the funeral, seeing Raven in a somber navy blue dress, her belly swelling outwards like a soccer ball. She'd been accompanied by a guy with a heavy Russian accent and a bad sunburn, and had been crying so hard that she could barely be understood. From what Hank could gather, though, Raven lives in some kind of commune in California, with the Russian guy (Azazel), a Spaniard (someone she'd called Janos), a Hispanic stripper, and a handful of other people. "Besides, she lives in some kind of – hippie tent city or something. Erik and Charles probably wouldn't have . . . yeah." To be honest, he's surprised that Charles had never hopped a plane to California and forced his baby sister to come back to New York where he could keep an eye on her.
"Shit," Alex mutters. "Well, I don't think Charles has any living family besides her . . ."
Hank shook his head. "Nope." Maybe that's why they picked us in the first place, he thinks to himself. Neither Erik nor Charles had any responsible, close family members to really choose from. That's sad.
"You know what this means, don't you, Bozo?" Alex asks, and Hank winces. Here we go. "We don't have anyone to give him to."
"We could let CPS figure something out . . ."
Alex stares at him as though he's suggested that they sacrifice Sean to the ancient spirit gods. "We're not letting them put him into a foster home, Hank."
"He's so young, though," Hank says. "He's still a baby. Someone might adopt him."
"Or they might not," Alex points out. "Hank, do you really want to never see or hear about him ever again? Erik and Charles trusted us with him. We can't just give him to Child Protective Services."
Hank blinks, astonished. Something about the mention of foster care has suddenly animated Alex. Sean starts cooing louder next to Hank, and Hank almost absentmindedly reaches over and tugs the child into his lap.
Alex looks at Sean, then at Hank. "Look," he says, "I'm willing to take him off your hands if you want. I don't have the money, but Erik and Charles have got that covered for him, since Charles is – . . . was loaded. I can figure out what to do on my own. But I kind of get the feeling you want to keep him, too, Bozo. Even if you just want to do it for . . . Charles and Erik."
Hank is silent for a moment, thinking. Alex watches him, waiting for an answer. Finally, Hank says, "You know that if we're going to take care of him – for now – we'll probably have to live here."
Alex gestures around the room, but Hank can tell he means the mansion in general. "This house could hold a zillion of us."
"There's no such thing as a 'zillion'," Hank points out.
"Shut up, Bozo," Alex replies without missing a beat.
Hank almost smiles, which is bizarre, since this is Alex he's talking to. Alex, who insults him at every opportunity, who has a reputation for doing whatever he wants and being somewhat of a drunk, who spends all day in a studio painting things that he rarely ever lets anyone else see. "I can't believe I'm agreeing to do this," Hank murmurs, looking down at Sean, who's squirming, bored with the situation.
Alex stands up. "Come on, McCoy," he says. "We'd better go tell Raven that she won't have to adopt him. I think she'll be a little bit relieved."
"Probably," Hank agrees, standing up as well. Raven has never seemed like the mothering type, which makes it ten times more bizarre that she's going to have and keep a baby of her own. But hey, that's not really Hank's business. ". . . Will you tell Raven?"
Alex smirks at him. "Yeah, I heard things are still weird between you and her ever since you came out," he says. "How'd you get a girl like her in the first place? Because she's pretty, even if she is kinda weird."
Hank glares at him and adjusts his grip on Sean. "Are things still weird between you and that Lorna girl?" he retorts without thinking. If this were anyone else, he'd probably just take their teasing, but Alex seems to have the innate ability to annoy anyone he comes into contact with, especially Hank.
Alex groans. "God, don't mention her," he says. "It's been two years, why can't everyone just forget I dated her."
"She was a little crazy," Hank reminds as they head for the door. "But at least she doesn't call you twenty times a day anymore. You remember, I could hardly talk to you on that date for your phone ringing over and over."
Alex gives him a deadpan look. "Hank, don't be dumb. I'd already pissed you off by being an hour late. You didn't really want to talk to me on that date anyways."
Hank pauses. "Touche."
The next day, Hank and Alex have a meeting with the CPS caseworker, a surprisingly young and attractive but nevertheless dead-serious woman named Moira MacTaggert. They sit with her in the parlor, while Sean sits on the floor and plays with some toys.
She asks them questions about what they do, and seems particularly pleased with Hank's response – "I, uh, work at the university – in the science department. I have a PhD in biochemistry." – but is less happy with Alex's – "I'm an artist, but I work at a garage sometimes for cash."
After a rather thorough questioning about their backgrounds (during which Hank learns that Alex is an orphan, and spent nearly all of his formative years in foster homes, which sort of explains his obvious unease about CPS) and lifestyles (Alex neglects to mention his motorcycle and the weird hours he keeps), Ms. MacTaggert finally comes right out and asks it. "You are both gay, correct?"
Hank nods, and Alex says, "Yep."
She gives them both a searching look. "You two aren't involved, are you?"
They both say hastily, "No."
"Well, we did go on one blind date," Hank babbles. "But –,"
"But it sucked," Alex finishes.
"Because of him," Hank clarifies.
Alex gave him a look. "You're just trying to make me look bad," he said. "Alright, I'll admit it, I was kind of rude to him and I was late. But he's the one who got his panties in a wad over it and made the whole night go south."
"I did not. And I don't wear panties."
"It's a figure of speech, Bo— Hank. Although, you know what they say, the guilty dog barks –"
Ms. MacTaggert cuts them off. "Okay, okay, calm down!" she says, loudly enough that they stop bickering. On the floor, Sean giggles, as though something very funny has just transpired. "I'm glad you guys aren't involved, and in fact, I would strongly advise against it. Things could get awkward and unpleasant if you got together and you broke up or something, and it wouldn't be a good situation for Sean. Or for the two of you, either. But you two care about Sean, you seem to be responsible young men –" she glances at Alex in particular, and he fidgets with the zipper of his leather jacket, "– and obviously Mr. Xavier and Mr. Lehnsherr thought very highly of you."
Hank nods. "So . . . we can keep Sean?"
"There will need to be other meetings, of course," Moira says. "I'll have to monitor you for a while – just to make sure that things are working out and that you haven't changed your minds about doing this. But for now, he can stay with you two. If you two have any questions whatsoever, please call me – here's my card . . . oh, and I suggest you guys figure out a way to split your schedules or hire a nanny or something. The office will call to arrange another meeting for next month. But anyway, my business is done here for today."
"Okay," Alex says. "Thanks, Mrs. MacTaggert." He actually smiles at her, clearly hoping to make up for her not-so-great first impression of him. Hank has to admit, Alex's handsome face, when lit up with a rare, non-sarcastic smile, is rather hard to resist (though he would honestly rather die than admit that).
Ms. MacTaggert gives him a deadpan look and says, "You're welcome, Mr. Summers. Would one of you please walk me out? This place is like a castle."
"I'll walk you out," Alex volunteers.
"Thanks," she says. "Goodbye, Mr. McCoy."
"Goodbye, Ms. MacTaggert," Hank says, smiling awkwardly after her.
Alex returns from walking Moira out a few moments later. "Damn, I almost got lost myself," he says. "This house is so huge."
Hank nods in agreement, watching as Alex goes over and sits on the floor next to Sean, who smiles at the blond and burbles in baby talk. "We should probably hurry and set up a calendar or a schedule or something, so that one of us can always be with Sean. I don't think we'll need to hire a nanny – Erik and Charles already had that Kitty girl as their regular babysitter, so if we can figure out when we're both busy and whatnot . . ."
Alex nods and reaches out to chuck Sean's chin, making the baby giggle. "Alright, sure thing, Four-Eyes. Let's schedule everything together. Ooh, don't you just quiver with excitement at the very thought?"
"You are such a child."
"Well, you're a nerd. So deal with it and let's get a freaking calendar."
A month passes with relatively little incident. They fall into a bit of a routine, and divide up duties that involve Sean. They spend most of their time together snarking at each other (well, Alex snarks and mocks, Hank gets offended or irritated or both), but that's really nothing new.
Then comes one Friday when things get a little ugly.
Well, some things are the opposite of ugly, in Hank's opinion, because Alex is standing next to the calendar wearing a suit and tie. Granted, he'd seen Alex in a suit at the funeral, but he hadn't really been paying attention. Now, though, it's kind of hard to focus on anything other than Alex in that dapper gray suit. However, Hank really needs to focus on the argument they're currently having.
Alex taps the date on the calendar. "See? Look. Art show. It's my first ever show, Hank. I know I've told you at least three times that it was today. I can't bring him."
"But – but I have a meeting," Hank protests. "An important annual meeting – everyone's going to be there. We're going to discuss –"
"Well, you didn't write it on the – . . . oh. Science Department Annual Meeting," Alex says, brow knitting. "Well, call Kitty."
"I can't," Hank says. "Her family's on vacation this week, remember? One of us has to take him, and I can't take a one-year-old to a meeting full of my colleagues!"
"I can't sell shit if he's screaming and hollering in the gallery!" Alex argues, glaring at Hank. As if on cue, Sean lets out a shriek from his playpen in the other room, and Hank tenses – however, no crying follows it, so Hank assumes it's just one of the random, ear-splitting yells that Sean likes to let out at inopportune times.
"Fine," Hank sighs, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose to ward off a headache. "I'll take him. But if I get yelled at or something, I will – I will not be happy, that's for sure."
Alex grins triumphantly and then has the nerve to slap Hank on the arm as he passes by on his way out. "Thanks, Hank. Bye, Sean!" he shouts.
In response, Sean happily lets out another loud yell, and Hank sighs. "Here we go . . ."
Hank is already asleep at two o'clock in the morning when his phone starts ringing. He groans but sits up, fumbles on his glasses, picks up the phone, and checks the caller ID. The name 'Alex Summers' is flashing at him rather obnoxiously.
"Hello?" he says, voice thick with sleep. "Alex, what –?"
"Come open the door," Alex says. His voice is a little heavier than normal, but not from sleep, Hank can tell. "M'locked out, dunno where my key is."
"Oh, jeez," Hank sighs. "Alright, I'm coming." He hangs up with more viciousness than his phone probably deserves, but he figures, who wouldn't be annoyed at being woken up at nearly two A.M. by their inconsiderate brat of a parenting partner?
He heads downstairs, stumbling slightly on the stairs in his sleepy state. He flicks on the light in the foyer, then opens the door. Alex is leaning against the wall by the door, humming some song that Hank doesn't know.
"Where are your keys?" Hank queries, clearly annoyed, as he steps aside to let Alex come in. "Are you drunk? You do realize what time it is, don't you?"
"One question at a time, McCoy," Alex says, rolling his eyes. "My keys are . . . shit, I dunno, probably left 'em somewhere. I took a cab home, cuz I went out to celebrate . . . I'm a little bit tipsy, maybe."
"Sounds like you're more than a little tipsy," Hank says. He's still annoyed, but when Alex starts fumbling with his tie as though he's unsure of how to get it off, Hank takes pity on him and steps closer, bats the artist's hands aside, and unknots the tie for him. "Your show went well, then?"
Alex grins. "I sold three paintings."
Hank can't help but smile. "That's great," he says. ". . . You know, I've never even seen any of your work."
Hank could just be imagining things, but Alex's cheeks just might be turning a little pink. "I usually don't let people see what I'm working on," he says by way of explanation. "The painting has to be perfect. I've been working on those for . . . Jesus, I don't even know."
"Oh," Hank says, with a nod.
Alex shucks off his jacket and drops it on the floor carelessly. "How'd your Super Genius Convention go?"
"It wasn't a 'genius convention'," Hank says. "Just a meeting. It was marred a little bit by a screaming child."
Alex snorts. "That's Sean for you."
Hank sighs in agreement. "I tried to get one of the department secretaries who was there, Emma Frost, to watch him for me, but he started crying when I left and wouldn't stop, so she came in, handed him to me, said, 'Here's your rug-rat, McCoy', and walked off. So I spent the rest of the time trying to keep him quiet and explaining to everyone when and how I suddenly became a 'single father'."
Alex laughs. "Don't act like it was so bad. I bet everyone felt sorry for you." He starts messing with the buttons at the front of his shirt, so Hank helps him out again and swiftly unbuttons the shirt.
"Your fine motor skills are really off when you're drunk," Hank comments, as he automatically un-tucks the shirt from Alex's pants so that the blond can take it off. And then, Hank freezes.
He's helping Alex take his shirt off. He's essentially undressing Alex. And Alex is standing close to him, and he's wearing a tight white undershirt and he has really nice arms. As in, really great arms.
There's a moment of silence where Hank processes all of this and stares at Alex's muscular arms and broad shoulders. Alex just looks at Hank, watching his face with a cockily raised eyebrow.
"You have a tattoo," Hank states abruptly, because it's true, and because he'd never known before. It's just one word, Havok, written in neat, even print across Alex's upper right arm.
"You know it's, er . . . misspelled, don't you?" Hank questions a little hesitantly. He forces himself to stop staring at Alex's arms and chest and shoulders, because it's really innapropriate and he's enjoying it a little too much.
Alex smiles slightly. "Yeah, I know," he murmurs. "It's kind of an inside joke, maybe I'll tell you about it sometime . . . But I still need help right now." Alex reaches out, takes one of Hank's hands, and gently tugs, until the tips of Hank's long fingers brush the cool metal of Alex's belt buckle.
Hank stiffens slightly. Alex's eyes are a little darker, a little heavier than Hank remembers them being normally, and his lips are parted ever so slightly.
"Maybe I could make it up to you," Alex murmurs, "for waking you up and getting you out of bed . . . I know you were pissed when you came down here."
Hank gulps. He's not going to lie – he's an adult male with healthy testosterone levels. He's tempted. Just a little. But he's not tempted enough to do something with Alex, the guy who generally annoys the hell out of him. The guy who is also clearly drunker than he's willing to let on, if he's actually propositioning Hank right now.
"You're drunk," Hank mutters, moving his hand away from Alex's waist. "We – I – I think you can manage your pants. Or you can sleep in them."
Alex smirks rather sarcastically. "Your loss," he says, shaking his head. "I get it, though. That MacTaggert chick did tell us not to get involved. You fucking me would be a little involved."
Hank chokes a little at that. "Alex –,"
"No, I get it," Alex says, stepping away from Hank and walking around him. "Your loss, though, Bozo," he calls as he heads up the stairs, stumbling only a bit as he goes.
Hank is left standing in the foyer at two o'clock in the morning, mulling over the fact that he just willingly passed up sex with a slightly drunk, quite willing, attractive man. He's pretty sure he should have been able to forget the whole "I kind of don't like you, there's a sleeping child upstairs" situation for long enough to take advantage of that opportunity.
The next day, Alex doesn't mention what happened. He doesn't mention it the day after that, either, nor does he bring it up once in the two months that follow. He remembers it fairly well afterwards – not well enough to recall exactly what had been said, but enough to know that he had basically offered a quick lay to Hank and been rejected. He's not about to say, "Hey, I've been told I'm pretty good-looking. Why didn't you want to screw me?" He's also got too much of a reputation to uphold to say, "Yeah, so when I've been drinking I get horny, and you looked kind of sexy with your stupid nerdy-hipster glasses and your freaking 1960s button-up PJs and your bed-head. And you were also staring at me and taking my clothes off but still acting like your usual uptight dork self, which is why it makes no sense that I wanted to do anything with you in the first place."
But if Alex doesn't bring it up, Hank doesn't exactly seem to want to broach the subject either. So their routine from the first month resumes; they both work and take care of Sean. Alex spends his free time at his studio, and Hank spends his free time . . . working on more nerdy stuff for his work. They do start bathing and playing with Sean together, because for whatever reason, the baby seems to enjoy it when they interact with him together.
However, some duties they still handle separately, simply because of scheduling issues (since Hank spends way too much time at his job). Like, for instance, it falls to Alex to take Sean to the doctor for shots, which sucks because Alex is not good at dealing with doctors or anything like that. Sean he can handle with ease – but paperwork and medical talk are practically impossible for him to understand.
It does help, however, that Sean's pediatrician is young, handsome, suave, and judging by his left ring finger, unmarried, and judging by his flirting, interested.
Alex has been talking to (and shamelessly flirting with) Dr. Muñoz for nearly twenty minutes after Sean's vaccinations are through before he even remembers the time. "Oh, Jesus," Alex says, glancing at the clock. "I must be holding you up. I'm sorry."
"No, no, Sean was my last patient of the day," Dr. Muñoz says, with a warm smile that reveals all of his even, white teeth. "It's no problem, Mr. Summers."
Alex says automatically, "Oh, call me Alex."
Dr. Muñoz nods. "Then call me Armando. Wait . . . are you Alex Summers, the artist?"
Alex blinks, surprised. "Um, yeah, that's me."
Armando grins. "A friend of mine bought one of your paintings."
Alex can feel his cheeks reddening slightly. "Tell your friend I said thanks," he laughs. "Glad to know at least somebody knows my name." He glanced at the clock again. "Shit. I've gotta go, because if Hank gets home before I do, he'll probably flip and think something's wrong with the baby."
Armando suddenly looks slightly disappointed, and Alex thinks, yes. Totally interested. "Hank? Is that your . . . partner?" the doctor asks, his tone curious.
Alex shakes his head. "Oh, no," he says, "he's just Sean's other guardian. It's kind of a long story . . . but I'm single, actually."
Armando smiles. "Well, in that case," he says, "would you like to go out sometime?"
Alex blinks, surprised. Well, damn. Finally, someone who just comes right the hell out and asks. Alex grins. "Sure, Doc."
Hank should not be this preoccupied with what Alex is doing. It's kind of unhealthy, actually.
Sean is already tuckered out and in bed, sound asleep, and Hank should really be working or cleaning up Sean's toys or something, but here he is, sitting in the living room on the first floor, where he can see out the window when Alex comes home. He's at least trying to read, but he keeps glancing up every few minutes, looking for the familiar headlight of Alex's motorcycle.
It's 10:30 when Alex finally shows up. He walks through the foyer and heads past the open door to the living room, but pauses when he notices Hank sitting on the couch. "'Sup, Bozo. Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Hank rolls his eyes. "I don't have a bedtime," he mutters. "How did your date go?"
Alex smirks. "Pretty great. Darwin's really cool."
"Darwin?" Hank repeats, brow furrowing in confusion. "I thought Dr. Muñoz's first name was Armando."
"It is," Alex says. "But he told me all his friends call him Darwin. Some kind of childhood nickname. I think it's a cool name."
"So you guys are friends," Hank clarifies, turning his gaze back to the science journal in his lap but keeping his ears pricked for Alex's response.
"Well, for now we are," Alex says. "I guess once we have sex it'll be a bit more than that, won't it?"
Hank barely avoids choking on air at that. This is stupid, I do not care if he sleeps with Sean's pediatrician, he tells himself firmly.
"I would have gone back to his place tonight, but he told me he has to get up early tomorrow," Alex continues. "Because of the whole 'doctor' thing."
I'm technically a doctor, I'm just not a medical one, Hank wants to snap (which is entirely illogical, because he really doesn't care.) "Oh," he says. "Cool."
"'Cool'?" Alex repeats, and something in his surprised tone makes Hank look up from the article he's been fake-reading. "You never say 'cool' about anything. It's always some fancier word like 'spectacular' or 'wonderful' or something."
"So I'm not allowed to say something is cool?"
"No, you can say whatever you want, Bozo," Alex says, shrugging. "Anyway, how was the baby tonight?"
"Fine, of course," Hank replies. "I tried bribing him to walk all evening. It didn't work."
"He still just stands there and giggles at you?"
"Yes. I guess we'll just have to wait for him to start on his own."
"Guess so," Alex agrees. He pauses, then says to Hank, "Well, Bozo, I'm gonna go shower and go to bed. 'Night, I guess."
"Night," Hank echoes, as Alex turns and walks off.
Hank's twenty-sixth birthday falls a week later. He doesn't mention it to Alex, mostly because he's not one to beg for attention, but also because things have been a little awkward between the two of them ever since Alex's date with Darwin/Armando/Dr. Muñoz. (This awkwardness may just be entirely Hank's fault, but he'll never admit it.) Fortunately, Alex hasn't gone on a second date with Armando yet, but Hank doesn't know if he has plans to. (Not that he really cares.)
He comes in after work on his birthday to find Alex in the kitchen, feeding Sean an early dinner. Sean has food smeared all over his face, and Hank just smiles slightly and shakes his head at the sight. "Hey."
Alex turns, and then frowns when he sees Hank. "Hey, birthday boy."
Hank blinks. "How did you know . . .?"
"Your mother called and left a message," Alex says, rolling his eyes and pointing at the kitchen phone.
"Oh," Hank sighs.
"She said to tell you happy birthday," Alex says, "and she wants you to call her back. But anyway, you didn't tell me that it was today, Bozo."
Hank sighs at that infuriating nickname, and then says, "Alright, it's my birthday. What of it?"
Alex rolls his eyes again. "What kind of an asshole do you take me for? . . . Don't answer that. Anyway, I'm taking you out to celebrate, you dweeb."
Hank frowns. "Your idea of 'celebrating' is probably different from what I would find enjoyable, so –,"
Alex cuts him off. "Relax, I'm not going to take you to a bar or anything. Just to dinner, at your choice of restaurant. And don't worry about Sean, because I already called Kitty and she'll be here at 6:00."
Hank sighs, well aware that any argument he could make right now will be ignored. "Oh, alright."
"Okay, then. Now go change."
"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" Hank asks, miffed.
"The sweater-vest, Poindexter? Really? Wear a bowtie if you must, but take off the sweater-vest. And burn it."
"I'm not going to burn it."
"Do you want me to burn it?"
"God, I'm kidding. Just go change, Hank."
Kitty Pryde, the thirteen-year-old babysitter, arrives promptly at 6:00, and watches Hank and Alex get ready to leave while holding Sean on her bony hip.
"Have a nice night," she says, looking in particular at Hank, her smile a little too bright. "And happy birthday."
"Thank you, Kitty," Hank replies, smiling back. "If you need us –,"
"Call us," Alex cuts him off. "She knows the drill, Hank, Jesus. Later, Kitty."
Kitty waves at them, and Sean waves and burbles something as Hank and Alex head out the front door. They make it to the driveway, but instead of heading for Hank's car (which they both have to use when necessary, since Alex still hasn't bought a real car of his own, claiming that he doesn't have the money for it yet), Alex leads the way to his bike.
Hank stops dead. "Oh, no."
Alex turns to grin at him. "Don't be such a pu—,"
"I'm not a – a – I'm not," Hank stammers, shaking his head vigorously. "I'm not riding that thing."
"Please?" Alex says, jingling his keys. "I've got a helmet for you. And I'm a safe driver. I just want you to experience your first ever motorcycle ride, and your birthday is the perfect time to do it."
Did he really just say 'pretty please'? "Oh, God, fine," Hank caves, stomach fluttering with nerves, because while he trusts Alex (mostly), he doesn't trust the bike. He puts on the helmet that Alex gives him, a large black thing that makes him feel incredibly stupid-looking, and then gets onto the bike behind Alex.
It isn't as awkward as it should be, sitting chest-to-back with Alex with his arms wrapped tightly around Alex's narrow waist, but that's probably because Hank is terrified right now. But Alex is surprisingly kind about the whole thing, going more slowly than he normally does. Thankfully, it only takes about twenty minutes to get to Hank's favorite restaurant, so Hank's terror is fairly short-lived.
They make their way inside, and Alex inquires as soon as they're seated, "So what does this place serve, anyways?"
"Italian food," Hank says, tapping the words 'Ristorante Italiano' on the front of the menu.
"Well, I don't speak Italian, so how was I supposed to know," Alex says, giving Hank a pointed look. Hank ignores that and resists the urge to roll his eyes.
"You should try their chicken parmesan," Hank suggests. "It's really great."
"Does it involve tomatoes?"
"Yes. You don't like tomatoes?"
"I'm allergic, Hank."
" . . . Oh. I didn't know that."
"Yeah," Alex says. "So if you ever get sick of me calling you 'Bozo' and you want to do me in, slip some tomatoes into my food. My throat will swell right up."
That shouldn't be funny, but Hank can't help but laugh. "I'll keep that in mind," he says. He hesitates, and then asks, "Speaking of 'bozo' . . . why exactly do you call me that?" It's a question he's been meaning to ask for ages, but has never had the nerve to pose it.
Alex snorts. "Remember that disaster date we went on?" he queries. As if Hank could forget it. "Your nose was all red and swollen for some reason. You looked like a clown – so, you became Bozo. I noticed afterwards that you also have huge feet, so the nickname stuck."
Hank blushes. "Oh. I suppose that makes sense, then. I'm pretty sure by nose was red from me running into a door or something."
"You ran into a door?" Alex inquires. "Or is that code for somebody beat your ass?"
Hank laughs slightly, and shakes his head. "No, I really did run into a door. It hurt, badly, I think."
Alex rolled his eyes. "Klutzy Bozo," he mutters, but his tone sounds . . . vaguely affectionate. Which is weird, but to hell with it, Hank isn't going to complain about one of the rare times that Alex is completely and totally friendly with him.
The conversation progresses and flows smoothly from there, and by the time the waitress brings them their check, Hank's cheeks are pleasantly flushed from laughter. All in all, Hank's celebratory birthday dinner had been a success, and Hank had actually enjoyed it (and he hadn't even needed any alcohol to get fully comfortable around Alex first).
Hank reaches for the check, but Alex smacks his hand away. "Hey," the blond man says. "No. Your birthday, my treat."
Hank is abruptly grateful for the dim lighting in the restaurant, because while its purpose is to make things feel intimate, it works well to hide his blush. "No, really, Alex, I can pay for mine."
"No," Alex says firmly, shaking his head. "I've got it, Hank, really."
Hank smiles slightly. "Then I should have ordered something more expensive."
Alex laughs. "You wouldn't be that big of an ass."
"You're right, I wouldn't," Hank agrees, still smiling. "Thanks, Alex. I appreciate it."
"You're welcome," Alex says, with a nod. He pauses in the process of getting out his wallet, looking at Hank with a thoughtful expression.
"What?" Hank asks, cheeks heating up again under the scrutiny.
"We're going somewhere after this, okay?" Alex says, nodding.
"Uh, okay," Hank says, checking his watch. "But it's already just past 8:00 –,"
"Kitty doesn't have to be home until 10:00," Alex reminds. "Besides, it won't take too long to get to the place I have in mind."
Alex is admittedly a little nervous as he parks the bike in his usual spot. Hank's looking up at the building, one eyebrow quirked with curiosity.
"Isn't this where your studio is?"
"Yeah," Alex says. "It's the Arts building. It's all studios and galleries in there. Some old lady donated a bunch of money to somewhere or something, but only under the condition that this be built for artists in the community or whatever. Don't remember the old broad's name, but she's awesome."
Hank nods. "Are you going to show me your studio?"
"Duh," Alex replies sarcastically. "Now, come on."
Alex leads the way into the building, then up the stairs. He barely even winces anymore when he passes the studio that used to be Erik's – it still has the small placard up on the door, Erik Lehnsherr, but Hank pauses a moment to look at it.
"Is his stuff still in there?" the scientist asks quietly.
Alex shakes his head. "Don't think so. But no one's moved in yet, so they just left the sign up."
"Oh," Hank says, before he follows Alex to the door with the placard Alex Summers. Alex unlocks the door, then steps inside and flicks on the light.
Immediately, the familiar smell of paint assaults his nose, and Alex relaxes ever so slightly. This might be Hank's first time seeing the room where Alex paints, but for Alex, this drafty room is his true home.
Hank looks around the room, and then says, "It's nice."
"It looks like a tornado came through, I know," Alex says, gesturing to the paint bottles and brushes and cups and random stuff scattered about. "But it's organized in my way, y'know?"
Hank nods, then points to a painting hanging on the wall. "That's . . . excellent."
The painting is of Erik, as seen from the side, but with his face turned to the viewer. It's one of Alex's best. Alex bites his lip slightly.
"It just makes me feel like he can see what I'm working on, still," Alex says, feeling compelled to explain. "He was one of the few people I'd show my stuff to. I . . . trusted him. It's easier to show stuff to people when I trust them."
Hank pauses, then glances at Alex. "You trust me?"
"Yeah, I guess I do," Alex says. It's the honest to God truth; he wouldn't have brought Hank here if he didn't trust him with this. Art to Alex is personal, more personal than anything else, and at first he couldn't believe that he'd actually thought of bringing Hank here, but he now, suddenly, he feels that it was a good thing to do.
There's a moment of silence, and then Hank points at another canvas. "That one's . . . interesting."
The painting is of two boys, frozen in dramatic poses. One boy has big, red circles surrounding him, while the other appears to have lines of red shooting from his eyes. Alex smiles slightly. "It's of me and my brother. It's silly, but, uh, it's this game we used to play when we were kids. Little kids, before our parents died. We were superheroes. His name was Cyclops, and he had lasers that could shoot out of his eyes. I was Havok, and I could make big laser-circles like that."
Hank nods. "Havok. Like your tattoo."
"Yeah. After he found me, we got tattoos together. His says Cyclops. It's dumb, but . . . well, he's my brother."
Hank smiles. "I don't think it's dumb."
"Thank you," Alex says. He abruptly realizes that Hank is the first person who he's told the actual meaning of the tattoo to (besides, of course, his older brother). If anyone sees it and comments on it, he usually just cracks a joke about it being his gangster name.
Hank's cheeks turn pink and he lowers his gaze. "You're welcome. Thanks for bringing me here."
"No problem," Alex says. "Wanna head home and, I dunno, drink some wine or something? There's still a while of your birthday left, after all."
Alex doesn't actually expect Hank to agree to that, but he does, albeit blushingly.
"You know," Alex says once Hank's returned to the mansion after driving Kitty home, "that Kitty has a huge crush on you, right?"
"What?" Hank says laughingly, dropping his keys onto the kitchen table.
"She does," Alex says as he pours two glasses of wine (the good, expensive kind of red wine Charles appreciated.) "I'm pretty sure she's convinced that she can convert you to heterosexuality or something."
Hank blushes and rolls his eyes. "She's a kid, and literally half my age. That's creepy."
Alex snorts. "Try telling that to Kitty."
Hank takes a sip of wine and hums slightly as though he's appreciating the taste. "Is the baby in bed?"
Alex rolls his eyes. "Of course, Hank." He sets his wine glass on the counter, heads to the pantry, opens the door, and comes back with a store-bought red velvet cake. "Hell yeah, right?"
Hank sighs. "This is why I don't let you shop. You go out and buy cookies and cakes."
"Don't act so high and mighty, I catch you sneaking cookies all the time," Alex teases as he gets the cake out, retrieves a knife, and cuts two slices. "Wanna go watch TV or something?"
"Sure," Hank says, with a shrug.
So that's how, an hour later, Hank and Alex end up sitting on the couch in the library, watching a bunch of scary orange people fight with each other and dance on TV. They've polished off the bottle of wine, and under the influence, the insanity of the television show is positively hilarious. Alex isn't too drunk, but Hank, it turns out, is really a complete lightweight and titters at everything that's said when he's drunk.
In between bouts of laughter and television-related comments, the conversation gradually works its way back to their infamous "disaster date".
"Tell me," Alex says, "what you thought when I was an hour late."
"I thought," Hank replies, slurring his words slightly, "that you were a total dick for not calling or anything."
Alex laughs. "I was, I was. Sorry. I don't even remember why I was late, to be honest."
"Dick," Hank mutters, and Alex laughs again.
"What did you think when you first saw me?" Hank asks after a moment. "Did Charles and Erik . . . show you a picture or anything?"
"No," Alex responds. "Charles just told me you were tall, thin, and handsome."
"Handsome," Hank scoffs.
"You are handsome, you bozo," Alex says, frowning at him. "Don't beat yourself up so much. But anyway, I thought you looked . . . kind of adorable, to be honest. Don't tell anyone I said that, though. And I did think you were handsome, for the record."
"Thank you," Hank murmurs, reaching for his wine glass and frowning upon finding it empty. He leans back again with a sigh. He's slouched in the seat so that his leg and shoulder are resting against Alex's. Alex doesn't mind the contact, and in fact, he's leaning up against Hank, too.
"What did you think about me?" Alex asks, as onscreen an ad for KY Jelly plays. He's honestly curious. He wants to know what Hank thought, what Hank thinks, what makes Hank tick.
Hank sighs, gaze on the TV. "I thought you were sexy."
Alex blinks, surprised. "Sexy?"
"Yeah," the normally prim and proper brunet says. "Sexy. With your mussed-up hair and that leather jacket and your . . . swagger."
Alex laughs at that, but quietly, for once not wanting to offend Hank. "You trying to make me blush, Hank?"
"No," Hank says. "I'm being serious. If you hadn't been such a dick, I would have . . ."
Alex pauses, waiting for Hank to finish, but the other man trails off, his cheeks reddening.
"You would have what?" the younger man prompts, voice softening.
Hank's deep blue eyes meet Alex's own, and the brunet is silent for a moment, before he murmurs, "I would have probably . . . fucked you."
Alex isn't fully sure what exactly makes him kiss Hank then. Maybe it's the heady look in those sapphire eyes, or the rare dirty word coming from Hank, or maybe it's the way those full pink lips are tinged red from cake and wine, or maybe it's because he's finally found out that, on some level at least, Hank McCoy is attracted to him. But kiss Hank he does, leaning forward so that his lips gently brush the scientist's.
Hank is still for a second, his lips warm and immobile against Alex's, but then he abruptly responds, kissing back with more skill than Alex would have expected from a nerdy and drunken biochemist. One second, Hank is merely kissing back, and then the next thing Alex knows, Hank's tongue is coming out to play, and okay, that's definitely not bad at all.
Alex may be drunker than he thought he was, because he feels warm and hungry, and holy shit, we're officially making out right now, he thinks, amazed. Hank shifts so that he's even closer to Alex, turning towards him so that their knees press together a little uncomfortably, but Alex doesn't really mind, because after some more kissing, Hank starts mouthing eagerly at his neck, breathing heavily and even licking at Alex's adam's apple.
"Jesus," Alex gasps, head tipping back. "McCoy – where'd you learn to make out like this –?"
Hank doesn't answer, just kisses the mole on Alex's neck. Alex grunts, low in his throat, and pulls Hank's face up so that they can kiss again. Alex gives everything he's got, eager for more kisses, suddenly eager to get as much of Hank as he can get while it's being offered. He moves so that he's essentially in Hank's lap, wrapping his arms around Hank's shoulders. He's never before experienced such a sudden want. Or, maybe, the want has been there all along, but it's taken the press of Hank's sweet lips against his own to awaken it.
"Alex," Hank breathes against his mouth. Alex pulls back ever so slightly, worried, but then one of Hank's hands is on his ass, and the other is sliding up to cup his cheek and bring him back in.
"Yeah, Hank," he murmurs against Hank's lips, as all doubt flies out the window. "Yeah . . ."
Hank wakes up the next morning feeling groggy and generally disgusting. He spends a few moments just lying there, eyes shut, breathing slowly and trying to get his brain to function properly. He opens his eyes and notes that his glasses are off, and spends the next several minutes clumsily feeling around until he finds them on a nearby table and fumbles them on.
Now that he's not practically blind, he can tell that he's on the small couch in the library. He's also stark naked, but a blanket has mysteriously appeared over him.
"Oh, God," he moans, before noticing his underwear and pants tangled together on the floor by the couch. He gets up long enough to tug them on and then sits back down on the couch to mull over just what the hell he did last night.
I slept with Alex last night.
This is not good, in Hank's opinion. For one thing, Hank doesn't get drunk and have sloppy sex on a couch, ever. And he certainly shouldn't have had sex with Alex, the jerk who may or may not have taken advantage of Hank's inebriation. (Okay, so Alex probably didn't do that. Hank's pretty sure he was more than willing. In fact, he doesn't really remember who initiated things in the first place, he just remembers kissing and then . . . well.)
This is my fault, Hank groans internally. I shouldn't have gone to dinner with him in the first place. He made me feel all comfortable with him and then I actually got drunk, which was so dumb, and now God only knows how awkward things are going to be. Ms. MacTaggert warned us not to do something like this . . .
Just then, a knock on the library door interrupts his thoughts. "Hank? Are you . . . dressed?"
It's Alex, of course. "Uh," Hank stammers, tugging the blanket up to hide his bare chest, which is pointless because it's not like Alex hasn't seen him fully naked now, and plus, his chest isn't even one of his least favorite body parts. "Um, yes."
The door opens, and Alex steps in. He's already in a fresh outfit and is holding Sean on his hip. The child is already dressed for the day as well. Hank glances at his watch quickly – it's nearly 10:30, the latest he's slept in ages. Thank God it's a Saturday, so no work, at least.
"Morning," Alex says, smirking slightly. Hank's cheeks flame, and he mutters an awkward 'good morning' in response.
"So, I know you're probably feeling kind of crappy," Alex says, "but you've got to go shower and change. And do it fast."
"Why . . .?" Hank says, confused.
"Because the caseworker's going to be here soon," Alex says. "Monthly check-up . . . I would have totally forgotten, too, if I hadn't seen it on the calendar."
"Oh, God," Hank says, jumping up and dropping the blanket. He hurries toward the door, fully intending to run upstairs and leap into the shower, but he pauses for a second, having abruptly noticed something.
"Alex," he says, "your neck."
Alex blinks, confused. "What?"
"You're – . . . you've got two hickeys."
Alex rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I noticed them earlier. You ravished my neck like some kind of animal."
Hank shakes his head, forcing himself not to respond to that. ". . . Shouldn't you hide them?"
"Hide them? I'm not a sixteen-year-old girl, I don't exactly have any cover-up."
"Wear a scarf," Hank suggests.
"But I don't own any scarves!" Alex groans. "God, Hank, just go get in the shower!"
By the time Hank's gotten a quick shower, changed clothes, and slurped down a scalding hot cup of coffee, Moira MacTaggert is ringing the doorbell. Hank waits with Sean in the parlor (which is never used except during these monthly meetings) while Alex goes and gets the door.
Moira comes in and offers the standard greetings. Sean smiles adorably at the sight of her, as though trying to butter her up for the sake of his caregivers.
Hank's all prepared to just act normal, but he should have known better than to think he could get anything past this sharp-eyed social worker. She stares at Alex's neck for a few seconds (he's popped the collar of his shirt, but that just draws more attention to his neck as opposed to hiding the purple bruises). Something in Hank's expression must give away his guilt in the matter, because she abruptly sighs, "Oh, Lord."
"What?" Alex says.
Moira sighs. "Could you two be any more obvious? You have two bite marks on your neck, and you look so uncomfortable right now that you look constipated."
Alex gives Hank a sideways look. "Your poker face sucks."
Hank looks away, sheepish. "I, uh . . ."
Alex sighs. "Okay, we did it. We were drunk and it just happened."
Ms. MacTaggert shakes her head. "But if it can happen once, it can happen again. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what can happen when two people start having sex. Eventually, there will be feelings involved."
"No, there won't," Hank says quickly, shaking his head. "No feelings. And it won't happen again. Ever again."
Hank can feel Alex's eyes on him, but he forces himself to not look sideways and meet his gaze. Moira looks back and forth between the two of them. "Are you sure?" she inquires. "Because you guys have to be serious about this. You need to either get together . . . or don't. And if you get together, stay together. Anything else will just turn out badly for everyone involved, especially for Sean."
"We understand," Hank says, with a nod. She's right. Of course she's right.
"Yeah," Alex says, voice flat and toneless. "We read you loud and clear."
Ms. MacTaggert nods. "Alright," she says, although she doesn't look quite convinced. "So anyway . . ."
The rest of the meeting, their second to last, doesn't take too long. Hank glances sideways at Alex once or twice, but Alex seems to be refusing to look at him. Moira leaves without bringing up the awkward situation again, which is, in Hank's opinion, merciful of her.
After she's gone, Alex and Hank just sit there for a moment, both silent. Alex is just watching Sean (who's toddling around the room entertaining himself), and is still refusing to look at Hank. Hank just doesn't know what to say, or even if he should say anything at all.
Finally, Alex says, "Hank."
"Is that how you really feel?" Alex questions, his tone blank. "What you said to her, I mean. Is that how you feel?"
Hank bites his lip. "Why are you asking?"
"Don't answer a fucking question with another question."
Alex looks sideways at him, pauses, and then finally asks, "Do you even care how I feel about it?"
Hank blinks. "I just – I assumed that you felt the same way."
"Yeah, well," Alex says, looking away, "maybe you shouldn't make assumptions."
Hank frowns, utterly perplexed. "But – Alex – did last night . . . make you feel . . . differently? I mean, we're barely even . . ."
Alex's expression hardens even more. Across the room, Sean has stopped babbling to himself and is watching them and frowning, as though he understands what's going on (although of course he doesn't). "No," Alex says. "Of course not. Don't be fucking ridiculous. I'm just me, I don't ever feel anything. That's what you think of me, right?"
"What has gotten into you?" Hank asks. "Alex – we aren't . . . like that. We . . . last night was a mistake. I thought that you thought so, too."
"I know you enjoyed it, Hank. Don't say you didn't."
Hank looks away. "That's not what I said. I meant that it shouldn't have happened, because now it's made everything – awkward . . . and . . ." He falters, unsure of what else to say, and, frankly, worried by the closed-off look on Alex's face. God, they really should have taught a class at Harvard on how to deal with confrontations like this.
Alex stands up and heads for the door. "Alright. Whatever, McCoy." Sean whimpers as he watches Alex leave, then turns to Hank. Hank, urged by some instinct he didn't know he'd grown to possess, extends his arms to the little boy, and Sean crawls over. Hank sits there and cradles Sean to his chest for a long time, mulling things over. However, no amount of deep thought seems to be able to provide him with a simple solution for this particular problem.
It's only later when he walks past the kitchen and hears Alex on the phone ("Hey, Armando . . . yeah, sorry it took me so long to call you, I got, uh, busy – no, the other night was great . . . I just wanted to know if you're free . . .") that he realizes there might not be a clear way to fix this at all.
Almost two months later, Hank is possibly on his way to losing it. So, he does the only thing he can think of – he seeks out some advice.
He doesn't want to call Raven at first (she's a great person and all, but he had kind of broken up with her by dropping the 'I'm gay' bomb, and he doesn't really know if she harbors any animosity towards him for it), and in fact, he doesn't even have her number saved in his phone contacts any more. But then he happens upon her name and number written in Charles's neat handwriting in the address book by the kitchen phone. He's dialing the number before he even thinks about it.
The phone rings several times, leading Hank to wonder how current the number is (Charles has been gone for six months now, and who knows if Raven even has a phone anymore, if she's still living in that commune she mentioned). But finally, someone picks up.
"Hello?" Raven answers. Her voice quivers slightly.
"Raven?" Hank says hesitantly. "It's – uh – it's Hank McCoy."
"Oh," she says, with a soft, shaky sigh. "I – I still have the phone number saved as Charles's home number, so when that came up on the caller ID . . ."
Hank hadn't even thought of that, but he can imagine the jolt she probably got from seeing that number pop up. "I'm so sorry," he says quickly. "I didn't mean to . . ."
"It's okay, Hank," Raven says. She sounds bone tired, and all of a sudden, Hank hears the wailing of a baby on the other end of the line.
"Oh, right!" Hank says, horrified that he'd forgotten. "You had your baby!"
"Yeah," Raven says, distracted. "Hold on a sec, Hank – AZAZEL! A little help here, please? I'm on the phone!"
Hank hears some muted talking, then the crying of the child fades out and Raven speaks again. "Sorry about that," she sighs. "Azazel's a good dad, but I swear to God, if I don't pay attention to him for two seconds, I look up and he's off doing something else. It's like he just vanishes sometimes."
Azazel – wasn't that the scary Russian that Raven had brought with her to the funeral? "How's the baby?" Hank asks, both out of curiosity and to be polite.
"He's great," Raven says, with a slightly dreamy tone to her voice at the thought of her baby. "His name's Kurt. He looks more like Azazel than me, but oh, well. Do you remember Azazel? He came with me to – um . . ."
Please don't start crying, please don't start crying. "I remember him," Hank says quickly.
There's a brief pause, and then Raven, who seems to have collected herself, says, "Uh, so . . . how're things in boring old Westchester, then? How's Sean?"
"He's good, he's good," Hank says. "He started walking not too long ago."
"That's great," Raven replies, and he can hear the smile in her voice. "He's such a cute kid. I hope I make it back to New York to see him again soon." She hesitates, and then asks, "I don't mean to be rude, Hank, but – what's with the sudden call?"
Now Hank doesn't know what to say. 'I just really need someone to vent to about personal problems, and the only friends I have are all socially-awkward nerds like me, so I called you, even though you're my ex-girlfriend and you live across the country now, because you're the only person I know who might know how to deal with guy-issues' just doesn't sound too great. "I . . . uh . . . I just wanted to catch up, that's all. I hope I'm not bothering you."
"No, Hank, you're not," she says. "Is something wrong?"
Hank bites his lip. "Um, kind of. Things aren't . . . so good here right now."
"Well, spit it out, Hank. What's up?"
Good old Raven. "I – it's just – it's Alex."
"Let me guess, he's every bit the jerk I thought he was when I first met him?"
Hank winces slightly. "He's not so bad," he says. "It's just – um . . ."
"Hank, really, you can just say it. I'm not going to judge."
Hank is kind of glad he can't see Raven's expression right now, because he's embarrassed enough as it is. "Ihadsexwithhim."
"You had sex with him?" There's a brief, slightly awkward pause. "What's the big deal, though? Did it really suck or something?"
"No," Hank admits. For a moment he's not sure how to explain, but then suddenly, everything comes out in a rush. "But it happened about two months ago, and, uh, we got drunk and then we did it. Before we weren't even great friends or anything, because he's just so – snarky and antagonistic all the time. But things were okay, I guess. But then we had sex and our caseworker figured it out and told us to either commit to a relationship or never do it again, and I said we wouldn't because I knew that it would never work, but he felt differently about it and I didn't understand, and now . . ."
"Now what?" Raven prompts.
"Now everything's weird," Hank sighs. "I just – Alex doesn't even talk to me anymore. I mean, we talk, but only about stuff that's related to Sean or the house or bills. And we don't do anything together anymore, ever – he usually takes care of the baby during the day if he's not busy, and I do it at night and on the weekends, and when I've got Sean he just leaves to either go to his studio or go see his boyfriend –,"
"You sound like you're divorced," Raven says frankly. "You're divorced, but you're still living in the same house and taking care of your kid. Well, technically, someone else's kid that you're now responsible for."
Hank doesn't want to admit to Raven that Sean's grown to love Alex and Hank as his parents. It might upset her, and he doesn't want that. "We can't be divorced if we were never together, though," Hank points out. "But – I miss him, Raven."
"You miss him?" she asks. "How? What do you miss?"
"I miss – oh, I don't know. I miss him bugging me and calling me names and being an idiot in general, which is ironic, I know, since I used to hate the way he treated me – but at least back then he was talking to me on a regular basis. I miss eating breakfast and dinner with him and I miss giving Sean baths with him . . . and it's just so ridiculous, but the other night, he fell asleep on the couch in the living room, and I just stood in the doorway and watched him for a few minutes, and I just felt like . . . holding him. And kissing him is all I think about sometimes."
Raven pauses, and then says, "It sounds like you might love him."
Hank bites his lower lip, hard. "But I – I can't be in love with him. It makes no sense."
"Of course it doesn't," Raven says. "But, Hank, think about it. You'd willingly put up with all his crap and shortcomings. It upsets you that he won't spend time with you. You want to be around him. And all the other stuff you said – it sounds kind of like love to me. I mean, I love Azazel like that, even though I still want to smack him sometimes. Hell, I used to feel similarly about you."
"Don't say that, please," Hank moaned. "Even if you did love me, we broke up!"
"Because you're gay and I'm female, Hank," Raven points out, in the tone one would use for someone who is especially slow on the uptake. "But Alex is kind of in your target demographic, isn't he?"
. . . She has a point there.
"So if I've possibly fallen in love with him . . . what do I do?" Hank asks softly. "He has a boyfriend now."
"How serious is it?"
"Serious enough that he spends the night a lot," Hank mutters. He tries very hard to ignore the sudden spike of pure jealousy that statement inspires in him. "Alex is with him all the time. Either with him or at his studio, at least."
"Well, if they've only been dating for, what, two months – I wouldn't worry too much. Just make your move and Mr. Boyfriend will be old news."
"But what if 'my move' doesn't work?" Hank asks. "What if he doesn't actually feel anything for me at all, and he just hates me now?"
"Then you can always move out of the house and wait for them to break up," Raven suggests. "Maybe if you do that, he'll figure out that you're the guy he needs to be with. But, Hank – for God's sakes, just man up and do something."
Hank nods, before remembering that Raven can't see a nod over the phone. "Okay. Thanks so much, Raven."
"You're welcome. Oh, and Hank? If you need to talk again, feel free to call me."
Hank pauses, smiling ever so slightly to himself. It's nice to have a friend, even if they have a weird past together. Plus, he kind of gets the feeling that things with Alex aren't over yet. "Okay. Will do, Raven."
The next evening, Alex is alone at his studio, staring at a blank canvas and feeling utterly annoyed with life in general.
Stupid paint. Stupid brush. Stupid white canvas. Stupid Hank for just being stupid Hank. Not stupid Sean, he didn't do anything. Even stupid Darwin, for not inspiring my creative juices.
"Creative juices," Alex mutters, taking a paintbrush, dipping it into the green paint, and flicking it at the canvas. "Fuck creative juices."
He starts aimlessly spattering paint around until he's succeeded in coming up with something that looks like a painting Sean could have made. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!"
Knock, knock. " . . . Alex?"
"Shit," the artist swears again, dropping his brush and whirling around to face the door. After a moment of standing there and staring at the door, he hurries forward to open it.
Hank is standing in the hallway, looking nervous and holding a certain squirming orange-haired child in his arms. Alex couldn't have been more surprised if Jesus and Elvis Presley had been standing there instead.
" . . . What?" he says slowly. Even he is aware of how wary his tone is, but he can't really help it. Things with Hank haven't been good in a while now. Which sucks, a lot, but Alex honestly isn't sure what to do or say. His lack of experience with functional relationships combined with his upbringing in the unstable foster care system have screwed him over when it comes to handling issues with other people. Plus, Hank being – Hank doesn't help matters.
"I just – um – are you okay?" Hank inquires. "I heard you cursing, and you've got paint all over you . . ."
"I always have some paint on me," Alex points out. So he may have gotten a little enthusiastic with his paint flinging – but he damn sure doesn't want to admit that he's been pitching a hissy fit because he's hit a bit of an artistic road block in the past several weeks. Everything that he's tried to paint lately has come out looking terrible, or just hasn't come out at all.
Hank bites his lower lip, an action which Alex thinks is a little bit adorable. Sean starts wriggling in his arms again, and begins grabbing for his glasses (his favorite pastime when he's around Hank is trying to snatch them off Hank's face – he seems to find it very amusing). Hank dodges the boy's tiny hands, and Alex bites back a smile. It's little things like that, Hank biting his lip or Sean messing with Hank, that make Alex feel "warm and fuzzy on the inside". It's such clichéd, girly bullshit to Alex, but it's true.
"Well?" Alex prompts after a moment. "Did you have a reason for coming here and interrupting me?"
"I just wanted to see if, um – you wanted to go out to dinner," Hank says, his pale cheeks turning pink. "I tried calling, but your phone's probably off or something."
Hank knows him too well – his phone is off, as usual. But it's shocking that Hank got the nerve to come ask face-to-face. Alex just blinks at him for several seconds, surprised. ". . . You want me to go to dinner with you?"
"Uh, yes," Hank stammers. "I figured we could all, um, go somewhere and you and I could, um, talk . . ."
Talk about what? Alex wants to ask. How fucking weird things are between us? Or maybe we'll talk about how we could almost pass for a family together – you, me, and our baby. Yeah, right.
"Uh," Alex says slowly, "well. Thanks for the offer. But I'm going out with 'Mando tonight."
Hank pauses. " . . . Oh."
"And I'm staying over afterwards," Alex adds, just in case Hank's about to suggest that they 'talk' after his date with Darwin. Hank's jaw tenses, as though he's biting down hard on his back teeth, and Alex's first thought is, is he jealous? For a second he's absolutely hopeful, and then his inner skeptic reminds, if Hank's jealous of anything, he's jealous of the fact that I'm getting sex on a regular basis while he clearly isn't.
"Okay," Hank says quietly. "Alright, then. Sorry I bothered you." He glances at Sean and says out of habit, "Say bye-bye, Sean."
Sean waves, then reaches for Alex. "Kiss."
Alex steps closer to Hank in order to kiss Sean's chubby cheek. "Bye-bye," he murmurs, forcing himself to smile at the child, who smiles and coos back at him.
For a moment after that, Alex and Hank just look at each other. Hank seems to have forgotten that he's supposed to be leaving, and Alex doesn't exactly want to slam the door in his face (or maybe he does – he isn't quite sure, to be honest. Why the hell does Hank confuse him so much?) For several seconds, Hank just looks at him, as though thinking hard about something.
Alex wants to kiss him so badly, but he can't and he won't. Hank abruptly bites his bottom lip, and then carefully says, "I think I'm going to move out."
. . . the fuck?
"What?" Alex says, flabbergasted. "Move out? Why?"
Hank looks away. "I just – think it's best," he says. "We've been in an uncomfortable situation ever since – erm, well."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Alex sputters. "You can't move out. What about Sean?"
"Sean will be fine," Hank says. "He can stay with me during the weekends and whenever you're busy, and he can stay with you at the house during the week. Things are already like that anyways, Alex, we've just been living together in that gigantic house while we've been doing it."
Alex stares at him, shocked and upset. Something very much like hurt is running through him, and he's clenching his fists and teeth in anger. He could slap the shit out of Hank right now, but he won't – he could never hit Hank, not ever– because there's the matter of Sean to think about.
Sean – sweet, wonderful, adorable Sean, who Alex loves as though Sean had been his son all along. If Hank isn't happy, how can Sean be happy? Sean loves Hank just like he loves Alex. Hell, Alex loves Hank too much to let him stay in a situation where he's uncomfortable.
No. I did not just think that.
"Fine," Alex says flatly. "I don't care if you want to move out."
Hank stares at him, hurt, and Alex wants to eat his words almost immediately. I care. I care, I do.
But Hank doesn't give him a chance. "Alright," he murmurs. "I'll be out soon, then. Bye, Alex."
Hank turns and calmly, too calmly, walks away. Sean waves goodbye to Alex again, peeking over Hank's shoulder, but Alex can't bring himself to smile and return the gesture right now. Instead, he steps back into the studio and closes the door very slowly, letting it click shut.
Then, he goes over to his easel and kicks it, hard, knocking it over with a crash. "Fuck," he mutters. "Fuck, Hank. Just fuck."
"Darwin – have you seen my phone?"
"No, I haven't."
"Well, shit. I heard it beep, but I can't – Sean."
The culprit in the case of the missing phone looks up with a giggle and a broad smile. He's got Alex's phone clutched in both small hands. As soon as he sees Alex coming, he takes off, moving as fast as he can on his chubby, wobbly little legs. Alex catches him easily, and scoops him up. The child laughs uproariously and tries to escape, but Alex just grins and says, "Uh-uh. Got you!"
As soon as he gets his phone away from the little one, Alex sets him back down on the floor to go back to playing. He's got a text, and winces reflexively at the name on the ID.
"What is it?" Armando asks curiously from his position on the couch.
"Message from Hank," Alex replies, mastering his expression. Every time he even thinks of Hank, Alex feels that uncomfortable pang of callhimtalktohimImisshim. But that feeling is nothing compared to what he feels when he actually has to see Hank – he can barely even speak when he's around the biochemist now. How fucking ironic, because he's never, ever had a problem saying stupid shit around Hank before, but now he doesn't know what to say at all.
You can bring Sean over now.
Alex checks the time and replies, did you just get off work? it's late.
Yeah. I'm sorry if I inconvenienced you. Do you need me to come pick him up?
Alex shakes his head. Only Hank would use a word like 'inconvenienced' in a text message. no. i finally got a car, remember?
Yes, I know. Just checking.
Alex sighs and puts his phone back into his pocket, where it's safe from the grabby hands of a certain child. "I've got to take Sean to Hank's now," he explains to his boyfriend with a sigh. "Be back soon."
The pediatrician nods understandingly, though he's giving Alex a bit of a weird look as he does so. "Alright, then. Bye, Sean!"
Sean waves cheerfully, and Alex quickly gathers the things that he'll need, then heads out. His new car isn't much, but once he stopped having access to Hank's car, he pretty much had to get one if he planned on ever getting anywhere with Sean in tow.
It's not far from Armando's apartment to Hank's new place, so it's barely fifteen minutes later that Alex is parking and getting Sean out of his car seat. He heads up to Hank's apartment and knocks. Seconds later, the door opens, and he's face to face with Hank.
"Hi," he blurts instinctively.
"Hello," Hank replies automatically. At the sight of Hank, Sean lets out a squeal of happiness and Alex immediately hands him over. Hank hugs the child tight and kisses both of his cheeks.
"I missed you," Hank tells Sean, smiling at him. Alex watches this for a moment, trying to bite back a smile of his own.
"Here's his usual stuff," Alex says, holding up a small knapsack. They've only done this exchange four times – it's been a month since Hank moved out of the mansion – but already Sean has a set group of items that he brings with him to Hank's. Alex finds this rather depressing.
Hank takes the knapsack and sets it down just inside the door, in the foyer. From what Alex can see of the apartment, it's small and plain and a little boring. Hank clearly hasn't done any decorating of any kind, though Alex isn't surprised – from what he can tell about Hank's week-day life now, the scientist spends nearly all of his time working. He looks tired, pale, and a little depressed, and it makes Alex's heart hurt.
"Are you okay?" Alex asks, before he has time to stop himself.
Hank looks rather surprised. "Of course," he says, still hugging Sean to his chest. "I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
"You just look tired," Alex says, looking away. "I – never mind. Anyway, see you Sunday night. Bye, Sean."
Sean waves goodbye, and Alex walks off quickly, before he has time to do any other stupid things, like maybe ask Hank how his day has been or beg Hank to move back to the mansion.
When he gets back to Darwin's house, the man is still sitting on the couch, flipping through a magazine. He looks up when Alex enters and smiles warmly. Alex forces half a smile back.
"How's Hank?" Darwin inquires.
"Fine, I guess," Alex says, with a heavy sigh as he sits down next to Darwin on the couch.
The other man frowns. "Did he say something to you?" he asks. "You seem . . . I don't know. Not exactly happy."
"I'm not happy," Alex mutters truthfully. "I just . . . worry about Hank sometimes. Which I shouldn't, because obviously he can take care of himself."
"Obviously," Armando agrees, nodding. "Are you sure you're not just worried about Sean?"
"I'm sure," Alex says. "I trust Hank with him completely."
"I know," the doctor says, "but you definitely miss him when he's not around."
"Is it that obvious?" Alex asks, with a wry smile. "Well, yeah, I miss him. I hate going to that huge-ass mansion and being there alone without him and Hank."
Darwin blinks, his expression shifting ever so slightly. "You know, you can just stay with me."
Alex forces another smile. "Thanks. But you probably don't really want me around all weekend."
"I want you around for longer than that," Darwin says simply. "I want you to move in, Alex."
" . . . What?" Alex says dumbly.
"I know it's a little fast," Darwin says evenly, smiling slightly. "But there's really no sense in you living in that giant house with just Sean. I doubt CPS will actually care if Sean isn't raised there. And my apartment's big enough for you two."
Alex isn't sure what to say. On the one hand, Darwin is amazing. Sean likes him, he's got a nice place, and he's just all around great. But the idea of moving in with him, committing to him, makes a red light flashing Hank, Hank, Hank go off in Alex's head, and Alex isn't sure why, but he has a sneaking suspicion.
Darwin's watching him expectantly. "Alex?"
Alex is jolted out of his reverie. "Sorry," he blurts. "But I – . . ."
Darwin's expression slowly falls, and then a look of complete understanding crosses his face. Alex winces. "It's about him, isn't it." Darwin's voice is gentle, too gentle, and Alex wants to slap himself.
"No," he says quickly. "Hank has nothing to do with it. I just – I think three months is too fast."
Darwin shakes his head. "No, you don't," he says. "I don't think three months is the issue. And I honestly don't think I'm the issue. I think it's Hank. And that's okay, Alex, really."
"No, it's not," Alex practically moans. "Hank – Hank has his own place now, and his own life. The only thing we have in common is Sean."
Darwin smiles faintly. Alex can tell he's hurting, but he's so god-damn nice about it. "You have feelings for him, Alex. You just don't want to admit it. That's why you won't move in with me – because you care about him too deeply. And I've got a hunch that he cares about you, too."
Alex's first instinct is to refute that statement, but it sounds so right. It's true, and he's known it ever since he slept with Hank, but he's never understood it. He cares about Hank, he wants Hank, he needs Hank, and he has to go and get him now. And Armando – no, Darwin – God bless him, he gets that.
"I think you might be right," Alex murmurs. "Jesus, I think you're right. I'm so sorry. Really, I am."
Darwin smiles weakly. "It's alright," he says. "Alex, I think what you need to do is go see Hank."
"I think so, too," the artist says, rising from the couch. He looks at Darwin for a long moment, and then says, "You deserve much better than me, by the way. You're going to make someone very happy one day."
Darwin only smiles. "Go, Alex."
Alex knocks on Hank's door like the building is burning down around them.
Hank answers with a slightly annoyed expression, and Alex remembers the time and thinks, oh, shit, Sean's probably in bed already.
"I'm sorry," he says, as quietly as he can. "I just – I need to talk to you."
Hank stares at Alex for a moment, and there it is, that moment of getting it that everyone suddenly seems to be having today. "Okay," he says, and he steps aside to let Alex in.
Hank leads him to the kitchen table, and there's a brief moment of awkwardness. Hank finally breaks the silence by saying, "I can, er, get you something, if you'd like . . . ?"
Alex blinks, and shakes his head. "Uh, no, thanks, I'm fine," he says. "I just – shit, I don't know what to say anymore."
Hank motions for him to have a seat, alternating between watching Alex's face carefully and staring at anything but Alex. Alex sits, and then Hank sits next to him at the small kitchen table.
"I spent the drive here trying to think of ways to just come out and say it," Alex says, talking both to himself and to Hank right now. "And now, I can't remember any of it."
Hank bites his lip. "Alex, you're confusing me."
Alex smiles wryly, resorting to sarcasm as a last ditch attempt to buy time before he has to open up and spill his guts. "That's got to be the first time I've ever confused a genius."
"No," Hank says, quietly. "You confuse me all the time." The honesty in the statement practically rings in the air, and the fact that Hank is finally coming out and saying something, anything . . .
"Oh, God, you bozo," Alex says, with a sigh. "We are both such idiots. Don't you know that you confuse the hell outta me, too? Don't you know that I secretly fucking love being confused by you?"
"That makes no sense," Hank murmurs, with a weak smile.
"I know," Alex replies honestly. "I guess – what I'm trying to come out and say is that – oh, fuck. I think I might love you."
"You think you might love me," Hank repeats, staring at him with those wide, pretty blue eyes.
"Shit," Alex swears. "I think I love you."
Alex doesn't have time to say anything else, because then Hank is leaning over (so the positioning is a bit awkward thanks to the edge of the table, but Alex could care less) and kissing him, full-on and passionate about it, and Alex can hear fucking angel choirs singing away and firecrackers going off and doves flying and shit.
Finally, Hank breaks the kiss and pants, their faces inches apart, "What the hell has all this been about then, if you love me like I love you?"
"I don't know," Alex admits, blushing at those last three words. "That goes back to the whole 'we're both idiots' thing, probably. I mean, I knew after we had sex. I think it was there all along, but that was when it hit me. I knew that was why I always tease you, why I find certain shit that you do really freaking . . . cute, why I felt like kissing you and touching you was so right – but then you didn't feel the same. And I got pissed and tried to pretend like I didn't feel that way, and I kind of succeeded at that, because I got Darwin –,"
Hank's eyes widen abruptly. "Speaking of him," he interrupts, "what . . . are you two . . .?"
Alex nods. "He figured out what I was pretending not to know. And he told me that I needed to go."
"Thank God for that," Hank murmurs. "Because I wouldn't have said anything, or done anything. I thought I'd ruined all my chances with you, if I ever really had any. I thought that you'd surely stay with him. That would have destroyed me, but I was so afraid to do something for fear of only making things worse." He pauses suddenly. "Oh, my God . . . Raven was right."
"Raven?" Alex says, bemused. "Your former beard, Raven?"
"She wasn't my beard," Hank mutters automatically. "But I called her for advice after we had sex, when I realized that I was getting feelings for you. She told me that if I moved out of the house, you'd eventually realize that you wanted me."
Alex stares at him. "So that's why you moved out? You ass!"
"No," Hank says quickly. "I only decided that I was going to do it after you didn't want to go out to dinner with me so we could work things out."
"God, Hank," Alex murmurs. "We've been stupid, Bozo."
"I agree," Hank says, smiling slightly.
" . . . Are you smiling because I called you 'Bozo' again? Oh my God, do you like that nickname?"
"No!" Hank says hastily. "I just – I missed it."
Alex smirks, and leans in to kiss Hank again. "I missed you," he admits after a moment, cocky smirk fading slightly to be replaced by a shy smile.
Hank's cheeks are pink with what Alex knows is happiness. "I missed you, too. But you're . . . you're mine now, aren't you?"
"Yours. And you're mine?"
Hank smiles more broadly than Alex has ever seen him smile, and Alex loves it. "Of course."
Five months later.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you . . ."
Sean claps his hands together happily and reaches greedily for the cake. Hank sets a slice down in front of him, and the child dives on it like a jackal on a carcass as the song finishes up.
Alex leans against Hank's arm, watching with an affectionate smile. "That kid puts away food like a vacuum with dust bunnies. Sweet, icing-covered dust bunnies."
Hank laughs quietly. "He does –,"
Beep, beep, flash! "Sorry, guys," Raven says, smiling. "I had to snap a picture of you two. Too cute."
Alex groans. "Oh, jeez, Hank, did you put her on camera duty?" he asks. Raven has flown in for Sean's party, and Alex and Raven, despite hardly knowing each other, have already established a fondly annoyed attitude towards each other.
"She wanted to take pictures," Hank says, with a shrug and a smile. "You don't really mind, I know you don't."
"I don't," Alex agrees, elbowing him gently in the ribs. He then leans up to kiss Hank lightly, and beep, beep, flash!
"Oh, God," Hank laughs. "I think I've created a monster."
Raven grins and gestures towards Sean, who's already covered in cake and frosting, and tells the other guests, "Back off, I want a picture of them with Sean. It'll be adorable."
Alex smiles softly, as though at a fond memory. "Déjà vu."
"Yeah," Hank agrees, moving to one side of Sean's chair as Alex moves to the other. Hank's already smiling for the camera when he feels a handful of icing hit the side of his face, spattering blue flecks onto his glasses.
"Sean!" he laughs.
Sean laughs, too. "Got Bozo!"
Alex bursts into laughter as Hank sputters and grins, and beep, beep, flash!, another photo, aother memory of a happy family (one of many more to come) is captured.
A/N: Whoa, sap. :D Reviews are greatly appreciated.