Warnings: Mild swearing, violence, mention of non-canon character death.
Disclaimer: Not mine, as nice as it would be
Summary: On the days when there is no fighting, things are good. There's training and studying and fun and friendships, and Hank spends the nights in Alex's bed and everything is as it should be. On the other days, Hank and Alex sleep alone. Until something changes.
As the days passed they didn't so much blur together as they did organize themselves into two groups.
By far the majority were the good days, the ones without fighting. There were inevitable disagreements of course, the sort of squabbles that any group experiences when living in close quarters, but there were no battles.
On the good days they could rest and laugh and be human with each other. There would be training and studying and time to spend together, watching television, roaming the grounds, doing all those things that friends and family did when they weren't defending the world or fighting for their lives.
At the end of the good days, more often than not, Hank would shuffle quietly into Alex's room. His nervous smile and downcast eyes would make him look oddly coy despite his beastly appearance. He'd slip into bed beside Alex, and they would each rest better knowing that the other was close.
Those were the good days.
But they weren't all good days.
On the other days, Alex would end up alone in his room. It didn't matter whether they had been fighting the 'Brotherhood' or facing off against those in the government. Come evening, Hank would be conspicuous in his absence. Of course, Alex could simply have gone to Hank, but despite his traditional lack of empathy, Alex understood that on those nights Hank needed his solitude.
Today had not been a good day. It had been very, very far from a good day. It had, in fact, been one of the most violent and blood filled days since the beach, so Alex was more than a little bit surprised to hear Hank's muffled knock.
Normally he would have simply called Hank in, he never locked the door... But this was not a normal night, so Alex put on his slippers and pulled the door open. Hank's eyes were lowered as usual, but his coy smile was absent.
They ended up sitting cross legged on top off the bedspread opposite one another, both studiously avoiding eye contact and saying nothing. After a few moments, Alex reached over and poked Hank's knee to get his attention. He offered a smile when Hank looked up, but it was short lived. Hank once again lowered his gaze.
After such a long and drawn out silence, it was inevitable that they would both try to speak at once.
“When you were...”
They stammered back into silence for a few moments, before Alex verbally prodded his friend, “you first.”
Hank nodded slowly, staring firmly at the wall rather than Alex as he spoke.
“When Charles and Erik came for you, you were in prison. I only know that because I had to match the coordinates from Cerebro to actual addresses, but...” he trailed off again, almost in apology.
Alex was surprised and a little unnerved at the direction their conversation had taken, but nodded in encouragement. “Yeah, I was, that's right.”
“What did you... That is, before...” Hank took a deep breath, then sighed it out again. “You weren't just in juvenile detention, you were in a full, high security prison. What did.. I mean to say, did you hurt someone?”
Alex tensed. It wasn't a topic he had ever felt particularly comfortable discussing. Had anyone other than Hank been the one asking, his answer would probably have involved a fist and several expletives.
But Hank was the one asking.
“Yeah.” Alex said, dropping his own gaze, unconsciously mirroring Hank. “Yeah, I did.”
Hank looked anxious. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. You don't have to...”
Alex replied with a weak smile and a light punch to Hank's bicep. “Yeah, well you wouldn't have asked if it wasn't important.” Alex spent a couple of seconds trying to decide what exactly he was going to say by way of explanation, but quickly gave up and just decided to just let it happen.
“It was self defense, if that's what you are asking. Except that it's really hard to explain that to a bunch of cops when there's one guy dead from plasma burns, structural damage that makes it look like a small bomb just exploded, and a frantic little sister screaming about how you made everything burn.”
Hank looked down at Alex's hands, which were clenched into rock-hard fists.
“But the man you hurt, he tried to hurt you first?”
Alex nodded. “Yeah. It's kind of a long story. He wanted to take my foster sister and me. I stopped him, but to be honest I don't really remember much about what happened. I didn't understand much about my powers back then, so it's a bit of a blur.”
“Oh.” replied Hank, sounding inexplicably disappointed. “So you don't really remember how you felt when it happened?”
“When it... You mean when I was attacked? Oh, well, I was scared when I realized what he was going to do, and then I was absolutely terrified when I opened my eyes and everything around me was burning. Is that what you wanted to know? That I was scared?”
Hank shook his head, but was no more forthcoming. They sat in silence for a few more minutes, Alex watching Hank fidget with the fabric of the bedspread.
Alex had a powerful desire to take hold of Hank's hand and squeeze it until all that nervous energy dissipated, but held back. He opted instead for a dramatic sigh, leaning back in an attempt to look nonchalant.
“Look Beast, I'm not the mind reader here, I just shoot plasma. So if there's something wrong, or something you need, or something, then you really need to tell me what it is.”
Hank uncrossed his legs slowly, choosing instead to draw his knees up close to his chest and wrap his huge arms around them.
“I killed one of Erik's people today.” he said, voice so low and soft that Alex had to run the sound through his head several times before he could be certain that he had understood correctly. Their earlier discussion about Alex's violent history jarred into place, and the bottom of his stomach dropped away.
“Oh,” Alex replied, then a second later, “Oh! No, whatever you're thinking, just... No. That, what you did, it was self defense, absolutely self defense.” He tried glaring at Hank for being an idiot about this stuff, but the effort was wasted because Hank was staring at his feet again. He tried a slightly different tack.
“Okay, you know what, we're at war. People die in war, and yeah, people kill in war too. But that's not... Listen, Hank, that's not your fault. You did well today. You kept us alive, and you kept innocent people alive, and that makes you a proper hero, okay? You're a good guy. The best. So whatever bad thoughts you've gotten stuck in that stupidly smart head, just stop thinking them right now. Okay?”
Hank stared at him for a few seconds, blinking slowly, before lowering his head so that his chin was resting on his knees.
“That's nice of you to say.” he said, in that same soft, low tone.
“Damn it, Bozo!” Alex said, stern with just a hint of concern. “That's not just some nice thing I'm saying to make you feel better, it's the truth. You're one of the good guys, and that means that you don't get to punish yourself for doing the right thing.” Alex pulled at Hank's arm, a determined but futile effort to draw him out.
Hank made a sound which was started out a frustrated growl and dissolved into a whimper. “You don't understand, Alex. You can't...”
“Bullshit, Beast. You came here tonight because you knew that I got put in prison for killing a man. I understand plenty, and I'm telling you to stop beating yourself up over whatever you're beating your self up for. You didn't do anything wrong, and...”
“I liked it.”
Hank's voice was not loud, but somehow it managed to fill the whole room, echoing in the sudden silence. He closed his eyes. “I had his head in my hands, and he was struggling and yelling for someone to help him, and I twisted until there was a crack, and... I liked it. It was magnificent. I've never felt so good in all my life. Because I killed someone. Because I'm a...” Hank opened his mouth like he was going to say something more, but no sound came out.
“What, because you're a mutant? That's bullshit, Hank, and you know it. We've all got mutations, and that's...”
“That's not what I was going to say!” Hank argued back, the vehemence in his words bordering on frightening. Alex drew back on instinct, then immediately regretted it.
“Okay, fine. What were you going to say?”
Hank sighed, his fight evaporating as quickly as it had come.
“This.” Hank gestured to himself, indicating his unusual appearance, “The way I am now, you said that this was how I was supposed to be.”
Alex nodded very slowly. He sensed was venturing into dangerous and unfamiliar territory “Yeah, it's who you are. It's who I...care about.”
“It's a murderer. A killing machine who delights in taking the lives of others. That's what this is, that's what I am since the change.”
“Wait... What?” Alex stammered. “What the hell, Hank? That's not who you are, that's just...” Alex felt the dangerous red plasma heat of anger coiling up in his chest, and forced himself to take a deep breath to soothe it. “That's ridiculous.” He gave Hank another half-hearted shoulder punch to express his displeasure. It was even less effective than usual.
The truth was that Alex had never been good at sorting out even his own emotional screw ups, let alone someone else's. Especially someone as delicate and sensitive as Henry McCoy. Alex shuffled over to one side of the bed and drew back the covers.
“Okay, here's what we're going to do. You're going to get into the bed, and then I'm going to get into the bed, and then I'm going to turn off the light, and everything will be better in the morning.”
Hank looked surprised, then shook his head.
“I don't think that's...”
“Dammit, Hank! Do you think Azazel is sitting in his bedroom evaluating his life choices right now? I'll let you in on a secret. He's not. He's probably sitting in some parlor somewhere sipping martinis and bragging about how awesome he is at killing. Because he is an actual murderer. He's a cold blooded killer. I know the type. I've met plenty of them before. But you? You're sitting here trying to tear yourself into tiny little pieces all because you got an adrenaline rush in the heat of battle. Well you know what, it happens, and those bastards who keep trying to kill us, well there's absolutely nothing wrong with trying to kill them right back.”
Alex took a deep breath, recovering from his second rant of the evening, then spoke more softly. “And you think you're a cold blooded killer. Well I know for a fact that you're not, and I can even prove it. Because cold blooded killers don't care about whether they're cold blooded killers. They just want to kill things. But you're here, feeling all wretched about life, because you think you're one of them. Which proves you're not. Right?”
Hank pressed his lips together into a thin line, inclining his head just enough that it could be read as an incredibly non-committal nod. Alex responded with a far more decisive nod.
“Right. And in case you need any more proof, I'm kind of a little bit in love with you, and I'm not the sort of guy who falls for cold blooded killers. So Q.E.D or whatever. You're one of the good guys, and that's the end of it. Now quit being such an idiot and get into the damn bed.” To emphasize the instruction, Alex tugged at the bedspread again.
Hank just watched him, eyes wide, mouth hanging just a little bit open like there was something he wanted to say but he hadn't figured out the right words for it. Alex twitched the bedspread.
“Well?” he asked, and was promptly rewarded as Hank moved jerkily towards to head of the bed. He slipped his enormous feet under the sheets and Alex wriggled in next to him, lying close enough that his arm could drape over Hank's middle. Hank took a deep breath, then let it out slowly.
“When exactly did you take on the responsibility of being the logical one in this relationship?” Hank muttered, his body still tense but his words clearly an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.
“The same time you decided to be the irrational, masochistic idiot,” he answered, softening his words by nuzzling his nose into the short, silky hairs of Hank's neck.
Hank responded by leaning into the touch and placing a tentative hand on Alex's hip. They lay there in silence for a few minutes before Alex withdrew just far enough to turn off the light. When he pressed himself back up against Hank, he felt rather than heard the faint vibrations which Alex had once described as purring. (Hank had rather vehemently denied having any such cat-like tendencies.)
Alex was very close to drifting off when he heard Hank speak again. It took him a few seconds to be alert enough to fully parse the words.
“Are you really a little bit in love with me, or did you just say that so that because I was being intractable and obtuse?”
Alex shrugged, an awkward gesture given their positions.
“I'm not sure what 'intractable and obtuse' means, but yeah. I'm pretty sure I'm a little bit in love with you. Is that okay?”
Hank nodded, his chin disturbing Alex's hair.
“Mmm hmm. I think maybe I'm a little bit in love with you too.”
Alex smiled into Hank's neck. “Good.”
“And 'intractable' means stubborn and unwilling to change one's position on an issue, while 'obtuse'....”
Alex gave him a friendly shove. “Go to sleep Bozo.”
Hank stopped talking and pulled him close, pressing his lips into Alex's hair. They stayed that way until Alex drifted off.
The next day there was no fighting. It was one of the good days.