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I’m standing on my own, but now I’m not alone

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"i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own

i want to fill so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of
us combined
could set
it on fire

― Rupi Kaur

 

Jan’s father was a stockbroker on Wall Street. When she was nine years old, he became a member of the board of a company that was going places. Suddenly, they had lots of money, and they moved to a bigger house and Jan and her little brother were enrolled in new schools. Everything was more comfortable, but the trade-off was that they saw her father a lot less than before.

Jan’s mother was an artist, a painter. Before her husband got his promotion, she made do with the old nursery as a studio, and Jan and her brother shared the second-biggest bedroom in the cramped Manhattan apartment. Just around the time the arrangement would have started getting awkward, they moved into the new house, a brownstone that had a wide, well-lit room for painting and a bedroom for everyone.

Jan’s mother never seemed to mind that her soulmate spent most of his time away from home. She had her own passions, her own hobbies. She raised her children without the nannies that the other kids at Jan’s new school had, fed their burgeoning passions (Jan in fashion, her brother in electronics) and taught them to be hard-working, self-sufficient people. When her husband was around, they were happy together. When her husband was away, she was happy by herself.

Jan had always followed her mother’s lead in making her own way. She went wherever her whims took her and was good at succeeding when people expected her to fail. Her small fashion label was beginning to pick up speed when she met her soulmate at a mixer at the Museum of Natural History. Jan was there to mingle and network; Hank was there to talk to curators who were already sick of him, at a venue where they would be hard-pressed to run away.

When Jan felt the surge of warmth inside that signified meeting her soulmate, she was overjoyed. Hank looked annoyed, confused, and insisted on finishing his conversation with the exhibit director before speaking to her.

That was the start of a pattern. Jan made the time, did the travelling, made the reservations, to spend time with Hank. She knew that a relationship required work, flexibility, sacrifice, and she was willing to do what was necessary. Hank had a time-consuming job, and Jan was willing to work with it. Even if he forgot dates, and talked about bugs more than anything else, and never instigated so much as a hug, Jan didn’t mind. She was a modern woman, and didn’t need a man doting on her 24/7. She had her own work, her own hobbies, and her own friends.

Okay, to be honest, it was a bit of a drag for the first few years after they met, when Jan wanted to be with her soulmate but couldn’t get Hank to give her the time of day. He made her the Wasp suit after hearing Jan mutter under her breath that ‘Maybe he’d pay attention to me if I were the size of an ant.’ Jan wasn’t clingy, but she was a romantic, and she wanted to give a relationship with Hank a real try before giving up and declaring them platonic soulmates.

Through far too many semesters of bugs, and then a few way more exciting years of being superheroes, Jan kept trying. She wasn’t the type to give up easily, and she knew there was something there, a potential that could grow if only she could convince Hank to give it a try. Jan didn’t realize until after Hank became Yellowjacket that maybe they hadn’t gotten together yet because Hank needed to find himself first.

Jan always knew exactly who she was and what she wanted out of life. She was simply decisive like that. But she was more than willing to accept that Hank needed time to reestablish his moral compass after the beating it took with the Avengers. She quickly forgave him for faking his death when she realized it was part of the process he needed to go through to grow as a person.

Jan had known who she was and what she wanted out of life for a long time. She was willing to support her soulmate as he tried to figure it out for himself.

After everything that happened with the Serpent Society, Ultron, and the team’s rejection of Yellowjacket, Hank was devastated. He was furious, and he didn’t know how to deal with it. Some days he didn’t speak to anyone, avoided Jan when she tried to talk to him. He glued his eyes to his work and communicated mostly in grunts, and when Jan didn’t cook or bring him food, he ate nothing but protein bars and gummy worms for days on end. He muttered to himself, spitting mad and despairing in turns, and slowly his face took on a gaunt cast, thinner and shadowed and lined with sleeplessness and dark thoughts.

Jan hurt for her soulmate, but she wasn’t going to stand idly by. Hank clearly needed help, and just because Jan didn’t know how to do it didn’t mean there wasn’t someone who did. She reached out to her friends in New York, and eventually someone gave her the name of a psychiatrist who took tough cases.

Jan asked Hank to go see the doctor. She wheedled at him, explained the doctor’s credentials and experience, told Hank that Tony might accept him back on the team if he went. Nothing would move Hank. He stayed in his lab most days, studying and inventing and, at the end, not having much of anything to show for it.

Finally, Jan stood in the middle of Hank’s lab and told him that she couldn’t keep watching him destroy himself. That if he wanted to protect people, he should start by protecting himself. That they didn’t have to go to the psychiatrist, but they had to do something: meditation, flying to Iceland to swim in natural hot springs, anything. Because Jan was in this to protect people, and she wasn’t going to stay part-time on the Avengers to support someone who didn’t even want her help.

Hank was staring at a pile of research studies, and for a long moment, Jan thought that he wasn’t going to reply. If he didn’t, that was it. She wasn’t going to invest any more precious time and energy in someone who wasn’t willing to give any back- not even her soulmate. It went against every social convention, but Jan was completely prepared to walk away from her soulmate if their relationship wasn’t going to be one of equals.

And then, Hank said, in a voice gruff with disuse, “Make the appointment.”

~ ~ * ~ ~

Hank went to the psychiatrist until he was referred to a psychologist. He had a diagnosis, and medication, but he didn’t like talking about it, or even letting Jan know the details. She didn’t mind that, because he did other things. He started showering consistently again, for one. He actually listened when she talked, and managed to take part in conversations that weren’t about science. Eventually, he would go out to restaurants to eat, and, even later, a date or two.

Hank on medication was different from the man Jan had known for the last few years. He didn’t drift away into his work or his head the way he always used to, the way that was ‘just Hank’. He did focus on it, spend hours at a time without moving from his lab chair, but now he was capable of taking breaks, or pausing when something else came up. He laughed more, joked more, and sometimes, was sad, rather than mildly bothered or down to the point that he didn’t leave his lab for days.

Hank on medication wasn’t Giant Man, but he wasn’t quite Yellowjacket, either. His philosophy, which he could discuss reasonably, even debate, without getting angry or dejected or storming off or shutting down, was a mix of the philanthropic, idealistic tone he’d once held dear, and the rationalist, tough-on-crime agenda Yellowjacket had preferred.

When they moved back into the Mansion, Hank could debate with Captain America and Thor on topics of ethics. He cooked with Hulk, sparred with Black Panther, and when Tony wanted to pick his brains on his research, he spent a few hours in the labs before coming back to civilization for food and water. Before coming back to Jan.

For the first time, Jan felt like she was actually friends with her soulmate, rather than a life partner along for the ride, come what may. For the first time, she both enjoyed being around Hank, and felt that he enjoyed being with her. They talked about things they never had before, shared thoughts they’d never told another soul. And when they finally kissed, the kiss Jan had been waiting years for, it didn’t feel like the eventual result of her patience and hard work.

It felt spontaneous, and natural, and right.

~ ~ * ~ ~

A year after Hank was reinstated as an Avenger and Jan came back full time, they gained a new team member.

Black Widow was tense, which was to be expected: she was coming off a long undercover assignment to join a team with whom she didn’t have the best track record. Everyone was tense for a while while she settled in with all the grace of a predator, watching them and, presumably, learning all their weaknesses.

Jan didn’t meet her for a few days, being busy with her work at the fashion house and with what little paperwork the Avengers had during downtime, but once she did, they hit it off. Jan was mostly excited to have a third woman on the team, finally, and ignored the aura of danger Natasha exuded sometimes to drag her out for socializing. Natasha allowed the shopping expedition, and the spa treatments, and the fancy restaurant, so Jan wasn’t surprised when the spy tried to get some information out of her in exchange.

After openly telling the most embarrassing stories she knew about every one of her teammates (God, Jan missed having a real partner in crime) Natasha asked about Hank. The conversation had shifted to girlfriend talk, rather than mining for information, so Jan gushed about the romantic date they’d had a few weeks previously.

Natasha listened, and then asked whether Jan was bothered that her soulmate spent more time with ants than with her.

Jan thought about her thriving label, and the new additions Hank had fashioned for her Wasp uniform. She thought about saving people’s lives and defending the planet while looking fantastic and cheering up her teammates (who could be sort of downers sometimes). And she thought about coming back to the Mansion and going to bed after a long day’s work; sometimes, Hank would be there, and she would curl up with him; and sometimes, he would be on the floors below the Mansion, tirelessly working on tools to help her protect the Earth.

Jan could honestly say she’d never been happier.