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Working at Cross-Purposes

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It only hurts for a minute.

He's made himself a uniform, but he doesn't wear it. He stands at the opening of the hangar and looks them all over, suited in his outfits, standing in the shadow of his plane. Not now, he thinks at Charles, not today.

He flies with Moira just barely visible in the corner of his eye, existing mostly in the haze beyond the edge of his glasses. Her fingers grip the armrest, aware of her own mortality in a way the others don't seem to be. He doesn't look at her any more than he needs to.

Charles sends Raven into battle and keeps Hank in the doorway of the splintered aircraft, the weapon he holds feeling unfamiliar in his hands, his hands feeling unfamiliar all on their own. He wonders if this is how Raven feels every time she changes.

His legs are unsteady as he goes to his knees by Charles's side, and his voice sounds exactly as it always has as he says, "Don't move, Charles." Charles doesn't, his hand wrapping around Hank's arm, holding onto him, and Hank doesn't know which one of them the crushing wave of loss belongs to.

He returns to the mansion, not because he wants to, but because he is expected to. He lives in his lab – eats there, sleeps there, hides from everyone else there – and waits for Charles to come home, so that he can say his goodbyes. Instead, he looks up one day to see Charles sitting in the doorway, watching him, and when he opens his mouth, Charles cuts him off with "Not now. Not today," and wheels himself back out. The I need you here, Hank that follows is faint, but unmistakable.

Hank stays. He plans, he builds, and if anyone notices that everything takes him five times longer than it used to, no one says a word. The only way he knows that anyone has noticed anything is that Alex never calls him Bozo anymore, or Bigfoot. He's become Hank. Just Hank.

Hank McCoy, brilliant scientist, completely ordinary human being.