Alex will never admit how jealous she is of Raven.
Raven, who can be anyone and anything she wants to be, who is coolly confident as she flirts with Hank and brings him coffee and fascinates him with her genes for god sake.
Alex has never been that girl, she is by no means ugly, and she knows she inherited a lot of her looks from her mother, but you don’t exactly have to be a good person to attract trash, something Alex was never short on.
Raven has never had to use her “womanly wiles,” and god doesn’t Alex hate that term, to survive, not since she found Charles. She has never had to exchange herself just for the right to survive when the starvation had become too much, she has never struggled with the absolute hell it is being a woman in the military, where men either expect some kind of “favor” from her because of the way she looks, or deny her ability and strength despite her own merits.
She has never been surrounded by an army of men waiting to break her.
Raven has never woken up from literal gut-wrenching nightmares of all the people she’s hurt and meant to, and worse the people she never meant to.
Raven will never know the violent smell of burning flesh as keenly as Alex does, she will never know what it means to experience such destruction caused by the slip of your hand, or the sound of your brother screaming for you, for a life you can’t give him.
Even now, Alex is not allowed to know where Scott is, what he is doing, or if he’s happy and healthy, and Alex doesn’t pray, but sometimes she sits in quietly dark rooms and clenches her hands tightly into fits at her sides, closes her eyes, and desperately wishes it were so.
Raven doesn’t know what it means to send yourself to prison, to insist on isolation just to escape the fear of hurting someone else, just to avoid the terrible power you know is waiting to be released.
And in all that time, Alex has learned to be strong, and crude, and mean, especially when she’s cornered, or flustered, or unsure.
So when Hank is near, Alex finds herself smiling a little meanly and calling him names like freak and Bozo, and hates the way his face closes off, the way he stands straighter face flushed and walks away, it’s all too familiar to Alex, though she is sure she was never quite as graceful as to walk away from her own tormentors.
Alex pretends like she doesn’t notice the sadly disappointed looks she gets from the Professor, pretends like he can’t see straight through her, because his disappointment doesn’t matter when Alex will never know how to smile as prettily, as easily as Raven.
Because she will never be worth a guy as brilliant and good as Hank, and Alex is too tired to pretend like she could change if she knew how.
It comes to no surprise to Alex that Raven and Hank begin to gravitate towards each other because of their mutual desire to find a way to conceal their more obviously physical mutations.
Alex knows they look at her, and only see her pretty face, and imagine that she’s lived a life full of ease because of it, but Alex knows better than anyone never to judge a book by its cover, she knows that no face, no matter how lovely could ever really mask or make up for the destruction Alex could wreck if she ever got too complacent, if she ever forgot.
Destruction, Alex sometimes thinks, is her real mutated ability, she causes it so easily everyday not just with her sheer power, but with her words and actions too.
Despite all this, Alex finds herself gravitating towards Sean, who is two years younger than her, and despite still having his family, and having an overall easier time than Alex, Sean knows what it can be like to destroy things because you falter, how preciously fragile most things are in the wake of a mutant with no control.
Once Sean gets over the idea of ever dating Alex they get along surprisingly well, Sean is so easy going and carelessly happy and sadly one of the closest friends Alex has ever had, he acts like a gentleman of course, but also like an equal, and he jokes with her so easily, Alex finds herself forgetting how ugly of a person she can be sometimes.
She doesn’t know when exactly the rift between Hank and Raven really starts forming, but over time Alex realizes that Raven and Hank aren’t quite at ease with each other, but Alex ignores it as a lover’s spat, and thinks it’ll just be a matter of time before they forget about it.
In the meantime Alex has taken to being one of Hank’s lab rats, and she’s seen what he’d put together for Sean, but it isn’t easy controlling such raw power and most of Hank’s attempts so far at creating her a suit that will fit have largely been a failure.
Alex steels herself for the disappointment every time the Professor and Hank manage to convince her to go to the underground range they’d set up for her earlier.
Then one day, on Hank’s seventh prototype, the Professor stands next to the mannequin and makes a nervous Hank stay there with him, one day he tells her that he believes in her, and Alex hesitates but feels his reassurance in her mind, filtering through out her body and takes the shot.
When she opens her eyes, she’s insanely relieved to see both the Professor and Hank intact, the mannequin in the center neatly destroyed, and Alex feels the relief grow, and fill her up like joy, because she’s never had so much control, never the way her ability had always controlled her.
Hank too looks insanely relieved not to be stain on the wall and smiles at her a bit hesitantly when he asks, “Not still a bozo am I?”
Alex knows she must look like a maniac, her smile too wide for her face, but she finds herself laughing in small disbelieving huffs anyway, “No, I mean - yes, yes you are, but thanks,” She chokes out meeting his eyes, wishing she could express the extent of her gratitude, “Thank you Hank,” She says sincerely.
Hank looks away shrugging, and cheeks a bit pink, “No problem,” he says, and that’s the end of that.
Sometime after that Alex begins to join Hank in his lab, she is careful at first, not wanting to run into Hank and Raven having an awkward moment together because she may have become resigned about their relationship but she doesn’t need it rubbed in her face.
Still the more time she spends there the more she notices the strain in Raven and Hank’s relationship, Alex never comments on it though.
The first time Hank and Alex end up in bed together is before his transformation. After his initial fumbling, Hank stands in front of Alex only a foot or two away, naked and nervous, his hands and large feet twitching, toes curling anxiously as he shifts his weight and very shyly meets her eyes.
Alex had thought she could never be more self-conscious in her own skin, not in the way she had when she was still young and naïve, but seeing Hank’s hesitance, seeing the look in his eyes as he watches her, like she is more than just a pretty face, like he wants her, like he generally wants to please her makes her feel more sure, more alive in her own skin than she has in a long time.
Alex takes him in too, her eyes tracing the planes of his body, lingering on his face, on the feet that she’d mocked him for when they first met, up the lines of his strong calves to just below his waist and she can’t help but think – Geez Raven wasn’t kidding about the big feet thing was she?
She can’t contain her laughter after that thought, feels it bubble up her throat, because it’s so absurd to think of Raven now, but now that she has she can’t seem to contain her joy because it’s her Hank is looking at with his bright blue adoring eyes and not anyone else.
Hank freezes under the wave of her laughter, his shoulders tensing and his face struggling as it shifts into a blank mask, his flaming face giving away his discomfort. He looks like he wants to throw his clothes on, cover himself up as soon as possible and run away.
He looks uncomfortable in his own skin, and Alex never wants to make him feel that way, not when he’s made it okay to be her, not when he’s given her back control over herself. She wants him to be as happy as she is in this moment.
So she crosses the distance between them easily, pressing close as she pulls him into a kiss. She lingers there, urging his mouth into action, paying close attention to his bottom lip as her hands slowly slide down his arms to twine her fingers in his.
She pulls away only long enough to meet his eyes, dark and hazy as they gaze into hers, and smile at him.
She begins brushing her right foot playfully over his left as she pulls him in for another kiss, he responds more in kind this time, but there still seems to a restraint there, so she pulls away with another smile determined not to give up until he opened up, and she whispers, “Hank,” and hopes he can hear what she can’t voice yet.
It seems like the message gets across, because his shoulders relax, and he lets go of her left hand to place it on the small of her back as he pulls her impossibly closer, pressing to her lips his small answering smile.
Alex feels the length of him pressed against her, heated and urgent and starts to pull him along towards the bed. And Hank follows, his mouth and hands grasping after her, hard enough to leave bruises and in turn stroking with soft caresses like an apology.
By the time Alex lays down back against the bed and pulls Hank down to settle on top of her, Hank is nearly feverish with want and barely restrains himself long enough to ask, to growl, “May I – can I- Alex?”
Alex feels it too, and manages to respond with an equally breathless, “Yes, yes, Hank.”
Hank doesn’t hold back after that and Alex looses herself in a haze of pleasure.
When it has finally settled, she finds herself curled up under the weight of Hank’s arm as it holds her close enough that she has to rest her head on his chest, just over his heartbeat, to sleep comfortably.
It might be just a matter of time before Alex screws this up, before Hank realizes that he deserves better, before he finds out he’s too good for her, but Alex wants this badly, as much as she’s ever wanted anything, and even if Hank does leave her someday, she’ll use the time he gives her to make him see himself the way Alex sees him.
The way anyone with half a brain should see him, brilliant, and strong, and wonderful, she’ll make him love himself the way Alex already does but can’t admit to him yet. She knows it won’t be easy, sleeping together won’t cure his anxieties and even now Hank will pull away from her, have moments of uncertainty, but Alex will makes sure that eventually those are few and far between.
She presses a kiss softly to his chest and makes it a promise.
Everything falls apart the day they go to the beach. Hank refuses to meet her eyes when he shows up, newly blue and furry, and looking more like the animal Alex used to mock him for resembling.
His voice is carefully measured when he says, “It didn’t work, the serum only enhanced the genes instead of masking them.” Alex’s heart goes out to him, knows that this failure in particular will weigh more heavily on him than most others, and she wants to slap Raven, when the red-head looks Hank in the eyes and gives him her spiel about being mutant and proud.
She’s right of course, Hank will have to learn to live with himself, to accept himself just as he is, but it seems horribly unfair for Raven to be the one to tell him so, because Hank will never be able to hide from this, and every second of every day he’ll have to face the world this way, whereas Raven can still hide, can become anyone she wants to be, normal even, when it gets to be too much.
After Erik accidentally bates Hank and the Professor calms his mind, Alex gives him his mutant name, declaring him Beast loudly and firmly. Hank meets her eyes briefly, too briefly for Alex to really make anything out, and on the flight over he is even more distant. Alex doesn’t push him for more, as an ex-military soldier and ex-convict Alex knows the importance of restraint, the mission comes first, but as soon as they get back home, Alex has plans of cornering Hank and making him talk to her.
But in the ensuing battle, Alex finds herself suddenly free falling, dropped from the sky, by one of Shaw’s men, and she feels sick, choked with the memory of impending weightlessness and faced with the sudden truth of your own mortality when she’d been pushed out of a plane by her own mother, her brother Scott clutched in her arms as they watched the fiery wreckage of their plane crash without them.
In her desperation she stretches her hand, calling out, “Hank!” It won’t do anything, they can’t fly, they won’t survive this, but Alex desperately wants to hold on to him before they finish plummeting down.
Hank meets her eyes and grasping her hand tightly in his, wraps himself tightly around the teleporter, Azazel, and Alex sees the ferocity in his eyes, hears the near roaring as he tells Azazel, “We go, you go.”
As they land safely only a few feet above the deck, Alex doesn’t even mind the wind that gets knocked out of her, though she doesn’t really appreciate the number of guns that are trained on her as a result.
The mansion feels emptier with only Alex, Sean, Hank and the Professor to populate its sprawling and endless halls.
Alex can understand why Erik left, she hadn’t suffered like he had in the times he spent in those camps under Shaw’s hand, but Alex’s life has slowly unraveled since she was fourteen and in the eight years since she has suffered no end of indignities and isolation. Alex knows if she had never met the Professor too, if she had never had Hank, she might have just as easily been on Erik’s side that day on the beach.
She can even understand why Raven, or Mystique, because there will never again be a Raven in Alex’s eyes, Raven died on the beach, with Erik’s compassion and the Professors legs, and Alex knows this because despite everything Raven could never abandon her brother like that – not like Mystique could.
Moira too is no longer with them, a necessary loss to protect their school, to protect themselves, and though they all believe that someday they will be able to live equally with humans, they hold no illusions that that day is today.
Sean has been in talks with the Professor about taking up the mantle he and Erik had and going out to find more students who might need their help and Alex knows that between herself and Hank she is the most viable option as a partner. Not only does she have a better rapport with Sean but she wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the way Hank would.
They fall into a sort of pattern until one day the professor comes to tell her that her brother Scott has gone missing.