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Whistles the Wind

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When they first fall in love, it's all okay, and Alex thinks he's never been happier, never will be.

(Forty years later, he's realizing how right he was)

They're young, and they've just thwarted a war. He's on top of the world, and despite everything, despite the battle lines drawn in the sands that day, despite the Professor's injury, and despite Hank's sudden transformation, he just can't be down.

He tells himself Hank will get over it. He tells himself that every day, that if Hank would just see how badass he is now, such an improvement over the lanky dork he'd been, he'll embrace his new face with the eagerness Alex does.

(Years later, he's still telling himself that)

Hank should be happy anyway, he thinks. He's got Alex, and the rest of their slowly growing family. They should be enough for him, right?

Every now and then though, he catches the way Hank looks at Sean and his new wife, Maeve, and years later, the way he watches their daughter. And he wonders what it means, what Hank sees to envy. Alex thinks he's a pretty decent guy, even if he's not nearly as smart as Hank, or really all that interested in a lot of Hank's stuff.

He tries a little harder though, tries to read some of Hank's papers. He just gets annoyed though. He dropped out of school at sixteen, after all.

He stops trying, and tells himself it's cool, because he and Hank being so different is a good thing, means they won't get bored with each other.

(Years later, he thinks he was an idiot)

When Alex finds Scott, alone and scared in a hospital bed in North Carolina, he thinks he might finally have everything he wants in the world.

Scott's powers are just starting to manifest a few years later, as he runs around the mansion in the ruby-quartz glasses Hank made him. Alex thinks he'll get a handle on them soon enough, but Hank just makes this face at him, like he doesn't think so. Alex doesn't understand why. He got a handle on his after a few years, didn't he?

“It's not the same,” Hank says. “Your powers are only related on a superficial level. The beam is the same, yes, but how it happens is a completely different process.”

“He'll get it.” Alex dismisses.

“You're not listening to me.” Hank replies with a snarl that turns Alex on a little more than is appropriate for the kitchen.

“I'm listening, I swear,” He says, putting down the dish he was drying. “What are you trying to say?”

“I'm saying the manifestation was different, and I think that has a much bigger effect than previously thought on the long-term growth.” Hank says. When Alex just raises an eyebrow, Hank sighs, and dumbs it down for him. “Because Scott first used his abilities in a moment of extreme stress and panic, he's tied it to that feeling. Alex, he might never be able to disassociate the connection. He might never have control.”

“Hank, dude, you're really over-thinking this.” Alex says, shaking his head, and resuming his chore.

“Better than how you handle things.” Hank replies. “Never thinking at all.”

He storms out before Alex even realizes he just insulted him.

He stares after him, confused.

(Years later, when Scott is still wearing a visor, he remembers that argument in the kitchen, and he's almost angry at him for having the foresight Alex lacked)

He gets an offer from a government agency in desperate need of a nickname, a few days after his twenty-ninth birthday. He accepts it with a smile, but when he tells Hank, he finds he's the only one happy about it.

“Alex, do you even realize what you've signed on for?” He demands, so mad he won't even look at Alex.

“Do you?” He counters, pissed, but Hank just shakes his head and leaves the room. The fight they should have had that day never comes, Hank choosing to swallow his anger and Alex happy it's been forgiven and forgotten.

Only it hasn't, he figures out.

Somehow, the fact that Hank wouldn't even let himself be really angry at Alex for it is almost disappointing. He can't work out why that is.

(Despite the way it splintered them, he's never regretted SHIELD, or the good he's done)

The years go on, and they stay together, and Alex thinks it's enough, thinks he's enough to keep Hank, if not happy, at least content. He's happy, for the most part. SHIELD makes him feel like he's doing some good in the world, like he's finally useful, and he still loves Hank with all his heart. It's enough for him, so he assumes it's enough for Hank.

They encounter Mystique more than once over the years, and gradually, Alex forgets that they were ever on the same team, that he ever laughed at her jokes, that he was ever jealous over the way Hank crushed on her. Why should he, after all? He won.

One day, she gets him pinned, for just a second, because she's gotten good over the years, and before he can blast her, she looks him straight in the eye, smiles, and asks “Did he ever get over not having kids?”

He blasts her right into a wall, not enough to kill her, but enough to stun her. Before he can capture her though, Sabretooth comes barreling out of nowhere. By the time he's got that dealt with, she's long gone. He's pretty pissed about that, enough to forget her taunt, because Sabretooth is pretty much worthless for questioning. And he stinks.

It isn't until he's home, wrapping his bruised knuckles, that he looks at Hank, bent over his desk, writing something, and remembers.

“Hey,” He asks. “Did you ever want kids?” It's a stupid thing, because Hank would have said something, right?

But Hank is quiet, for a long moment, and he doesn't look at Alex when he says “No, of course not.”

Alex can admit that the truth would have stung, would have made him feel like a failure, but the lie hurts so much more, because Hank didn't have to tell it. He chose to, so as to avoid having a conversation that would have involved complicated emotions.

(Years later, Alex can see the fractures, and can see they started long before that day)

As they get older, and Hank gets more involved in politics, Alex admits to a certain kind of jealousy. He misses Hank, misses when it was just them, in the mansion, him harassing Hank while Hank worked in the lab. They were the closest then, he thinks, but their relationship is different now. Still close, but in a habitual, comfortable way.

Alex is still happy.

(Years later, he finally thinks to ask if he was the only one)

“How could you make this decision without asking me?” Hank is mad, so mad the fur on his arms is standing on end. Worse than that, Alex has no fucking clue what he's done to make him so mad.

“It's just for a few months,” He says again, confused. “I didn't think this was a big deal. It's just recon, I've done it a million times.”

Hank just gapes at him, then pushes his glasses up his nose and walks away, into the study. Alex follows, running his hand through his hair, swearing under his breath. Hank is pouring himself a drink from the tumbler of whiskey on the mini-bar, the good stuff they got from Charles a year or so back, the kind he saves for guests.

“Why would you think I would be okay with this?” Hank asks, after he's had a pull of it, still not looking at Alex.

“Why do I need your permission to do my job?” Alex returns, annoyed. He should have lied, he thinks, should have told Hank this was a routine recon.

“It's Azazel!” Hank almost shouts, slamming the heavy-bottomed glass down on the desk. Some sloshes out, leaving drops on the wood. “He's killed everyone who got within sight of him, Alex, without fail! Did it ever occur to you that I don't want you dead?”

“It's not about you!” Alex shouts back. “This is my job, Hank! I don't get to decide who I go after! Azazel is dangerous, he has to be taken down!”

“But it doesn't have to be you who does it!” Hank finishes his whiskey with one gulp, then grips the desk, so hard Alex thinks it might crack under the strain. “You volunteered though, didn't you? Fury said someone had to go after the bastard, and you were the first to raise your damn hand, weren't you? Do you ever think of how your actions effect me? Ever?”

“No, Hank, surprisingly, I don't spend every minute of my day thinking about how what I do effects you,” Alex replies, leaving. He walks out the front door and slams it hard enough the panes rattle in the frame.

Two months later, he wakes up in a hospital bed, with the doctor telling him that the hearing in his damaged ear will never be the same, and that the scars on his face will never heal.

Hank, for his part, never says a word.

(Years later, Alex wonders if maybe it would have changed things, if Alex had admitted Hank was right, if Hank had even suggested it. Maybe things would have been better if they had let themselves argue like that.)

“Oh,” The receptionist says, with raised eyebrows. “You're that Alex.”

“Yeah, I'm that Alex.” He replies, flirting just a bit out of boredom. The receptionist is pretty enough, he guesses, if you like that kind of thing, and Hank seems to like her. She's better than the idiot he had before, at any rate.

“You're not what I was expecting.” She says, not flirting back in the slightest. She actually looks disapproving.

“What were you expecting?” He asks, keeping his tone light. He thinks he looks pretty damn good for his age, and the scars make him look pretty badass, he's been told. And he's wearing his nice uniform too, the one that makes him look all official and important.

“Someone a little more...cultured.” She says, and he frowns, insulted. What's that supposed to mean, anyway? “Hank, Dr. McCoy I mean, is just so educated.”

“Yeah, well, opposites attract.” He replies, not sure what to say to her at this point in the conversation.

“So I've heard.” She says, but she says it like it's stupid, like Alex is stupid.

She buzzes him in though, and he has lunch with Hank like a good partner, listens to him talk about his newest project with good-natured interest he wouldn't have for anyone but Hank.

“Hey,” He says, interrupting. Hank looks at him, raises his eyebrows. “Do you want to go to that opera coming through? I saw the posters at the Metro station. Looks fun.” He's lying. He hates that shit, but Hank loves it, so he'll sit through it.

“You hate opera.” Hank says.

“You love it.” Alex replies. “I don't mind doing stuff you want to do, Hank. You just have to ask.”

“It's fine.” Hank says, dismissing the gesture with a wave of his hand. “I wouldn't want you to be bored.”

“Hank, really, I don't mind.” What, does Hank think he's still sixteen? He can sit through an opera, maybe even not hate it. “We can go. I've got a free weekend coming up next week. We haven't had a date in awhile.”

“Alex,” Hank says, firmly. “It's not necessary.”

Alex is a little taken aback.

“Okay.” He says, still a little shaken from the force in Hank's voice. “It was just a thought.”

He sees the ticket stub two weeks later, when he's looking through Hank's desk for the other key to the gun safe, the one he had to fight tooth and nail to get. Hank didn't like the idea of guns in the house, especially with him running as a Democrat.

The date is for the weekend Alex suggested.

He looks at it for a long time, an odd emotion in the bottom of his stomach, hardening like a stone.

Years later, he finally admits it was pain, but more than that, it was betrayal.

He waits on the bed, the day he hears about Jean.

Hank comes home quietly, sits beside him.

“I'm sorry,” He says, to Hank, because Hank loved her, taught her. Doesn't mean Alex didn't, because he did, he thought of the world of the bright and pretty Jean Grey. But Hank is mourning too, and he should acknowledge that, right? He thinks that's what you're supposed to do.

“I can't believe it.” Hank says, sounding shell-shocked. “I can't believe it's true. Jean. Out of the three, Jean.”

“Yeah.” Alex agrees. “Yeah.”

They're quiet for a moment, and then Alex leans on Hank's shoulder.

Hank jerks away.

Alex stares at him, as Hank avoids his eyes.

“Right.” He says. “Jesus Christ, what the fuck are we even doing?”

“What?” Hank asks. “What are you talking about?”

Alex doesn't answer, just gets up off the bed, gets his jacket, checks for his wallet. He needs a pack of cigarettes something bad. He'll have to walk down to the bodega down the street.

“Alex?” Hank asks, again, not getting up off the bed. “I'm sorry, I just, it's been a lot to take in, I didn't mean to do that.”

“Yeah?” Alex asks. “Funny. I think it's the most honest you've been with me in years.”

He leaves before Hank can reply, can lie, or twist things so that Alex believes him again.

As he sits on a bench by the Potomac, smoking his first cigarette in a month, he looks out over the water, and thinks about what he's said, and how it'll have changed everything by the time he gets home. Maybe Hank will ask him to leave. It makes more sense for Hank to stay in D.C., really. Alex would be better off on a SHIELD base.

He guesses he'll talk to the housing people tomorrow at work, see where they can get him set up.

Won't Hank be proud? He's got everything worked out for once.

(This is the day, years later)