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Like most high school experiences, Prom is severely overrated. The music is terrible, the decorations look like someone has thrown sparkly toilet paper all over the gymnasium, and Alex doesn't even have a date; he went stag with some of the other guys from the football team. Armando broke his foot and is on crutches, which essentially takes dancing out of the question. Alex doesn’t feel much like dancing, so its win-win, for a given value of winning.

Not that some people aren't having fun. Angel’s dancing up a storm, her dress entirely backless, showing off the new tattoos her older, rich douchebag boyfriend Shaw bought her. Riptide is on Emma’s arm, both of them looking pretty. Azazel came alone and looks like he really could not give a fuck – gotta give him credit for that, Alex thinks. Remy and Marie are twirling their way across the dance floor, Bobby and St. John are with Jubilee in the corner, probably planning something that will put them in detention for the rest of the year, if not over the summer. MacTaggert would swing that somehow, Alex just knew.

Hank is here with Raven.

Not that there's anything going on. Everyone in the school knows Hank and Raven are just friends. Hank doesn't really swing that way, and Raven is dating this older guy, Erik. Though if certain rumors are to be believed, that’s a cover for dating her stepbrother, Charles. Alex doesn’t ask. Really not his business. Raven and Alex have been friends since they were little, but when you get older, sometimes – its like you already hold enough of each other’s secrets, and nothing in the world would make you give them up, but you can’t hold anymore. So even though Alex wouldn't exactly call them close, they’re never quite free of one another, Raven and Alex.

Still. Never feels great to see your ex-boyfriend on the arm of prettiest girl in school. Particularly when Hank looks - really, really good. And Alex never really thought bowties would ever be a good look, but there goes Hank, always proving him wrong.

Alex never thought it would be Hank. Ever. Alex knew he was gay from a pretty young age - communal showers after football practice destroyed any lingering doubt - but it took him a while to realize he liked Hank. Super smart, messy, awkward, glasses-and-skinny-jeans Hank. A nerd if there was ever a nerd. Hell, by the time Alex figured it out, he was pretty sure the damage had been done - years of calling Hank Bigfoot, and Bozo, and shoving him into lockers, and heckling him whenever he got up to speak in class. What kind of idiot was going to forget that?

Hank didn't forget. But he forgave, which is more than Alex ever expected, and definitely more than he ever deserved. Alex knew Hank was too good for him from the fucking get-go. He knew Hank was going places, and one day he realized that it would be without him. It didn’t make sense, you know, the football captain and the head dork. President of the National Honors Society, his mind fills in unhelpfully, because why the fuck does he know that? Because he's still totally in love with Hank, that's why. Jesus.

When Alex breaks out of his depressive Hank-daze, Armando is giving him this knowing look. Armando is one of those people who always seems to know what's going on, even when he shouldn't, and right now, Alex can't deal.

"Wanna get out of here?" Alex asks, abruptly, but Armando just nods.

"Yeah, cool. Pretty sure I saw Raven leave a few minutes ago." Armando raises one of his crutches and wobbles precariously. "To the Mansion!"

| |

Their school is Westchester is a small one, so there are really only so many after-prom parties to go to. Raven’s parents are the textbook definition of wealthy and neglectful; her house is colloqually known as The Mansion, complete with a gigantic pool and a seemingly never-ending supply of booze. That the party is at her house wasn't even a matter of discussion.

“Help me up, man,” Armando says, sunk between two couch cushions, and Alex dutifully hauls him to his feet while he fumbles with his crutches. "Gotta walk around the room before I stagnate. Like a shark. Always swimming."

Armando might be a bit drunk. "You sure you're gonna be okay?"

"Yeah man, you know me. Can't keep a good man down!" He leans in to give Alex a serious look. "Gonna go talk to Angel."

Armando's crush on Angel was legendary and incredibly long-lived. His devotion to her was practically criminal.

Alex sighed. "Don't let her boyfriend kick your ass, okay?"

Armando nods seriously. "I'll pull Sean for backup."

That was kind of like leaving your retarded puppy to guard your house. Cute, but markedly ineffective. "Your funeral, dude."

"Tell my mom I loved her!" Armando says cheerfully, and disappears into the crowd.

| |

There’s a bunker running the entire length of the house; Raven’s grandfather took the Communist scare very seriously. When they were children, Raven used to hold sleepovers here, and everyone told ghost stories and played Marco Polo – the bunker echoed so badly no one but Sean, who had some sort of freakish echolocation, could ever figure out where anyone was – and made themselves sick on sugar. It took Alex a long time to realize exactly why Raven was so invested in making friends, but they all had their own fucking problems.

It’s dark in the bunker, maybe even a little dank, but no one will come down here. The alcohol is on the first floor, and the bedrooms on the second and third. It’s a little pathetic, maybe, for Alex to be spending his after-prom here, but there’s no one around to judge.


Of course. Of fucking course.

“Hank,” he says, turning around. “Fancy meeting you here.” He shouldn’t be so surprised. The bunker was their place, after all. Where they went when everyone else was too busy drinking and hooking up to come looking for them.

“Are you drunk?” Hank asks, frankly, which is just - so fucking Hank.

“Not in the slightest,” Alex says, fuck-you-cheerful as he can, and hefts the forty he brought down with him. “But I was planning on working on it.”

Hank wrinkles his nose. “Where did you even get that?”

“Upstairs. Because Raven loves me. And she knew the football team was coming.” No sense wasting the good stuff on guys who would try to drink their weight in it.

“Right. Right, I saw you with Armando.”

"Yeah. Thought he could use the company. But I think he's actually making a play for Angel, so."

"Good luck with that." Angel was pretty status driven, so dumping her skeezy but rich older boyfriend for a sidelined football star was not really in her best interests. Forget that Armando was pretty much the coolest guy Alex knew. Fucking high school.

"Exactly." Alex drank. "Want any?"

The minute he asks he wants to kick himself. It's way too much like the old them -- down here, alone together, drinking and making out. Alex liked that more than he could possibly explain, sitting in Hank's lap, mouthing Hank's neck while Hank rambled on about Attention Restoration Theory, or the WFPC, or that the phasing out of the oxford comma was a goddamn tragedy.

Hank stares at him for a second before fiddling with his bowtie. "I don't know if that's a good idea."

"Probably not," Alex concedes, and takes another drink. He'd take it back if he could. He'd take a lot of it back.

After a moment Hank sighs, sits next to Alex against the wall, and pulls out a hip flask.

"Hank," Alex says, sort of irreverently pleased. Guess Hank learned at least something from him.

Hank tilts his head. "Hennessey. Raven's favorite. She refused to go to Prom sober."

"Smart girl." Like she could be anything less with a stepbrother like Charles. "You guys looked good."

Another one of those silences. "Thanks. You too."

Alex always feels like a tool in suits. Not to mention cummerbunds make absolutely no sense.

"I thought you were... looking," Hank continues, cautiously, and Alex snorts.

"Looking. I was practically stalking." Alex tends to say what's on his mind, and its only worse when he's under the influence. "Though I didn't know you were coming down here, for the record."

"And here I thought you were done with me," Hank says, lightly, but the pause before he says it is just a little too long.

“Done with you?” Alex says, confused, and just drunk enough to share it. “Hank, you’re going to Harvard.”

“Yes,” Hank says slowly, and turns to look at him head on. “It’s Boston, Alex, not the moon.”

Might as well be, Alex doesn’t say. Because Harvard’s just step one. Then its Hank going on to get his Ph.D at Yale, or some shit, and then working in like, Washington, for some government think tank, or maybe going somewhere else – really somewhere else, like Europe or China or Africa. Hank could do anything, and Alex is still going to be here. A dead fucking weight.

“Right,” Alex says wearily, and takes another drink.

“Is that why you…” Hank says, and then hisses, “is that why you broke up with me?”

Alex looks away and shrugs. He’s got the worst poker face ever known to man, and Hank knows it. “I didn’t want to break up with you,” he admits. “I just thought it would be - easier, I guess. In the long run. I mean, shit, do you remember when Jean went to UCLA and Scott went to State? They fucking imploded." There were not enough words to explain that clusterfuck. Including the word clusterfuck.

"That might have had something to do with Scott cheating with Emma, and Jean cheating with her roommate," Hank says gently.

Fucking proto-punk environmentalist lesbians. The worst part is that Alex would probably really like Ororo, were she not the other woman. The other other woman. Whatever. It's not that Scott was blameless, and that's a big pill for Alex to swallow about his older brother. Relationships are fucking hard.

"Still. Everyone says, you know, high school relationships don't last. And - you remember, you were studying economics with Sean. Talking about opportunity costs, and trade-offs, and what-the-fuck-else, and I realized – it wasn’t worth dragging out, just to have you one month more, before you forgot all about me." How could Alex possibly compare? Not just to the people Hank was going to meet, the ones who were going to try and hit on him, but all the things - his classes, and being around people who would understand him, for once. Who liked Star Trek, and talking about the Hubble Telescope, and who knew what a fucking oxford comma was to begin with.

“An economic argument for breaking up with me,” Hank says, wryly. “I’ve never heard that one before."

“We all know I was never the brains of the relationship.” That's their whole problem in a nutshell, really.

Hank doesn't say anything for a moment. "I could never forget about you. Just to be clear." When Alex turns to look at him, Hank's face is only a few inches from his own. Big blue eyes. Soft mouth. "I'm never going to."

"Hank," Alex whispers. "Hank, I --" His head is buzzing. I'm sorry. I didn't want to break up. I love you. "I was... stupid."

"You're not stupid," Hank says, patiently, the same way he always did when Alex was trying to play the dumb jock card. "Maybe afraid though."

Afraid, yes. Alex hates it, but he can admit it. Afraid of all the things he had to lose, afraid that he was going to be the one who got lost. Again. Alex feels like he's always being the one left behind. The one nobody chooses.

"I miss you," he says instead, and buries his head in Hank's shoulder. Just drunk enough for this not to feel pathetic, though he'll be embarrassed tomorrow. "I miss you so much, and I couldn't even tell anyone." In some ways, that was the worst part. Alex had been so focused on keeping their relationship a secret when they were together, that when it ended it was like a bomb had gone off, but no one noticed. No one seemed to care that Alex was never going to be the same.

"Oh Alex," Hank sighs, and the gust of breath over Alex's face is warm, and so familiar. Then Hank's big hands on either side of Alex's face.

Alex is just maudlin enough to need to make a concentrated effort to not break down and cry like a fucking baby. "Stop it," he says, letting just one sniff past. Fuck. "Stop being so nice, you're always being too nice, people are going to take advantage of it.”

“Right,” Hank says, like he’s laughing, the fucker. “I’m the one being taken advantage of in this scenario.”

“And stop using words like scenario.” Hank saying SAT words should not sound so sexy.

Hank laughs into the top of Alex’s head. Presses into the little cowlick there he likes to rub his nose over. “I can’t believe how ridiculous you are. How does everyone not know how ridiculous you are?”

“High school,” Alex says gloomily. “We all have our secrets.”

Hank stops laughing. “I suppose we do.” He tilts Alex’s face up, so they’re both looking each other head-on. “I never – I never wanted you to be one of them. You know that, right?”

Right. ‘Cause that was exactly what Hank needed. Another reason for all the douchebags and dickwads to make his life a living hell. For such a smart guy, he has no idea how to take care of himself.

“You have the survival instincts of a pineapple,” Alex says bluntly. “You can’t just—”

“We’re not in high school anymore,” Hank interrupts, blandly, like Alex hasn’t brought up a really fucking good reason. And it’s a lie, to boot. They might not have much school, but there’s still a week or two, and then finals, before they get to graduate. More than long enough for someone to try and cause trouble.

“It’s not – it’s not about high school," Alex stutters, because its kind of a lie. "It's, okay, it’s about – it’s about you forgetting me. Or finding someone better than me. It wasn’t like Westchester High was fucking brimming with choices, okay, and I – I get that, okay – ”

Alex can practically feel Hank rolling his eyes. “Yeah, it would have been really hard to go to the city and find a cute gay guy there. I’m that helpless.”

The idea of Hank finding cute gay guys in New York City is not improving his mood. “I’m totally over this conversation,” he says, and pushes himself back against the wall, and one of Hank’s hands drops away. “I’m going back upstairs. Somebody’s gotta console Armando.”

“You could stay here,” Hank says. Eyes practically un-fucking-real in the low light. “With me.”

“For tonight?” Alex asks, before he can censor his stupid fucking mouth. “I mean –”

Hank slides his hand under Alex’s jacket and wraps his fingers in the shirt, hard. Just over his heart. “Definitely for tonight. For –”

And it’s time to cut that shit off right at the source. Alex grabs Hank’s face with both hands, and kisses him. Just kisses him, but it's the best feeling he's had in a while. It's just the way he remembers - and by that, he means fucking mindblowing, he means so fucking good it makes him forget everything else.

He doesn't resist when Hank hauls him onto his lap - always surprisingly strong for a geek - doesn't make a sound when his knees hit the concrete, just works his hands up to Hank's ridiculous bowtie.

“Alex,” Hank says, kind of strangled, because Alex has skipped from kissing to biting and licking, until he gets the taste of Hank in his mouth, strong enough so he’ll never forget. “Alex, you—”

“Quiet time,” Alex hums, and goes to work on Hank’s shirt buttons. Hank’s hands push into his hips, the small of his back. Perfect.

“Wait, wait,” Hank’s pants, his hand in Alex’s hair, hard, and Alex doesn’t mind that so much as the ‘wait’. “Let’s – the cots –” There’s a row of cots in the back corner, made up still, blankets in piles behind them. Alex and Hank have used them before. Probably not for the reasons Granddad Xavier intended.

Cons: Having to move, having to let go of Hank for one second. Pros: A little less damage on the knees, more creative positioning.

“Okay,” Alex says, and kisses Hank, just once more. “Race you.”

| |

It’s not much of a race, really – they’re half drunk, and ditching their clothes as they go. Alex nearly trips over one of Hank’s gigantic shoes, and he gets tangled in one of his own sleeves. Which would be embarrassing, if it didn’t feel a little like some weight had been lifted off of him, just seeing Hank like this again.

“Sit down,” Hank says, already standing over a cot - amused, his whole voice rich with it. This is the Hank no one else gets to see. This is the Hank that was just Alex’s. “Sit down before you hurt yourself!”

Alex plonks down onto the cot cooperatively. Hank’s the brains, and – well, Alex appears to be the drunker one, here.

So it’s Hank on his knees before Alex, already shirtless, working patiently to free Alex’s arm from it’s devious sleeve. Alex is mostly staring, not really helping. Thinking about kissing Hank again, about the way he’s going to feel against Alex’s body. Good, obviously, and always so hot, like a furnace, like there was something inside of him trying to work its way out. Surprisingly strong from doing gymnastics. Mindblowingly flexible.

“Hank,” Alex whispers, his hands – both now free – on Hank’s shoulders, “Hank, Hank…” just repeating his name until Hank starts kissing him again, probably to shut him up, but Alex can’t complain. He runs his hands through Hank’s hair, tacky with gel but soft at the roots, and he scratches his nails into Hank’s scalp, until Hank tilts his head back and smiles, dreamily.

“I missed that,” he says, and Alex knows exactly what he means. After they’d gotten off, after they’d moved past the beginning awkwardness and the fear that somehow it was all some big fucking joke, Hank used to nestle his head on Alex’s chest, or into the crook of his shoulder. And Alex would pet him, like a cat or something, nails and fingertips digging into Hank’s head, ruffling his hair the right way back down.

“I missed it too,” he mutters. Another of his dirty little secrets. All the things he misses about Hank that aren’t so dirty after all. All the things that make him realize he can’t let go. “C’mere,” he says, after a moment, and tucks Hank’s head just under his chin for maximum head-scratching capabilities. “Lean on me for a sec.”

Hank’s arms are wrapped loosely around Alex’s waist, his breath flowing warm and steady across Alex’s neck. Alex runs his hands through Hank’s hair for a few minutes, and let’s himself just – have this. Just a moment of calm in the center of a whirling storm of hormones, and teenage angst, and stupid drunken decisions.

Eventually Hank groans, and presses a kiss to the point of Alex’s chin, the underside of his jaw, the hollow of his throat.

“I wanna suck you,” he murmurs, and Alex feels his dick jump in his pants at just the words. “I wanted to so bad at Prom, when I saw you. You looked so perfect – golden boy,” he says, sweet, mouth scraping down Alex’s torso, and Alex feels himself flush.

I’m so in love with you, he thinks. With every stupid word that falls out of your goddamn mouth. It’s a good thing Hank has no idea exactly how much power he has over Alex – he could destroy him.

Alex feels his eyes roll back in his head a little when Hank puts Alex’s dick in his mouth in one go, one quick bob before pulling off, just enough to get Alex’s dick wet and warm, a fuzzy contrast to the cool air in the bunker. And Hank pulls back and grins a little to himself, a sideways shy grin, like he still can’t believe he’s doing this, like they haven’t done worse and dirtier, hours and hours spent making each other come over and over until it hurts to even think about it, sticky and sore and mind-numbingly happy.

Alex can’t keep himself from pushing his thumbs over the corners of Hank’s lips, bitten-red, on their way to blowjob-puffy, mouth stretched full around his dick. Hank’s making noises in the back of his throat, and his eyes are closed like he’s savoring it, concentrating on the shape of Alex’s dick in his mouth, all the stupid things Alex can’t stop murmuring in senseless encouragement.

“Yeah, that’s – perfect, Hank, so perfect, please—”

Hank started off timid but applied himself to blowjobs the same way he applied himself to everything. Which means while his first attempt at blowing Alex had been hesitant and slow – and the best sort of tease, Jesus, Alex jerked himself off to the memory of that for weeks - by now Hank is a blowjob extraordinaire; great at it, and he knows he’s great at it, and he drags it out until Alex knows it won’t come easy, not when Hank keeps bringing him to the edge and then yanking him back again hard, dazed, and caught between wanting it to go on forever and wanting it to end right-the-fuck-now.

“Oh,” Alex says, somewhere between a sigh and a moan, the beginning of one and the end of another. “Ohhh, Hank, look at me. Look at me. Hank, come on, look at me, wanna –“

Hank’s wearing his contacts tonight, and his eyes are bright blue even in the dim light. He doesn’t have anything to hide behind, and Alex is stripped bare, here, in the worst goddamn metaphorical sense, and when Hank swallows again – once, twice, his fingers digging into the underside of Alex’s thigh – he’s got nothing to protect himself. No way to pretend he isn’t pinned under Hank’s gaze, writhing, coming so hard it’s like the religious experience he’s never had, Hank’s mouth and hands gentle and determined, not letting him go until he’s got nothing left to give.

| |

"Do you want to fuck me?" Alex asks, once he gets a good quarter of his brain function back. "I want you to." Hank is good at fucking too - a genius, really, telling Alex where to move and how to bend and who knew sex wrapped up like a pretzel could feel so good?

"No condom," Hank says, little more than a whisper, and the look on his face --


They don't have a condom, which is not just a pity, it's a fucking tragedy, because they'd stopped using condoms a while back, and Alex is not so dumb he can't figure out exactly what that means. He's caught between feeling grateful and acting like a full-on asshole - Hank would never be stupid stupid, but there's that chance because he slept with someone, he slept with someone else.

"I --" Hank says, and opens his mouth to tell, and did Alex fucking ask? He shakes his head - snaps it to the right and down, no further questions - and he hates the way Hank sucks in his lower lip for a moment before nodding. Part of him thinks this is why he broke it off in the first place, this is why it’s not worth trying, if this is all it takes. The other part of him thinks he should stop being such a jackass.

"Azazel?" he asks, after a moment, and Hank's head snaps up in shock.

"No!" Hank blurts out. "No, I - why would you--"

Dude's a freak, that's why, a sexual fucking freak one step away from a predator, with how he's always in the right place at the right time. And if Azazel hasn't been eyeing Hank for months now, Alex would eat his stupid fucking cummerbund.

"Who?" he asks, and then puts his hands on Hank's shoulders, letting his thumbs rest just on Hank's collarbones. "No, forget it, I - sorry," he says, because he's not trying to act like such an ass - they broke up, Hank's got nothing to be sorry about, in technical point of fact, and why is Alex such a jackass, why does he ruin everything. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't - I shouldn't care, it's not --"

"I want you to care," Hank says, truthful and miserable. "That's all I want," and possibly Alex has confused Hank's coordination for sobriety.

"Come here," he says, and pulls Hank up onto the cot with him. They can manage; they’re not the biggest of guys, and the close fit is just what Alex wants right now, just what he needs. Hank’s leg thrown over his, feet rubbing over one another, even if Hank’s are huge and hairy. Alex presses a kiss to the corner of Hank’s mouth, then his eyelid, where the skin is fragile, and thin. "I care." God help him, but he does. "I always care, it's stupid. I got jealous when you picked Bobby for your lab partner in Chem.”

Up close, Hank’s smile reminds Alex of an overexposed photograph – too bright to properly reflect real life. “Really?”

“Thought maybe you had a type,” he confesses. Blonde hair, blue eyes, prone to stupidity. No offense to Bobby.

“Just you,” Hank says, blunt honesty sounding entirely too smooth. “There’s you, and then there’s everybody else.”

Hank makes Alex feel - raw. Exposed. Like someone pulled his guts out, and then made Alex look at them too. And the strangest part, the part Alex has a hard time explaining to himself, is how good it feels, sometimes - too good, so good it hurts, and Alex never knew what anyone meant by that until Hank.

"Just me, huh," he repeats, and his voice cracks on the word 'me', obvious, no matter how he tries to hide it, and he kisses Hank before Hank bursts out with something else stupid, like 'there's no one like you,' or any of a dozen soppy ridiculous things Hank has said before, or similar. He kisses Hank because he's no good with words, not words that aren't for tearing people down, and he - he doesn't want words, right now, he just wants Hank.

It's Hank's name that he moans, Hank's mouth that he kisses, and Hank's teeth in his bottom lip. And it's Hank rubbing all over him, squeezing and scratching and pulling and pushing, until they're got the perfect groove going, Hank's dick sliding onto that vee between Alex's stomach and his thigh, slick with sweat and getting slicker, precome leaking from the head, and Alex reaches down just to feel Hank jump in his hand.

"Wanna," Alex says, and hopes Hank can get it from there. He pushes his face into Hank’s neck, breathing heavy, and he loops his free arm around Hank’s neck to balance precariously on the edge of the cot when Hank lets his legs fall open. “Yeah,” he exhales, pleased, and slides his hand from the head of Hank’s cock to the root, trailing just over his balls, a tease. Hank’s breathing is coming in gasps, short and strained, hiccupy, and Alex can feel Hank’s throat working next to his ear. “Hank,” he says, “Hank, Hank, Hank,” and follows each name with a kiss, and a bite. He’s jerking Hank off now, faster, fingers gone slick and sticky, and Alex lifts his head – watches the flush of Hank’s face, the way he’s biting his own fingers, hard, and Alex has a sudden urge to lick his way around them.

“C-close,” Hank stutters, hips shoving up and up into Alex’s hand, head thrown back. “So close, Alex, please,” he says, so sweet, and so sincere, and how Hank can just hand himself over to Alex every time, every time so completely, Alex doesn’t understand.

“I’ve got you,” he says instead. “Come on, Hank, I’ve got you,” and for that moment it feels like the truth.

| |

For a moment after Alex’s mind is blessedly, strangely empty. No desire to run. No desire to do anything. Something like bliss, or serenity, maybe, in listening to Hank’s heart beat gradually slow down to met his.

After a minute he sits up, gingerly, and swings his feet over the edge of the cot.

Hank whines almost immediately - distressed, displeased, a little panicked. "What - wait!" he says, and sits up too, one hand on Alex's back. "Alex. Can - "

“Hank,” Alex says, and leans, into the touch, involuntary as breathing, before grabbing a blind handful of blankets off the floor. Sometimes they’re musty, but Hank and Alex have made do before. "Not going anywhere," he replies, and turns back around even though certain parts of his brain have started flashing red alarms, mental sirens, like nails on a chalkboard.

“Oh,” Hank says, his mouth gone soft, and they rearrange themselves quickly – Alex settling on top of Hank just to kiss him. He's only sort of half-hard, at this point. Nearly asleep. He'd done a decent amount of damage to the forty, and if you add sex to the equation, not to mention the emotional turmoil, he's just about done. And fuck it, no one's going to miss them tonight. No one even knows they're down here, and if Hank and Alex manage to wander upstairs tomorrow morning for one of Raven's amazing after-party brunches, they're just another two drunk idiots who nodded off on the grounds somewhere. It costs nothing, to stay here. Just for the night.

Just for the night, Alex thinks, one of his legs shoved in between Hank's, and he lets the clumsy tug of Hank's hand in his hair lull him to sleep.

| |

Alex wakes up once during the night, or the really early morning maybe. He's stolen most of the blankets - tangled himself in them, really - and they're sticking all around him, like a sweaty cocoon. He flails a little trying to escape, one arm flying out to hit Hank in the arm.

Hank's eyelids barely even flutter. "Shhh," he slurs, still asleep, and he turns a bit more onto his side to sling his arm around Alex's waist. "Stop't."

Jesus fuck, Alex thinks, and kicks his feet until they're free. He throws as much of the blankets back over Hank as he can, and goes back to sleep.

| |

The second time he wakes up is worse. The alcohol has definitely run it's course, and his back feels like a bunch of knobby broken bits all thrown together, pinching and poking in all the wrong places.

"I hate the world," Alex declares, face shoved into the cot. He groans, rolling his hips and shoulders like maybe something will pop properly into place. "All of it. The whole world. Burn it down."

"Seems a bit reactionary," Hank says. "Hungover?" and Alex just grunts.

"Feel like a pretzel. One of those weird ones misshapen ones no one ever wants to eat."

"Can't have that," Hank says, and runs his hand over the back of Alex's neck, the tops of Alex's shoulders, sweeping all the way up to the back of Alex's head, even as Alex thinks he's being made fun of, a little. "No mutant pretzels here."

"Laugh it up," he sighs. "Awake long?"

He can feel Hank shrug next to him. "A bit."

Translation: I've been watching you sleep like a creeper. Alex had woken up to that a few times: Hank staring at him, like he was surprised Alex hadn't disappeared in the middle of the night. Such a weird line between creepy and cute, Alex thinks muzzily. A weird, weird line.

"I have to say this," Hank says suddenly, “because I don’t know if you’ll ever let me get close enough for another chance.”

Say what, Alex wants to say, but Hank beats him to the punch.

“I love you,” and the words echo in the room like Hank dropped a bomb.

In that moment Alex is pretty sure he stops breathing. He pulls back from Hank and stares at him for a moment. Confused. Scared.

"I love you," Hank says again, like he realizes each word is a nail into the coffin of Alex's resolve, and he is determined to bury that bitch. "And it doesn't matter if I'm in Boston, or if I meet everyone in the entire world. I'm not going to stop loving you. I couldn't."

Cards on the table, Alex thinks, dimly. A whole winning fucking hand of them. And he wants to say something cruel. Sometimes that cuts Hank off, that plays down his own feelings. Making it about sex, about Hank being easy for him, or about Alex being easy for everyone. When Alex gets going on a verbal attack he's impossible to stop, like a snowball rolling down a mountain - picking up speed and mass as he goes, until he wants to destroy anything he sees, until it all explodes into a wreck at the bottom and Alex is left with some kind of release - an empty feeling, maybe, but the destruction used to make up for it.

Which is why Hank is - in some ways Hank is a goddamn miracle. It's a miracle it happened in the first place, it's a miracle it keeps happening, it’s a miracle Alex ever believes a thing Hank says. And sometimes, maybe sometimes a person has to believe in fucking miracles, has to believe in something, because – because what else is there, otherwise?

“I love you too,” Alex says, before he can change his mind, and it’s – it’s the first fucking time he’s ever said that to someone who wasn’t Scott, and they only bust that one out for the bad times, the ones they’re not sure they’re gonna get through, so this is just – it –

“Okay,” Hank says, and his voice is shaking about as much as Alex’s whole body is. “Okay. Good. Really, really good.”

Alex has a lot of feelings right now – a lot of conflicting, strong, gut-wrenching feelings, and the last thing he feels is good.

“What about this is good?” he asks, sitting up, his hands form fists, ready for destruction, the best kind of defense. “You love me, I love you, big fucking deal. It doesn't solve anything. It just means it hurts more when you leave, when you find the college-Alex upgrade, or you're drunk enough or lonely enough to forget about me." Alex might have spent some time imagining various scenarios, and he kind of wished he hadn't picked up that word from Hank. "It's not going to make any fucking difference when it’s over, Hank, it's not --"

But there's something quietly dying in Hank’s eyes, and Alex did that.

He takes a deep breath. A big one, so his head feels light, his lungs overextended. Feels a little like when Scott first came back and Alex kept having panic attacks, certain that something else was going to split them up. He still has nightmares about it, sometimes – the plane crash, and waking up in new places filled with strangers.

“Ignore me,” he says wearily. “Just – ignore me, for a second. Processing.” Fuck words, he decides. They lie, they hurt, they suck. And he takes a few more breaths, Hank’s hand on his shoulder. Focusing until the scope of the world is just the two of them, this cot. Nothing else.

“Better?” Hank asks after a few moment. “Want me to call Scott?”

You lose it and beat a guy to a bloody pulp one time, and no one ever lets you forget it. Even if the asshole really deserved it.

“I’m good,” he says, and finishes crawling the rest of the way into Hank’s lap. He’s spent his whole life so fucking touch starved, he never realized how good just being with another person felt. “I – yeah, sorry.” He looks Hank full in the face for maybe the first time that morning. The first time in a long time. “I mean it. Sorry for everything.”

“It hurt when you broke up with me,” Hank says, simply. “It hurt a lot. And I didn’t know what I’d done wrong, and you just – you didn’t even tell me.” And yeah, Alex feels like a jackass for that, for dropping Hank, for ignoring him, for not even having the guts to make it semi-decent. A text would have been better. A text.

"I panicked,” Alex says honestly. “And that's not the best excuse, or explanation, but it’s one I’ve got. I just – it was like the light at the end of the tunnel was the oncoming train, okay, and I wasn’t riding that out.”

“I don’t know why—” Hank starts, and then stops. Corrects himself. “I do know why, but that doesn’t…”

“It’s not easier just because you know the reason,” Alex mutters. Alex is a product of his upbringing, okay? Through and through. His parents died when he was young – too young for him to get it, really, too young to feel anything but abandoned – and then it was ten years before he saw Scott again, the ten years it took Scott to grow up and age out and convince some paper pushing bureaucrats that a blind guy could take care of his younger brother better than anyone in a group home ever could. So Alex doesn't trust people. And he doesn't trust himself. And he doesn't see what's wrong with that, really. If you never take anything at face value, you're never going to be caught off-guard. “I know exactly why, but that doesn’t make it any easier to change.”

“Do you even want to change?” Hank asks, sad, and it feels like a bigger question, somehow. Because yeah, Alex wants to change. He doesn’t want to be the kid he was, he doesn’t want to be the teenager he was when Scott got him back. He barely wants to be the person he is right now. But if want was all it took to change, Alex would be a fucking chameleon.

“You know I do.” Alex told Hank things he’d never told anyone. Everyone knows Alex lives with his blind older brother, but no one knows how long Alex was on his own beforehand. About foster care, and juvie. “I want to be – to be in control of myself. Of how I feel. Of the things I–” He cuts himself off. “I don’t want to feel like I’m fighting against myself.”

"I missed you," Hank says, wistfully, and Alex groans a little, because he missed Hank too. Like a limb. Like all the color had gone out of his world, and sure, maybe he didn't need it to survive, but it was certainly fucking depressing.

“I missed you too,” he says. “I did, I really did, I – I’d take it back, if I could.” Even though he knows he can’t. Putting the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again.

“It’s four hours from Cambridge to Westchester,” Hank says quietly. “Three and a half from Binghamton to Westchester. You’ve driven farther for scrimmages.”

Hank probably has no idea what position Alex plays, but that he kept that close an eye on their away games is sort of … adorable, in a closet stalker way. And Hank's got that look in his eye, the one that says he's not giving up or backing down, even if it ends with being shoved in a locker or his homework thrown all over the quad.

"You’re not sold on a long-distance relationship, fine," he continues. "But I’ve got the rest of the summer to convince you. And you're not taking that away from me. You wouldn't dare."

And Alex really has no answer for that. No attack. He doesn't want to. Well, okay, he does - he wants to cut his ties and run in the opposite direction. But there's a bigger part - or a stronger part, maybe - that doesn't, that really doesn't.

“Okay,” he says.

“Okay?” Hank repeats, confusion wrinkling his forehead. He’d probably had counterarguments planned.

“Yeah. Okay,” Alex says reasonably, and watches the smile spread across Hank’s face, the way he ducks his head to try and hide it, because they both know Alex has all but given in. Give Hank an inch – a look, for example, just one stupid look at the wrong time – and all of a sudden its makeouts after practice and blowjobs at house parties and watching the newest Batman movie while pretending you’re not holding hands. Just for example.

At this rate, Alex thinks, they’re going to end up gay-married someplace, with two cats, because of course Hank’s a cat person, and a big ugly piece of art on the mantle because Raven doesn't have the design sense God gave a redneck. He thinks he might be okay with that – if not today, then someday. Maybe someday soon, even.

“Waffles?” he asks instead, because they’ve got more to talk about, and Scott isn’t expecting him home for hours. Plus, emotional growth makes him hungry. “Help me find my pants, and I’ll even buy you bacon.”

“I like bacon,” Hank says agreeably, and if it takes another half hour to find Alex’s pants, no one else is around to care.