Alex would like to preface this whole story by saying that no one expects to be bitten by a werewolf.
This is totally not his fault.
He’d been up in the woods at Sean’s family cabin, celebrating the last weekend before school started just like everyone else – boozing it up around the bonfire, and looking forward to senior year. Scott had finally gotten that promotion at work, which mean they didn’t have to count pennies to the end of the month anymore, and Alex was going to be quarterback, which was instant high school popularity of the highest caliber - it was going to be epic. He was headed to the top of the world, and Alex should have known that meant it was about to all go to shit.
The bonfire had started to gets a little low, and Alex volunteered to grab more firewood. No skin off of his nose, being nice, especially since Sean was so high he’d probably fall into a ditch somewhere and forget to get up. It had happened before.
Yeah, sure, he’d heard a wolf howling when he went into the woods – which he thought was either completely crazy, because Westchester wasn’t exactly known for its animal life, or possibly Azazel playing some sort of joke. He didn’t think werewolf. What sane person thinks werewolf? So when a big furball blob scratched him, he thought – wow, too drunk, if we’ve moved onto the hallucination part of the evening, thanks Sean – not that he was going to start turning into some ravenous beast the next time he turned around.
Alex didn’t think it was too bad, at first. He didn’t notice. He was strong, sure, but he’d been training all summer, and he was the quarterback. He was supposed to be good. So he took down a few too many guys a bit too hard. So what.
Then he pulled the door off of his locker. And started smelling things he shouldn’t be smelling. Oh, right, and getting hairy all over, and growing fucking fangs.
He can’t go to a hospital. They’ll throw him in the loony bin before he even gets a change to properly explain, to show them what’s happening to him. And even if he does get a chance to show them, who’s to say they won’t cart him off to be studied and experimented on? He’s seen enough movies. He knows what happens when freaks just appear out of the woodwork. People like their woodwork just the way it is – bland, and unassuming, and safe. Werewolves are not any of those things. Which mean that Alex has to be really, really smart about who to ask for help.
Alex is not Serious Decisions Guy. Alex is Spur of the Moment Guy. It’s how he works, and it works for him. And that makes this decision particularly difficult, because spur of the moment could get him killed. Shit is serious.
He can’t go to Scott. As much as it pains him, and as smart as his older brother is, Scott is so painfully white bread that having his brother turn into a werewolf might actually break his brain. By the time they got over the hysterics and disbelief – Alex is not writing off fainting, okay – the chances of Scott even having any werewolf knowledge seems pretty unlikely.
He’d tried the internet, tentatively, but between all that Twilight bullshit, and Harry Potter, not to mention every werewolf movie ever made, he’d gotten a lot of information on how to kill himself, theoretically, but not much that looked like it should be taken seriously.
So there’s really only one person Alex could go to.
Hank McCoy was, well, kind of a freak. He was some sort of bizarre genius whose parents insisted on making go to public school instead of sending off to college, which meant that not only was Hank the nerdiest guy to ever exist at Westchester High, but he was so smart he couldn’t even hang out with the other nerds. His closest relationship was probably with their biology teacher, Mr. Xavier, and wasn’t that just pathetic.
But desperate times called for desperate measures. Pathetic or not, Hank’s being super-smart was a definite bonus here, not to mention unaffiliated with the government and unlikely to freak out, which were Alex’s basic criteria at the moment.
After his latest school weird out – devouring a plate of chicken roughly the size of a small child, and Alex didn’t know he could get that hungry – Alex asked Sean for Hank’s address; Sean knew everyone, sometimes it was kind of uncanny.
It turned out Hank lived on the other side of town, the nice part, near the local college. Made sense. A guy like Hank had parents who were doctors, or lawyers, or at least teachers or something. His house was nice too – flowers in the front yard, porch swing. Like the cover for some stupid magazine.
Gathering up his courage – and quite possibly his crazy, why was he here -- Alex knocked.
After a few moments a middle-aged woman with honey-brown hair and a pleasant smile opened the door. “Hello?”
“Uh, hello. Hi. Is Hank home?”
“Hank?” she repeated, and then beamed at him. “Certainly. He’s downstairs in his basement, give me a minute and – ”
“No! Uhm. I’ll just go get him. We can just – hang out down there.”
Just when he thought her smile couldn’t get wider. “Of course. And you are –“
“Alex Summers, ma’am.” Shit, there go the ma’ams. It’s scary what the presence of a mother, even one that isn’t Alex’s, can do to him.
“Alex. Nice to meet you. The basement is just this way.”
The basement. Alex probably should have expected Hank to hang out in some place like a basement – in his own secret little genius lair. Whatever. Probably good that they have some privacy for now.
“Alex Summers,” Hank said, as he watched Alex clamber down the stairs. “Can’t say I ever thought you’d show up here.”
“You and me both,” Alex muttered before he remembered he should probably be playing nice. “But I have a problem.”
Hank didn’t even look away from his computer. “Oh, I know.”
“You know?” Alex shouted, halfway to a growl. He has really gotta get a handle on this.
Hank shrugged. “You haven’t exactly been yourself lately. Luckily its high school, so no one notices.”
Alex crossed his arms. “I’ve been myself.”
Hank turned around, finally, and gave Alex a look worthy of Miss Frost. “You have yellow eyes –“
“Azazel has yellow eyes.”
“Conspicuous bodily hair.”
“Why are you looking at my body hair,” Alex said faintly, and recrossed his arms.
Hank rolled his eyes. “When it starts sprouting in places it shouldn’t, it’s pretty conspicuous. Maybe everyone else thinks you’re taking steroids.”
“I’m not taking steroids!”
“Considering you decimated the rest of the team at football practice the other night, I’m not sure who’s going to believe you.”
Good point. “I’m not sure you’re going to believe me.”
“It’s pretty straightforward. You’re a werewolf.” Hank paused. “Or a Yeti, but that seemed unlikely.”
Alex felt a little lightheaded. “Being a Yeti seemed unlikely, but a werewolf didn’t?”
“’When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth’,” and Alex just knew he was being quoted at. “Unless you were playing some weird, elaborate practical joke, you’re turning into a werewolf.”
“No joke,” Alex said, and it was like all of a sudden the fight has gone out of him. Like he remembered why he was here. “So. Genius. How do I get rid of it?”
At that it was Hank’s turn to frown. “No idea, I’m afraid. While I’ve always been interested in cryptids—“
Cryptids” Alex mouthed.
“—I’m not an expert, by any means.”
“Great.” Even Hank’s super genius had failed him.
But Hank was still talking. “I could try to figure it out, of course.”
Alex paused. “You’d do that?”
Hank gave Alex his best ‘are you really that stupid’ look, and Alex had been on the receiving end of that one more than enough times to judge exactly how mean Hank wants to make it. “Indubitably. You’re a lycanthrope, Alex. The chance to study you is a scientific jackpot. How could I possibly turn that down?”
“Well, when you put it like that. What are you going to do?”
Hank turned back to his computer. “Try the internet first, I imagine. There are a number of academic journals that might have some information. Some of the more obscure ones, perhaps.”
“Come back tomorrow!” Hank threw over his shoulder.
Okay. Could have gone worse.
Alex spent the next day trying to keep a low profile, which was difficult, considering how often he was growling at people and throwing his hand up over his forehead to hide how hairy his eyebrows had suddenly gotten – going to high school looking like Frida Kahlo was a death sentence, forget being a werewolf. He’d eaten about four pieces of chicken at lunch today, which was an improvement, and he only had two periods to go, just Bio and World History, and then he was free and clear.
So of course he came across Riptide and Azazel trying to stuff Hank into a locker. Forget that Hank had gone through pretty much the same growth spurt as the rest of them, and wouldn’t be able to fit into a locker unless you chopped off a few extra limbs. They were making the effort.
“Hey!” Alex yanked on Riptide’s arm – nearly too hard, Jesus Summers, don’t give the game away now – and Hank’s head popped back out of the locker, hair everywhere, eyes as wide as an owl’s. “Leave him alone, all right?”
Azazel turned to look at him, yellow eyes never once blinking. “Why?”
Oh. Right. Alex had never stopped this before. Riptide and Azazel made up the basis of the football’s team – Riptide was freakishly strong for being only a medium-sized guy, and Azazel was one of the fastest left tackles Alex had ever seen - and messing with Hank, among other school undesirables, was sort of their thing. It wouldn’t be the smartest idea, to piss them off by taking away their favorite chew toy without permission.
“He’s helping me pass Xavier’s class,” Ales said, suddenly just as aware of everyone else in the hallway looking at them. “So leave off him, okay? He’s no good to me with a broken brain.”
Azazel shrugged, as if to say, 'Alright, Summers. Don’t get your panties in a bunch,'before turning to look at Riptide. Riptide nodded in some sort of agreement, and the two sped rapidly down the hall.
“Does they ever talk?” Alex asked out loud, puzzled.
“Thanks,” Hank said, and looked a little bewildered. His glasses were crooked.
“Don’t mention it.” Literally. “Cool if I come over later?”
“After practice,” Alex promised, and ran to get to class before the bell.
Hank’s mom let him in again and this time she offered him cookies – big lemon sugar ones, with white chocolate chips in them. He busted out his best “thank you ma’ams” before inhaling a half-dozen and running to the basement. He was starting to like this place.
Hank, thank God, nipped that feeling in the bud.
“You took long enough,” he said, and Alex rolled his eyes. Not like Hank could see it, buried in his computer.
“Coach kept us late. Big game this weekend.”
“Really? Hadn’t noticed.”
Alex started to open his mouth – really? Hank had missed the fliers for the pep rally and the pre-game cookout and the hallway banners and – and that was about the point Alex realized Hank actually had a sense of humor, even if it was a really sarcastic one.
“No one’s making you go,” he said instead, petulant. “Now tell me the good news.”
“Sure.” Hank waved Alex over to the computer. “So there’s a lot of junk out there –”
“Tell me about it.”
Hank ignored him. “But this site at least appears to be legitimate. ‘The Mansion.’ It’s run by a man who calls himself the Professor – and try as I might, I can’t figure out where his website originates from.”
“Well, good, in a sense. If he’s smart enough to keep hidden, why would he waste his time making a fake website about the supernatural?”
“So he’s just protecting himself.”
“Conceivably. He might be taking trolling to a new level, but this makes me at least believe the site is legitimate.”
“What does he say about werewolves?” Alex asked. There’s a whole list of things on the sidebar – banshees, bogeymen, brownies, cockatrices, demons, devils, djinns, elves, gargoyles, ghosts, goblins, incubi, kappa, kobolds, leprechauns, manticores, ogres, phantoms, reapers, sphinxes, sprites, succubi, trolls, wraiths, wyverns… like every horror movie ever made and then a handful more. Shit, he’d never even stopped to think – if werewolves are real, what else is out there? Thoughts to explore much, much later.
“Lycanthropes,” Hank said, and then spent the next few minutes moving his mouth silently over the rest of the words. “Well. According to this, you’ll be forced to change on the full moon, though you can change at will whenever else you want. And sometimes when you don’t – you might metamorphosize under stressful conditions.”
“You mean… change.”
“Well, yes. Change, or start to change. Like with your eyes, and the hair.”
“Is there a cure?”
Hank clicked down. “Wooden stake to the heart. Uhm. Silver bullet to the head?”
“Not really the kind of cure I was hoping for.”
“Apparently most people trying to cure lycanthropy before this weren’t looking at it from your end.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
Alex could see Hank’s glare reflected in the computer screen. “I’m trying to help; you could try to be less of an asshole.”
Well. Looked like Hank had balls after all.
“Fair enough,” Alex conceded. “So what’s our next step?”
“Old school research. I have access to Westchester’s libraries, and with their lending library system I can get nearly any book I want. It’ll take longer though.” Hank clicked down the webpage again. “I’ll see if I can’t get in contact with this Professor. Maybe he has some information he hasn’t posted. Even rumors might be helpful.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Alex liked plans, and order. Real life was typically enough chaos. He did not need this werewolf business, like, at all.
When Hank turned around, Alex suddenly realized how close he had been hovering over Hank’s shoulder.
And the answer to that was really, really close.
Hank smelled – a little like lemon, Alex thought, and breathed in a little deeper. Maybe he’d been helping his mother bake? Or maybe he’d eaten some of the cookies too. It’d be cool if Alex could figure out what people had been eating – then he’d know when Scott was lying about eating the Chinese food or throwing it out, the cheat.
Hank’s eyes were also really wide behind his glasses. And really blue, huh. Alex had never noticed that. Guess Westchester High’s drab beige lockers didn’t do much for him.
Oh my god, what was he doing.
Alex took a hurried step back. He could feel all the blood rushing to his face, and he felt a little sick because of it. “Shit. Jesus. Uhm. Sorry about the… sniffing? Werewolf thing. I promise I’m not usually this much of a creep.”
After a moment, Hank smiled at him, a little. “Enhanced sense of smell?”
“You smell like lemons,” Alex blurted out. Still embarrassed, but so, so willing to move on. “Among other things. I mean, that’s what I was smelling right that second. Sorry.”
“Fascinating,” Hank said, and tilted his head to the side. Apology apparently accepted. “It’s been an hour, at least.”
Alex shrugged. “Smells stick around.”
“Fascinating,” Hank repeated. “Would you mind coming over tomorrow? I’d like to run a few tests. See just how powerful your nose is.”
You know what? Why not. Hank didn’t make being a werewolf fun, exactly, but it beat feeling like a total freak, all alone in his and Scott’s apartment. “Sure. Help me with my Bio homework?”
“I won’t do it for you,” Hank warned, and it was Alex’s turn to roll his eyes.
“I said help, Genius,” he threw over his shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Is that… coffee?”
“Espresso beans, yes. It’s commonly used to clear the nose of other scents.”
“Pretty clean,” Alex admitted. “Detergent. Something flowery. Artificial. A kind of – linty smell? Your mom should empty the catch. And it’s not – it’s a guy’s, it smells like a guy, but not you.”
“Doesn’t matter. Smells stick around.” Alex pulled a face. “I try not to breath in at school. Too many people, too many smells – mostly bad, was there a text about not showering I should have gotten?” and Hank huffed with laughter. “I’ve had to leave a few times before I got sick.”
Later, sometime – I am a werewolf, not a trained puppy!” snapped.
Hank didn’t say anything for a moment. “I really wish I could put that on a t-shirt,” he said mournfully.
Email back from the Professor.
Alex could see how short it was over Hank’s shoulder. His heart sank.
Unfortunately, I have never heard of a cure for lycanthropy, nor have any of my colleagues. A very dear friend is stricken with a not dissimilar supernatural condition, so believe me when I say I know the disappointment such an email must bring you. I have attached a short list of known demonic texts that may shed some light on the particulars of lycanthropy; I am only sorry I am not of better help.
In addition, I must beg you to tell your friend to be careful. There are still a number of hunters operating throughout North America who see anything non-human as a threat, regardless of your friend’s intent or ability to stay non-violent.
Hanging out with Hank was actually kind of cool.
Alex was never admitting this to anyone, but it really sort of was.
Not only did Hank’s parents let him have free rein over their huge, furnished basement, but Hank had built himself, like, a secret lab down there. He had three different computers, about as much lab equipment as their high school lab, a projector and a decent-sized flat screen TV, not to mention pretty much every horror movie ever made.
“No offense,” Alex had said, “but you really don’t seem like the kind of guy who would like horror movies.”
Hank shrugged. “I like picking apart the science.”
Alex rolled his eyes heavenward. “Of course you do.”
“Do you have any werewolf movies where the werewolves don’t die?”
Alex made a vomiting noise.
“Fine, then. The Underworld series? I mean, some die, but they’re not the bad guys, per se…”
“Kate Beckinsale, right?” Alex launched himself over the back of the couch and onto the pile of pillows. Gotta give Hank a hand – he knew how to outfit a lair. “Let’s watch it.”
“You’ve got a microwave down here too?”
“No. But I’ve got a Bunsen Burner.”
“Popcorn,” Alex agreed. “But I want to help.”
“Yeah,” Alex said wistfully. “Think I’m sticking to guys for a while.”
Hank dropped a beaker. “You, uh,” he says, before stopping to clear his throat. “You like guys?”
Alex shrugged. “Sometimes. And like, this whole wolf thing? Not that girls smell worse than guys - I don't know, I think maybe most of them smell better - but there’s way more artificial smells? Hair stuff, and make-up, and perfume, and body spray, and its like a cloud of chemicals every time I get really close to one.”
“What about less, uh, artificial girls?”
“Ororo smells like ozone and patchouli,” Alex said glumly. “I can’t get within ten feet of her without sneezing.”
“I can… see… where that might… be a problem,” Hank said, his voice rough. It took Alex a moment to realize he was trying to hold back his laughter.
“Hey!” Alex said, “it’s hard, okay, you have no idea how hard it is.” But he couldn’t help laughing along after a moment. “You suck, Hank.”
(haha remember that BWOC subplot where Tommy could have bitten someone and passed on the curse? hahah hAHHA a laugh a minute)
“I think that dude has plenty of animal to begin with. Mr. Lehnsherr?”
Hank shuddered. “He frightens me quite enough already.”
“Okay, fair. Darwin?”
“Darwin,” Hank repeated. “Darwin. Huh.”
They both turned to stare at him.
“Wow. That might just work.”
“But if I do it, there’s no way for him to get rid of it. Not for another seventy years. I can’t just do that to someone, you know?” Alex sighed. “It sucks, but its mine.”
Hank was quiet for a long minute. “You could bite me.”
“Are you nuts?” Alex asked. And then – “Really?”
“You could go back to – to being you. The old you. And it would be an amazing opportunity to study it, really back up the data you’ve already given me.”
Alex looked at him. Really looked at him. “But you don’t want it, Hank.”
There was a long pause. “No. No, I don’t want it. But you didn’t ask for it, so.”
“Shut up,” Alex said. “Just. Shut up.”
And they watch the moon of fucking whatever pass behind a cloud and into oblivion.
“Maybe in seventy years,” Alex said eventually. “I’ll get you in the retirement home, after bingo.”
Hank smiled. “I’ll be on the lookout.”
"He's a vampire," Hank announces one day.
"He has too many teeth."
"You're crazy. You're paranoid."
"Just wait until he goes for your throat," Hank mutters. "Just wait."
Then the blood bank gets broken into, which is SO TOTALLY a classic vampire move that even Alex cannot argue.
Eventually they fFigure out Erik’s a vampire, and Emma is a nymph? – totally in love with Scott, btw – water sprite, Ondine - Ondines are said to be able to gain a soul by marrying a man and bearing his child – Emma is having trouble keeping her human form – and she’s totally into Scott, and for a moment Alex is like WHOA WHOA WHOA. And Erik is like, oh calm yourself, she’s not a praying mantis, she’s not going to eat him after. And Alex is all, I don’t care, he’s not a – a – a fucking stallion, okay, she can go breed elsewhere. And Emma is all, HUFF. I AM ONLY HERE *BECAUSE* I LIKE HIM. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH I MISS DANCING IN MORNING DEW? AND ALL OF THESE *CLOTHES*, THEY’RE SO RESTRICTING. And Alex is like… just tell Scott you’re a nudist. He digs earthy chicks. And smart chicks. Woo him with poetry. - … really? - yes, for god’s sake, don’t tell him I said so. But he’s always at poetry nights.
CHARLES IS A FAUN WHO HIDES IT WITH HIS PROFESSORISH CLOTHES.
Raven is a shapeshifter.
"Strictly humans though," she says.
“Not a therianthrope?”
Great, more geek speak. “Meaning?”
“Only people,” Hank says. “Not animals.”
Alex hadn’t thought about that, but he feels the sting of it now – having someone to run with, really run with. “Oh.”
“Charles could probably keep up!”
“He smells kind of… food-like. No offense, Professor, but I don’t think we should run free under the full moon, is all I’m saying.”
"I mean, he could have been evil!"
“After all,” Charles continues, in full lecture mode, “you’re not, are you?”
“Well, no,” Alex says, and he refuses to feel bad about this. “But pretty much every other supernatural creature I’ve met in the past six months had been, so excuse me for being a little defensive.”
Erik and Emma turn to look at him, in creepy stereo. “How many other supernatural creatures have you run into?”
This time Alex and Hank exchange a look. “Uh. Evil bookmobile – “
“Body-hopping serial killer.”
“Alex’s dark half –”
“Not my fault!”
“Hank’s evil imaginary friend—”
“Not my fault!”
“Oh, that ghost that was haunting the quiz bowl.”
“A time-traveling Russian communist….”
“Are you serious?” Emma interrupts.
Alex gives her the hairy eyeball, as if to say, ‘no, I’m doing this for my own fucking amusement.’
“Well,” Charles says after a moment. “No wonder you keep falling asleep in class.”
“Thank you,” Alex says. “Now if someone would just tell Scott that. I think the only reason I’m passing is because of Hank.”
“He doesn’t know,” Charles says gently, and Alex shrugs.
“I have no idea how to tell him. I mean, you’re the only people besides Hank who know! And I didn’t tell so much as – show."
And there’s this big misunderstanding where Hank thinks Alex is going to abandon him, because he’s found other people like him to hang out with. And Alex thinks Hank is going to abandon him because there are all these other super cool supernatural creatures that Hank could study, and help, he doesn’t need Alex anymore.
“I’m, uh. Going out on a date.”
“Miss Frost finally make a move?”
Scott frowns at him. “How did you know?”
“Dude, she wants your body.” Alex snickers, and Scott smacks him on the back of the head. “She does!”
“Where did I go wrong?” Scott mutters, and raises his eyes to the ceiling.
“You did alright,” Alex says, because sometimes he thinks he might hear an actual flicker of doubt when Scott asks. “Emma likes white flowers, and anything to do with water.”
“Emma?" Scott asks, raising an eyebrow. And then - "Water?”
“Yeah, uh. She’s a big… swimmer. And naturalist – person. Loves water, snow, ice, all of it.
“No one,” Alex said, sniffing again. “No one smells like you, Hank.”
“I – well, I assume all people smell differently--“
“People stink,” Alex said bluntly. “Like sweat and dead skin and cologne and – I can tell when girls are on their periods, did I tell you that? Talk about a superpower no one wants – and when they’re angry or turned on or sad or whatever, but you, you just always smell so good. I could smell you forever.”
Somewhere in the back of his brain normal-Alex was throwing a hissy fit about pushing a guy up against a wall and telling him you want to smell him forever, but werewolf-Alex really could not give a fuck.
“Alex,” Hank said, desperate, there’s a – just a hint of arousal, and it’s enough to make Alex groan.
“This turns you on,” he said, pressing his nose into Hank’s neck, just under his hairline. “I can tell, I can smell you. Hank, Hank, I want –
“A little too – wolfy, fuck.” Yanked himself off Hank and skittered to the other side of the room. Breathed deeply.
Hank, looking at him weirdly. “I – did that to you?”
“Yeah.” Staring at each other, like – it means something, Alex doesn’t know. “You’re bad for my control sometimes.”
Hank starts to apologize, stumbling over himself.
“Don’t be. Gives me incentive to work on it.”
“I’m glad this happened to me.”
“You don’t want a cure?” Hank asks, cautiously.
“No! I mean. Maybe? I don’t know. That’s not what I’m saying. I just – if I’d never been bitten, maybe I never would have talked to you. Maybe I never would have had this.” He shrugs. “So, getting a little hairy on the full moon is a price I’d pay, is all I’m saying.”
Long pause? And then – “That was almost nice,” Hank says, and he’s not laughing at all.
Alex shrugs. “This might sound weird. But in a way, you’re the best friend I ever had.”
“You’re definitely mine,” Hank says, and it’s sad – it’s really sad, the way no one appreciates Hank properly.
“Glad I beat out Sean,” Alex says finally. “That would have sent me into a spiraling depression.”