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The Beast Within

Chapter Text

Future Plans

Hank takes a steamy hot shower, allowing the water to soothe the ache in his abused muscles. A glance in the mirror before he stepped into the water stream showed that he's still heavily bruised, so he's sure that this soreness will linger for a few days.

After shaving and rinsing out his hair he gets out and dries off with the towel Roxanne so graciously provided him with before then dressing in a fresh set of clothes.

On the bathroom sink sits his X-watch, along with the little case that holds the vials of Dr. Cartier's inducing compound. He eyes it warily, considering his options.

Should he use the serum?

Yes, the Wendigo beat him badly last night, but Hank still hesitates to go down that road. Not out of some sense of misplaced nobility or pride, but out of fear of what he would become. Despite Mr. Yazzie and Roxanne's reassurances, he's afraid of what darkness the steroid compound could bring forth from within him. Better to heal up and regroup instead.


The unexpected voice startles him slightly, though he already knows who it is. Hank turns to Charles' image, standing in the empty shower, and scowls. "In the bathroom, Charles?" he chides. "Really?"

"Would you rather it be Roxanne surprising you?" the bald man teases, with a knowing grin.

Hank's face turns red hot as he struggles to maintain his dignity. "That's neither here nor there," he retorts stiffly. "Is there a reason you're dropping in at such an awkward time?"

"Yes," Charles replies. "I do apologize, but I'm coordinating a lot here and this is the only moment I could spare. I wanted to let you know that I have assistance on the way, and the X-Men will be there first thing in the morning."

Something within Hank relaxes, hearing that reinforcements are en route. In the morning the X-Men will be here to help him with the Wendigo, and there will be no need to agonize over using Cartier's serum. "That's good news," he says.

"How are you feeling?"

"Sore, but better," Hank tells him. "Thank you."

Charles nods, an amused sparkle now coming to his eye. "I'm sure Roxanne is happy to know that her efforts to save you worked," he observes.

The feral mutant says nothing. He merely eyes the other man suspiciously, waiting for him to get to the point. Why so much innuendo about Roxanne?

"I can see why you trust her, Hank," Charles says. "She's quite good in a crisis. And very smart. She has a Master's Degree in physics, yes?"

"Biochemistry," Hank replies warily. Now he thinks he knows what Charles is driving at, but barely dares to hope.

"So much the better. Perhaps… perhaps you should ask her to join our school? I've been wanting to offer some upper level genetics classes. If she took over the chemistry courses, that would free you up to teach them," his mentor muses. His next words are dripping with feigned innocence. "That is, only if you wouldn't mind having her come."

Hope now bubbles up in Hank's chest, rapidly expanding outward in a supernova of joy.

Roxanne coming to Westchester? Roxanne being able to share her love of science with others, perhaps even helping him in the lab? Being able to see her every day, to explore this budding connection between them?

The thought has already occurred to him, of course. He's sure Roxanne- intelligent, warm-natured, and no-nonsense Roxanne- would make an amazing teacher. He just hasn't been sure how to approach Charles about the topic without it seeming like he's only trying to get his crush a job. He's glad Charles recognized Roxanne's worth without him needing to say anything.

Hank doesn't bother to hide his grin. "I wouldn't mind at all," he replies. "I'll ask her."

"Wonderful," Charles says. "Now- take care, Hank, and we'll see you in the morning."

He blinks out of sight, leaving Hank in a much more sanguine state of mind than before.

The feral man picks up the case of Dr. Cartier's compound and tosses it in the trash can with a sigh of relief. He's glad he doesn't have to agonize over whether to use it anymore.

He steps out of the bathroom, leaving his X-watch on the counter.

"Hey, Hank," Mr. Yazzie says, sitting in his dilapidated old armchair. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better, thank you," Hank replies.

"Dinner's in ten minutes!" Roxanne calls from the kitchen.

"What are we having?"

"Trout and roasted potatoes," Mr. Yazzie tells him. "Today was supposed to be grocery day, so I'm afraid we're running low on supplies at the moment."

"I saw that the general store was closed when I came into town," Hank comments.

The old man nods. "It's been closed for over a week now."

"Any idea why?"

Roxanne appears in the doorway to the kitchen. "I overheard Ethan bragging to Dave and Charlie in the bar the other day," she says bitterly, leaning against the doorjamb. "Him and a couple buddies threatened Mr. Jones into closing up shop for trading with us and the other Inuits."

Mr. Yazzie scowls over this piece of unwelcome news. From Hank's point of view, it seems like the Yazzie's presence in Eagle Village is becoming more and more untenable as the townspeople grow bolder with their bigotry.

It seems as good a time as any for him to bring up the Professor's proposal, but the old man speaks before he can.

"Hank- I wanted to tell you I'm sorry for hiding your rifle," Mr. Yazzie tells him. Apparently the wrongs of the townspeople against him have brought up reminders of his own sins. "I was so focused on getting my revenge that I wasn't thinking about what harm it could bring to you."

"I understand, Mr. Yazzie," Hank assures him. He glances at Roxanne, noting the fondness with which she regards them both. "Let's just do our best to avoid such circumstances in the future, shall we?"

The old man chuckles his agreement before becoming serious once more. "What are we going to do about the Wendigo now?"

"He's still healing, Gramps-" Roxanne interjects.

"And that monster is out there, getting bolder," Mr. Yazzie retorts. He looks at Hank expectantly.

"I spoke to Charles a few minutes ago," Hank tells them both. "The rest of the X-Men should be here by morning."

Roxanne perks up at this. "It'll be nice to meet your friends," she murmurs, eyes shining.

"They're going to love you, Roxanne," Hank assures her. He means it, too. It's hard to imagine anyone not loving her. "Actually-"

He gathers his courage.

"Charles wanted to know if you would consider becoming a teacher at our school. With your degrees we could easily get you certified, and I'd love to have your expertise in the lab with me. Not as an assistant, but as my partner. Together we could-"

Hank stops there, for fear of his blabbering scaring her off.

"I'd love to," Roxanne says softly, after a long moment's thought. His heart soars, only to plummet with her next words. "But I need to stay with Gramps."

"You're welcome as well, sir," Hank adds hastily. He looks over at the old man, who's watching them both with intense focus.

Mr. Yazzie shakes his head slowly, his expression genuinely regretful. "New York's too far for me, boy," he murmurs. "Too much of my heart is in the Alaskan woods. But Roxanne, you should go."

"I can't leave you, Gramps," she says firmly. "And don't pretend like you'd be fine without me, because we both know that's not true."

It hurts to watch the disappointment in Hank's face, to see how much he wanted her to come back to New York with him only to have those hopes dashed.

But Roxanne has a feeling it barely holds a candle to her own dismay.

What a wonderful opportunity to be forced to turn down! The chance to be among her own kind, to touch the lives of other mutants. To help Hank with all the experiments he told her about- to actually be with him.

It pains her to give it up, but she knows it's the right thing to do. Her duty lies with Gramps, no matter how hard the stubborn old man tries to change her mind.

Even now, the old man opens his mouth to protest-

"I understand," Hank murmurs, cutting off the brewing argument. His expression becomes tentatively hopeful once more. "But in that case… may I come see you sometimes?"

"Sometimes?" She barely dares to hope.

"Well, I'll come every weekend if you'll let me," he clarifies, cheeks reddening adorably. He quickly adds, "and only if it's alright with you, Mr. Yazzie."

"That's fine," the old man says, with a sly grin.

Roxanne tries to keep her composure, but her smile and the fiery heat in her face immediately give her away.

The thought of Hank wanting to pursue this fledgling relationship between them pleases her immensely. He even thinks it's worth the trouble of flying all the way across the country for every weekend. If that's not caring, she doesn't know what is.

"I would love that," she tells him honestly.

Hank lets out an explosive sigh of relief, which makes Gramps laugh at him.

"Oh, hush," she scolds the old man, and she stomps back into the kitchen rather than dealing with the old man's teasing.

Thankfully dinner is so close to being done that she doesn't have to feel guilty for abandoning Hank to the old man. Gramps is also wise enough to take heed of the warning flash in her eyes and keeps his more jocular thoughts to himself at the table.

As before, Hank helps her with the dishes after Gramps hobbles his way back to the living room. She likes the way it feels for them to stand so close together, with their arms touching companionably. His presence actually makes the menial chore rather enjoyable.

"Thank you," she whispers to him as soon as they're nominally alone. "For being so understanding. About me staying here and everything."

Hank shakes his head. "Of course."

She snorts. "There's no 'of course' about that, Hank," she quietly argues. "You're saying you're willing to fly fourteen hours every weekend just to hang out with me."

"Yes, but-" He reaches out and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. "You're worth it."

"Are you sure? This won't be easy," she replies incredulously.

"'Sometimes the fact that something is not easy makes it more valuable,'" Hank tells her, with an endearing little grin.

Those are the exact words Roxanne said to him the other day. She's surprised he recalled what she said to him so clearly, and also quite flattered that he thought her words were worth remembering.

She shyly casts her head down and looks up at Hank through her eyelashes, enjoying the way she can stop his breathing with just a glance.

"May I kiss you?" he asks softly, just as Roxanne says, "kiss me."

They both laugh, turning towards each other to share in one another's mirth. It feels so natural for her to step into his embrace, to place her hands against his chest while his slip around her waist.

"Great minds…" Hank murmurs. His smile and those soulful blue eyes make her absolutely melt.

And then he leans down to kiss her, his hands moving to hold her close. She reaches up and threads her claws through his hair, adoring the way he shivers and clutches her body against his. Their lips immediately fall into a slow, sensual rhythm that leaves her quivering all over inside.

A girl could definitely get used to being kissed like this, Roxanne thinks when he finally breaks away from her mouth and lays a sweet kiss on her forehead.

She can sense that he's holding back a bit, but she doesn't mind. To be honest, so is she. Neither of them wants to risk ruining this by rushing headlong into anything- especially with her grandfather in the next room. For now she's perfectly content to memorize the texture of his lips and the taste of his mouth without the need for more.

Hank smiles down at her like she's some sort of miracle, as unworthy as she is of such praise. But the look in his eyes in unmistakable.

Something tells her that to be loved by this man is to be both treasured and adored. Who wouldn't want such a thing?

She's looking forward to what the future holds for them.