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Aug. 10th, 2007

Title: So You Wanna be an X-Man?
'Verse: 616 comicverse, leaning towards Astonishing title
Words: 2410
Rating: meh, I'll give it a PG
Characters: Hank and Bobby with a side of Original Character from out of left field
Challenge: quote challenge "People call me Beast. It's far more than just a code name." for beautifulxbeast.


Bobby leaned back in his seat and watched the waitresses bustle about, the trays hoisted high over their heads full of good old-fashioned artery clogging fare. College kids were crammed in booths nearby, textbooks open and hastily scrawled class notes spread out between half-eaten burgers and empty coffee cups. There was the usual chatter about what professor was the worst at giving out assignments and the usual bitching about too many exams that were scheduled on the same day. It was almost comforting, being back in the collegiate scene; if only it didn’t make Bobby feel like he was the older guy trying to still blend in with the younger crowd. Just the other day he had found more hair than usual clogging the shower drain and he could have sworn that one or two strands at his temple were threatening to go gray. Maybe he shouldn’t have worn the faded Party till we Die t-shirt that had seen better days years ago or the battered baseball cap that was now sitting on the seat beside him he couldn’t remember getting.

“Watch it, my friend. She’s half your age.” Not even looking up from his book, Hank made a grab for his coffee cup. Bobby sulkily noticed that Hank didn’t have to worry about gray hair; the guy was pushing forty and still hadn’t a trace anywhere on his body. And that was an admirable feat, especially since his best friend was covered from head to toe in blue fur. Hank looked completely in his element, not as the aging partier trying to hold onto his youth, but as the distinguished guest speaker, right down to the tweed jacket folded neatly over the back of his booth seat and the round wire framed spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose. The only thing that looked out of place was the long black ponytail that fell over Hank’s right shoulder and the dense string of turquoise stones peeking out from underneath the collar of his white dress shirt in lieu of a tie.

Bobby shrugged. “Yeah, whatever. No harm in just looking, is there?”

“To each his own. I prefer ladies a tad bit closer to my age bracket.”

Bobby rolled his eyes and stretched his arms up over his head. “Why are we here anyway?”

“Recruitment mission. Not paying any attention when Emma was briefing us?”

“Of course not. She was wearing that sleeveless thing again.” He paused. “What the hell is that anyway? Is it a dress or is it just a really long shirt?”

“Hm, haven’t the slightest. At least it brightens the room whenever she’s around.” Putting his cup down, he scribbled a few notes onto his lecture papers. “And if you remember, I was asked to speak here with a lecture on the x-gene that identifies mutants and why certain people theoretically are more susceptible to it. It‘s been proven that certain family trees…”

Bobby yawned. “Please don’t go into detail again, Hankster. You nearly put me to sleep with all of it when you used me as a practice dummy.”

“Well, at least I had the apt person for the dummy role.”

“Hah hah. Leave the comedy bit to me, it’s my thing.” Bobby rubbed his hands together as the waitress set their food down in front of them. He grinned when he caught the waitress slyly checking him out. At least somebody didn’t think he was a thirty-something still trying to look like a twenty-something. He made a mental note to tip her generously when they left.

“Ah, yes, you and your jokes. Not knocking them, but comedy should be my thing. I have a more refined sense of wit than you do.”

Taking a big bite of his burger, Bobby scoffed. “Says the guy that stuck Seran Wrap on Scott’s bathroom toilet two weeks ago.”

“Sheer luck he noticed it before the punch line could be delivered,” Hank muttered, chewing on a handful of French fries.

“That or Emma.”

“No, she wouldn’t rat me out. She enjoys a good laugh as much as the other person. Remember the time Logan had grabbed the shampoo bottle meant for Piotr?”

“The one that made his hair cotton candy pink? Oh yeah, that was great.”

“Emma must have thought so too. She laughed so hard she snorted. And I’m not talking delicate lady snort either; I’m talking guffawing, tear-inducing, really painful nasal condition snorting.”

Bobby shook his head. “They ever find out which student did it?”

“No, but that has got to be one of the new classics. We’d never have gotten away with it.”

“Not gotten away with it and lived, you mean.” They finished their meal in companionable silence built out of years of hanging out together. Every so often they would remark on how much college had changed since they had attended, which meant a few side comments from Bobby about dinosaurs being alive when Hank had gotten his degree and a few retorts about how at least Hank remembered his collegiate years instead of having them washed away in a beer induced haze like certain friends he knew. Bill for lunch paid and a nice tip left under the saucer Hank’s coffee cup had sat, the two were off.

“So where are we supposed to be meeting this professor anyway?” Bobby asked, turning his head as he watched a few students play a pick up game of frisbee on the Quad.

“History department. Dr. Anzadula is an archeologist specializing in restoring artifacts from seventh century England.” He shrugged. “Just think of her as a female Indiana Jones, minus the Nazis.”

“And that’s gonna help us how?”

“Not very well, but several abilities the good doctor possesses will.” Hank pushed open the department doors that the two of them walked through a rabbit warren of offices and reception areas. They stopped when they had reached the last office door to the left and Hank knocked.

“Dr. Anzaldua?” Hank asked, poking his head into the office.

“Speaking. Is there something I could help you with?” Bobby stepped in behind Hank and swallowed hard.

“Wow,” He whispered as he got a good look at the professor. Her black hair was in a messy bun at the back of her neck and held together with a pencil. Dark green eyes stared back at them from behind silver glasses.

“Hello, I’m Henry McCoy and this is Robert Drake. You‘ll have to excuse my friend, he tends to revert when he’s around lovely women.” Hank held out his hand and Dr. Anzadula took it.

She smiled. “No offense taken. I don’t usually get many guests around this time, especially on my day off,” She made a sweeping gesture to excuse her faded jeans and t-shirt. “I’m usually more presentable.”

She rounded the narrow office and sat behind the desk that took up most of the room, gesturing towards the two chairs in front of it. “Please, sit. I gather you are the McCoy and Drake that Miss Frost talked to me about over the phone then?”

Henry nodded. “We are.”

“And you two are going to persuade me to drop everything I’m doing to go work for your school, is that correct? I have to tell you, I’m reaching tenure and I won’t leave unless that persuasion involves much more money than I’m making now.” She leaned forward in her seat.

“You shoot from the hip, don’t you?” Bobby asked, looking around at the artifacts stored in the shelves behind her.

“I don’t have any other way. I figure if you speak honestly, then the people you’re talking with will follow suit and not give me any grief.”

“To answer your question, Doctor,” Henry said, “Miss Frost and Mister Summers are willing to pay you handsomely for your services. We are in dire need of a history professor. At the present moment, our faculty is spread out as thinly as possible and having you around would ease the workload considerably.” Which was the truth; where he didn’t mind teaching several different science courses at the same time along with taking on the higher math classes, having to plan lessons for different levels as well as juggling teaching with donning uniforms after school hours to save the world was taking its toll on his fellow teammates. What they needed were actual certified teachers, which was his initial suggestion to Scott several months ago.

“I am planning a dig in two months in Wales. I won’t be able to take the position, even if I was paid five times the amount I get here. I’m sorry.” She frowned, staring at Hank. “You look very familiar. Have we met before?”

Hank shrugged. “I spoke in the lyceum this morning,” he offered.

“Ah. I went to that. Very interesting topic, slightly controversial take on it as well. But that’s not it, I feel like I know you from somewhere…” She pursed her lips. “Were you on the football team when you were in college?”

“Yes, I was.”

Her face brightened. “Hank McCoy. You were the Beast! I went to high school nearby and heard all about this college football hero during the weekends at the restaurant I worked at.” She smiled at him warmly. “I think all the girls I worked with had a crush on you.”

"They did call me that back then,” Hank said, pleased that somebody remembered him. “They still call me the Beast,” he started, but stopped when Bobby stepped on his foot to get his attention.

“It’s far more than just a codename," Bobby added, looking at Hank. “I think it’s time we got down to the real reason we’re here to talk to you.”

She arched her eyebrow. “And that would be?”

Hank looked behind him at the closed door. He didn’t remember seeing anybody around when they had made their way to her office. “I’m pleased that you liked my lecture, especially since it probably hit close to home,” he told her. “We know what you are, it’s the major thing that brought us to your door.”

She leaned back, her eyes wary. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “Please leave now.”

Bobby gave her a sympathetic look. “If you didn’t know what we were talking about, you wouldn’t be getting so freaked out, would you? Look, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll tell you I can make it snow in here just by using the water in that fish bowl over there and Hank can balance upside down on the tip of his index finger.”

“Sure, make yourself look good but tell her about something trivial about me,” Hank muttered. He turned to Dr. Anzadula and tilted his head. “What he’s saying is that we’re mutants as well. Emma frost found you using a device we have in our possession and the job offer is not exclusive to teaching. Have you ever heard of the X-Men?”

“The people that have been all over the news lately? You want me to work in that mansion turned school that Trish Tilby had been blasting nightly?”

Hank winced at the mention of his former girlfriend’s name. “Er, yes. Trish had some issues with a certain comrade of mine at the time. They had just broken up when she gave that report.” He cleared his throat. “The truth is, your specific mutation would come in handy for us.”

She snorted. “Yeah? Tell me, how is blasting a bunch of energy out of my hands that I can’t even control going to help anybody?” She sounded bitter and Hank noticed that she had withdrawn more into herself, making herself seem small in her chair.

“We could help you gain focus. Many of us started out the way that you are and with the help of our friends we’ve mastered our mutations so we can help others.” He could sense that the conversation was starting to wind down to the point of awkward silences. Why Emma had sent Bobby and himself to do this was beyond his comprehension. Neither of them were very good at confronting potential teammates. Bobby tended to either be too flippant or try too hard to be serious and he…Well, Hank just didn’t like initially talking to people very much. He was much more comfortable greeting them and making them feel at home once it was positive they were going to hang around for a while instead of baiting the hook itself.

That and Gloria Anzadula was a very attractive woman. Attractive women tended to make him nervous.

He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a business card. The stock and raised letters felt heavy in his hand as he slid it across the desk towards her. “Please, think about it. We can be reached here when you come to a decision. Thank you for your time, Dr. Anzadula.” He moved to stand up.

“Gloria.”

Hank stopped in mid-stand. “Pardon?”

“Call me Gloria, Doctor McCoy.”

Hank smiled. “Then you must call me Hank. I’ll wait for your call.” With that, both he and Bobby left the office.

They were both quiet as they retraced their steps to reach the exit of the building, then Bobby piped up. “Watch it, she’s close to your age bracket,” he quipped, repeating Hank’s earlier warning about women half his age.

“I have no idea of what you’re talking about,” Hank huffed, opening the glass door. “Besides, there’s not any harm in just looking, is there?”

“Yeah, but she was looking as well.” Bobby grunted when Hank exited the building and let the door close in his friend’s face. “You think that she’ll take the offer?”

“Not quite sure. I’ll wager an eighty percent probability.”

“Want me to move out of my classroom so that she’ll have to take the empty one next to yours?” He thought for a while. “It might take me longer to move out of my bedroom, especially since I have so much junk, but it would be nice to have a hot looking lady right across from your room too, wouldn’t it?”

“Bobby?”

“Yeah?”

“Please extract your foot from your mouth before I kick your butt.”

Bobby grinned and threw his arm over Hank’s shoulder. “Oh come on, what are best friends for if they can’t tease you every now and then?”

Hank rolled his eyes. “Indeed.” And with friends like these, he thought, who needs enemies?

***

And while I was working on that one, this peeked out. Same challenge, different take.

"They call me the Beast, it’s far more than just a codename."

“Please, there’s nothing beastly about you, man. You wouldn’t be able to hurt a fly.”

“On the contrary, I happen to dislike flies very much. They meet the wrath of my flyswatter on a daily basis.”

Hank and Bobby were sitting on the mansion’s back patio enjoying a few beers and the last bit of summer. It was nearly September, where the air had that promise of a crisp fall quality to it while still lingering in the summer humidity. Both were dressed for the occasion - Hawaiian shirts, blue and red respectively, shorts and flip-flops. Bobby had one shoe dangling off his big toe as if to see how long he could keep it there while draining the medium sized cooler the two of them had brought out with them an hour earlier. They needed this. They hadn’t had time to talk as friends in so long that it had seemed almost awkward at first.

“So, what do you think about Emma and Slim?”

Hank shrugged, downed the last of his beer, and reached inside the cooler for another one. Using the underside of his forearm to twist the bottle cap open -a trick he learned in college - he took a swig. “I’m not one to make snap judgments.”

“But…?”

“They could have waited until Jean was cold in her grave at least.”

“You think?”

“Robert, she was my friend. No woman deserves to have her husband cheat on her, even if only on a mental level.”

Bobby put his hands up in a defensive pose. “Hey, Jeannie was my friend too, but Scott’s a guy. You know as well as I do that we can’t help thinking about other women, even when we’re in a relationship. Everybody does it, even chicks.”

“Ah, yes, you in your infinite wisdom of the fairer sex know that.”

“Hell yes. I know every girl I was dating was looking for the next mister Right to come her way. I’m okay with being the in-between guy.” Bobby dug around for another beer, frowning when he came up with nothing but melted ice cubes. He was slightly buzzed, not enough to be drunk, but enough to still speak what was on his mind. “I should be, having you as my best friend.”

“Now I know you’re drunk. Come on, we’re going inside.”

“No, hear me out. Every single time we go out, women look at you first. You totally wreck my game with your smarty pants vocabulary and those glasses. Remember the time my date dumped me mid-dinner to get your phone number?”

“That was because you were using your chopsticks to impersonate a walrus at the time.”

“Okay, then what about the time you picked up three women at the bookstore?”

“Comic strip collections versus nonfiction astronomy books. You would have been bored with them anyway, and for the record, they were more interested in trying to get notes for their college test than a dinner date.”

Bobby frowned. “Why do you do this to yourself, Blue?”

“Do what?”

“You knock yourself down before anybody has a chance to. If somebody shows a remote interest in you, you either pull the Absentminded Professor act on them or go and blend in with the background.”

Hank shrugged. “I’m not a particularly handsome…”

“Bullshit. Don’t play the Ugly card with me; we’ve known each other way too long for you to cop out like that. I’m tired of seeing you staying alone night after night, living vicariously through everybody else around you.”

“I do not…”

“Yeah? Why do you hang onto every word when Rogue starts bitching about Remy? How come you’re the one that is always there when something good or bad happens in any relationship?”

“I’m merely a good listener.”

Bobby raised an eyebrow. “You’re not still pining for Trish, are you? I know that breaking up with her was hard on you, but you’ve got to move on.”

Hank flinched. Yes, the yo-yo that was his relationship with Trish Tilby was difficult for him. He didn’t know if he really loved her or if he was just that lonely and she was a safety net for him that he always returned to her time and again. He knew his chance with her was minute, thanks to his latest feline transformation. A high profile reporter seen around town with a furry blue cat would not make her the most popular in the media. But still…

“…See other women, Hank.” Bobby finished, clearly not catching how Hank had zoned out on their conversation.

“Excuse me?”

“You need to see other women. Let me set you up with somebody. No, check that. Get one of the girls to set you up with somebody. Emma should know someone that you’d hit it off with.”

Hank rolled his eyes. “I do not want Emma interfering with my love life, or lack thereof.” He stood up, slightly tottering on his feet as he did so. “We are drunk and it is late. The world will not wait for us to get over hangovers in the morning to be saved.”

Dawning realization hit him. “It’s not that you don’t like Emma and Scott getting together over Jean’s death,” he said, “It’s that you don’t like them getting together at all because you have a thing for her, don’t you?”

Hank started. “Preposterous. Whatever gave you that idea?”

“I didn’t catch on at first, but there were hints now that I’m thinking about them. The poetry, the late night paper grading you always did just in case she came downstairs when she couldn’t sleep. You’ve got it bad for her, don’t you?”

“No, I do not. Now this is the last that I want to talk about the subject, if you can even remember that we spoke of it in the morning. Good night.”

Hank left Bobby sitting there on the patio and made it back to the cool safety of his laboratory. The shiny chrome instruments glittered in the harsh florescent lighting and the faint smell of chemicals greeted his nose. It was comforting, familiar. It was far better than facing the honest truth that Bobby so casually threw out in the open. He didn’t know how hard Hank had to work to keep his thoughts shielded from the blonde telepath, not wanting to ruin whatever happiness she had found with his own longtime friend.

No, he was much more comfortable in his steel and glass Ivory Tower than out in the open. He shifted his memory of his and Bobby’s conversation to the back of his mind and let the more familiar scientific theorems and equations come to the forefront. Yet try as he might, bare diamond shoulders and glittering platinum hair always drifted into his thoughts and bungled up his calculations. He halfheartedly welcomed the distraction, because he knew that it was as close to the real thing as he was ever going to get.

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