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Volume 2 -- Supreme Reflections -- Hank McCoy

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Hank McCoy
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Hank’s Reflections (AN: Takes place after issue 29)

The complexity of human affairs was a puzzle like no other. Hank McCoy was used to solving vast puzzles with his brilliant mind. He was a lifelong champion in the use of logic and reason. Yet in the scope of a seemingly infinite range of personal propensities, it seemed the strength of logic and reason reached its limits.

In his lab there was a chalkboard he often used to jot down ideas or work out formulas. More often than not it was littered with random equations and various data from experiments. Some of his students joked how this oversized board was a mosaic of the complicated yet brilliant workings of his mind. He often spoke with such advanced understanding that he often flew over the heads of even his best students. Yet right now, he didn’t feel all that smart. In fact, he felt downright foolish.

For a time, he was the beast that had the beauty that saw beyond his monstrous exterior. He had the love and dedication of Ororo Munroe, a woman with the kind of grace and warmth that seemed worthy of a million Shakespearian sonnets. She was so good to him. She was the first relationship he had since he underwent the transformation that he had been cursed with. She broke him out of a shell that he had been stuck in for the longest time. Yet still, he blew it with her. Even for a mind such as his, that was difficult to comprehend.

Carl Sagan once said, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I wonder if he had a lost love in mind when he came up with such a profound musing. It would certainly be appropriate. Cursing the darkness is the easy part when that’s all that surrounds you. Lighting that proverbial candle and using it to find the way is much more difficult.

How could anyone regardless of their aptitude in Quantum Mechanics be so foolish? I had before me what I once thought to be a statistical impossibility. A beautiful woman full of grace and majesty had given her heart to me. Together we shared a love and intimacy that transcended the superficial. What we had was deeper than mere natural instinct. For a man such as me, that alone goes a long way. Yet it all fell apart. It fell apart because I let it.

How could I be so foolish? How could I be so asinine? I grew up in a world surrounded by reason and logic. Why is it that I can apply these skills in every other endeavor except those of a personal nature?

Hank racked his brain for answers. Usually, they came easy or at the very least he was able to go through the complicated steps that would lead him to the answer. This time he was completely at a loss. He had no clues, no variables, and no formulas to work out. He had only the burden of a foolish heart.

Holding his head low, Hank swallowed a bitter growl and grabbed a piece of chalk. He then found himself jotting down some random notes on his board. This time they were of a non-intellectual nature. They were strictly abstracts. He wrote down words such as love, heartbreak, mistake, and reasons. He circled each word and then put a big question mark next to it. This crude model represented the problem his powerful intellect faced.

I suppose personal issues have always been a fickle phenomenon in the ongoing tale that is my life. Perhaps it’s because I had so few growing up. My childhood was one of privilege and opportunity. My father, Norton McCoy, was able to provide a very comfortable life for me and my mother as a scientist at LawrenceLivermore Laboratories. Not only did he put food on the table, he opened me to a world I seemed destined to be a part of.

I remember the first day he let me visit the lab. I swear it was like a spiritual experience. Being surrounded by all that equipment, it made me feel like I was approaching a gateway into the mind of God. My father later said he knew from that look on my face that I would follow in his footsteps. I was perfectly content with that and I immersed myself in the world of science from the moment I was capable of understanding it.

Every moment of my upbringing, my parents nurtured my thirst for knowledge. They enrolled me in extra classes, sent me to private schools, and got me every book I could consume. My natural knack for reason set me apart from most children. I remember at my first science camp I asked so many questions to my teachers I practically confounded their work with the other children. At times I overwhelmed them and I probably did not make many friends in the process. It appears to be the beginning of an overall lacking of certain social skills that may very well have culminated in these recent troubles I face.

If there was a flaw in my persona my parents certainly didn’t recognize it. I gave them no clues to indicate as such because I was so immersed in science. Yet I did not become anti-social. I constantly put myself out there, asking questions to people who shared my passion for reason. In this my mother was quite helpful. She always had a silver tongue and a quick wit, something many of my less social peers lacked. It helped me move forward and excel both in school and in my activities. By the time I was seven I was making integrated circuits and skipping grade levels on a routine basis. I took an IQ test a few years later and was labeled a genius. Everyone seemed to agree. I was destined for great things. Then I got my first taste of hardship.

Hank paused for a moment before writing another string of words next to the question mark. They consisted of concepts such as hardship, coping, and understanding. He circled them as well and drew a line to the big question mark that was next to the other group of words. Stepping back a bit, he stared intently at the text and tried extrapolating the answer he so desperately needed.

My father had recently began work on a new biotechnology project. It was purely speculative in nature so it was not considered sensitive. Because of that he shared it with me, explaining how he was seeking a means to stimulate and regulate latent genetic traits within any given organism. The idea was that those born with faulty genetics could be treated more effectively if their genes were given a proverbial kick start. He was so enthusiastic about it and I ended up sharing that enthusiasm. I shared it to such a great extent that much of my focus in the sciences shifted to biology. I wanted to learn with my father as he did his work and on several occasions he let me accompany him during experiments he set up in our garage.

It was all fun and games until one day, his superiors came barging in while I was watching him on his latest experiment. They practically cornered my father and tried to force me out of the room. I was a bit taken, so much so that I accidentally shut down the experiment improperly. It caused a bit of an incident that would later come back to haunt me. But that was not my primary concern. This conflict was all about my father and his research.

They wanted him to cross an ethical line. They wanted him to take his research and develop it for military purposes. Around this time mutants were gaining more attention and various agencies were vying for influence in mutant affairs. The military, as is often the case, took a fairly reactive position and wanted to make my father’s genetic research a weapon. They reasoned that if he could manipulate genetic expression then perhaps they could use that as a tool to control mutants. It did not take a man as smart as my father to figure out the more sinister undertones of such a program.

They did not give him much say in the matter. He was part of a government lab. As such, he was obligated to direct his research as they saw fit. But my father had too much a backbone. He had always been adamant about using science for the good of mankind. Making weapons that could be used to control and possibly oppress innocent mutants certainly did not fit that mold. I remember some fairly heated discussions over this matter. The lab gave him two options: go along with the research or lose his job. The former would have been much easier on himself and his family, but for the sake of his honor and personal convictions he chose the latter. I don’t think he even thought twice about it.

Hank added a new word to the least. This time it was conviction, a concept he had not factored into this formula. He soon found himself pacing and pacing for him didn’t just involve walking back and forth. It also involved jumping up onto the roof and hanging upside down like an actual ape. It was primitive, but it helped him think.

That decision is important. It’s one of the few decisions my father made that I never fully understood. He sacrificed so much for himself and for those he loved. Overnight, our lives were uprooted. The money stopped coming in, the benefits we once enjoyed were no more, and security was no longer certain. For a time my parents spoke of divorce. I thought it was only a matter of time. But again, my father’s conviction did not wane. He promised to make things right for his family and as painful as it seemed, he delivered.

We soon left California and moved to New York City where my father got a low-paying job as a teacher. It wasn’t nearly the money or security we were used to, but it did help us get our lives back on track. Both me and my mother started working as well. I could no longer further my scientific curiosity at camps or with excess spare time. I had to work as well as learn. In many ways that was good for me because it taught me the more rigorous part of life. It humbled me in the sense that I realized I could not get by on intellect alone. I had to accommodate conflicting forces within my environment that often prevented me from pursuing my passion.

It is this question of ethics and fortitude that would become so influential in being part of the X-men. That hard line of right and wrong that my father would not cross stuck with me, but it only seemed to stick on the larger issues. I seemed to struggle with the finer details. This became apparent at age 16 when I graduated high school two years early with an advanced diploma. I was working odd jobs to help make ends meat, but it was rarely enough so I decided to put my mind to good use.

On a weekend I took a train to Atlantic City in New Jersey, the eastern capital of gambling in the United States. There, I hoped to earn money in the game of blackjack. I recently read a book on counting cards and I felt with my mind I could certainly pull it off. I understood there were some ethical risks, but my family was in debt and I was willing to overlook that tiny detail. I now wish I hadn’t.

Since I was only 16, I could not legally gamble. So I browsed about the casinos until I found someone who appeared to be a high roller. He was a middle-aged man in sunglasses with a leather jacket an impressive array of Rolex watches and engraved jewelry. My students now say he appeared to be an archetype of most rap videos, whatever that may be. He was frustrated about losing a good deal of money at the tables so I sought him out on the boardwalk, saying I was in need of money and willing to lend my services for a small portion of the winnings. He took next to no convincing and looking back on it, that probably should have been a proverbial red flag.

Within an hour we were at another casino and the man had taken out a 10,000 dollar line of credit. I stood across from him acting as though I was merely watching. A he played I would give him certain signals on whether to hit, stand, double down, or increase his bet. Before long, the universal laws of mathematics took over and he started winning. He started winning big. Within three hours he was up nearly fifty thousand dollars. He was so exuberant he nearly got himself kicked out of the casino. Luckily, we managed to slip away and he collected the money. That’s when it all went downhill.

We met on the boardwalk and I asked him for my portion. He was not going to let me have them. He said what I had was something special. He wanted us to go into business as he called it, saying they could make a fortune. I told him I was not okay with this. I just wanted the money to help my family. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. It got rough and some of his friends surrounded me. That’s when that experiment with my father’s research caught up to me. I later found out that it stimulated my latent X-gene. When put in such a stressful position, it manifested in a big way. And by big I mean I grew fangs, my muscles bulged, and I lashed out like an animal going on a warpath. It allowed me to escape from the men, but it revealed something terrible while also teaching me a valuable lesson in dealing with thugs.

Hank dropped down from the ceiling and jotted down some more thoughts. This time they all related to his mutant abilities. They included words like beast, mutation, control, and struggle. They were all painfully appropriate, if not under-representative of the sheer gravity of his predicament.

This little mishap was difficult to hide from my parents. They were upset enough about me trying to gain money through such spurious means. They were even more distraught when they found out about my mutation. My father blamed himself because it was his experiments that set this into motion. He did some tests using some old notes of his and found out that my mutation involved ape-like reflexes, but due to the mishap with his experiment my X-gene was given too much a shove. That meant they were manifesting with greater intensity than they would have if allowed to manifest naturally. This greatly concerned me and my parents.

We were under no illusions. Me being a mutant was going to seriously affect my ability to function normally. My father did not want to see my gifts squandered so he called up an old colleague of his, Charles Xavier. He had been doing some traveling with Erik Lensherr at the time, but was still able to lend his support. In fact, my timing was perfect because this was during a period when he was just beginning his battle with cancer and re-examining his work on mutation in hopes of finding better treatments.

It started off with a simple visit. Charles invited my father and me to a lab at PrincetonUniversity. There, he used my father’s notes to concoct a serum that would stabilize my mutation. It would allow me to enjoy the benefits of stronger reflexes and enhanced physical attributes while staving off the animal instincts that seemed to be overwhelming me. It was like a godsend, but my father expressed concern that such a treatment would act as a false sense of security…that somehow I would not devote enough energy to controlling it on my own.

My father, being far wiser than I was at the time, was nothing short of prophetic. I foolishly ignored these warnings because I was so intent on making up for my ethical failings at the casino. I was willing to accept this burden in order to make a better future for myself and my parents. To me it felt right. I would redeem myself by bearing this burden on my own and I had an opportunity to do so, again from Charles Xavier. He was so impressed with my intellect during the testing he was able to pull some strings and get me a scholarship at Princeton. I was 18 at the time and it was like a dream come true. While my father had reservations, I convinced him to give me a chance. I now wish he had been more critical.

Once again, Hank stood conflicted. What could he write to best describe something that did him so much good in the short and medium term, but still affected him personally in the long term? It would have made more sense if those later endeavors in his youth had failed miserably. It would have actually been an appropriate punishment for not developing the same strict ethical lines his father had. At the same time he did do a lot of good during this period for himself and his family. So how could he possibly construe this in such concrete terms? His powerful mind was already feeling the strain.

At first it did not appear to have any negative consequences. I excelled at Princeton in a way that surprised even myself. I took full advantage of every opportunity to work and apply myself. I took advanced classes, did lab extra lab work, conducted my own research, and even earned myself some significant credibility in the world of academia. My mother and father were so proud, seeing me realize my potential. I also became fairly close with Charles Xavier, who was equally impressed with my efforts.

I didn’t just make progress in the classroom either. In various social circles, I made great strides as well. Thanks to the serum I was able to carry myself as normally as any other college student. My status as a mutant was kept under wraps. Yet that didn’t stop me form using my mutant talents. I joined the school football team and set several rushing records that still stand to this day. I’m also not too bashful to admit I earned my share of female attention as well. Being smart, a star athlete, and a natural charmer thanks to my mother’s tutelage it put me in prime position to enjoy the company of women.

It’s safe to say that this was a very happy time in my life. But it was also a time of growing concern as well. My father’s concerns about the serum eventually caught up with me. I became completely dependant on it and overtime it lost it’s effectiveness. I kept having to tweak and intensify the concoction to make it work. This whole time I was aware that this was a mere temporary fix and I would eventually have to come up with a more permanent solution. I wish I had dedicated more time to it, but then my accumulated karma came to haunt me with tragedy as a companion.

Mental strain was now giving way to emotional strain as Hank’s expression fell. This was one part of the equation that could not be quantified or even qualified with the appropriate words.

The ramifications came in the form of a stroke that struck my father and struck him hard. Overnight he went from a healthy and brilliant man of the world to one whose very existence hung by a thread. I literally dropped everything I was doing at Princeton and rushed to be by his bedside with my mother. I arrived just in time to find out that the stroke caused irreversible brain damage. He could no longer speak or see. The doctors say he probably couldn’t add two and two at one point. It was truly devastating and did much to bring me back to the world of humility.

My father lingered in a coma for a month. During that time I rarely left his bedside. My mother was not coping well and neither was I. The emotional strain caused a great deal of agitation in my mutant abilities. I was soon feeling the beast within knowing hard at my being, wanting desperately to lash out. I fought hard to hold it back. I took larger doses of the serum that my own father had warned me against. For a time I was going down a very dark path. Then something amazing happened.

For all my arrogance and selfishness, fate threw me another lifeline. In what could have been my darkest hour, a ray of hope came in to illuminate my life in a way that defied all notions of reason. That ray of hope had a name. It was Carley.

His saddened expression lifted somewhat. The sorrow of his father’s illness was difficult enough, but it was during that illness that Carley entered his life. His hands shook somewhat as he approached the chalkboard gain. This was where the past and present began to build inroads. Above all the other words he had written down thus far, he wrote Carley’s name in bold letters. It was a name that carried a great deal of significance and one that still affected him to this day.

When I first saw her, I barely even noticed that she was a beautiful woman with a caring heart. She was the daughter of one of the top doctors in the hospital. She was also in college like me, studying to become a nurse. She certainly had the heart and the mind for such a career. She also had some unique talents that set her apart.

Carley was a mutant. She had the unique ability to see with her eyes the entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Whereas even higher animals only see a mere fraction of what there is to see in the world, she could see it all. She aided in my father’s treatment by using her eyes to scan his body for additional clots and vascular damage. When I learned of this skill we started talking. Pretty soon I mentioned that I was a mutant as well. I might as well have told her I was a celebrity because her eyes lit up in a way I’ve yet to see anyone match. I may have been the first mutant besides herself that she met and from there a new relationship was born.

It would have to be born out of tragedy because even as we got to know each other over the next few weeks, my father passed away. It was a very difficult time for me and one that Carley did much to make easier. In a sad twist of fate my father’s death helped draw us together. She was even with me at my father’s funeral. It was something I desperately needed. Not only did her compassion provide me with tremendous comfort, it helped stem the angry beast that was still festering inside me. It was a part of myself I did not wish to burden Carley with yet she accepted it anyways. I can’t even begin extrapolate how remarkable such loving support astonishes and astounds a grieving young man.

Over the course of the next year, our relationship would grow and flourish. She helped me fight through these dark times and I gave to her my undying love. With that love, I finished my class work at Princeton. At 22 I received a PHD in science and biology. Carley finished her nursing training as well and was already on her way to becoming a dedicated healer of the ill. I tried to keep things simple. I did not want to put myself in the same position my father had with his work. I continued research at Princeton while taking a job as a teacher at a local school called Bayville. It was deeply rewarding and wonderfully fulfilling. The timing seemed right to take the next step.

Next to Carley’s name, Hank wrote another string of words that would later take on a much more painful connotation. They were simple terms such as commitment, simplicity, amiable, and tranquil. He circled ever one of them and right next to them he wrote the word that tied them all together: engagement.

I asked Carley to marry me. I did so on a bitterly cold Christmas night. We were on a walk just outside my home near Princeton and I stopped us at a small clearing I went out of my way to time perfectly as the proper moment. I got down on one knee, told her how much I loved her, and presented a ring that cost me nearly two full paychecks to purchase. She nearly burst into tears of joy and said yes.

It was the happiest moment of my life to that point. I felt so complete. Everything was falling into place. My life had stabilized, I had a job and a career that I was proud of, and I was going to marry the most beautiful woman a man such as me could ask for. It could have been the beginning of a picturesque life worthy of ancient lore. For two mutants living in an increasingly complicated world, it was almost the perfect bevy of circumstances. I say almost because there was one minor detail that stood in our way.

My powers were still held the potential to ruin everything and within months of our engagement, they began making a valiant effort. It wasn’t subtle either. I started having nightmares about a blue furred creature chasing me in the woods. Not only that, I began sleep-walking and letting out these animal growls that Carley found very distressing. I did my best to manage these manifestations with the serum, but it was losing it’s effectiveness. Not wanting to ruin the life I had promised Carley, I turned to Charles Xavier for help. What he revealed would be almost as devastating as my father’s stroke.

Using his telepathy, he entered my mind to discover that the beast within me was manifesting in ways that my initial mutation didn’t seem to allow. A few further tests showed that my suppressing this creature with the serum was reeking havoc on my X-gene. It shouldn’t have come as such a shock, but when a trait is forcibly pushed in one direction it is naturally inclined to push back. Keep pushing harder and it pushes harder as well. Now my mutation was pushing so hard it had the potential to cause what Charles described as extreme physiological and biological perturbations. I found this revelation unacceptable. I simply refused to allow my mutation to ruin my life. Charles implored me to take a more reasonable approach, but my love for Carley overshadow all else.

I literally ran out of Xavier’s office and into my lab at Princeton. For three days straight I did not leave. I called in sick from my teaching job and I told Carley I was working on something very important for the wedding. It was not a total lie, but it was still hiding the truth. I broke out every scrap of my father’s old research on suppressing genetic triggers and tried to formulate a serum that would permanently suppress this beast. I wanted this to be the last time I ever had to deal with taking a serum. I wanted this to be the end of my struggle. I didn’t care if it meant losing my powers either. I wanted to remain normal enough to give Carley the life she deserved.

After three sleepless days I had what I hoped would be my answer. I had what I hoped would be the final answer. If my father had been alive at the time, he probably would have thrown himself between me and the serum. If Carley had been there she would have done the same. If anyone of a sound mind had been there they would have at least told me to think twice. But for once in my life, I wasn’t thinking logically. I was thinking with my heart and last I checked there are no frontal lobes in the heart. I took that serum. I took it all at once and the result was nothing as I hoped and everything as I feared.

Hank turned away from the chalkboard for a moment and stared at his reflection in a nearby chemistry beaker. The blue-furred, ape-like creature that now so defined him was not merely a product of mutation. It would have been much easier to accept if it were, but the truth was much more humbling. This creature that he spent years trying to suppress was a product of his own doing. It was the culmination of a great many mistakes. In a ways it felt like a punishment of fate. He didn’t listen to his father or to Charles Xavier. As a result, he had to carry with him this profound burden.

My nightmares took form and substance that night. I felt as though someone was performing surgery on every major organ in my body without anesthetic while I was completely awake. To say it was agonizing would be a poor representation of the kind of pain such a transformation involved. I went from a six foot stocky white male to a nearly seven foot blue furred creature in the span of thirty seconds. The beast inside took over, turning me into the blue-furred proto-simian I am now. I was so overwhelmed at the time I nearly went mad.

For a time Hank McCoy was completely shut out. There was only the beast. By whatever instinct I was operating on, I took to the woods and sought out Carley. I later found out that this stunt would be responsible for no fewer than fifteen Bigfoot sightings. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was truly terrifying.

Lucky for me, Carley was not alone when I sought her out. After my visit with Charles Xavier, he became worried and paid Carley a visit hoping to discuss my predicament. Whatever their plans were for me, they went out the door the moment I arrived on the back porch of my home. I still remember the terrified look on Carley’s face when I first arrived. I’ll never forget that look no longer how hard I try. The beast within me reached out to her in the midst of this confusion. I probably would have hurt her in the process, but thankfully Charles Xavier was there to save me from myself. He used his telepathy to reconnect the mind of Hank McCoy with that of the beast. It essentially ended the struggle I had been caught up in since my powers first manifested, but at a high price.

When the dust settled, I sat down with Carley and tried to salvage whatever was left. I still had great love for her and she had great love for me, but me being an ape man would make our relationship next to impossible. I tried and I tried with every ounce of my intellect to formulate a way for it to work. The strange part was that Carley said she would have been willing to overlook the fur and the appearance if not for one significant detail.

The entire reason I took such a foolish risk was because of my arrogant desire to be normal for her. She looked upon that decision with the same ire my father had done with the serum. I was so reasonable in every other aspect of my life, but when it came to the decisions that mattered most I was as irrational as the most pig-headed of men. In her mind it was tantamount to saying that I had too many doubts about our love. If I thought she wouldn’t love me because of my appearance, than maybe I was pursuing this relationship for all the wrong reasons. We were not normal. She wasn’t trying to suppress what she was. Why should I do the same? It was a cold splash of reality that I should have received long ago. For that, our fate was sealed.

The next day I broke off my engagement to Carley. I also quit my teaching job at Bayville and my lab work at Princeton. The life I had previously known was over. Now that I was in a new body I would require a new livelihood. Humbled and utterly penitent, I was ready to accept whatever hardship was in store for me. It seemed only fitting for my long streak of arrogance. Those clear lines of right and wrong that my father never crossed were finally there for me to see. It took a long time for me to realize it, but now that I had I could use this knowledge to further my new life.

Hank stared at Carley’s name for a big longer. Some tears formed in his eyes that he had to wipe away before he continued. His love for Carley was never going to leave him. Why would he want it to? It was a harsh reminder of the price he paid for all his mistakes. He needed that reminder to reinforce those clear lines of right and wrong. Those were the lines his father never crossed and now that he understood, he was intent on upholding those same lofty standards. He would eventually get another chance to do so in a bold new way.

With the chalk still in his hand he wrote down the name Charles Xavier and X-men on the board next to Carley’s. This was where the present finally caught up to the past and that’s what led him to this moment in time.

Once again, I would be given another major opportunity from Professor Charles Xavier. Since my appearance made a traditional life all but impossible, he offered me a chance to partake in a not-so-traditional life at his newly formed Xavier Institute. His school was just starting up at the time and it was in need of a teacher. It seemed like the perfect place for me. I had so many lessons to teach young minds and it seemed like a great environment for me to make amends.

And so my research continued and so did my teaching career. With students like Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Warren Worthington, and Bobby Drake I had a fresh round of inspiration. Not only that, I was able to take this Beast I had become and implement it into something positive for the world. During the early mask-wearing vigilante days of the X-men, I was probably the only one who didn’t really need a mask. Yet I wore one anyways, going off with the team to fight crime and persecution for mutants and human alike. It helped me cope with if not embrace the creature I had become.

Then Ororo entered the picture. At first I had no intention of seeking a new relationship. I was still reeling from Carley. It was so bad I didn’t even tell my students about it. Only Charles knew the full story. Ironically, it was he who suggested I reach out to her while she was still in school in Louisiana. He thought I was becoming too isolated and disconnected. Besides teaching and working in my lab, I really didn’t get out much and that worried him. Such worries were perfectly valid, but I don’t think even he imagined that Ororo and I would fall for each other.

The final variable of the equation finally made it onto the board. Hank wrote down Ororo’s name just to the right of everything he had written thus far. From her name, he drew lines to each term to create an intricate web-like structure. It tied together everything that had brought him to this point. As he took everything in, the complexity didn’t bother him nearly as much as the emotional strain.

She was just what I needed. Ororo was the perfect remedy for a heart still in need of mending. At first I was uncertain that I could carry on a relationship with anyone because of my appearance. I’m glad I was wrong. When Ororo first saw me, she wasn’t disgusted or frightened. In fact, I think she was intrigued. I’m not sure if that’s just some unusual proclivities on her part, but she was drawn to me and I was drawn to her. I can’t imagine any man who wouldn’t be. She had such beauty, grace, and compassion. One would never expect she used to be a thief. It would have been more appropriate to label her a goddess with her love of nature and all things worldly.

It all unfolded so easily. We spent six months getting to know each other. Then when she joined the institute we started dating. From there, we became intimate. Love and connection soon followed. She broke me out of the shell I was unwittingly building around myself. I hadn’t been that happy since I was with Carley. We had few conflicts or arguments. We both had a strong appreciation for the forces of nature and we weren’t afraid to get intimate. In fact, I think Ororo even liked my fur. So what went wrong?

Was it the fact it happened so easily? Do strong relationships need some level of conflict to be solidified? Perhaps it had more to the smaller details that were larger than we let on. She always did seem a bit overwhelmed when I started talking about my research that often included terms not found in a regular dictionary. It was also difficult doing activities of an intellectual nature because I would always surpass her. But that didn’t cause a major rift. It couldn’t have.

Hank stared at the board a few moments longer. It soon became clear to him that there were a number of variables that he was avoiding. One in particular stood out. It was one that he connected with a line between Ororo and an attribute of his past that always seemed to come back to haunt him…his arrogance.

Of course! Why do I insist on avoiding the obvious? Love alone cannot carry a relationship. There needs to be a certain level of honesty. I remember on our first date how Ororo and I talked about the difficulty of discussing past relationships. We promised to one another that we would work towards those issues gradually. It’s pretty clear now that we never got to that point.

I never told her about Carley. She never told me about Remy. We never gave each other a reason to be that honest, but given my past I should have been the one to make the first move. Yet once again, my arrogance plagues me. No amount of brilliance or reason can make up for such a shortcoming. I blindly assumed that withholding the truth was for the better…that somehow it would be easier in the long run. I couldn’t be more wrong if I denied the existence of gravity.

How could I let this drag out? I hurt Ororo with my arrogance just as I hurt Carley. In that sense being a beast is not only an appropriate manifestation of my powers, it’s practically a metaphor for my personal shortcomings.

Hank hung his head low. It was a difficult moment for him. All these realizations were so obvious yet he never really confronted them until now. The impact was hard. He could feel it on his heart and soul as if someone was hitting him upside the head with a baseball bat. If he were to grade himself he would earn no higher than a D. He was better than this. He worked to make amends for his mistakes, but he kept making others that he shouldn’t be making. For a man of his intellect, he was a slow learner when it came to such transgressions.

Staring at this board was it’s own worst punishment. It was one he certainly deserved. Even though Ororo did not hate him and neither did Carley, he deserved to endure this torment. He needed to feel it if for no other reason than to forcibly instill this lesson he seemed to struggle with at every turn. He stood in a daze, swallowing his pride and ego with every passing second. He would have stood for hours if necessary had he not heard a light beep from his laptop, which was plugged in across the lab.

“Blast…should’ve turned that off,” he muttered.

Shaken form his daze, Hank walked over to his laptop and prepared to close it. Then he saw on the screen a message indicating he had an email sent to his private account. It was an email from an address he recognized and it added yet another fresh layer to an already complicated problem.

Tessa…how could I not factor that in? She was the catalyst that sparked so much of this into motion. That first email she sent should have been a sign. A mutant of great intellect wanting to talk about issues that I am so very passionate about who also happens to be a beautiful woman…I probably should have seen the dangers. I had no intention of letting her come between me and Ororo, but it happened. I lost control of the situation because I wasn’t honest. I didn’t stand up and confront her. I didn’t walk away or simply delete the messages. I let it get out of hand and this time it wasn’t out of arrogance.

This woman…she speaks to me as if she knows me on every conceivable level. When I speak to her, she understands. There is no word too fancy. There is no rhetoric too obscure. She can decipher my meaning, my emotions, and my passions in a way that even Carley could never manage. What does it say when a woman I’ve never even met face-to-face connects with me better than two women I’ve actually been intimate with? Even I cannot decipher the full meaning, but the details are ominous.

It all comes back to the complexity of human emotion. I had strong feelings for Ororo and Carley. I may indeed be developing some of those feelings for Tessa. But for now, I simply cannot allow myself to enter another predicament where I’m prone to making the same mistakes. To quote George Santayana, “Habit is stronger than reason.” Until I can break these habits, I cannot and will not let my ethical weakness hurt others.

That is my most important task as an X-man. Charles Xavier has taught us all the importance of humanity. We must all be willing to humble ourselves for our very human flaws despite having such extraordinary powers. The price I’ve paid for these flaws has been an important learning experience that goes beyond academic pursuits. Like my father before me, I must hold true to that clear ethical line of right and wrong. It is only with those lines that I can prevent the mishaps that leave those I love hurt. Regardless of my past mistakes and the role I play as an X-man for the future, I must fight for those boundaries. If not for myself, then I do so for a new generation of humans and mutants alike.

Hank was tempted to set aside this self-loathing and move forward, but not yet. He closed his laptop without answering Tessa’s message. He then walked back to his chalkboard and stared at it for a bit longer. It made a little more sense now. Everything from his powers to Ororo, he had some perspective.

Such knowledge was almost as valuable as any breakthrough in physics or mathematics. It was a discovery he could not afford to take lightly. At the same time he couldn’t afford to dwell on it either. He had to keep being Beast, a teacher and a role model that so many of the younger X-men looked up to. He needed to move forward into the future without letting the past consume him.

“I’m sorry, Father. I’m sorry, Carely. I’m sorry, Ororo,” he said softly, “I’ll learn from my mistakes. I’ll be a better man and a better Beast. I promise.”

He spoke to no one in particular. These were words he needed to hear from himself. Once he had a moment to digest them, he grabbed an eraser and wiped clean the entire chalk board. In a ways it was like wiping away the past so he wouldn’t dwell on it while still remembering the key lessons. He also made a promise to the people he cared about, thus obligating him to keep it.

Hank McCoy had learned so much in his life and there was still so much more to uncover. He dedicated much of his efforts to science, but for too long he negated the more personal lessons. That was going to be different now. It had to be. He may be a beast, but he refused to be a monster. Worldly knowledge could tell him how the universe worked, but it couldn’t tell him why it worked. He was going to master this knowledge of right and wrong just as he had so many other forms of science. To be brilliant simply wasn’t enough. He was going to be brilliant for all the right reasons.

Next Issue: Warren Worthington III

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