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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

X-Men (XMU) fic: Split Seconds (1/1)

December 22nd, 2016 (05:54 am)
depressed

feeling: depressed

Title: Split Seconds

Disclaimer: I really own nothing.

A/N: Written post X-Men Apocalypse. No beta. Fills my blood loss square for hc_bingo because hurting Peter makes me strangely happy.

Summary: But if anyone knows how much can happen in a split second, it’s Peter Maximoff.



-o-

Peter runs fast. He walks fast, too. He eats fast, talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Actually, he does everything fast. That’s just who he is, who he’ll always be. Most of the time, Peter considers it an asset.

But when the knife is pulled out of his flesh, he realizes it has some drawbacks, too.

Turns out, wouldn't you know, he bleeds fast, too.

-o-

“Crap,” Peter says, watching as the crimson stain spreads rapidly across his shirt. He blinks, feeling his head go light. He swallows as the room starts to spin. “Oh, crap.”

It’s getting away from him now, all of it. He can feel his heart pounding so fast that it’s nothing but a distant roar in his ears. His hands are starting to go numb, and then he’s falling to his knees. It’s a surprisingly slow descent -- he can feel it happening by millimeters, and he feels the rush of gravity ruffle his hair -- and Peter feels more blood gush out of the slit in his abdomen as he hits the ground.

Crap,” he says again, the word almost lighter than air as he feels a chill rush down his spine.

Above him, Psylocke smirks. He remembers her, of course, from the last time she tried to kill him. That hadn't been her, though, which is probably why he's still alive to die for real this time.

That's ironic, maybe. Or just weird.

And unsettling.

It's very, very unsettling.

The metal edge of her blade glistens with blood -- his blood, so much blood -- and she looks down at him, utterly amused. “The fastest man alive,” she muses, contemplating the her sword.

He looks back at her, brows knitted together. “You attacked me from behind,” he says, as if it matters. He wants it to matter, damn it. Peter’s new to this whole hero gig, but it’s supposed to matter. “That’s not fair.”

She gives him a condescending look. “And who ever said we were fighting fair?”

She has a point, which is a truth that guts him. Literally. He’s been run through, back to front.

Crap.

His breathing starts to feel strained, and his equilibrium is failing.

“If I were feeling kind, we would make this fast,” she says, lifting the sword to his chin experimentally. His breathing catches as tension spikes in his body. “But, I don’t know.”

She wrinkles her nose, pulling the sword away.

“I think it’s about time for you to slow down,” she says with a shrug. “What do you think?”

Peter thinks Raven is going to be pissed about this. She’s talked to them all, him especially, about being careful, being aware. She’s all, everything’s a battlefield, and you’re always a target and stuff, and Peter’s too busy running around to pay much attention.

Peter thinks Professor Xavier’s going to be disappointed. He thinks Hank’s going to shake his head and not quite say I told you so. He thinks Scott will pretend like it didn’t happen, and Jean will take it hard, and Kurt’s the one who’s going to actually cry at his damn funeral.

(Maybe he has blue tears. Peter would like to see that.

He can’t, though.

Not when it’s his funeral. He’s fast, but he’s not that fast.)

Peter thinks the X-Men is a good idea, a great idea, an idea that was probably always going to be better off without him.

Peter thinks his mother’s going to keep looking through the door, wondering if he’s downstairs already and she just missed it.

Peter thinks blood loss is a pretty crappy way to die.

(They’re all crappy, if he’s honest. Dying’s just crappy.)

Peter thinks his dad, at least, will never know he lost another kid.

Mostly, though, Peter thinks he’s about to pass out.

-o-

He does, pass out.

Just not for long.

Peter is fast about that kind of thing, even when he really doesn't want to be.

(Peter’s also bad at prolonged conversations and first dates. He’s okay at second dates because he’s never had them, due to being bad at the other two. Girls complain that he doesn’t listen. Peter listens; but he’s at the end of the date when they’ve just started so it doesn’t work so well.)

As for now, it’s not clear whether this is the end or the beginning. Mostly, it’s just bad.

Psylocke is gone, but that just means Peter’s alone while losing most of his blood volume. He drifts, in and out, just aware enough to know he’s in a lot of trouble and not competent enough to do anything about it. This is a stark change from normal, as far as Peter is concerned. Usually he’s more than competent but not nearly aware enough. Joining the X-Men, he’d thought was going to fix things in his life, but he’s traded one vice for another.

You don’t have to live in your mother’s basement to be a loser.

You can do that anywhere, just by telling stupid jokes and wasting your time on silly pranks that make everyone laugh. Everyone at the school, they love Peter. Everyone thinks he’s the best because he steals them candy and gets their homework in on time. But no one sees who Peter is at all.

They’ve tried, of course. They’re all good people, if a little messed up. Raven has them train together, and Hank has regular one-on-one sessions to make sure they’re all “okay.” (It’s curious to Peter that he wants to know if everyone else is okay while completely ignoring the fact that he refuses to be blue. It just seems like a thing, is all. Not accepting who you are. Not that Peter has room to talk, being the son of Magneto and telling everyone but the one person who needs to know.)

And they hang out, they eat food, they go on missions. Peter’s down with all of that, he really is, but the thing is, Peter’s too fast. He’s there, but only part of him; the rest of him is somewhere else entirely. No one even realizes it, he's just that good. It’s not even that he doesn’t want to be with them, but he doesn’t know how to slow down.

This is what it is, being Quicksilver.

This is what it is.

Flat on his back, in an abandoned warehouse, the pool of his own blood spreading wide on the cracked concrete floor.

As he’s said before, loser.

This isn’t a mission, or Peter would have had backup. He's not completely stupid, just mostly. And he was going to tell everyone -- he was. He’d just wanted to make sure this was a viable lead. He’d wanted to know it was legit, that he had actual communication with the mutant known as Magneto, also known as his dad.

It had seemed reasonable at the time.

(Most things, including petty theft and grand larceny, also seem reasonable to Peter, so he’s probably not the best judge. This thought comes to him too late. How’s that for irony again.)

It was hard enough to think about that without having to explain it to the others. They meant well, Peter knows this, but come on. That kind of thing? Emotions? It just takes too long. Raven would be worried about whether or not his dad is a good role model. Hank would worry that Peter’s going to go all dark side and join him. Scott would just get upset, thinking about hsi brother because everything still reminds him of his brother. Jean might be cool about it, but only because she knows everything he’s thinking.

(This is why he avoided Jean, and the professor, just to be sure. He’d been smart enough for that; not smart enough to see that it was a big, fat, stupid trap.)

Sitting still for that, for emotions he can't even slow down long enough to comprehend himself, that's just unnecessary torture.

Unlike this, of course. Because this is so much better.

He tastes blood, thick like copper in the back of his throat.

This is going very, very badly.

What had he even been thinking? That he'd finally make the words come out? That he'd find his dad and tell him everything and that they’d hug and go to the movies and eat pizza together? Really?

He'd had chances, lots of them, before his old man went off grid again. Professor Xavier had practically set up multiple meetings between the two of them, but Peter hadn’t done anything but make bad jokes and use inappropriate puns. Raven had basically told the truth for him back in Cairo, but his dad had been preoccupied and whatever, right? Peter hadn’t said a damn thing. He'd chickened out, every single time.

(Loser; he’s a loser, and he’s losing now.)

So why he'd thought this would be different, he can't say, but possibility of it is more enticing than a box of Twinkies and fresh batteries for his Walkman. That's why he's kept his ears open, just in case. That's why he had to come.

He can’t even explain it. It’s just weird to know you’ve got a dad out there who doesn’t know you exist. Sure, he's always known he had a dad, but it'd been some nameless, faceless entity. It hadn't even been real until he broke a dude out of maximum security and watched him become the world’s most wanted criminal.

Peter’s going to tell him; Peter’s going to tell him the truth someday.

He'd thought, maybe today, even.

That’d been the plan anyway.

(Peter’s not good with plans; he’s fast, not thorough, and there’s a difference.)

He’s not so sure about it now.

He’s shivering, and the smell of blood is turning his stomach. Everything is numb, and he’s fading quickly.

Of course it's quickly. Peter does everything quickly.

He was supposed to be in and out, two seconds. No one would even know he was gone. If it’d been something real, he’d have told Raven. He’d have told the Professor. He would have come back with backup. One quick trip, though. That wasn’t that big of deal.

Shuddering, the edges of his vision are going black.

No one would even know he’s gone.

That’s not that big of deal.

No one even knows he’s gone.

It’s okay, Peter tells himself as he lets his eyes close. It’s okay.

It’s not like Peter’s got to be around for the aftermath if it’s not.

-o-

Peter’s, like, a split second away from dying. The rate he’s bleeding, from the front and the back, and the accelerated beat of his heart -- he’s a goner, for sure.

But if anyone knows how much can happen in a split second, it’s Peter Maximoff.

Peter’s entire life is lived in split seconds.

When other people blink, Peter sees infinite possibilities. Between one heartbeat and the next -- is eternity.

And still, somehow, nowhere near long enough.

-o-

Peter has regrets, you see. He has lots of those.

He regrets all those games of tag as a kid, not because he always won but because it took him a long time to figure out that, when they were over, he was the only one still playing. He thought winning made it fun, but he's not sure about that now.

(Not that losing is much fun, either. Peter knows that now. But there has to be a middle ground, if Peter hasn't scorched it yet.)

He sort of wishes he’d stayed in school longer, and that he hadn’t zipped through the gym and taken his diploma a year earlier than the rest of his class. He even kind of wishes he'd taken the tests and not copied the answers from the key still sitting on the teacher’s desk. Sure, he could have read all the books and finished all the tests like a normal person, but he had been too lazy. It had been a neat trick, for what that's worth, but he’s starting to think there are still things he could have learned if he’d slowed down a little.

He knows he owes his mother something of an explanation, and he knows she misses him but that she’s proud. She's got no reason for that, but moms are like that. He’d like to tell her that he’s sorry, and that she was right about everything. He loves her, after all, and she’s the only one who’s ever taken the time to see him when he's moving so fast.

He wants to say goodbye to the kids at the school, who let him sit in class and mess around on the grounds. He wants to learn their dances and fix their relationships, and he wants to pull pranks and write term papers with them because he can. He wants to see them grow up, so maybe he can figure out how to, too.

And he’s sure as hell going to miss the X-Men, because they do good work. And they’re good people. He’s going to miss Kurt’s earnestness, and his ability to believe every joke Peter thinks up. He’s wants to tell Scott how sorry he is that he was too late to save Alex, and he really wishes he could make sure the kid doesn’t go and blow himself up, too.

He’d like to get Jean to loosen up, because she’s wound tight, and she’s pretty when she smiles. But then, given Jean, she probably knows that already. Still, there’s a difference when you say it.

Like, he should tell Hank that he looks good in blue, like really. He knows the guy has issues with all that, but as far as Peter can tell, he shouldn’t. The only person really bothered by a big blue monster is Hank.

And Grover from Sesame Street, but that’s not the point.

(Of course Peter’s seen Sesame Street. He’s seen everything; read everything; done everything. Just, you know, nothing that matters.)

Raven is the one he really needs to talk to, apologize to. He needs to tell her that he’s grateful for her leadership, and that she’s really good at this whole X-Men thing. He wants to let her know that she’s made a good team, and that this isn’t her fault.

As for Professor Xavier, well, Peter wants him to know that he’s grateful for the chance he’s given him. He’s grateful for everything, really. The home, the purpose, the insights into his father. Growing up without a dad, Peter’s pined after a mass murderer who may not be so bad, and Charles Xavier has done more than his share to show Peter what a dad is really all about.

Peter’s just running too fast to listen, most of the time.

“Slow down,” they say. “Come to a movie with us. Let’s get dinner. Maybe we can just hang out.”

But Peter’s still moving, moving, moving…

“Slow down, Peter,” the professor says, and it’s an order this time, echoing in his head. “Slow down.”

For once in his life, Peter does.

-o-

That’s when he wakes up.

Alive.

Not that he’s sure how you could wake up dead, but it’s a world full of mutants, so he’s not ready to rule anything out.

But he’s in the school.

Peter frowns. How the hell is he back at school?

“We brought you here, of course.”

Peter turns, surprised to find the professor with his wheelchair rolled up right up next to Peter’s bed. It’s not so much his bed -- this isn’t his room -- but that he’s the one who’s in it.

“We’ve had you in the medical wing,” Professor Xavier explains to him with a benign smile. “Our own Dr. McCoy has been taking excellent care of you for the past two days.”

“Wait,” Peter says, looking around the room. “Two days?”

Hank comes up to his other side, checking the IV running from his arm. “It should have been more since you lost half your blood volume,” he says. He gives Peter a terse look, like he’s trying to be stern but trying way too hard. “Your cells regenerate faster than normal, though, so you’re going to be okay. Anyone else, and they’d probably be dead.”

This is…a lot of information.

Like, not a lot a lot, because Peter can read whole books in a second. He can read a whole library in five minutes. But it’s weighty.

(It take a lot of weight to slow him down; he’s experimented with this. It takes a lot to make him miss a step, but it’s possible. It’s more than possible.)

“I was stabbed,” Peter blurts. He’s not sure if this is a question or a exclamation or just a statement of fact that he remembers. It’s probably all three.

“All the way through,” Hank confirms, a little grim. “Perforated your liver and a kidney.”

Peter looks down with a frown. This seems more dramatic than it feels. “Really?”

“Again,” Hank says, a tad exasperated. “You really should be dead.”

“But we are quite glad you are not,” the professor adds, trying to sound more upbeat.

“That doesn’t explain what happened, though.”

Peter glances to the door, and he’s a little annoyed with himself that he didn’t see Raven come in. And he was right before: she does look pissed.

Arms crossed over her chest, she stands stubbornly in the doorway. “I had Hank install tracking devices in all our gear. You may have left without your suit, but you still had your key.”

Peter wrinkles his nose.

She snorts, shaking her head derisively. “Jean had to get an mental image of the place for Kurt to flash us in, and even then, we were almost too late.”

There’s a lot to this, about the fact that they all worked together to find him, but Peter’s good at obfuscating the obvious to deal with the irrelevant.

“But how’d you know I was in trouble?” he asks.

The professor smiles patiently. “I usually do not use my powers to pry, but when I have a strong connection to people, it is sometimes impossible to ignore overwhelming emotions.”

“Like getting run through,” Hank clarifies helpfully.

“Oh,” Peter says, thinking about that. “Huh.”

This is not the right thing to say. He knows this, but before he can think of something better to say, Raven is already advancing on him.

If her stubborn posture in the door was abrasive; her flat out approach is actually a bit terrifying. “That’s all you can say?” she asks, voice laden with accusation. “Huh?”

Peter’s not great at contrite, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. It’s hard and it’s awkward, but he gets it. He does. “It was just a lead,” he says. He hasn’t found the words to tell his dad, but he has the words for this -- for them. “I wanted to check it out before I brought anyone else in on it.”

“A lead?” Raven asks, demands, really. She can be downright scary when she’s like this, and Peter’s still to incapacitated to run away. “And you thought you’d just check it out on your own?”

“It wasn’t necessarily X-Men business,” Peter tries to explain.

“But it was your business,” Raven says. “How is that not our business? I’ve told you, Peter. I’ve told all of you. We do this together, completely, or not at all, and if you think you get to run off and be stupid--”

Peter feels the blood drain out of his face.

Honestly, he doesn’t feel the best.

“--and reckless. I won’t tolerate it, not on this team, I won’t. You respect yourself, and you respect us, or I swear to God, you’re out of here, Maximoff. You’re--”

“Raven,” the professor cuts her off. Her eyes are blazing at him, but he tips his head toward Peter. “Let him finish.”

She turns her furious glare back at him, and he swallows anxiously. If ever there’s a time he’d like to run, it’s now.

But he’s weak and he’s recovering from massive blood loss and honestly, he has to do this.

“It was about my dad,” he admits with a feeble shrug. “I know you guys keep telling me, he’ll be back when he’s back, and I know if I really was going to tell him the truth, I probably would have by now, but it’s hard, you know? Knowing he’s out there and not knowing where? I thought, if I just knew where. If I had a location…”

It doesn’t make any sense, and Peter knows that. It makes absolutely no sense, and Peter feels utterly ridiculous now. It was foolish and impulsive and childish.

And somehow, they all completely understand.

The anger dissipates from Raven’s face, and Professor Xavier smiles sympathetically while Hank pats him on the shoulder.

Compassion is unnerving.

It’s also kind of emboldening.

Chewing his lip, he nods his head. “It was a trap.”

Sympathetic, yes.

Completely changed, no.

“What was your first clue?” Raven deadpans.

Peter deserves that one. “It was Psylocke,” he says. “Great figure; crazy eyes. All about swords and shiny things that come out of her hands.”

Hank tilts his head. “Was your wound from her laser?”

“No, the sword,” Peter says. “She got me from behind.”

Professor Xavier is contemplating this. “I had hoped she was using her loss in Cairo to turn over a new leaf.”

“Yeah, not so much,” Raven says, sounding genuinely annoyed now. “This is probably just the first step for her. She could be plotting a much larger game of revenge.”

“And if she finds out Peter’s not dead?” Hank asks.

“Then we need to focus our efforts on her,” Professor Xavier says. “Immediately.”

He’s moving toward the door already, and Peter feels another second slipping by. A split second doesn’t matter a lot necessarily

It can, though.

If you know how to use it.

Peter clears his throat.

The professor stops. Raven and Hank look at him.

“For the record,” he says. “I know I screwed up.”

“Yeah,” Mystique says, like this is the most obvious thing in the world. “You did.”

His pride is seriously wounded now, but what the hell. If he’s going, he’s going for broke. “I’m sorry,” he blurts finally. “I can tell you everything I remember about Psylocke, and then as soon as I’m better, I’ll get out of your hair.”

Raven’s face screws up.

He holds up his hand. “And I know, I know: I’ll leave the suit.”

This, for some reason, doesn’t actually make her happier. “Like hell you will.”

Peter is taken aback. “You want me to keep the suit?”

She’s rolling her eyes.

“You want me to go over more details?”

“Peter!”

He stops, a thousand more explanations on his tongue.

“Like hell you’ll leave,” she says, punctuating the words heavily. “That’s not how a team works.”

For a moment, time stops.

Like, actually stops.

Raven is staring at him. The professor is smiling. Hank is still mid-nod, and Peter realizes something he probably should have realized a long time ago.

The X-Men don’t care about the fact that he’s really fast. It’s useful, sure, but that’s not why they offered him a place on the team. The reality that he’s Magneto’s son is not why Charles Xavier invited him to stay indefinitely at his school. There’s a reason Hank McCoy runs tests on his speed capacity and physical capabilities every week, and it’s not because they need Peter to be faster.

It’s because they want Peter on the team.

They want him to stop long enough to realize he wants to be here, too.

“Oh,” he says, for lack of something better to say. “Huh.”

Mystique looks like she may kill him again. “Really? Huh?”

“Eh,” he says. “Fast guy; slower learner.”

She huffs, shaking her head derisively. “We’ll get you there, Maximoff,” she says. “Someday.”

It may take a lifetime -- it may take a second -- but Peter suspects she’s right.

-o-

Peter knows what started this, he remembers. He knows he came looking for his family. That’s why he came to Xavier’s school; that’s why he went to that warehouse. That’s how he ended up in Egypt with the X-Men.

It’s a weird thing for Peter to work at chasing something down. Split second, boom: chase done.

(Erik’s still gone, though. He’s still hiding, laying low, whatever. He still doesn’t know. How can he not know?)

Weirder still that he’s missed the obvious.

The obvious, if you must ask, is this:

Peter left looking for his family.

Funny enough, he found just that.