X-Men (XMU) fic: As We Fell Into the Sun (1/1)
Title: As We Fell Into the Sun
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: A filler fic for the end of the movie, between leaving Cairo and getting the mansion rebuilt. Unbeta’ed. Fills my broken bones prompt for hc_bingo. Title with apologies to Paul McCartney and Wings.
Summary: Peter’s still a loser, but now he’s a loser with a broken leg.
It’s quite possible that Peter is the fastest man alive.
This means, among many other things, that having a broken leg excruciating.
This is partly because, yes, his leg is broken. Actually, his leg has been badly broken -- the bone nearly shattered just above his knee or something like that. Hank can’t say for sure without a proper examination, but he seems pretty much set on the fact that Peter’s gone and made a mess of his bones. Apparently, when you’re an ancient mutant with a literal God complex, you tend to be pretty damn strong.
There’s painkillers for that much, though.
Peter takes them willingly. He practically begs for more because it hurts so damn bad -- that and his arm, which Hank seems to think is no big deal but still hurts like a son of a bitch -- but they cut him off because of the risk of death.
For the rest, though? For the unending boredom of being slow?
There’s pretty much nothing.
Zip, zero, zilch, nada.
So being stuck? Immobile?
That’s the most excruciating thing Peter has ever experienced in his short, fast life.
Now, sure, Peter’s been trying to be stoic. A little bit, anyway. It’s not really his thing -- because his thing is going fast and stealing shit, neither of which seem applicable or even possible at the moment -- but it’s pretty clear to him that he’s been lucky where all this mess is concerned. Funny thing to think about: luck, being in his favor for the first time ever.
Nightcrawler, the kid -- who’s very blue on the best of days; that’s a thing with mutants, apparently -- is weak from transporting five times his bodyweight -- making this, decidedly not his best of days. Mystique or Raven or whatever she wants to be called, when she’s in her natural form -- which is also blue, by the way, for those keeping track at home -- has a nasty series of bruises around her neck that darken the whole flight home. The fact that she doesn’t try to hide them is probably a sign of how exhausted she is.
Scott’s a mess, having harnessed his powers and lost his brothers in a very short amount of time (the fact that he’s not blue seems like a consolation to Peter, but he’s pretty sure it doesn’t mean much to Scott). You might think it’d be hard to tell, what with him wearing glasses all the time, but that’s the sort of grief that is written all over your face, weighted down in your posture. It practically oozes off him.
The new girl -- Storm -- is all I’m sorry, I’m sorry, which is basically the normal response when you’ve attempted worldwide domination, by accident or not. He wants to tell her, hey, it’s okay. At least you’re not blue.
Unlike Hank, who is still really, excessively blue, which seems to make him unduly grumpy, and Moira is all yelling at people because the best Peter can figure is that CIA folk tend to yell a lot, and the red haired one -- Jean or whatever -- looks like she’s not sure whether this is the best or worst day of her life.
She’s got a point, honestly. This has been the slowest day of his fast-paced life. Weird, freaky and heavy stuff.
As if all of that isn’t enough -- and as far as Peter is concerned, that should be enough -- there’s also his father to consider. His old man is the reason he’s here in the first place, because Peter came looking for a family and found a war instead.
Hell of a thing, leaving his mother’s basement for longer than a second.
This has all been so much, so fast that there hasn’t been a moment to consider who his father actually is and whether or not he’s a man worth knowing. Every second Peter’s near the guy, he ends up with more questions than answers, and Peter’s not really one to be shy, but his father broods with a serious passion. He hardly acknowledges that Peter even exists, spending most of his time by Professor Xavier or Mystique. He thinks about starting a conversation, but the best he can come up with is, Hey, Dad, thanks for not destroying the world.
It seems a little lacking, even for Peter.
And since Profession Xavier nearly died, Peter figures he doesn’t really have a lot to complain about in the grander scheme of things.
He is bored, though.
Interminably, horribly and awfully bored.
Moira, the CIA woman who must plan almost as fast as Peter runs -- not almost, because that’s ridiculous, but the comparison’s still not bad -- says the ride back won’t be too long.
“Just a few hours more,” she says, barking it out like it’s an order over her shoulder.
Peter closes his eyes and wishes like hell that he’d eaten that Twinkie back at the school grounds. Usually he can go back and make up that kind of thing without hesitation, but he’s not only stuck on a plane, but he’s got a broken leg and a sprained arm. This flight was much more exciting on the way over, but Peter’s fresh out of awkward small talk.
He’s still a loser, though. It’s probably good that some things never change.
But now he’s a loser with a broken leg.
And the longest plane flight ever.
Peter’s going to be fine.
That’s what all the doctors tell him when they land. He’s carted off for tests and examinations and procedures, and he ends up face to face with Hank McCoy, who smiles blandly and tells him, again.
“You’re going to be fine.”
It’s been a bit chaotic since they landed, debriefed and evaluated by CIA personnel. Moira’s been talking to a lot of people, and for once her yelling seems to actually be helping.
“They’re going to let you go,” Hank explains.
“Wait,” Peter said. It is frustrating that he can’t check the badges on these guys and go through all their paperwork. He’d already know this stuff, and he’s dumb enough as it is without being so damn slow. “Are we under arrest?”
“No,” Hank says, but he looks tired when he says it, like he’s not sure he believes it himself. “We’ll all probably be under surveillance for awhile, so I’d lay low if I were you.”
“And my leg,” Peter clarifies. He tries to wiggle his toes. “It’s okay?”
“The break should heal,” Hank says. “I saw your x-rays. You’re lucky.”
That’s good news.
“You’ll just have to stay off your feet for a while,” Hank continues.
The color drains from Peter’s face. “A while?”
Hank shrugs. He’s not blue anymore, but he still looks unusually disheveled and he’s wearing borrowed clothes that don’t fit quite right. “A week of bed rest,” he says.
Peter actually balks. “A week of bed rest?”
Hank nods. “And another two or so on crutches.”
Dumbfounded, Peter stares at him. “Do you know how long that is? To me?”
The implication seems to dawn on Hank, and he looks sympathetic. “Not much else we can do about it. If you want to get back to full speed, you need to let yourself heal.”
Peter thinks he might cry. Like an actual baby. “But what am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know, slow down,” Hank says. “Live like the rest of us, just for a little bit.”
Peter is discharged with a clean bill of health.
And a death sentence.
They put him up in a room at the temporary housing. The offer is generous, but not entirely altruistic. Peter’s relieved to be away from the CIA, and while it’s tempting to go home, he’s not sure he’s ready to see his mom just yet.
His broken leg might hurt less than his broken pride.
Besides, they’re all pretty nice about things. And since he’s saved the world with this group, he might as well figure out more about them.
No expense is spared getting them out of CIA custody, and Peter is surprised to find that they’re back on the school grounds. The main building is leveled -- still a pile of rubble -- but there are enough other buildings throughout the grounds that they all have a place to stay.
From his bed, he contemplates how vast the grounds are. Professor Xavier must really be loaded to afford this kind of spread. Not to mention housing all these people.
Peter thinks a lot about these things.
It’s not like he has anything else to do.
Not that Peter wants to be ungrateful. His mother raised him marginally better than that, and everyone is really nice. For all that they’ve got going on -- and Peter knows they really do have a lot going on -- they take good care of him. Since he’s been sentenced to bed rest for the first week, they’ve sent him all his meals and Hank himself makes house calls to check on his progress. Somehow, they have x-ray machines on-site, so there’s no place Peter has to go.
This is supposed to be extra convenient.
It’s extra miserable, that’s what it is.
It means he has to sit there and do nothing. All day, every day, no matter what.
“It’s only a week,” Hank tells him while he throws the blanket back over Peter’s heavily casted leg. “It’s really not so long.”
Peter groans, tossing his head back. “I can live a lifetime in a minute. You’re asking me to stay here for, like, a million minutes. That’s a million lifetimes.”
Hank packs up his medical bag with a huff of laughter. “That’s not exactly the right math,” he says. He has new glasses, and he uses them to look down his nose at Peter fondly. “But I don’t suppose you ever sat still long enough to go to school.”
Peter shrugs. “I can read entire novels in the amount of time it takes you to open the cover,” he says. Then he makes a face. “Still takes too long.”
“Well,” Hank says. “We have some nontraditional teaching styles at the school, if you’re interested…”
Peter gives him a deadpanned look. “Because I haven’t suffered enough already.”
Hank chuckles. “Okay, okay,” he says. “I’ll check on you tomorrow. If there’s anything you need….”
“A quick trip around?” Peter asks hopefully.
“Rest,” Hank orders. “Things will seem better in the morning.”
Things do not seem better in the morning.
Mostly because it takes ten years to get to morning. Peter plots a thousand escape routes, and then replots them and refines them and he can’t use any of them. He talks to his mother on the phone for nearly an hour and she’s so pleasantly surprised that he has that much attention span.
“What, can’t a boy love his mom?” he quips.
She snorts over the line. “What exactly happened over there?” she jokes, but she’s not really joking. “That leg of yours must really be broken to get you this desperate.”
Peter slumps miserably, looking forlornly out the window. He sees a million things happening -- bugs flying, leaves twittering, pollen floating through the air -- and they’re all moving faster than he is. “Dad’s here, you know.”
His mom is silent on the other end of the phone.
He sighs, winding his fingers in the cord of the phone. He uses his speed to go extra fast, then takes his time to unwind it rung by rung. “I haven’t told him yet,” he admits.
“You don’t have to, baby,” she tells him, and she sounds like she’s pleading just a little. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Peter laughs a little, looking down at his leg. “Little late for that.”
“There are worse things than a broken leg, Peter,” she says. “Remember that, baby. Remember that.”
He acquires a deck of cards, which at least gives him something to do while he passes the time. With his speed, he can shuffle in spectacular ways, and doing card tricks with other visitors would be awesome if they all didn’t know he had super speed.
Peter makes a note to himself: consider a career as a magician.
He’s contemplating how easy it would be to pull a rabbit out of a hat with his speed, when there’s a knock at the door.
Raven is standing there, and she lifts her hand for the most awkward small wave ever.
“Hey,” she says, inching her way inside. She bites her lip, and shrugs her shoulders because she didn’t look uncomfortable enough already. “I thought I’d check on you.”
This is, Peter knows, a nice gesture. Prior to this whole incident, they were strangers. He knew who she was, of course. Everyone knew who she was. But she’d never seen him before and, by the looks of thing, she had much bigger concerns than a smart-ass kid who just happened to be fast.
And Erik Lehnsherr’s illegitimate son.
She nods her head, looking like she regrets coming already. “Hank said you’re doing great,” she says.
“He would,” Peter says. “He’s not the one in bed.”
“It’s a week of bed rest,” she says. “Then you’ll get a walking cast.”
Peter grunts at the very word. Walking. She doesn’t even realize what she’s actually saying to him. “And strict orders to go under 5 miles per hour. Do you know how slow that is?”
She makes a face of uncertainty. “No?”
“Slow,” he clarifies for her, and he’s serious about this. And Peter never does serious. “It’s really, really slow.”
She seems to consider this as she starts to pace his room. She’s disguised herself again with the long, curly blond hair and the human-looking skin. He wonders why, of all the images she could render, she chooses that one. It’s not a bad choice, but the endlessness of the possibilities is something for Peter to think about. He’s pretty sure if he had her ability, and his speed, he’d never be in the same skin for more than a minute.
“Well, you are the guy who said you keep coming up too late,” she says. She shrugs again. “Maybe this time you won’t miss your chance.”
Peter narrows his eyes.
She holds up her hands. “I didn’t tell him,” she says. “That’s your secret. And, you know, Charles’. And probably Jean Grey’s. Honestly, by now, half the school probably knows, but Erik, your dad, he’s always been kind of oblivious to that kind of thing.”
Peter is too wary to actually be alarmed. He’s still caught up on the Erik, your dad bit. “He’s still hard to figure out, isn’t he?”
Peter nods. “You know him better than I do.”
“I used to,” she admits. “Sometimes I still see flashes of the man I used to know.”
“Were you two...you know?”
“Are you actually asking that?” Raven asks, incredulous.
“I’m looking for anything!” he exclaims with a wild gesticulation at nothing. “I know he’s the guy everyone hunts on TV, and I know he almost helped destroy humanity and all that -- twice.” Peter sighs. “But I also know that he saved our lives back there. And he’s the only man my mother’s ever loved, even if she hates the fact that it’s true.”
She studies him, weighing the words of his outburst. “Your father, he often expects the worst out of people, and he’s not always wrong,” she says. “Charles -- Professor Xavier -- he sees the best. He’s not wrong either.”
“So…?” he ventures.
“So the truth is usually somewhere in between,” she says. “And no one gets to decide that, except you. You just have to be willing to stick around to figure it out.”
He frowns contemplatively. He’s heard people talking; he’s heard the stories. He also read her file at a top secret facility once where he broke into one night on a whim. “I thought you were the one that always left?”
“Eh,” she says. Among mutants, it’s hard to be surprised about anything. “First for everything.”
As she leaves, he finds that he hopes she’s right.
Someone brings him some magazines, which is a nice gesture, but Peter reads them in about two minutes. And that’s only because he took his time and studied the pictures. He shuffles the deck of cards until the pieces are all shredded, and has he mentioned how bored he is?
When the kids stop by to visit, he’s almost giddy to see them.
“No bedrest for you? You’re all okay? What is up with bedrest anyway? And did you know that casts are really, really itchy?” he asks before they even manage to find a place to sit.
Jean gives him a quizzical look -- she can probably hear the fifteen question he didn’t ask -- and Kurt perches gingerly on a desk by the window. Scott looks most uncomfortable, although that’s pretty hard to tell with the glasses and whatnot.
It occurs to him, looking at them, just how young they are.
It occurs to him, in the split second after that, that they’re not young at all.
“Uh, we’re good,” Scott says, slumping awkwardly into one of the chairs.
“Clean bill of health,” Jean adds.
“Ugh, that’s not fair,” Peter moans. “You, like, were strolling on air and basically burst into flames, and you’re up and walking around. Me? A little broken leg? And I’m stuck here forever.”
Nightcrawler, bless him, actually looks concerned by this. “I heard it was only a week.”
Peter raises his eyebrows in absolute incredulity. “Only a week? Only a week?”
Nightcrawler looks taken aback, but Jean turns to him sympathetically. “Peter can move exceptionally fast. Time basically slows down for him. So a week is like--”
“A lifetime,” Peter supplies for her, matter of fact. “It’s the longest lifetime ever.”
“Ah,” Nightcrawler says, though he doesn’t seem to get it.
No one does.
“Anyway,” Scott interjects, clearing his throat a little. He sits up, trying to straighten himself. “We wanted to see how you were doing--”
Peter nods. “Terrible.”
“--and see if you needed anything--”
“I need a non-broken leg, please and thank you,” Peter says.
Scott furrows his brow, but continues. “And we wanted to say thank you.”
At that, Peter stops. All the things he sees coming, he doesn’t see that one.
This whole bedrest thing is making him a lot slower than he thought.
“Wait,” Peter says. “Why?”
“The explosion,” Nightcrawler says. “If it hadn’t been for you, there wouldn’t have been anything here when we got back.”
Jean tips her head. “You saved everyone in a split second,” she says, and it’s more than idle speculation. “You didn’t even hesitate. You’re a hero.”
“Whoa,” Peter scoffs. “I’ve been called a lot of things--”
“You could have walked away -- you could have run away,” Jean says, refusing to let him back out of this. “No one would have even known you were here. But instead you went, room by room. You made sure that almost everyone was out.”
Scott looks down, but it’s impossible to tell if he’s crying behind his glasses.
Peter swallows hard. He wants to apologize, but he’s not sure how. It’s hard to explain how you can save so many but still feel the loss of one. This grief isn’t his, though.
Not that he knows for sure what is.
“About that -- your brother, the one closest to the blast--”
Scott shakes his head, jaw working taut. “It happened in a less than a second,” he says, voice strained. “I used to think that having powers made you a hero, but it’s more than that. It’s not what we can do, but we decide to do. Alex, my brother -- he wasn’t your fault.”
“See,” Jean says, a smile playing on her lips. “Still a hero.”
Absolution isn’t what he was looking for, and it seems wrong. This is the kid who has lost something here. All Peter’s got for his trouble is a broken leg and bedrest.
And still, they’re the ones that came to thank him.
They’re strangers, him and these kids. And somehow, they know more about him than anyone else in the world.
He gathers a breath, shrugging one shoulder. “Well, what about you? You should be going to class, and you rescued us in a top secret military facility -- not to mention the little part where you three saved the world.”
“We weren’t exactly alone for that,” Jean reminds him.
“And trust me, we had second thoughts,” Nightcrawler says.
“A lot of them,” Scott adds. “But you, you just charged in there. Didn’t think twice.”
And he almost died once.
More than the broken leg, being immobilized had been devastating. Standing there, staring down the blade of a sword, he’d been able to see his death in a thousand snapshots, understanding his failure in its infinite completion.
He’d closed his eyes, just to make it go faster.
All in all, that’s a neat point to gloss over.
Jean inhales deeply, pulling him from this thoughts. “Still. We’re glad you showed up,” she says. “This would have gone a lot differently without you.”
It’s a weird thing, being praised. The fact is, Peter’s never done anything of substance his own life. He’s the kind of guy who goes for quantity over quality, and he’s always been so fast that he’s never had to be good.
What’s more, Peter’s never really wanted anything. He’s stolen all the toys and food and junk he could ever want, but he’s still looking for that next thrill, that next thing. He broke into the damn Pentagon for kicks, and where did he end up?
Back in his mother’s basement.
He can go anywhere, do anything, but there’s nothing he wants.
Nothing until now.
“For the record, I had second thoughts, you know,” Peter finally tells them with resolve. They look at him, they look at him like he knows what he’s talking about. Like what he says matters. No one’s ever looked at him like that before.
Of course, Peter’s never slowed down long enough to see.
He nods his head, forcing his lips into a smile. “I just had them a lot faster than you did.”
They laugh. Jean’s is musical; Nightcrawler’s sounds like silk; Scott half chokes on a sob with his.
Peter doesn’t care much about being a hero, that much is true.
But somehow, maybe, he might just care about this.
Honestly, if Peter’s honest -- like, really, completely honest -- the week isn’t so bad.
Sure, he’s laid up in bed, and he’s miserable and bored. The seconds are like torture, and the minutes make him want to cry. Don’t even get him started on the concept of hours.
But a lot of people come visit him. He makes friends.
That’s a simple thing, maybe, but Peter’s never made friends before.
It’s weird, and Peter knows it, but it’s not altogether bad.
He’s actually a little surprised when his week is almost over.
And he’s even more surprised when Professor Xavier shows up in his room.
“Oh,” he says, blinking in surprise. “Hi.”
This is, of course, utterly stupid, but then again, Peter’s never been one to be known for his tenured wit.
Rolling inside, the Professor looks worn and just slightly haggard around the edges. He’s clearly still weak and tired, but he’s upright in his chair, clean shaven and smiling.
“Hi,” the Professor responds crisply. “I have been told that your heroics were quite helpful. I must thank you for taking time to save my students and my faculty. That is a debt that I do not take lightly.”
“Oh, Professor, really,” Peter says dismissively. “It took me literally a second. It wasn’t that big of deal.”
“To the contrary, to me and the people in this school, it was a very big deal,” Professor Xavier says.
Peter squirms. All this talk of heroes still makes him a little uncomfortable. That’s not why he came here.
“I understand,” the professor interjects easily. He can surely sense Peter’s discomfort, but he seems unwilling to cater to it. “That before all this began, you came to see me.”
It’s not an exaggeration, at least not this time, to say that feels like a lifetime ago. “Oh, yeah,” Peter says, trying to brush it off. “It’s not important now.”
It’s pretty stupid to play a game of chase with the world’s fastest man.
It’s even stupider to lie to a psychic.
“You came about your father,” Professor Xavier says.
Peter makes a face. “Well. I found him.”
“You did,” Professor Xavier agrees. “But you still haven’t told him the truth.”
“Well, to be fair, things got a little crazy back there,” Peter says with a perfunctory nod.
Professor Xavier chuckles good naturedly. As if he hadn’t been almost killed by a megalomaniac mutant from a millennia ago. “We were rather preoccupied,” he notes, because if Peter has a thing for exaggeration, Professor Xavier is good with understatement. “I was surprised to find you there.”
“I can’t say it was honestly all my choice,” Peter says. “I showed up, and things were exploding, and I wasn’t going to let people just die, and then the next thing I knew we were in this secret base, and I mean, apocalypse. What are you going to do?”
“You came looking for family,” Professor Xavier says.
“Which is why it just made sense, going all the way to Egypt,” Peter says. “Though kind of pathetic, too. I get all that way, and I can’t even tell him. I’ve been stuck here for a week, and I still haven’t figured out what to say.”
Professor Xavier shakes his head. “You misunderstand me, Peter.”
Peter cocks his head.
Wheeling closer, Professor Xavier looks at him intently. “What you tell your father is really beside the point,” he says. “The point is that you came looking for family, and, quite frankly, I think you found it.”
It’s remarkable, really. How a man can say exactly what you’re thinking, even when you don’t realize you’re thinking it. But it’s more than that. Isn’t it?
Because he thinks about it, what he would have done if Apocalypse had shown up on his door and offered him power beyond belief? How tempting would that have been?
Not nearly as tempting as this is, right here, right now.
“Anyway,” the professor says, wheeling away again. “You’re welcome to stay for as long as you like, finish healing, get your questions answered.” He turns back, half smiling at Peter. “And anything else you may need.”
He doesn’t say that Peter’s already found it.
It’s just up to him whether or not he runs away this time.
Peter’s not so good at silence and stillness and solitude, but he’s gotten dramatically better over the last week. While he’s pretty sure that he’s actually been able to feel his bone stitches together, bit by bit, he’s also read the entire academic course load and met every single person on campus. He’s gone through five decks of cards, 539 magazines, 9 Rubik’s cubes, 33 pencils and 44 notebooks.
And he’s slept a lot, just to pass the time.
All in all, he thinks maybe he’s starting to figure this out.
Family, school, heroes, friends.
Then his dad shows up.
He’s just there, standing in the doorway. He looks almost normal like that, bristle on his cheeks and his shirt tucked into his pants. He’s standing there, half staring at him, and it’s all Peter can do to stare back because crap, this is his dad.
Clearing his throat, his father doesn’t looked overly pleased to be there. “Charles suggested that I come visit.”
Peter’s heart skips a beat. “Because, um, I’m, you’re--”
“Because you were instrumental in overcoming Apocalypse,” his father concludes.
Peter lets out his breath in a rush. “Oh, yeah, sure, of course.”
“Mutants, they are my family, all that’s left of it now,” his father continues. “And it was never my intention to put any of you in harm’s wary. While this world is hardly the safe haven Charles dreams it to be, it is not my intention to fight wars that do not need to be fought.”
Frowning, Peter tries to make heads or tails of this. “But the ones that need to be fought?”
“I will defend my family, always, without question,” his father returns. He tilts his head forward, his eyes icy. “And with all necessary force.”
Peter swallows, a lump bobbing in his throat. “That seems...drastic.”
His father doesn’t flinch. “The world is not as complicated as Charles thinks it is. Some choices are black and white, and I’m not afraid to make those choices,” he says. Then, he lets out a breath and his posture stances. “But time has proven to me that my judgement is not infallible. Everyone has to be wrong, every now and then.”
There’s something to that, something of loss and failure and determination. His father may see the world in black and white, but Peter’s growing accustomed to shades of gray. When you move fast enough, that’s the only color you see anyway. Some people find this upsetting.
Peter thinks it might be comforting.
That way, you never have to be perfect.
You just have to try your best.
“I didn’t expect to see you again, not after the Pentagon,” his father admits.
“Oh,” Peter says with a forced laugh. He’s failing here, and badly. But elocution has never been one of his superpowers, and this trainwreck of a conversation is happening in slow motion. “Just one of those random coincidences.”
His father gives him a quizzical look. “So it would seem,” he agrees.
His father seems to be ready to leave, and Peter’s given him no reason to stay. All the same, he’s not ready for him to leave, either. “Hey, you know, maybe we’ll cross paths again,” he says, trying to sound nonchalant. “I can move pretty fast when I’m not cooped up in here, so you know. I get around.”
His father regards him coolly. “I do recall,” he says.
“And who knows?” Peter suggests. “Maybe we’ll end up on the same side of things again?”
To this, his father gives a serious nod. “I do hope so,” he says. He hesitates. “Take care of yourself, Quicksilver.”
“Peter,” he says, almost too fast. “You can call me Peter.”
His father leaves without another word, and Peter knows that could have gone better. This whole reuniting with his dad thing is going kind of slow.
That’s okay, though.
Peter lays back in his pillows and smiles as he closes his eyes.
“Okay,” Hank says. “You ready?”
Poised on crutches, Peter’s almost sweating with exertion. Getting up and on his feet had been harder than he expected, and he’d had to lean heavily into Hank as he got his footing and learned how to balance on two sticks.
“We can take it slow,” Hank coaches. “As slow as you need.”
It’s hard to imagine, as far as Peter is concerned, going much slower. He’s survived this week -- and flourished in some ways -- but he’s ready for this.
“I’m good, I’m good,” he says, drawing a few rapid breaths. “I’m good.”
Tentatively, he uses his good foot to balance on, placing the crutches out in front of him. It’s tedious and excruciating, propelling himself forward, taking long, painful seconds to cover mere inches of ground.
“Okay,” Hank says. “Try another one.”
The next one comes faster, but barely. It’s a full minute before he crosses the room, and he’s worn out and exhausted by the time he gets there.
Hank, on the other hand, claps resoundingly. “That’s excellent,” he says. “Walking like that, you’ll be good to move all throughout the house -- maybe even the grounds.”
Peter nods, wishing he didn’t need both hands for the crutches, so he could wipe the sweat collecting on his brow.
“Now, no running, still,” Hank warns. “Too much excessive movement could re-injure your leg and put you right back in that bed. I know it’s hard--”
Peter shakes his head. “No, it’s good--”
“You’re healing at a pretty fast rate, based on your most recent stands, but I still want to make sure we don’t go too quickly,” Hank explains, almost as if he’s apologizing.
“No big deal, really,” Peter says. “You got to walk before you can right, right?”
Hank hesitates, as if he’s surprised by Peter’s suddenly laid-back nature. “I...guess.”
Not that Peter can blame him. It’s a relatively new thing for Peter, this thing called patience. Persistence. Perseverance. Peter’s spent his whole life running from things.
Now, for the first time in forever, he’s got something he wants to run to.
He takes another heavy step with the crutches, half grunting as he pulls himself forward.
“Besides,” he adds, letting Hank walk steadily next to him. He grins. “It’s not like I have any other place I need to be.”