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Woodstock 83

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 Picture Woodstock, except instead of rocking out to Creedence and The Who, you have to listen to twenty mutant ankle-biters bitch and moan about the late summer heat and pissing in a trench behind some trees.

That’s life at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Children after they get back from Cairo. It’s a sea of multi-colored tents huddled around the pond like a Boy Scout convention. Except almost no one here actually likes camping. (Except for Raven and Magneto, who have roughed it out in some seriously remote places.) Charles, of course, roughs it up in a hotel in town, but Peter cuts him some slack because the poor bastard has been through a lot the last couple of days.

It’ll take weeks to get the school back together. Even with Jean and Magneto’s terrifying powers, they are still only two people and that mansion was fucking gigantic. And even when the exterior is complete, there’s still all that furniture to replace. Meanwhile, all the students went back home, save for a scant fifteen or so without homes to go back to.

Peter technically has a basement and a kick ass mom willing to wait on him hand and foot while his leg heals and tell him how heroic he is. But for once he finds it hard to run away from something. Even though it’s not his school or his problem, he sticks around and pitches in as much as he can.

Since his leg is busted up, right now that means hanging out by the campfire and cooking approximately fifty billion hot dogs for lunch and dinner and looking after the handful of mutant rugrats under the age of ten.

Storm is a great help in this area, organizing fun games and singing silly songs in English, teaching the kids Arabic phrases, and laughing good naturedly when Peter’s accent mangles the beautiful syllables.

She’s also annoyingly perceptive.

“Why you stare at him so much?” she asks his third day back.

“Who, Scott?” Peter shrugs. “I’m just amazed that there’s someone out there who can out-idiot myself.”

But unlike most teenagers, Storm is immune to his ability to distract with a well-timed quip.

“Magneto. Every day you keep looking at him. It is . . . what is word?”

“Creepy. The word you’re looking for is creepy. Oh, and pathetic. That’s a good one.”

Raven comes up behind them and parks herself on the grass. She’s run herself ragged with Hank, organizing everything from where people sleep, what people eat, going into town to order supplies and furniture. God bless him, but take away the creature comforts and Charles is completely lost at what to do.

“Thanks, Ray-ray. You say the sweetest things.”

She rolls her eyes. “You’re really just going to sit here and stare like a lunatic rather than tell him?”

Storm’s ears perk up. “Tell him what?”

Raven’s eyes flick towards his, a silent ask of permission. Peter heaves a heavy sigh.

“Magneto. He’s uh . . . He’s my dad.”

“Oh my God!” Storm gasps, slender fingers pressed against her lips. “How does that happen?”

“Well, when two people love each other very much –“

Raven punches him in the arm and it takes every bit of willpower not to flinch.  Jesus, she hits hard.

“OW! Okay okay!”

“I meant,” says Storm with an eye roll, “how does he not know?”

“My mom left him before either of them knew she was pregnant,” says Peter. He knows this part of the story well. His mom never tried to keep it from him. She just told Peter that they were both better off with his dad far, far away. And he never really got that until Magneto’s speech on T.V. “I didn’t know anything about him until he tried to assassinate the president. So . . . you know that’s an interesting first impression.”

“And you’ve said nothing to him?” There’s something about the serious edge to Storm’s gaze that makes Peter squirm.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve all been a little busy.”

“We’re not busy now,” Storm oh so helpfully points out.

He looks over across the pond at Magneto, who’s deep in conversation with Charles and gesturing around the space where the school used to be. They’re obviously discussing blueprints or something, but it's not something that Peter couldn’t, technically, interrupt if he needed to. But something in his gut twists at the thought.

“Nah. It’s – he’s trying to plan the school out with Charles. It’d be rude to interrupt.” He scratches the back of his neck and looks around for something to do.

“Very rude,” agrees Storm. “Perhaps another time.”

Peter ignores the patronizing tone in her voice, as if she’s humoring a child.

 

 

Later that evening, Magneto says the first words to Peter besides “thank you” when Peter hands him three hot dogs with mustard.

“You look familiar to me.”

Magneto’s questioning gaze, the furrow in his eyebrow, freezes Peter more effectively with those five words than any broken leg could.

“Uh.”

“You were the mutant who got me out of the Pentagon.” A slow, small smile spreads across Magneto’s face.

It’s like his brain short circuited. There’s nothing, man. Nothing. 

“Yes?”

Magneto reaches out to clasp Peter briefly on the shoulder. “I appreciate that, very much. If it weren’t for you, I’d still be rotting there.”

“Well, what are family for?” Peter blurts out.

Magneto tilts his head and it’s like an alarm starts blaring in Peter’s head. SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT.

“You know, like, we’re all just one big happy mutant family here,” he babbles, backtracking hard. “You’re family and Charles is family and even good ole Raven here is family.”

“Yes,” says Magneto slowly. “We’re all mutants.”

Boy, he must think Peter is the biggest fucking idiot.

“Well, you’re – uh – you’re welcome. Yep.”

Magneto nods once and then takes his and Charles’ plates elsewhere.

Peter wants to jump in the fucking pond with cement shoes. Raven, next in line for food, shakes her head and mouths pathetic. Peter thinks about covering her hot dogs in ketchup, which she despises, but she’s right. So he musters up the worst insult he knows to yell at her as she’s walking away.

“Yeah, well, at least I’m not a square!”

Except Raven is as far from square as a person can get and not be Batman because Raven is cool as shit and she fucking knows it. It doesn’t help that Storm gives her worshipful puppy eyes every time Raven walks by.

Raven doesn’t even look at him. She just flips him off and keeps walking.

Peter gathers up his composure, because he’s a mature fucking adult, thank you, and continues dishing out the dogs.

 

 

After that, Magneto notices him. He nods to Peter when they cross each others' paths, murmurs good morning or good afternoon. Smiles when Peter complains about how fucking hot it is in the goddamn cast, no matter how many times Peter makes that joke.

And all the while, Storm and Raven nag and pester and judge him for his continued silence. They start taking bets with each other about how long it will take Peter to finally spit it out.

“My money’s on never,” says Raven.

It doesn’t bother him that much because he knows they mean well, that their constant harassment is meant to drive him to action. But one thing holds him back:

He hasn’t quite figured out how he feels about Magneto.

Intensely curious, sure. And a weird fondness he can’t explain. But the urge to recoil from Magneto and everything that man has done is equal to the urge to embrace him. And the ambiguity of those feelings paralyzes him. He’s constantly weighing out the pros and cons of telling Magneto, of permanently and publicly connecting them together. It would be so easy never to say a word and let the two of them continue their lives with one none the wiser. It would certainly be more peaceful.

And yet there is a hole in Peter, a missing piece, and just because he’s had twenty-seven years to get used to it doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t feel it. It echoes in him. He wants to know what it feels like to be complete.

At the same time, Peter doesn’t know if he wants to be forever linked with a man so comfortable with murder as the solution to all his problems. Besides, they’re so different. Peter is hyper and weird and loves rock and roll and uses his power to prank people. Magneto always looks like someone shot his dog and he’s going to slit their throat and his powers enable his violence to extreme limits and there is just no way that he’s going to want some goofy dork who can’t take anything seriously. And maybe Peter doesn’t want an angsty drama queen who wears a stupid helmet.

But he can’t stop wondering what if.

 

 

It doesn’t take long to get sick of hot dogs. So Peter convinces Charles to order like fifteen pizzas, and he and Jean distribute them. Since Peter’s leg is still out of commission, it takes for fucking ever. Magneto is one of the last to be served, since he’s camped himself out beyond the pond and out of the trees. Peter hobbles over there, clutching the man’s plate precariously in one hand. Magneto sees him struggling and immediately gets up to retrieve his dinner of three slices of extra cheese.

“Thank you,” he tells Peter absently. There’s something far-away in his gaze, like he’s not in Westchester anymore.

Peter’s curious about what could make Magneto look so lost, but he knows better than to ask. The man should probably be left to his thoughts, but Peter looks across the distance he has to hobble and groans.

“It must be frustrating to lose the use of your powers like that,” Magneto says.

Peter groans. “Oh my God, it sucks so bad.”

“It’s an extraordinary power. I would miss it too.” He gives Peter that tiny smile, no more than a gleam of his eye and a quirk of his lips. “Sit down and take a break.”

Peter looks down at Magneto in surprise. He figured company would ruin Magneto’s Brooding in Solitude image he’s trying to pull. But he tosses his crutches on to the grass and begins the awkward process of trying to sit down. Strong hands support his back and help lower him to the ground.

“Uh . . . thanks.”

“How long are you stuck with that cast?” Magneto asks.

“A million fucking years.”

A scruffy eyebrow raises.

“Okay, like five weeks, but it feels like a million years.”

“Do you have parents to worry about you?”

Peter swallows, a sudden lump in his throat. “I got my mom. She worries, but I also don’t tell her everything.” He gestures at his leg. “Like, she thinks I tripped, instead of some blue psychopath snapping my leg like a chicken bone.”

Magneto flinches at that. Interesting.

“And your father?”

It feels a little bit like getting the wind knocked out of you. Peter gapes at him like a fish. What the hell does he say? I never knew him isn’t strictly true anymore? He doesn’t know I exist also isn’t strictly true. Magneto takes his silence as confirmation of something horrible. He claps a heavy hand on Peter’s shoulder, eyes full of sincere empathy.

“I’m sorry.”

Peter coughs. Something’s sticking in his throat. “He’s not dead, he just – my mom left him and he didn’t know she was pregnant, so . . . “

“Have you tried looking for him?”

Peter throws head back and laughs, stained with bitterness. “I’ve tried. But . . . I’m always too late and he’s always gone. He probably doesn’t want to be found by me anyway.”

“Jean and Raven have told me what you’ve done, saving all those people from the explosion, attacking Apocalypse on your own. Any man would be proud to have you as his son.”

There’s something in his eye, man. Like, allergies or something. It makes them sting and water.  Magneto says nothing, just gives Peter’s shoulder another squeeze.

“Thanks.”

It comes out as a whisper.

 

 

Scott’s a cocky little punk bitch.

There’s not a lot for the kids who got left behind to do besides run around the field all day. Storm and Raven have done a great job organizing things like tag and hide and seek, mixed in with light powers-training. Charles valiantly tried to hold class under the trees, debating politics and philosophy, but literally no one could give a shit with the summer sun beating down on them.

So they all go jump in the pond, clothes and all, which is great for everyone but Peter because he can’t swim in this fucking cast. He sits on the stone edge of the pond with his jeans rolled up to the knee on his good leg, foot resting in the cool water.

It’s as good as it’s going to get for him.

He watches the younger kids, even though he can’t do a lot of good if one of them starts drowning. But maybe he can raise the alarm or something.

Everything is kind of nice. Between the breeze ruffling his hair and the cool water on his foot, the summer heat doesn’t suck so bad. Peter closes his eyes, enjoying the smell of clover and the sound of cute little kiddie giggles around him and –

And suddenly Peter feels like he got bitch-slapped by a lake, cold, algae-smelling water soaking his hair, his t-shirt, and the upper part of his cast.

Peter wipes the water out of his eyes to see Scott laughing a few feet away.

“What the fuck, man!” Peter yells.

Scott laughs even harder. “Dude! You looked a little hot. Just trying to cool you off, doing you a favor.”

“I’ll do you a goddamn favor,” Peter growls. Oh Summers better thank his goddamn lucky stars that Peter’s leg is busted.

“Dude, what are you going to do about it? You’re landlocked.” The smirk on Scott’s face is enough make Peter contemplate murder.

But it turns out that Peter doesn’t have to retaliate. A wall of water hits Scott in the side of the head, sending the kid toppling over like a Jenga tower. He surfaces, spluttering and spitting mad, looking frantically for his betrayer, but no one in the pond is big enough or has the power to send a wave like that. Well, except for Jean and she’s on the other side, deep in conversation with Jubilee and Kurt and ignoring Scott entirely.

He doesn’t notice Magneto and Charles smirking to each other in the trees behind them, but Peter does. Magneto gives him a tiny salute before returning to his conversation with Charles.

 

 

Raven returns from another trip to town for supplies with three packs of markers that she chucks at Peter’s head so she can watch him snatch them from the air like Babe Ruth. (Babe Ruth caught the baseballs right? Peter doesn’t know a lot of sports).

“What the hell are these for?” he asks.

“Your cast. It’s looking gross with all those grass stains. Let the kids go nuts.”

Peter looks down at his cast, which indeed is starting to look grungy as fuck, and grins. “That’s a fucking boss idea. Thanks!”

“I get to be the first to sign it.”

They sit in the grass and Raven pulls out the red, blue, and yellow markers. She draws a wonky looking stick figure of herself, tongue sticking out in concentration as she colors in her slicked back red hair. She signs her masterpiece with an illegible flourish, complete with a tiny black bird perched on the “n”.

All day kids come up and decorate his cast. Jubilee is a stunning artist and emblazons his cast with the cover art of Dark Side of the Moon. Scott draws a dick behind his ankle where Peter can’t see it (Jean points this out as she somehow turns it into a deformed unicorn). Even Charles gets in on it, writing out a lyric from one of Peter’s favorite Rush songs: “Red Baretta” in pretentious calligraphy.

When the evening comes, there is only one small space left behind his anklebone. It nags at Peter and he grabs the brown marker – one of the only ones left – and thinks of something to fill it with. And that’s when he notices Erik walking across the grounds from inspecting the partially-completed school.

“Hey! Mags!” Peter yells out, waving his arms. He has no idea why he’s got this impulse, but he’s also not in the habit of questioning his many and random impulses.

Magneto stops and looks around before his gaze falls on Peter. He stares at Peter for a moment, confused, so Peter waves the marker packages and motions with his other hand for Magneto to come closer.

“You gotta sign, dude. You’re literally the only person who hasn’t,” Peter informs him once Magneto gets into hearing range.

Magneto studies the cast for a long moment. “I don’t think there’s any room left.”

“Oh yes there is.” Peter holds his cast up with one hand and points to the bare spot by his ankle with the other. “Bam. Right there, saved it just for you.” Which is not true at all, but it feels like the right thing to say.

Magneto gives him that infinitesimal smile. “How can I refuse such an offer?”

To Peter’s shock, the man takes a seat next to him. After a second to gather his composure, Peter fans out the remaining markers – red, black, and brown. “Pick your poison.”

Magneto plucks the black marker from his hand and then pulls Peter’s leg into his lap, contemplating the bare space. Even though Magneto could probably go a week without speaking, Peter doesn’t handle silences very well.

“So thanks for splashing Scott the other day. You saved my neck, man, because Scott’s a punk bitch and I was going to break my other foot shoving it up his ass.”

Erik huffs a laugh and then looks surprised at himself. “It was the least I could do. I . . . owe you many favors.”

Peter doesn’t know what to think about someone with few moral boundaries as Magneto believing himself in Peter’s debt. Maybe if the guy doesn’t run away screaming if Peter tells him their real relationship he’ll call it even. But that train of thought kick starts that same old panic in Peter, so he’s starts babbling to distract himself from it.

“So, Mags – can I call you Mags? Would that, like, get my ass kicked?”

There it is again, that tiny huff of surprised laughter. “No,” he murmurs, uncapping the black marker. He signs his name in neat, beautiful cursive. It automatically beats everyone else’s signature just by nature of being legible.

It reads Erik Lehnsherr.

Looking at Magneto’s real name squeezes something in Peter’s chest. It feels like a gift, an act of trust that he doesn’t think he quite deserves.

Magneto leans back and inspects his work.

“You have very beautiful handwriting,” Peter blurts out and then he wants to slap himself.

“It feels incomplete.” Magneto frowns.

The signature stands out in its starkness, unaccompanied by any flair or cartoons or doodles. It’s very unlike the drama queen aspect of Magneto that everyone knows and loves. Magneto bends back over Peter’s leg, this time reaching for the red marker. After a minute or two he leans back again, and Peter sees a – Mags – underneath the signature, with a tiny red horseshoe magnet beside it. A mischief gleams in Magneto’s eyes and it transforms his face into something kind and warm. Peter finds himself grinning in return.

“Call me Erik.”

 

 

Charles corners him one morning. His chrome dome still takes some getting used to. The guy is such a long way from Peter’s last memory of him, rocking that homeless drug addict look in that cardigan so ratty you could read through it. Now he’s in a respectable button down shirt and slacks, the sleeves rolled up enough to both beat the summer and also not look like someone’s grandfather.

He looks even younger bald than he did with hair.

“Hey, Professor. What’s up.”

Charles has been in and out of the grounds. He’s taken frequent trips to the hospital for all kinds of brain scans and psychology tests and shit to make sure that Apocalypse is really, truly out and that he didn’t sustain any brain damage.

He also just hates roughing it and his wheelchair doesn’t do so hot on the grass all the time (though that’s not such a big problem now that Magneto carries him around like a goddamn princess).

“Just checking up on you,” Charles says breezily. “How is your leg holding up?”

Alarm bells start ringing in Peter’s head. Usually when his mom says she’s “checking up on him” it means she just busted Peter in a lie and is about to lay on the hurt. He frantically checks the last few days for anything incriminating.

“Uh . . . it’s okay?”

The professor chuckles. “Easy, Peter. You’re not in trouble for anything.  We haven’t had much opportunity to talk, and I just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for us. If it weren’t for you, all my students . . .” Charles cuts himself off, swallowing thickly with suspiciously wet looking eyes.

Peter looks at his feet because he can’t handle grown ups crying, man. It’s awkward.

Charles clears his throat and continues. “Anyway, I’m asking if there’s anything I can do for you in return?”

“Oh wow. Uh . . .”

Peter racks his brain, but nothing comes.

“I don’t know, man. It’s not like I didn’t do it so you could owe me or anything. I just wanted to get out of my mom’s basement, you know?”

He just wanted to see his dad and then he got sucked into this whole apocalypse clusterfuck and decided that he would rather not live in a world that was ruled by a bald, blue dickwagon.

“You’re a humble man, Peter. You’ve saved countless lives at great risk to your own. You deserve a rest, if nothing else, with your family looking after you” says Charles. “And yet you’re still here.”

It feels like the professor is fishing for a certain answer, but Peter has no idea what it could be. So he shrugs.

“The basement gets boring after a while, not to mention it’s kind of pathetic that I’m still living down there. I figured you guys could use all the help you can get right now, and I’m not doing anything, so . . .”

Charles gives him a kind smile. “You’re anything but pathetic, Peter. When Erik finally finds out, I know he will be so proud of you.”

Peter nearly chokes on air. He knows it’s stupid to lie to a telepath, but goddamn if he doesn’t try. “W-what? Erik? Why – why do I care what that psycho thinks of me? Talk about random.”

“You project very loudly.” The professor’s smile turns rather smirk-y. “Don’t worry – your secret is safe with me. But I think you’ll find that your fear of his rejection is unfounded.”

“Yeah, we’ll see.”

 

 

Peter doesn’t usually sleep the sleep of the righteous. His cast itches like fucking crazy, and even when his body’s tired, his brain never shuts the fuck up. He hasn’t run in three weeks, and when the campfire dies sometime past midnight, his body is still wired. All this excess energy built up like a volcano, and the ache to just burst around the state of New York like a rocket burns too much to bear. He feels ready to explode at any moment. If God wanted Peter to be someone who sat still, he would not have given him fucking speed powers.

On top of this, sometimes Peter wakes up gasping to nightmares where everyone but him get possessed by Apocalypse and they all come after Peter, ready to rip him apart with their bare hands and he can’t get away.

He doesn’t sleep much and therefore is privy to all the times Erik’s hoarse screaming echoes from his lone tent. Sometimes Raven goes out to talk to him, and sometimes the screaming stops so abruptly that Peter knows that Charles is speaking to him telepathically.

But sometimes the screaming just continues until Erik drags himself from that tent, gasping and gazing out at the pond a long time.

Peter doesn’t know much about what happened – just that Erik’s wife and child were killed. Even so, that’s enough to deprive anyone of peace. And Peter doesn’t think that he could be much help, but he can’t go to sleep and he can’t listen to this any longer. So he hobbles out across the lawn to stand with Erik.

“You okay, dude?”

Erik says nothing, just staring that Thousand Yard Stare across the pond.

“I have bad dreams, too,” Peter says lamely.

Silence. God he is such an idiot and he is just making everything worse.

“Sorry, man. I don’t mean to bother you. I just thought  . . . I don’t know.” Peter swallows. “I’ll leave.”

He gets back on his crutches and turns around.

“You don’t have to leave.”

It’s said so quietly that Peter almost doesn’t hear it.

“Yeah?”

Erik nods, barely perceptible in the moonlight. Peter drops the crutches and hobbles to the ground.

“I’ll just chill here, if that’s okay? We don’t have to say anything. We can just chill.”

For a long moment, more silence. It’s very difficult for Peter to sit still and say nothing. A million mindless bullshit words crowd his mouth, but he swallows them all down. Erik doesn’t need mindless bullshit right now.

Eventually Erik settles down beside him. They are so close together than Peter can see the man’s hands shake in the moonlight.

“Tell me about your dream?” he whispers.

Peter’s eyebrows raise up. “It’s stupid. Its – you know Apocalypse shows up and, like, mind controls everyone into killing me. Real cheesy stuff. Nothing compared to – to yours.”

“I don’t have nightmares,” Erik says. “I just have bad memories.”

Yikes.

They fall into another silence, and this time it’s easier to bear. Peter lays on the grass and looks up at the clouds moving across the moon. When he woke up the dream had felt so real, he could still taste the fear and betrayal on his tongue. Now he feels stupid to be so afraid.

“Your powers are an extraordinary gift,” Erik finally says. “God only knows how much I could have used them.”

Peter thinks of the little cottage covered in caution tape. If he had been there a day or two earlier, goddamn it, Erik would have had them. He would still have his family.

Peter would still have his sister.

That thought alone has been crushed and boxed up in his mind for weeks now because the truth is too terrible to bear. Peter already has a little sister. She’s in high school now and he loves her very much. He loves being a big brother and the fact that he had that chance again and someone snatched it from him . . . he understands a little why Erik would go into such murderous rage.

“How did it happen?” Peter can barely force the words past his choked up throat.

“They came for me,” Erik says simply. “Someone found out who I was and they came for me, and my wife and Nina were caught in the middle. A flying arrow impaled them both.”

Nina. Her name was Nina and she died brutally and in pain. Peter clenches a fist.

“Did you make them pay?”

The bitterness in his voice makes even Erik look at him in concern.

“I did. But they didn’t deserve it. It was an accident and it only ever happened because of me, because of my mistakes, my past. I tried to run like a coward and pretend that I didn’t have to own up to any of it, and now twenty people are dead because of it.” Erik heaves a sigh as heavy as the weight of the world. “The only person who deserved any of it was me. Again I’m left with nothing, and nothing is exactly what I should have.”

He says it so matter of fact, so hollowly, as if all the feeling has been burned out of him. And yet his hands can’t stop shaking and his voice grows hoarse from screaming and his eyes look so haunted even in this dim lighting.

“I don’t believe that,” Peter says. “No one deserves that kind of pain. Not even people who have colossally fucked up as bad as you have.”

Erik looks at him like Peter just offered him the last lifeboat off the Titanic.

Never has Peter wanted so badly to tell him than right this second. The confession burns in him, like he swallowed a hot coal, and it needs to get out.

He keeps it inside.

Right now Erik would see family as just another thing to lose, another liability to hurt him further. Right now, springing that kind of information on him would feel cheap, like he’s saying that it doesn’t matter that he lost a kid, look here’s another one right here!

“I’m sorry,” he says instead, voice raw.

Which are the worst words you can to someone grieving. It’s so automatic, so routine, it’s lost all meaning. But Peter has never meant those words more so than he does now, even if they fall so short to the riot of feeling clawing in his chest.

But Erik must understand because he just bows his head and whispers, “Thank you.”

They sit together in the moonlight for a long time.

 

 

The school really kicks into gear soon after. All the pipes have been laid and the raw materials delivered. Something metal and secret-y is laid under the foundation. Erik guides Jean and together they start to build. Jean puts the frame up, Erik nails it in place. Stone is stacked and the kids get to work spreading the mortar on before the next layer is put on top.

It’s a lot of fucking work. Even Peter’s ass is put to work, mixing the cement and doing the bottom rows sitting in the gravel. The first room done is the entry hall, and everyone moves their shit into the blessed shade of the crude ceiling that evening.

Even with thirty people working on the school, it still takes two more weeks to get it all done. And that’s not including unloading literally a hundred truckloads of furniture (and those are just basic beds, kitchen appliances, toilets, and couches. It’s going to take for-fucking-ever to get this school back up and running again). Charles must have taken out a hell of an insurance plan on this place.

All this work leaves very little time or energy for Erik and Peter to say more than good morning and good night before they flop exhaustedly into their respective tents or head out to whatever wing of the school they’re building on today.

And then comes the glorious, GLORIOUS day in which Peter’s cast comes off. Kurt takes him teleporting all the way down to DC and what a wild fucking ride that is. It’s disturbing as fuck when they first do it, like his brain still thinks they’re in one spot, while his body knows it’s in another. Like, how the fuck does this kid stand it?

Once he gets used to it, it’s fucking awesome. You could rob so many banks with this power. You could break into the VIP backstage with fucking Rush with this power and Peter needs to introduce this poor, deprived soul to the finer music in life so they can do exactly that in the very near future. Between his speed and Kurt’s teleporting, they would be unstoppable.

To her credit, Peter’s mother doesn’t bat so much as an eyelash at the sight of Kurt’s earnest face and Michael Jackson jacket. She looks at her watch and says, “You’re five minutes early. I didn’t think I’d ever see you so enthusiastic to go to the doctor.”

“I need to get this fucking thing off of me, like, yesterday.”

When the doctor cuts open his cast, Peter screams.

“What the fuck happened to my leg?! It shrunk!

It takes Dr. Manis about half an hour to calm Peter down and explain what happens to muscle mass when you don’t use it for several weeks. She also goes into a physical care regimen that Peter’s mother dutifully copies down and that Peter tunes out entirely. Then, after Mom treats them both to lunch at McDonald's like the awesome mother she is, Kurt whisks them back to the school.

“No, no, drop me off in front of the school. I gotta make an entrance,” Peter complains when Kurt tries to materialize in the entry hall.

Kurt walks ahead of him, slams the newly hinged front doors open and bellows, “The hero has walked through the flames of hell and RETURNED!”

Cue Peter swaggering up behind Kurt with his both his fists pumping the air like a gladiator. Everyone puts their sandwiches down and gives Peter a standing ovation (well, except for Charles).

“I’M FREE!” Peter yells and he dashes around and gives everyone a hi-five, even Erik.

“What happened to your cast?” Jubilee asks.

“Rotting in hell where it belongs!”

 “Aww, there goes my dick unicorn,” Jean says with a frown.

“Not so fast,” says Kurt and it’s like a record scratched. The little blue devil pulls out a folded piece of notebook paper with Peter’s mother’s handwriting scribbled all over it and reads it like he’s the announcer for the king.

 “Ahem. This is Peter’s physical therapy regimen: No lifting weights over three pounds, no skipping, no running, strengthening exercises must be completed three times a day . . .”

As the list goes on, Raven’s cackling grows in proportion to the droop of Peter’s frown. He snatches the note away from Kurt.

“You betrayed me, you little blue bastard!”

Kurt shrugged. “You must be healthy.”

It would be sweet it wasn’t so goddamn annoying.

Erik plucks the note from Peter’s hand. “This will be followed,” he says sternly, “religiously.”

Peter groans. “Fuck!”

 

 

Three times a day like fucking clockwork, Peter does his stupid strength exercises. On top of that, Raven and Kurt watch him like a goddamn hawk to make sure he doesn’t rush around the mansion or lift any stone or furniture. They mean well, but God is it suffocating. They even set up a routine: Raven watches him in the mornings, Kurt in the afternoons, and Erik at night.

They all have different approaches: Raven is a hard-ass drill sergeant that doesn’t let Peter sleep in; Kurt tries make everything bouncy and fun, and sometimes it’s cute and sometimes it’s annoying as hell. Erik is the only sane one, treating the whole thing like a necessary evil needed to get Peter back in fighting shape. He explains what could happen to Peter’s leg if he doesn’t do his therapy and how he’d never run as fast again or for very long. He listens to all of Peter’s inane babbling and laughs at his stupid jokes with the patience of a saint and never makes Peter feel like all of it annoys him.

The evenings become his favorite part of the day. It scares him how attached he’s getting. Erik has no plans to stay when the school is finished, and according to Charles, the man only resurfaces once every ten years. How stupid would you have to be crave the attention of someone who’s about to ditch you for a whole decade?

Peter. Peter is that stupid.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, though, on evenings like this when Peter has made Erik laugh at approximately eleven stupid knock knock jokes and Erik gives Peter an extra slice of his pizza after Peter inhaled his portion in two minutes flat.

He even pats Peter’s back when he chokes from eating too fast.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he tells Peter, chuckling. “Ease up. You didn’t survive Apocalypse so that Pizza Hut could kill you.”

Peter nods, blinking tears from his eyes.

“You’re a good dad,” he says.

It slips out, man, just slides right out of his mouth, like he hocked it up along with that bite of pizza crust.  The hand on Peter’s back stills and Peter knows he fucked up, that he’s crossed a line. He didn’t even say it in the past tense, for God’s sake.

“I mean, I don’t have a lot of experience in that to be a good judge or anything. Like, my mom remarried his asshole and had my little sister and then, like, dumped his ass after a couple of years and it’s just been the three of us for a long time? But, you know, you do a good job taking care of people and I – I mean I think you do a good job but what do I know, right?”

Erik’s face looks like it’s made of stone. Peter closes his eyes and fights he urge to punch himself.

“I’m sorry, man, that was a stupid thing to say and I’m an idiot and let’s just pretend the last couple minutes of me digging my own grave didn’t happen. Like, let’s just get Charles to wipe our memories of it and move on from there I am so sorry -- ”

A wide, calloused hand covers his mouth and shuts him right up.

“Peter. It’s okay.” Erik’s eyes are too kind, it hurts to look at them. “It’s not true, but . . . I appreciate the sentiment all the same.”

Peter can’t look away from his shoes. He should really shut up, but he hates that hollow self-loathing in Erik’s voice.

“I think anyone would be lucky to have a dad like you,” he says.

He doesn’t look up, but Erik’s hand squeezes Peter’s shoulder almost painfully.

 

 

Time’s a funny thing. The first few weeks rebuilding felt like a hundred years, and the last two weeks putting in the furniture and restocking the kitchen felt like two days.

Before Peter knows it, Raven has their asses down in the Danger Room (which is such a cheesy, overkill name, like what the fuck) and Erik is telling Charles goodbye.

He doesn’t pay much attention to Raven’s “Time to Grow Up and Be Badasses” speech. Instead, he cranes his head over the heads of Kurt and Scott to watch Erik and Charles.

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to stay?” Charles asks and Peter’s heart catches in his throat.

Erik claps Charles on the shoulder. “You’re psychic. You can convince me to do anything.”

Charles lets him walk away.

No. Nonononono!

Erik catches Peters gaze, nods at him, and Peter silently pleads with him to stay. He’s not telepathic, he’s only got his eyes to convey the message, but he’s not ready for Erik to leave. This secret is suffocating him, he can’t wait another ten years!

But Erik isn’t ready for it now.

Raven doesn’t need telepathy. The expression on her face clearly tells him how much of a fucking idiot she thinks he is as he stands there, agonizing while Erik walks away.

Go! She mouths at him.

I’m always too late.

Not this time.

He tears out of that room like the devil is on his heels, only to wait in the elevator for thirty agonizing seconds. Then he’s zig-zagging between furniture, vaulting over a coffee table, dodging random students (and stealing one kid’s Twinkie, he can never resist a good Twinkie) until he skids out onto the driveway.

Erik has opened up the driver’s door of the sedan Charles gave him. Peter slams it shut and yanks the keys out of Erik’s hand for good measure.

“Peter?” Erik blinks, looks at the door and then the keys in Peter’s hand. “What’s going on? Is everything all right?”

“I- uh –“ His anxiety flares up, crushing the frantic determination that had fueled him. He imagined this moment a hundred times, practiced his speech a hundred times, and now he can’t remember any of it. And Erik’s baffled and strangely kind expression is not helping matters at all.

If this does not go perfectly, it’s all fucked and Peter can just kiss it all goodbye.

“I’m your son!” He blurts out. Practically yells it in Erik’s ear. “I’m your son! You’re my dad! You and my mom did the do and here I am!” The words spill out like vomit and Peter couldn’t stop himself if he tried.“I know it’s the last thing you want right now and that there are a hundred million other, less disappointing sons you could have had, but it’s me and we’re stuck with each other and you can just pretend this conversation never happened but I had to let you know. So now you know. Tada!”

Peter’s lack of impulse control has led to a lot of humiliating moments in his life. But the insanity that just spilled from his mouth and the accompanying furrow in Erik’s brow like he doesn’t like what he’s hearing tops that list and there is no close second.

Erik says nothing. Peter wants to die.

“I’m sorry. I hope you have a nice life and I’m going to go throw myself off a cliff and never bother you or anyone ever again.”

He leaves Erik in the dust and that frown will probably haunt him forever.

 

 

There are no cliffs in Westchester, so he makes it at far as the roof, which has a secret stairwell that leads up to it because it now doubles as a landing pad. He sits on the edge of a parapet, chin resting on his knees.

The only remaining piece of his cast digs into his side and he fishes it out of his pocket. Erik’s signature remains vibrant, despite the fade from the constant sun exposure.

At least he gets a decade to recover from all this before his next humiliating encounter.

“Peter?”

Oh God. Correction: he thought he had a decade to recover from this. Instead, he had about fifteen minutes. He buries his head in his knees and says nothing.

“Get down from there before you fall.”

“I’m not going to fall.”

Erik’s footsteps scrape the gravel tarmac until they stop beside him. Sitting on the parapet makes him eye level with Erik standing.

“I think we should talk,” Erik says softly.

“Nope. We really don’t have to, man.” Peter tries to make his voice sound casual and unconcerned. It comes out high pitched and panicky.

“I think we do.” Erik tries to catch his eye, but Peter stares resolutely at the yard beyond them.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. I just – I was worried that I would fuck it up somehow. And hey! Look at how well I know myself.”

Erik’s hand lands warm and solid on Peter’s shoulder.

“You didn’t fuck anything up. I suspected that you were my son when I remembered you from the Pentagon.”

Peter jerks his head up at that and gapes at Erik. “You knew this whole time!?”

Erik gives him that shy, tiny smile, one that Peter just now realizes Erik only shows to him.

“I had hoped. But there was just enough doubt to keep my suspicions to myself. I didn’t want to . . . scare you. I’m not . . . I’m not really anyone’s first pick for a father, and after the destruction you witnessed from me, I thought you would hate the idea of our relation.”

“I don’t hate it. Not – not anymore.”

“You’re not a disappointment to me. I’m proud to call you my son.”

Something warm and fuzzy has invaded his chest. Fucking allergies, probably. Tree pollen or some shit, because his eyes are watering.

“I guess we’re stuck with each other, then,” Peter says, clearing his throat before he really embarrasses himself.

Erik’s smile grows, like the Grinch’s heart, until it looks almost too big for his face. It’s rather terrifying, actually.

“I suppose we are.”

 

 

Erik ends up staying.