Fandom: X-Men, DoFP Timeline
Characters: Peter Maximoff, Erik Lensherr, Charles Xavier, Hank McCoy, Alex Summers, Magda Maximoff, Wanda Maximoff
Word Count: 13710
A.N: [This fic deals with abduction, torture, and mental manipulation of an underaged character, plus some of the aftermath. There are tons of trigger warnings/detailed content notes. If you'd like to see those, click here.]Peter gets kidnapped and tortured in this fic. Though there is no non-con/sexual assault, many other sorts of awful things are done to him, and there is one paragraph that may unintentionally sound like a metaphor for rape. There is also attempted brainwashing/emotional control in a sort of Stockholm-Syndrome scenario.I tried not to make it gratuitous, but a couple of parts do have explicitly described violence. If you'd like more extensive content notes/the exact location of the paragraph before you read, please see those below.
Peter, while underage (17), is kidnapped. His captivity starts at section 17 and continues through section 32. While kidnapped, he is tortured by:
1. Electric shock from a collar activated when he speaks or uses his powers or when the kidnappers are displeased
2. Force-feeding. It's mentioned in several sections, but there is a graphic description of it in section 23.
4. Smothering/asphyxiation (mentioned)
5. Water torture (mentioned)
6. Dehumanization (treated as an object in ways, never referred to by name)
7. Attempted brainwashing
8. Having his emotions controlled by a mutant with that power.
Note: The physical torture is enhanced by the emotional control, as Peter is made to feel grateful for it. This emotional manipulation is used in the attempt to brainwash Peter.
Peter ends up with some big self-worth/self-confidence issues, post-kidnapping (though not all of them are a result of the kidnapping).
Note on suicidal ideation: At one point, in section 31, Peter decides that he'll commit suicide if it's necessary in order to keep from becoming brainwashed. No attempt is ever made, but his decision is mentioned/alluded to several times later on.
Note on non-consensual/sexual assault triggers: Although there is no sexual content in this fic, I realized that, albeit unintentionally, one of my descriptions of Peter's reactions to the aftermath of the forcefeeding could be seen as very metaphorical of rape. This is in section 24, in the paragraph which starts with 'When he sits down'.
Summary: After any global, life-changing event, there's bound to be an adjustment period. After Washington, most of the world takes a deep breath, reassesses genetics, and keeps on keeping on.
Peter's adjustment period is A) longer and B) considerably more complicated.
1. So, here’s the thing about Peter: he’s not actually an idiot. Oh, he can pull off a good impression of one when he needs to. Crateful of Little Debbies got stolen off a moving truck? But Officer, I was in the park with my kid sister all morning, in plain view of a dozen adults who’ll swear I never left!
His reputation as a thief is due to some admittedly stupid slip-ups in the seventh grade regarding his school locker and the cafeteria’s steadily dwindling supply of pudding. Police get called. His mother’s brought in for a parent-teacher-detective conference. Peter’s forced to apologize, grounded for a month, and pays back the school with money from his paper route.
In his defense, however, the stupidity of that incidence is borne of ignorance, and afterwards, Peter vows never to let himself get caught again.
He soon realizes two things:
- Police officers are just people, and can be petty as fuck
- Making promises about things you have no control over is stupid.
They can’t pin anything on him hard enough for it to stick in court, but they pay him visits anyway. Take him in for questioning, threaten him with jail, harass his mom. Eventually, his mom just takes out her pocketbook whenever they come around.
Eventually, Peter stops bothering to hide in public and hides inside his home instead.
2. Home is better than school, anyway. Peter’s not a huge fan of school.
He actually likes it when he first starts out. They’re in New York, then, where they live in a small apartment in a big building with dozens of other interesting people. His mother has a different accent and wears long-sleeved shirts and cardigans whenever she goes out so no one sees her arm.
His kindergarten teacher’s very pretty and smiles a lot. Her name is Blaire but one of the smaller kids can’t pronounce it correctly, so she tells them to call her Ms. B. Peter likes her. She doesn’t mind that he wriggles in his desk all the time, as long as he doesn’t get out of it, and one time, when she catches him running the way his mom told him not to, she makes him stop but doesn’t tell anyone else. She visits his apartment after school that evening and talks with his mother for a long time. She comes to see them a lot after that, at least twice a week, stopping by for supper or looking after Peter on Saturday afternoons whenever his mom has to go in to work.
Then one day she doesn’t come over, though his mom waits and waits and calls in sick to work. Ms. B doesn’t go to school on Monday, either, though there are a couple policemen in the halls who talk to some of the other teachers in the principal’s office during classes.
On Tuesday, Peter’s mother packs the car, and Peter never goes back either.
The new school isn’t as nice. The other kids make fun of his hair until Tommy says it’s silver because Peter’s sick and going to die, and after that nobody plays with him at recess. His new teacher’s mean, too, and raps his knuckles when he can’t sit still even though everyone else is
Things don’t really improve until high school, when for a brief, few weeks his hair goes from being a bizarre stigma to a misperceived act of rebellion, and the notoriety’s enough to get several girls interested in him.
Then he kisses one for the first time ever and, well. Walking, talking, listening, touching, hugging—everything he does is a constant adjustment to everyone else bumbling around like flies drenched in amber. It’s easy enough once he’s there, but every time he goes in and out of his own normal speed he has to adjust back, and sometimes—if he gets caught up or distracted—sometimes he drops back to human speed in his mind but the rest of his body takes a second to catch up, and he ends up kicking a hole in the soccer ball or pouring water into the space where a glass just isn’t quite there yet.
Turns out kissing people is really distracting.
One slobbery chin and a change of pants later, not even the misfit stoners he used to hang out with will come near him at lunch, and class after class after class is a test of restraint that Peter’s sure he’s going to fail at sooner or later.
So he drops out instead.
3. In between the first set of rapped knuckles and the dropping out there was Rick. Rick was well-respected in the community, a journalist of high esteem. Rick was trustworthy, because Rick had a gift like Peter’s that he had to hide. Rick was also secretly an asshole, in diverse and varied ways.
Rick is no longer around.
(Also: Peter’s mom is seriously a badass when she’s angry. Peter already knew this, because, hi, years of not-entirely-undeserved police harassment: great for showing you how a person will react under stress! But this was something else entirely.)
Before he left, though, Rick helped bring about Wanda, who’s the cutest, most perfect snugglebug of a baby who’s ever existed. She sleeps through the night early on and doesn’t fuss a lot and learns her letters faster than all the other kids at the daycare.
Two days after he quits school, Peter finds her levitating two feet above her bed at naptime.
His mom and him both agree it’s best if he stays at home and keeps an eye on her for a couple of years, until she learns how to keep a damper on things long enough for school.
4. It’s not like he holes himself up. Completely. He steps out. Sees people. Goes to any concerts within a hundred-mile radius. Gets a lot of practice in dealing with distractions of all sorts of kinds and genders. Does things. Tries things. Gets drunk one time and finds out what vomit looks like when it splatters on cement you’re running over faster than the eye can see.
He just doesn’t do any of that with the same people more than once. Practice is practice, and he doesn’t start out perfect, and you can only write off something like him as a really weird trip so many times.
It doesn’t matter, anyway. He’s happy, as he tells his mom repeatedly, hanging out and watching after Wanda, and it actually helps his mom so he feels less like an asshole some of the time. He finds ways to stave off boredom, and, when they get boring too, he finds more ways. These efforts take up a lot of space, sometimes, and finding more and more things kind of becomes a thing in itself, sometimes, but that just means he has something else to take up more of the time that stretches out in front of him when he wakes up every morning. It’s not perfect, but it’s a life.
5. And then one Saturday Professor Asshole shows up.
Okay, he’s not a complete asshole. Not all of him. He’s not ‘Beneath this veneer of civility I’m an absolute dick’, he’s more like ‘Beneath this veneer of intoxicated druggery I am 95% heart of gold, 1% ego, and 4%, which is a small but undeniably quantifiable percentage, complete and utter prick’. He’s not bad, though, as people go, and neither are the other two guys with him, and also:
THEY’RE JUST LIKE PETER.
Well. For various definitions of ‘just like’. But they’re weird, too, and the only person Peter’s met like him before was Rick, and Rick actually was an absolute prick. And Wanda’s too little to count. So that’s exciting. Also exciting? Breaking someone out of jail. And this isn’t even just jail, it’s the Pentagon! So Peter doesn’t think too long before he says he’ll go with them.
For two point five hours, he even starts admiring the guy.
That’s his first mistake.
6. His second mistake is actually breaking the guy out of prison.
JFK, man. Freaking JFK. Dude’s a psychopath.
7. Two point five hours after they come to his house, the prison elevator makes it to the kitchen, and Peter realizes three things in rapid succession:
- Admiration of people you don’t know as well-rounded characters is stupid
- What’s worse than one asshole in a room? Two assholes in a room.
- Even worse? Two assholes who clearly never went to a proper kindergarten where they teach sharing, caring, or dealing with feelings in a constructive manner.
Of course, breaking back out is too much fun for him to be bothered about it.
8. Erik, though.
Erik’s kind of a weirdo, even for someone who’s supposed to be like Peter.
He keeps staring at Peter, all the way from the Pentagon to the airport. It’s more than a stare; it’s this bizarre, intense non-glare that Peter can practically feel burning into his scalp when he looks away. It really doesn’t help that they’re squashed next to each other in the backseat, arm to arm and thigh to thigh, Peter in the middle between him and Hank, who, oddly, has decided to take the opportunity to nap, tugging his ridiculous hat over his eyes and sprawling out all over his side of the seat so Peter has to huddle up to the assassin. The assassin who won’t. Stop. Staring.
“Thank you for helping me, Peter,” Erik says apropos of nothing twenty minutes into the trip. He unbuttons his still-soaked shirt and slips out of it carefully, quite solicitous, at least, of where his elbows do and don’t go. He’s wearing a slightly-less-soaked cotton undershirt, and drops the sodden button-up between his feet. “You have an amazing power.”
Charles says “Erik,” then, with a warning sort of tone that Peter doesn’t understand, and Erik looks like he’s about to ruffle up and snap something in response, but he stops when he catches Peter staring at his arm.
His arm, which has a very familiar tattoo on it.
“Sorry,” Peter says when he realizes he’s been staring (because he’s not an uncivilized asshole. When he doesn’t want to be). “My, uh. Your tattoo. My mom has—my mom has one. Like it. Too.”
His face floods with warmth, then, because now Erik’s stare has gone up several degrees in intensity, like he wants to bore into the depths of Peter’s soul. This, at least, Peter understands, because if Erik’s anything like his mom, he really, really doesn’t like when people look at it.
“Roma?” Erik asks after a second.
“Yeah, how’d you kno-”
The car jerks just then, bucks hard enough to pitch Peter head-first into Hank’s chest and wake him up. By the time they all get resettled again, Erik’s started a conversation with Charles, asking details about where this airstrip is and what’s been going on in the world lately, and Peter doesn’t get a chance to get a word in edgewise after that.
He doesn’t think about it again until after he’s dropped the car off at a dealership near his house.
9. Then mutants get revealed live on national television.
- Admiration of people you don’t know as well-rounded characters is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.
- Even people who mean well can make horrible mistakes.
- Even if they seem really smart and talk a lot about saving people and helping all of mutantkind
- There’s a reason breaking dangerous people out of prison is frowned on and it is, in retrospect, a pretty damned good reason.
11. When it’s all over, his mother switches the TV off, tells Wanda to play outside, and sits Peter down at the kitchen table. It’s time to tell him about his father, she says.
She tells him the truth. He throws up.
He tells her the truth, too. She holds him very close and makes him promise he’ll never use his gift for something wrong again. That, at least, is within his power to keep.
12. Everything changes. Nothing changes.
It takes forever for Wanda’s programs to come back on TV, afterwards. It’s all ‘Who are these mutants?’ and ‘What does this mean for our country?’ and ‘President Nixon invites mutants to come out into the open’ for weeks. They’re finally crowded out by the Watergate hearings.
One anonymous couple gets hired to write a column in the Times: ‘I married a mutant/I married a human’. It boosts sales of the paper by 35% for several months. People plan a protest about the shutting down of the Sentinel program in Washington. Students from a local university find out about it and decide to counter-protest. The resulting brawl leads to twenty-seven arrests which are covered in the papers for two weeks.
In May, a mutant in Denver rescues a toddler from a burning building and gets hugged by the mother on TV. The clip’s shown on all the major news networks. People and mutants write letters and essays, and one of the buskers Peter passes by on his way to the grocery store writes a song about mutant-human brotherhood and plays his guitar very earnestly when he sings it. The hero mutant’s found beaten to death with a pipe the first week of July.
Peter stops stealing everything but food, and the cops stop coming to his door. Peter goes to his first Grateful Dead concert and teaches Wanda how to whistle and breaks his old table tennis record and turns seventeen.
His mother worries a lot about everything in general and nothing in particular.
13. One evening, his mom asks him to take Wanda to the store, and to use the car, which means taking it slow all the way there and back. He thinks she just wants some time to kick back, watch TV, and maybe have a shot or two; honestly, if he were his own child Peter’s pretty sure he’d get drunk every morning and stay that way all day.
When he comes back, though, the house looks just the same as ever, and his mom’s sitting on the couch reading like she always does when she has some free time, cool as a cucumber.
There is one kind of weird thing he notices when he puts away the groceries: there’s an empty spot next to the blender where the toaster usually sits.
There’s a brand new toaster in its place by the time he gets out of bed the next morning, and he figures the old one must have broken. He sees it when he takes the trash out that evening, down at the bottom of the bin where he wouldn’t have noticed it if shiny things didn’t always catch his eye. At least, he thinks it used to be the toaster. Now it’s a squashed ball of metal with an extension cord sticking out of it, as if it suddenly decided to crumple in on itself.
Peter goes over the rest of the kitchen very, very carefully, but nothing else has so much as a dent, and eventually he figures it must have been some sort of accident.
Other explanations nag at him, though, some nights when he can’t sleep, but he tells himself they’re stupid and shoves them away as best he can.
14. In early July, he gets an invitation to apply for a fall internship at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youth, which will be reopening its doors early the next year.
He crumples it in his fist and throws it in the trash.
15. Wanda gets pretty good at controlling her powers, and one day Peter rewards her with a trip to the park and the promise of ice-cream afterwards. He flops down on a bench and watches her play hop-scotch with two other little girls. She’s so much better at being with people than he was, and he’s pathetically grateful for it. He doesn’t actually expect the world at large welcoming mutants into society any time soon, but any hope he holds out is for her. They’ve homeschooled her for a year and a half, now, and even though he’s not bad at it (thinks, if he’d been born normal, he would have liked to teach little ki
16. Bee stings his leg, right in the middle of a good thought.
Not a bee. Shit. Shit. Fuck. Tranq dart. Fucking—
17. He wakes up alone in a small, windowless white block cell with a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling and a pile of hay and a bucket in a corner. He’s still clothed but his jacket and sneakers and goggles and pants are missing, and there’s a thick plastic and metal collar hanging around his neck.
Wanda isn’t there. He doesn’t know where Wanda is.
He doesn’t even get out the first syllable and the collar around his neck sounds a low buzz. He’s just got time to hear it before—jeeeesus fucking hell.
The shock knocks him flat onto his back and his body jerks, jackknifes on the floor so his head smacks against the concrete and continues doing so as he jerks, smack smack smack smack smack so his teeth crack together and the sharp ends of his hair flop into his eyes. The pain is—christ, it feels like being stabbed all over with red-hot knives and his muscles burn and he can’t breathe—until suddenly it’s over with another buzz.
He gasps. Sucks in a breath. Doesn’t have the strength to move much, but there’s blood in his mouth so he turns his head to the side and spits it out with little enough force that the bulk of it dribbles down the side of his cheek. His head hurts—he thinks it might be bleeding—and he thinks he’s cracked one of his molars. All the muscles in his body burn like he just ran two hundred miles cold.
He bounces back from injuries faster than humans, he knows, but even so it’s several minutes before he’s able to sit up. Takes a little longer for his head to stop spinning. He reaches up to touch it and his hand smacks into the back of it and comes away sticky. Once he’s caught his breath, he feels the collar around his neck. He can’t figure out how it opens, but there’s a spot where the metal meets the plastic that feels weaker. He thinks if he can work on it with his fingers like he did the glass on Magneto’s cell, it’ll break.
He sets his hands on either side of it, grips it tight, and moves them.
And the buzzer on the collar sounds.
18. When Peter comes back to again, he’s pissed himself.
Everything hurts. His teeth don’t feel okay. He can’t focus his eyes.
He wants to strip off his boxers, because they’re cold and wet and disgusting, but he doesn’t want to be naked if they come for him. If they’re watching him.
He doesn’t know what to do.
He can’t stand up, even though he waits, but the floor’s so cold. He shuffles over on his knees to the hay and lies down with his back to the wall and his eyes on the door.
His throat hurts.
19. The Rules, as Gathered by Peter:
- No talking
- Not even in an inside voice
- No speeding
- Throwing the bucket at the door is fine
20. He’s pretty sure they’re going to come get him sometime. They wouldn’t go to all the trouble of grabbing him, out in public no less, just to leave him in a cell to die. It wouldn’t make sense. And he’s pretty sure they couldn’t have taken Wanda, not without killing a lot of other people at the park; no one knows Wanda’s a mutant, anyway. So he’s pretty sure that they don’t have her.
Which means that all he has to do is wait for Erik or Charles to come get him.
21. Here’s the thing: Magda Maximoff’s a badass when she’s angry, and the angriest Peter’s ever seen her was when she caught Rick smacking Peter across the face, so Peter figures she must be really, really furious right now.
Also: she’s really smart. It doesn’t matter if Erik’s vanished off the face of the earth; once Magda figures out that Peter’s missing, she’s going to track the guy down. He might help. Peter’s his son, after all, even if that doesn’t mean much to the guy, and also Peter’s a mutant, which apparently means quite a bit to him.
If he doesn’t help, it’ll take a bit longer, but Peter knows his mom will track down Charles Xavier, who definitely will help because he owes Peter so, so much, and also he isn’t a murderous, terrorist psychopath.
So Peter just has to hold on until then.
22. Problem One: Food.
When he wakes up again, his stomach actually hurts, he’s so hungry.
That’s not good.
Peter’s only pushed very far past this point a few times. It usually doesn’t end well.
He figured out one time he has to eat eight thousand calories a day to function on a normal basis, more if he wants to do anything at a decent speed without fainting.
But he’s pretty sure it’s been the better part of a day since the park, at least, and there hasn’t been so much as a sign of life outside his cell.
He doesn’t worry until he starts getting cold. His still-damp boxers cling to him when he moves, and his thighs itch and his entire lower half feels chilly, but it isn’t until several hours later that he the chills seep up his back and take hold.
Peter wraps his arms around himself and sits up. He knows how this goes: hunger -> cold -> tremors -> unconsciousness.
He’s only gone as far as the last bit once, when he kept fidgeting in class because he was hungry and ended up flopping out over the principal’s desk mid-lecture. The hospital said his blood sugar crashed and he could have died.
On the bright side, if whoever kidnapped him’s planning on leaving him alone for a couple of days to starve the fight out of him, they’re in for a nasty surprise.
On the other hand, he’d rather not be dead.
So he stumbles over to the heavy metal door, sits in front of it, and bangs as hard as he can with his fists without speeding up until his collar buzzes several minutes later.
He feels like shit for significantly longer, this time, and when he wakes back up there’s still no food in the cell or sounds outside, but now he knows that someone’s listening. Which is a start.
23. The semi-solving of Problem One leads, unfortunately, directly to Problem Two: Torture.
Peter’s pretty sure the collar does more than shock, because he remembers lying on his hay pile, feeling like cold-ass shit with trembling hands, far too uncomfortable to even think of sleeping, and then he wakes up in a different room strapped to a chair with thick metal bands around his arms and chest and ankles. The chair itself is bolted to the floor, and even if he didn’t still have the fucking collar on, he’s pretty sure he couldn’t break free.
There’s a long table to his right with equipment spread on it, some of it grimmer than the rest. There are weight scales, several stands full of syringes, and a few beakers full of brightly-colored liquid at the far end. At the other, a short man and a tall woman are fiddling around. They’re close enough to touch, if Peter could stretch out his hand. The man’s disinfecting a funnel with a long rubber tube attached to it, while the woman’s mixing what looks like tomato soup and protein powder together into four separate beakers.
Peter doesn’t realize someone’s standing behind him until there’s movement out of the corner of his eye.
It’s a tall, lean man in his thirties or forties wearing a button-up shirt and a sweater vest. He moves around from behind the chair and leans down in front of Peter.
“Nothing to say? Good,” the man says, waving his finger at the collar around Peter’s throat. “You figured that out so quickly. Well done.”
He pats Peter’s head with his hand like you would a dog. Peter moves to duck away, but—
—but suddenly he doesn’t want to.
His mind’s still screaming at him, all his conscious thoughts coalescing into “Get away from me, you dickfaced prick,” but resignation and acceptance flood over all his senses and still him. He’s earned this. He deserves far worse. He should be grateful for whatever praise he gets, and thankful he’s not being punished further.
It disappears as soon as Dickface moves his hands away.
“Wha-” Peter starts before he realizes what he’s doing.
The shock knocks his head back into the chair. The molar he cracked earlier breaks, and he chokes on a chunk of it. His arms and legs flop uselessly against their restraints and it just hurts, everywhere.
When it’s over, he sags forward, muscles burning. The metal band around his chest digs into him. His ribs ache. His eyes stream, and his breath hitches.
Dickface takes him gently by the chin and lifts his head.
“No talking,” he says pleasantly. “You haven’t earned that privilege yet.”
He lets Peter’s head drop forward again and brushes his hand over Peter’s upper arm. The sense of overwhelming gratitude returns, even as Peter’s wishing he had the collar off for just five seconds so he could show this guy what a pissed-off Maximoff can do.
“I can feel that, you know.” The guy sits down cross-legged on the floor by Peter’s chair. He drops his hands into his lap, and just like that all the anger floods back. He smiles at Peter’s glare. “Can’t tell exactly what you’re thinking, but I have a very good idea. You need food, hmm?”
Dickface snaps his fingers, and the other man, who’s been waiting with the funnel and tube in hand, steps forward. He’s got something else, too, a conical wooden gag with a hole in the middle, and it isn’t until he’s reaching for Peter’s mouth that Peter realizes what it’s for.
His body tenses. He jerks his head away. Then Dickface reaches up and grabs his arm, and Peter stops fighting. His conscious mind screams at him, but the rest of him is flooded with peace and acceptance.
This is good for him. This is right. He hasn’t earned the right to eat like a human, and it’s less bother for them if it’s all done quickly and got out of the way.
The wooden gag goes in his mouth, the rubber tube slips down it, and the woman comes around behind him, holds his head up with one hand, and pours the soup down the funnel with the other.
And the guy on the floor takes his hand away and panic swoops over him.
Peter’s socked feet scrabble at the floor and his fingers clutch at the armrests and he tries, he tries so hard to get loose and get free and get it out of him but he doesn’t manage more than squirming so the woman has to dig her fingers into his chin.
He chokes. Gags. Tries to breathe and coughs, splutters, can’t breathe, can’t move, the tube’s moving in his throat and it’s wrong, he wants it out, wants it gone, he wants to go home he wants to go home he please just wants to go home—
It ends. The woman sets the beaker down and lets go of Peter’s head, and the man with the funnel slides the tube out of his throat and yanks the gag out of his mouth.
Peter takes a breath, chokes, and vomits all over himself.
He can’t hold himself up at all when he’s done. His chin dips forward and smacks against his vomit-soaked t-shirt with a wet splat. He doesn’t want to break down, would give anything to keep from showing weakness in front of any of them, but when he sucks in a breath again his shoulders hitch, and he finds himself crying. He thinks it would be easier to take if they’d just beat him up or—or—
Or he doesn’t fucking know, or what. He just wants someone to come fucking rescue him already. He just wants to go home.
The man with the hands unfolds himself and stands up. He reaches out to touch Peter, but Peter flinches away.
“You’re making this so much harder than it needs to be,” the man says. “I can make this so much easier for you, if you’ll just let me.” When Peter doesn’t look up, he sighs and turns to the woman. “That’s enough for our first time. Keep feeding him until he keeps it down, then hose him off and put him back in his cell for the night.”
He walks out of the room and shuts the door behind him. The man with the funnel wipes it off with a sanitary wipe. The woman grabs the next beaker off the table and reaches for Peter’s mouth again.
24. ‘Hose him off’ means exactly what it sounds like. When the woman—who he’s pretty sure has super strength—shoves him back into his cell, he’s soaked to the skin, but his t-shirt still smells faintly of puke. It took through three beakers before he managed to keep it down, and the tube hurt like a motherfucker coming up the second time.
It’s not, though, so much the dull burn in his chest or in his throat—or pretty much everywhere fucking else—that leaves him stumbling and disoriented.
It was—it felt—he didn’t—
When he sits down on the pile of hay with his back to the wall, curls up with his arms around his stomach, he can still feel hands on his face, on his chin, holding him still, tugging his mouth open, fingers slipping over his gums, feels the burn of the tube thrust impersonally down his throat and the sudden, unwelcome feeling of fullness when it was over.
He wipes his hands across his face again and again and shivers through the fucking cold of the night. The light bulb never turns off, and it makes his eyes ache.
At least, he thinks, they he’s definitely certain they don’t have Wanda now. He’s pretty sure the guy with the hands wouldn’t have kept his mouth shut about it if he knew she was a mutant too. So Wanda probably is safe, after all.
At least that’s something.
25. The next day, Peter displeases the man with the hands when he’s being fed, so afterwards they strip off his t-shirt and cuff his hands to the armrests of the chair still bolted to the floor, and the man with the hands leans over him and hits him repeatedly.
It’s not hard; most of the hits are smacks of an open palm rather than a fist, and none of them are meant to cause lasting harm. They bruise, but no ribs crack and nothing breaks. But they’re all skin to skin, open palm to face or neck or chest, and every time his hand lands, Peter’s overcome with gratitude for the lesson.
Peter actually lunges at the man halfway through, but the collar buzzes and he writhes on the floor seconds that take eons to pass.
They put his t-shirt back onto him before they hose him down again.
26. The third day, they start what the man with the hands calls ‘the training game’.
The man and the woman who don’t, as far as Peter can tell, speak, take turns hurting Peter. They smack him around, for example, or hold his mouth and nose shut or give him small but painful shocks with a Taser. Then the man with the hands tells them to stop, and when they do he touches Peter skin to skin and makes him feel thankful.
“They used to be like you,” the man says. He looks actually proud when he looks at them, standing silent, side by side. “But I helped them understand, like I’m going to help you. We’re going to do great things together. There are going to be so many of us, and we’re going to make the world a better place for people of our kind.”
27. Sometimes Peter worries in the night that his mother’s been hurt while she’s looking for Erik. Sometimes he worries that they’ll find out about Wanda and steal her too. Sometimes he worries that Erik won’t come.
Sometimes he worries that Erik will come, but he’ll join up with the others instead.
28. Even being force-fed twice a day, various nutritious liquids with chalky protein powder, it’s not enough food. Peter’s still hungry, still cold even when he dries off long enough to feel it, still tucks shaking hands underneath his armpits at night so he can sleep. Even if they took the collar off him, he’s pretty sure he couldn’t make it five feet at his normal speed. He’s thirsty, too, all the time, mouth dry and lips cracked. Sometimes he tries to drink some of the stale water when they hose him down, but it’s never enough.
The eighth day, the man with the hands takes Peter’s collar off and tells him to say thank you.
Peter can’t, because his throat’s so sore he can’t get the words out. He tries, though, he tries so, so hard.
The man never touches him once.
When Peter goes back to his cell, there’s a bucket of water in his cell. He tries holding himself back from drinking any. Lasts less than an hour.
29. The thirteenth day, they’re playing the training game, as they do every day, when the man with the hands tells the woman to step away and reaches out to Peter.
And Peter leans into his touch.
He jerks back almost as soon as he does, but the man’s already grinning.
He says “Good boy, good boy,” and pats Peter on the head.
And Peter realizes he’s found Problem Three: Peter himself.
30. “They used to be just like you,” the man with the hands said.
Peter thinks he’s starting to understand.
31. The thirteenth night he lays awake, curled up on the straw which sticks to his still-wet t-shirt and boxers and limbs and hair, and starts wondering how long it’ll take.
He won’t let it happen.
He doesn’t know what the man with the hands has planned, but he’s pretty sure there won’t be any humans left around afterwards, if he gets his way, and Peter’s not going to be a part of that, no matter what. He knows he can’t escape; doesn’t see a way out, unless they make a mistake, and he just doesn’t see that happening. And he might not be able to stop them.
But he’s not going to let them use him. If no one comes to get him, and if he really starts to turn, he’s going to find a way to take himself out of the equation, and tidy problems two and three in one clean go.
It’s not like it’s an easy decision, and he doesn’t know how he’ll do it, but he makes his mind up that if it comes to it he will.
He made a promise to his mom, and he’s not going to break it.
He lays awake the whole night, shivering wet and cold on his side with his knees tucked up against his stomach and his arms curled over his legs. The space where his molar used to be throbs, and his entire lower jaw aches when he opens his mouth to drink. The straw digs into his side and one piece jams in between the flesh of his thumb and his fingernail when he moves.
32. It ends up being a moot point, anyway, because the seventeenth night Peter wakes up to gunfire and a loud, long clang that follows it.
Peter sits up on his hay pile, back to the wall.
There’s a slamming noise somewhere down the hall, and grunting, then several more loud bangs like metal banging into cement. Voices, too, indistinct but male. Two of them.
Then the thick metal door on his cell warps in on itself and flies out into the hallway, and Erik Lensherr walks into his cell.
There’s a quick glance around the cell: the light from the ceiling that never turns off, the bucket of water and the bucket of waste, and Peter crouched on his heels on his pile of hay.
Erik’s mouth twitches, just a bit, and something very loud happens to the door outside. There’s a yelp, someone saying ‘Erik!’ with more than a little irritation, and a blond man in his twenties in what Peter can only describe as a militarized, black leather uniform jogs into view and stops dead in the doorway.
But all of that’s peripheral at best. Peter’s hands are numb and shaking, and he can’t seem to draw breath deep enough to fill his lungs. Erik walks up until he’s a couple feet away and drops into a crouch in front of him. He’s wearing, incongruously, a dirty coverall with the name ‘Magnus’ stitched over his right pocket, and he’s got grease stains near his hairline like he was drawn away from an oil change and only had time to wipe his face off.
“Are you all right?”
It’s a deeply stupid question, but Erik doesn’t look like he’s going to move until it’s answered, so Peter reaches up to the collar around his neck and shakes it, just a little. Then he lifts his finger to his lips and makes a shushing motion.
Erik reaches out his hand, and Peter snaps back from the movement so his head hits the wall, hard.
Erik leans back on his heels. Holds his hand open by his chest and curls his fingers into a fist. The collar snaps open and falls off.
Peter takes a breath and tries to clear his throat.
Either he sounds pathetic or the outside of his neck looks as awful as the inside of it feels, or both, because Erik’s mouth does that twitching thing again and the light bulb above them shatters.
“Come on.” Erik stands up and stretches out his hand. “Let’s get out of here, hmm?”
33. Peter tries, he really does, but it’s been a long fucking two-and-a-half weeks, and when he grabs Erik’s arm and tries to stand up his legs buckle.
“I can—” the blond by the door starts saying, jerking forward when Peter faceplants into Erik’s chest, but Erik slides an arm around Peter’s knees, settles the other under his shoulders, and scoops Peter up like he weighs as much as Wanda.
“I have him,” Erik says. “Take point.”
The blond gives him a long, hard look, but he steps out into the hallway. He must be some kind of mutant, too, because when gunfire breaks out again he jerks his body and light comes flying out of his chest. Peter doesn’t see what it hits, but the blond calls back an all clear, and Erik follows him out.
The door to Peter’s cell is lying on the floor beyond his cell, looking like someone flattened it with a giant hammer and welded it to the concrete. Peter’s pretty sure there’s someone underneath it.
“Alex?” Erik calls out in a low voice.
The blond who moves like a soldier turns towards them. “I’ve got two down, plus the jumper. Does he know how many there were?”
Peter tries to talk, tries to clear his throat, but fails again. He curls his thumb and pinky into his fist and holds up a three instead.
“Thank you, Peter,” Erik says, his voice a low rumble against Peter’s ear. It’s the first time anyone has called him by his name since he was taken, and Peter’s eyes burn. He turns his head into the solid warmth of Erik’s chest, and his body trembles.
Click here for part two!