thebratqueen: Captain Marvel (Nathan/Peter close)
[personal profile] thebratqueen
Woohoo! Not only got another fic written, but got it done before it was jossed out of the sky by the next episode. Whew!

Anyway, here it is:

A Tiny Platform
By: The Brat Queen

Fandom: Heroes
Pairing: Nathan/Peter
Warnings: Hi, did you SEE the pairing?
Spoilers: 2.1, what with that being the whole idea behind the fic and all
Rating: NC-17
Wordcount: ~8500
Thanks to: [livejournal.com profile] 47_trek_47 for brainstorming help

Summary: "There are clearly many sorts of memory, and emotional memory is one of the deepest and least understood." The Abyss, by Oliver Sacks

***

He was cold.

It wasn't much in the grand scheme of things but that was all he had. Cold. Chained. Shirtless. Able to do what the fuck with his hand and -

"Don't even think about it," one of the men - name had sounded like Will? Maybe? - said. He was keeping his gun raised, sighted on a direct shot between the eyes.

"I'm not trying," he replied. He clenched his free hand into a fist to be sure of it. "I - I can't control this. I don't know what it is!"

In the scheme of things, possibly not the best thing to tell the group of men who might very well be your jailers. But he didn't know what else to do. Visions of dead bodies were flashing through his head and he did not want to be the cause of them.

"All right, there's news." The big one, the leader - Ricky? - snapped a cellphone shut and came back inside. His flashlight bobbed as he walked, illuminating the drops of rainwater that fell from his coat and hair.

"What do we know?" maybe-Will asked.

"Two things," maybe-Ricky said. He picked up the club the third member of their party had been carrying. He held it in the hand that didn't have the flashlight. "His name's Peter, and he's worth a fuck of a lot more than two dozen iPods."

This time when the blow came he was too stunned to stop it.

***

They drugged him. Whatever it was got slipped in with his food or water or maybe they straight up shot it into him when he was still passed out from the last round. It made him feel heavy-limbed, and dry-mouthed. A low ache took up residence behind his eyes. He didn't mind, though. He didn't trust himself either. If he was drugged, he wasn't hurting anyone.

They took no chances on safety. Theirs, not his. The handcuff around his right wrist was replaced with a full set of cuffs, each covering a good inch and a half of his skin. Chain links as thick as his thumb connected the cuffs to each other, and then to whatever wall, pipe, bar, beam, block or any other thing that was massive enough to hold him. It, along with his view, changed. Every time he opened his eyes he was in a new location. Which meant every time he opened his eyes it was like the very first time: new, unfamiliar, surrounded by nothing that he knew or understood.

Only one thing stayed with him. Whenever he was awake, he repeated it over and over. He hoped, maybe foolishly, that if he thought it often enough that it wouldn't go away.

Peter. His name was Peter.

***

After dozens of tiny deaths and rebirths - losing what little he had with a closing of his eyes and opening them without knowing if he'd lost minutes, hours, days, weeks - the world stopped.

He - Peter, his name was Peter - was in a basement. Pale daylight filtered through overhead via windows that kissed up against the ceiling. There was dust, dirt. A smell that was organic and wet seeped into his lungs and made his mouth taste like metal.

The cuffs were there. The anchor of choice was a six-inch diameter pipe that was cool to the touch. His wrists ached. His nose itched.

He'd been here before. The last time he'd opened his eyes this had been his view. Nothing had changed. He knew that since he made a point of memorizing it. He had nothing else to keep inside himself. My name is Peter, I'm sitting on a floor made of cement. My name is Peter, that staircase has 15 steps. My name is Peter...

All that was different was the daylight. Shadows fell away from him now. Before they'd tilted sharply in the direction of the corner just past Peter's right shoulder. Time had passed and he was still here.

"Hello?" he called out. No answer. Not even Ricky shouting to someone else to shut him the fuck up already. He tried again. "Hello?"

Still no answer.

Peter sat with his back pressed up against the brick wall.

My name is Peter, and I'm alone.

***

He'd woken up four more times - shadows going away, shadows coming towards, shadows perpendicular to the window, shadows all but vanished - when there was a change.

"Who are you?" Peter demanded. He stood up. He wanted to be eye to eye with the newcomer. It was a small semblance of control but it was all he had.

The guy looked back at him. Peter automatically began memorizing the details: dark hair, thick beard, rumpled tan trench coat belted around the middle, eyes that were bloodshot and tired. My name is Peter and this guy was standing in the middle of the room when I met him.

"Are you really him?" the guy asked. His voice was rough, like it hadn't been used in a while.

Peter shook his head. "I don't know who I am. The guys - the Irish guys. They told me my name was Peter."

"If this is somebody faking it again - "

"I don't know how to fake!" Peter said. "I'm telling you all I know. I woke up. I was in some big metal box. Then I was in a lot of places. Now I'm here. Please, if you know who I am -"

"I need to know for sure." The rough voice became firmer. This was a statement of certainty, but Peter didn't know who the man was trying to convince. He stepped forward. "Let me see -"

"No!" Heavy chain or not, Peter jumped back still more. He was right up in the corner now. Any further and he'd have to go through the wall. "Don't come closer. I don't want to hurt you."

"You're threatening me?" the man asked. His eyes narrowed, regarding Peter with suspicion.

"It's not a threat," Peter said. He clenched his hands into fists. "It's a warning. I can't control this. If you come too close I don't know what will happen."

"You don't know me." The man gave a shrug. "For all you know I could be here to kill you."

"I don't want to hurt anybody," Peter said. He could feel his nails biting into his palms. "Please. It's all I've got."

The man nodded. "Okay. Come on, Peter, let's get you out of those."

Peter twisted to keep the cuffs away from the man's reach. "What did I just say? I don't want to hurt anybody!"

"You want me to keep you like this?" the man asked. "Honestly?"

Peter sunk down to the floor. "If that's what it takes."

The man clenched his fist. Peter stayed where he was. He could handle being hit, he knew. The challenge wasn't the pain but the reflex. He had to put all his attention on staying still. He couldn't bring his arms up. Not even to block. Protecting himself meant attacking someone else. My name is Peter and I will not let that happen.

"I can't be here for this," the man said. He turned towards the stairs. Step three creaked under the weight of his foot as he stood upon it. Peter filed that away with the few things that he knew. He knew his name. He knew this room. He knew the chains. He knew he was a danger. He knew he couldn't be trusted because he was unsafe and had no control and there was nothing in his life that could change that, nothing that would ever make him feel -

"Nathan." The word escaped Peter's lips before his mind knew what was happening. Like it had come from somewhere else. Somewhere deeper.

The man froze on the stairs.

"Nathan," Peter said again. He struggled to get to his feet. He felt lightheaded. Like he was going to pass out at any moment because he had this and it was right. "Do I - do I know a Nathan?"

The man's hand tightened on the banister. Chips of paint flaked off under the pressure. Peter watched them float to the ground.

"Please," Peter said. He'd never begged before. He'd never had to. But for this he would. "Have I met him? Do I know him?"

"You don't remember. Of course." The man muttered this, as though telling himself. Then, just when Peter thought he might leave, he said, "Nathan's the guy trying to keep you alive, Peter."

"Who are you?" Peter asked.

This got him a laugh. It was sharp, and made Peter feel cold. "Apparently, I'm nobody."

Peter didn't feel satisfied with that. "Do you have a name?"

"John Doe. How about that?" The answer came with a sardonic smile aimed over his - John's - shoulder. Then he left and Peter was by himself once more.

Peter slid down the wall until he was sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up to his chest.

My name is Peter. His is John. And Nathan thinks I'm worth more than two dozen iPods.

***

"Why can't you tell me who I am?"

It was the next... day? Maybe? Peter didn't feel headachy and muzzy from drugs, so he assumed he hadn't slept more than normal. Not that he knew what was normal for him. Less time than drugged sleep, at least.

John had found a metal folding chair somewhere. He'd brought it over so that they were close enough to see each other, not so close that Peter yelled at John for being an idiot and risking his life by getting in range of whatever it was Peter could do. Not that Peter was wholly confident that John was out of range. But admittedly, selfishly, Peter felt lonely. At least this way he could have company.

Attempts at making conversation hadn't gone too well.

"It's better if nobody knows you're here."

"I know I'm here," Peter pointed out. "You know I'm here."

"Yeah," John said. He raised his eyebrows in a smug fashion. "But you don't know who you are, and I'm not trying to kill you."

Peter didn't know where to start first. He decided on the answer that had made his stomach grow cold. "People are trying to kill me?"

"Kill you. Use you as a weapon. Experiment on you." John rattled these off with no inflection. Not that they needed any to make an impact. "Maybe all three."

"Why?" An ache in his back made Peter realize he was pressing himself against the brick wall with all his strength. He tried to relax enough to concentrate. "What did I do? And what does that have to do with why I can't know who I am?"

"People could read your mind, Peter." Tone and expression made it clear that the word idiot was in there, just unspoken. "Last thing we need is them tracking you down because your brain shouted it out. Or for you to get some jackass idea to Google yourself if I gave you your last name. Then anybody with even half the ability could see you doing it and grab you before either of us could blink."

"I don't have a computer," Peter said. He held up his cuffed wrists as a reminder that luxuries like Internet connections would be due to John's actions, not Peter's own.

"Doesn't matter," John said. "Nobody knows who the hell you bumped into in the last four months."

Peter swallowed. He didn't remember four months. He didn't remember his entire life either, but this was different. "I've been gone for four months?"

"You've been dead for four months," John shot back. Then, his anger fading, he added, "Or that's what people thought. Most people."

"Nathan," Peter said. It was an easy guess. "He knew I was alive."

John shook his head. "No. He just... couldn't imagine losing you for good."

"Can I see him?" Peter asked.

John leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. His shoulders slumped as though a too-heavy coat had been dropped on them. "It's better if you don't."

"Why?"

"You and Nathan..." John looked away. "Everybody knows about Peter and Nathan. If enough clues were dropped, if people started hearing about a Peter and Nathan again, they'd know. They'd come after you."

"Is Nathan safe?" Peter asked. He felt gripped by the urge to go, to check, to protect, even if that meant using powers that he didn't understand. "Is he okay?"

"He's alive," John replied. "He's... as safe as you are, right now."

The omission didn't pass Peter by. "But not okay."

John gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Are you?"

"How did this happen?" Peter asked. Then, sickened as the thought occurred to him, he added, "Is he in danger because of me? Did I hurt him?"

"No!" John said at once. He jerked his head up, looking directly at Peter. "No. Not because of you. It wasn't your fault, Peter."

"What happened?" Peter asked. He held up his hands to forestall any protests. "I know you can't give me the whole story. But some of it? How did I get here? What the hell am I? What happened to Nathan? Even if it's just bits and pieces, it's more than I've got right now. Please?"

John's left heel tapped out a nervous beat. Finally, perhaps after taking the time to sort the safe information from the dangerous, he said, "You're special. There are people who have powers. You're one of them. You're one of the strongest of them. Anytime you get near somebody with these kinds of abilities, you can do what they do."

Peter took all of this in. He stared at his hands. He was still trying to wrap his mind around being able to create blue fireballs. Now he was being told he could do more?

"You wanted to do good," John said. He gave a wry grimace. "Be a hero. But others wanted to use you."

"Turn me into a weapon," Peter guessed.

John nodded. "There was - I guess you could call it a plan. Don't ask me the details. If anyone caught that thought off of you they'd know you in a second. But they wanted you to hurt people. A lot of people. And they didn't care if you got destroyed in the process. You couldn't stop it. You wanted to, but you had no control."

Peter took in short, shallow breaths through his nose. He felt cold. He felt sick. "Did I - "

"No," John said, quickly. "No. They - you - someone stopped it."

"Nathan."

Another nod. "Yeah."

"Have I killed anyone?" He didn't want to know, but he had to know. "Ever?"

John started to shake his head no, then stopped.

Peter realized the problem. "Four months."

"I don't know what happened to you," John admitted. "I'm sorry. But you would never do it willingly. Never. If it happened, it's because somebody made you. Used you."

"All the more reason for me to stay here, huh?" Peter tried to make a joke out of it but failed. He pulled his knees up close to his chest. He felt as though he was going to vomit.

"Yeah," John said, though he looked like he regretted that that was his answer.

It was Peter's turn to shrug. "If that's what it takes."

"You vanished," John said, continuing the story. "It happened, you disappeared, everyone assumed you were dead."

"Except Nathan."

"Right."

"Family!" Peter couldn't believe it had taken him this long to think of it. "My family - they think I'm dead! There's got to be some way to - "

John gave a sharp bark of laughter. It dissolved into a rasping cough. Eyes watering, he said, "Who the hell do you think we're hiding you from?"

The wet splash and acrid smell hit him before Peter realized that he was on his hands and knees as his stomach heaved and tried to throw up everything that was inside of him. John got to his feet to rush over to him, but Peter shook his head and refused to let him come near. Helpless, John knelt just out of range of the farthest reach of Peter's chains and watched as he was ill.

Finally, sweaty, shivering, and with black spots dancing in front of his eyes, Peter rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling.

"You okay?" John asked.

Peter ignored the question. He felt lost. Forgotten. What he needed most was to know that he wasn't alone. "Do you have a power, John?"

"Yeah."

"What is it?"

"Turning out to be not nearly good enough."

***

"What was it?"

"I'm not going to tell you."

Peter had become obsessed. He couldn't sleep, could barely eat, and it wasn't as though getting the answer would make him happy.

But he had to know.

Day after day he kept after John with it. "Fire? Plague? Do I take over people's minds and make them kill themselves so I don't have to?"

Also: "How many? Tens? Hundreds? Thousands?"

Time and again John responded with silence, or repeated answers of how no, he was not going to tell Peter, he was never going to tell Peter, and Peter could shut up about it any year now.

"Do I start earthquakes?"

In the grand scheme of life as he knew it, Peter was only a few months old. For all that time the one thing he had known, the one thing he'd been certain of without anyone telling him, was that he didn't want to do any harm.

"Was it children? Was I going to do something that would hurt children?"

He should have realized the reason behind this. Why would anyone worry about causing harm unless they could cause harm?

"Flood? Famine?"

All this time spent trying to remember himself, define himself.

"Do I cause people to be raped?"

How did he never realize that there was probably a reason why his mind wanted to forget?

"Do I create war?"

His name was Peter, and he was nothing but a dangerous, disgusting, horrible -

"Your hair used to be longer."

Peter looked up at John. He let the puzzlement on his face speak for itself.

"It was always falling into your eyes," John said, indicating this with his hand. "Everybody bitched at you to cut it, but you never would."

Peter sat up. He kept listening.

"Your taste in music was questionable," John continued. "You'd never listen to anything classic if you could play some indie-folky-local music instead. Though some suspected that you only did that for show, and in private you had a collection of Top 40 hits, including stuff from boy bands.

"You were in the shadows a lot. You never liked to brag, or do anything showy. But you were stubborn too." A grin touched John's face, as though remembering something specific. "People tried to tell you how to live your life, but you wouldn't listen to them. You did it your way, even when that way was hard."

Peter glanced down at the cuffs on his wrists. The ones he insisted had to stay there.

John gave an encouraging nod, a silent affirmation of Peter's thought. "Anybody who knew you knew you had the biggest heart. Anybody, no matter who or what - if they needed a friend, you were there. If they needed understanding, you were there. You'd give 110% of yourself and keep on giving. Wouldn't ever let anything stop you. Since you were a kid, all you ever wanted out of life was to help others."

John paused to make sure Peter was still listening. Peter couldn't imagine wanting to stop.

"Nathan - " John said, and Peter's heart executed what felt like a perfect somersault in his chest. Nathan was being spoken of. He was being made real. It was like getting confirmation of unicorns and a happy afterlife all rolled into one. " - was an asshole."

"What?" The question blurted out of Peter like a hiccup.

"Not too many people liked him," John said, ignoring him. "Not like they liked you. He could be charming when he had to, but he didn't like having to. I think people could tell. He was - hell, is - selfish, driven, and doesn't give a shit about what people think of him if it means getting his way."

"You - " Peter found this incomprehensible. "You don't like him?"

"I hate him," John replied, needing no time to pause for thought. "But he'd be the first to admit any of this. Especially how he, like pretty much everybody, couldn't figure out why you loved him as much as you did. Why you'd give him the time of day, let alone be so devoted to him."

"Nathan spent a lot of money saving me," Peter pointed out. "I guess the feeling's mutual. The devoted part, at least."

"There isn't anyone who matters to him as much as you do." For some reason John's voice became rough as he said this. "He gave up everything for you. Even his wife and kids."

Peter sat up straighter. "Tell me I didn't ask him to do that."

"No. You wouldn't." John made a wry grimace. "You probably would've tried to talk him out of it. But it's for the best. He - nobody was happy there."

Peter wasn't convinced, at least so far as the kids were concerned, but it wasn't like he could do anything about it. "What about the money? I know I didn't come cheap."

"Don't worry about it," John said. "There's money in spades. That's not an issue. The point is - we're talking about a guy who'd be pretty happy telling the world to go fuck itself, except for you. You're a pain in the ass more ways than I can count but you're generous and passionate and so full of goodness it fucking hurts and - " John stopped. He gave a hard swallow before continuing. "And you're the one thing that got him thinking about saving the world. Trying to be a hero, just like you. That's who you are, Peter. That's the effect you have on people."

Peter felt all of this settle inside of him, relief seeped through him like warmth. "Thank you."

For whatever reason, John did not reply.

***

John moved down into the basement. Peter could not fathom why.

"This isn't the glamorous lifestyle I'm apparently making it look like," he told John.

John was unrolling a sleeping bag that seemed like it had once been paisley. Which contradicted everything Peter knew about John's personality. Then Peter realized that the pattern wasn't swirls of color, but stains. Peter then decided he wasn't going to contemplate John's sleeping bag anymore.

"You're here, I'm here," John replied.

"I have to be here," Peter pointed out.

"Actually, no you don't," John said. He tossed a pillow down to the floor as well. "You could be upstairs in a real room with real furniture. But you've decided to stay down here. I've decided to stay with you."

"You can't just keep visiting me like you have?" Peter asked.

"Which means I'm down here most of the time anyway, only it's uncomfortable," John said. He sat down on the sleeping bag and patted it to test the softness. "I've decided to be comfortable."

"I don't get you at all," Peter admitted.

John lay down with his back to the floor. "Feeling's mutual, Peter."

***

Later, hours later, John spoke up. "Why are you doing that?"

Peter had been sitting in the dark. He was watching John, and every time he felt his eyes start close he shook himself back awake. "What?"

"That." There was a rustling sound as John turned over to his side. "Sleep already. You need it."

"I'm fine," Peter lied.

"Like hell," John said. "I don't know what power you think you have but trust me, ability to go without rest isn't one of them."

"How do you know?"

"Because if that power existed I would've found a way to copy it myself."

That startled a laugh out of Peter. He figured he had no reason not to tell the truth. "I don't want to lose this."

"What?"

"This." Peter gestured to indicate his situation, though it was possible John couldn't see that with the lights off. "The first thing I remember is waking up and not knowing who or where I was. It makes the idea of going to sleep a little scary. Especially if you like where you are."

"Oh sure," John said, as though Peter's words were perfectly reasonable. "I know I'd love spending my life chained up with only one guy for company and let's not even get into how we take care of going to the bathroom."

"Consider what I have to compare it to."

John grew quiet.

"I like the constancy," Peter said. "I like recognizing things when I look at them. I like the company."

"It's not going away, Peter," John told him. "I'm not going away. You wake up and I'm going to be here. Always."

"Promise?"

"Yeah."

When Peter woke up and saw John there, watching him, he relaxed. He stopped having problems sleeping after that.

***

A few days and nights passed before Peter decided there were other issues that needed to be discussed.

"It's okay, you know."

John looked at him with confusion. "What?"

"You can do it if you have to," Peter said. "Not that I'm thrilled about you having to or anything, but - "

"What?"

"The drinking." Peter glanced at John's hands, which had been shaking with withdrawal. "You can do it in front of me. I don't mind."

Amazingly, John didn't looked relieved but pissed off. "I do."

"Seriously, it's okay if - "

"I said no!"

Peter shut up. He tried to ignore how he felt like he'd just been slapped.

***

Later, over a dinner of a ham sandwich that Peter ate more out of habit than any actual enjoyment in the meal, John said, quietly, "You shouldn't be exposed to that."

Peter could figure out what they were talking about. "I may not know a lot of things about myself, but I know I'm not a kid."

"It's my thing," John told him. "I don't want it anywhere near you."

"But what if I - "

"Consider how you're handling your thing before you finish that sentence."

Peter put his plate to the side. "Can you tell me why, at least?"

"No."

***

The day the chains went away was much like the day Peter's memories went away, in that Peter found himself in a situation where he couldn't say how he had gotten there.

Once he'd had time to calm down, though, it came back to him. Which was a refreshing change of pace, memory-wise.

He'd been in the basement, as always. John had gone upstairs to take care of whatever it was he did when they were apart. Time had passed. Then there was the sound of a horrific crash, like something heavy being shoved through a plate glass window, and when Peter had called out "John? John?" there had been no reply.

Then, so quickly that even his limited memories couldn't fill in the blanks of travel, Peter was upstairs, running into a room that he didn't recognize, and stopping when he saw John standing there, possibly in shock.

"Are you - " Peter looked around. There was no blood. John wasn't wounded. There was broken glass but Peter realized it was from a mirror. Shards of ceramic - Peter guessed maybe it was a vase - provided clues as to what might have done the breaking. "Are you okay?"

John rubbed his face tiredly. "Yeah. Sure."

"Why did you - "

"Don't ask."

Peter stood there, feeling helpless. Then he realized he was also feeling the swaying tap-tap-tap of metal against his fingers. He lifted his hands up and saw the broken chains attached to his cuffs. "Um - "

"Super strength," John told him. "I was wondering when you'd figure that out. Can we stop dicking around with you in the basement now?"

"Guess so," Peter replied.

***

His basement accommodations were replaced with a small bedroom. It had a twin-sized bed, a quilt in a calliope of colors, a closet, and a bureau that was painted white. The window had a shade and no curtains. The view beyond was of green, rolling hills that seemed to stretch on forever.

A shelf above the bed had a mix of books, both paperback and hardcover. The bureau had underwear, sweaters, and t-shirts. In the closet were pants and coats.

"Are these mine?" Peter asked. He ran his hand along a pair of jeans. He could feel the texture of the fabric, but there was nothing inside of him that recognized what he was touching. Not even a feeling of whether or not he was looking at his favorite color.

"They're for you," John said. He was leaning in the doorway. "But you've never seen them before. These were brought in."

"Good to know." Peter felt both relief and disappointment. "Thanks."

Possibly noticing Peter's ambivalence, John said, "Your apartment - that's just how you left it. Nathan made sure. He figured when you came home you'd want..."

John trailed off. Peter could figure out why. "It was nice of him. Even if I'm never going to be able to go back there again."

"I'll let him know."

Peter blinked. He was so used to having things happen to him that he'd never thought about reversing the flow. "You can get messages out? To him?"

"I - " John shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah. Kinda. Not - not like a phone call or anything."

"Tell him I miss him," Peter said. "That I wish I could see him."

Something flickered in John's eyes. It looked like irritation. "You don't even remember him."

"Not what he looks like," Peter admitted. "Not what he sounds like. But I remember what he makes me feel."

John folded his arms. Peter noticed his knuckles were white with tension. "What?" John asked, so quietly it was as though he didn't want anyone to hear that he had asked.

"Like - " Peter made a gesture of frustration. "Like I miss him? Like he's supposed to be here, with me? Like when I think about him I feel safe and okay? Like there's this ache in my gut and when I think about being with him it feels like it goes away?"

John was silent for a long time. Peter waited, patiently, because it seemed like John was going to say something in response to all that. But when the reply finally came all John said, in that same quiet way, was: "I'll let him know."

***

Now that he was unchained, Peter felt restless. He also felt guilty since John had done so much for him and it wasn't as though Peter had previously been in a position to return the favor. So he tried to busy himself by being useful. He dusted and mopped. He used what meager cooking skills he could stumble on or figure out to pitch in with breakfasts of eggs and toast, or dinners of pasta.

He could also entertain himself now. He tore through the books that were in his bedroom and, when those were done, he made requests for more. He wanted things on amnesia especially. Not that he figured that he'd find a cure all on his own, but he at least hope to better understand his situation.

John got the books, combining them with the purchase of a few other topics - baseball, traveling through Indonesia, even What to Expect When You're Expecting - as a way to hide his tracks. It scared Peter to realize that there were people out there who not only would but could track him down by monitoring things like that, which made him doubly glad for the efforts John put in to prevent it.

When not talking - which was often, since John had gotten quieter since they'd both moved upstairs - they spent their time reading. John would flip through whatever books in the random stack that happened to appeal to him, and Peter would go through his books on amnesia and take notes. John tended to watch him carefully whenever Peter wrote something down, but Peter had no idea why.

One afternoon Peter read a case study of a man with a brain infection, and when he finished he handed the book over to John, saying, "There. That's a lot like me."

The report talked about how for the man losing his memories had felt like death, and how he was scared to go places on his own for fear of forgetting where he was and being unable to get back again.

"How can he remember his wife?" John asked, frowning as he read the pages.

"Different kind of memories," Peter shrugged. He didn't know how it worked, he just knew what it was like. "It's not names or dates or anything, but the feelings are there."

"Do you remember feelings about anybody else?" John asked, sounding curious.

Peter thought about it. He even pondered concepts like family or friends to see if they stirred up echoes of emotion. "No. Just Nathan."

"Wild," John said. He kept the book next to him so that he could read it on his own, later.

***

John's drinking was an issue.

Peter didn't know why he understood the concept of alcoholism, or how he didn't feel surprised when he saw the symptoms of John having gone too long without a drink. He just knew that he did, and didn't, and that he hated seeing John like that.

John kept on not drinking in front of Peter. If Peter so much as hinted about the topic of alcohol John shut the conversation down so fast it all but kicked up wind into the air. Once the fight had gotten so bad that Peter was convinced John was going to storm out of the house. Which then made Peter feel light-headed and terrified, both at the idea of him being alone but also John being alone, since who knew what he would do to himself if that happened?

But John had simply clenched a hand into a fist, gone upstairs, and not come out of his room for a day.

Peter assumed John was getting drunk in there. That was how it worked, now. Rather than try to maintain a low buzz, John would go for days with nothing - days when he spent nearly all of his time with Peter - until the shakes got too bad to ignore. Then he'd vanish into his room for a few hours. When he emerged he looked calmer, but by no means happier.

This time was different. John came out, but looked like even more hell than before. If he'd slept there was no sign of it, his hair was a mess, and the pale-green tint to his skin made Peter wondered if he could somehow get John to a hospital.

John carried a box, which turned out to be full of bottles. He brought this to the back door of the house where, standing in the threshold , he flung each bottle - some with liquid inside, some not - with great force into the yard. Peter watched all of this, speechless. Clearly a decision was being made here, but was it one he should stop?

It was the next step that freaked Peter out even more. Alcohol supply depleted, John then turned his attention to other items in the house. Mirrors, brass fixtures, a metal mixing bowl that John used to make pancakes - those and items like them were also flung out the door.

"John!" Peter said, trying to jerk him out of this spell or whatever it was.

"Stay out of my way," John said. A picture frame shattered as it landed in an explosion of glass and splinters.

"What are you - "

"I do not want to see that!" This was punctuated with a slam of the door, as though that, whatever it was, had been flung into the yard with the last item and John could now lock it out of the house. "Screw it. All of it."

"It doesn't have to be like this," Peter said, trying to be reassuring. "Whatever you want, I'm behind you. But maybe we could get you some help?"

"We're not talking about this again," John told him. He left the room, acting like nothing had happened.

***

Something had happened, though, and what it was was horrible.

Without drinking to hide behind, John hid in himself. He talked less, and when he did it was with quick, terse words. He kept himself shut off, if not physically so by being in another room, then mentally. Peter could be sitting right next to him yet John's posture, lack of eye contact, and lack of response made Peter feel as though he might as well be alone.

Changes in John's demeanor only came when something - Peter assumed hallucinations from DTs - made John jerk as though he'd seen God alone knew what - and emotionally he looked anything from disgusted to afraid. Peter longed to try to comfort him somehow, but he learned that any attempt during those times was only met with John retreating further. In the end all Peter could do was watch.

He composed letters to Nathan in his head. More than ever Peter wanted him near. He felt like he could lay this whole problem out at Nathan's feet and Nathan would find some way to fix it. Peter didn't know why he felt that way, he just did. He wished he could call Nathan, talk to him somehow. You trusted this guy to take care of me. You trusted him with me. There had to be a reason for that.

Peter didn't give John any such message to pass on, of course. But he tried to make the ones he did give have a double meaning. "Tell Nathan I trust his decisions. Tell him I miss him but I'm handling things. Tell him I'm happy to do whatever I can to help, even if it's not much."

John grunted and said he would. If he was wise to Peter's less than subtle attempts at communicating, he gave no indication of it.

Alone at night in his bedroom, Peter imagined Nathan replying to him and encouraging him to keep going.

***

It came to him in the early hours of the morning.

Peter didn't know what it was. Maybe a dream, maybe his unconscious mind finally having time enough to snap a few of the puzzle pieces together in the right order. It wasn't a memory, he knew that much for certain. But, still, he knew.

He got out of bed, not bothering to change out of his sweats and t-shirt, and immediately went into John's room.

"You had something to do with me being like this."

John sat up against his headboard. He hadn't been sleeping. Peter knew what it looked like when someone had been sleeping. "What in the hell?"

"You had a part of it," Peter said. "You feel guilty. That's why you act the way you do."

John was standing up now. "Get the hell out of my room, Peter."

"You hate Nathan so you're not doing this for him," Peter said. He stayed where he was. "You don't act like somebody who needs the money so you're not doing it for that."

"Get out or I will throw you out."

Peter did the exact opposite and came into the room. "You won't leave me alone. Even when it hurts you. Even when it's damn near killing you and don't even start with trying to tell me giving up booze has been easy."

"I'm not going to tell you a damned thing," John said. His arms were folded across his chest. He was glaring. "Except to shut the hell up."

Peter couldn't. Not when he knew that all that ever happened was losing John even more. He pushed, John shoved back, he retreated. Well now Peter was going to find out what happened when he kept pushing. "You drink because of me. But you don't want me to see it because - what? I'll think less of you? You've got to figure my opinion's pretty low to begin with. You've got to have a reason for thinking I won't like you."

"Out." John was trembling. Peter wondered how long it would be before he felt John's fist connect with his face. "Now."

"But that's insane," Peter continued, ignoring him. "After everything you've done for me? After all the sacrifices you've made? And don't tell me I don't know what they are! So what? No matter what you did before you can't have had a life where this is anything but a step down. You feel guilty and responsible and that's why you're shutting yourself off and being such an asshole because - "

And then he stopped.

Because he'd reached out to touch John - pat his arm, comfort him, something - and John had jerked out of reach. Which made Peter feel stupid because of course John wouldn't want that, considering the whole point of why they were here was that Peter was an untrustworthy weapon and all. So naturally the last thing John would want was to be touched by the guy who could do who the fuck knew what except of course for John who wouldn't tell him but who knew enough to know that this was a spectacularly bad idea.

Peter opened his mouth to apologize when more information had caught up with him. That part of his brain that hadn't gotten over obsessively memorizing details was replaying that split second over and over, and Peter realized, no, not fear. Well, yes, fear but not the kind that came from disgust.

Jesus Christ I'm a moron.

Peter tested his theory by stepping forward. John stepped back and - yeah, no eye contact, breathing quickened, and Peter could swear that he could feel the heart pounding in John's chest. Hell, maybe he had empathy mixed up in all his unknown powers and he could feel what John felt. Except if he was an empath he was a really fucking bad one because dear God how had he not figured this out?

He won't abandon me, even if it's killing him. He thinks I'm worth something even though I nearly destroyed who knows how many people. He hates Nathan and can't figure out why a guy like me would give him the time of day. Yeah, my name is Peter and in addition to losing my memory I also misplaced my brain somewhere around here...

There was no way Peter was leaving. He stepped forward. He was going to touch John. He was going to show him that it was okay.

"Don't." John held up his hands to ward him off. He was backed up against the wall. Throw in some chains and a thick coating of dust and it was a nice recreation of how they'd met, only with the positions swapped. "Peter, you don't remember."

"Doesn't matter."

"You wouldn't be here if I hadn't fucked up!"

The confession came so loud and sharply that it reverberated throughout the room. Peter paused since, okay, the situation was now a little more complicated. But on the other hand it made a lot of sense.

"Doesn't matter," Peter said again. It was around then that Peter knew there was going to be a kiss. There had to be. It was the only thing that would get through John's panic.

"We can't." John looked about two seconds away from clawing through the wall if it would help him escape. "Peter, I can't."

It was the look in John's eyes, and the choked sound of John's voice, and the way you didn't have to be an empath to feel the stark naked longing in those words, and Peter closed the distance before John could move.

Nathan, he needs this. You've got to understand that. Hell, maybe that's why you put him with me.

Not that Peter was finding it a chore. Self-imposed or not, he'd spent so long without human contact that the feel of John's body - shaking,wiry , warm - made Peter feel as though the room was spinning. He held on, pressing in close and maybe he didn't remember the last time he'd done anything like this but by God his body had no problems with the holding, touching, and kissing.

John tried to hold back. He kept saying "Don't" and "If you knew" but Peter ignored it. Then it became "You shouldn't" and "Don't look" which brought closure to the mirror issue, and also let Peter know that a good response here was, "I'm gonna" and "There's nothing wrong with you."

Then it was a groan of "Peter" like a dam breaking, like something collapsing, and then wham! Peter's back was against the wall and John was kissing him. Devouring him, actually, wet and open-mouthed and biting and demanding and hands on Peter's arms like vices, like chains, and somewhere in there Peter thought Well of course I'm safe if I'm with him but it quickly vanished in a sea of moans and whimpers and "Please."

The bed came from out of nowhere. Peter would've made a joke about how he thought he was the one with super strength but John was on top of him and his mouth was sucking at Peter's neck and there was the soft/rough tickle of his beard and Jesus Christ there could be getting naked now, really. Because Peter might not remember the last time he'd had sex but his body sure as hell felt like it was overdue.

John's cock was hard, rubbing up against his thigh and Peter was happy to twist, and rub back, and scrabble at John's shirt, and kiss, and murmur "Yeah, there, please, yeah -" and other words that sounded like it. John was holding him down, strong and steady, and he was making Peter breathless, making him ache, and he'd forgotten which one of them was comforting the other here but maybe that was the point.

Peter wanted more. More skin. More warm. More everything that made all the pain go away. But when Peter moved to hook his legs around John's waist John moaned like someone dying and said "Can't."

"Please," Peter told him, because at this point if he didn't have something filling up all that emptiness he was going to cry.

John looked like he hated this as much as Peter did. Hell, more. "Peter - we don't know who you were with."

It was like a sucker-punch to the gut. Every time he thought he'd gotten a handle on all the implications of his memory loss, there was one more horror to add to the pile. "Fuck," Peter said, because it wasn't fair, wasn't right. Was there going to be an end to the number of people who'd used him, or tried? And if someone had tried actually using his body, even if it was a violation of it, he should have the memory, at least know he had been taken like that and oh God what else had he forgotten and how many other fun surprises were lying in wait to -

"Shh," John was murmuring. Peter felt their lips brushing together. "It's okay. Come back to me, Pete. I'm right here."

"Stay there," Peter said. His hand was a fist against John's back. Greedy. Demanding. Don't go, don't leave. The kisses moved back and forth between light and hard. Their bodies didn't stay still. Peter felt starving and desperate for more, more and John was whispering in his ear about how he needed him, damn near died without him, can't lose you again, Peter, fucking can't and Peter's leg was between John's and somewhere in there John was cupping Peter's dick through the fabric of his sweats and it was the two of them, together, rubbing and touching and kissing and rocking and there, yes, right there, don't stop, don't even think about - yes, fuck, God, yes.

Peter's world exploded. He was breathing like he'd forgotten how to get air into his lungs. He was sweaty, sticky, and once again feeling stupid.

"Nathan," he whispered.

Peter felt the body on top of him freeze.

"I should've guessed," Peter said. He reached up to caress Nathan's cheek. "I should've figured it out."

"Should've - " Nathan looked down at him, realizing the full implication of Peter's words. "You still don't remember."

"Doesn't matter."

"No, it really does."

"Do you love me?"

"That is so not the - "

Peter made Nathan look at him. "I don't know a hell of a lot but I know I need you. I know I'm not happy when I'm not with you. I know that even when I didn't know who you were all I wanted was for you to be happy and be close to me. I know whatever's going on around us my feelings for you are the one thing that's stayed the same. Nathan, do you love me?"

"Yes." Nathan closed his eyes. He pressed into Peter's touch. "Yeah, Peter. I love you."

"That's all that ever matters," Peter said. He drew Nathan close. This time when they kissed, it was a long long while before they stopped.
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Tuesday Has No Phones

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