A/N: What has taken me so long? One, school. Two, all these muy tonto changes ff.net has made, and three, I had no idea how to end it. This will be the final chapter. It may long, but I hope its worth it. Thanks for all of your patience. It's really appreciated. Onward to the thy greatest story! (Last time I watch Hamlet before writing.)
Pietro is just barely clinging on to life. His heart is erratic, his breathing done by machine, and his brain waves are virtually nonexistent. But still he's there; he is fighting. I am beside him all day, in my bed. I cry when no one is around, for there is nothing else I can do.
The doctor spoke to me earlier today. Pietro suffered a massive heart attack, brought on by pure physical exhaustion only a mutant could have. When he had collapsed the first time, it was only a matter of time before the adrenaline gave him enough strength to appear normal. And instead of resting, he was given false security. More stress upon his heart. It was the final blow.
There is nothing he nor any of his staff can do, except wait and hope that Pietro will find his may out of the murky depths of the unconscious mind. But how can hope for the best when the worst oppresses it?
It is predawn. I sit, crouching in my normal manner, on a rock outside the cave mouth. The others are in the back, huddled together for warmth. I watch the world begin to wake up as my visible breath appears and vanishes.
It was peaceful, yet I was not. My heart was heavy, and my soul burdened. I could no longer bear this misery. A miserable being I am, and I no longer want to be so. I ache for the day when I can be free to care and no longer worry. I want it with every part of my being! I damn this life!
And yet.... And yet I cannot change. Can I? These long years I have been giving in to fear, to those I deemed greater than myself. Can I change that? And even so, what would it matter? No one would care, they would be as bitter as always. As I always am.
But still... Here is a challenge laid before me, and only I can take it, confronting it head-on. Am I this brave? No, I am nothing but the Toad. All I have ever been, and all I will ever be. I am resigned to my fate; no mortal can their stars. But I am not just merely mortal am I?
With a strange feeling flowing in me, I stand up upon my rock; the sun is but a sliver showing, and yet it grows, brighter, stronger..... I know my power. The power of hope. I have always been afraid to use it. Why? Was truly my fear, or the fear of madman? Was implanted in my mind only to be assimilated into my own? With a new determination, I reach my hands up into the pink and orange sky. The challenge has been laid; and I accept.
"I accept this challenge! Let my power be released!" I shouted. I closed my eyes and let the cold air flow in and out of my lungs. I let the sun's cool rays reflect upon my skin. With the new dawn, I was reborn. It was time. Time to open Pandora's box once more.
In my sad reverie, I let my darkness take over. Evil thoughts were forming, depressed, de-glorifying, and sinister. Thoughts of suicide seemed rational and sane, and in fact even obvious. I let my shadows fall over me, blackening my soul.
Then-- in way I could never describe in words-- they vanished. Not like one second here, next gone, it wasn't like that. It was as if it suddenly and slowly faded away, all at once. Conflicting terms, I know, but it is the best I can say. They evilness was replaced by a calm that was almost just as frightening. I was completely at peace. Comforted by a force unseen I let myself asleep. I knew that when I would awaken, everything would be right. Good, or bad, I did not know, but it would be right.
I left a message in the dirt for Amara. She would be the only one able to walk over and see it. It was simple, stating that I was going for help. I signed it with my initials, T. T., and studied it for a moment. It would do. I took one last glance in the still dark cave before turning and vanishing into the forest.
I knew where I was going, but I wasn't sure why. To go back to the site of the battle would be a dangerous move, for Magneto's spies could be lurking about. But I had a feeling, and I was never going to doubt my feelings again. That was the past; it is now my future.
I made good time. Following the most direct path, which meant I was hopping from tree to tree instead of dodging around the forest floor, I soon reached the site. I saw the remains of a camp. Makeshift stretchers and such. They had been here-- the others I mean. But where were they now?
I saw something, half-hidden under some blankets. Looking, I saw a medical pouch. At first, I was going to pass it over (it was empty), when I noticed what it had contained. There was a list on the front, and I realized this wasn't your run of the mill medicines. Morphine and codeine were listed. As was some other alphabet-sized words I wouldn't even attempt to pronounce. This came from a hospital or clinic. Which meant rescuers had been here, and still may be.
Searching the area, I found no one. But I wasn't upset. It meant that the others were safe, in the care of someone who didn't want them dead. For if they did, they would have left them here, never to be found by a wandering hiker or lost camper.
In searching the remains of the camp, I found more medical pouches and other miscellaneous items. Including, of all the good luck and miracles, a walkie-talkie. It looked like it had been lost by one of the rescuers. I looked it over. The name 'Mike' was labeled on it. Well, thank you Mike.
I turned it on, not changing the channel. It would tuned into the hospital or clinic to which this Mike belonged to. I gritted my teeth, thought of what to say, and turned up the volume.
"Hello? Anyone there? Can anyone hear me?" I let go of the button, and heard nothing but static. "Hello? Can anyone hear me at all?" I said, and once again static. "Anyone there? Please, answer me!" Third time's the charm alright. I heard a faint voice. "Please, speak up, I cannot hear you!"
I moved around, trying to get higher up. Holding it in one hand, I quickly jumped up the tallest tree I could find nearby. Once I was as high up as I dared, I tried again. "Hello?"
"Can you hear me? Who is this?" I almost fell out of the tree with relief.
"Yes, I can hear you! I need help."
"How is it you are on this channel? It is reserved for EMTs and rescuers only." The voice said.
"I'm in the woods. I found this. Please tell me, is this..." I quickly pulled on of the empty medical pouches out of my pocket and read the name on the front. "Is this St. Brigid's Hospital?"
"Yes it is. Who is this?"
"My name is Todd. I am at the site where about a dozen or so kids were found, possibly up to a few days ago. I was also..." I didn't know how to put it. Every way seemed to reveal too much.
"Were you with them?"
"Yes, myself and three others. We became separated. I am fine, but Amara has broken ribs and a possible concussion. Ray and Roberto are in pretty bad shape. Could you please send help?" There was a pause. Please don't let them turn me down. Then my common sense hit me. Duh, hospital, of course they won't turn me down! No wonder the others thought I was an idiot.
"I can send a rescue truck. It will be a few hours. Where will you be?" The voice asked.
"I'll be at the camp. We had taken refuge in a cave nearby. The truck won't be able to reach it, the ground is too rocky and dangerous."
"Okay, I've sent the dispatch out. They should be there by mid-morning."
"Thank you." As an after thought, I added, "Do you know a EMT or rescuer named Mike? He lost a walkie-talkie. Tell him thanks for me."
"Will do. Out." I leaned back against the tree trunk, more than fifty feet up, and put the walkie-talkie and the empty pouch back into my pocket.
I was renewed in a sense only those who have been there could understand. It's a feeling a simple elation and for some odd reason, normalcy. Well, as normal as mutant resembling an amphibian could get. Without knowing why, I began laughing, and could not stop. All was right in the world. Amara, Ray, and Roberto would receive their needed help, the others already had gotten theirs, and I was beyond help. And for once, in my life, that was a good thing to have.
In a short recap, the rescue truck arrived. I led them to the cave, where they carried Ray and Roberto out stretchers. Amara refused to be taken out on one, and insisted she would walk. Well, she tried. But eventually she finally consented to be carried-- by me. She swore that if I ever told anyone she would melt my boxers, with me in them. You won't tell on me, would you? I rather not be trying to explain that to the local burn center. I can see it now. Um, why are my boxers fused to my skin? Well, you see, there's this girl... Yeah, that's right she's a mutant... Well, the short version is.... I'd be on the Enquirer faster than an Elvis siting involving little green men.
But back to the recap. We made it back to the rescue truck where they received their well deserved treatments. I sat in front with the driver, so the EMTs could have more room. Incidentally, the driver was a guy named Mike. If it was the Mike that left the walkie-talkie behind, he never said so, and I never asked.
At the hospital, Mike woke me. (I had fallen asleep, believe it or not.) I started to follow them into the emergency center, but I was stopped by a doctor. He spoke with me briefly. He asked if I was with mutants. I nodded, glancing around. No one seemed to take notice, even though he hadn't said in a quiet voice. He told me not to worry, that is was safe here. This was a haven for mutants. I had known that, but I was still a little nervous.
He told me about Pietro. How he had come running to the hospital and had saved all of their lives. I was relieved, but then I noticed a sad look on his face. When asked what had happened, I was told that Pietro now laid dying in a coma, barely clinging onto life. I asked if I could see him. The doctor nodded and gave me directions.
Upon entering the room, I saw first Wanda. She was asleep, curled up in her hospital bed. Her face, if it was any revealing as to her dreams, seemed at peace. Content. I smiled a small, hidden smile, and walked on by her. It was not she that needed my help. It was her brother.
Pietro looked lifeless, laying there, hooked up on a few different machines. He was not breathing on his own, and the heart monitor showed that his heartbeat was just barely there. He was clinging on, but losing.
I sat on the edge of his bed, and watched him. Pietro had long ago given up on life; he was embittered by it. As long as I have known him, he had always kept his past a secret and his feelings toward it even a greater secret. But if what the doctor had told me was true, and he had no reason to lie, then Pietro wanted to live. He had wanted it so desperately that he risked it for others; a trait not known to the boy I knew.
And as I sat there, I began to realize something. As mutants we are forced to rely on each other; as humans we need each other. Being both, we have a need for friends and family that would scare others. But we understand as only we could. We thrive on our friendships and our family relations because that is all we have. Pietro for most of his life, had had neither.
He was going forth alone where others would only go in the company of their friends and family. He did not any other way. For being alone was his only way. It was time to change that. With an bizarre reassurance, I laid my hand upon his forehead. I closed my eyes, and began focusing. I pictured my hope, my faith, and my friendship flowing into him, via my hand. I wanted to let him know that he was not alone. I sent mental pictures of Lance, Fred, the X-Men, and finally, Wanda. He did have friends and family. He need not be alone.
I removed my hand and opened my eyes. With a determination, I heard him take a breath. It was not the machine doing it. The heart monitor began to beat with a regular pattern. His brain monitor began to show movement. He would be fine. He would live. He would be, for once in his life, happy.
Third Person POV
When Wanda awoke, she was greeted with a smile. She didn't notice of course, until she looked over and saw that it was her brother smiling. Almost bolting out of her bed, restrained only by the needles in her arms, she began crying. Never had she cried in front of another before, not in years. But it didn't matter now. Because Pietro was crying too.
In the end, everyone lived. Not one was permanently injured, except for a few scars. On their last day, they all met together for the first time in weeks in the hospital lobby. The last one to show was Pietro. He walked up, and was greeted with claps on the back (not hard ones, mind you, they were all still a little sore) and hugs by the girls. He seemed to be truly amazed.
"You accept me, even after what I have done?" He asked, his voice incredulous.
"Pietro you saved our lives." Lance said. "You are my brother."
"Mine too!" Agreed Fred. The X-Men nodded. "Even though I owe my life to another," Amara said, glancing at Todd, "you are my brother as well."
"I won't let you down. Never again." Pietro promised. There was a pause, as he wondered if he should speak up about something that was bothering him. "Who was it that saved me?"
"What do you mean?" Jean asked. Todd looked at the floor. He hadn't told anyone what he had done. The only one who suspected was the doctor, and he hadn't said anything, just given a kind of knowing look.
"When I was in that coma, I was lost in this labyrinth. It was like dream, a living dream. Everywhere I turned there was wall, no way out. I was getting more and more despondent and scared. When I was just about to give up, I felt..... I'm not sure how to describe it. It was like a calm, a peaceful serenity come over me. All these images came into my mind, unbidden. They weren't my own. It was images of all of you. And when I looked around, I saw this light coming from one of the paths. I followed it.... Then next I remember is waking up." Pietro was staring off into space, caught up in his words. He was snapped out of it by Scott speaking.
"It was dream, that's all. Probably your subconscious mind creating images as to what your body was doing. Healing." Scott said.
"Yeah, he's right. Besides, what does it matter? You're here now." Kitty told him. The others agreed.
"Yeah.... Yeah, you're right. C'mon, let's go home. Or to whatever's left of it."
"Not without me you're not!" Mystique came storming into view. "Trying to leave me behind, are we? I think not!"
"Chill, Mystique. How could we forget you, boss lady?" Pietro said. He got the same look from everyone. 'You're not reverting to your old ways if we have anything to do about it' look. He grinned. "We need somebody to pay the cab fare."
Instead of yelling, Mystique laughed. The others all joined in, and walked out the door, a bliss filled moment, a rarity in their lives. They were so enthralled in it that they didn't notice Todd lagging behind some.
Here I am, still the hero of my dreams. I will never take the credit for what I did, because no credit is needed. I know what I did. That is all that matters. It is now that we all pass from our own steps of life into the walk of the legends.