Grasping at Straws
Peter sat by Nathan's bedside, gripping his hand, careful not to disturb the wires and tubes attached to his brother's arm and tried to make sense of the last twenty-four hours. He couldn't make heads or tails of most of it, nothing but a blur, like the past couple of months had been. The only thing he knew for sure was that Nathan getting hurt like this wasn't the way things were supposed to go. He and Nathan were just reunited, ready to save the world together…and then everything went to hell. Nathan had been shot and while he was stable (Peter's blood seemed to work like Adam's…sort of), he wasn't waking up.
A silent, motionless Nathan was one of the scariest things Peter had ever witnessed, including a future where everything went to hell. His big brother was bigger than life, always knew what to do and how to make Peter see what had to be done. Peter needed Nathan, needed him awake and coming up with ideas on how to handle everything that was happening, but no matter how much he begged and prayed, Nathan remained still.
"Sweetie, why don't you go lie down on a cot? If there's any change, I'll come get you," a pretty brunette nurse said as she entered the room. Peter watched her take Nathan's vitals and record the information on his chart. She patted Peter on the shoulder and motioned to the hallway. "You're no good to anyone if you don't take care of yourself."
He was no good to anyone without Nathan, but he didn't say that. Instead, he smiled weakly and said, "Thanks, but I'm okay."
"Are you sure…"
"I feel better being here with my brother," he cut her off. He bit down on his lip and focused his attention back on Nathan. It was hard to look at him like this, but it was better than starting a fight with a well-meaning nurse who wouldn't leave him alone. He couldn't expect her to get it – he barely understood his relationship with his brother most of the time – but wasn't leaving Nathan. Never again, if he could help it.
Peter still remembered the first time he saw the Disney version of Snow White. He was five years old and his nanny decided to reward him for being good all week by letting him stay up late and watch a movie. They sat down in the rec room with a bowl of popcorn, a can of soda for each of them, and a box of Junior Mints. Juliette was great about dealing with his constant questions during the movie, but she didn't know what do to with Peter when he started crying hysterically after the wicked stepmother poisoned Snow White and she wouldn't wake up.
He stayed curled up in a ball on his bed, refusing to let anyone touch him until Nathan came home. When Nathan appeared in the doorway, Peter ran to him and wrapped his arms around his brother. His parents and Juliette didn't know how to fix it, but Nathan would make it all better. He always knew how to get rid of the monsters and the nightmares.
"Mom and Dad said you were acting crazy and this just proves it."
Peter sniffled into Nathan's neck and said, "I'm scared."
"No kidding," Nathan replied, rubbing Peter's back. "It was just a movie, Pete. It wasn't real."
"No one could protect her and she died."
"She didn't die." Peter pulled away just enough to look at his big brother and Nathan continued, "Did you even finish the movie?"
"No, I didn't like it."
Nathan smiled and ruffled Peter's hair. He chuckled and said, "You missed the happy ending, Peter. The Prince finds Snow White and saves her."
"But the evil stepmother…"
"…is defeated and Snow White gets to live happily ever after with her prince."
Peter studied his brother carefully and replied, "Are you sure?"
"My stupid nanny used to make me watch that movie all the time. Trust me. It's sickeningly sweet at the end," Nathan replied.
He went to put Peter down on the ground, but Peter wrapped his arms tightly around his brother's neck and said, "Don't leave me."
"Are you still scared?"
When Peter nodded, Nathan walked him over to his bed and dumped him on the mattress. Before Peter could protest, Nathan slipped out of his sneakers and laid down next to Peter. Peter curled in on his brother's side and said, "I love you, Nathan."
"I love you too, Pete."
"You wouldn't let a wicked witch get me, would you?"
Peter smiled. "I didn't think so. You're a good big brother."
"Yeah, yeah. Can you stop crying hysterically over a Disney movie now?"
"So, how does the prince save her? It looked like she died."
"She was just in a deep sleep."
"But how did he get her to wake up?"
"With a kiss on the lips."
"Ew. I'm not kissing a girl to save her," Peter replied, scrunching his face up at the very thought. He rested his head against his brother's and added, "But I would kiss you if I had to save you."
"Gee thanks, Peter."
"I mean it."
"I know and I would save you too," Nathan replied. He shut his eyes and said, "Now go to sleep."
Peter stretched back in the chair and tried to remove the kinks in his neck. He shut his eyes and listened to the blip from the monitor measuring Nathan's heartbeats and jumped slightly when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He blinked up and saw his mother staring at him in concern. "I told you not to come. It might not be safe."
"Is that your idea of a greeting for your mother?"
Peter stood up and hugged her. She kissed his cheek and caressed his face before replying, "It's good to see you, Peter."
"Yeah, you too," Peter replied. He motioned to Nathan's bed and said, "There's been no change."
"I had the nurse fill me in at the desk," she replied. Off the look on Peter's face, she added, "Contrary to what you and Nathan think, I do love my sons and I don't plan to stay in New York while one of them is dying."
Peter winced and said, "He's not dying."
"Well, he's not waking up either and they have no idea why," she replied. She stepped closer to the bed and ran her fingers along Nathan's jaw. "He wouldn't want you sitting here while a fight was coming."
Peter crossed his arms and asked, "And whose side are you on? You and your friends created all these problems."
Angela sighed and said, "That's a conversation for a different time.'
"You always have some excuse."
"Why don't I get you some coffee?" She handed him the bag on her arm and said, "There's a clean pair of clothes in there for you since I doubt you've left the hospital since he was shot."
"I'm not leaving him. He wouldn't give up on me."
She nodded and said, "I really didn't expect any less."
When his mother exited the room, Peter retook his seat next to Nathan's bed. He concentrated his gaze on Nathan and tried to will him to wake up. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of his powers. He never possessed what he needed to save the people he loved.
He shut his eyes and let his mind wander, hoping that he could pick up on his brother somehow. Instead, he overheard a little girl thinking about Cinderella and Snow White and princes that save the day. He couldn't help but smile as he remembered his brother's frustrated expression as he continued to assure Peter throughout the night that he wasn't going anywhere and that no mean stepmother would ever poison him.
Peter opened his eyes and stared at his brother. He took his brother's hand in his and said, "You'll probably laugh at me about this, but I can't think of any other way to reach you, Nate." Peter leaned across his brother and pressed his lips gently against his brother's. He said, "You have to wake up. I need you." Peter kissed him again for good measure, not caring if his mother or anyone else walked in.
When nothing changed, he collapsed back into his chair and covered his face with his hands. It was a stupid idea, he knew, but it was still hard to acknowledge that it hadn't worked. Nathan was out of his reach and Peter had never known how to react when that happened.
Peter remembered waking up the morning after the Snow White debacle to find Nathan sound asleep next to him. It was one of the many things Peter adored about his brother. His parents never stayed with him after a nightmare and his nannies only stuck around long enough to get him back to sleep, but Nathan was always there.
He felt safe and he knew that nothing bad could ever happen as long as he had his brother there beside him.
Peter awoke with a start from the same nightmare that had plagued him for months, even when he didn't understand it. Visions of Nathan badly burned and the city in flames. He took a deep, calming breath and rubbed his eyes. He noticed a cup of coffee sitting on the table, but no sign of his mother. When his eyes flickered to the bed, Peter didn't know if he was still half-asleep or not. Nathan appeared to be staring at him, not saying anything, but his eyes were open. Peter ran a hand over his face, expecting to find things the way they had been for days, but when he looked back at the bed, Nathan's eyes were still open. His lips were curled into a small smile. It was the kind of smile that Peter had a lifetime of experience with – one that meant Nathan was worried about him – and it made everything else fall away. All that mattered was that Nathan was awake.
"Nathan…" Peter managed to get out before his throat closed up.
Nathan didn't say anything, simply lifted his hand to grip Peter's arm. Peter sprung from his chair to the bed in an instant and hugged Nathan carefully. Nathan patted his back and said, "Pete…"
"I'm here. You were shot. I thought…I thought I lost you." Peter pulled back and cleared his throat. He told himself he wasn't going to freak out. He was going to be the strong one and let Nathan lean on him for once.
Nathan groaned as he tried to move. Peter said, "I should get the doctor."
"No, I'm…fine," Nathan gritted out.
Peter rolled his eyes and said, "Liar."
"We're both alive and together. That's all that matters," Nathan replied.
Peter retook Nathan's hand and said, "I'm glad you finally woke up. I was running out of options on how to get you back. I even tried to save you like the prince did for Snow White." Nathan chuckled and then grimaced in pain. Peter immediately hit the button for the nurse and continued, "I was grasping at straws. I needed to try something, but I didn't think it worked because you didn't wake up right away. Maybe there's something to that story after all."
"It's a fairy tale, Peter."
"So? You can fly and I can copy other people's abilities. That's hardly normal." Nathan nodded and Peter squeezed his hand. He said, "Besides, I think we deserve a happy ending for once."