OH HAI GUYS. I WRITE X-MEN: FIRST CLASS STUFF NOW. :D (This was actually from a prompt on one of the XMFC memes.)
Disclaimer: Don't own anything. That's all Marvel, and I am definitely not Stan Lee.
At first, Alex can't feel anything.
He's just laying there, staring up at infinite blue. It's beautiful. It's just gorgeous.
But then, he feels.
There's a sudden, blinding flash of light and he screams. He screams so loud and so long that his ears hurt and his lungs start to burn. Everything burns. His skin is on fire—whether or not it's literally being scalded off he can't tell, and he really doesn't care. But it's everything. It is all he can do to scream and scream and scream, breathing in air tainted with a taste of jet fuel and something else that would never, ever leave him.
He can see the tops of coniferous trees and almost feels ice under his fingers. He can't feel his legs. Alex surmises somehow that he must be dying. It doesn't really startle him, not any more than the stunning color of the sky, or when he realized that he was bleeding bright red into the snow.
Alex looks up at the sky again. So blue. Just so blue.
When Alex wakes up, he sees blue again. "Sir? Can you tell me what your name is, sir?" It's a rather tall young man, maybe a year or so older than him, with the hugest blue eyes he has ever seen. And he's looking down at Alex like Alex has just given him irrefutable proof that Santa Claus was not a myth. "Sir? Can you hear me?"
Alex can't move—he can't even talk yet. The air in here feels too weird in his lungs, sterilized and stale. The boy stares back at him, smile fading. "Could you squeeze my fingers, maybe?"
The boy slips his fingers into Alex's. They're cool and solid. It makes Alex want to jump in the air, knowing that he still has a hand for someone else to hold; that he can feel again, and that it isn't the feeling of his impending doom. Alex squeezes, feeling the white gauze on his arm tightening when the muscle flexes.
The other man smiles at him. "Okay, good. Good. You were in an accident, sir, do you remember any of it?" He blinks behind somewhat dorky horn-rimmed glasses. It's adorable and makes Alex want to curl his toes. But there's an issue.
He can't. Alex can't curl the toes on his left foot, because he can't feel them. He can't feel his foot at all—he can't feel anything below his knee.
Breath ripping in and out of his lungs, Alex yanks his hand away from the man in the dark blue scrubs and sits up, ignoring the wailing and screeching of the medical monitors surrounding his bed. He stares down at his arms—they're covered in clean white gauze, IV tubes snaking in and out—before looking further, searching for something (what, he has no idea) underneath the pale yellow blanket covering him from the waist down.
Alex stops his searching, gripped by a sudden, paralyzing fear. He starts to drown in a wave of certainty, certainty that something is very,very wrong indeed. More potently, he feels that he does not want to know exactly what that is. Alex doesn't want to see what's under that blanket.
He looks up helplessly at the nurse standing at his bedside. The man stares back at him with those wide, wide blue eyes, and confirms his worst fear. Alex slowly peels the blanket off of himself to find a gaping absence in the place of his lower left leg.
Alex cries. "I'm so sorry," the nurse mutters until Alex falls asleep. "I am so, so sorry."
If there is one thing Alex hates, it is being babied. Lord knows that Scott always used to do it, and look what happened to him. Alex drove the guy off, and thanks to him they haven't seen each other in years.
So, even in times of his own desperation, Alex Summers would prefer that you back the fuck away and let him take care of himself. Even after a near-fatal plane crash, one that left him permanently disabled. Even when he still didn't have the strength in his arms to roll himself down the hallway on a wheelchair. Even when he could barely make it to the en-suite bathroom in his hospital room without help.
Dr. Xavier is a babier. He coddles to the nth degree, and it annoys the hell out of Alex. He comes into Alex's room on a daily basis, being his attending physician, and asks him about how he's feeling. How Alex feels about what's happened to him. He updates Alex on his condition, of course, but there's only so much the Englishman can say about loss of limb before he starts repeating himself. Not only that, but he's got a sunny outlook that no downpour of negativity from Alex can begin to block out. "Alex," he says, eyes big and kind and full of hope, "you have to believe me. Things will get better."
It is really rather irritating, just like the food, and the single streetlamp outside of Alex's window that refuses to let him sleep at night.
One thing about the hospital doesn't irk him nearly as much: his permanent day shift nurse, Hank McCoy. He was the one there when Alex first woke up. He has such a quiet, wary way about him that it makes him barely noticeable. And really, when you're adjusting to something as lasting as Alex is, and when you don't have a home to leave the hospital to, someone who makes it all about them would be absolutely intolerable.
But one day, he does become noticeable. It's one of the days he's supposed to have off when Hank enters the room unannounced and promptly decides that Alex needs to get outside.
Alex stares at the man in utter disbelief for a while. Then: "Are you stupid or something?"
The nurse furrows his eyebrows in a "really?" expression. "Not at all, thanks. But you're gonna get bedsores if you never leave the bed."
"How can I?" Alex asked miserably, trying his hardest to turn it to a barb. The 'when life gives you lemons' thing did not work here, because things were tasting pretty sour. And he was not in the mood to make fucking lemonade. "Bozo."
Hank huffed and left the room. Alex even felt bad for a second, a stirring in his stomach he didn't particularly care for, but that faded when the nurse reentered with a wheelchair, black and aged-looking. "With this. Idiot."
Raven is probably one of the most gorgeous people Alex has ever seen. This makes the fact that she is another Xavier all the more surprising. "Wait, wait," Alex says, holding his hand up in disbelief at the IV tech, her eyebrow arching in amusement. "Are you married to Charles?"
The woman scoffs, waving a menacingly long intravenous needle near Alex's face. "Not even. He's my adoptive brother. I took the family name a long time ago." She looks up at the ceiling, considering. "And I don't think he'd be very much into me anyway."
Alex's brow furrows. Does that mean what he thinks it means? But before he can elicit an answer from her, Hank wanders into the room, concentration focused on Alex's charts from the night before. He looks tired. There are bags under his eyes and his shoulders slump towards the floor. He starts to say something, tiredness apparent in even his voice, before he notices Raven.
"Everything looks good here—oh, um, hi," the young man struggles, clearly caught off guard by the woman. Alex doesn't want to blame him, but a weird flame of anger crops up in his stomach with the way that Raven is making Hank blush so hard. He clenches his jaw at her friendly returned greeting. "I, uh, didn't know you were working today."
Raven simply smiles back at him, eyes open but completely locked down, devoid of any hints to her mood. The woman has a real ethereal quality—like this mysticism around her, and damn it all if she is about to stop that for a gawky boy almost ten years her junior. "I work every day, Hank," she says, grinning over at Alex.
The young man's brows furrow together, expression turning into a full-on scowl when the woman looks away. He doesn't realize his fists are clenched in the starchy white bedsheets until Raven leaves.
Hank clears his throat and looks back at the charts. He must not have noticed yet that Alex's eyes are laser trained on the side of his face, trying their hardest to get him to look over. It isn't working at all, seeing as Hank just goes on, clicking his pen again and again and gazing down at the papers in front of him.
Alex just wants him to look over. Come on, he thinks hard at the man, as if it might actually get him to turn. Look at me. Please?
He doesn't. And he can't begin to explain why, but that makes Alex feel like pond scum.
Alex starts to dream about running.
He used to hate it, exercise. Mostly it was because he had to run so often from his father (when he was still living with the bastard) and even thinking about doing it made him flash back to all the times after Scott had left that he wove through Santa Fe cacti, his arms slit open by the spines, dirt in his face and sweat sticking to his skin—sticking to everything—in the dry heat.
Now things were different. He doesn't have to run from his dad anymore. He can't run at all. So when he does dream at night, when the lamp outside doesn't filter behind his eyelids and diffuse yellow light over everything, he tends to dream about running.
It's simple, really. Just him and a lazy two-lane road winding somewhere through the Midwest, gravel and grass and sun and that's it. He lets his legs stretch out, watching his feet hit the pavement over and over, and just breathes. In. Step. Step. Step. Out. Step. Step. Step. In. Step. Step. Step. Out. Step. Step. Step. The air flies past his ears and buffets at his face, fills up his lungs. Alex can't help but love the feeling.
But then, just as he is hitting his stride, just as he feels the best, something happens. His left leg starts to cramp up underneath him. It's just a twinge for a few strides, but then it gets worse. Alex begins to slow, feeling the pain sharpen, akin itself to a knife instead of a heavy rock, the pain twisting around and consuming his whole lower leg. He cries out, clutches his leg, trips and lands on his hands, the skin tearing on the pavement. His knee cracks against the black tar. A smell filters though the air that is totally unmistakable, and he can feel his skin on fire.
When he wakes up, his skin is cold with sweat and his lungs are sore as if he truly had just run miles. But he remembers, with a painful twist in his chest, that it is now impossible.
On a day after one of these dreams, Hank came to Alex with news from Dr. X. One of the good doctor's associates, Dr. Lensherr, specializes in prostheses, particularly the new titanium ones. Hank has this look on his face that's so chock-full of childish hope that Alex can't help but swallow down his doubts and agree to see the guy.
"Stop picking at that," Hank insists, slapping Alex's hand away from the tape on his other arm as he pushes Alex down the hall in one of the hospital's wheelchairs. Not all of his burns are healed, and right now his whole hand is wrapped in gauze that doesn't cease in its itching on his palm. "If it comes undone again, you're gonna have to change your own dressing."
Alex rolls his eyes. "Yes, Mother," he simpers back, and gets a flick to the back of his head for it.
Truthfully (since being truthful was a good thing after a near-death experience), Alex is swallowing hard over the nerves that have burrowed themselves in his chest. Today's the day he's finally going to see Lensherr about a prosthesis. He can't help feeling that something might go wrong—the free health insurance that they'd at long last instituted in the US a year ago wouldn't cover it; the doctor wouldn't be able, by some weird anatomical disparity, to give Alex a new leg. The tension was killing him. He shifts his shoulders and stops picking at his hand, instead staring down at his remaining foot.
Hank, who is leagues more astute than anyone else could realize, says something. "It's going to be fine. Trust me." At the same time, he brushes one of his thumbs across the back of Alex's neck, feather light and reassuring. If Alex is decidedly calmed by this, no one will ever know.
The meeting goes leagues better than anyone could have expected. Erik Lensherr is, in many ways, the exact opposite of Charles Xavier. He doesn't speak in clichés like Charles, nor does he want Alex to call him by his first name, or at all.
The man is refreshingly straightforward about everything.
"So, a missing limb is something you will never get back. A prosthesis is only a fill-in." Lensherr clicked his pen, trying to deduce something from Alex's expression, but the young man only looks back at him, unsurprised. "But you already know that."
Alex's stomach twinges, albeit less painfully than it had before. "Yes."
"The only thing I can do is give you that substitute."
The younger man breathes in through his nose before connecting eyes with the doctor. "That's all I want."
Erik's lips quirk northward, mouth making a shape that Alex is sure is rare. He clicks his pen.
When Hank returns to Alex's room that night before the end of his shift, a wide grin possessing his face and eyes alight, he's sure that this is the best day he's had since the crash. The tall man stands in front of the door rather ridiculously, fingers touching the metal doorknob behind him. "I have a surprise for you."
Alex is stunned for a second. He licks his lips. "Yeah?" Oh, finally. His eyes rove down Hank's form. "What is it?"
Hank's eyes are as electric blue as ever when his face becomes a little bit uncertain. He seems to get over the hesitancy, catching Alex off-guard when he turns to the door and opens it. "Come on in."
The man that enters the room is probably two or three years older than Hank and average height. He doesn't speak to the nurse, simply nodding before turning to face Alex, brown eyes immense and familiar. The red sunglasses resting on his head stir a pang of upset in Alex's stomach before he's struck by a bolt of unrelenting anger.
His fists clench automatically. "Get him the fuck out of here."
Scott, his older brother, stares down at him in his chair and has that look in his eyes. Pity. Alex seriously considers spitting in his face. "Alex, come on. I just want..."
"I don't need your help, Scott," Alex says through his teeth. "Never needed it before I was a cripple, and I sure as hell don't want it now."
Hank's eyes flicker between the brothers, wide and confused. Luckily enough, he is out of range, so if Alex ends up doing something drastic like pummeling Scott to the floor, he won't get hit in the crossfire. The nurse clearly wants to say something, but even with his limited social skills, Hank can tell that isn't a good idea. Instead, he sinks into the wall, trying his hardest to disappear.
Alex decides against hitting his brother, instead spinning his wheelchair toward the window, clearly done with talking. Scott watches him for a second before rubbing a hand over his face, shoulders dropping in defeat. "I'm sorry, Alex. I really am."
He turns for the door, and Hank is struck by the look of hopelessness on the older man's face. Still, Scott manages a weak smile and a thank you to the nurse before excusing himself from the room.
At first, Hank doesn't know what to do, standing stock still in the middle of Alex's room. Then he notices Alex shaking.
Diagnoses run through his head before anything else. Sepsis? No, definitely not. Alex wouldn't have had a chance to get an infection between the antibiotics and how often Hank changed his dressings. Hypothermia would be ridiculous and impossible. Seizure? That was not what a seizure looked like.
Hank reaches a tentative hand out to rest on Alex's shoulder. "Are...are you okay?" He whispers without intending to.
Alex doesn't turn around and smile up at him as he is prone to do. He doesn't respond at all, actually. Not any further than a small shake of his head.
There's a day that comes when Alex doesn't slam the door to his semi-permanent hospital room in Scott's face, and it actually puzzles him. Perhaps the news he'd received that morning from Lensherr that he was getting his prostheses sometime in the next week (one for everyday use and one for athletics—maybe even running) had put him in good enough spirits. Either way, he lets the man in, and is gratified by the surprised look on his face.
The surprise doesn't fizzle away into pity as Alex expects it to. Instead, Scott gets that demanding expression he always used to give Alex when they were in big trouble and Scott was in charge. When Alex was small, before Scott left, he hated that look and how it made him feel like a little kid. Well, he was a little kid, and after Scott left, he realized that all those looks had been silencing or placating, trying to get Alex to listen just so he wouldn't get hurt. "You know I will forever feel like shit for leaving you there, and you can hold that over my head as long as you need to, but listen," Scott says, arms crossed over his chest. "I'm going to make it up to you somehow. I swear to God, Al, I will. I'll do anything."
Alex has been walking on crutches for the last couple weeks, getting used to using his right leg independently of his left. His arms are sore and his shoulders ache, but it's freeing to be able to stand and look his brother in the eye. He doesn't want to, feeling anger still roiling in his stomach, but he forces himself to anyway.
Scott's eyes are not sad this time, but defiant, the brown hard and unyielding. Alex almost wants to laugh. It would be almost like looking in a mirror if those eyes were lighter.
In the end, Alex gives in because he knows Scott, and he knows he wouldn't lie with that look in his eyes.
It's a perfectly normal Wednesday morning when Alex wakes up to see both Doctor X and Doctor Lensherr standing in front of the window in his hospital room, murmuring softly to each other in the muted dawn light.
Charles chuckles at something the other doctor says, a light blush working its way across his cheeks. Oh, Alex thinks. He so knew it.
As if hearing his thoughts, Charles's eyes drop onto Alex. He smiles widely at the blonde. "Good morning," he greets, excitement for something lighting up his face like it's Christmas. "Do you know what today is?"
Alex rubs his eyes, brain and vision still hazy from sleep. "Wednesday?"
Erik cracks a grin at that. "Well, yes. But today is also the day your delivery came in."
It's like a balloon inflates in Alex's lungs, and he sits up from his position lying on his side, like having heard the specialist's admission with only one ear would make it less true. "Really?"
"This morning, actually, at an absolutely senseless hour. Charles insisted we pick it up and bring it to you ourselves."
For some reason, it is getting hard for Alex to swallow. "Um, wow." He looks over at Charles, affection for the touchy-feely doctor growing. The young man has never been great with words, and this situation was no different, seeing as he was so grateful he could barely talk. "Thank you."
Charles doesn't say anything. He just smiles back in a knowing way, and Alex has a feeling that the doctor can already decipher all the things he wants to say.
Hank is typically off on Wednesday mornings, so when he comes into Alex's room in a rush, glasses askew on his face and shoes untied, the newly equipped younger man is nearly knocked off of his feet.
For all Dr. Lensherr had said about prostheses being only a substitute for true body parts, he was absolutely itching to have Alex try on the factory-made lower left leg replacements he had ordered, a full smile blooming when they both worked wonderfully. Since Alex still had full use of his knee, he tested out the weight of both of the prostheses, stretching his thigh out before standing.
It was a little shaky for him to stand halfway on just a skinny little titanium bar, but it felt amazing to be standing nevertheless. When he stood straight up, he was surprised to see he had a couple inches on Dr. Xavier.
For a second after Hank rushes in, Alex waivers on the new leg, tilting back and forth before regaining his balance. He rests a hand on the bed to steady himself.
The nurse's eyes are alight all over again, as wide and blue as anything else Alex had ever seen. "Xavier called and told me ten minutes ago," Hank says, breathless and grinning. "Dude! Oh, it's fantastic!"
Alex smiles down at the prosthetic lower leg. It is pretty impressive, clad in shiny black and silver, ending in a foot almost the same size as his other one. "It really is, isn't it?"
"I'm so happy for you, Alex." Hank's eyes are oddly shiny when Alex looks back up at him, and it pulls at something in his chest. "Really, I am." The tall man sniffs once before pushing his glasses back up his nose, starting in about brain plasticity and how well he'll be able to adapt to the prostheses after continued use.
Alex can't count the number of times he has called Hank a bozo. He's pretty sure it would take a calculator and some heavy number-crunching to come up with the answer. But he's also pretty sure that the way he's about to say it would not at all count.
He manages to shuffle closer to Hank without him noticing, the nurse still blathering on about the evolution of man and the brain. The new foot is silent against the floor. Alex stops himself about a foot from Hank, and he's staring now, a pink blush seeping into his cheeks. It's enough to make Alex have to catch his breath.
"Hi, bozo," he says, resting a hand in the middle of Hank's chest, relishing in the feeling of the nurse's heartbeat under his palm. When he's standing right in front of Hank, Alex notices that the man is almost a whole head taller than him.
Hank's eyes are doing their hesitant thing again, and they're entirely too sad-looking for Alex's taste. "Alex," he murmurs, voice weak in his chest like his heart is breaking. Even as the man starts to stretch his hand out toward Alex's face, he stops, retracting his fingers.
"For once," Alex responds, catching Hank's big hand in his and resting it on his own cheek, "don't overthink. Please."
To Alex's surprise, Hank leans forward, tilting his head so that his nose burrows into Alex's golden hair. Hank's hand leaves his face and arms twine around Alex and cocoon him, pulling the young man into Hank's chest. He can feel his new prosthesis wobbling a bit during the shift, but he isn't forced an inch in any direction—Hank's grasp around him won't let Alex move.
Not that you'll hear him complaining.
Alex turns his head to press his ear against Hank's chest next to his hand. The nurse's skin is warm through his scrub top and his heart is pumping at double-time. It forces Alex to crack a smile. He slithers his own arms out from the space between him and Hank and wraps them around the bigger man, pressing the two even closer together.
Hank hums, maybe out of contentment, and it makes Alex laugh when he feels the sound under his cheek before he actually hears it. His fingers are starting to pass over Hank's backbone like they're counting the vertebrae, meticulous and wondering. They tick down and down, not offended when one of Hank's own hands leaves the hug to busy itself playing with Alex's yellow hair, pushing it out of his face. When they get to his lower back, though, Alex allows their touches to become lighter and more expansive, feathery. He knows that it's working when Hank inhales sharply.
Hank's hand is all of a sudden present on Alex's chin, gripping tight and forcing him to look up. The action briefly and horrifically reminds Alex of his father, but then he sees the expression in the nurse's eyes. He's totally vulnerable. "Alex," he breathes again. "I can't. I just can't."
Alex catches his fingers on the hand that's gripping his jaw and holds on. "I got my new leg today."
The taller man looks slightly confused before Alex continues. "I got my new leg today, so tomorrow I'll be in outpatient. Should be settled in Scott's apartment this time next week." He can't stop himself from grinning in glee, a few chuckles even escaping before "It's a half-hour from here."
Hank is obviously utterly gobsmacked until he laughs, loud and brilliant and perhaps even relieved.
Alex shrugs, pulling Hank closer by his hips, shit-eating grin still plastered on his face. "I told you not to overthink it."
Hank licks his lips and gives a shockingly sinful smirk back, which gives Alex the sudden and profound impression that the nurse would definitely not be playing the prey here. He rakes his long fingers through Alex's hair and lets them stop at the back of his head. "Maybe I should listen to you more often." The man stops and thinks, and Alex has a feeling it was about the wheelchair race Alex had tried to organize with all the geriatric patients. "No, maybe not."
"Do or don't, just shut up," Alex says, yoking a hand around the back of Hank's neck and leaning up to plant his lips on the nurse's.