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Del Rion [userpic]

No Such Thing (page 2/3)

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- - -

The woods were getting shadowy. It was creepy somehow, since it had been a while since Peter had gone camping. City lights and open sky were what he was more used to, but he comforted himself with the thought that anything out here could not touch him.

Of course there was one of the specials they were looking for, but Peter was certain he could convince him or her to listen to reason. After all, he could remember all those scared faces of the people when they came to realize something was wrong with them – and the relief when they understood they weren’t alone.

Peter himself had never seen his powers as a curse or a terrible thing. They set him free, gave him purpose, and in his opinion made him a better person as well. At least now he had the power to actually heal the world – if he wasn’t used to destroy New York or release a killer virus, of course. He had learned his lessons.

“Are we close?” Nathan asked impatiently. They had been walking for a while now after flying a good distance away from the little town they had spent their day in.

“You are still the one with the map,” Peter replied, gazing into the shadows. There were sounds all around them; the rustle of leaves with each breeze, cracks of wood, and the flapping of wings from birds they had disturbed.

“Yeah, but I can only read the map if I’m given the right destination,” Nathan grumbled, then swore as Peter managed to pass a branch, but made it slap back in his brother’s face.

“Watch where you’re going,” Peter suggested with a grin.

“It’s getting dark soon.”

“Good,” Peter decided, and stopped. He wasn’t sure if they were far enough in. There had been several sightings, and this was going to be their last chance before the next full moon – if the special’s powers were indeed tied to it, that was.

“This forest is really wide,” Nathan went on again, not for the first time. “Are we just going to stand here all night, waiting for something to happen?”

“Well, that and I’m going to listen,” Peter replied, then closed his eyes and focused.

“Listen?”

Peter frowned and asked him to shut up.

Madness. Fuck this, it’s just some folklore passed on by whelps and drunken farmers…

“Stop thinking so loud, Nathan. All I can hear is you.”

Nathan’s thoughts stopped – or rather, he first thought of stopping, and then came to a realization. “Oh. Listen.”

Peter smiled, eyes still closed, and focused again. He wasn’t sure what he had hoped would happen, but pretty soon it was clear to them both that there was no easy way to go through this. Hours went by, nightfall approached and passed them, and still there was nothing.

They sat down on a log, too tired to stand, and still Peter strained Parkman’s ability as far as he could. But all he could hear were Nathan’s thoughts next to him, because the other just couldn’t shut up; every time Peter told him to try and be quiet, Nathan’s mind began to repeat not a sound over and over until he was wondering how he was supposed to be quiet if he couldn’t think of being quiet.

“Maybe it’s really an animal. Can you hear the thoughts of the animals?” Nathan mused, shifting a little. It was getting cold, although the proximity of the trees definitely helped.

“If that was the case, I think I would have heard a bunch of thoughts by now,” Peter sighed, opening his eyes and gazing around, only to see the shapes of the trees. The sky above them was dark, but every once in a while the clouds would shift to allow the moonlight to pass through.

“Should we just go?” Nathan asked after a moment. They could hear a bird somewhere, rustling the leaves as it took flight.

“We came this far,” Peter shrugged.

“Yes we did,” the other sighed, but Peter could feel that Nathan would have rather been somewhere else, even if it meant they had come here for nothing.

Peter was determined, though, and so they waited yet another few hours, neither hearing nor seeing anything out of the ordinary. A fox scared the hell out of Peter while running through the bushes next to them, and Nathan attracted a colony of bats when he tried using his flashlight to take a proper look around. Other than that, nothing happened.

“It’s way past midnight,” Nathan said in a tone that was his form of whining. Peter glanced at his brother, who was currently looking at his watch beneath his jacket, the faint glow of the flashlight mostly blocked by the material. Peter smirked; bats weren’t dangerous, but they were scary as hell coming at you from the middle of nowhere in the dark.

“There’s still time until sunrise,” he decided with a yawn. He got up, stretching his legs, wondering if they had picked the wrong spot. Perhaps if they had gone in a mile further, or two miles west… But no, there was no way of knowing, and Peter was pretty certain that in the middle of the woods, he could hear another person’s thoughts from pretty far away, knowing there was no one else around but him and Nathan.

“I could use a cup of hot coffee,” Nathan commented, putting away his flashlight and straightening his jacket. Peter could sense that he was cold, and also wished to be out of the dark woods already.

Peter walked around for a bit, using the brief light of the moon to look around. “Maybe we could walk a bit further,” he suggested.

“Which way? Any direction is as good as the next, Pete,” Nathan commented, kicking a stick at his feet. He was getting frustrated.

“Yeah…” Peter mused a bit hollowly, trying to decide which way to go. Maybe there would be a sign, somewhere… He walked a few steps further forward, pushing branches out of his way. He could here Nathan shuffling behind him, but not following yet. After a while, his voice rang out through the darkness:

“Pete? Where are you going?”

Peter turned to answer, but suddenly he lost his footing. He fell forward with a surprised shout, but before he could think of Nathan and flying, he had already hit the ground – or rather, the bottom of a ditch. The sand and stones were wet, and he could hear a silent trickle of water. “Great,” he muttered, and scrambled back to his feet. He could feel water soaking his clothes, slowly making it to his skin, forcing a shiver from him.

“Pete!” Nathan shouted, and Peter could tell he was running towards him, although off to the right.

“I’m fine, Nathan. Just… lost my footing for a bit.”

The sound of running stopped, and Peter climbed back up the side of the ditch. He was just about to reach the edge when he felt something cut into his skin. He hissed, pulling back his hand – and slid back down to the bottom of the ditch. Before he even thought of it, he could feel the healing power kick in, and although he briefly smelled blood, he knew it would be gone soon.

With his unhurt hand, he created a small spark of electricity, illuminating the ditch and the forest around him. On the side of the ditch, propped between stones, was a broken bottle Peter had apparently rested his hand against. He shook his head, glanced down at his healed hand, and then wiped the remaining blood off against his pants. When he allowed the electrical light to fade again, he was totally blinded by the darkness around him. It took him a while to get used to it again, and this time he took care not to take the same path up as before.

Peter was just about to call out for Nathan, who was coming closer after seeing the light, but suddenly he could feel something else. Someone else. His mind strained, and he wondered if he had heard anything at all, when he was met with mere silence but then he realized that Parkman’s telepathy wasn’t picking up actual thoughts, but feelings.

And the current feeling was one of hunger.

Peter was familiar with it, because one month he had partied too hard, needed some new books for school, and had run out of money to buy food since he needed to take care of the rent as well. He hadn’t wanted to borrow money from Nathan since he was trying to show his family he could do it on his own… Long story short, he had been quite hungry those last couple of weeks, and he was familiar with all the emotions attached to it. And now there was someone out there, feeling the same primal urge to eat. Only, when Peter dug a little deeper, he wasn’t certain if he got it right at all, because there were no thoughts to be found, and all he got was a jumbled mess of random feelings and sensations.

“Nathan?” he called out, half-whispering because he wasn’t certain how far away the person he had sensed was. Perhaps it was distance that was messing up his telepathy.

He took a step forward, then turned around to see if he could spot his brother. He didn’t dare to reach out with his mind in fear of losing the hungry person.

“Nathan!” he tried again, still trying to keep his voice as low as possible.

He heard a soft crash and spun around, wishing the moon would show itself. The hunger was closer now, he could feel it. That and… He frowned. There was another thought – a feeling – that was actually taking over the hunger. As before, there were no words, but the simple sensation he was tapped into.

The new feeling wasn’t as familiar to him, but somewhere inside he felt as if he could relate. The day Isaac shot Simone. When I realized that I couldn’t trust Nathan… No, that wasn’t right; that had been anger and betrayal, but nothing like this. When he faced off Sylar at Kirby Plaza, though, he had felt this: an urge to hurt. To kill.

Peter took a sharp breath, trying to distance himself from the mind of the other person. Those were not the kind of feelings he tried to remember. When he did, he made mistakes. All that anger and hurt, the yearning for revenge… it had never got him anywhere other than worse trouble than the one he was already in.

A growl.

Peter snapped out of his thoughts and back to the present, and suddenly he was aware of something standing only a few dozen feet away from him. He could see its shape, and by God, it was not human. He cleared his throat, trying to remember something about lycanthropy – if that was what he was really looking at. It wasn’t as if scientists agreed that such a thing existed… That would explain the raw thoughts, though; this thing wasn’t an animal, but it wasn’t human either. Or so he thought, because he couldn’t see a damn thing.

“My name is Peter Petrelli, and I’m here to help you.”

Another growl. It reminded him of a sound that a dog made. A very big dog.

He started again: “I know this must be pretty scary for you, but you’ll have to trust me. I’m like you: special,” he explained softly.

A gust shook the treetops, and for a moment the moon showed itself. Peter saw a glint of eyes, but otherwise the shadows hid the other from his view. Nervously he wondered where Nathan had gone. He had no doubt seen the flare of electricity, but perhaps he had taken the wrong direction since then. Peter was too afraid to reach out to him with his mind, not wishing to break the contact he had with the special in front of him.

“It would be nice if you could give me some indication that you understand what I’m saying?” Peter suggested to the animal; he had tremendous difficulties thinking of it as human right now.

The thing moved forward, making it a little easier for Peter to see it. In his life, he had seen numerous horror flicks, some with werewolves in them, but right now he had to admit that if he really had to think of one, this was the most accurate werewolf he could ever imagine; it’s features were as if a human face had turned into… well, half-way into a wolf. It wasn’t a dog’s head, most definitely. Its fur was dirty and matted, full of twigs, leaves, and all kinds of seeds, making it look as if it had ran through the whole forest.

Its nose twitched – it wasn’t located in the end of a snout, but rather like a human nose with some alternative bone structure. Its jaws were almost human too, but with the lower jaw dislocated and then somehow fixed in place. All in all, it was hideous.

The thing came closer, and Peter could see the claws. They weren’t white and shiny, but dark, cracked and dirty. They looked like they had been put to good use. He had no intention of finding out what kind of use that was.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Peter told the thing, praying there was a human mind in there somewhere. A scared, confused –

“Peter?!” Nathan’s shout rang out from the sky above, and it took only a second for Peter to realize the other had taken flight. He looked up reflexively, to see if he could spot Nathan.

He didn’t get the chance to shout back at him, or send up a spark of electricity; with a snarl, the thing came at him, pushing him hard to the ground. Claws sank into his skin, ripping through his clothes and into his flesh. All the way to the bone, Peter could tell. He yelled in pain, pushing at it, feeling the dirty, greasy hair that was coarse to the touch. Teeth sinking into his shoulder, legs pushing him down, claws still tearing at him.

Just like in the container in Cork, it came out of him faster than he could think: one moment his mind was blinded by pain and terror, and the next his eyes closed against the bright blue flash, a growl following from the beast as it was violently thrown backward. Peter scrambled back, already feeling Claire’s power working its magic, stitching his skin back together, mending the cracked bones. His skin burned, as did his lungs, but he knew it would be over soon.

He hoped that the thing would just run away, but instead of doing that, it prowled some feet away from him, jaws ajar, claws digging into the earth. Peter sat up fully, then climbed to his feet. A sparkle flared between his fingers, and he stretched out his hand. Maybe if he set a tree on fire…

The beast roared and came forward. Peter attacked it, throwing it back, but it charged again, clearly angered now. The smell of singed fur hung in the air. Peter could feel its hurt and rage, and beneath it, the blood-lust. Only then did he realize that he had probably attracted it when he cut his hand on the broken bottle.

“I really don’t want to hurt you,” Peter tried to reason, but there were no human thoughts he could grasp onto. Just the lust to kill him.

“Pete!”

Peter saw Nathan dropping down through the branches, then halt in mid-air. To warn his brother, he increased the ball of electricity in his hand, illuminating himself and the beast.

Jesus Christ. What the hell? He could hear Nathan’s thoughts, quick and unbidden, his reaction one of horror. “Get away from it!”

“What if it’s one of us?” Peter shouted back to his brother, who was hovering a safe distance above them.

“Is that blood… What the hell happened to your clothes? Did it attack you?”

Peter felt like rolling his eyes. “Yeah. You distracted me and it managed to attack. I’m fine, though. Regeneration, remember?” Not that he thought Nathan would forget.

“Still, get the hell away from it,” Nathan ordered, voice tense.

The beast apparently grew tired of waiting and attacked Peter again. He shifted to one side, then took flight, rising into the air. The beast snarled and tried to reach them, but one more flash of electricity made it drop the chase and vanish into the woods. Peter gazed after it, but just then Nathan floated closer to him, grasped his arm, and Peter knew better than to try and fight him on this.

Together they shot up to the sky, heading back towards the little town they had left the day before.

- - -

“That thing,” Nathan started again, “is dangerous. It should be put down.”

It had been three weeks since their unfortunate trip to Wisconsin. Their narrow escape from the werewolf wannabe had set Nathan on a warpath about the whole thing, and while he had agreed to go browsing the woods for a sign the following day of the attack, they had found nothing and he was only too happy about it.

Peter, of course, wanted to go back for it, and the closer the new full moon came, the more persistent he grew. “It might be out there still. I didn’t hit it that hard. And sooner or later it’s going to kill something other than cattle.”

“Well, it hadn’t done that before it attacked you, so it’s your fault if it got the taste for human flesh.” As soon as he said it, Nathan regretted it. He looked at Peter sternly across the car. “No. You will not go back there.”

“If it’s my fault and someone gets hurt, Nathan, I have to,” Peter insisted.

“Just alarm the rangers. They’ll hunt it down.”

“But it was a full moon –”

“And there’s no such thing as werewolves. Not in the real world, and that’s where we live,” Nathan snapped adamantly. Sure, he had seen it, but all it was was some kind of a mutant freak, that’s all. An anomaly. Or maybe, just maybe, it was someone like them with a serious hypertrichosis issue.

Peter pouted silently in his seat for the next few minutes, then straightened up. “If I want to go, you can’t stop me. I can teleport.”

Nathan groaned. Sometimes he wished someone would push ‘delete’ on Peter’s powers – or his eagerness to use them. Teleportation and time travel weren’t Peter’s favorites since they had gotten him into trouble several times, but Nathan knew he would do it if they kept this argument up long enough.

“You wanted to do this one, right?” Nathan reminded his little brother, tapping the folder in Peter’s lap. “This case is an actual little girl, scared to death by her ability to create little rainstorms above people she’s upset with, and the meteorologists around the world will be happy if we solve this.”

“I hope she soaks you through,” Peter decided, but Nathan could see the little twitch of his lips, and he reached out to ruffle his brother’s hair.

- - -

They had decided to take the car because Virginia wasn’t all that far away, and Nathan insisted it wouldn’t hurt to behave like normal human beings for once. Peter, of course, argued that Nathan behaved like a ‘normal’ person all the time anyway, to which Nathan reminded his brother that he had just flown with him to Wisconsin and back. That, for the time being, cut the disagreement short, although Nathan was certain Peter was just too busy plotting how to get to Wisconsin when the next full moon appeared.

When they crossed over the state line into the Old Dominion they began to discuss how to best approach their Rain Girl, as they had dubbed her. She had a name, of course – Tiffany – but Peter had always been fond of superheroes, and every good superhero had at least one alias. Nathan was amazed Peter hadn’t already chosen one for himself.

The closer they came to their next target, the more focused Peter was on it, and Nathan couldn’t have been happier. As long as Wisconsin wasn’t brought up, he was content.

It was past afternoon when Nathan realized it was something other than Peter’s new mission that kept him occupied, though.

They had stopped to fill up the car, and Nathan took a moment to use the restroom and grab them something to eat. When he came back, the car was ready but Peter was nowhere to be seen. Nathan frowned, went to drop his purchases in the back seat, and suddenly noticed someone on the other side of the car. He rounded it and found Peter sitting on the dirty asphalt, knees drawn up, looking very pale.

“Are you okay, Pete?” Nathan asked, because Peter sure as hell didn’t look okay.

The brown eyes looked up at him, and he could see Peter’s jaw clenched shut so tight it must hurt. “I probably just… ate something,” he finally said, stammering a little.

“Come on, lie down on the back and maybe it will pass,” Nathan suggested, cleaning the backseat and then helping Peter in. He checked Peter’s forehead gently, finding it clammy and cold. Frowning, he moved his hand to Peter’s cheek and neck, fingers wet from the sweat.

“I’m fine,” Peter said in a tight voice, and with a nod Nathan shut the door and slid to the driver’s seat. Perhaps it had indeed been something that Peter ate. You never knew with the diners that they had passed on their way.

During the next few hours Nathan began to doubt the chance of food poisoning. After all, shouldn’t the regenerative power kill any signs of such a thing before they even appeared? And Peter was getting worse. He was shaking, and now burning up with fever, his body seizing in pain that Nathan couldn’t see, but still it made him grip the steering wheel tighter than he needed to.

The longer they drove, the worst it got. The soft whimpers Peter couldn’t bite back made Nathan’s skin crawl, but every time he was about to pull up, Peter told him not to. Twice Peter asked him to stop the car, though, and each time he crawled out to throw up on the bank.

“We should find a hospital,” Nathan muttered.

Peter shook his head almost violently, and Nathan knew after gazing at the map that they were too far from any hospital. Perhaps they should fly… But Peter was in no condition to hold onto him, and Nathan wasn’t certain if he could carry his brother the whole way.

They got back in the car and Nathan drove on. It was getting dark. Peter’s breathing was getting ragged behind him, and when he turned to look, he almost swerved off the road: Peter’s brown eyes were almost yellow, and his pupils were very dark and dilated. Nathan had seen his share of horror movies, but they didn’t do justice to the real thing.

He stopped the car before he killed them both, then leaned between the seats to touch Peter’s forehead. His fingers slid through the sweaty dark hair. The other man was looking in his direction, but didn’t seem to be really looking at him. “Pete?” he asked softly.

Peter blinked and shifted his head. His nostrils flared with every attempt to inhale. And his eyes… they weren’t human. Nathan had seen a lot of weird things since he discovered he could fly, but he didn’t recall anyone with eyes like that.

“Pete, did you meet someone at the gas station? Did you talk to someone while I was gone?” He couldn’t think of any power that could possibly be like this one, but it was his only lead. Perhaps Peter had absorbed some power. Maybe that was why he didn’t want to go to the hospital.

There was no reply from his brother, though, and Nathan felt desperation gnawing at his mind like a pack of hungry dogs. Distinctly he recalled that fateful night in Wisconsin, when the beast that had attacked Peter. He hadn’t seen it, but there had been blood, which meant Peter had been hurt.

Suddenly suspicious, he looked out through the car window. It was getting steadily darker, and for a moment he considered a possibility: maybe something was wrong with Peter and the darker it got, the worse he seemed to get. He grabbed his calendar, and nausea filled his chest. It was going to be a full moon tomorrow. He glanced back at Peter, then at the calendar, and then out the window.

Then he threw the calendar away and banged on the dashboard in frustration. “It isn’t even the damn full moon yet!” he shouted. Peter didn’t even flinch. He just lay there, shuddering in pain, those alien eyes staring at him. Waiting. “Don’t you pull that werewolf stunt on me,” Nathan laughed nervously. “It’s not real. It’s just some power, and you believe in it…” He started the car and began to drive again. He was shaking, adrenaline pumping through his system as he considered his options.

Something scratched at the back of his seat and he turned to see. It was just Peter, looking just as agonized as before. He was clawing at the seats, the slim body spasming, and Nathan felt sorry for him. Maybe a hospital could help, but there wasn’t one he could reach, and Peter hadn’t wanted to go.

He focused on driving again. “Where are you going?” he asked himself out loud. “Where?”

Peter whimpered and gasped in pain. “Nathan…” he moaned.

“Where…” Nathan muttered, gazing frantically at the road ahead of them. Just then he saw a smaller road leading away from the highway, and he took it, not caring where it would lead. This made no sense, but if Peter had indeed copied the beast’s special power and was now getting just as crazy… Nathan suddenly didn’t want to be in the same car with him.

He drove as far as he could. When the road ended as a small dirt patch in the middle of the woods, he finally stopped. Carefully Nathan tried to even out his breaths, then looked at Peter. He was still shaking, disoriented, and when Nathan slid a hand against his head, the golden eyes flashed at him. Desperate. That was the look on Peter’s face. The same kind of fear as when he almost blew up New York, trying to stop but finding himself unable to. Pain.

Nathan tore out of the car, pulled one of the rear doors open and grabbed Peter, pulling him out. The younger man tried to stand, tried to hold on, the small pained gasps telling Nathan that the struggle was still going on.

Or perhaps the struggle had never been there. Maybe it was just this… transformation. Nathan didn’t know how he knew it, but he was aware that Peter wasn’t completely Peter anymore. Whatever was happening to him, it wasn’t going to apologize or hesitate. Which meant he couldn’t do those things either.

“Can you hold onto me?” Nathan asked.

Peter tried, he could tell, but his fingers were shaking and his grip was only fuelled by pain and fear. Nathan sighed, knowing they couldn’t fly. And God forbid if Peter changed into a monster mid-flight…

“You’re going to be okay, Pete. Come on. I’m going to take us somewhere safe.” And then he dragged them both into the darkening woods, praying for a miracle.

- - -

Nathan stumbled out of the old bomb shelter and barricaded the doors. The lock was rusty and his hands ached from pulling the bolt into place, but he managed it. Inside, he could hear Peter shouting – screaming – and it hurt him.

He gasped and took a step away, trying to breathe. In the moonlight he looked down at his hand, grimacing at the bloody welts Peter had left there. Perhaps the other hadn’t even noticed… Nathan certainly hadn’t noticed the claws until they had cut into his skin when Peter tried to hold onto him.

Inside, his brother still made enough noise for him to hear. Nathan paced, clenching and unclenching his bleeding hand. He couldn’t leave Peter, but what could he do? By some miracle he had found this dump. Now he just needed to figure out how to heal Peter.

Claire. The thought was as clear as day in his head. Claire’s blood would heal Peter. Nathan refused to believe this was some kind of power. It had to be a disease of some sort… There had to be a way for him to heal it!

It had become silent.

Nathan took a step towards the sealed iron doors, covered by a layer of undergrowth and rust. No one had been here for a long time. Peter would be safe. If only he survived.

He almost went and opened the doors, unwilling to leave his sick brother behind, but then he heard the growl. Not a human one, although one of pain. Not quite like the creature they had seen, either, but close. He took a step away from the door.

“Hold on, Pete,” he said out loud, then gazed up into the sky and shot towards the stars, not knowing if he had time to spare or not, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to wait around and find out.

- - -

“A werewolf?!”

Her voice was painfully shrill after Nathan’s long flight where all he could hear was the air passing him.

“Yes, Claire… I know how it sounds, but that’s what Peter called it, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to spell than lycanthropy.”

“I thought you politicians liked big words,” his daughter noted doubtfully

“Not when my brother’s turned into one.” And that was the truth of it. After seeing the eyes, and the claws, it was enough information for him to conclude that Peter was sick, and no way was he going to allow things to stay that way. Whatever he had turned into – not that he had stayed long enough to see it – was going to be removed.

“Why do you need me?” Claire asked, although she was already pulling out the few things she might need on their trip.

“Your blood might heal him.”

Claire nodded, then turned to him, her face serious. No one so young should look like that, but Nathan knew he was partially to blame for it. “What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s a power he absorbed?”

“We’ll think of that when and if that’s the case.” Nathan refused to think of it as a power, because if so… Peter would just have to learn to control it. And Peter’s track record showed exactly how good he was at controlling rogue abilities.

- - -

They arrived in Virginia late the next morning. Nathan was exhausted from flying back and forth, his entire body feeling strained, but he knew that soon he could rest. Peter would be fine, and this would all be over.

Finding their way through the forest and to the bomb shelter took time. Claire was impatient, but then, she only said out loud what Nathan was screaming in his head. It had been dark when Nathan dragged Peter there, but after they found the car, it took less than an hour to find the spot.

Only…

They both stared at it, stricken.

“I barred the doors,” Nathan said stiffly. Claire dashed forward before he could say anything else, and down through the open doors. Nathan followed her, feeling sick. “Is he in there?” he asked as he climbed down to the damp, stuffy space that wouldn’t fit any modern standards of a shelter.

Claire stood in the middle of the room, looking around. Nathan allowed his own gaze to follow hers in the dimness. The floor, the walls, and even the ceiling at places were covered in claw marks. At some places there was a dark stain. Blood. Nathan shuddered. He hoped it wasn’t Peter’s, but a bigger part of him knew that if someone had come in here, and that was their blood… there would have been plenty more of it around than this.

“Where is he?” Claire finally asked, her voice barely above a whisper. It seemed she no longer thought that Nathan had been joking about the werewolf thing.

“We’ll find him,” Nathan said – just to avoid saying ‘I don’t know’.

“What if we don’t?” Claire snapped, turning around to look at him. “You left him here, alone –”

“What was I supposed to do?” Nathan demanded, refusing to believe he actually had to justify his actions to his own daughter. But the ones of your own flesh and blood were sometimes the worst people to explain your failures to. As long as he didn’t have to tell their mother, Claire would be an easy task to deal with.

Claire huffed and breathed hard, but apparently she had reached the same decision as he: if Peter had turned into something, staying with him would have probably solved not a single one of their problems. Other than… “Well, he’s gone, and we have to find out how. It doesn’t look like he broke out,” she observed smartly.

“Which means someone let him out,” Nathan concluded. Not a nice thought, that.

- - -

Peter woke up with blurred vision and a tingling sensation of numbness running up and down his entire body. He was lying on a bed, and the room was dim. In the distance he could hear a sound like the crackle of fire. He blinked, waiting for his vision to return to normal. Then someone moved across his line of sight, and he jerked his head to follow the shadowy shape.

“You’re awake,” someone said, with a bit of an accent. The voice was warm, though, and a little worried.

Peter settled back down, and the shape came back. Now that he looked at it, he realized it was a young man, perhaps his own age, standing next to him; his eyes were still bothering him so it was hard to make out the details. He licked his lips, and found his jaws aching painfully.

“You want some water?” the man asked, then stepped away. He poured something into a mug from what looked like a canister, then came back to the bed. Peter tried to drink it, but kept coughing when he wasn’t fast enough to swallow. “Easy,” the man soothed and set the mug down, giving him a look. “It was a nasty trick they did. Was it your friends, locking you into that old shelter? You were lucky we found you – who knows, you might have died there.”

Peter frowned. His memory was just as fuzzy as his eyes, although both were starting to work slowly. A shelter? Friends? It didn’t make any sense.

“Shook you up pretty bad I reckon,” the guy went on, smoothing the blanket that was laid out over Peter’s body. “Don’t you worry: we’ll take good care of you. We’ll drive you back into town if you want.”

“How did you…?” Peter started, but his voice was raw and throat painful. It was as if his entire body had been turned inside-out.

“Find you?” the guy guessed his answer. “We and our parents come down here to hunt every month. We tend to check old abandoned places like that, just in case, but you’re the first we’ve ever found – other than dead animals. We found you this morning, but it didn’t seem as if you had been in there for long. You really got lucky; you wouldn’t wake up so my dad and brother carried you. We’ve been hoping you to wake up.”

Peter didn’t feel lucky, but he nodded, deciding he probably was just that.

A door opened and closed somewhere, and Peter could see more people entering his line of sight. He craned his neck to see better. One man was sitting in a chair in front of a fireplace – something he hadn’t noticed before. He blinked again, and noted his vision was gradually returning. A man and a woman were removing their boots by the door, and with a quick look around, Peter guessed this was a hunting cabin. A lot smaller that the one their father used to take him and Nathan, but he could recognize the smell of wood…

“How is he doing?” the woman asked.

“Better,” the guy standing next to his bed answered. “Running a bit of a fever.”

“Can’t understand the kids these days. Locking someone in there isn’t a joke,” the woman muttered, then came over to the bed. Her hand was cool against Peter’s forehead. “You’re safe now, sweetie. What’s your name?”

“Peter,” Peter said, then frowned. It was an automatic response, but… yes, that must be his name. It was strange he could remember he had a brother called Nathan and that he had never liked their dad as much as his brother, but his own name still eluded him. Must be the fever, he decided.

The woman nodded, then wandered off to the other side of the cabin, probably to make food. The young man who had previously come by also went to sit down, leaving Peter alone with his thoughts. He was still tired, and he could tell it was getting dark outside. He felt cold and hot at the same time, his body sweaty beneath the blanket. The sensation of something crawling under his skin wasn’t disappearing, but getting worse.

The mother offered him some hot soup, and after swallowing a few mouthfuls of it, Peter dozed back to sleep, the soft murmur of voices lulling him into dreamless oblivion.

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