When Peter wakes, there’s something very, very wrong. He cracks his eyes open and he squints against the sun, brain swimming. He begins to try and piece together what has happened— the ship went down, someone dragged him from the water— but a painful aching from his leg stops him short. It’s the broken one, still in its cast but somewhat crooked, like the lower part detached and shifted itself. He may not have Vespa’s medical expertise but Peter isn’t an idiot, he knows what it means.
He grits his teeth, willing himself not to make any sound— for his own pride or for a long dead mentor whose scornful voice echoes in the back of his mind, reminding him that the slightest suggestion of vulnerability is weakness?— and begins to drag himself up through the sand with his arms until he’s made it away from the water. Every miniscule part of his body screams in pain as he does so, especially his leg, but Peter doesn’t stop until he’s forced himself into an upright position.
The rest of the crew are each strewn further down the shoreline, about ten feet between each of them. Though the nearest body is slumped facing away from him, Peter recognizes Juno’s dark curls and calls out hoarsely. His voice cracks near the end but Peter couldn’t care less, heart slamming against his ribcage as he watches Juno. It takes a moment but then Juno’s form rises slowly. Falls back down. Rises again.
For a moment the relief washes away thoughts of the terrible aching in his leg. It comes back though, slamming into him like an iron crowbar, when he tries to move towards Juno. This time, he can’t stop the hiss from escaping his lips. Peter collapses into the sand, gritting his teeth hard as the fire in his leg spreads, burning away any lucidity.
He lies there, silently shaking, willing himself to just file it away, but it’s no use. His leg does not fix itself. The pain does not ease. Peter cannot contain the few tears from forming at the corners of his eyes, no matter how much he files, how much he scrunches up his face to stop them.
Maybe a minute or an hour later, he hears Juno’s voice. It’s far away, like Peter’s been dunked into a fountain and his crewmates are miles above. Everything’s out of focus except the sharp, excruciating pain, but Peter knows that Juno’s shouting.
“Vespa!” he hears Juno scream. It’s far away, Peter might’ve thought it was whispered if not for the way Juno’s voice cracks near the end. “Vespa, get the hell over here right now, something’s wrong with Ransom.”
Peter thinks he smiles at this, his eyes prying open just a bit to gaze up at the lady who holds all his affection. Ah, lovely, considerate Juno, never one to reveal his name to anyone else even in such a crisis. Absolutely wonderful.
“Thanks,” Juno says, now looking at Peter, brows deeply furrowed in concern. Somehow, he still manages to look flustered.
“Ah, I presume I said that last bit out loud then,” Peter says, mostly to himself, trying his best to push away the pain in his leg and instead focus on Juno’s face. He reaches out blindly and Juno catches his hand, intertwining their fingers. “Well, it’s nothing you don’t already know, my dear.”
“Ugh,” Vespa’s voice cuts in. Her displeased face comes into view as she peers over Peter’s face. “Please spare me that bullshit. What’s wrong with him?”
Juno sighs heavily. “I don’t— I don’t know. He’s just lying here, I think it might be his leg. I dunno about you but it is not looking good.”
“Shit!” Vespa yells. “Ugh, something must’ve gotten knocked around in the crash. Ransom, sit tight and don’t you dare doze off or anything or I’ll fucking kill you, got it?”
Peter manages to roll his eyes. “I’ll believe that when I see it,” he says, blasé. “Please, I’m sure there’s nothing too major—”
He tries to stand again and immediately crumples again from the pain. Alright, it seems not.
Juno scoffs. “Like hell it is. Vespa!”
“I’m coming, Steel, get your panties out of a twist,” Vespa snarls, finally coming into view. She shakes off some sand and holds up her medical bag. “There’s not much I could do if I didn’t have my stuff.”
“Whatever,” Juno says, rolling his eyes, “just… help him.”
To Peter’s surprise, Vespa’s expression softens. Her eyes drift back towards where she came from, where he assumes Buddy must be, for a brief second. Then it’s gone and she rolls her eyes. “Whatever. Let’s see what’s up here, Ransom.”
The next few minutes are unpleasant, to say the least. Vespa grabs his leg, moving it around and only nodding whenever he shows any sign of discomfort. She asks him questions and hums to herself as she runs her test, and then, finally, she steps back and grows silent.
Turning to Juno she asks, “Steel, you got enough muscle to carry Ransom up off the banks? Carefully. I’m going to find the others and Buddy can lay everything out and we can find some shelter.”
“Yeah, of course,” Juno says immediately. The lack of argument more than anything is what strikes Peter as odd. He wonders when they became so agreeable. Or perhaps it’s just his mind trying to distract itself.
“Wait just one moment,” Peter interjects.
Juno freezes, arms outstretched to pick Peter up bridal style and Peter puts a reassuring hand on his arm but turns to Vespa. Anxiety is thrumming under his skin, and he hopes and hopes that it’s not what he thinks it is. But the universe has a nasty habit of spiting him, and it’s stupid to hope it will ever be fully on your side. He’s not dead, that’s about as much that Peter’s willing to bet the cosmos will allow him.
“What?” Vespa snaps, arms crossing.
“You did not say, is my leg still in proper condition for healing?” Peter asks reluctantly. He watches her expression falter and that’s all the answer he needs.
Still, she shrugs. “Well, not exactly,” Vespa says, guilt edging at her voice. “I can’t be too sure, but it seems to have been knocked out of place and will be a nonunion.”
“Which means,” Juno prompts. His brows are furrowed and almost unconsciously pulls Peter closer to him.
“Which means,” Vespa says with a sigh, “the landing messed it up. It’s going to be a long while until Ransom gets his leg back, if ever. You’ll be able to walk around just fine with some crutches, maybe a cane, but it’s pretty safe to say your career’s gonna stop here, thief.”
Even growing up, Peter was smart enough to know that Mag had some… issues when it came to particular kinds of people. After all, even the most well loved revolutionaries have their flaws.
Mag’s list was long. Near the top of that list sat people he liked to call the “incapable”. Anyone who could not perform up to Mag’s ridiculously high standards for whatever reason— whether it was being too short to reach the security cameras or not having the required sense of hearing to stand guard because you were unable to afford a hearing aid— was considered incapable. A failure. Unworthy of being part of his revolution.
He’d never say it to Mag’s face, but Peter always thought this was nonsense.
And yet, despite that silent protest, all he can think of now as he sits in the makeshift shelter with a wooden stick cut down into an appropriate sized cane is that he is incapable. He’s failed Mag. He’s failed himself.
Peter thinks of the debts he’s yet to pay, the liabilities he’s created by being on the Carte Blanche, true liabilities, people he’s come to care for and who he cannot sweep under with another false identity.
What have you done? he wonders to himself, staring down at his re-splinted leg.
For now, it’s only got a dull, persistent aching rather than the bone shattering pain from when he first woke up. It’s easy enough to push away when he doesn’t move around too much, but it still serves as a reminder of his newfound incompetence.
Peter’s pulled from his sulking by the sound of Rita’s voice, and he looks up just in time to watch her skid to a halt a foot away from him. He forces himself to put on a bright smile and nods to her. “Hello Rita, and how are you?”
“I’m doin’ great Mistah Ransom, Mistah Steel wants to talk to you though,” Rita says, rocking on her heels. “He looked kinda worried though, that creepy vein was popping out and everything, so I’d try and meet him near that cool bonfire looking thingy as soon as ya can. Take care of yourself Mistah Ransom!”
Peter glances towards the fire and finds Juno staring back intently. He nods slightly and refocuses on Rita. “Thank you, Rita, I hope the same for you. Hello, Juno, do come in.”
Juno looks around, scanning for other crew members then steps inside. He makes his way to Peter’s side in a few strides and Peter absently marvels at the reddish tint his dark hair takes on in the evening light. “Talk to me Nureyev,” Juno says quietly, eye searching Peter’s.
The love Peter sees nearly knocks the breath out of him. The openness and ease, so far from the surly and impatient lady he’d met so long ago as Rex Glass. So much has changed, and yet the way Peter’s heart gives a flutter is the exact same.
He averts his eyes. “Well, you know,” he says, voice light as air and hollow as a long-time-drained glass bottle. “Nothing I can do much about at this moment.”
“Juno,” Peter replies in a mocking tone. After a moment though he deflates, runs a hand through his loose, unstyled hair. “I’ll be alright, my love. Thank you for your concern I’m just… a bit in shock, is all.”
Juno squats down until they’re eye level and the look he gives Peter says more than he might be able to aloud. He knows. He knows it all too well, perhaps not the same way, but it’s close enough. Somehow, Juno’s always been able to know like that. Juno squeezes Peter’s hand tightly, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
“Nureyev.” Juno takes Peter’s other hand and something heavy and warm expands in his chest. “I know it’s… a lot, believe me I know it, after the whole… well, you know. I’m not saying everything will be sunshine and daisies, but this isn’t the end. Not yet. You’re gonna get up again and you’re gonna have all of us there backing you up. You’re gonna have me.”
Peter lets out a weak, pained laugh, pushing down the urge to cry. He’s not sure when the last time that even happened. Even when Juno left him in that hotel room all he’d felt was a sinking numbness, the immediate urge to push it all away and file it for future consideration. But suddenly he breaks his leg for good and it’s like he’s five years old again, standing lost in the middle of some Brahma street.
“Look at me though, Juno,” Peter says sadly. “I am useless. I’m… incapable. If I cannot do my job, my entire livelihood, what good am I? There’s no way I can do any heists anymore, as soon as the ship is fixed I will be left behind.”
“You’re still enough,” Juno says immediately. “You always have been and you always will be. It might not be the same exact master thief schtick anymore, but you’re gonna figure it out. You’re Peter Nureyev, dammit. The universe couldn’t stop you if you tried.”
Peter’s lips twitch into a small smile. It still feels a bit hollow, a bit pointless, but it’s still a bit better. “And try it just has, dear. But this time… This time I think it might have won.”
Without warning the first tear escapes. It’s nothing dramatic, everything is the exact same as it just was, but now there is dampness on Peter’s cheeks and he is silently sobbing into the crook of Juno’s neck. Warm circles roam across the small of his back as Peter shakes and more tears escape. At some point, Juno removes his glasses and pulls Peter even closer to him. Peter inhales shakily and returns the embrace.
They remain that way for a while. Perhaps it’s only minutes, but whatever had come over him has passed. Peter tries to sniffle as quietly as he can and leans back in Juno’s arms, eyes apologetic. “I’m terribly—”
“Don’t you even dare,” Juno cuts him off, rolling his eyes. “I swear to god Nureyev, if you say you’re sorry for this I will sic Rita on you for emotional comfort, you hear me?”
Peter opens his mouth to protest but closes it and shakes his head fondly. He rests his forehead against Juno’s and instead replies, “Yes, ma’am.”
Juno’s brows soften and he smiles. “Good. There’s still a few hours until dinner, do you want to take a nap?”
“I’d love to,” Peter replies.
Juno helps him stand up and Peter slowly makes his way to the bed rolls, sitting down carefully. He’s not quite used to it yet and it’s quite uncomfortable, but Juno was right. He’s gonna figure it out. And Juno Steel will be beside him while he figures it out.
The two slip under the fleece blanket and turn on their sides to face each other. Juno’s looking even more tired than Peter, nestled up in the blanket with his eye only half open. A wave of fondness engulfs Peter and he lets himself drown, he relishes in it.
“Juno?” he says quietly as he begins to drift. “Thank you.” I love you, his words say silently.
Juno does not respond aloud, but a warm, calloused hand finds his beneath the blanket, their fingers intertwining. Peter knows exactly what it means. You’re welcome, Juno’s soft fingertips say as Peter closes his eyes. I love you too.
(There are pretty bad days. There are days where Peter can hardly stand up even with his cane, the throbbing in his leg too much even for someone so well adapted to pain as Peter Nureyev. There are days where he glowers at the damn thing and refuses to use it, that stupid piece of wood that’s both the cage and key. There are days where he can do nothing but stare off and hear Mag’s words in his head, the anger and the shame seeing Peter like this— the thief without a name, no longer a thief at all.
There are days where he wishes he could simply cease to exist.
Juno sits with him on these days, sometimes. He brings him food and tea, extra scraps of paper to doodle on and trinkets he found on the beach. Rita might come and sit with him and put on one of her streams, chattering away until the pain’s at the back of Peter’s mind. Jet tags along sometimes, making those odd comments of his. Vespa’s snarky comments cease and instead she diligently provides anything she can to reduce his discomfort and Buddy smiles knowingly at them.
It does not change much, but it makes these days a little bit better with each soft smile, each space werewolf stream and terrible tasting herb with supposedly homeopathic properties.
There are pretty good days too. There are days where Peter manages to go at a pretty good pace and help out the rest of the crew and attend meetings on his own. There are days where he can even move around without his cane— even if for a short time— and pretend it’s like before. There are days where he and Juno walk out to where the ocean meets the sand and they sit there on rocks, watching the light fade. There are days where Peter is actually alright with his new situation, with the cane and the relearning, rather than seeing it as a burden.
There are days where he finds himself truly, undoubtedly happy.
Even then, nothing is entirely perfect, but he’s finding that Juno was right. It’ll just take him one step at a time.)