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Title: In Ashes Lies the Path to Redemption

I hate coming up with titles. They-re always the last thing I come up with and half the time I don't feel that they fit, like in this case, so I'm going to be proactive and change it! Well, the real reason is because this title is absolutely perfect for the novel I'm working on (or should be), so I want to grab it for that one since otherwise I'd have to break my brain open trying to think of another one and that's no fun. So here's the new title for this one.

Title: Deserving Angels

I don't know how I feel about this one either, but what the hell.


Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Peter/Claude
Summary: Set between Volume 3 and 4. Claude had never given much credence to the idea of guardian angels.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own words.

May I just say that I love writing Claude? Not as much as writing Adam, but that's probably because I never had to stress with Adam while with Claude I spend half the time freaking out that I'm completely screwing him up. I felt that way a lot during this fic, even more than usual. But I still love writing him. Especially in first person.


Claude had never given much credence to the idea of guardian angels past the age of ten when he crashed his bicycle on his neighbor’s runaway skateboard and broke his leg. Lying on a scorching pavement with agony ripping through him as if someone cleaved through your bone with a chainsaw is what they were supposed to prevent, not allow if they really cared about the person they were sent to guard. Either his had no concern for his welfare, was off with some other angels playing cards instead of doing his job, or simply wasn’t there. Didn’t exist. Which amounted to the same thing. That time Claude vanished in a classroom when he was sixteen, the whole of the class screaming as his body appeared to disintegrate into nothingness and he stumbled into a desk in his panicked haste to leave, knocking it over on the floor in a shriek of metal that tore through his panicked heart only served to confirm this belief. And then... Then came everything else.

I've always had a troublesome relationship with guardian angels. When mom first told me about them, I in my paranoia didn't see them as a being that was there to help you, but rather as a spy of God, since this was around the same time that they told us in catechism that "God can hear your thoughts", which appalled me. Nothing was safe! Wasn't this the same god that had a commandment against coveting?! (Reaper, anyone?) Ahh! I musn't have been older than seven and I already freaking out. I'm weird. So I get the whole comforting side of guardian angels now, but back then I kept feeling like there was someone looking at me even when there was no one in the room. Ah, childhood. I would never go back.

He never gave it more thought, not when he stepped into a church in Prague to admire the architecture, not when he observed an Easter procession in Cuetzalan, not when a priest dropped his wallet in the midst of the crowd at Michigan Avenue and he felt obliged to retrieve it for him.

Random notes: Cuetzalan is a town in Puebla, Mexico that's really high up in a mountain and is a local tourist hot spot. It's got gorgeous, yet treacherous stone paved streets and is filled with wool garment markets. It also might be where I got food poisoning. Michigan Avenue is the most famous street in Chicago and is also the nicest. The most famous stretch is called the Magnificent Mile and though part of the reason for that might be because of all the high class shops, is also because of the lovely architecture. Okay, I'll stop being a travel brochure now.

I can never resist mentioning Chicago in fics whenever I can. It's just one of those things. :)



Yet that childhood fantasy, that flash of wonderment and awe that gripped him when his mother first told him as a child about those benevolent, supreme beings, painting visions of brilliant white wings and luminous smiles, it all came back to him now. Now as he lied on the freezing gravel, his right leg bent at an angle it should never bend in, his left side crushed in a wordless scream clawing at his weeping insides, the acrid stench of automobile exhaust stinging his nose, a thousand blaring sounds assaulting him all at once, people muttering, shouting, greedy faces peering at his broken body, more than had seen him in half a decade, no hope but to turn visible after he stepped off the curb, looking as always, but the taxi appeared just when he had his head turned the other way, one tiny millisecond, and there was no way the guy could see a man who wouldn’t be seen. Not until it was too late. Not until the impact sent Claude flying into the car opposite and he fell to the street.

It doesn't matter since I didn't specify this, but when I wrote this I pictured the street to be two way with the car coming from the right. Which means it was driving on the left side. In New York. *drops head in hands* I don't know what direction traffic comes from anymore! No worries. Just make it a one way street. That fixes everything.

He needed help. Outside help. Never had outside help in seven years, but no amount of stolen bandages and painkillers would fix this one up, not with the pain flaring so hard in his chest that he couldn’t breathe more than one raspy gasp at a time. It was the end. This was it. Curtains to his tragic story, a sad ending to a sad life and not one of these people clustered around him would care past tonight’s dinner gossip.

“Claude?”

And then he saw him. His guardian angel. Save this kind didn’t have wings or a bright halo of divine light, no incandescent white robes and beatific smile shining down on him. Just wide, frightened eyes and a paramedic’s uniform.

And don't we all wish this had happened in canon?

“Claude. Oh god. You’re going to be okay. You hear me? You’re going to be okay.”

“Peter?”

Quick hands probed his body, his chest, his leg, fingers like poking needles.

“His ribs are broken. So is his leg. Hurry up with that stretcher!”

Claude wanted to reach out, to feel Peter’s face. Was it Peter? Inches away, hands all over him. It felt real. Or was this some welcome hallucination brought on by shock and trauma and pure despair?

“Peter?”

“Keep talking to me. Does anything else hurt besides your leg and side?”

Peter’s hands were already on Claude’s head halfway through the sentence, but unlike before, this touch felt gentle as he stroked Claude’s skull.

“No. But I can barely breathe.”

“Okay. We’ll give you some oxygen. We’re just going to get you in the ambulance and then we’ll get you to the hospital and they’ll fix you, okay?”

“I’m not five. I know how it goes.”

I have no idea if anything that Peter is doing is paramedic protocol. No clue.

That drew a smile from Peter, but it was cracked and wobbled on his lips for only a second. Claude was lifted onto a stretcher, Peter holding him by the shoulders while some other guy Claude hadn’t even noticed grabbed his legs, but Claude kept his eyes on Peter, marveling at the vividness of his skin, his eyes, his mouth, his hands, all he’d thought dead and ashen in the clamor of a nuclear storm seven months ago, yet now here he sat next to him in an ambulance, placing an oxygen mask on his face, tending to his wounds, telling him everything was going to be alright and it didn’t matter if it was true or not. The only thing that did, as Claude finally came to realize in that terrible moment, his own blood seeping inside him in places it wasn’t meant to be, was that Peter was there with him.

And he stayed with him all throughout the ride to the hospital, on the way inside, as he informed the attending doctor of Claude’s injuries, hand reassuring and so very warm on Claude’s chilling shoulder, up until they pushed Claude down to that narrow corridor that led where outsiders couldn’t go and Peter vanished behind a pair of swinging doors and Claude could do no more than reach out into empty air.

||||

Someone was in his room. Claude felt him as soon as consciousness drifted back throughout his tired body, but it appeared trapped in a fog, the smothering bubble of half a dozen medications to stopper the pain grinding in his broken bones now wrapped in plaster, but he trudged through it to get at that warm, cherished presence, for he didn’t need his sight to know that it was Peter. Who else aside from staff would bother visiting him? Peter was the only person who knew he still breathed and it was precisely because of him that he breathed at all.

Peter.

Peter who didn’t die. Peter who still lived to do good things and save people and help... him. Peter who gripped his forearm, hand brushing down over his wrist to stroke his skin with a tense thumb, hand shifting in a hesitant, worried movement, almost like it wanted to move down and grab his hand, but Claude had never allowed him anywhere near enough familiarity for such a tender gesture. Yet nevertheless Peter was there, the tip of a closely clipped nail rubbing his tendons, such care for a lowly, wretched creature like himself.

To quote Tropic Thunder, the insecurity level with this man is ridiculous. But can you expect when even his best friend had no problem shooting him?

If he opened his eyes, he’d ruin it. Peter might jump back, excuse himself with embarrassed words that Claude wouldn’t find the courage to contradict and a gulf would yaw between them again, forded only by the flimsy bridge Peter insisted on building just so he could get to know Claude a little better.

Peter’s hand crept down, his palm cool on Claude’s knuckles, thumb twining under Claude’s own for a second before he drew back, leaving Claude altogether. Claude mourned the rapid scrape of Peter’s shoes as he rushed off, but the door didn’t open. His steps stopped at the other side of the room, a quiet, frustrated murmur drifting in the suddenly chilled air, but Claude couldn’t grasp the words.

Beep. Beep.

I'm thinking that machine shouldn't be there, but that's what happens when you leave the research until after the fic is posted.

The machine echoed his swelling heart with a rising barrage of bleating beeps to match his thundering heartbeat. Claude breathed deeply through his nose, begging his heart to calm down (don’t give me away, please), but Peter was already back at his side, no doubt frowning over the squiggly graph on the machine, trying to decipher how he’d screwed up and given Claude a heart attack, so Claude braced himself to just get this over with.

He’s so beautiful.

Head turned sideways, displaying his perfectly structured neck and jaw to their best angle, soft, dark hair loose over the right side of his temple at the corner of his concerned eyes, tender lips parted in bewilderment, how could he not think Peter to be an angel?

“Pete.”

How could he not be when his face lit up brighter than the white luminescence of the fluorescent lights at hearing Claude’s raspy croak?

“Claude.”

Happiness shone in his surprised voice and he hesitated for only a moment before squeezing Claude’s left shoulder, his hand so solid and real that Claude feared he might lose his iron tight restraint.

“Hey,” Peter murmured. “How you feeling?”

“I got hit by a car. How do you think?”

Is it just me or does anyone else find it a little ludicrous when you're curled up in pain or clearly broke something and someone asks you how you're doing? Shouldn't the answer be a tad obvious?

He didn’t mean to snark at him. He shouldn’t have, not after Peter saved his life again. He didn’t even want to, but before he could frame an apology that he’d never given anyone, Peter shocked him by widening his grin..

“Well, if you’re up for sarcasm, it’s a good sign.”

Could it be that Peter sounded fond?

Fond? Of the snark? No! Except that the answer is yes. Because Claude snark means Claude and Peter loves Claude.

“That hardly counts. It’s a cliché. My head’s all muddled.”

“That’s the pain meds. Expect to feel like this for a while.”

“I know. I’ve had worse.”

Peter’s smile faltered as he glanced at Claude’s chest, and he drew his hand back an inch, brow scrunching with guilt he had no part in.

“You saw,” Claude said, yet for some reason he didn’t feel the urge deflect and run, and not only because his body was all trussed up and immobilized by bandages, plaster and broken bones.

“Just um...” Peter’s melancholy eyes met his. “A bullet scar.”

“There’s two more. On my shoulders.”

Why was he telling Peter this? Why did the words come so easily?

“It’s why I’ve been running. Why I ran from you.”

“The Company tried to kill you.”

“Yeah.”

He curled the hand Peter had been stroking earlier close to his side, fingers flexing and twisting on the sheets.

“I thought you died,” he said, squeezing his teeth at hearing how forlorn his tone came out. “Up there. I saw you explode.”

Peter looked away, his frown deepening as tension stiffened his arm.

“You were here.”

Accusation stung in Peter’s tone.

“I’m sorry.”

When was the last time he’d used that phrase and meant it?

“I’m sorry I left you.”

Was it the meds? The pain? The shock that he might die and never get a chance to make things right when it finally mattered again?

It made me a little nervous when Claude started spilling the beans because I wasn't sure if he would do that so easily or not, but he wouldn't stop. I think it was the shock. Or the meds. Something.

He dared a glance at Peter’s face, that transparent, open face that just expressed every emotion without a hint of guile, and his breath caught on a smidgen of hope when Peter gave him a kind smile.

“It’s okay. I forgive you.”

Claude gaped at him, disbelieving his own ears. This was too much good luck. Such things didn’t happen to him, but Peter never spoke a word that wasn’t wholly sincere and a grateful smile burst on Claude’s face. His fingers twitched and Peter reached down, grabbing his hand firmly in his, fingers tightening when Claude offered no resistance.

“It’s going to be alright,” he said and Claude believed him.

FYI: There will be a sequel to this. I even finished the first draft. I just haven't had any time to work on rewrites this pas month due to the stupid thesis (how dare school take away my fun time?), so I have no idea when it's going to see the light of day, but it exists, I assure you.

From: [identity profile] lotus0kid.livejournal.com


Ooh! I like the new title better.

Okay, I'll stop being a travel brochure now.
Well, travel brochure or not, having concrete details like that to add is always good for writing. It makes the whole world your story is taking place in more tangible.

I don't know what direction traffic comes from anymore! No worries. Just make it a one way street. That fixes everything.
Heh, I was having a little difficulty understanding how he could break his right leg, and break ribs on his left side... But I guess if he broke his leg on the moving car's bumper.. which knocked him really damn hard into a parked car/car driving along the other side of the road... that could work.

I have no idea if anything that Peter is doing is paramedic protocol.
Even if it's not, the poor guy's flustered! The man he thought was gone forever has just literally crashed back into his life. I for one would be a little thrown.

I'm thinking that machine shouldn't be there
A heart monitor? Hm, I kind of think it would, y'know, just in case a problem does develop.

It made me a little nervous when Claude started spilling the beans because I wasn't sure if he would do that so easily or not, but he wouldn't stop. I think it was the shock. Or the meds. Something.
Aw, I think it's fine. I mean, he almost died- I really think that's sufficient motivation to get over some stuff and just tell Peter what he needs to tell him.

I even finished the first draft. I just haven't had any time to work on rewrites this pas month due to the stupid thesis
Dude, take care of your thesis stuff. I had four friends write theses- I know that stuff is killer. I'm thrilled the first draft is done, but re-writes can definitely wait until after the thesis stuff is done.

Thanks very much for the commentary!

From: [identity profile] guanin.livejournal.com


Really? Oh good. It took me like half an hour to come up with that. I don't know why titles are so hard.

I don't know why I felt the need to break two different parts of his body, but first I was focusing on the ribs because of the potential dangerous complications, but then the height of the car didn't add up, so I used two cars. And with the insane speed at which taxi drivers race down the street, even while turning, it seemed possible. And I just noticed I didn't mention the cab. It was there in the first draft.

Poor Peter. It doesn't get more personal than this.

So that's the trick. But I can't be almost killing Claude every time I want him to fess up to Peter already. It's so cruel.

*grumpy face* Fine. But I don't like the way I get when I work on that thing. I really think this stomach thing was at least partly stress related.
.

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