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A Smile In Three Parts

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Sam Alexander hated Christmas.

He hadn’t always hated Christmas, of course. As a kid, it had been his favorite holiday. He had spent more Decembers than he could count sitting in front of the living room window staring out into the street, hoping against all hope that this year would be the year the town of Carefree, Arizona was hit by a freak snowstorm just in time for Christmas Eve. It never actually happened, of course, although there was that one time that a massive snowstorm covered the entire world a few days before Christmas Eve (Sam had later learned from Thor that this had been the doing of Malekith, the accursed, which kind of put a damper on that whole memory, but still). Anyway, snow or no snow, Sam had loved Christmas with the kind of intensity that only a child could muster.

But then he had gotten older, and he had started to see things that he hadn’t seen before, despite them being there all along. How his dad could barely make it ten minutes without downing some eggnog. How the floor beneath the Christmas tree was always practically bare, despite the liquor cabinet nearly bursting. How they all acted like everything was going to be different from now on, how they were going to make it work next year. And slowly those silent pleas for snow had turned into something else, something darker, angrier.

And –

And now his dad was gone. And all Sam could think about was how desperate he was to bring him back.

It was stupid. It was so goddamn stupid. His dad had ruined his favorite holiday with booze and selfishness and idiocy and now that he was gone all Sam wanted was to have him back. If being Nova had taught him anything, it was that the universe was funny like that, always throwing his wishes back in his face. The ol’ Alexander luck. Sam could only hope that his suffering was enough to keep the curse close to him and away from Kaelynn, who still loved Christmas with the kind of intensity that only a child could muster. The same kind of intensity she had loved their dad with.

And so Sam Alexander sat in front of the living room window staring out into the street, hoping against all hope that this year would be year his dad came back.

**

Kamala Khan hated Christmas.

It wasn’t the snow or the music she hated. It wasn’t the television specials or the decorations either. It wasn’t the presents or the trees and it certainly wasn’t the time she got off from school.

No, Kamala Khan hated Christmas because Christmas wasn’t for her.

Ammi and Abu didn’t understand – they had been born and raised in Pakistan, and by the time they immigrated to America, Christmas was nothing more than a charming but somewhat odd little thing that popped up every year after Thanksgiving and was forgotten by January. Aamir and Nakia didn’t understand – they had somehow managed to avoid the Christmas craze, and though they understood why it bothered Kamala so much, to be on the outside of Christmas looking in, they didn’t share her feelings.

Even Bruno didn’t understand, since as the grandson of two god fearing Catholics he celebrated Christmas every year with a frenzied cheer. Though to be fair, Bruno was one of the few things that made the holiday season tolerable – as soon as it was socially acceptable to leave the house on Christmas day, he would dash over to the Khans’ with an armful of Santa loot and they’d spend the next sixteen hours straight marathoning Avengers vs. X-Men the Game 5 or whatever else he had been lucky enough to receive.

But –

But this year there would be no marathon video game session. There would be no sitting by the door, eagerly awaiting the ring of the doorbell that signaled her best and oldest friend was finally here to help chase away the holiday grumps.

After all, Bruno wanted nothing to do with her.

So instead, when Christmas day rolled around, Kamala found herself lying on her bed, staring straight up and counting the cracks on her ceiling. It was all very entertaining and definitely distracted her from the fact that it was the worst day of the year and she had ruined the only part of it that had ever made her happy. Normally should would shake herself out of a slump by asking what Captain Marvel would do, but now that she knew the answer was probably "throw one of her friends in jail without trial because of something that might happen in the future," she was decidedly less enthusiastic about that course of action.

So instead Kamala Khan lay on her bed, and stared straight up, and counted the cracks on her ceiling.

**

Miles Morales didn’t hate Christmas, but he sure did hate himself.

He sat on the ceiling (ever since the spider bite sitting on the ceiling helped the butterflies in his stomach) and tried to close his eyes without being back there, on the steps of the capitol building. Eyes snap open, shake a little harder, focus, inhale, exhale, close his eyes and then suddenly he’s back there, holding Tony Stark in his arms wit the world falling to pieces around him.

Why had he done that? Why had he gone? If he had just stayed at home, if he had never taken that train down to DC, maybe it wouldn’t have gone down like that. Maybe without the spark his presence had provided, the battle never would have happened. Maybe everyone would have been able to calm down, talk it out. Maybe, maybe, maybe. He’d never know. Going had been so rash, so pointless, so…

So stupid. So desperate to prove himself a hero. Was that the lesson here? That a hero didn’t have to prove their heroism every time it was called into question? If the real…the original Spider-Man felt the need to do something drastic and stupid every time he was called a menace, he’d never get anything done. Maybe real super-heroes were just supposed to know they were heroes and tune out the doubt.

Well –

Well then he’d never be a real super-hero, would he? Because he didn’t know. Every time he put on the suit he felt like a pretender, a fraud hiding behind a stolen mask, a stolen name. At first he had thought that it was just jitters, that he would grow out of it after enough time in the field, but the feeling had never really gone away, just festered in the back of his mind, poking poking poking at his subconscious until it finally found him in a moment of terrified weakness and convinced him to buy a train ticket down to DC.

Tony Stark.

Dead.

Your fault.

The words echoed in his brain like a mantra. Tony Stark. Dead. Your fault. Tony Stark. Dead. Your fault. Miles curled up into a ball and hugged his knees to his chest and tried to think of something else, anything else, but then he closes his eyes and suddenly he’s back there, holding Tony Stark in his arms with the world falling to pieces around him.

**

And then the boy at the window –

And the girl on the bed –

And the boy on the ceiling –

All stop.

And at the same time –

**

02:14:25 Spidey: Hey
02:14:25 Rocket: Hey
02:14:25 Marvel: Hey
02:17:33 Marvel: Are you guys hungry?
02:17:51 Spidey: Yeah
02:17:55 Rocket: I could eat
02:18:26 Spidey: There’s a new chinese place near me
02:18:38 Spidey: I could swing by, pick some up
02:19:00 Rocket: Only if you promise never to use that pun again
02:19:20 Marvel: ^^^^
02:19:36 Spidey: Is it still a pun if I’m actually going to swing by?
02:20:13 Marvel: Yep
02:20:27 Rocket: It’s even worse
02:21:40 Spidey: Whatever. Meet on PI building. Last one there pays
02:22:02 Rocket: I'm in Arizona!
02:22:30 Marvel: YOU CAN FLY
02:22:30 Spidey: YOU CAN FLY

**

And then the boy at the window –

And the girl on the bed –

And the boy on the ceiling –

All smile.