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Still falling

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It’s really the calm voice in the back of Miles’ head that knows. When he sees Fisk pound in Spiderman's chest with a wet crunch, that little voice narrates ‘This is really going to fuck me up later.’

But he doesn't really believe it. Because, he got through it. He saw it and he’s still doing things, still moving, doing and learning what he has to on the fly. He doesn't have time to try to return to his normal schedule. The next day he’s taking a trip with the older, grodier, version of Peter Parker and none of what happened the night before really hits.

None of what happened hits until he sees Fisk, the Kingpin, as the previous Spiderman had called him. Dark suit and little bald head against an impressive bulk, and, he’s headed into the place that the other Peter just went into, alone. And Miles can feel his heart hammering in his chest, can see his hands shaking because - because this has happened already, Spiderman left alone as Miles watches. He feels like he's been thrown back to the moment of that wet crunch. To the moment his parents watched it on the news, and he knew what he saw was real: Spiderman wasn’t getting up.

And he - he just watched - he just let it happen. And he was so scared but, he’s a Spiderman, Miles had known he was a Spiderman already. He could have picked up Peter and run, taken him to his mom, or a hospital, or wherever Peter had wanted to go. They could have come back together, as a team to help take down the super-collider, and - And he doesn't have time to freak out about this, because Kingpin’s walking inside and Miles can’t just watch Spiderman die again.

Stomach heavy, heart trying to escape, shaking from everything but the cold, Miles runs down the hill.

And they get away, and go to Peter’s Aunt’s place, and then -

He’s watching Uncle Aaron die. His fault. The little red circle of blood (entry wound), wasn’t even bleeding, but blood was pooling out under Aaron - something Mom said about exit wounds mumbling numbly in the back of his head, about needing to feel for them and apply pressure but, Aaron's already gone and it’s his, it’s -

And Miles just watches, again.

And he’s not ok, but he’s pushing through it and still Doing Something. He doesn't think he’s feeling it as much as he should, doesn't think it’s hit really. But he still assumes that this is gonna be it, the freak out part of grief is over and now he just has to live with a terrible absence.

He thinks that right up until he tries to go to school, the day after the collider. One of his parents must have called about Uncle Aaron, because instead of being yelled at by his first period teacher for the missed days she takes him to the side, and tells him he can leave any time he feels he has to. That she’ll get his make up work over to his dorm. Miles doesn't look at her, but he tells her he’s alright and takes a seat.

As soon as he sits down it he realizes, somehow, that he’s not. It’s like a buzz, he’s sitting in class with his notebook out and a million miles away and, he can’t. Stop. Seeing. The blood. Flickers of that little red circle in Uncle Aaron’s side, the crunch of ribs, the pop of the gun, the weird, awful way Spiderman’s shoulder was positioned and - and he doesn't know why he’s freaking out now. Now, at school, not right after it happened, not last night - just, now. Hot humiliation rises to his face, but it’s nothing to the overwhelming panic, and he’s crying and shaking and - and he gets up. Walks out of the room, blind to it.

He’s heading for the nurse’s office, and he has his phone, and he’s clicking his dad’s number, and his dad’s at work; he’s not going to answer, he’s not -

His dad's voice, sharp, concerned. “Miles? What’s going on, don’t you have class right now?”

And Miles is gasping, still crying and, “D-dad. S-sorry y-you’re at work I j-just -”

“Miles, it’s fine. What’s going on?”

“H-he’s -” and Miles is trying to wipe snot and tears away with the sleeve of his hoodie, but they just keep coming, and, “H-he’s dead dad, he’s really dead.” He thinks he mostly means Uncle Aaron. His uncle, the only one he's felt like he could really talk to for so long, and. The heartbreak in Aaron’s eyes when he took off his mask. Did he know that it would kill him? To let Miles go?

“Oh.” Mile’s can hear his dad’s voice break, “He is.” There’s a pause, a sucked in breath, and, “I don’t know why I thought work was a good idea. I’m coming to get you, where are you?”

Relief floods him: he half-expected his dad to tell him to get back to class, that when it gets tough is when you have to stick to it, but. “S-school, t-teacher said it was f-fine. Just, gonna h-hang in the nurse's office till you get here.” He chokes off a laugh and he doesn't know what’s funny.

He gets to the nurse’s office. He’s numb by the time his dad gets there, mostly cried out and not really feeling anything again.

And then it all comes back when his dad hugs him, crying too, crying together in this little office as the nurse tries to give them some space.

He goes home with his dad, they watch dumb movies until his mom comes home, and then they watch more dumb movies, and then they talk, and make funeral plans and -

And it takes a few days, for the new Spiderman to start doing patrols.

It takes a few days to go back to school. To catch up for the days missed takes longer.

And none of it is magically ok. Keeping up patrols, and homework, and art, is all such a welcome distraction from the fact that he’s sometimes, just, completely laid flat. The fact that Miles deals with guns and violence every night is all right for as long as he’s Spiderman, but he starts shaking when they do a lockdown drill at school and a teacher mentions ‘active shooter situations.’

The communication lines that Peni sets up are a both a blessing and... ok, not a curse, still a blessing. But when he asks old Peter about how to get over violence and not freak out about it, Peter replies with:

“Ah yeah, good old PTSD. Uh, you don’t, really.” He then goes on to explain that while he’s not an expert, and doesn't go to a therapist (both because of the whole ‘secret identity’ thing and because of a ‘temporary lack of health insurance’ thing) this is probably PTSD, and it’s still definitely a thing that happens doing what you do as Spiderpeople.

He has advice, things that help him through panic attacks, a variety of kinda maladaptive coping methods he lays in front of Miles from twenty-two years on this job. Things Peter still needs after twenty-two years of this.

This is forever, Miles realizes. A permanent change that came with the end of Peter P. Parker and Aaron Davis. In a weird way, it makes a lot of sense.

Miles still groans and slumps into his room’s chair. “Man, there really aren't any superhero-specific therapists?”

Peter chuckles unhappily. “Unfortunately not, kid. Most meds don't really work with our physiology ether, which leaves us several kinds of screwed in that department.” He shrugs “In my universe, anyway. It might be worth trying to find something in yours.”

Miles shrugs, “Eh. Maybe we should all try and find, like, secret superhero therapy stuff in our universes. Then whoever finds something can spread the wealth.”

Peter snorts and mimes putting an arm around Miles’ shoulder. “Yeah, alright kid.”