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faded pictures in abroken glass

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Peter gazes at the faces in the display case. They are smiling and clutching a trophy, the academic decathlon trophy from the year of the snap. He feels something lurch in his chest. Their once familiar faces— Abraham, Cindy, Sally and Charles— are not so familiar anymore. They have all grown up and gone to college. They had survived the snap and now the Midtown halls are lurking with faces he does not know. 

The faces he does know only make him sad. For they, too, were snapped from existence because he didn’t manage to defeat Thanos the first time. If only he had been faster or stronger or better, all of this could have been prevented and Tony—

Peter takes a deep breath. 

He feels someone saddle up beside him. “Did you know Cindy was decathlon Captain while I was....” Michelle pauses and Peter flinches at even the most oblique mention of what they have all lost. “While I was gone,” she finally settles on. 

Peter glances at the girl who has seemingly materialized beside him and she looks so sad. He supposes everyone looks sad now. 

 “MJ,” he tries to say, but she rolls her shoulders back, taking up the weight she had dropped for the tiniest moment to stare at old pictures, and shakes her head.

“I’m okay, Peter,” she reassures him. And it only sounds like mostly a lie.

It takes about six months of haunted hallways and frantic updates from friends and family and news for the whole world to settle into their new reality. Peter spends those six months upstate at the cabin in the woods with Morgan Stark. She is five years old and he wants to know the last living remnant of Tony Stark.

When he tells Pepper this, she smiles sadly at him and reminds him that Tony loved Peter, too. He stitched all of his hopes and dreams for the future in every suit he coded for him. It was a legacy in iron and steel.

Morgan Stark is a legacy in flesh and blood. And he visits every Sunday.

When Mr. Harrington announces their trip to Europe, it feels like a forced way to get the old decathalon kids that had been snapped to play nice in the sandbox with the new, younger kids who lived during those five years. Peter is still hazy on if he is truly older than all of these freshly minted seventeen year olds.

After all, he turned seventeen five years ago.

He doesn’t linger on the science or the implications. It is far too painful.

Flash snaps, like he has been spoiling for a fight since free falling back into existece, “I’m not going on a trip with these usurpers.”

Mr. Harrington suffers a long sigh, “I’ve told you, Flash. We’re all on the same team.”

He shakes his head, “No, we aren’t. I was on a team with Cindy and Abraham and Sally and Charles. I don’t know these kids.”

Ned tentatively tries to ease the tension, “We’ve known them for six months now, Flash.”

“Didn’t ask you, Leeds,” he rolls his eyes.

“Alright, enough,” MJ says, standing up from her seat at the end of the long library table. She blows some loose hair out of her eyes and Peter feels a really intense fondness flutter around his heart. In the six months since the returning, as the news has begun to call it, he has clung to MJ. She understands. Ned understands. Even Flash does.

The hallways feel foreign. The whole world does now.

The entire room quiets. She exhales wearily and says, “Flash, these are our teammates now. If you wanna stay on the team, you need to chill.”

There is an awkward pause. And it only grows more awkward when Mr. Harrington gently reminds the entire room, “MJ, you’re, uh, not captain now.”

The tall, Asian boy in the corner ducks his head in embarrassment and Peter feels his stomach plunge. The world has moved on without them. Five years was too long.

Michelle slowly sits down, thoroughly chastened, and Peter doesn’t think. He reacts. Underneath the table, he grabs her hand. She looks startled. But then, she squeezes his hand.

Sometimes, after that meeting, Peter holds her hand. She lets him. It is strange and weird and wonderful.

Ned notices.

Flash notices.

Even Mr. Harrington notices.

Peter pretends it isn’t happening, but, after months of haunted hallways and weekends with Morgan Stark, Peter starts to look toward the future instead of living in the past.

Live, he can almost hear Tony say. And when he looks at Michelle, he knows exactly how he plans to do it.