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Reality is an Illusion

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Everything was overwhelming to Peter. Even the stuffy confines of the Avengers compound made the teenager frustrated and anxious, and the bubble of paranoia festered in the pit of his stomach like some awful stew. Aunt May was at the hospital and Happy was keeping her safe from the press, which Peter appreciated beyond belief even if he was still unsure of how he felt about the two of them dating.

Even after death, Beck was still messing with Peter’s life and making everything more difficult. Peter had finally started to date MJ, he took down Beck before he could destroy London, and he’s considered an Avenger. But then that video was released and now Peter can’t even step outside, let alone attend school with everyone swarming him and stalking his friends. He just couldn’t catch a fucking break, could he?

Rubbing his eyes with his knuckles, Peter sighed heavily as he sat curled on the couch, making himself as small and invisible as possible. The remaining Avengers have been super nice to him, and Peter really doesn’t know if he deserves it.

Do you really deserve the suit?

If you were good enough, maybe Tony would still be alive.

 

The paranoid thoughts Beck has implanted in Peter’s brain continues to swirl around constantly in his mind, gnawing away at every ounce of common sense. Of course Peter deserves the suit! He knew that despite everything, but he still handed Edith over to Beck with no hesitation because his naive teenage mind believed this wonderful guy who knew what he was going through could give him a chance at a normal life. A life with MJ.

Just like that, Peter was back spiraling into Beck’s illusions and that horrifying zombie version of Mr. Stark screaming at him for being an idiot. Peter clenched his fists and squeezed his eyes shut, desperate to remind himself to breathe and that none of this was real.

“Peter? I sense that you are in distress. Do you need assistance?”

The calm female voice of FRIDAY snapped Peter from his anxious haze, his eyes shooting to the ceiling as if he was expecting to see FRIDAY herself. Peter swallowed and licked his lips, shaking his head.

“Uh, I’m all good. Thanks though,” replied Peter in a gravelly voice, mostly from the measly four hours of sleep he received in the last five days. He just couldn’t close his eyes without being pulled back into the horrifying illusions Beck put him through, and how real they seemed.

“If you are sure. I’m here if you need me, Peter,” said FRIDAY, her voice soft and kind. Something Peter really only got out of four or five people these days.

Peter cleared his throat. “Actually… FRIDAY, could you pull up the employees records and narrow the search for a Quentin Beck? He got fired around 2010.”

FRIDAY paused for a moment before bringing up a holographic screen in front of Peter. He was surprised at the amount of information there was. Beck was included in video files, which Peter found beyond unsettling.

FRIDAY interrupted Peter’s train of thought. “Given your current situation, I understand you are curious about Mr. Beck. But please be cautious, Peter.”

Peter elected to ignore her and clicked on the second video file which had a very alive Mr. Stark and Beck. They were both smiling.

“Test number 2 on holographic technology,” said the Mr. Stark on the screen, glancing over at Beck. “You all good back there, Becky?”

The camera moved into focus on Beck rolling his eyes, glasses hanging on his nose. Peter felt anger boil inside him. Beck had been close to Mr. Stark? Yet he still betrayed him and went to abuse his technology? Peter desperately wanted to punch something or someone, preferably Beck.

Peter was only ten seconds in and he couldn’t watch anymore, the memory of Beck still a fresh wound in his mind. Peter jammed his finger onto the pause button and waved the holographic screen away, curling into himself and clenching his fists.

“Peter, you have to understand-“

The teenager interrupted FRIDAY before she could finish her sentence. “What do I need to understand? That a man close to Mister Stark betrayed him and slandered his name? That Beck wanted to abuse Mister Stark’s technology for his own twisted purposes? Do I really need to understand that Beck wanted to kill me, even in his last moments? There’s nothing I need to understand, FRIDAY. Please… just drop it.”

The tension grew thick in the room as a layer of uncomfortable silence filled the room. Peter ran a hand through his hair and bit at his loose hangnails, which had become a gross habit of his in the past week after his identity leak. Peter had never felt such a large combination of fear and anger, which unsettled him that Beck was still present in his mind. It was like those thick green clouds of smoke were choking all rational thought from Peter’s mind.

Peter didn’t have his phone to distract him anymore, since no matter how many times he changed his number, people would still keep calling him or texting him. Social media was also forbidden to Peter no matter how curious he was; the criticism of the internet was not something that should be added to Peter’s ever growing anxiety. God, his life was a shit show.

“Peter, you have several notifications from your group chat. Would you like me to connect you?” Asked FRIDAY, Peter’s outburst seemingly already forgotten by the AI.

Peter licked his lips. “Uh, which one is it?”

“It is ‘Unqualified Hereos’. They keep trying to hack into my systems so they can talk to you,” said FRIDAY, amusement clear in her voice at the idea of teenagers hacking the most secure building in the world.

Peter sighed. “I guess, yeah.”

A few moments of silence as another holographic screen popped in front of him. There were hundreds of unread messages from the past week, maybe even thousands. Peter skimmed through most of them.

Sept. 4th, 2019
Sent at 11:08AM

[Your Queen] hey mj, is spider-boy at school today?? he hasn’t been answering my texts

[Dahlia] nope

[Dahlia] he’s taking a break from everything atm and no social media for him. he’s v stressed

[Pair of Idiots] u know

[Pair of Idiots] we can scare the shit outta ppl if they don’t stop bothering pete

[Trouble] i may be in space but I’m always ready to kick midgardian ass

[Chewie] honestly? big mood

[Chewie] but he really needs a break tbh, the whole thing w Beck really fucked w his head

[Chewie] which is understandable

[Burnt Chicken Nugget] hey does anyone know necromancy

[Burnt Chicken Nugget] because i need to kill fish bowl bitch again

[Your Queen] wade you have piqued my interest

[Arachnikid] y’all i leave for a week and this happens

[Pair of Idiots] PETE

[Your Queen] MY SON HAS RETURNED

[Burnt Chicken Nugget] PETEY!!! UR ALIVE!!!

[Arachnikid] imma bad bitch u can’t kill me

[Arachnikid] what’s up gamers friday finally gave me access to the interwebs

[Chewie] when u coming back to school?? mj and i really miss u!!!

[Arachnikid] idk depends on when this whole thing dies down

[Pair of Idiots] that’s super hard to determine kid, the media is full of crazy vultures

[Your Queen] u would know bc u r one of them

[Pair of Idiots] you got me there

[Dahlia] hey i may or may not be in the principal’s office bc i punched eugene

[Arachnikid] that’s fair

[Burnt Chicken Nugget] if it’s mj, it’s justified

[Dahlia] yeah he said that i was only dating u bc i found out u were spiderman so i kicked his ass

[Your Queen] u go girl

[Burnt Chicken Nugget] yasss kween

Peter looked up briefly from his little holographic screens and the small smile on his lips disappeared as he caught sight of Mr. Rhodes and Ms. Potts (or should he call her Mrs. Stark? He’d ask later) walking through the sliding glass doors. He immediately shut down his texts, worried Ms. Potts would get mad at him for being online since she was the one to put the social media break in place.

Ms. Potts turned her head and offered Peter a kind smile while Mr. Rhodes saluted, which Peter answered to both with a shy wave. His hands sat in his lap, cracking individual knuckles as the two adults approached him. He couldn’t help but feel guilty about breaking Ms. Potts’s rule since she’d been so accommodating to both him and May.

“Hey Peter, how’s it going?” Asked Ms. Potts, her voice kind and gentle, something that had changed in her after Mr. Stark’s death.

“Uh, I’m doing alright I guess. Wish I could go outside without being swarmed, but I guess that’s my life now,” said Peter, his poor attempt at humour making Ms. Potts shuffle nervously and Mr. Rhodes cast a pitying glance at Peter. Peter didn’t like how awkward this conversation was getting as he shifted his position on the couch and brought his knees up to his chest.

Peter cleared his throat, wanting desperately to clear the tension in the room. “So, uh, what’s happening? Does the world need saving again?”

“You’re currently on hold for your world saving. Leave that to the adults,” replied Mr. Rhodes, causing Peter to huff in annoyance at the obvious play of ‘I’m the adult and you’re the child, so just chill’ card. Everyone seemed to be doing that, and even if Peter was under house arrest, he still wanted to be Spider-Man.

“What about neighbourhood saving? When can I get back to Spider-Maning?” Asked Peter eagerly, making Ms. Potts purse her lips.

“Kid, you really need to chill out. You’ve had a lot on your shoulders lately, and you haven’t even had time to grieve,” said Mr. Rhodes.

Peter snapped his head up to him and casted a glare up to the older man.

“What’s left to grieve? Mr. Stark gave me a responsibility, so I’m doing what he wanted! But you guys are just preventing me from doing so and treating me like I’m glass! I’ve fought against the Vulture! I got myself out from under a building! I fought Thanos!” Peter paused to take a shaky breath, his hands clenched into fists. “Let me help! I’m just as much a hero as you guys! I’m not just a kid!”

“But shouldn’t be able to be a kid and live your life to the fullest? It’s what Tony wanted for you, not just hero work,” said Ms. Potts.

Everyone froze at her words before Peter pushed himself up off the couch and passed the two adults without a word. He hated how her words made his eyes glisten with tears, so Peter hurried out of the room with a sniffle and a sob caught in his throat.

He should be over Mr. Stark! Why hadn’t Peter stopped tearing up at every mention of Me. Stark? Was he really that pathetic?

Clingy.

Desperate to prove himself.

You’re just a scared little kid in a sweatsuit.

The metal door hissed as it slid shut, giving Peter no satisfaction of slamming the door shut behind him. Peter’s breath hitches, his sweaty palms clenched into fists as he brought his right hand up and punched the wall as hard as he could. Through Peter’s teary eyes, he saw the large dent made in the wall by his super strength.

He couldn’t even control his own emotions.

Peter’s swirling emotions made his thoughts all muddled, everything around him just a large haze of confusion and fear and anger. Peter knew this made him a pathetic excuse for a superhero.

A faint hissing noise interrupted Peter’s self deprecation, assuming it was either Ms. Potts or Mr. Rhodes coming to check on him. Hastily bringing his forearm up to his face and using the sleeve to wipe away the tears of frustration that stained his cheeks, Peter turned around to see not Ms. Potts or Mr. Rhodes, but a cloud of swirling green smoke.

It was the same colour as in the illusions Beck used, but that was impossible! Maybe Doctor Strange was paying him a visit? He’s been doing that a lot these days.

The smoke was moving around slowly, moving upwards and compacting into a shape. A large triangle the size of Peter stood in front of the young teenager, and the green smoke dulled in colour before it lighting up into a neon green light and portraying the familiar triangles Beck used.

“It has to be Doctor Strange. Beck is dead!” Muttered Peter, biting his lip as the light grew so bright that he had to shield his eyes and turn away. The loud hissing ceased and the light began to dim, followed by a thunk.

“Pete? Is that really you?”

Peter turned his head back to the triangle and there Quentin Beck stood.

Chapter Text

Relying simply on his instincts, Peter didn’t hesitate as he charged towards Beck and slammed directly into him. Beck letting out a surprised exclamation of pain as his body made contact with the metal wall behind him. Peter spun on his heel, recovering quickly and landed a solid kick into Beck’s chest. How was Beck alive? He died in Peter’s arms! Peter felt his pulse stop and watched as Beck’s body went limp!

Beck furrowed his eyebrows as Peter moved to land a punch directly into his face, only to have Beck’s hands come up and clench his fists, green smoke swirling around the villain and then Peter’s body. Peter felt his body go rigid and his arms snapped to the sides of his body, and Peter felt his breath catching in his throat as his mind was desperately trying to get him to move forward and get Beck away from him.

“Hey, Pete, it’s alright,” said Beck, his hands raised as they swirled with green smoke.

‘Don’t listen to him,’ Peter said to himself. ‘It’s just an illusion.’ Was this some sort of delusional episode in result of stress? Beck was dead, so this had to be fake.

But it felt so real.

Squirming against the fake restrains Beck had put on him, Peter’s chest tightened he noticed Beck approaching him. “Get away from me! You’re not real!”

Beck seemed to stop for a moment, tilting his head. “Pete, what are you talking about? It’s me. You know me!”

“Shut up! You’re not real! I watched you die! You had your goons leak my fucking identity!” Screamed Peter, Beck reeling back as if he was hurt by this and his face contorted to something in between fear and confusion. Peter wouldn’t fall for his fake emotions again.

Beck sighed heavily. “Seems I got some calculations wrong… Tell me, who am I? What have I done to hurt you?”

Peter gave him a disbelieving look. “Are you fucking serious right now? You tried to kill me and my friends! You faked being my friend so you could steal Mr. Stark’s tech and-”

Beck groaned and rubbed his glowing hands down his face. “Oh fuck. Okay, listen, I just… I made some wrong calculations and I’m going to let you go so I can explain what’s going on. I know you have absolutely no reason to trust me in this world, but just listen.”

Peter clenched his teeth together as the glowing smoke swirled away from him and back to the tips of Beck’s fingers. The invisible restraints loosened around Peter’s arms as Beck let the illusion drop. Peter glared furiously at Beck, using every ounce of control to refrain from punching the bastard in front of him.

“Spit it out or I’m going back to kicking your ass, fish bitch,” spat Peter, a surprised snort of laughter escaping Beck’s throat as he rolled his eyes at Peter and smirked slightly. He had the audacity to look happy after what he had done to Peter!

“Remind me never to piss you off again,” muttered Beck, sighing as he ran his gloved hand through his hair. “Look, I’m, uh, in a situation because I’m not from around here. I tried to travel back in time, but I must’ve gotten to calculations wrong with the application of the quantum realm because instead of breaching through time, I got through another dimension.”

Peter scoffed, crossing his arms. “Yeah, that one didn’t work the last time. I still call bullshit because that’s the fakest shit I’ve heard.”

Beck raised an eyebrow at him. That smug bastard. “Hey, where are you listening skills? I didn’t ask you to believe me, because it’s clear you don’t, but just listen. In my universe, I’m working alongside Stark Industries and helped Doctor Strange defend my earth from supernatural threats.”

Peter shuffled uncomfortably, the civil nature of Beck making him tense. “Okay, so how do you know me? Because you seem to be pretty friendly.”

Beck cast his glance down and clenched his fists. “You, uh, I met you after Germany and helped make the suit for you. I helped you train with it and tried my best to protect you. But uh, you died fighting against the Vulture after a building collapsed on you.”

Peter’s breath hitched. How could Beck know about that? It was common knowledge that Spider-Man fought against the Vulture, but no one knew that the building fell on him while he was in his shitty homemade suit. Peter bit the inside of his cheek and eyed Beck with suspicion. The man’s eyes glistened, which was out of character for a madman like Beck to even show emotion. Peter was starting to believe Beck, but he couldn’t. That was the mistake he made in the first place that got him into this mess.

“Okay… then how can you do all your illusion stuff?” Inquired Peter, Beck making eye contact with the teenager once more and Peter quickly averted his gaze to the floor.

“I’m, uh, enhanced,” said Beck, like that was enough information for Peter. “Mix of dormant mutant abilities and a freak accident. Let’s just say that Stark is the reason I’m alive and still employed today.”

Now that was odd. Beck obviously hated Mr. Stark and continued to abuse the technology he stole from Peter because he envied Mr. Stark and Beck claimed that the billionaire “stole” his technology. Peter hated how he was starting to believe this stupid story again when this was obviously another ploy to try and manipulate Peter again.

“Okay, whatever. I don’t actually believe you. You’re probably just some stress induced hallucination or something,” said Peter, desperate to rationalize what was happening and refusing to trust Beck. But it didn’t make sense that Beck was able to make a dent in the wall or how he was able to restrain Peter with his illusions. God, this was making his life so difficult.

“That’s expected,” replied Beck, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly. “I obviously did something shitty in this universe to make you not want to trust me, but it makes everything super difficult for me.”

“Good, because that’s what I was aiming for,” Peter deadpanned, Beck raising an eyebrow at him and smirking slightly. It sent chills up Peter’s spine since that smirk was so similar to the one Peter had to fight barely a week and a half ago.

Beck sighed. “Okay, look. Let’s just talk to Stark and Strange. Then you’ll be able to trust me.”

Peter froze, eyes wide and the anger buried in him began to boil to the surface. “Mr. Stark is dead, Beck. You know this.”

Beck’s face morphed into that of a look of confusion. “Uh… shit. Really? He survived against Thanos, he has to be alive. He helped me with the equations you left behind.”

Peter’s breath caught in his throat. “No, he’s dead. Stop playing games, Beck!”

Beck’s face fell and his fists shook at his sides, bits of green smoke swirling around his fingertips as a look of anger crossed his face. Peter hated talking about Mr. Stark because everytime he was mentioned Peter began to tear up and his emotions spiralled out of control. But Beck seemed to be really dedicated to his act, because the man seemed to actually distraught at the news.

They stood like this, silence thick between the two of them as Beck seemed conflicted in his emotions and the green smoke swirled around him, and Peter contemplated his next course of action against the man. The story was probably bullshit, so Peter trusted throwing Beck out the window. Maybe he could tell Ms. Potts? No, he had yelled at her, so she probably didn’t want to help Peter.

Muffled yelling interrupted this silent standoff between the hero and villain, made up of the obvious voice of Ms. Potts along with a few other people.

“Aren’t… supposed to be… class?” Came Ms. Potts’s elevated voice, Peter only catching a few words from her full sentence.

“He’s our best friend, Ms. Potts! With all due respect, we deserve to be the ones to support him!” Came a familiar voice, and Peter’s mind clicked as he registered Ned’s voice and more muffled conversation. Peter beamed at the thought of his friends coming to visit, and they would be able to help him with the Beck situation! Speaking of Beck, the man had finally snapped out of it and turned towards the door with furrowed eyebrows as the sound of footsteps and muffled talking was heard outside the door.

The hissing of the door opening revealed four teenagers. He recognized as MJ, Ned, Loki and Shuri, plus Ms. Potts lingering behind them. Peter moved forward to greet them but noticed they were all frozen with various looks of anger ridden across their faces.

MJ was the first to speak up. “What the fuck? Isn’t this bastard supposed to be dead?”

Ms. Potts held her arm out and summoned the repulsor glove from the Iron Heart armour, turning her hand and pointing it at Beck who had backed further into Peter’s room. Shuri followed suit and rotated her kimoyo beads to form her arm n and point them at the villain. MJ held up her fists and Ned hid behind MJ, relying on Peter’s girlfriend to protect him. The only one who hadn’t moved into fighting position was Loki, who looked up at Beck with a tilted head and a curious smile.

“Peter, step away-” Ms. Potts began, but was interrupted by Loki pushing his way through the crowd and towards Beck, everyone eyeing the god with suspicion as he brought his hand up to Beck’s face. No one dared to step forward or stop the god, afraid of what triggering a massive fight that would destroy Peter’s room. Peter really didn’t want another supervillain fight to happen here.

“Uh… Loki? Bad guy is not to be admired like that! He’s supposed to be taken down by us!” Said Ned. Loki didn’t even acknowledge that Ned spoke as he continued to examine the villain.

“His aura is… odd. He vibrates at a different frequency that anyone I’ve seen…” said Loki, green sparks floating from his fingers as he pursed his lips. “You’re not from this world, are you?”

MJ and Shuri glowered at the scene while Ned gaped with an open mouth. Ms. Potts remained staring at Beck with a fixed expression. Peter spoke up.

“Loki, you can’t be falling for this? You’re like, the god of illusions! He’s obviously just a hologram or something!”

Loki shook his head. “I’m afraid not, young spider. You see, each universe has particles that vibrate at a different frequency. Think of it as the tiniest detail that allows us to distinguish us from our alternate counterparts. While everyone’s auras are different, the frequency is the only constant that makes us part of this universe. He is not from this one, and I don’t like it either, young spider.”

Beck had a stoic expression on his face as Loki stepped away from Beck and brushed a strand of his black hair behind his ear. “Guess that proves my story, then.”

Ms. Potts finally spoke up. “Even if Loki can vouch that you’re not from our earth, it doesn’t mean you should be trusted! Right now, we have no reason to trust you because you just leaked the identity of a sixteen year old boy to the entire world because you had to have the last victory! So I suggest you start explaining and getting some evidence to back your story up.”

Beck nodded stiffly. “Fair enough. Do you want me to explain now? Because it’s a long fucking story, and I suggest we sit down for this.”

Shuri cocked her head to the side. “We will gather in the living quarters and you shall tell your story, real or not. But we shall have our weapons remaining on you, and we will not hesitate to fire if you make so much as one wrong move.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

 

The group all gathered into the room where Beck opted to sit on the couch and Loki across from him on a cushioned chair. Ms. Potts and Shuri remained on guard, weapons loaded and humming softly as they flanked each side of the couch Beck was sitting stiffly on. Ned and MJ stood behind Loki, Ned shuffling awkwardly and MJ having a firm grip around Peter’s waist, which was quite comforting.

Beck cleared his throat, shifting slightly. “Where do you want me to start? Because there’s a lot of places I could begin.”

“Start when and how you got employed by Tony Stark,” said MJ, Peter stiffening at the mention of his dead mentor’s name. He felt MJ’s arm curl tightly around him, pulling Peter closer to her.

“Uh, alright…” Said Beck, running his hand through his hair before taking a deep breath. “So, I, uh, had been dumped by my fiancé and was doing hacking jobs to make ends meet. I got someone to hire me to break into Stark Tower and steal some vibranium in one of the most secure vaults- which was nuts! But I was desperate and needed the money.

“No surprise, I got caught and was met with Iron Man’s repulsor in my face. The first thing he asked me was how I got in. So I explained, and he offered me a job- a job of all things- as one of his personal scientific assistants to develop a new therapeutic technology. So we worked together, but uh… I had some unsolved mental issues and it was starting to get to me, and I was super lucky that Stark saw the signs and got me the help before it was too late.”

Peter held up a hand. “Wait wait… what undiagnosed mental issues?”

Beck squirmed in his seat. “Uh… I was living with paranoid schizophrenia. Not exactly something you should be living with unchecked.”

Peter nodded stiffly. Did the Beck of this universe have the same mental health problems? Did Peter let a man who needed professional help die? Now Peter felt a pang of guilt firmly planted into him as Beck continued with his story.

“Uh, I got into an accident while working with some experiment technology, which both enhanced and awakened my mutant abilities I never knew I had. These abilities were to manipulate the light and particles around me to anything I wanted it. That’s around the time I met you, Peter. You had just come back from Germany, and Stark would not stop talking about this kid from Queens. I met you a couple times and helped you train with your suit functions, but uh… it seems they didn’t help because you died fighting the Vulture.”

The silence grew in the room as everyone visibly tensed, knowing full well that Peter could have perished fighting his first major supervillain, but Beck decided not to dwell on such a topic and continued.

“Uh, everything kind of went by in a rush after that. I found your equations and theories on time travel and wanted to work on those to get you back and shit. Uh… trained at the New York Sanctum with Doctor Strange.”

Beck fiddled with the ring on his left hand as he mentioned this, which made Peter raise an eyebrow. He’ll find out about that later.

“And now I’m here, I guess,” finished Beck, spreading his arms out and smiling nervously. “Questions?”

Several voices spoke up and overlapped each other.

Chapter Text

“Holy shit! I can’t believe the multiverse actually exists!”

“Wait wait, you were friends with Stark? I mean, I guess it could make sense if it was an alternate universe…”

“So who was right? Are parallel universe corresponding to the bubble theory or the singularity theory? I mean, you would have had to create a black hole-”

“How many things are different where you’re from? Do our actions here have an opposite effect and just creates an infinite amount of universes? Are we the original earth or are we just a copy?”

“Are all the heroes the same?”

“Alright everyone, enough!”

Ms. Potts’s raised voice caused everyone’s overenthusiasm to cease, an the teenagers’ mouths snapped shut. It was extremely rare to have Ms. Potts raise her voice. Even the sheer implication or suggestion that she would made people shudder because she was a force to be reckoned with.

Peter’s ears were thrumming, blood rushing through them and his breathing seemed to increase every passing moment. What seemed like deathly silence to all his friends wasn’t silence for Peter; he heard everything from the fly buzzing around to the lights hanging from the ceiling humming softly with electricity. He wished that he couldn’t hear anything and could just participate in the shocked silence, but his anxiety only grew at every little sound in addition to every passing second the longer he stared at Beck.

Peter was still having a hard time buying the story Beck was selling. Yeah, he had proof and all that, but seriously? Beck from this universe fooled even Fury with all the illusions and how everything seemed possible nowadays, so what was so impossible about an alternate universe? But distrust lurked in Peter’s mind, whispering at him to just toss Beck in a cell and let him rot, that it was fine if this Beck were to pay for what had happened to Peter because the other one was dead.

Peter shook his head in an attempt to clear those thoughts from his mind as he turned his gaze back onto his friends and Ms. Potts. The CEO of Stark Industries looked exhausted as she ran her hand through her hair, huffing out a breath of frustration as she closed her eyes to concentrate. Peter felt a pang of guilt at adding to Ms. Potts’s stress.

“Okay, I know everybody is pretty shocked at all of this-”

“Not really,” interrupted Loki, earning a stern glare from Ms. Potts, which had the goddess sink back into her seat (Peter wasn’t surprised at the sudden change of form; it was just a thing for Loki and he respected her for it).

“But, we need to keep our heads. Peter’s still dealing with the backlash from his identity leak, and we’re still trying to get all the Avengers available to deal with world issues,” said Ms. Potts, the tone shifting into serious and solemn. “Mr. Beck, with all due respect, not a lot of us are too certain to trust you after what happened, so we’ll have to have you stay in the compound under our watch just to make sure. I’m certain you understand.”

Beck replied with a firm nod. “Understandable, Pe- ah, Ms. Potts. I’ll do whatever you need me to do to get your trust.”

Peter clenched his teeth and crossed his arms. Maybe he was putting his suspicions on high alert because he didn’t want to get hurt again and hated the idea of having an honest version of Beck here. It gave Peter a chance to actually form a real relationship with the man, and that kind of scared him. So he pegged his doubts to Beck just being a mega douche in his universe and Peter thinking that it was one of the constants in every world.

Ms. Potts continued speaking as Peter was lost in thought. “-those seem like reasonable rules, don’t they? Oh, and in addition, Ned and MJ, you guys will be attending school as per usual, but you kids are welcome to visit after. Loki, your room is set up. Yours is as well Shuri. You ladies can stay here as long as you want.”

There were some protests from Ned and MJ, but ultimately they submitted to Ms. Potts’s rules since they would be able to regularly visit Peter after two weeks of not seeing him. Peter smiled at how much his best friend and girlfriend wanted to support him. It was something Peter really missed about them and valued in general.

Loki folded her hands behind her head and leaned back in the chair, smirking to no one in particular. “Oh, this will be fun.”

Fun was one word for it.

---------

Two days into Beck staying with them and Peter doing everything he could to avoid the man. Peter was actually going to go insane if this much awkwardness continued to hang in the air. Peter hated living with tension in the house, and it was seemingly elevated in the case of his enhanced senses (Peter briefly wondered if his emotional senses were enhanced as well as his physical, concluding he would have to test that out later).

Wandering through the empty halls at two in the morning, Peter sipped on what was his third can of RedBull as he made his way down to the labs. Peter couldn’t sleep, so when he finally gave up trying to sleep peacefully, he trudged his way down the levels of the compound. Mr. Stark hadn’t slept very often, so when Peter couldn’t and Mr. Stark wanted to help him, they’d work on little projects together until they finished or Peter passed out on the table. A painful sting in Peter’s chest welled up at the thought of bonding with Mr. Stark, nearly making him drop his energy drink as the tears welled up in his eyes before he hastily wiped them away with the sleeve of his shirt.

Peter stopped just a few feet away from the kitchen as he heard the faint murmur of a conversation. Peter supposed that curiosity hasn’t killed him yet, so he might as well do some snooping to quell the boredom. Besides, it only got him in trouble 67% of the time.

“...do they work? I’m guessing my abilities are different from yours.”

Peter froze at the sound of Beck’s voice, his heart pounding in his chest at the thought of what the man was talking about and with. Was he trying to gather secrets on everyone’s weaknesses? Peter took a step forward and focused on the conversation.

“Well, I suppose,” said the second person who Peter recognized as Loki. What was she doing up so late? “I was born with it. My seidr, I mean. It’s a natural flow of energy in my form- something I learned to harness at a young age thanks to my mother.” A pause. “I guess it could be described as a connection between my magical energy and the energy of the universe. What you midgardians call physics, I suppose.”

“Huh, that’s pretty interesting. I’m not sure how Asgardian magic works, but my abilities seem to just be able to manipulate the particles of light and matter into what I want it to be. But I need a physical focusing point, and I guess the green smoke was just the thing I needed.”

A clink on the counter. “Well, I can respect your flare since presentation is everything. Perhaps we could train together and compare how our abilities work? It would gain a better understanding for the both of us.”

“You sure you trust me? Because I don’t think I would be allowed near a spoon if it would mean I could hurt someone with it.”

“I don’t trust you, and I rarely trust people in general. I suppose it could be best described as a certain respect for you and your art. Don’t get me wrong- I will absolutely destroy you if you hurt any of my friends- but you seem alright. What do you say tomorrow afternoon?”

“Alright. I appreciate you not treating me like a ticking time bomb like everyone else.”

“I mean, it’s how everyone has treated me all these years, so I refuse to make anyone endure that.”

Peter fled quickly as he heard the scraping of chairs against the floor, slinking around a corner and sighing in relief. Peter couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of betrayal at how friendly Loki and Beck were. It felt like Peter was being robbed of what few friends he had.

Maybe he was just being paranoid.

-------------

The next person Peter overheard talking with Beck was Shuri. Peter enjoyed the Wakandan princess’ company and liked that she could teach him things about her science and culture at the same time. That pang of betrayal seemed to return as he stopped in his tracks at Shuri’s enthusiastic voice.

“You never did answer my question about which theory was right, Mr. Beck.”

“Call me Quentin, kid. To be fair, there was a lot of questions being fired around.”

“Well, now you only have one question being thrown your way.”

Beck chuckled. “Alright, fair enough. I guess it’s a mix of the bubble theory and the daughter universes. Every action does affect the version of you in an alternate universe which is created when a choice is made, so the opposite or how many other options there are creates another universe. As for the bubble theory, yeah, the universes are kind of like galaxies on a much larger scale, but they kind of stay in a fixed position and some can be closer than others, like mine and yours.”

“Fascinating!” Exclaimed Shuri, Peter smiling slightly at how intrigued she seemed to be. “So, our universes are in close proximity? Did you have to use the application of a small scale wormhole or something else?”

Beck paused for a moment before replying. “I had the help of a colleague of mine with similar abilities, and we did use a small scale wormhole, in a way? I just really used my powers to shape the gateway I needed by manipulating the particles into the ones that exist in the universe I wanted to go, one where Peter was alive. But I’m still trying to figure out how I got here.”

“If you need help, I am always happy to participate.”

“Of course. I could always use a bright kid like you. Plus, you’re probably much more intelligent than I am.”

Peter stalked past the lab where Beck and Shuri were and kept his head down. What was Beck playing at? Was he trying to turn Peter’s friends against him?

If so, Peter was starting to feel betrayed.

--------

The last straw was when Beck had struck up a conversation with Ned and MJ. His best friend and girlfriend had been waiting at the front entrance while Peter had been running through some training sequences to blow off some steam and, most importantly, frustration. The two of them had been waiting for half an hour when Beck had wandered into the front lobby and offered a friendly wave. Ned replied with an equally friendly wave, momentarily forgetting who he was interacting with while MJ simply glared daggers at the man, which Peter smiled at.

Peter had been ready to turn the corner when he heard MJ conversing harshly with, or more accurately, at Beck.

“You really want us to forgive you so easily? You tried to fucking kill us! You’re wearing the face of the man who leaked Peter’s identity, my boyfriend’s identity, to the entire world! He’s sixteen and he doesn’t even feel safe leaving the floor he lives on because he’s being harassed constantly!”

“MJ’s right, man. It’s really kind of difficult to do all that stuff when Peter trusted you and looked up to you, and it broke his heart.”

Beck stood stiffly as he took both of their words into consideration. “I’m not asking you to forgive what my counterpart has done here, and it’s fine if you don’t trust me. My counterpart’s actions deserve punishment and if you kids feel comfortable blaming me, that’s alright too. You kids are allowed to feel betrayed because the Quentin in the universe is clearly a grade A asshole, and that’s generous. All I can give you guys is my word that I won’t hurt Peter or you guys, but it’s for you two to accept on your own terms and time.”

MJ nodded sharply. “At least there’s still one emotional competent superhero that still exists.”

Beck shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve learned through trial and error that no one can avoid blame when they’ve done something to harm others, especially the ones they care the most about. The most they can do is forgive themselves and offer apologies to the ones they’ve hurt. It’s up to others to accept the apology or not. You can’t control what others think of you.”

With those final words, Beck turned on his heel and entered through the sleek elevator doors. MJ stood there with her head tilted and a curious expression on her face while Ned was nodding.

“Guy seems much more mature than the Beck in this universe,” said Ned, MJ nodding curtly. “I respect that.”

“Yeah, emotional maturity is what’s needed in superheroes these days.”

Peter clenched his fists, deciding that he shouldn’t keep his friend and girlfriend waiting anymore longer than they had already. He smiled as wide as he could so that his friend and girlfriend would sense that everything was alright in the Peter world and that the only important thing was hanging out with the people he cared about.

------

It was late at night, or early in the morning depending on who you asked, when Peter marched his way down to the kitchen to stress eat to his heart’s content. His bare feet slapped against the cold tile and abruptly stopped when he saw Beck sitting in the kitchen with a book and a cup of something warm. Peter decided he’d had enough avoiding the situation and stormed over to Beck.

“What’s your deal man?” Demanded Peter, Beck looking up and seemingly surprised to see Peter standing in front of him. Beck set his book down and Peter continued. “You’ve been acting really fucking weird with my friends and kind of manipulating them. Why? What’s your game plan here?”

Beck shook his head, which only angered Peter more. “Kid, I haven’t been doing anything. I’ve been letting your friends approach me on their own time and make amends, or whatever they needed to make peace with the hate they feel towards my counterpart.”

Peter grit his teeth together. “You can’t lie to me, I know your game! You’re playing nice with my friends so they’ll stay to your side and betray me! That’s what you did here! You were nice and made me trust you and- it doesn’t matter! I know what your game is!”

Beck pursed his lips. “Kid, I’m going to need you to calm down for a minute and-”

“Calm down?” Peter shouted, Beck wincing slightly at Peter’s elevated voice. “You don’t have the right to tell me to calm down! I have no reason to think your intentions are good! You made me trust you and manipulated me to thinking that you could be a mentor to me! You made me give away the last thing I had of Mr. Stark and used it for your insane plans! You tried to kill me! You leaked my indentity to the entire fucking world! I don’t even feel safe leaving my room because I could be kidnapped! Every second of every day I have to worry about my Aunt and my friends because what if they’re hurt? You ruined my fucking life!”

Silence hung heavy in the air, Peter panting slightly and his hands shaking. Beck sat incredibly still as he processed the words Peter had hurled at him.

Finally, Beck spoke. “Jesus Christ, how bad could I have messed up here? Kid, I knew you for less than a year in my universe before you…passed. I’ve learned in my universe that I was one lucky bastard to have met you, let alone be a mentor to you and have you trust me enough to reveal your identity to me. But this isn’t my universe, and you aren’t the Peter I knew. You have absolutely no reason to trust me and that’s completely understandable. I’m not asking for immediate trust, but I’m asking for a chance to get to know you and maybe earn some of that trust. You’ve been hurt, Pete, and it’s alright that you’re angry.”

Warm tears began to trickle down Peter’s cheeks, and a sob escaped his throat. Weeks of penting up all those emotions and trying to stay strong for his friends and his Aunt so he wouldn’t add to their problems broke free. Through his clouded vision, Peter saw Beck offer an open hand.

Peter placed his shaking hand in Beck’s.

Chapter Text

Over the next couple days, the tension that once sat heavily in the room whenever Peter and Beck were together had diminished significantly. Before they had their little chat, it seemed as though Peter was trying to strangle Beck to death with his glare every time he laid his eyes on Beck. There was still an awkward air hovering between the two of them, but Peter no longer looked like he was out for blood.

Now that Peter wasn’t stalking Beck, he was bored again and was both literally and figuratively climbing up the walls because he just couldn’t find anything to do. So Peter sat cross legged on the ceiling, face resting on his fist with a contemplative scowl plastered on his face. Aunt May would say Peter was pouting, but Peter respectively disagreed and refused to admit that he would do something so childish.

Peter glanced at his watch, not trusting himself to read the numbers on the clock that hung in the room upside down. It was only 11:22 in the morning. Groaning loudly, Peter sat up on the ceiling and let himself unstick, his body falling heavily onto the couch that sat right below him.

“Dull day?”

Peter hung his head over the armrest of the couch, hair falling into his face as he caught sight of Loki leaning against the door frame, her long hair weaved into a complicated braid. Peter huffed and sank back down into the couch, listening to Loki’s soft footsteps as she wandered over to Peter’s pitiful state of sulking.

“There’s nothing to do around here!” Complained Peter, Loki’s fingers tangling in his hair as she hummed sympathetically.

“If you’re bored here, perhaps we could have a fun little outing?” Suggested Loki, and while that sounded really nice, Peter shook his head.

“Yeah, but I can’t go outside without being swarmed by everyone,” said Peter, his words heavy with bitterness. Loki looked down at Peter with her bright green eyes, a soft smile dancing on her lips.

“Well, how about an illusion?” Said Loki, Peter shooting up from where he lay, nearly knocking his head into Loki’s jaw. He smiled widely at Loki, eyes glittering with happiness that had been absent for the past two weeks.

“Loki, you’re an absolute genius!” Cried Peter, wrapping his arms around Loki. It took a moment for his friend to return the gesture, as getting used to physical affection between her friends would take time, but she responded with slowly wrapping her arms around Peter’s torso.

“Oh, you flatter me, young Peter,” said Loki, the two of them pulling away from their embrace. Loki batted her eyelashes, causing Peter to let out a snort in the ironic picture of Loki as an innocent damsel. “Anyone you would like to invite along?”

Peter pondered for a moment. MJ and Ned were both in school, so that wouldn’t work. Eddie was in San Francisco, and Wade was in Canada for some reason. Shuri was still around, so he’d ask her of course.

“Would you mind if Quentin joined us?” Asked Loki, snapping Peter out of his thoughts.

Peter tilted his head. “You guys are on a first name basis?”

Loki simply shrugged. “He’s quite nice, a bit awkward however. I’ve noticed the air has cleared between you two, so perhaps this could be an opportunity.”

“An opportunity for what?” Peter questioned, Loki giving a level and unimpressed look to her friend.

“To improve your ever declining social life, of course.”

“Fuck you, Loki.”

“Buy me dinner first, darling.”

“Excuse you! I am a committed man!”

“Monogamy is so fifteenth century.”

“That sounds like a you problem.”

The two of them stared at each other for a few seconds before Peter cracked a large smile and let a giggle slip from his throat as Loki offered a shark-like grin at the same time. She would never admit it, but Loki was quite happy she got Peter to laugh since the last few weeks have been so stressful for him. Again, she would never admit this, but she was very protective of Peter and everything he cared about.

Peter’s laughter slowly died out, clearing his throat he looked up at Loki. “But I mean, what could go wrong? Plus, I’m dying to go outside without being harassed.”

“Then it’s a date.”

------------

Peter lingered outside Beck’s room, shuffling his feet nervously in front of the metal door as Peter procrastinated knocking on the door and talking to the man. Peter wasn’t exactly scared to speak with Beck; he was just somewhat put off by asking the man who leaked his superhero identity and nearly killed him and his friends in this dimension to go out with Peter and a friend. Maybe Peterstill wasn’t exactly comfortable around Beck, but perhaps Loki was right. Maybe this could be an opportunity to learn about Beck more, and perhaps even bond with the man.

Clearing his throat, Peter rapped his knuckles on the door. “Hey, uh, Beck? Um, me and Loki were wondering if you wanted to tag along with us into town? Loki said she had illusions and stuff to put in place, so no one will recognize us, but uh, it’s your call. So yeah, let me know.”

Wow Parker, he thought. How awkward can you really be, huh? Add a bit more stuttering and then you’ll really embarrass yourself.

The metal door hissed open, and Peter straightened his posture. Peter’s eyes widened in slight surprise as he was met Quentin Beck in a very casual maroon turtleneck sweater and denim jeans. Quickly composing himself, Peter waved awkwardly at the older man and offered a shy smile that was graciously returned by Beck.

“Hi,” said Peter, once again mentally smacking himself for being the most awkward person alive. It didn’t seem to bother Beck though, because that soft smile didn’t leave his face.

“Hey,” replied Beck, leaning against the door frame and crossing his arms. “So, going on a field trip, are we?”

Peter nodded in affirmation. “Yeah, I figured since, y’know, we’ve both been stuck in this boring ass place for weeks, it would do us some good to get out.”

Beck raised an eyebrow. “Did you ask Pe- Mrs. Potts about this?”

Peter tensed, pursing his lips. “It doesn’t hurt her if she doesn’t know. Plus, illusions.”

Beck chuckled softly and shook his head. “Fair enough, kid.”

Peter shuffled his feet awkwardly and pointed in the general area where the living room was. “Uh, I think Loki’s waiting for us.”

Beck nodded firmly. “Right, yeah. Alright, lead the way. Never keep a lady in waiting.”

“Especially one with many knives,” replied Peter, earning a surprised snort of laughter from Beck. Peter didn’t comment on this and just started to walk towards the living room. But a small part of him enjoyed this Beck; he was much more friendly and genuine than the one who tried to kill him.

Peter supposed it was a start of some sort, but he didn’t dwell on the thought.

------

 

The familiar bustling streets of New York City were a welcomed comfort to Peter, especially since he could finally go out without being hounded by paparazzi. Loki was the only one who wasn’t under any illusions since she had the luxury of shapeshifting, but it didn’t matter because Peter was in public for the first time in weeks and actually ready to enjoy himself.

Loki brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “Where to first?”

Beck, who awkwardly lingered behind Peter and Loki, pointed in the direction of a familiar logo. “The Disney Store.”

Peter whipped his head around and furrowed his eyebrows at Beck, and the older man simply shrugged helplessly in response. “Kid, I don’t really shop that often, but I know if I go into Sephora, I’m going to buy more highlighter than anyone needs.”

Peter hummed in understanding. “Yeah, whenever I go with MJ, I come out with like, twenty three cents left. Shit is expensive.”

Loki shrugged her shoulders. “Perhaps we could simply, ah, window shop? See what piques our interests and go on from there?”

Beck nodded sharply. “Sounds like a plan.”

--------

“Do you think I could fit into one of those shitty kids cars?” Asked Peter, standing in the middle of the aisle with Loki and Beck as he eyed a mock-car in Toys ‘R’ Us, earning the odd looks from middle aged mothers as they dragged their children along.

“I say go with one of those Razor scooters,” replied Beck, crossing his arms and shifting his feet. “We all know you’re short enough for those.”

Peter didn’t even react to the jab about his height. “Man, I would never do that to my ankles.”

“I could change you into a small child so you could fit,” Loki suggested, Peter humming thoughtfully for a moment.

“Nah, I’ll just make one or something,” said Peter, settling the debate in his mind and giving the go ahead to move onto the next thing. The three of them hadn’t bought much yet- they only had three bags from Sephora and one from Swarovski, all bought with the money Loki and Beck provided. Peter insisted for awhile that he would pay the two of them back, but they wouldn’t let up.

Weaving through the crowds of people, the trio made their way out of the kids shop and continued down the paved boulevard with no goal set in mind. Peter had actually found he was enjoying his time out with Loki and Beck, which was a surprise since Peter had previously assumed this trip would be extremely awkward between him and Beck. But it turns out that the older man had a great sense of humour and was generally nice to be around.

Peter’s phone buzzed in his pocket, surprising the young teen, but he still reached into his jean pockets to dig it out. “Hey, could you guys hold up for a moment? Someone’s calling.”

Both of them stopped as Peter glanced at his phone and read the name calling him. “Why is Doctor Strange calling me?”

Loki furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. “The fake wizard?”

Peter nodded, glancing over at Beck and was surprised to see the man looked quite pale and slightly shocked. Peter tilted his head and briefly ignored the buzzing phone in hand.

“You good, man?” Asked Peter.

Beck snapped out of his haze and looked down at Peter, nodding jerkily in response.

Peter wasn’t happy with this response, so he decided to press further. “I smell some bullshit. Spill the beans, fishbowl man.”

Beck let out an airy laugh and shook his head. “It’s really nothing, kid. Don’t worry about me.”

Loki glanced over at Peter’s phone as it began to buzz again. “I can take that for you. Strange and I are in frequent contact nowadays, so perhaps I can get him to leave you alone.”

Peter absently handed his phone over to Loki, maintaining eye contact with Beck. “Dude, seriously. You are not okay. Spill the beans now.”

Beck inhaled shakily, glancing over at Loki on the phone before turning his attention back to Peter. “Uh, well, in my world, I knew Doctor Strange for a long time.”

Peter nodded, waiting for Beck to continue. “So we, uh, were kind of married on my world? But he, uh, died in the fight against Thanos.”

Trying his best not to looked shocked at the revelation, Peter nodded. “Okay, uh. That has to be, like, super awkward and shit. I mean, you have a great taste in guys.”

Beck chuckled softly, placing a hand on Peter’s shoulder, which Peter felt oddly comfortable with. “I know, kid. Just, uh, probably not great for me to get hooked on an alternate version of my husband, yeah?”

Peter opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted as Loki walked over to the pair with a grave expression on her face. Peter groaned internally as he knew that look meant he probably had to do some responsible shit for the first time in weeks. He really didn’t want to do that since the last time Peter was responsible he nearly destroyed the London Bridge and had his identity leaked to the whole world.

“Strange wishes to discuss about a breach in the multiverse that happened about a week and a half ago,” informed Loki, biting her lip nervously and glancing up at Beck. “He believes someone came through and wishes for you to visit him in the New York Sanctum as quickly as possible. Preferably in the next hour.”

Life just kept throwing Peter to the hounds, didn’t it?