Quentin Beck lasts exactly one week after moving to the New York Sanctum before he starts going stir crazy. After years of constant vigilance and training, living in a room that isn’t a barrack in a large building with only two other inhabitants is incredibly quiet.
And one morning when he snaps at Strange for buying the wrong kind of breakfast cereal, the Sorcerer Supreme decides that he has had enough. If Beck wants a certain type of cereal, he says, he should go out and buy it himself.
Oh, you don’t have any money? Go get a day job.
So that’s what Beck does. It quickly turns out that putting “extra dimensional soldier” and “part time superhero” on your resume doesn’t tend to get you a lot of interviews.
But eventually, a week after his argument with Strange, Beck finds himself working the early morning shift at a kitschy superhero themed coffee shop called Cup-tain Americano.
And when he gets his name tag and realizes the Q in Quentin has been stylized like his heroic alter ego’s helmet, Beck wonders if the reason he got the position at the register wasn’t because of his night job. It certainly wasn’t because he knew how to make coffee, considering that after he breaks the espresso machine and resorts to using magic (discreetly!) to get the foam on a cappuccino correct, Claire the morning manager banishes him to counter duty only.
And if he smirks a little bit every time someone orders the Mys-tea-rio, well, he feels like he’s earned that right. The shop seems busier than ever during his shift after the word gets out that he works there, and the amount of people giving ‘Quentin Beck’ or ‘Mysterio’ as the name for their coffee starts to get confusing.
Eventually it gets to a point that Claire puts a sign up near the register that reads, ‘Yes that is Mysterio. Yes he will take a picture with you. Yes he will give you an autograph. Please give your real name when you order your coffee.’
Obviously it doesn’t take terribly long for Team Parker to figure out what Beck does for his day job, and while they tease him about it a little to begin with, Beck doesn’t mind. He’s making decent money for a cashier, his coworkers are nice (even if half of them have made a pass at him at this point), and he gets to buy his favorite breakfast cereal whenever he wants. Win win win.
The first thing Beck does with his paycheck is to buy the good breakfast cereal and put it in the cupboard in the Sanctum, a note written in heavy black sharpie promising pain to anyone who eats it that isn’t him.
The second thing he does is hit up half a dozen yarn stores and stock up on supplies to pick up knitting again. The needles are easy, solid wood in a few different sizes that fit easily in his grip. The yarn he’s a little more picky about.
He had learned how to knit during training, the older acolytes in the barracks passing on the technique to the younger ones and so on. It was a good way to keep your mind sharp and fingers busy while you were waiting for a call to action to come in, or to deal with the aftermath of a battle.
That’s one thing he really does regret leaving behind on his world, a massive knitted blanket made of a dozen different colors that he added on to whenever the stress started getting to him. Well, it’s one of a thousand things he regrets leaving behind.
But two stores in he finds what he’s looking for. It’s a thick wool yarn in creamy white, the same color as the first yarn he ever used when he was learning.
The shop owner, an old lady whose name tag says ‘Dorothy,’ (but call me Dot, young man) who has to be at least seventy and squints at Beck through a thick pair of glasses she kept on a chain around her neck calls him a ‘nice young man,’ and invites him to come to one of the knitting circle events coming up at the shop.
That was how Beck finds himself spending his Wednesday nights before patrol in the back room of a tiny yarn shop in Brooklyn, being offered tea and slightly stale cookies by a handful of little old ladies, and being looked at in vague confusion by the younger crowd that came as they tried to figure out whether Quentin Beck, Mysterio, liked to knit in his spare time.
It took three weeks before any of them got up the courage to ask. And if there was a sudden uptick in attendance once word got around that a genuine superhero liked to knit, well, Dot seemed happy about that.
Of course, knitting only goes so far in preventing someone from going crazy. Eventually Strange kicks Beck out of the house again (something about not using the Cauldron of the Cosmos as a yarn bowl?), and with nothing better to do Beck finds himself wandering the streets.
At some point it becomes a habit, exploring the city that was destroyed over a decade ago for him. There’s still evidence of battles here, of collateral damage caused by the Snap, but this New York City seems to be incredibly resilient.
Somewhere along the line, between his job and his knitting circle, portaling into Central Park and wandering around becomes part of his daily routine.
And somewhere along there, after saving a cat from a tree and meeting nearly every dog walker in Central Park, Beck finds himself volunteering to take a dog or two out every day from a nearby animal shelter on his walks with him.
Originally he rationalizes it as a way to keep a low profile - you walk around with a dog, and people pay attention to the dog and not to you. But if he starts getting attached to every dog he brings around with him, well, that’s his prerogative.
He knows that Strange might actually murder him if he takes a dog home, though, and the day a beautiful black cat with no chip or ID arrives at the shelter is the day the New York Sanctum acquires it’s fourth permanent residence.
They name the cat Falcor. Strange puts up a token amount of protest (this is a Sanctum of the Mystic Arts, not a home for strays!), Beck returns with a witty retort (well, you took me in, didn’t you?) and the cat stays.
And when Beck finds the cat curled up on the Cloak of Levitation, which absentmindedly pets the cat while Strange looks on with a most peculiar look on his face, he knows that cat isn’t going anywhere.
His museum trips start as Peter’s idea. He sees the billboard advertising a new exhibit at the Met, and while Beck is skeptical that intentionally visiting an exhibit called “Interpreting Heroism” that seems to advertise exclusively with art of Iron Man is a good idea, he’s not about to let the kid walk into it alone.
That being said, it’s actually Beck who finds he can’t breathe as they step into the grand lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This place had been destroyed a decade ago on his Earth, thousands of pieces of art obliterated by Fire. Seeing it now, in all its grandeur strikes him dumb for a moment.
And then they’re moving and getting their tickets and asking for directions no less than four times as they wander the halls of the massive monument to culture, gloriously lost, and finally ending up (somehow) at the entrance to the exhibit.
Peter is the one who pauses now as they stand in front of the massive canvas that serves as the exhibit’s marquee. It depicts the six original Avengers, standing side by side and looking the observer dead in the eyes. What really gets Peter is the fact that Tony, Natasha, and Steve are all painted in greyscale.
Beck eventually places a hand on Peter’s shoulder and gently steers him towards the entrance of the exhibit.
It starts out as solemn as one might expect, tributes in oil and clay and stone to the fallen who brought back half the world. But that’s not all it is. Beck nudges Peter and pointes to a series of prints of Spider-Man that look like they could have come out of a comic book. There’s even one piece, apparently added at the last minute, that depicts Mysterio himself.
Peter’s the one to steer Beck away from this painting after a moment, the depiction of him in his armor, holding his helmet before him and staring into the reflection of the bastard in the mocap suit hitting a little too close to home.
The real treasure of the exhibit, however, is a massive stained glass window that takes up an entire wall, nearly ten feet high and further across. In intricate, beautiful color it depicts the final battle against Thanos, his silhouette small in the foreground while the heroes, surrounded by golden circles that could be portals or could be halos, fill the rest of the space.
Beck is nothing if not a sucker for stained glass, and he and Peter stand before it in silence for nearly a half hour, only speaking to point out minute details that revealed themselves over time, before quietly wandering out as more people come to see the piece.
But the visit starts a tradition. Twice a week, Beck portals them from the Parker apartment to outside the Met, and they begin systematically working their way through. It takes them a bit, but he finds himself genuinely enjoying the time spent there.
Beck isn’t sure when or how the origami started. Maybe it isn’t something you’re ever really aware of doing, you just wake up one morning and you’ve made half a string of paper cranes.
Falcor seems to like it, occasionally swiping a crane and batting it across the floor. Beck learns a cantrip that would allow him to impart the crane with the barest amount of movement, its fluttering wings giving the cat nearly an hour of enjoyment as it chased it across the Sanctum before she got bored.
But it’s nice. The repetitive folding focuses his mind in a way that knitting doesn’t. He brings a garland of cranes to the Parker apartment for movie night one week and May seems happy with it. Peter seems impressed, and mentions that he could never get the hang of origami before the bite, and now he always ends up tearing the paper during delicate folds.
But he sticks the garland up where May asks him to with a little bit of webbing and gives Beck a wide grin all the same.
The next week, Beck brings a garland of origami spiders made of red and blue paper. May seems less amused by this creation, but Peter appreciates it despite himself.
Then it’s a garland of carefully crafted flowers in black paper for MJ (who is still very on the fence about Beck, but the gift helps a little) and a series of Star Wars figures crafted in paper for Ned.
But the cranes will always be his favorite. And if Strange has an issue with the inside of the Sanctum being draped in dozens of strings of paper cranes hung along the rafters, well, he doesn’t say anything.
And slowly, bit by bit, Beck finds himself building a life here in this dimension far from home.