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Let Beauty Come Out of Ashes

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"Am I dead this time?"

 

Peter didn't think he was, but maybe. Weirder things had happened.

 

He swallowed hard, eyes downcast as he looked at his hands. Peter flexed his fingers and flipped his hand over to see his palm. Phantom feelings of his body disintegrating crept over his body. His fingertips and toes buzzed. Would it happen again? Was the dust going to come back and take him somewhere even further from home or was this the final destination?

 

"You are not dead, child." The god told him flatley, annoyance on his tongue, offering no comfort as he stood a very generous distance from Peter. He could feel the agitation seeping off him as if Peter had chosen to come here; as if he wanted this. The man crossed his arms over his chest, facing toward the boy sitting frozen, cross-legged on the floor. Peter ducked his head slightly, feeling the narrowing eyes on him. "Though I suspect that would have been a kinder fate than this."

 

Peter scowled, He was already scared out of his mind. No, more like rightfully fucking terrified. Why did this guy have to make it worse?

 

"What am I doing here?"  Peter asked, voice rasp. He hugged his knees up to his chest, attempting to drive out the god awful feeling of being so exposed. Peter never liked being out in the open. He felt like a deer in a field, just waiting to be shot down. Nowhere to hide.

 

The expanse they sat in looked endless, nearly all the same shade of orange. Had it not been for the slightly lighter ground, Peter might of forgotten which way was up. 

 

Out of all this space, It would seem they were the only two beings here.

It was different from last time. Or at least, Peter thought so. He didn't actually remember anything from the five years he was lost in this stone. Nobody had. Not even Doctor Strange, which of all people, Peter would have thought he would know for some reason. 

Sadly, Peter was conscious this time, painfully so. Fully aware of how hopeless he was, facing the reality that they might be stuck here for eternity…

 

When they had been saved from the stone last time, Peter was almost angry for not being able to remember anything from those five years. Now, he envied it. 

 

"I presume it is for punishment." The god said bluntly. "Not yours, however. Most likely Stark's. Thanos will use you to his advantage at some point I imagine."

 

"Thanos is dead. I saw him die. I heard him die." Peter told him firmly. Because he had! Thanos was gone!

 

"We'll see about that." the god said, glancing at him. " As I was saying before I was interrupted, you got the short end of the stick, Spider. That's what happens when you get involved with that mortal, so I am not surprised you ended up here." He says, spitting out Tony's name like venom. Peter eyes burn and he snaps his head up to look at the god, forgetting for a moment all other problems. 

 

"Hey! This isn't Mr. Starks fault!" Peter barks, fumbling to his feet, looking at the one and only Loki, god of mischief himself. 

 

Frustration made Peters chest tight. Because of all people, Mr. Stark was the least guilty! He had done everything he could!

 

Peter squared his shoulders, balling his fists. No way he would have actually done anything. Mostly because that's just not what he did. Peter was never one to use his fist to win an argument. It was more to.... show he meant what he said. Loki seemed to have no fear in the teens anger, however, not even bothering to turn his body to face him all the way as if he sensed Peters empty 'threat'. The god just cast a glare toward Peter. 

 

"Stark is far from innocent, boy. You are just too attached to see it. He should of known better than to get a child involved in this battle. You are here because Thanos knows you mean far more to Stark than anyone else. That could not of happened if he hadn't pulled you into a mans war. He is smart enough to know better therefore He is much to blame." Loki stated as if he even knew what Mr. Stark was actually like. This was not on Tony!

 

"You don't know what you are talking about." Peter growled, pointing a finger at the god. "I was Spider-man before Mr. Stark recruited me. My choice. Plus, even if he hadn't, I still would of turned to dust anyway!" Loki only raised his eyebrows as if challenging him.

 

"If Stark had not brought you in you might would be helping little morals on the streets." Loki deadpanned. "You wouldn't have fought in such violent battles and you wouldn't have seen all you did. But because of that iron moron you've now seen far more than you should. A sensitive, easily distressed soul as your own will undoubtedly be affected by that for the rest of your short life. Oh, and a minor detail; you wouldn't be here now if you weren't associated with Stark." Loki watched him, face blank. Peter clenched his jaw. Hard.

 

"Even if that was true, which it isn't, by the way; I still would rather of known him than not." Peter crossed his arms as well, raising his chin slightly. Loki let out a laugh. Not an actual nice laugh. It was cold and judgmental. The god sat down, facing away from Peter and closing his eyes like he was about to meditate.

 

"Oh you are a fool then, child. Easily corrupted by emotions. Stark is not worth eternal damnation to this place." Loki told him. Peter gritted his teeth. Tony was worth far more than Loki knew, and Peter would give up his life for him without a second thought. With a deep breath, Peter chose to just ignore that last bit because that argument wouldn't have gone anywhere.

 

"No, I'm not 'corrupted' by emotions. I just follow them most of the time." Peter hissed.

 

"That is the same thing." Loki snapped back. Peter scowled, taking a seat as well.

 

"Maybe to you." You heartless bastard. Peter huffed, sitting far from Loki. The god didn't seem to feel the need to comment, maybe because he agreed or because he thought Peter was too stupid to convince. Probably the latter. 

 

At first Peter took that as a win, smirking in triumph. However, as silence settled over them, Peter quickly became uneasy. The teen chewed the inside of his cheek, the frustration dying alarmingly fast as it was replaced by fear. His mind was a scary place when it was left to run wild. 

 

 He glanced over his shoulder to look at Loki who had gone into full meditation mode somehow, completely fine it seemed. His rational brain wanted to keep distance because the god was a class A douchebag. But the other part of Peter also wanted to scoot just a little closer. Maybe Loki was crass (that was being nice), but he was at least there. Another being in this endless space. Peter didn't want to be alone, even if that meant being berated by a grumpy god constantly.

 

He inched ever so slightly closer. It barely made a difference, but it made Peter feel a little better. That is, until Loki spoke up.

 

"Stay over there. Your presence irritates me." 

 

Peter balked slightly, staring at the back of the god whom was completely unfazed by what he just said.

 

"I literally didn't do anything! I just.. readjusted." Peter scoffed, hurt seeping in.

 

"Your presence is very strong and it is not helping my concentration." Loki told him, very clearly annoyed. Peter felt himself getting the same emotion.

 

"What's that supposed to mean?" Peter frowned, taking offense. Normally, he wasn't quick to get angry. Peter let a lot slide off his shoulders, especially after dealing with someone like Flash. He just wasn't generally an angry sort of guy. But this dude, or god, or whatever, was really testing his patience and possibly his sanity. 

 

Come to think of it, Peter would never ever complain about Flash again.

 

"We are currently inhabiting the soul stone. Our inner minds and souls are magnified here. I imagine you feel my immense irritation for your presence?" Loki clipped his words, trying to get this conversation over with. 

 

"I don't need to feel it, you put the point across just fine on your own." Peter scowled, crossing his arms. He thought about what Loki said, though. And now that he mentioned it, Peter did feel it. He couldn't quite explain it. It wasn't exactly a subconscious or a physical feeling. It sat weirdly in the middle. It buzzed in the air around him as well as in his head and body. If he focused hard enough, Peter could almost hear Loki's thoughts.

 

Loki ignored Peters comment and continued.

 

"If you try to read my mind you will regret it." The god warned darkly, Peter flinched slightly. Alright then, Peter thought, I have to watch what I think now... "I feel your distress, Spider. It is nearly suffocating how many emotions you feel. So either get a handle on yourself or move further away." When Loki finished, Peter could tell he wouldn't be speaking again for a while. Like somehow he put up an invisible wall telling Peter to fuck off. Peter had to fight the childish urge to stick his tongue out at the high strung god. 

 

Begrudgingly, he shifted away from Loki, allowing him more space. Peter felt his muscles relax slightly and some of the tension bubbling in his gut calm as Loki's annoyance dimmed down the further he got. Their emotions seperated and Peter finally felt like he could breathe a little.

Peter sat on the ground, it was cold and hard. The air was cold too. Come to think of it, Peter was freezing. A harsh shiver ran down his spine. It wasn't just a physical coldness however. It seeped all the way down to Peter's bones and in his head, even in his teeth. Like he had been injected with ice water. Peter curled around himself, fighting down a whimper.

 

He missed Tony. Peter missed home. And the thought of never leaving this place, this fucking horrible ston; terrified him. It made Peter want to scream and cry and kick like a toddler throwing a fit. Because this wasn't fair! Five fucking years of his life already gone, then finally undone when Dr. Banner and Miss Carol had each done the snap. Peter had been back! Everyone was back! And yeah Peter admitted Loki was somewhat right; that he was slightly.... scarred by everything, but he had Tony. And Tony made it better. Peter knew he had been healing mentally, very slowly, but healing. So was Tony. Yet it hadn't stayed that way because after only one week, one damn week of being back, here he was again. And god, the look on Mr. Starks face when he had dissolved again-

 

Peter sat with his feet hanging over the dock, swinging them back and forth. Still, after a whole seven days of living here, Peter found it hard to believe this is where Mr. Stark actually lived now. Maybe it shouldn't be so shocking to him, but Peter was just so used to Tony being in the massive, fancy compound all the time or the tower. It seems odd to him that Mr. Stark would settle down somewhere so.. mundane like this. Not that it wasn't nice! Hell, this place probably cost more than May had ever spent her entire life. But for someone like Tony, it was a big big downsize. 

 

"Hey kiddo," Peter looked up suddenly as Mr. Stark called him from the porch. The man was in a grey sweatshirt and jeans, leaning against the rail. He looked calm, a soft smile on his lips. But there was still something behind his eyes that concerned Peter. Though, he assumed he probably had the same look constantly too. "Lunch is in ten, I think Pep made something like cricket soup." Tony glanced over his shoulder through the kitchen window, then turned back to the teen. "Nope, its sandwiches. Probably got crickets in there somewhere though. Pepper says they're high in protein." Peter laughed, standing up.

 

"Remind me to always check my food here from now on because I really don't wanna eat-" Peter froze, the words dying on his tongue. His whole body stiffened, his senses buzzing wildly. 

 

Wait.. why does this feel like-

 

Peters eyes snapped up toward Tony, and he must have gone pale or something because Mr. Stark stood upright immediately, his face flashed with worry.

 

Peter tried to suck in a breath to calm down a little, but his lungs were too tight; too constricted by fear because... because this felt like- it felt like....

 

It felt like it had on Titan.

 

but that...that wasn't possible- they had won! 

 

It wasn't…

 

Peter looked down at himself, he could see he had begun shaking. Trembling with unfiltered terror. Nothing was happening, though. He was still in one piece. But Peter could feel it- he could feel it coming!

 

"Mr. Stark!" Peter gasped, voice breaking as he yelled for the man. Tony was flying down the steps in an instant, taking them three at a time, not even bothering to look down as he kept his wide eyes on Peter.

 

"Pete?" Tony called back, rushing forward across the yard. 

 

God make it stop. Make it stop!

 

Peter tried to breathe, tried to take an unstable step toward Tony, but one of his knees buckled and set him crashing onto the deck. So suddenly, he was crying. Sobbing as he tried to pick himself up off the wooden surface yet failing. His limbs wouldn't work right. "PETER!" Tony's voice was shaking too now as his footsteps pounded across the deck. "Shit! Kid-" Tony landed what must of been painfully hard on his knees beside the boy. He wasted no time in grabbing the sides of Peter's face, raising it to look him in the eye. Peter could see how stunned he was, as if Peter had grown a second head or something.

 

"T-Tony, it's happening again! It's-" Peter cried, not able to get the sentence out. Tony shook his head violently, taking the teen in his arms and crushing Peter to his chest. His heart was beating loud and fast against the boys ear. If he wasn't so hysterical at the moment, Peter would have felt bad for scaring him so much.

 

"Shh, hey, it's alright, it's alright. It's just one hell of a flashback kid, okay?  Came outta nowhere too, jesus." Tony breathed, running a hand across Peters back. "You're fine. I've got you. Deep breaths kid." Peter sobbed against Tony’s chest because this didn't feel like a flashback. It wasn't like the nights Peter had woken from nightmares of being dusted or the random triggers he got through the day. This feeling wasn't leaving. It was getting stronger and it was starting to hurt! Just like last time!

 

"Ss- ah!" Peter hissed scratching at his hands desperately.

 

"Buddy you gotta calm down or you're gonna pass out." Tony told him softly and-

 

Oh god. Oh god please no. No no no-

 

Over Tony's shoulder Peter stared at his hands in paralized terror as his fingers began to dissolve. 

 

"Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark it's- why is it- please no!" Peter croaked, pulling back and bringing his shaking hands so Tony could see. A part of Peter hopped he was crazy, that he was just seeing things. Hoped Tony would shake his head again and hug him until the panic attack was over. 

That didn't happen.

 

Tony’s eyes landed on Peters hands.

 

"What the fuck-" Tony went so pale so fast, Peter thought he might pass out. His mentors eye widened with the same denial and pure fear and guilt that had been on Titan. He reached out, grabbing Peters wrist as if he could stop it. But within a spit second there was no wrist to hold onto as the ash crept up Peters arms. "No, no no NO! God dammit! No! We fixed it!" Tony shouted, his voice was definitely shaking now. He looked so helpless. So afraid..

 

Peter fell back against Tony, closing his eyes as he cried. 

 

Last time, Peter had left Tony with so much guilt. Yeah, everything he had said had been out of fear, but it still hurt his mentor none-the-less. And Peter knew this time would haunt Tony too, there was nothing to stop it. But Peter would not leave Tony the same way he did last time, he couldn't. Peter would do all in his power to ease the hurt. Because the reality was that the chance of them fixing it again was slim to none. No doubt Tony knew that as much as Peter did. So the boy sucked in a breath as Tony held him close.

 

"It's okay, Mr. Stark, it's okay if you can't fix it. It's okay. It's okay." Peter sobbed, twisting to be able to look up at Tony’s face. He was crying too.

 

"Peter please, don't-" Tony clamped his eyes shut and blew out harsh breath. "D-dont-"Tony couldn't finish whatever he was going to say, as he threw his head back and screamed at the sky, voice breaking. "DAMN YOU!" Peter wasn't sure who he was yelling at, because Thanos was dead...right?  But he did know the dust was up to his chest. He didn't have long.

 

"It's okay, don't let me ruin your life if you can't fix it.I'm not worth it. It's okay. Please, Mr. Stark, it's okay." Peter rasped, begging for him to understand that he meant every word. And Tony did understand; it made it so much worse. Because the kid was worth it to him. The kid was worth everything.

 

When Tony looked down at him, Peter could see the pain etched into his features. His eyes were red and veins popping on his forehead. Tear tracks shined on the side of his cheeks.

 

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll get you back. I swear to you. whatever it takes. I'll bring you back to me Peter." Tony gripped the side of Peter’s face, jaw tightening. He was on the verge of losing it. 

So in his last moments, Peter looked Tony in the eye, blinking rapidly, trying to keep the panic at bay. What if this is the last time he ever sees him? The thought made him choke out a harsh sob. 

 

"I-I love you, Mr. Sta-" Peter was gone before he could finish. He was pretty sure Tony filled in the lines though.




"GOD! Stop thinking so loud!" Loki yelled, startling Peter straight out of thought. Peter brought a hand up to his cheek, touching his blotchy face. His fingers came away wet with tears. "I don't want to see your sob story little beast! Now quit it!" Loki barked. Peter turned to face him expecting him to still be seated, just to find the god towering over him. Peter flinched back slightly, making Loki eyed him as if he was playing a trick. But Peters anger was gone, all that was left was a heavy chest of horrible emotions. He was so tired.

 

"I- I'm sorry I don't know what I'm doing." Peter sniffed. God, he was crying again."I j-just wanna go home sir, that’s all." Peter admitted in defeat, dropping his head and shoulders. The lack of retaliation must have shocked Loki a little because the god faltered slightly before speaking again.

 

"You will not be going home anytime soon so I suggest you take a run or do whatever it is you morals do to distract yourselves." Loki told him. Still harsh but.. there was a little less edge to it than before. Peter spoke before he thought it through.

 

"I'm scared." Peter said quietly, averting his eyes. He expected the god to scold him for being weak or maybe laugh coldly, but instead he just began to walk away to sit over where he was.

 

"I know you are, little beast. But there is no use for that now, it will change nothing." Loki told him flatly. Peter didn't know what to think of that 'nickname' if you could call it that, but he gave the god a surprised look, taken aback at the lack of harshness from him. It still wasn't nice or gentle, but at least it wasn't so bluntly mean.

 

And Peter supposed he wasn't wrong. Fear wasn't going to do anything. Unfortunately the teen didn't know how to block out his terror.

 

"M-my name is Peter, by the way. Peter Parker." Peter told him hesitantly.

 

"Yes, little beast. You know my name." Loki kept facing away from him. "Now distract yourself before I do." 

 

 Peter pulling in a long breath,  dropping his face in his hands. 

 

If this was where Peter was going to be stuck forever; then eternity was going to seem way longer than forever.



__________



Stephen Strange was having a normal day by the standards of sorcerer supreme. 

He held the old book under his arm as he strode into the quarter where his student waited on him.

 

"Wong letting you back into the library again?" Wanda Maximoff asked with a smile. The young witch was dressed in dark maroon robes, her long strawberry hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Stephen smirked, setting the book on the bench and walking over to the weapons rack.

 

He had agreed to train the girl to help her get her abilities under control. She wasn't part of the mystic arts, but her magic was similar and Stephen didn't doubt he had much to offer her. Wanda was more powerful than she yet knew, and Stephen hoped to teach her how to contain and zero in her abilities should the time come someone tested her. The woman had the potential to help many, but she was also slightly too unstable from her past. Should she ever be turned against good, or even against herself; Wanda could cause catastrophic damage. 

Stephen did not want to have to deal with that if he could prevent it, so he hoped to ground the witch more and prepare her for future threats.

 

"I am the sorcerer supreme, I can do whatever I please." Strange said, picking up a pair of sling rings. When he turned back around to face the woman, she stood with a hand on her hip and a disbelieving look.

 

"By 'I can do whatever I please' do you mean you used at portal to sneak that out?" Wanda asked, nodding toward the book. Stephen chuckled, tossing her a ring that she snatched out of the air. 

 

"Yup." He walked over, showing her what fingers to slide the ring onto. "Now, you must-"

 

They both froze as a power; strong and familiar washed like a wave over him. Stephen stood tall, staring forward, glaring at the world. Wanda must of felt it too as she stepped back in shock, looking over at Stephen with wide eyes. 

 

"Was that-?" Wanda sounded breathless, brows pulling into a frown. Stephen had no doubt on what it was. He wished he was wrong.

 

"Somebody used the soul stone." Stephen confirmed.