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everything you touch slowly dies

Chapter Text

The sun beamed down on the rows and rows of chiselled stone, warming any beings wandering around the cemetery. Trees cast shadows over areas of cut grass, providing small blessings of shades for anyone who wished to sit down and talk to a gravestone.

Peter walked down an aisle of graves, some decaying with age and no flowers, others with little room for any more flowers and gifts of appreciation, for many people had visited said graves.

He stopped in front of a particular grave, bunches of flowers and a few decaying on the stone. He gently picked up the dying flowers and placed a bouquet of pink carnations and chrysanthemums in their place, sitting in front of May Parker’s grave.

May Parker

Loving Wife

Caring Friend

Helper to All

Peter sighed, placing the dying flowers by his side as he relaxed in the shade. Web slinging through New York in the draining heat was nothing short of exhausting. His limbs felt heavy and his mind was hazy, full of things he needed to finish. He needed to pay his rent, collect his clothes from the laundromat a few blocks away from work at 8, submit his paperwork to his superior by tomorrow, scrape together enough money to buy some food…

“I don’t know how you did it May.” He groaned, stretching his arms. “Is this what you felt like all the time? Stressing out about paying the bills while feeding yourself and a kid? It’s a nightmare. At least you didn’t have some superhero responsibility on top of it. Well, in a way you did.” He laughed, smiling weakly at the engraved name. “You had to make sure I came back every night in one piece. I hated it when you found me with injuries, always insisting to patch me up and get me a hot chocolate or watch a Star Wars movie.”

He glanced around, scanning the area to check no one could hear him. Then again, who would believe a complete stranger talking about duties that Spider-Man would perform? He’d sound delusional.

Well, it was miles better than someone finding out and actually believing him.

“It’s strange, coming back to an empty apartment. It’s not home. You’re not there to fuss over me after patrol, to call me for dinner, to remind me to pick up laundry from the floor or wash the dishes that have been rotting in the sink for a few days.” He shook his head, shying away from the mental list of chores he needed to complete. That was for later, and the stress associated with it was for later; for now, he wanted to be peaceful with May.

“You don’t need to worry about it, even with me complaining over change. It’s hard to adjust, but I’ll get there. I know how to cook enough meals that I don’t get bored, even though I pretend you’re there. I’ll sing some of the corny songs like we used to and talk about my day to you like I used to.” He laughed. “It probably looks really sad to an outsider. Anyways, I earned my GED a few months ago and I’m working for Stark Industries! I can imagine you laughing at that, I know it’s ironic. ‘But Peter, you’ve worked there before! Tony employed you as his intern before!’” He laughed at that. “The Stark internship from before was for Spider-Man. This one is for Peter Parker…a nobody.”

He let out a shuddering breath. He hadn’t wanted to admit it at first, too in denial of all the recent events. His identity being revealed, May dying, everyone forgetting who Peter Parker was.

He’d debated staying as Spider-Man and forsaking being Peter. He hadn’t seen much reason to continue when nobody from his life remembered him. Hell, there were days when he couldn’t get out of bed, when the nightmares that plagued him in his sleep became too bad to fend off during consciousness or exhaustion, both physical and mental, overwhelmed him.

“Sometimes I swing past home -well, can I call it home now?- and think about before everybody found out I was Spider-Man. That one week after MJ found out…it was the most normal I’d felt in years. Everyone who I wanted to know about Spider-Man knew and I could deal with everything, then that stupid Mysterio video came out and everything went to shit.” He fiddled with the dying flowers, picking at the limp petals like one would a splinter. Every petal removed was like trying to remove tiny shards of pain. It didn’t mean much to remove one when there were so many.

“I can’t say it’s all bad. I really enjoy my job; my superiors love my work on renewable energy and there might be a project for a new source for New York. I don’t think I’ll be on the project since I’ve only been an employee for a few months, but it’s amazing to see how the scientists work.” An idea popped into his head. “Speaking of scientists, you won’t believe what I found out! Doctor Otto Octavius and Norman Osborn work in the city.” He sobered at the latter’s name. “I hope they don’t turn out like the ones we faced.”

If Doctor Octavius turned ‘evil’ like he was when Peter first met him, he could deal with him. He knew how to make the chip if Octavius’ one was fried, but Norman Osborn…

Raged flared at the name. He shouldn’t be mad, not really. Peter 2 explained that Osborn had gone mad and become Goblin, and Goblin was at fault for May’s death, but it’s hard to associate a name with a face when they killed his last remaining relative and made him sacrifice his identity.

“I could deal with Octavius, especially if I can disable his arms with my webs. Maybe my electro-webs would work…” He drifted into thought. “I’d probably have to work out the current needed and see if I could get a shot at his neck…ugh, I’m getting ahead of myself. I don’t even know if he’ll become evil.”

He relished the cool breeze that came through the cemetery before glancing at his watch, eyes widening at the time.

“I’ve gotta go May. I’ll see when I have some free time and visit again. Things are really picking up at work and I need to make sure I have my rent ready. Larb you, bye.” He smiled sadly, leaving the dead flowers by the tree as he made his way to the gate.

“Hey Peter,” a familiar voice called out, startling him. He flinched, heart racing until he looked up to see Happy.

“Oh, hi Happy. How’ve things been?” He steadied his breaths, trying to recover from the heart attack he’d just had. He’d forgotten how often he and Happy crossed paths, and a few weeks ago they’d finally exchanged names, too used to meeting at a grave to not make idle conversation.

“It could be better. There are a few things to sort out before a press conference tomorrow and I’m taking a quick break. How’s work been?”

His tentative companionship with Happy had expanded to a work-related discussion when Peter had dropped the fact he’d been employed by Stark Industries, so there was a mutual topic at least.

“I think I’m close to making a breakthrough with my research.” He glanced at his watch. “Oh crap, I’ve really gotta go before I’m late. I’ll see you around.” He waved goodbye to Happy, breaking into a light jog down the street as he made his way to pick up a coffee.

Despite it being a scorching summer in New York, Peter needed a short boost of caffeine to help him face work. Hot summer nights combined with a stuffy apartment, late nights as Spider-Man and nightmares always made facing the day a struggle. He was lucky his days were flexible and as long as he made enough progress on whatever he was doing, it was fine.

The bell jingled as he entered the shop, the mixed pastel colours bringing him a sense of comfort. The actual shop wasn’t the most appealing; the counters were sticky like pub tables, the coffee was sub-par in flavour, the actual shop was sandwiched down a narrow street that made it a struggle to get to.

Nevertheless, Peter was a regular and had made friends with the workers, determined to establish some form of routine in his life. He’d give that excuse to anyone who asked.

In truth, he always went for MJ and Ned. It was the closest he could be to his best friends – could he call them that? His ex-best-friends? His ex-best-friend and his ex-girlfriend? He didn’t know where he stood with them.

After they’d left for MIT, he’d visited the café in his downtime. Sometimes he worked on his research in the corner with his shoddy computer – thank God he’d kept that in storage. If anyone asked, he’d say it was one of the few places anyone could find him. After all, no one knew where he lived -nobody knew who he was outside of work- and he visited the café, the cemetery, F.E.A.S.T and charity shops often enough.

His breath stuttered for a second as he saw MJ. She was even more beautiful than when he’d last seen her during the Easter holidays; a few strands of hair fell into her face as she handed change to a customer, a wry smile on her face as she turned towards the door – oh shit, she’d seen him.

He moved out of the way of the customer leaving, mumbling an apology before walking towards the counter.

“Uhm, hi,” he said, nervously smiling.

“Hello Peter Parker,” MJ replied before they both chuckled at the inside joke. His first impression had been odd and it was a recurring conversation starter to use his full name. It wasn’t like he minded though – he craved every bit of normalcy he could find since Doctor Strange cast the spell. “You want your usual?”

“Yes please.”

“What kind of doughnut do you want?”

He hesitated, scanning the vibrant range of doughnuts on display. “I’m not sure.” She raised an eyebrow. “Surprise me. Uh, I’ll have it to go as well.”

MJ smirked at that before turning to the coffee machine to make his beverage as he scanned the café, surprised when he didn’t see Ned.

“Where’s your friend?” He asked, wondering if Ned was coming back later for the summer holidays.

“Who’s asking?” She replied, cryptic as always. “Peter the regular or Peter the scientist?” Another running joke since they’d gotten used to him. Ned had come in one day to see Peter working on a research paper and had wanted to keep up on his project ever since.

“Peter the scientist,” he chuckled. “I want to see if I can get his opinion on something.”

“He’ll be here in a few minutes.”

His relationship with Ned and MJ was nothing like what it was before.

He couldn’t make as many jokes with Ned before, even if it was a science or Star Wars pun. No more scheming about what to use as new Spider-Man gadgets -oh man, he’d be psyched about the taser-webs Peter was developing- and he didn’t have his guy in the chair anymore.

And MJ…there was a world of difference. He couldn’t theorise about anything with her, couldn’t ask her for advice about Fisk and his goons that littered the streets with more crime than what it was worth, couldn’t ask her to console him or patch him up after a difficult fight, couldn’t hug or kiss her or tell her he loved her.

MJ placed his coffee down with a small box for the doughnut, ringing his purchases up and adding up the price.

“That’ll be $4.10. Cash or card?”

“Card is fine.” He pulled out his wallet, paying for his things as the bell jingled again.

“Hey MJ – oh hi Peter, I didn’t know you’d be around this late.”

He turned around to see Ned, MIT jacket slung over his shoulder and bag already on the counter where he usually sat.

“I’ve gotta go in a few minutes,” Peter sighed. “I need to hand my research in once I get to work and hopefully my supervisor will approve it.”

“Sounds rough. Did you make progress on your renewable energy project?” Peter smiled at that, pulling out a scrap of paper from his pocket.

“Does this make sense to you?” He handed it to Ned, sipping on his coffee as his friend read through it. If his calculations were wrong then he’d have to go back to the drawing board, and that meant he’d have to explain to his supervisor that he needed an extension for his deadline, which meant he may not be able to contribute to the project-

“Yeah, it does.” Peter released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “What’s up with the question mark on location though?”

“Even if the fission process is successful and every safety precaution is backed up, there’s no guarantee of the waste being sent to a secure location to be disposed of. Stark Industries won’t accept a proposal if no thought is put into where the waste will go, especially if it’s for something that’s meant to help the environment.”

“Makes sense. I can’t imagine that Mrs Stark-Potts would allow that to happen though since she’s the scariest woman in business.”

“Damn right.” They both jolted at MJ’s input but weren’t surprised. She was extremely knowledgeable about Stark Industries – specifically, how Pepper ran the company and dominated the business world. Not that Peter would argue though; Pepper scared the shit out of him when she participated during game night.

Monopoly hadn’t been the same after she’d utilised the poorest side of the board into a weapon and Mayfair into a death trap.

Oh no, he’d gone back into memories he shouldn’t have. Nostalgia transformed into an ugly lump in his chest, impossible to remove but too prominent to ignore.

He’d thought he’d finally grappled with the idea of everyone forgetting Peter Parker, but he’d walked into Stark Industries for the first time for an interview and seen Pepper and time stopped. She’d been talking to one of the scientists about a press conference (he’d only known because of his enhanced senses), and finally seeing Pepper after the chaos of the past few months had thrown him off so badly that he’d struggled with…everything for a few days, even being Spider-Man.

He'd realised what he’d given up: another family. Pepper had accepted him in her life after Tony’s funeral, often allowing him to babysit Morgan and tutor her sometimes. It’d helped with the grieving process as well as adjusting to life after the Blip.

He hadn’t realised the extent of his sacrifice until that moment. He’d given up the few people who could’ve consoled him after May’s death and had no one who he could go to for help.

“Uh, I need to leave for work. I’ll see you guys around.” He stuffed the note into his pocket, picking up his coffee and doughnut as MJ shrugged and Ned waved goodbye.