Peter Parker hated magic.
He also hated his GED classes.
Not necessarily in that order, at least.
Peter sat in his GED class, staring off into the distance since he already knew most of this stuff anyway. Not like he was that far behind. The lecture hall he was in was big and sparce, barely anybody was in the room but a few older people Peter didn't talk to during class.
Peter didn't even notice that his class was over until he heard his teacher say, "Class dismissed."
Peter gathered his school bag as he made his way to Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop for his regular coffee that he got every day at 3:45.
When he walked inside, MJ and Ned, his ex girlfriend and ex best friend, were talking to themselves.
It wasn't that they all had a falling out, but more like they didn't remember that he even existed in the first place.
The shop was decorated for Valentine's Day, red and pink hearts decorating the windows with badly painted Cupids, a picture that MJ undoubtedly painted that had Spider-Man giving everyone a thumbs up under a message that said, Spidey's Favorite Coffee Place underneath. Peter walked up to the front counter, and MJ broke away from her conversation with Ned and said, "Just like clockwork, I tell ya."
Peter studied MJ as she made his regular. She had gotten her hair cut and dyed, it was now a short curly fire engine red bob that stopped at her chin, her hair held back with a blue headband. She was wearing her work uniform, obviously since she was on duty, but she still had on the black dahlia necklace Peter had given her in Europe.
That was a whole other lifetime ago, though. Peter often found himself wondering where MJ thought she got that necklace from now.
As MJ finished making his coffee, she said, "We just ran out of blueberry scones. Do you want a different one, or do you want to skip your daily scone today?"
"You still have chocolate chip?" Peter asked, breaking away from his own thoughts.
"Yes, we do." MJ said, grabbing a paper baggie as she grabbed the final chocolate chip scone and put it in, bringing Peter's items in the bag. As she rung everything up, MJ asked, "So... Where do you take this stuff after you get it? Central Park for people watching?"
Peter hesitated for a moment before he said, "Something like that, sure."
"See anything interesting when you do that?"
"... I always see this one kid who looks like they want to tell the people they care about the truth about everything, but they keep hesitating."
"Well, maybe you should encourage this kid to tell those people everything." MJ said, completely oblivious. "I mean, what could be the harm?"
"You have no idea..." Peter said, handing MJ the money for his vanilla latte and scone. "Have a good day, Michelle."
As Peter walked away, MJ said, "Wait, how did you know that my first name is Michelle? My name tag says MJ."
Peter paused, sensing that he had messed up, as he turned around and shrugged. "I think it was just a lucky guess."
"Pretty damn good guess. Most people usually guess that my name is Mary Jane."
"Something just kinda told me that that name was too plain for you." Peter said, taking a sip of his coffee. "By the way, I like the red hair. It suits you."
MJ smiled as she walked back over to Ned. "Thanks... My boyfriend thinks that it looks good too."
"Yeah, are you flirting with my girlfriend?" Ned asked, almost a bit protective and jealous.
"No... God, no." Peter said, shaking his head. That was going to take some getting used to. "It was just a general compliment."
Peter quickly left the bakery after that, walking down the street until he got to the cemetery. He sat down in front of May Parker's grave, taking out his scone. Peter was silent for a few minutes, taking off his knitted red hat and coat hood, taking a sip of his coffee. The ground under Peter was frozen solid, just like May was below him. Her headstone didn't even say Beloved Aunt on it since nobody knew Peter existed anymore. It was a sad, lonely existence he had been living for the past two months, but Peter had to live with his own mistakes and decisions.
At least this way, nobody would end up like May as long as he kept to himself and kept everyone else at arm's length.
"Hey Aunt May..." Peter said quietly, glancing over at Ben Parker's grave nearby. "And hi to you too, Uncle Ben. Family snack, just like old times."
Peter grabbed the scone out of the bag, taking a bite out of the chocolatey pastry. "They didn't have blueberry today, which I know is you two's favorite, but... Chocolate chip isn't that bad either."
Peter stayed silent for a few minutes as he took another sip of his coffee. "Mr. Jameson said that he's thinking about hiring me as a photographer at The Daily Bugle full time in Spider-Man coverage... Which is a good thing since I just got fired from my job as a pizza delivery boy since I kept leaving to deal with Spider-Man stuff... I know what you both would say, focus on affording to pay for your crappy apartment in the bad part of Queens so you actually have shelter instead of the Spider-Man thing, but I can't let what happened last time happen again. In order for everyone to be safe, I have to sacrifice my own well being. That's the path I've put myself on. That's my bed, so I'm laying in it... No matter how much I want to tell the people in my past about what happened... This is the best decision for everyone, whether you two see it that way or not."
"I thought I'd find you here eventually, Spider-Man." A voice with a slight accent said behind Peter, causing him to jump, some of the hot coffee coming up from the small hole in the lid. Peter turned around and saw a pale woman standing behind him wearing a brown coat and blue denim jeans, the sleeves and bottom of a red sweater poking out from underneath her coat. Her overgrown red hair was tied back in a braid, the roots of her hair a dark brown color. She looked vaguely familiar, but Peter didn't immediately recognize her.
Once Peter collected himself and realized what she had said, Peter responded with, "I... Don't know what you're talking about. I'm not Spider-Man."
The woman rolled her eyes. "Oh please, drop the act. I think I would remember the jumping spider kid who I kept throwing things at at the airport in Leipzig."
That was when Peter remembered who this was. Wanda Maximoff. Last time he saw her was at Tony Stark's funeral... Oh God... The Starks. Peter hadn't even thought about what things were like for Pepper and Morgan. In all technicalities, Peter was kinda the reason Tony died, he had invented time travel so that Peter and the rest of the world could come back. What do they think really happened now?
Peter pushed the thoughts out of his mind, realizing that it seemed like Wanda recognized him. That was impossible. When Stephen Strange casted that spell, he made it so that the entire world forgot about Peter Parker. Wanda couldn't possibly remember him. Peter cautiously said, "You have to be thinking of someone else, ma'am. I promise you, I don't know anything about that airport fight in Germany."
"Well, that's rich." Wanda said, rolling her eyes. "You do realize that you and I are close in age, right Peter? I was seventeen, maybe eighteen when that fight happened. You were what, fourteen?"
Peter's eyes widened as he said, "My name isn't Peter. What are you talking about?"
"Seriously, drop the act. Turns out, because I'm some kind of Nexus being and a constant in all universes, Stephen's spell affected me differently compared to the rest of the world. I remember you, Peter Parker." Wanda said, walking closer to the tombstones to see who Peter was visiting. "And I'm sorry that all this happened. I found out about it last month since I was helping Stephen with a thing and I've been trying to find you ever since. Gotta give Strange credit, you were literally erased from everywhere in this universe. You are a very hard person to find."
"You... You remember me?" Peter asked, a bit surprised. "Were you off world-"
"Oh, God no, I was living on a farm out in the woods dealing with my own problems." Wanda explained. "After that spell Stephen casted to erase your entire existence, our reality started breaking since he not only affected everyone in our universe, but in other universes as well. He asked me for help to fix it, we had to travel through the Multiverse with Wong and this girl named America that I think you would get along well with, and while we were helping Stephen fix his mess, I found out what happened to you. After we were done dealing with that, I decided to try and find you so I could help you."
"Help me? What are you gonna do, read my mind and show me my biggest fears? Rewind time? Oh, I know, you're gonna raise the dead." Peter said, motioning to May's tombstone.
"I'm afraid I can't do that... There are some things in this universe that can't be changed, despite how desperately we want them to change. Trust me, I know that better than anyone." Wanda said, focusing on Peter again. "I think I might be able to give your friends their memories of you back."
Peter looked back over at Wanda, his eyes even more wide. "What? How?"
"It's... Complicated, to put it gently, but I think I can do it." Wanda said, taking a deep breath. "I may not be able to fix my own situation, but I can, at the very least, fix your's."
"As much as I would want th-" Peter started to say, then heard his phone alert him to a bank robbery. Peter sighed, quickly finishing the last of his coffee and scone. "We will talk about this later. You found me once, you can find me again. If you'll excuse me, I have to deal with a bank robbery."
Peter gathered his trash and quickly left the cemetery, leaving Wanda standing at May and Ben's graves. Peter quickly changed into his slightly better homemade suit before swinging towards the bank robbery.
Peter walked right through the front door, awkwardly leaning against the door frame. The civilians in the room saw Peter, and he quickly opened the door a little more and let everyone else outside to meet the police. As soon as everyone but Peter and robbers were out of the building, Peter said, "Hey, you guys want to give some of that money to me? I could really use it!"
The robbers all snapped their heads to Peter, glaring at him as they all started running towards him with guns. Peter ran towards the robbers, fully intending to shoot a web, but then saw one of the robbers get yanked up to the ceiling. The robbers and Peter all stopped, looking around the bank to see the poor robber get electric shocked by something invisible. One of the other three robbers looked over at Peter and asked, "Are you doing that, Spider-Man?"
"Nope, not me!" Peter said, deciding to figure it out later as he kicked one of the robbers in the face, shooting webs in the other two's faces to temporarily blind them. Peter fought them three on one, managing to successfully web them together into a ball. Peter glanced up at the ceiling again to check on the other guy and noticed that he was starting to fall off of the ceiling. Peter quickly shot a web to make a net, then ran over to the other robber. This final robber looked out of it, his eyes rolling into his head. He almost looked dead. Peter nervously said, "Sir, are you okay?"
When the robber didn't answer, Peter nervously added him to the ball with the other four robbers. Peter focused on the spot on the ceiling that the guy had fallen from, seeing someone wearing a homemade Spider-Man suit, black and red instead of Peter's blue and red, crawling around on the ceiling. His eyes widening, Peter yelled, "HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
The person crawling around froze, instantly turning invisible as Peter felt them scurry away. Peter calmly walked outside of the building, walking up to a police officer. "Hey, one of the robbers got electrocuted in there. Could you guys get an ambulance here to make sure he's okay?"
"Electrocuted?" The officer asked, raising his hat so he could wipe sweat off of his brow. "How did that happen?"
"To be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure, but you can count on the fact that I'll figure it out." Peter said, saluting the officer as he walked away.
A short woman with tan, almost dark honey, skin and curly brown hair, ran over to Peter. "Spider-Man, did you see a teenage boy in there?"
"Not as far as I know... Why?"
"Dios di mio... My son, Miles, he went to the bathroom before those people-"
"Mom!" A boy, no older than fourteen, with short coily hair and dark skin, almost as dark as the frozen soil in the cemetery, yelled as he ran over to Peter and the woman.
"Miles, mijo, you had me worried!" The woman said as she hugged the boy. As they hugged, Peter's spider sense started firing off, almost like it was reverberating off of this boy. The boy seemed to feel this too, glancing over at Peter with narrowed eyes.
"Kid, remember to stay close to your mother and family, okay?" Peter said, taking a few steps back. "That was a dangerous situation in there. I didn't even know you were in the building. You could have gotten seriously hurt."
"I know, I'm sorry." The boy said. "I had to go to the bathroom when they announced the robbery, and after I got out, some of the bank workers in the back escorted me to the back exit."
"Just keep that in mind next time, okay? You don't know what you have until it's gone." Peter said, slightly bowing to the duo. "Have a good day."
"Thank you Spider-Man!" The woman said, waving goodbye as Peter started swinging back to his apartment, silently wishing he had remembered to bring his camera with him... At least that way, he would have gotten paid for this.
Peter snuck inside the apartment building through the window in his room he kept unlocked after patrol that night, quickly opening it from the outside before crawling back inside the warm building. As Peter took off his mask, he heard someone say, "Wow, this is probably the saddest apartment I have ever seen in my entire life."
Peter jumped towards the corner of the room, his body sticking to the wall, before he turned his head and saw Wanda sitting in the desk chair she had pulled into the corner, drinking a Starbucks coffee. Peter let out a relived sigh as he climbed down and said, "You need to stop doing that before you give me a freaking heart attack!"
"Sorry." Wanda said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear as she studied Peter's suit. "I haven't seen you wear that before."
"Yeah. It's my new one. I've only had it for a few months."
"Why make a new one? I saw your old ones stuffed in a box under your bed." Wanda commented.
"Snooping through my stuff now too?"
"I don't really need to snoop when the box you stuffed them in is poking out from under the foot of your bed."
Peter glanced over at the box poking out, his eyes widening as he kicked it further under the bed. "Shit..."
"Oh, he curses. Color me surprised." Wanda said, smirking to herself as she took another sip of her coffee.
"Why are you even here?"
"Because you told me to find you later." Wanda reminded Peter. "Clearly, I found you later."
"Yeah... Clearly." Peter said, grabbing a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt before walking over to the bathroom.
"What, scared to change in front of me or something?"
"Sorry that I don't want to strip down to my boxers in front of someone I barely know." Peter said snarkily.
"Wow... You fight in a war with someone, and suddenly they barely know you."
"I do barely know you! My first interaction with you was you throwing shit at me at an airport, and my second was you and the other ladies of the Avengers grabbing Thanos's gauntlet!"
Wanda's eyes drifted to the bottom of the bed as she asked, "So... Why aren't you using your old suits, exactly?"
"Well, as you put it oh so accurately put it at my aunt's grave, Stephen did a good job with that spell. All those suits are Stark Tech, and Stark Tech doesn't recognize me anymore, so I had to make myself a new suit so I could keep being Spider-Man."
"But did you really have to ask Stephen to erase your entire identity?"
"My best friend's lives were ruined because of what Mysterio did. We got denied from every single college we applied to because of it. At least this way, they get a future-"
"And you get a crappy apartment and no family." Wanda interrupted as Peter walked out of the bathroom, folding up his suit and stuffing it into a secret compartment under the floorboards Peter made. "Yeah, that sounds really fair to me."
"It's how the bed was made and now I am laying in it." Peter said, plopping down on his bed.
"But it doesn't have to be that way."
"Who says?" Peter asked. "Sure, I have to get my GED, but at least they get a normal life."
"But that wasn't their choice. You made that decision for them."
"And it was the right decision."
"For them, or for you so you don't have to find an excuse to let people in again?" Wanda asked. "Trust me, I have been where you are-"
"Oh, have you?" Peter asked. "Have you been forced to go into isolation to protect those you care about and prevent people you could care about from potential danger?"
"Well... Not exactly-"
"Then tell me, what should I be doing with my life? I have no other options."
"Okay, you are a little too young to be that pessimistic." Wanda said, rolling her eyes. "I would know. I was that pessimistic at your age. There are always options, Peter."
"What exactly is my other option, Wanda?"
"Well... Letting me help you, for starters."
"And what exactly can you do, oh Wanda the Powerful?" Peter asked sarcastically.
Someone knocked on the door as Wanda stood up, grabbing her wallet out of her purse. "First off, I can order takeout. Based on all of the microwaveable ramen cups you have hidden all over your apartment, you haven't had a decent meal in a while."
"Ramen is a decent meal."
"No it isn't. You need to survive off of something besides noodles." Wanda said, walking to the door to pay for the food. She walked over to Peter's desk and started unpacking the good as she said, "I ordered you orange chicken since you were taking so long to come back here, hope you don't mind. I'm taking the sweet and sour chicken."
"Fine. Whatever." Peter said, grabbing a plastic fork as he grabbed his takeout container.
As Wanda sat back in her chair, she said, "Don't you even want to hear about my brilliant plan?"
"Not really. They're all better off without me on their lives."
"You don't really think that, do you?" Wanda asked. "Not having you in someone's life could have changed the way someone's acts drastically."
"Yeah, for the better. This way, no villains will attack them. They'll be safe as long as I tell them nothing."
"Yet you go to the same coffee shop every day to make sure your friends are okay?"
"I do not go there every day. I go there every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday." Peter corrected. "And how do you know that I go there so often?"
"Because I see multiple coffee cups from the same place in your trash can."
"... Oh." Peter said, stuffing some of the orange chicken into his mouth. "And how do you think we would even go about this? I mean, all you do is make things move when your hands glow red."
"Okay, I think that that is a slight exaggeration." Wanda said, rolling her eyes. "And trust me, I can do a lot more than what most people think I can. Don't ask me how, I barely understand it myself, but if we corner your friends and I can get close enough, I can use my powers to break the barrier that's blocking all of their memories of you."
"No... We are not cornering them. That is mean."
"Oh, okay Mr. Attitude."
"I do not have an attitude, strange woman who broke into my apartment."
"I did not break into your apartment. I phased through the wall."
"Since when are you able to do that!?"
"... It's complicated."
"How complicated can it really be?"
"Let's see... I am... In my twenties now... So about ten years worth of trauma complicated... Give or take."
"Huh..." Peter said, staring at his food. "I'm not going to open that wound again, Wanda. I can't let anyone else get hurt."
"But if you don't let anyone else in, then you aren't going to heal."
"Who said that I want to heal?" Peter asked. "Look, I am at the top of my game right now. I have a pretty good relationship with the police, for once, I already know everything that's going on in my GED classes, I have a job. This situation isn't just good for me, it's good for everyone who was in my life but now isn't."
"And this is the personality that won over Tony S-"
"Don't mention his name." Peter said angrily.
Wanda's eyes widened as she grabbed a water bottle out of her bag. "And people say that I need therapy..."
"What was that?"
"Nothing." Wanda said quickly. "Look, I will leave after our meal, but will you, at the very least, take my phone number in ca-"
"In case I agree to your stupid plan?"
"In case you need someone to talk to." Wanda continued. "Peter... This self imposed isolation isn't healthy."
"I'm not isolated. I talk to people."
"When I found you, you were talking to your dead aunt and uncle." Wanda reminded Peter. The two were in a staring match for a solid minute before Wanda sighed and said, "Listen, I see a lot of myself in you, and that's not... Exactly a compliment-"
"Really? I thought you held yourself to the highest regard since you can solve all of my problems." Peter said, rolling his eyes.
"I'm worried about you." Wanda continued. "Nobody else who could be worried about you remembers you, but I do and I am very worried. I just want to make sure you don't fall down the inescapable spiral."
"One way ticket to doing the wrong thing. Bucky fell down that spiral, I fell down that spiral, and I think that you're starting to fall down that spiral. Just... Keep that in mind, okay?"
"Fine..." Peter sighed as he went back to his food. "So... Did you hear about what went down in Westview, New Jersey last year?"
Wanda paused for a moment before staring down at her food. "No... What happened?"
Jefferson Davis walked into his house, taking off his police hat and coat. "I'm home!"
Rio Morales walked in from the kitchen, smiling at her husband as she gently kissed his cheek. "How was work today?"
"Boring up until that bank robbery. You and Miles got out okay, right?"
"Yeah, we're fine. Spider-Man got us out okay." Rio said, wandering back to rhe kitchen to finish making dinner.
"Yeah. I saw him after he caught everyone. He told me that one of the guards got electrocuted."
"How? They didn't cut any cords..."
"I have no idea, but the dude was in pretty bad shape. He's lucky to be alive." Jefferson said, shaking his head. "I may not agree with everything Spider-Man has done in his life, but I'll give him credit where credit is due. He does care about everyone, even if they've done something bad."
"He seems nice enough to me." Rio said, starting to put dinner on serving plates. "Miles, come down for dinner!"
"In a minute! Finishing up a math problem!" Miles lied as he stared at his computer screen where his best friend back at his boarding school in Brooklyn, Ganke Lee, was staying for the weekend. Miles shook his head as he said, "Dude, we really need to work on making me a better suit."
"Okay, but you said that you saw the other Spider-Man, right?" Ganke asked excitedly. "What's he like?"
"He's weird man. He kept telling me that I should be thankful for what I have because I won't miss it until it's gone. Dude needs to chill for a minute." Miles said, writing down notes on his notebook by his computer. "We also need to figure out how to make webs that I can swing with if I'm gonna be doing this for real. Today was just a test."
"But you took down a robber, right?"
"I need to watch my venom. I think I overdid it on that poor guy."
"But still, this is officially the coolest thing that has happened in my life ever!" Ganke said excitedly. "And Spider-Man saw you do it, right?"
"Yeah... And then I turned invisible because I was nervous."
Ganke rolled his eyes. "Dude, you gotta strike up some relationship with him if you want to become his discipline!"
"I think I'm doing just fine on my own."
"Yeah, but he's an Avenger! You could become his ward or something!"
"Are the Avengers even a thing anymore? I mean... Half of the original six are dead."
"He still has street cred and experience."
Miles rolled his eyes. "Well, you are right about that..."
"Miles Gonzales Morales-"
"I'm coming!" Miles yelled back to his mother as he looked back over at his laptop. "I gotta go."
"Call later so we can keep workshopping the web thing?"
"Sounds good." Miles said, his finger hovering over his mouse pad. "Later Ganke."
"Later." Ganke said as Miles clicked the end call button.
Miles got out of his desk chair and walked downstairs, joining his parents at the kitchen table. "Sorry. Ganke and I were video chatting because he really needed help on this one extra hard problem we got assigned. We're gonna finish trying to figure it out later."
"Is it really that hard?" Jefferson asked.
"Not really... It's just a lot of steps, and the steps make it needlessly complicated."
"Ah... I see." Jefferson said, nodding his head. "So... How was school this week? You forgot to call your mother and I for the midweek check in-"
"I know, I'm sorry. My teachers keep slamming us with complicated projects, and I got distracted on mine and forgot."
"Already?" Rio asked, a bit surprised. "But you're barely a month into the second semester!"
"Well... You know Vision's Academy, Mom. Early bird catches the worm."
"I know, I know." Rio said, serving Miles an empanada. "What else is going on at school? Make any new friends?"
Miles kept the conversation going, trying to bring up anything but the bank robbery. It would be safer for them this way. The less people who would know about Miles's future vigilante activities, the better. That would be less people holding him back from doing what Miles knew was right, despite the possible dangers.
The next morning, Peter made his way to The Daily Bugle with that week's pictures, getting a text from J. Jonah Jameson to bring coffee for everyone. Peter sighed, deciding to make an early stop at Peter Pan to get coffee since it was on the way there anyway.
MJ noticed that Peter walked in early as he got out his phone to double check the order. MJ walked over, a bit confused. "Um... Hey... You're here early..."
"My boss wants me to get him and his colleagues coffee before I come in today. Be ready, I have a long list." Peter said, staring at his phone screen.
"Okay... I am ready." MJ said, grabbing a tiny notebook.
"One medium roast, one dark roast, one iced vanilla latte, one iced Americano, one cold brew vanilla, one cold brew chocolate, and one strawberry banana smoothie."
"Jesus, you weren't kidding." MJ said, writing down the list. She smiled a little as she glanced down at the list. "I'll get all these made for you."
"Thank you." Peter said, scooting over to the side to let someone else order despite the fact that he was the only other person in the pastry shop beside MJ since her boss's office door was closed, probably because the business they partnered up with for muffins and bagels forgot to send in that day's shipment, like what happened most Saturdays, and he went to go deal with it once again.
MJ glanced over at Peter as she said, "You know, it's going to take a while to make all these drinks, Peter Parker. You might want to take a seat."
"Oh... Right..." Peter said, awkwardly taking what was his normal seat at the counter before that spell. It felt a little comforting to be back at his normal spot, even if it wasn't under the same circumstances.
MJ started making the hot drinks first as she said, "So... What's your job?"
"You know all those pictures of Spider-Man on The Daily Bugle website?"
"Is that you?"
"Yeah. I do it freelance, I guess. A friend of mine taught me how to properly use a camera. I don't get a lot of money by doing it, but it does pay the bills. There's talk that I might be getting hired on full time as their full-time Spider-Man photographer."
"Thought I vaugely recognized that name under all those pictures..." MJ commented. "Ya know, I do photography as a hobby."
"I haven't been able to do it recently, though." MJ said, almost a bit sad. "I haven't had enough time."
"Well, when I'm not here, I'm either hanging out with my boyfriend or I'm at cheerleading practice." MJ explained, Peter laughing to himself. MJ glanced over, glaring at Peter, and asked, "What's so funny?"
"I'm sorry, it's just... You do not seem like the cheerleader type. You seem like the kind of person who would hate showing any type of school spirit."
MJ laughed a little, shaking her head. "I mean... You're not wrong. I hate cheerleading with a burning passion."
"They why do you do it?"
"... What?" Peter asked. She was dating Ned... Right? His Ned, nerd supreme, literally went to Comic Con Freshman year as his Jedi Original Character. Why would he, of all people, make MJ do cheerleading?
"Yeah. We're kinda popular at our high school, and he thinks that in order to keep our status, at least one of us has to be involved in sports at a time. He was on the swim team in the fall, so now I'm in cheerleading."
Peter almost couldn't believe what MJ had told him. Maybe Wanda was right about his presence, or lack thereof, changing their personalities slightly. Peter shook his head as he said, "You don't have to listen to him."
"I know, but... He's been my only friend since freshman year. I know that we have more friends now, especially since he became friend with this real piece of work called Flash Thompson and our net is now kinda wide, I don't want to say that to him, and then not have my best friend anymore." MJ explained. Now them being popular and Ned's change in personality made a little bit more sense. "I've been meaning to break up with him for a while, bu-"
"You've been meaning to break up with him?" Peter interrupted.
"It's not that I don't like him, it's that I think the two of us work better as friends than as a couple." MJ explained. "Only problem is that he never gives me an opportunity to actually say what I think. It's always what he thinks when he thinks it. Heck, when I dyed my hair, he was more worried about his image than he was telling me that I looked okay or something."
"Well... Maybe you should force him to give you a say."
"Ned doesn't exactly roll like that... Not anymore, at least."
"You deserve someone much better than that."
"Like who, you?" MJ asked teasingly.
Peter looked down at the counter. "Not me. I'm actually a horrible, horrible person."
MJ rolled her eyes. "I doubt that."
"Why? You barely know me."
"I... Don't really know. Something deep down is just telling me that you care more about what goes on around here than what you're letting on." MJ said, smirking as she started to place the hot drinks into a carrying tray before starting to make the cold drinks. "You're a deeply mistrusting person, and I respect that."
Peter laughed a little, shaking his head. "I'm not a mistrusting person. It's just too dangerous to be around me, that's all."
"Lucky for you, I like a little danger." MJ said teasingly as she turned around to face Peter once again as the cold brews started making in the coffee machine. "So... What, exactly, is your story, Peter Parker?"
"Why so interested in me all of a sudden?"
"I don't know... Just a little curious. You've been coming here every day I'm working since mid December, it's now February, and you haven't managed to stay long enough to have an actual conversation with." MJ said, shrugging. "Now that you're trapped here until your boss's drinks are done... You have no choice."
Peter shrugged. "Not much to say, really. I'm seventeen, I live by myself, I'm taking my GED classes-"
"No high school?" MJ asked. "No... Family?"
"It's complicated." Peter said nervously, wondering how much he could even get away with saying.
A man wearing a purple costume with black armor, almost like knock off Iron Man armor, walked up to the front desk. He abruptly said, "Hey, can someone come up here, please?"
"Give me a minute, you cosplayer, good God." MJ said, rolling her eyes as she turned her attention back to Peter. "Nerds, am I right?"
"Hey... I'm a nerd!" Peter protested.
"That, I am not surprised about." MJ said jokingly, her black dahlia necklace poking out from under her teal uniform as she walked over to the cash register. "Can I help you, sir?"
The cosplayer got out a gun, Peter's spider sense tingling, as Peter slowly stood up and walked over to a ceramic Cupid on a stand behind the cosplayer, remembering that he had purposely left his suit in the floorboards since he didn't think he would need it on his way to The Daily Bugle. "Gimmie all the money in your register."
MJ rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like that fake gun is gonna tempt me-"
The cosplayer aimed the gun at the door, shooting the top glass pane. MJ froze as the cosplayer handed her a giant purple sack, slowly pointing the gun back at MJ since his point was proven. "Fill up this bag, or the next bullet goes into your brain, little girl."
Peter quickly grabbed the ceramic Cupid and chucked it at the robber, the Cupid shattering against the helmet. The cosplayer turned around, cocking their head to the side as they charged at Peter. Peter ran towards the wall, jumping off of it as he managed to get onto the cosplayer's shoulders, halfway successfully managing to do Natasha Romanoff's signature leg flip move, scrambling to stay on top of the cosplayer's back as he fell to the tiled floor. MJ watched, her eyes widening and jaw dropping. "The hell-"
"What are you doing!?" Peter asked, forcing all of his body weight onto the cosplayer as he attempted to get back up. "Call 9-1-1!"
"Right, sorry." MJ said, getting out her cellphone to dial emergency services as she scooted over to the corner, away from the fight.
The cosplayer managed to get back up, slamming Peter's body into the wall. Peter used one arm to push them off of the wall and over to the pastry cabinet. MJ shrieked slightly on the phone as she watched everything go down. Peter stayed attached, tightly gripping the armor as best he could, as the cosplayer got back up. The cosplayer tried to slam his back to the ground, but Peter scrambled to the front to pin him down. "Get off of me, kid!"
Peter managed to grab the gun out of the holster, throwing it to the front corner. "Don't shoot guns!"
"Out of the way citizen!" Peter heard someone say. Peter glanced over and saw the kid from the day before dressed in the makeshift black and red Spider-Man costume standing in the open door. "A real hero is here to save the day!"
Peter sighed, shaking his head. "You again? Seriously?"
"I can handle this!" New Spider-Man said as the cosplayer threw Peter off of him, Peter too distracted with the new arrival to worry about landing safely, his head hitting the hard countertop and lightly cut a spot over his left eyebrow.
"Peter!" MJ said, hanging up her phone as she ran over to Peter. Peter got out his own phone and started taking pictures of New Spider-Man fighting the cosplayer so he could have some reference to look back at later and maybe something to make some cash off of and draw attention from The Bugle off of him for once.
Eventually, the cosplayer kicked New Spider-Man out of the shop through the busted door, running down the street to get away. As MJ investigated Peter's head, bringing down a napkin holder, Peter saw New Spider-Man running after the cosplayer. MJ grimaced when she lightly touched Peter's head with a napkin. "You're bleeding..."
"Am I?" Peter asked, not even noticing.
"Yeah. See?" MJ said, showing the napkin stained with Peter's blood to him.
"Shit... Sorry I'm bleeding all over the place." Peter said, laughing awkwardly.
"That was crazy stupid."
"He was aiming a gun at you, lest you forget?"
"Surprisingly, not the first life or death situation I've been in." MJ said, helping Peter up as she walked to the back, grabbing something from behind the counter. "Spider-Man usually gets into world ending battles around my high school. I'm kinda used to it."
"Really?" Peter asked, doing his best to act surprised.
"Yeah. First the Washington Monument, then the Tower Bridge in London, now this." MJ said, handing Peter a fabric bandaid with cartoony Avengers on it. She pointed to her forehead where a small scar was above one of her eyebrows, yet another injury from a life or death situation, except she didn't remember that one in it's entirety. "I don't really believe in the flesh toned bandaids. Hope you don't mind a kids one."
"I don't mind. I actually think that way too. It's kinda like giving someone who isn't white a flesh colored bandaid since they don't really make POC bandaids as the norm and saying, 'This is what normal people should look like' and that's not really cool."
MJ laughed a little, grabbing the other pieces of the first aid kit she kept behind the counter. Peter remembered that since she was so accident prone when she first started working here that she kept all supplies she could need on hand. "Exactly."
"Could you put it on for me?" Peter asked awkwardly. "I really have to go to work, and you don't have mirrors in the bathroom here."
"Sure." MJ said, walking over to Peter as she quickly attempted to clean Peter's wound. "You're seriously going into work after this?"
"I just need to turn in my photos and get my paycheck. I'll come back here right after that to talk to the police." Peter said reassuringly. "I got a few photos of that robber and that New Spider-Man, so they might be able to use those to track him down."
"Good thinking." MJ said, opening up the bandaid and gently applied it to Peter's head. "And I guess it was also a good thing that my boss was dealing with a distribution error right now, huh?"
"I guess." Peter said as MJ grabbed the last of his drinks and put them into drink carriers.
Peter quickly paid and made his way over the broken glass as MJ said, "Peter Parker?"
"Yeah?" Peter asked, turning back to MJ.
"Thanks." MJ said earnestly. "If it wasn't for your quick thinking, I might not be alive, so thank you."
"Your welcome." Peter said, nodding his head since his hands were full. "I'll be back after I turn in my photos."
Peter quickly ran to The Daily Bugle's headquarters, grabbing his keycard as he entered the building. He made his way to the meeting with J. Jonah Jameson and his colleagues talking about news stories and pay checks and budget cuts, Jameson shaking his head once he saw Peter enter. "Parker, you're late."
"Sorry, sir." Peter said, setting down the drink trays as he started passing out the beverages. "The coffee shop I got everything from got attacked by this psychotic cosplayer with a gun."
"Wait... Peter Pan's?" A voice asked once they saw the coffee cups. Peter looked in the corner and saw Betty Brant, one of his old classmates at Midtown and an intern here, giving him a concerned look. "Is everyone okay? My friend MJ is on duty there right now."
"Yeah, everyone's fine." Peter said, showing Betty the bandaid on his forehead. "I got most of the damage... And a little something more."
"'Something more'?" One of the other people at the table, the one with the iced Americano, asked.
Peter got onto his phone and clicked on her gallery, sliding his phone onto the table to show everyone a picture of New Spider-Man. "A few pictures of the New Spider-Man. He showed up and drove the robber out of the coffee shop."
Jameson stared at the picture, then looked back up at Peter. "You got the usual suspects too?"
"Yeah. Those pictures, I already sent to Ms. Brant's Bugle email."
"I got them this morning, Mr. Jameson." Betty confirmed.
"I will say," Peter said, grabbing his phone off of the table. "I will also be sharing these pictures with the authorities. Some of these pictures focus on the robber, and the police need some kind of indication on where to start looking."
"Of course, of course." Jameson said, the other people at the table nodding. "Listen, Parker, we've all been thinking, and... We would like to hire you to be our official Spider-Man photographer for The Bugle. It's literally the same job you have now, but you get paid a little more money. It's just a formal agreement that you won't sell your photos anywhere else."
Peter smiled. "Really? I would love that!"
"Okay, we'll get you the contract and get you to sign it so you can head back to the coffee shop to give your report to the officers."
"Thank you, sir. And I get my check too for this week?"
"Thank you." Peter said as someone slid him a contract. Peter read it over quickly, deciding that everything was fair, before he signed it.
After everything was taken care of, Betty handed Peter the check Jameson had handed her to double check that they were paying Peter the right amount. "Congrats."
"Thanks. I know you'll get your shot soon." Peter said quietly.
"What makes you say that?"
"Well... I doubt that Jameson would have taken you in as his intern if you didn't show some promise as a news anchor." Peter said, waving goodbye as he left the building, paycheck in hand.
Peter found his way back to Peter Pan's, a few police officers asking MJ and her boss questions. Ned was in the building too, an arm around MJ as he attempted to comfort her. It was clear that Ned was failing, MJ looked outright uncomfortable. One of the police officers, the one who Peter had talked to at the bank robbery the day before, stepped in front of Peter as he said, "Excuse me, this is a closed crime scene."
"It's okay, Officers Davis." MJ said quickly. "That's the guy who tackled that rogue cosplayer."
"Oh..." Officer Davis said, letting Peter into the building. "Why'd you leave?"
"I was running late to a meeting at The Daily Bugle. I just got hired as their official Spider-Man photographer. They asked me to go get everyone coffee, and this place was on the way, so... I stopped here to get everyone coffee and that rogue cosplayer attacked." Peter said, getting out his phone to pull up the pictures again. "I took some pictures after the New Spider-Man showed up to deal with the cosplayer so you guys could try and get an ID of the perp."
"Smart kid... What made you think to tackle this guy?"
"Well... He was pointing a gun at Michelle. I... Don't... I don't know her personally, but she didn't deserve to die, so I grabbed that ceramic Cupid and chucked it at him. We got into a scuffle long enough for Michelle to call the police, then the New Spider-Man came and dealt with the guy after he threw me to the counter."
"So... The dents in the wall... The cracked pastry case... All casualties of the fight?"
"How are you still walking?" A nearby officer asked.
"I don't get injured easily." Peter lied, just then realizing that his back was in pain from the amount of times the cosplayer had banged him against the wall. "Only injury I got was the cut on my forehead."
"Okay... Okay... And what's your name?" Officer Davis asked.
"That's Peter Parker." MJ spoke up, much to Ned's disappointment since he was glaring at Peter. "He's a regular."
"You're a regular here?"
"Have been since late December." Peter said, finally pulling up a decent picture of the cosplayer, showing it to Officer Davis. "This is the guy, by the way."
Officer Davis shook his head when he saw the picture. "Oh shit..."
"What?" One of the other officers said as they walked over to Officer Davis, holding an evidence bag with the gun inside. The officer shook their head as they said, "Not the Prowler again..."
"The Prowler?" MJ's boss said, a bit worried. "You know this guy?"
"More like we know his boss... Poor guy..."
"Boss?" Peter asked. "Are you talking about the Kingpin?"
Officer Davis nodded. "Kingpin must be trying to reclaim his power by using the Prowler as a pawn. He did lose his sight late last year... Mr. Barrie, did you have any troubles with the Tracksuit Mafia at some point in your history?"
Mr. Barrie thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah... As a matter of fact, last month, some people in tracksuits did try and shake me down for money..."
"The Kingpin might've picked you as a target... Be wary next time, okay? And work on getting your door fixed. Looks like none of the equipment was damaged, so you'll still be able to open and do business, but you guys need to replace the glass."
"My grandkids are already picking out a new door."
"Good. All of you have a good rest of your day." Officer Davis said as he and his other officers left the building. He looked over at Peter and said, "Could you send those pictures you took to the NYPD tip line email? They'd really help us track down the Prowler."
Peter nodded. "You got it."
As soon as the officers left, MJ got out of Ned's side hug and walked behind the counter, grabbing a somewhat freshly made vanilla latte and a bag of two blueberry scones, offering them to Peter. Peter smiled a little, getting out his wallet as MJ said, "On the house."
"... What?" Peter asked.
"Well, if it wasn't for your quick thinking, one of my best girls would be gone." Mr. Barrie said happily. "MJ and I agreed that you get your scones and coffee on the house for the rest of the month."
"I can't take away business from you guys." Peter protested. "Especially not after the door-"
"You are literally my hero." MJ said, sheepishly smiling at Peter. "It's on the house."
"Oh... If you guys insist." Peter said cautiously, taking the coffee and scones bag. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." MJ said quickly.
"Are you sure?" Ned asked, staring a challenging stare at Peter, almost like he was determined to get in the last word.
"I'm fine, honestly, Ned. I may have gotten a gun pulled out on me, but I'm not dead, so I'm good." MJ said, smiling at Peter as he started leaving the coffee shop. "See you Monday at the usual time?"
Peter nodded as he watched Ned gently kiss MJ on the cheek. "I gotta go too. See ya tomorrow for the Midtown Costume Dance?"
MJ nodded. "Yeah. See ya tomorrow."
Ned followed Peter out of the building and as soon as they were out of earshot from the bakery, Ned angrily said, "What is your deal?"
"... What?" Peter asked, a bit confused.
"Why are you flirting with my girlfriend?"
"I wasn't flirting with her. I was as far removed from flirting with her as humanly possible." Peter said, realizing just how different Ned was from when Peter was in his life. The Ned he knew would never be this pissed or this threatening... Ever. "Your girlfriend just got a gun pulled out on her, and you're yelling at me for making sure she didn't die?"
"Stay away from her, you fucking nerd, if you know what's good for you." Ned said threateningly as he walked away.
Peter stood in the middle of the sidewalk, shaking his head. Maybe Wanda Maximoff was right about some people's lives being different now that he wasn't there, but he didn't have any time to think about that now. He had a Prowler and a Wannabe Spider-Man to track down, and that all started with the Tracksuit Mafia.
So... I actually wrote an outline for this story, something I don't normally do, and if I go according to the plan, this entire story is going to be twenty chapters plus an epilogue. Hope everyone is excited to see how this story unfolds! (Also... Almost 600 hits on this with only four chapters posted! Holy crap!)
Finding the Tracksuit Mafia wasn't really all that hard. Peter did some basic research through the secret cameras he had built and put around the city, watching for any signs of people in tracksuits over a cup of ramen. Once he found where the Tracksuit Mafia was hiding, Wilson Fisk's building in the middle of the city, Peter grabbed his Spider-Man suit from under the floorboards and put it on, climbing out of his apartment and swinging towards the building. Peter stopped on a nearby building, studying his possible entry points, when he heard gun shots from inside building. Peter sighed, shaking his head. "God... It's the new one..."
Peter found an exposed vent, swinging towards it as he tore open the metal covering, crawling inside the ventilation system. Peter heard the noise of fighting the further he got into the building, and he kicked open the vent, catching it with a web and yanking it back towards him. Down below, minions in the Tracksuit Mafia were cornering New Spider-Man in a corner, am army green backpack on New Spider-Man's back. Peter stayed silent and watched as New Spider-Man managed to turn invisible and start a chain reaction of shocks, starting with the the one closest to him and managing to shock everyone on the ground, a few people spazzing out. Peter rolled his eyes as he watched New Spider-Man walk through a staff only door. Following since he figured that that was where Prowler went, Peter quickly swung over to the door and followed behind, climbing on the ceiling to not arouse suspicion.
Peter followed New Spider-Man as he clumsily plowed through more guards, Peter managed to stealth attack the guards that this kid missed, until they got to a big room where Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, was sitting at his desk with a service dog nearby. New Spider-Man walked right in, the dog sitting up and growling at him. New Spider-Man instantly went invisible, but the dog kept growling at him. Peter sighed, panicking slightly as Wilson got up and asked, "What's going on, Beatrice?"
Peter quickly crawled closer, shooting a web at where he remembered this kid being, yanking the web towards him when he caught something. Peter heard a shriek when the kid made himself visible again, staring at Peter with wide eyes through his horribly made mask. "Spid-"
"Shh!" Peter hissed, pointing to Wilson. "He may not be able to see us, but his dog can."
"Right... Right, sorry." New Spider-Man apologized.
"Why are you even here, Miles? Did you not listen to my warning?" Peter asked as he crawled forward, Miles following behind.
"... How do you know my name is Miles?"
"Spider sense reverb. That thing that warns you about danger is your spider sense. I had that reverb when I met two older versions of myself a few months ago. Don't ask." Peter said bluntly. "I felt it yesterday when I saw you after the bank robbery. I put two and two together."
"... Oh." Miles said cautiously. "Well, maybe you need to be clearer on your warnings."
Peter turned his head to glare at Miles, his eyes narrowing. Miles felt the glare through the mask, fighting the urge to shrink away. "Right... Don't talk back to the superhero. Sorry."
"You have five seconds to tell me why you're here."
"This guy attacked this coffee shop in Brooklyn on my way get donuts for breakfast-"
"Yeah, I know. I saw it go down on my way to a job interview. I didn't have my suit on me, otherwise I would have stopped it. I did call the police and check up on it afterwards."
"I stopped it! I never leave home without my suit!"
"Good for you. You still haven't told me-"
"I'm getting there. Well, I fought the robber, and I followed him back here. I talked it over with my guy in the chair, and now I'm here to try and get some info on why-"
"And you think you can get info from here? In this room?"
"Yeah. On that computer. It's the boss's computer, so it has to have everyone's dirty laundry." Miles said, pointing to a computer below them as Wilson and the dog left the room. "Why are you here?"
"Because that guy attacked my favorite coffee shop, not to mention that he held a gun up to my favorite barista. I want to find out why." Peter said as he crawled to the area on the ceiling above the computer. Peter produced a flash drive from one of the hidden pockets in his suit, shooting a web at the ceiling. "I am going to go down there to copy information off of Wilson's computer onto this flash drive. You are staying up here and keeping watch."
"Why do I-"
"'Why'!?" Peter asked as he descended. "Because I said so!"
Miles went silent as Peter descended. As soon as Peter was far enough, he shook his head and muttered to himself, "God, I'm turning into Mr. Stark."
Peter plugged in the flash drive, the drive instantly scanning everything on the computer. When it was done, Peter pressed the eject button and started climbing back up the web as Wilson walked back inside with Prowler, still dressed in his costume. Peter motioned for Miles to stay quiet as they started crawling towards the exit. Wilson sat down in his chair and asked, "So, you attacked that coffee shop like I asked?"
"Yes sir." Prowler said.
"Spider-Man didn't show up. The newbie did."
"I wonder why he didn't show up... One would think that he would be the first one to defend his favorite coffee shop... They literally advertise that it's his favorite on the windows."
"I don't know why either."
"Looks like we might have to take a different approach in order to find him..."
The two exited the room after that, Miles following behind Peter like a lost puppy dog. "Sounds like they're after you."
"I can handle myself. You, on the other hand, are in danger. This is exactly why you shouldn't be doing this!"
"... What? But I'm the reason I got you this info!"
"No, I got this info because I asked the police what was going on when I checked on the building, and they told me that Peter Pan's has had issues with the Tracksuit Mafia. I scanned the footage the cameras I have set up around the city are filming, found out that there's been a lot Tracksuit Mafia activity in this building recently, and there we go." Peter said bluntly, shooting a web towards the vent. "Now you gotta get out of here, kid."
"You know, you don't sound that much older than me." Miles said, walking towards the front door.
"Stop. Where are you going?" Peter asked.
"Out of the building."
"You do not leave through the front door!" Peter said exhaustedly.
"That's how I came in..."
"You have got to be kidding me..." Peter said exhaustedly as he made a second web and added, "You always sneak inside the building. Come on. The vent system is open."
"Oh... Okay." Miles said, following Peter as the two swung to the vent and climbed through, getting out of the building.
Peter helped Miles jump to a building next door, and as soon as they were on the roof, Miles started to remove his mask. Peter quickly stopped him, forcing the mask down, as he harshly asked, "What are you doing!?"
"I figured you would want to see-"
"Not out in public, you idiot!" Peter said exhaustedly. "You identity is your biggest weapon. Once people find out who you are and who you're close to, they can use that information as a weapon. Trust me."
"How would you know that could even happen? Your identity has never been revealed."
Peter tried to quell his anger as he said, "That doesn't matter. What does matter is that this is too dangerous for you. Go back to your family, Miles."
"No. Not right now." Miles argued. "You heard those two. They might start looking into me next. We gotta figure out why they targeted Peter Pan's before we worry about ourselves."
Peter sighed, knowing that Miles was right, as he said, "6:00, my apartment. I have my laptop and we can look over what's on the drive there."
"Are you gonna give me your address?" Miles asked. Peter rattled off his address, Miles putting it into his phone. "Okay... Do you want me to bring cheese and dip?"
"No... I want you to bring pizza. It's been months since I've been able to afford a good slice of pepperoni pizza." Peter said bluntly as he started swinging away. "Don't be late!"
Miles sighed as he watched Peter swing into the distance. "This is why they say don't meet your heroes, huh?"
Miles shrugged that off, taking the opportunity to change out of his suit and into a fresh set of clothes. Miles then walked down the fire escape and started making his way to his uncle's apartment since it wasn't too far from where he currently was.
Miles made his way through the busy streets until he got to his uncle red brick apartment building maybe twenty minutes later, pressing the button next to the name tag that said Aaron Davis. "Hello?"
"Hey Uncle Aaron!"
"Miles! Get on up here, boy!" Aaron said as he buzzed his nephew in. Miles happily entered the building and took the stairs to his uncle's apartment, Aaron meeting him in the doorway. Aaron hugged his nephew and said, "How ya doing, kid?"
"I'm alive." Miles said happily as Aaron let Miles into the apartment.
"Want to stay for lunch? I was just about to order wings."
"Sounds good." Miles said, flopping onto Aaron's couch.
"So, what brings you to my neck of the woods?"
"You know... The usual."
"Yeah. Want to see my latest sketches?"
"Hell yeah!" Aaron said, getting onto Grubhub on his phone. "Wing Stop okay?"
"Bet." Miles said, grabbing his sketchbook out of his backpack as he flipped to some pages he recently drew on. "Here."
Aaron paused what he was doing, flipping through the pictures and noticed a common theme. "Sure like drawing spiders recently."
"I go where the inspiration hits." Miles said, shrugging. Miles felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, sighing heavily. "Listen... I need advice on something."
"I have... This friend. Let's call this friend Spencer, aight?"
"Okay, you have a friend named Spencer." Aaron said, forcing Miles to move his feet so he could sit down on the couch next to him.
"Spencer is kinda depressed."
"Was he diagnosed with depression?"
"No, but I... I've seen him around school last semester, yeah? He always seemed really happy, laughing and having fun with his friend group and all that, but now he's kinda rude and angry all the time and aggressive." Miles explained, remembering the few videos of Spider-Man doing interviews with Tony Stark, which hadn't been a lot, but he always seemed so happy and upbeat. "I haven't seen him hang around with any of his friends since the last day of finals last semester. I'm starting to think that something happened that didn't get out in the Vision's Freshman Class Group Chat that's causing him to act this way, and I'm worried. What should I do?"
"Well..." Aaron said, finishing up the order on his phone before setting it down to give Miles his full attention. "Maybe he just needs someone to talk to about his problems. Have you tried talking to Spencer?"
"I talked to him a few times, but he keeps shutting me out."
"You can't force someone to talk when they don't want to talk, Miles. I remember when your father and my's father died way before you were born. I tried to force your father to talk about it, and he fought like hell against me. The best thing you can do in that type of situation is be there for when that person wants to talk and let them know that you're going to be there for them whenever they even want to talk."
Miles cautiously looked at his uncle and asked, "Is that really all there is to it?"
"All there is to it. Is that the only reason you came to visit me today?"
"No, of course not. You're also my favorite uncle and I love visiting you."
Aaron smirked as he rolled his eyes, almost accidentally shoving Miles off of his soft leather couch. "Boy, I am your only uncle."
"Exactly! No competition for favorite uncle!"
"You're done, Miles." Aaron said, walking over to grab two of the remotes for his Nintendo Switch by his giant flat-screen TV. "You wanna play Smash Bros while we wait for lunch?"
When Miles got to Spider-Man's apartment building with a box of pepperoni pizza, he almost did a double take. Surely, Spider-Man didn't live in a crappy looking apartment building, the cracked brick walls and newspaper over the windows just at the front of the building make the whole place look one bad storm away from foreclosure, and the chainlink fence out in front didn't look that promising either. Miles had told his parents that he was meeting Ganke for dinner back at Vision's, so at least he had some time to use, as Miles walked up to the door. Miles scanned the buzzers by the door and found the apartment number Spider-Man had given him, the name Ben Stark written next to the button. Miles pressed the button and someone on the other end said, "Yeah?"
"Um... I-It's Miles." Miles said nervously.
The person in the apartment pressed a button to let Miles in, and Miles entered the apartment building. Miles walked up the creaky flight of oak stairs, hoping he wasn't bothering anyone else, until he got to Spider-Man's floor. He approached the apartment and saw the right room number, knocking on the door. A skinny white teenager, barely taller than Miles himself, and he was 5'6", with slightly overgrown curly brown hair and brown eyes opened the door wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a baggy sweatshirt. Miles was almost taken aback, a bit surprised by how young Spider-Man actually was. He had expected him and Spider-Man to be close in age, they had both gotten Snapped away, maybe early twenties as the youngest, but not this close. He barely looked three years older than Miles and couldn't be in college based on the fact that Miles saw a GED test manual on the desk by the window. The teenager in front of Miles almost looked angry for a split second, then more annoyed with Miles existing, then finally down to the pizza box that Miles was carrying. "That is pepperoni pizza, right?"
"Y-Yes." Miles stuttered.
The teenager moved out of the doorway, letting Miles through. "Congrats. You have gained entry."
"Thank you?" Miles said, walking into the room. When he didn't see a table or anything besides an unused kitchen in the corner, a closet filled with nerdy science shirts, flannel shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts, and no other furniture besides a twin sized bed, a bedstand, the desk, and a chair, Miles asked, "Where should I-"
"Just put it on the desk. I'm not really built for company." The teenager said, grabbing his laptop out from under his bed.
"Really? I thought that as a Stark, you'd be used to parties." Miles commented.
The teenager froze for a second before he said, "I'm... Not actually a Stark. That's a fake name on the buzzers. I bought this place under a fake name... For security reasons."
"... Then what's your real name?"
The teenager hesitated again as he walked over to the fridge. "Peter. Can I get you anything to drink? I don't have much, I need to go grocery shopping so I can get more ramen, but I have water bottles and Mountain Dew."
"I'll take a water bottle... Peter." Miles said hesitantly as he looked around the apartment. The walls were a boring tan color, cracks spreading all over the place. Almost in an attempt to cover the cracks, Peter had taped up pictures of random people Miles didn't recognize. Well... That was a lie, he only recognized two of the four people covering the walls. Miles studied one of the pictures, a pretty woman with long brown hair and glasses, smiling at the camera with the kind of smile that only an exhausted mother could give after having to deal with an overexcited two year old for ten hours straight and still have to give a pleasant expression for a picture. Miles pointed to the picture and asked, "You knew May Parker? I mean... Of course you did, you're the spokespony for F.E.A.S.T., but you knew her personally besides that?"
Peter seemed to freeze as he saw what picture Miles was pointing at, looking like he was trying to stop himself from saying a million different things at once, fearing that each thing he said was going to be the wrong thing. After a moment, Peter said, "... Something like that. How did you know her?"
"My mom and I volunteered at her shelter all the time. Not so much now since our lives have gotten busy since she died, but I was finally able to help out there when I was eleven. She'd always help me with my homework if I needed it while my mom was busy helping around the shelter and she'd sneak me cookies when my mother wasn't watching. That was all before I was officially allowed to volunteer, though. When I was allowed to help her, I was with her in the kitchen helping her with meal prep."
Peter took a deep breath, trying to calm himself as he said, "Yeah, that... That sounds like her."
Miles's attention drifted to another set of pictures, this time to the same two people. Miles didn't recognize the chubby Filipino kid with straight black hair, but he recognized the tall mixed race girl with curly brown hair that was next to him in every single picture. Miles cautiously asked, "Are you stalking that barista from Peter Pan's? She is all over your wall."
"It's... Complicated. Can you stop looking at the pictures on my wall for like, one minute, and get your pizza?"
"Jesus, sorry." Miles said as he walked over to grab a slice of pizza, using his other hand to grab the desk chair and pull it out. "I was just trying to make conversation."
"Well, how about you tell me about how... This happened." Peter said, motioning to Miles as he grabbed his own slice of pizza, setting down Miles's water bottle before walking back to his bed and sitting down in front of his laptop, grabbing the flash drive.
"Well, let's see, my mother and my father had-"
"No, not that." Peter interrupted, knowing immediately where Miles was going. May had given him the talk about the birds and the bees a long time ago. He didn't need to hear that reenacted by a fourteen year old. "How did you get your powers?"
"Same way you did, I'm betting. Radioactive spider bit me."
"Well... Yeah, but... How?"
"Still kinda lost on that bit." Miles admitted. "Promise you won't tell the police about this? I don't want my uncle getting in trouble."
"Freaking go for it." Peter said, leaning back against his headboard, then grimaced and scooted forward a bit.
"Okay, so, the day after I graduated from middle school, my uncle took me to this restricted area of the subway and he let me spray paint this wall. I'm an artist, I do all different forms of art, so spray painting is my jam. While we're down there, this spider climbs off of this can I'm holding and bites my hand. Next thing I know, I can stick to walls and stuff. I can't figure out how to shoot webs though-"
"That's because webs probably aren't going to come out of you." Peter said, climbing off of his bed as he got out the box of his old suits, the Iron Spider charging station was under there as well, left unused and uncharged. Peter grabbed a pair of old webshooters from the box, his OG ones that weren't made out of Stark Tech, and tossed them to Miles. Miles caught them with one hand as Peter said, "Those are what I use."
"... And they are...?"
"Webshooters." Peter said, walking over to Miles. "Basically, you put them on your wrist and you bend your middle fingers down like you're making the rock and roll symbol, and that button shoots the webs. I figured out how make web fluid when I was... About your age."
"What are they made of anyway?"
"Ya know... The usual suspects. Salicylic acid, toluene, methanol, carbon tetrachloride, potassium carbonate, and ethyl acetate. Put it in a tiny CO2 can and make web shooters that add about 100 PSI to increase how far the web can get shot, and now you got functioning web shooters." Peter said, climbing back onto his bed. "You can keep that if you want so you can make a better costume."
"Yeah. I don't need it anymore." Peter said, looking back at his laptop. "Now... Let's see what's on this drive..."
"There's no encryption on it?"
"There was, but I broke that hours ago while I was waiting for my ice packs to freeze."
"Ice packs?" Miles asked. "Why did you need ice packs?"
Peter sighed, moving back his laptop for a second as he turned his back to face Miles, lift up his sweatshirt. Black and blue bruises dotted Peter's entire back, almost reminding Miles of a galaxy. Miles's eyes widened when he realized where he had gotten them from. "You were the guy handling Prowler when I got there."
"Yeah. I was late to a job interview and I didn't think I would need my suit this morning. I was wrong." Peter said, lowering his sweatshirt. "I haven't had bruises this bad since I got hit by a train... Or maybe when a building fell on top of me..."
"Not important. While we're waiting, could you get me the ice pack rigging I have in the freezer? I took a shower an hour ago and I need to put it back on."
"... Yeah." Miles said, standing up as he walked over to the fridge. He opened up the freezer, seeing a giant mass of frozen peas, all attached to ace bandages by tape and what looked like slightly frozen webs. Miles picked up the contraption as Peter took off his sweatshirt, handing it to Peter. "Here."
"Thanks." Peter said, fiddling with the ace bandage and frozen peas vest, putting his arms through the arm holds before putting back on the sweatshirt. Peter did all this while staring at the computer, tilting his head slightly. "Says here that you got bit by a spider at Roxxon."
"... What's that?"
"Big time pharmaceutical company." Peter said, scanning the files on the flash drive. "Says here that Fisk is a huge benefactor of there's, so he has access to a lot of their files. Roxxon has a whole file on you."
"Pretty sure Osborn Science Labs has a file on me too... Somehow. You gotta keep track on what happens when your experiments go wild."
"While that's great and all, can we focus on why we're here? What's going on with the whole Prowler/Peter Pan's situation?"
"I'm getting to it... Oh shit." Peter said, messing with the computer.
"What?" Miles asked, sitting down next to Peter on his bed as he stared at the computer screen, lost in the text and the documents.
"Well... According to these files... Roxxon and therefore the Tracksuit Mafia have been stalking me for years so that they could nab me and figure out how my powers worked. That's why they made that spider that bit you. They want their own spider super soldier." Peter said, rapidly clicking through the different files. "They've been keeping track of my whereabouts for years... That's how they found out about MJ..."
"Is that barista girl's name?" Miles asked.
Peter nodded. "Goddamnit... They're trying to hurt her to hurt me. The search for me paused when Kingpin got his eyes blown out, but clearly, now that they're actively targeting MJ, the search is back on."
"Well... We can fix this, right?" Miles asked. "All we gotta do is-"
"What do you mean 'Miles, no'?"
Peter took a deep breath as he said, "I chose this path for myself. You don't have to do this. The best thing I can do for you is tell you to hang up the suit for now and to not make the same mistakes I did when I was your age."
"But I can help!"
"I don't need your help. I know that this seems mean and cruel, but I'm telling you this out of a place of genuine care. If you continue to go down this path, this, these four walls, are what await you. A life of loneliness and solitude, having to keep everyone you love at arm's length because you don't want them to get hurt." Peter said, motioning to the apartment. "It's too late for me, but it's not too late for you. You don't have to go down this path."
"Yes I do!" Miles argued, then took a deep breath. "Look, I know you barely know me, but here's a rough family history. My father is an officer on the NYPD. My mother is a doctor. Ever since I was young, they drilled into my head to always help people because if bad things happen and you have the power to stop the bad things from happening and you actively choose not to, the bad things happen because of you. I have the power to stop bad things from happening, so I have to help. My family doesn't run from people who need help. That's the Morales-Davis family motto."
Peter gently closed the computer, turning his full attention to Miles. "I used to be like you, Miles. Optimistic. Happy. I know what it's like to want to help people so desperately that you think you do whatever you can think of. However, that's not reality. Reality is that the closer you are to people, the more likely they are to get hurt. The more people you try to help, the more likely those people will betray you and hurt those you love. This isn't a job for someone like you... Someone so young and could actually make a difference in the world given enough time. I am telling you this for your own good."
Miles sighed, shaking his head. "What happened to you, man? You used to be so happy. I remember looking up to you and wishing that I could do what you do because you seemed to enjoy what you do. Now, it's more like it's weighing you down and more of a disruption to your life. What happened?"
Peter's eyes drifted over to one of May's pictures on the wall as he said, "The more I fought to have both lives, normal Peter and super-powered Peter, the more the universe punched back and left me with nothing. Spider-Man is all I am now. I can't get close to anyone, or else they die or get hurt. May Parker's last words to me? With great power, there must also come great responsibility. My uncle said roughly the same thing before he died too. Yes, you have this power, Miles, but the responsibility is all on me. I just don't want you to end up like me, lost and alone in a big world, having to take GED classes and live in a crappy apartment building all by yourself because everybody else who could help you doesn't even remember your name. If you continue down this path, this is what is going to be waiting for you, and I can't let someone else end up like me. Promise me that you'll take a break from all this, at least for a little while."
Miles internalized what Peter said, then asked, "Why don't your loved ones remember you?"
"... It's complicated."
"That seems to be your default answer tonight."
"Because it is complicated. That's not a lie. Miles, please, just promise me that you won't do what I did. Just... Don't do anything I would do, and certainly don't do anything I wouldn't do. Enjoy having your family for as long as you can. I have no one left, but you do." Peter begged. "Everyone I have ever cared about either doesn't remember me, or is dead in the ground. I don't have anyone to comfort me when I'm upset, or to hug whenever I'm having a bad day. I don't even... I can't even tell the one person I want to how much I love them because if I do, I would be dragging them back into this life and I can't put anyone else in danger. You can do all of that, and I think you should while you still can. Miles, please, for the love of God, promise me that you will not make the same mistakes I did."
Miles studied Peter, realizing that he was more broken than Miles initially thought. Staring into Peter's eyes, Miles discovered that Peter seemed haunted by whatever memories he had over his past few years of bring a superhero, lost in regret and mistakes. His memories were ghosts, his mind a haunted house that the ghosts refused to leave. Peter was too busy being lost in the past to even think about what could be happening the present. Miles honestly pitied the emotionally mangled remains of Spider-Man beside him. Miles nodded as he said, crossing his fingers behind his back, "I promise."
"Good. I will focus on this, and you go home to your family." Peter said, opening back up his laptop. "It's what's best for everyone."
"Yeah..." Miles said, getting off of the bed as he left Peter's apartment. As soon as Miles was walking back towards his subway stop, Miles pulled out his phone and called Ganke. "Dude, we gotta do some digging."
"You headed over here now?"
"Yeah. After I get off the phone with you, I'm gonna text my parents that I'm just gonna spend the night at Visions."
"Cool. What do you need me to do some digging on?"
"I need you to get me any info you can on Michelle Jones-Watson."
"Any particular reason?"
"Got it. I'll tell you what I find when you get to the dorms."
Okay everyone... Get ready for depression. This is the start into the slow descent, then it gets better, then it descends again. Just wanted to throw in a warning... I literally cried while writing this. (Also, over 1k hits!? Holy crap!)
"Promise me that you'll find us after all this is over and tell us everything." MJ said, her curly brown hair held back in a ponytail as she held Peter's face close to her's.
"I promise." Peter whispered back. When he opened his eyes, MJ's face was gone, and Peter was alone in a dark room.
Peter looked around wildly until he found Ned, his back to him. Peter ran over and said, "Ned, what is-"
"You promised us, Peter." Ned said, still not turning to face his best friend. "You promised you would tell us everything!"
"You broke that promise." MJ said as Peter bumped into her. Peter turned to see MJ, her features blurry and unrecognizable. Surprised, Peter fell onto the ground.
"I didn't tell you to protect you guys!" Peter argued.
"With great power, there must also come great responsibility." May and Ben's voices echoed in the pitch black room.
"You saw me at May's grave and didn't tell me anything." Happy's figure said, joining the cluster surrounding Peter. He was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit despite the fact that Happy wasn't in jail, and his features were indistinguishable too, making Peter's skin crawl. "Why?"
"I thought that-"
"Look at us, Peter!" Ned argued, Peter finally able to see his face... Or lack thereof. What was once Ned's face was now just smooth, like a mannequin's face, and colored to look like Ned's skin. "We aren't ourselves! You've destroyed us!"
"I just wanted to protect you! Being around me is dangerous!"
"Protect us," MJ asked, bending down and placed her hands on Peter's shoulders. "Or protect yourself?"
MJ pushed Peter into the ground, and Peter went into a free fall, his arms flailing. Eventually, Peter was caught bridal style by Iron Man armor, Peter staring at the lifeless face. The helmet face lifting up to show Tony, alive as ever. Tony smiled at Peter sadly, his voice honey dipped in sympathy, as he said, "You really fucked up, Kid."
Peter jumped out of bed in a cold sweat, running a hand through his sweat soaked hair. As Peter got out of bed to change his shirt, Peter muttered to himself, "Fucking nightmares..."
Peter took off his soaked shirt, hearing someone knock at the door. Peter answered the door, expecting it to be his landlord or a concerned neighbor since Peter was no doubt talking in his sleep again, but instead saw Wanda standing outside in a thick red coat, black Led Zepplin T-shirt, a pleated red skirt, black tights, and black combat boots, looking like the emo daughter every mother feared they would have. She was holding a tray of coffee and a bag of bagels, smiling warmly at Peter as she used the hand holding the bagel bag to move her wavy red and brown hair off of her shoulder. "I brought breakfast."
"Why? We didn't plan to meet. I didn't text you." Peter said bluntly.
"I know." Wanda said as she walked past Peter and into his apartment. "I just wanted to check in."
"Because I'm worried about you." Wanda said, glancing over at Peter's bed and saw his sweat stain on the sheets. Peter quickly realized where Wanda was staring, running over to cover up the evidence. "And it's a good thing I am..."
"I'm fine." Peter said quickly. "Why you're so worried about me, I have no idea."
Wanda rolled her eyes as she grabbed Peter's coffee. "I got you a vanilla latte."
"Thank you." Peter said, taking a sip of the coffee, realizing that it was sweet, exactly how he took his coffee. "How-"
"I'm the same way. I can't do really bitter coffee either. I usually just drink tea in the morning." Wanda said, holding up her coffee cup. "But this is a special occasion. I think I know how to get your friends their memory back without cornering them against their will."
"Will you just drop that?" Peter asked. "They're better off without me."
"Maybe, but you aren't." Wanda argued, turning to face Peter as he sat down on his bed. "Peter... You can't keep going on like this."
"It's what's best for everyone."
"No, it's not. Peter, keeping your emotions bottled up like this isn't healthy. You have people out there who you could talk to and remind them of what happened if you would just-"
"What would you even know about this!?" Peter asked, getting frustrated with Wanda. Why did she have to insert herself into Peter's personal life? Why couldn't he just be left alone to his self-induced punishment? "I have no one left who cares about me!"
"But you do!" Wanda argued back, seemingly also getting frustrated. "You just have to help them remember you!"
"They're better off if they don't remember me!"
"But you aren't!"
"This isn't about me!"
"You're right! This is about your mental health!"
"I am fine with them not caring about me if it means that they'll be safe!"
"At least you have someone who cares about you!" Wanda argued back, tears starting to stream from her eyes the longer she kept talking. "Everyone who has ever cared about me, every family I have ever had, they didn't even bother to check on me because they either had their own problems to deal with or they're dead! Sam and Bucky, both of them had go deal with the John Walker situation! Scott, he had to deal with reconnecting with his daughter! Clint, he had to deal with reconnecting with his entire family and the Ronin situation! Steve, dead! Natasha, dead! My mother and father, dead! My twin brother, my only family for the first seventeen years of my life, dead! Vision..."
Wanda seemed to catch herself on Vision, taking a solid minute to calm herself down as she took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she did so. When Wanda deemed she was calmed down enough, she continued with, "Vision, dead. Everyone I have ever cared about and who has cared about me is long gone. I can't fix that no matter how much I want to. Out of the both of us, I am the one who is completely and utterly alone. You still have people in this city who cared about you once, and you can make them care about you again if you would just allow yourself to accept that you won't be able to protect everyone you love if you don't even bother to let them back in."
Peter sat down on his bed, staring up at Wanda. He didn't have many memories of Vision, he had only met Vision once at the airport in Germany, but Vision had been nice to him. They made small talk, Vision had asked him about school, but that was it. Peter had sensed, even on meeting Vision for the first time, that there was something going on between the synthezoid and Wanda Maximoff, especially when Peter saw them after taking down Scott Lang. All this time, Peter had just assumed that Wanda and Vision had drifted apart, the sands of time sending them on two different paths. Seeing Wanda get so worked up and almost cry over everyone she had lost, even if Peter didn't know that Vision was dead, it made him realize that he and Wanda were one in the same; two haunted houses filled with the ghosts of memories of people, alive and dead, that just wouldn't leave them alone. The ghosts almost demanded to be known, lifting up random chairs and rattling windows, anything to get noticed by those outside the house, wanting to escape and release all of the pain and misery they hold. Peter asked, "What happened to Vision?"
Wanda sat down on the ground, taking a sip of her coffee, as she said, "Remember a few days ago how you mentioned Westview, New Jersey and what happened there?"
"... That was me. I'm the Westview Anomaly." Wanda admitted. "I don't know where you were during the first fight with Thanos-"
"I was in space with Dr. Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Mr. Stark."
"Well... Vision and I wound up in Wakanda. For two years, we stole moments away from our other duties, me on the run, him with his duties with Tony, and we started a relationship. That stone in Vision's head... It was an Infinity Stone. Princess Shuri, she tried to remove it safely from Vision's head so that he didn't have to die, but there wasn't enough time, so..." Wanda said, starting to cry despite the fact that she was trying her best not to. "I was the only one who could do it. I was the only one who could destroy the Mind Stone."
"You had to kill Vision?"
"Vision gave me no choice. I did what I had to do, and I did it well. The Mind Stone was destroyed, I was in misery the entire time I did it, but I guess your group in space failed because the next thing I know, Thanos is using the Time Stone to rewind time and forced me watch him die all over again." Wanda explained. "Then, everyone got Snapped. When we got back, I wanted to bury Vision, give him a proper burial. I found out that this American organization, S.W.O.R.D., they took Vision's body, so I went there. I walked up to the guy in charge, and I demanded that they gave me Vision's body. He deserved a proper burial, or at the very least, I did since I had never been able to bury any of my dead family members, and Hayward, that's the guy in charge, he showed me Vision's body."
Wanda took a shakey breath before continuing, starting to cry again. "They had dismantled him, torn him apart, limb by limb. They wouldn't give me his body back. I just wanted to bury him, and they wouldn't let me because it was their duty to destroy a sentient weapon. Vision is not a weapon. He is... He was a person and he deserved to be treated as such. Hayward asked me if I was sure that I wanted to bury Vision because, 'Not everyone has the kind of power to bring their soulmate back online'. I lost it after that. I broke down the glass barrier that was separating me to say my final goodbye, and I left. Vision had left me something when he died, so I drove to Westview, New Jersey so I could see what it was."
Wanda dug into her bag, grabbing a folded up piece of paper and passed it to Peter. Peter unfolded it and saw that it was a property deed with a heart in the center, neat handwriting saying, To grow old in. - V. in the center of the heart. Peter almost started crying as he said, "He bought you property?"
"Seeing that, and being on the property... I lost it. I had lost the one person who I loved unconditionally and I wasn't even allowed to bury him because of the fucking government." Wanda explained, some of the various items around Peter's room starting to float in the air at Wanda's agitation. "My grief consumed me and I accidentally trapped the residents of Westview in a sitcom world where nothing could hurt us."
"Sitcoms?" Peter asked.
"Watching sitcoms is my comfort. It's how Pietro and I learned English when we were kids. My favorite was always The Dick van Dyke Show, so it started from the 50s and went from there. I didn't realize what I had done initially, but when I did... I didn't know how to make it stopped. I accidentally summoned this witch there, and she told me that I'm this being destined to be alone, and probably most importantly, I am destined to be the person to destroy the world. Worst part is that Vision is still alive, technically. S.W.O.R.D. and Hayward rebuilt Vision and, using my powers, made him an emotionless killing machine."
"Where is he now?"
"I have no idea. I don't even think that I want to find him because I'm too scared at what I'll see." Wanda said, calming down for a second as everything started floating back down to their original positions, still lightly hovering in the air in case they were needed for take off once again. "After Westview, I went to the woods to figure out what I was, how my powers work, but then Stephen asked for my help with the multiverse situation. I helped, and while we were doing that, an alternate Stephen Strange, one who never casted that 'World will forget Peter Parker' spell, explained what happened with you. I was angry about it because you certainly didn't deserve not having anyone in your life, and I fought him. We eventually dealed with everything, and I told him not to ask me for help again because I wouldn't be as willing next time. I did as much research as I could to find you, and then I found out that some person named Ben Stark bought an apartment. Looked into all mentions of the name Ben Stark and I found you."
Peter took a deep breath as he said, "Her laugh."
"What?" Wanda asked, looking up at Peter.
"The thing I miss most about Aunt May. It's her laugh." Peter explained. "When she laughed, she would always light up a room."
Wanda started crying again as she said, "I miss Vision's optimism and his ability to always look at the bright side."
Peter sighed, climbing off of the bed as he sat down next to Wanda, hugging her as she cried. Wanda hugged back too, and before long, the two were sobbing into each other's shoulders, holding each other close. The items finally landed in their original spots, deciding to not to be affect Wanda's mood anymore. Peter tensed up the second Wanda touched his back, the bruises still there, but for once, he was thankful for the pain. The pain meant that he was alive.
Peter didn't know how long they were crying together, but eventually, the two separated. Wanda wiped away her tears with her hand as she said, "Quite the pair we make, huh?"
Peter laughed bitterly. "Yeah, I guess."
"You get what I'm trying to say though, right?" Wanda asked. "I don't have anyone else left... No one else who still completely remembers me, anyway. You do. Their memories are still there, I know they are, we just have to pull them back to the surface. You can always reach out and ask for help. There's still hope for you to turn out decently well. Me... I'm a lost cause of a mother who lost her children. There's nothing really left for me."
Peter glanced down at Wanda's abdomen, tilting his head in confusion. Sure, he had never been around women who had been pregnant, but it didn't look like she had any baby fat she needed to lose. "How did-"
"I went a little crazy in Westview and kinda made a Brady Bunch like episode where I went through an entire pregnancy in a day and had twins with Vision." Wanda interrupted. "That's not even the tip of the iceberg, trust me."
"Is Vision still out there?"
"Honestly, I have no idea, as I've mentioned before. He was fighting my... Simulation, I guess would be the right word, simulation's form of Vision. I haven't seen him since I took down the walls and left Westview." Wanda said, shaking her head as she motioned to the apartment. "But... Peter... This apartment, these four walls... This is your Westview. Staying within these four walls, staying to yourself and not letting yourself talk to anyone, not letting anyone in, it's not good. It's self destructive. It's something I would do, something I've kinda already done, and look at how that turned out for me. Don't be me, Peter."
Peter nodded. "Got it... Don't be you... Now... If only I could figure out the best way to do that..."
"Telling who you care about the truth could always help..."
"Yeah... Sure." Peter said, taking a deep breath. He would figure out what to do later. Right now, at least, he had to figure out where Prowler would strike next. Make sure that everyone is okay, then tell the truth. The truth can't wait forever, but it can, at least, wait for now.
We got some surprise guests here! Still kinda sad, but still, surprise guests! Yay!
Peter wandered into the cemetery and weaved in between the tombstones until he found the grave he was waiting for. Peter placed the bouquet of red flowers down on Tony Stark's grave, deciding to stand at where the casket would end. Peter knew that Tony's body was here since Pepper had asked him to come to the private funeral where he was buried... Not that she remembered now, anyway. That funeral had just been Pepper, Morgan, Happy, Rhodey, Peter, and May, and the big public funeral was at the Stark lake house. Even though nobody really remembered him, Peter would come to Tony's grave when he needed to think and come up with ideas, and right now, Peter had a lot of thinking to do.
"Hey Mr. Stark... Life has gotten kinda fucked up for me now, huh?" Peter asked, talking to the air. "I bet that you, Aunt May, and Uncle Ben are planning on jumping Stephen when he gets up there, right? That sounds like something you would be planning."
Peter took a deep breath as he continued. "Listen, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm kinda just floundering my way through life right now, and I want to tell MJ and Ned what happened, but I don't want what happened to Aunt May to happen to them too. If you, or Aunt May, or someone who's up there with you could send me any sort of sign about what the hell I am supposed to be doing with my life, I would really appreciate that."
"Mommy, look!" A high pitched voice said excitedly. "It's the boy in the picture!"
Peter turned around and saw Pepper and Morgan Stark standing behind him, Pepper holding a bouquet of red flowers. Morgan ran forward, hugging Peter's legs, as Pepper calmly walked over. She looked Peter up and down and asked, "You weren't at my husband's funeral. How did you know he was here, and don't you dare lie to me."
"If I tell you the truth, you won't believe it." Peter said simply.
Peter took a deep breath as he quickly said, just loud enough for Peter to hear, "My name is Peter Parker, I'm Spider-Man, I was at your husband's funeral, both the one here and the one at your lake house, and the reason why you don't remember me is because Dr. Strange erased everyone's memory of me after the multiverse started breaking because Mysterio revealed my identity to the world and everyone who knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man got forced into this universe."
Pepper nodded. "That... Actually makes a crap ton of sense. Are you okay? Why are you here?"
"You believe me, just like that?" Peter asked, genuinely surprised. He had expected Pepper to call him crazy and to tell him to never visit her husband's grave again, not... Actually be nice to him upon hearing a story that insane.
"Honey, I was Tony Stark's secretary long before I was his wife and the mother of his daughter. I am used to hearing crazy shit like that all the time, and that doesn't even make the top ten. Talking to a talking raccoon makes the top ten, however. Plus... We have a bunch of shirts at our house that Morgan's been using as play shirts since they definitely didn't belong to Tony because he never owned shirts that nerdy... Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry I left them there." Peter apologized. "Basically, after my identity got out, you let me stay in the lake house for a few days until the media calmed down slightly. You also hooked us up with Mr. Stark's lawyer when it looked like it was turning into a court case."
"I'm sorry I don't remember you... Morgan, Happy, and I have been trying to come up with who you were because you're in this picture Tony has... And we bought Christmas presents for you but didn't recognize the name."
"Don't apologize. I'm the one who didn't think ahead, which led to Dr. Strange having to erase everyone's memories."
"So... Who else knows about that?"
"You... Now. And Wanda Maximoff since she never got her memories erased to begin with."
Pepper's eyes widened. "What about your parents?"
"Dead. Have been since I was five."
"Any other family members?"
Peter looked down at the ground. "My aunt, the one who raised me, was May Parker. My uncle, her husband, died a few months before Mr. Stark found me to help him fight in Germany."
Pepper gently touched Peter's shoulders as she asked, "And how old are you? What about school? Where are you going to school?"
"I'm not going to school. Dr. Strange's spell erased most traces of me. It got rid of my academic record at Midtown Tech, so I'm in the middle of taking GED classes so I can attempt to get into college next semester."
"How old are you, Peter?"
"Seventeen. I'm eighteen in August."
Pepper went silent for a moment as Peter got out of her grasp. "I'm sorry I came here. I usually only come here to talk to Mr. Stark about what I should do."
"Why haven't you reached out sooner?"
"Because I'm trying to protect everyone I love." Peter explained, Morgan quietly talking to Tony about her week at school as she sat in front of his grave. "Aunt May died because my identity got revealed, my friends and I didn't get accepted into any colleges, and instead of talking to the Dean of Admissions at MIT, I asked Dr. Strange to make everyone forget that I was Spider-Man. He didn't explain the spell all the way before he started casting it and I wanted too many people to remember that I was Spider-Man, so the spell started pulling in everyone from every universe who knew that I was Spider-Man, and to make it a long story short, it got to the point where our universe was about to be destroyed, so I told Dr. Strange to cast a new spell that made the world forget Peter Parker entirely. Happy forgot, my girlfriend forgot, my best friend forgot, everyone who knew me forgot except for Wanda because she's apparently a Nexus being and the spell didn't really affect her, and any record of me anywhere got erased. I didn't even want to reach out to you because I accidentally caused a lot of legal trouble for you and Stark Industries because Mysterio took the E.D.I.T.H. glasses Mr. Stark left me in his will and used them to launch a drone strike. I know you don't remember me, but I didn't want to cause anymore trouble for you or anyone else."
Pepper stayed silent as Peter took another step back. "I'll be on my way. Sorry that I disrupted your time with your husband."
As Peter attempted to walk away, Pepper said, "You aren't just going to say all of that and walk away, are you?"
Peter froze, turning around. "... What?"
"Tony... He was like your Avengers father figure, right?" Pepper asked. "I may not remember you, but... Something deep down is telling me that if Tony was still with us and found out what happened to you, he'd be trying to fight Stephen right now. He could have, at the very least, talked you through all your options before casting that spell."
"What are you saying?"
"Will you come home with me and Morgan if you don't have anything going on this afternoon?" Pepper asked, smiling at Peter sadly. "You seem like you don't have a lot of support right now. We're having cheeseburgers this afternoon for lunch."
"I-I shouldn't." Peter said, taking another step back. "Every time it seems that I gain a parental figure, they end up dying on me. I don't want to leave Morgan an orphan."
"Now that's a little ridiculous." Pepper said, taking a few more steps towards Peter. "You said that you came here to talk to Tony to figure out what to do, right? Well... Maybe this is what you need to do; start letting people in again. You can't be an island, Peter."
With those words, Peter started tearing up, failing at controlling his emotions. Pepper started tearing up as well, even if she didn't understand the smallest fraction of what this kid had been through, walking over to hug Peter as tight as she could. Whatever this world did to this poor kid, she just wanted to make all that pain wash away. Even if she barely remembered him, Peter certainly remembered Pepper, and that had to count for something.
Morgan looked away from Tony's grave, staring up at Pepper. "Mommy, what's going on?"
"We're gonna be going home a little early today, sweetie." Pepper said, releasing Peter from the hug as she started leading Peter to her car. Pepper looked up at the graying sky and said, "It looks like it's gonna rain."
Morgan followed Pepper and Peter to the car, Peter climbing into the front seat. He remained silent the entire drive to the lake house, climbing out of the car when they arrived. As Peter took off his shoes inside the house, Pepper walked over to the kitchen and asked, "Would you like some hot chocolate?"
"You have hot chocolate?" Peter asked, a bit surprised.
"Yeah, I do. I'd be happy to make you a cup. We still have an hour until lunch."
"Okay..." Peter said cautiously.
Morgan looked over at Pepper and said, "Mommy, I'm gonna go upstairs and finish my homework."
"Okay. Don't be afraid to come downstairs and ask for help." Pepper said, smiling at Morgan as she ran upstairs. Pepper put the mugs of milk and hot chocolate mix into the microwave, grabbing a tablet as she walked over to Peter. She tapped on the tablet a few times, then offered it to Peter. "Scan your hand, please."
"That spell kicked you out of the Stark Industries system and rendered your old suits unusable, right? I'm giving you access to them again." Pepper explained. "I know that it doesn't make up for losing your aunt or anything like that, but I know that Tony would still want you to have access to your old tech, even if you don't feel comfortable using it."
Peter smiled at Pepper, placing his hand on the tablet. "Thank you, but you don't have to do this."
"Personally, I feel safer knowing that you have access to your old tech if you need it." Pepper corrected, fiddling with her tablet. "So... Why'd you go to Tony today?"
"Wanda Maximoff thinks she can use her powers to give my friends and Happy their memories of me back, but I don't know if I can let do that in good conscious since I would be putting them all back in danger, especially since there's this Prowler guy I'm dealing with-"
"Prolwer guy?" Pepper asked. "Who's that?"
"He works for the Kingpin. He's already targeting MJ, she was my girlfriend before the spell, just because Spider-Man saved her and other people at Midtown, my old high school-"
"And you don't want to give anybody you want their memories of you back until you can guarantee that they'll be in the least amount of danger as possible." Pepper continued, going to go check on the hot chocolate. "You're officially back in the system, by the way."
"Thank you, and exactly. I just want to protect them, Mrs. Stark."
"You can call me Pepper. I think we're at that point, Peter."
"Right... Sorry." Peter said, Pepper shaking her head as she chuckled to herself. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing... Just the fact that if it was Tony in this situation, he would literally be doing the exact same thing, trying to protect me and Morgan by staying away because he thinks that that would be best for us and not give us a choice in the matter. It's just kinda funny that I don't even remember you, yet I can literally see Tony's influence on you play out in real time." Pepper said, laughing to herself again. "Do you want whipped cream on your hot chocolate?"
"No... I've never liked whipped cream." Peter said, nervously smiling since he knew that just about everyone liked whipped cream and he wasn't sure where Pepper landed in that spectrum.
"Me either, so that makes that easy. Morgan likes it, so I always have to pull it out when I make her hot chocolate." Pepper said, handing Peter his mug of hot chocolate. Peter recognized it as one of Tony's, he's the only person Peter knew who would own an ACDC mug, and smiled as he took a sip. Pepper smiled too as she said, "Something tells me that that's the first genuine smile you've made in a while."
"This was Mr. Stark's." Peter said, starting to tear up again. "Sorry... I swear that I'm trying not to cry."
"It's not healthy to keep your emotions bottled up. If you need to cry, you cry. I'm not going to judge you for that." Pepper said, setting down her own mug. "I just thought that Tony should be a part of the conversation, even if it's just in mug form."
"No, it's okay. I'm good."
"So... Back to our conversation..." Pepper said, drumming her fingers across her lap. "It sounds like Kingpin is using Prowler to find your friends to get to you. Why?"
"Kingpin owns Roxxon, and their radioactive spider got out and bit this fourteen year old in Brooklyn. They want to grab me so that they can figure out how that spider bite effected me and this kid so that they can replicate it and give Kingpin a spider powered bodyguard since Kingpin is now blind."
"Okay... And from there, it sounds like we need to get Prowler out of the way so that you can safely allow Wanda to give your friends their memories back."
"Yes..." Peter said uncertainly.
"Well... Where did he attack last time?"
"Okay... Then reason says that he's going to attack where MJ is. Where is MJ gonna be next?"
"She's gonna be at... Oh no..." Peter said, his eyes widening once he realized where.
"I have to go back to high school!"
Peter was honestly thankful that Pepper had given him access to his Stark Tech. As much as he didn't want to rely on it anymore, that part of his life was done with, Peter did like the back support his Stark suits gave him, which Peter desperately needed since the bruises on his back were killing him. He was wearing the suit that had a slightly darker royal blue on it, the one he had made for the fight on Tower Bridge, deciding that one of the older suits might jog some memories in either Ned or MJ... If the magic actually allowed the memories to be jogged.
Peter managed to sneak into the Midtown gym pretty easily, nobody was really checking for tickets, especially since this was a costume dance and hundreds of kids here were wearing masks of some sort, and quickly got to the top of the gym roof and climbed in between the rafters to scan the costume dance for the Prowler.
Peter spotted MJ pretty quickly once she and Ned entered the dance. She was dressed as Lola Bunny from Space Jam, a movie she notoriously hated solely because the sequel was unnecessary and didn't need to be made into a franchise (Peter had heard her rant about this fact a thousand times when their friend group had all come back from being Snapped) and Ned walked in right next to her dressed as Bugs Bunny. MJ looked uncomfortable in her white booty shorts with a fuzzy little tail coming out the back and white cropped tank, not to mention freezing cold. She had even put on makeup for this and straightened her curly red hair to make it look longer, the bunny ears slightly askew on her head.
Peter kept scanning the dance, eventually just sitting in the dark corner he was in, as he watched the dance go on below him. At some point, maybe an hour in, Peter heard commotion down on the dance floor. Peter looked down, realizing that the commotion was coming from Ned and MJ.
"What the hell, MJ?" Ned asked. "After all we've been through!?"
"You aren't listening to what I'm saying!" MJ argued back. "We don't work as a couple, Ned. We haven't worked since we first got together! I just want to go back to being friends!"
"Is this because of that guy at the coffee shop?"
"Why are you dragging Peter into this?" MJ asked exhaustedly.
"Because you have a crush on him! You have since the first day you saw him!"
"Ned, just leave her alone." Betty said as she walked up to MJ. "She doesn't want to date you anymore. Big deal. Just leave her be!"
"No, I think she should say if she's breaking up with him because of another guy." Flash said, putting an arm around Ned. "Especially if that guy is me."
"Oh, grow up Flash." MJ said, rolling her eyes.
"You can't say that to a friend."
"You aren't my friend though."
"Then why have you hung out around me for the past four years?"
"Because he's the only friend I have!" MJ said, motioning to Ned. "And I don't want to ruin the main friendship I have by dating him and it ending badly!"
"I think it already is ending badly..." Betty said cautiously.
"Ned, please," MJ begged. "Don't make this be a struggle."
"You bit-" Ned started to say angrily.
"Hey!" Peter yelled from the rafters, deciding that this was enough. Peter shot a web at one of the rafters and descended from the ceiling. "Don't call her that."
"Spider-Man?" MJ asked once Peter touched the ground. "What are you doing here?"
"I got an anonymous tip that the guy who attacked you at your job is gonna attack here, so I've been watching for him the entire night." Peter explained, moving his hands up and down like he was attempting to control a crowd. "Now let's calm down. This is not the time or the place for a fight."
"And why should we listen to you? You're just injecting yourself into a situation where you're not needed."
"Shut up, Eugene." Peter said bluntly.
"... How did you know my name was Eugene?"
"Lucky guess." Peter said, MJ's eyes widening behind him like she had just figured something out. "Now Ned, Michelle isn't saying that she wants you out of her life. She just doesn't want to date you anymore."
"You don't understand the situation, Spider-Boy." Ned said angrily. "If she remained faithful-"
"This isn't about being faithful, Ned." MJ said, pushing past Peter. "This is about my emotions and how I feel. Fact of the matter is that I don't love you as a romantic partner and I just want us to go back to being friends? Can't we just do that without any of this hassle?"
Ned glared at Peter and MJ for a few seconds before saying, "Whatever. I'm gonna go get a drink."
Ned and Flash walked away as Betty said to MJ, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." MJ said, smiling over at Peter. "Thanks for the help."
"Well, he was about to call my favorite barista a bitch." Peter said, shooting a web back up at the rafters, starting to climb up. "I couldn't exactly let that happen."
As Peter climbed up, someone jumped into him and knocked him down to the wooden gym floor. Peter looked up and saw Prowler on top of him, claws coming out of the tips of his gloves. Peter smirked a little and said, "Finally found you."
Peter managed to scramble on top of Prowler, wrapping his legs around Prowler's neck, as he shot a web at the rafters, using them to swing Prowler into a wall. When Prowler tried to attack Peter, Peter managed to let go of the webs and do Natasha's flying scissors leg takedown midair, flipping Prowler onto the stage. Prowler grabbed Peter again once Peter landed, managing to throw Peter against the wall. Peter cried out in pain, his back was still littered with bruises from the day before, but ultimately ignored the pain as he jumped up and forced all of his body weight onto Prowler.
As MJ watched Spider-Man fight Prowler, everyone around her running out of the gym, MJ realized that the way Spider-Man was fighting was almost identical to the way Peter Parked had fought Prowler only a day earlier. The more MJ thought, the more she realized she had memories of Peter that she thought she had dreamed, but knew deep down she didn't, like she and Peter, dressed as Spider-Man, kissing on the destruction of Tower Bridge, Peter giving her her black dahlia necklace. The thoughts were flooding out of MJ's head as she realized what that all meant, Peter's comments about it being too dangerous to be around him the other day and what all the other memories she had of Peter meant. "Oh my God... Strange's spell worked... I'm gonna murder him."
"MJ, what are you talking about!?" Betty asked, not entirely paying attention to what MJ had just muttered to herself. "We gotta go!"
"R-Right." MJ said, running after Betty as the two ran out of the gym.
Wanda had gotten Peter's text about where he was going to be a few hours ago, and when she got outside of Midtown Tech, seeing a bunch of cold looking teenagers swaddled in blankets and police cars gathered outside, she shook her head and asked herself, "Peter, what are you doing?"
MJ was nearby when she heard Wanda say that, wordlessly walking away from Betty in her warm blanket as she grabbed Wanda by her coat and dragged her to the side. Wanda, shocked, said, "What the hec-"
"Where is he living?" MJ asked angrily.
"... Who?" Wanda asked, almost too stunned to speak. Did this girl... Remember Peter without Wanda's interference in Strange's spell.
"Peter Parker. I was his girlfriend before that stupid spell and I need to yell at him for breaking his promise to me and Ned. I recognize that you're an Avenger and could probably beat me to a pulp, but I need to know where he lives. Tell me, or so help me God-"
"How did you remember on your own?" Wanda asked bluntly.
"Because I'm Michelle Ivy Jones-Watson and I find things out despite people not wanting me to. I literally told that fool in there that he was Spider-Man before he even bothered to tell me himself."
"Oh, thank God I don't have to unspell you!" Wanda said happily, hugging MJ tightly. "I will give you whatever you need if you think you can smack some sense into him! I have not met someone that stubborn since... Well... Me."
Peter was still fighting Prowler in the gym, the dance now a mess and officially done. Prowler threw Peter onto the ground as he said, "You're done, Spider-Man."
As Prowler balled his fist, an electrified web surrounded the fist, shocking Prowler to the ground. Peter took the opportunity to jump up and kick Prowler in the face, seeing Miles standing behind them with the webshooters Peter had given him.
Peter quickly ran over and said, "I told you to run away."
"And I told you that I don't run from things like this."
"How'd you even kn-"
"Did some Google searches on your picture girl." Miles explained, managing to punch Prowler back when he ran closer, Peter kicking Prowler in the chest and sending him flying. "Got my roommate at school to do it too. Once we saw the news article about the Scholastic Decathalon Team hitting some trouble in Washington D.C., we knew had the right girl. We Googled the school, made some minor adjustments to those webshoots to work with my Venom Blasts, and now I'm here!"
"I told you not to show up!" Peter said, webbing Prowler's helmet and yanked Prowler to meet his knee, hitting Prowler's face as Peter pushed him back.
"I don't listen to instruction all the time."
"If you two are done with your marital spat," Prowler said exhaustedly. "I'd like to continue fighting."
"Well, thank you for being polite." Peter said, sighing heavily as he glared at Miles again. "Look, we'll fight him together, then we'll deal with this outside."
"Works with me!"
"Of course it does." Peter said, rolling his eyes as he ran towards Prowler, jumping into the air to land a punch. Miles followed in suit, opting to go low and shoot webs at Prowler's legs to knock him off balance.
Peter landed on Prowler's shoulders, jumping off of them and then flipping midair to shoot webs at Prowler's shoulders and yank him towards the man in the purple and black costume, Peter almost yanking away the purple cape that came with it.
The added force from Peter landing on Prowler's helmet forced the clasps on either side to break off, the helmet falling onto the ground. As Miles watched Peter and Prowler continue to fight, Miles felt himself shrink where he stood.
They were fighting Uncle Aaron.
Peter watched as Prowler extended his claws again, this time charging towards Miles, who was frozen in his place. Peter quickly jumped to action, shooting a web at Prowler's leg to cause him to fall on the ground. Prowler turned around to cut free the web, slightly cutting Miles's arm with the claws. When Prowler turned his attention back to Miles, he was gone, invisible and off to the side, doing his best to stop the bleeding on his arm to not let Prowler know where he was. Prowler angrily looked over at Peter, his main prey invisible, and said, "Next time, you're both dead, Spider-Men."
Prowler ran out of the gym after that, and when he was gone, Peter hissed, "Miles, where are you!?"
"That was my uncle." Miles said next to Peter, causing Peter to jump into the air.
Peter angrily said, "If you're going to freeze in a fight, then you shouldn't be in the fight!"
"Peter, my uncle just tried to kill me." Miles repeated, his entire body shaking.
Peter looked over at Miles, realizing that his arm had three gashes on it, all maybe three inches long. Peter looked around the gym, realizing that the windows near the ceiling were open. Peter pointed to the windows and said, "We'll climb out there and get you some first aid, okay? Only way we can do that is if we go now."
Miles nodded, shocked to his very core, as he followed Peter out of the school.
And now... Even more angst (it's gonna start getting happier from here on out, I PROMISE)!
"Okay... I'm about to apply the antiseptic. This is gonna sting a little." Peter said gently as he and Miles sat on the rooftop of a nearby church.
Miles didn't say anything as he stared at the graveyard in front of them, not even paying attention as Peter cleaned his wounds. Miles tightened slightly as Peter cleaned his arm, but then relaxed when he felt the white gauze go around his arm. Peter said, "It's not gonna need stitches, but you're gonna need to clean your wound every few days. Wearing long-sleeves might help keep it a secret for a while."
"Thanks." Miles said bitterly.
"I already told you. We were fighting my uncle."
"I know. I heard you say that. I'm asking why you froze. You can't do that when you're doing this job, Miles. You do that in an even more dangerous fight, and you die." Peter said, shrugging. "Besides, he's not after you. He's after me because he probably still holds a grade against me-"
"You knew!?" Miles asked, getting more and more annoyed with Peter.
"Well... Not actually. I kinda vaugely recognized that man from the Vulture thing from when I was first starting out. I think he was the Shocker back then... I may have webbed him to a car and there was ice cream and I think he was running late to his nephew's birthday party when I webbed him there for information and he called me a girl..." Peter said, his voice trailing off. "Sorry about that."
"That man was my uncle! Do you not care?" Miles asked, angrily facing to fight Peter. "I just told you that my uncle just tried to kill me, and you're acting like you don't care and instead your apologizing for something that happened eight years ago!? What the hell!?"
Peter set down his handmade first aid kit as he said, "I care Miles, more than you realize, but that's how it goes in this kind of business. People you trust end up betraying you and because you're caught off guard, people you love die."
"That can't right. You're just bitter. That can't be the norm in being a superhero."
"Can't be the norm, huh?" Peter asked, throwing the first aid kit back into the Walgreens bag and grabbed his mask, yanking it back on. "I'll show you the truth of this business. Follow me."
Miles carefully put on his mask and followed Peter off of the church, following him through the cemetery. Eventually, Peter stopped in front of May Parker's grave, motioning to it with a flourish. "This is why I know people betraying you, people you trust betraying you, is the norm."
"She didn't betray you. She got crumbled under a building." Miles said angrily. Why was Peter trying to ruin May's good name in her death? She was an amazingly good person, and she didn't deserve that. "Maybe you should check your priorities before you accuse someone of betraying you!"
"The person who killed her betrayed me."
"Her death wasn't a murder. A building collapsed on top of her. Everyone knows that."
"That's the official cause, not the truth. The truth is that she was murdered by a man named Norman Osborn. He was an enemy of mine in a different universe. His alter ego, Green Goblin, took control and murdered May Parker when she had tried to help him. I would know. I was there."
"Then why didn't you save her!? She didn't deserve to die!"
"I did try to save her! May meant everything to me!" Peter yelled angrily, tears starting to stream under his mask.
"If she meant everything to you, you would have tried harder!"
"I did try! I asked the police for help, and they shot their guns at me!"
"How do you even know her, anyway!?" Miles asked, realizing that this was how he finally going to get Peter to open up about his past. "How do I know you weren't the one who killed her!? You obviously didn't care about her if you didn't do everything in your power to save her!"
"MAY PARKER WAS MY AUNT AND THE WOMAN WHO RAISED ME!" Peter yelled, yanking off his mask. Miles saw that Peter was pissed, his entire face red and tears falling down his face. Miles slowly started to realize that pushing Peter like this wasn't the best idea he had ever had. Peter's voice kept cracking as he kept talking, his tears turning into a sob. "SHE TOOK ME IN WHEN I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD AND CONTINUED TO RAISE ME AS HER OWN SON WHEN HER HUSBAND AND LOVE OF HER LIFE, BEN PARKER, DIED BECAUSE OF ME! I HAD TO WATCH MY AUNT DIE BECAUSE THE POLICE WOULDN'T TRUST ME BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THAT I HAD MURDERED MYSTERIO AFTER HE LEAKED MY IDENTITY! IF MY IDENTITY HAD NEVER BEEN LEAKED, MY AUNT WOULD STILL BE WITH US! DON'T YOU DARE SAY THAT I DIDN'T LOVE HER AND THAT I DIDN'T CARE ABOUT HER! I WOULD NEVER HAVE KILLED MY AUNT!"
Peter collapsed next to the grave in a heap of grief, finally overcome by the wave for the first time in two months, desperately trying to collect himself from the ocean he was drowning in and failing miserably, getting swept away by the undertow. "She was my mother, the closest thing I ever had to one... And she was my best friend."
Miles stared at Peter and the tombstones, realizing that neither Ben Parker or May Parker's tombstones mentioned anything about them being an uncle or aunt. Walking on eggshells, Miles said, "It doesn't mention them having a nephew."
"It wouldn't. Not anymore, anyway." Peter said in between sobs, curling up into a ball where he sat. Miles stared at his hero since age eleven and realized that Peter Parker wasn't like Peter Pan, standing on high and taunting his enemies, eternally young, but instead was more like a Lost Boy calling out for their mother despite knowing that she would never come back, despite how much they kept calling for her to. "Not after that spell."
"... What spell?" Miles asked, sitting down on the ground in front of Peter.
"Dr. Strange." Peter explained. "As you know it, Mysterio just blamed Spider-Man for his murder in his video, which Stark Industries denied and proved to be false. As I know it, Mysterio revealed my identity to the entire world. Because of that, me and my best friends, Ned Leeds and Michelle Jones-Watson, my girlfriend, couldn't get into college. I went to Dr. Strange for help and he agreed to cast a spell so that everyone could forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. He didn't tell me that my friends and family would forget, I asked him to make them not, and because of that, the spell was corrupted and pulled in everyone who knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man from all universes. It was a bunch of villains, including Green Goblin, and I had to fight them after trying to help them get back to their universes with a fighting chance of survival because everyone who got pulled in died because of the version of me in their universe. Green Goblin didn't like that, and because I tried to help him, he killed my aunt. I watched her die right before my eyes because nobody would come to help me get her out of the destroyed apartment building. Eventually, the spell got too dangerous and I told Dr. Strange to cast a new spell that made the entire world forget Peter Parker in order to save our universe. I was left alone, Miles. I lost my friends, my family, my home, I couldn't even go back to Midtown Tech because that spell erased my entire academic record. I live in that crappy apartment because that's all I can afford. It's not a choice, it's a necessity."
Miles just stayed silent as he let Peter continue talking, sensing that he hadn't had the chance to let this all out since it first happened. As Miles watched Peter start to rock himself back and forth, it made Miles see Peter for who Peter Parker truly was; a kid. A kid with superstrength and the ability to sense danger from a mile away, sure, but a kid nonetheless. Maybe because he had the word Man at the end of his superhero name, Miles and everyone else in New York forgot that Peter could snap under the smallest thing. He may be seen as an indestructible figure of hope to thousands of little kids out there, but even Spider-Man could be destroyed over one simple thing. "Everyone I have ever cared about has died, Miles. Uncle Ben, he died because I couldn't stop a bank robbery. Tony Stark, he died saving everyone. Aunt May, she died because she tried to help someone and they betrayed her. I can't go near anyone who's left because I'm terrified that I'm going to inadvertently cause their death's just like I caused Aunt May's. Betrayal, loss, sacrifice, and loneliness are what await you down this path, Miles. I don't want more people to have to do this job than necessary. It's my job to shoulder all of this by myself, not your's. Leave while you still can. It will be better for you in the long run."
Instead of leaving like Peter asked him too, Miles crawled over to Peter and hugged him gently, wrapping his arms around Peter's neck. Once Peter processed what was going on, he quickly hugged Miles back, sobbing into Miles's shoulder as he clung to the fourteen year old for dear life, contradicting what he had just said and acting scared that Miles would leave him all alone. As Peter sobbed, Miles whispered, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pushed you like that."
"But I needed it." Peter said, releasing Miles as he wiped his eyes. "I haven't been able to actually cry about Aunt May since she first died."
"Because you haven't even tried to let anyone back in." Miles said quickly. "I understand needing to take time to process what the hell happened, I have a feeling the whole thing was traumatic for you, but... You need to grieve, Peter. You loved her. She raised you. How much you need to grieve and mourn depends on how much you truly loved that person, and based on how much you just sobbed, you need to mourn. You can't exactly properly mourn over someone when you won't even let anyone in to mourn with you. I know that you're scared to let everyone back into your life because you're scared that you're going to get hurt again, not to mention wanting to keep everyone else safe, but life is all about getting hurt. You need to let people in, man. You need to tell those you love just how much you love them because you don't know what time is going to be the last time."
"I'm sorry..." Peter said cautiously, wiping his runny nose.
"Don't apologize for showing your true emotions for the first time in a while. You had to get them out."
"I mean about your uncle. That really sucks..." Peter said, standing up, ready to go about his daily business as if he didn't just lose the most important person in his life two short months ago and had no record of his existence to show for it. "I'll look into the files we have from the Tracksuit Mafia to see if there's anything I can do to make him go down without much of a fight."
"Peter... You're in no condition-"
"This is my life, Miles. Crime fighting... Doing some good for the people of this city like my aunt would have wanted, even if they may not deserve it... That's all I have left. You actually have something to go back to. The only thing I have to go back to in my four walls of an apartment and my job of taking pictures of myself to sell to The Daily Bugle. Enjoy your family while you have it. Families... They aren't exactly built to last." Peter said, putting back on his mask as he turned around and started swinging away.
Miles carefully made his way back to Visions, entering his dorm room to see Ganke nervously pacing around the room. When he saw Miles, Ganke cautiously asked, "So... What happened?"
"The Prowler is my uncle and Spider-Man is emotionally damaged beyond repair." Miles said, starting to change out of his slightly destroyed costume.
"What does that-"
"Ganke," Miles said exhaustedly. "Can I tell you everything in the morning? I just had to comfort Spider-Man after he started sobbing in a cemetery, I'm injured, it's almost ten, we have school tomorrow, and I have some things to process."
Ganke nodded. "Yeah, but... You're okay, right?"
"I think so..." Miles said, honestly not even sure at that point. Miles changed into his pajamas and climbed into bed, staring at the ceiling as he attempted to fall asleep and fail. The story of Peter Parker was a tragedy, that much was clear, but... At this point in the story, Miles was unsure if there was anyway he could turn that tragedy into a story with a happy ending, or even have any idea on what that happy ending would look like. All he knew was that he wouldn't be getting much sleep that night, despite how much he wanted it, because the story of Peter Parker's sad life kept echoing in his ear.
Okay... Slight angst at the beginning, but things start to get better at this point, I promise! It's a rollercoaster from here on out!
Peter sat down at his desk, studying his files on Prowler. Name: Aaron Davis. Killed many powerful bad guys behind the scenes to help Kingpin's rise to power. Not much else was in the files, just the amounts of people this guy had killed and very limited details about his job with the Vulture, and the overall lack of information made Peter's head spin even more than it already was.
Peter got up from his desk and stumbled over to the fridge to get himself another water bottle, he was pretty dehydrated from all the crying that day, and downed it all in one go. As Peter walked to the trash can to throw away the plastic water bottle, he heard someone knock at the front door. Confused, Peter got up and walked to the door and saw MJ standing outside. She was still wearing her Lola Bunny costume... For the most part. She had taken off the ridiculous bunny ears, and was now wearing black sweatpants and a black sweater under a thick black coat, but Peter could still see the white Tune Squad jersey underneath it, her giant school backpack by her side. MJ looked Peter square in the eyes, rage and concern filling both, as she angrily said, tears in her eyes, "You promised."
Peter took a step back, shocked and confused. Had he heard that right? "... What?"
"You promised that you would find me and Ned and you would tell us the truth. You didn't. Why?" MJ said angrily, her hands balled into fists.
"You... You remember?"
"Of course I do, you fucking idiot!" MJ said, pushing her way into Peter's apartment, taking off her coat as she did so. She was crying now, wiping away the tears as Peter closed the door to limit how much noise he and MJ would undoubtedly be making since this was turning into a fight. "I told you I was going to figure it out if you didn't tell me anyway. And since Wanda gave me your address-"
"Oh, so it was Wanda who freed you?" Peter asked, plopping down onto his bed, then instantly regretted it since he hit his bruises against the hard edge of his bed.
"No. I figured it out when I saw you fighting Prowler. You really need to change up your fighting style if you're going to fight as Peter. Wanda just mentioned your name outside the school and I forced her to tell me your address." MJ explained as she sat down at the foot of Peter's bed. "Why didn't you tell me, Peter? You promised-"
"I didn't want you and Ned to have to go through even more pain." Peter explained, starting to get worked up as well as tears started welling up, not entirely falling. "I didn't want either of you, or Happy, to end up like May. I decided that it was better if I just... Watched from the sidelines instead of actively be in your life."
MJ sighed, shaking her head. It seemed like she was calming down slightly. "While I understand the why, Peter, that isn't your decision to make. It's my decision, and Ned's-"
"But I knew what decision you guys would make, and I decided that your safety was more important than me having friends." Peter explained, sitting up and staring at MJ as tears started to spill from his eyes. "If it means anything, I was trying to figure out a way to give you back your memories. Wanda Maximoff is helping me with that."
"She is?" MJ asked, raising an eyebrow.
"The more that things happened this week... The more I realized that even if you didn't think you knew me, there was still photo evidence that you knew Spider-Man, and that was going to put you in danger." Peter explained cautiously, taking a deep breath. "You may as well be aware that you're in danger than be completely oblivious."
MJ started crying as she stared at Peter, shaking her head. "What happened to you? You've never been this cynical. That's my thing."
"May died, and everything's been shit ever since." Peter said, succumbing to his emotions and breaking down into tears again as he buried his face in his hands. "MJ, I am so sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen."
"Peter..." MJ said, scooting closer to Peter as she hugged him, resting her head on top of his as she let Peter sob, doing her best to let Peter get all of his emotions out. "It's okay. I'm okay. Ned... Ned's a little different, but he's okay too. We're not gonna end up like May if we have anything to say about it."
"You can't guarantee that." Peter said in between sobs.
"You're right. I can't." MJ confirmed. "But you can't live your life in the past, Peter. Yes, May is dead, and she will be missed, but you can't let the fear that everyone you love is going to end up like May control your present. You have to actively choose to live in the now instead of living in your past."
Peter looked over at MJ, reeling in his emotions as he said, "I love you, MJ, and I didn't want to bring you back into my life just to watch you die. I was scared when I shouldn't have been, and you got caught in the cross hairs. I am so sorry."
"Peter..." MJ said, moving her arms down Peter's back to hold him closer. Peter did the same, wrapping his arms around MJ and actually not minding the pain shooting up his back from MJ's touch. Despite how much it hurt, MJ's hug was also kinda soothing, like how listening to loud music helped to drown out the chaos of the world outside. MJ laughed a little as she said, "I love you too, but you still should have told us. I mean... I had to date Ned. NED. Someone I see as a brother! And I wound up dying my hair red!"
Peter let go of MJ, smiling at her weakly. "I actually kinda like it. I know I already said that in the coffee shop, but I do like it."
"I guess it's okay... My hair, I mean." MJ said, smiling sadly at Peter. "I wish you had just told me so I didn't have to find out on my own."
"It's okay... Well, it's not 'okay', you should have told us, but I understand your reasoning, so... I accept your apology."
Peter got off of his bed as he said, cringing as his head shot with pain. "Can I get you anything? I have leftover pizza in the fridge and some water bottles."
"I'm good." MJ said nervously.
"So... Who knows that you're here?" Peter asked, grabbing the water bottle he has left by the fridge to take a sip of water.
"Betty. I was supposed to spend the night at her house, but I told her that I think an Avenger casted a spell on us to make us forget a classmate and to cover for me until I found out why." MJ explained. "I know that you don't want me here-"
"I do want you here." Peter interrupted. "I just don't want you to get hurt because you know me, MJ."
"Lucky for you, I'm not planning on going anywhere, and I am not planning on getting hurt. If I do, I can protect myself. I've done it once before, I can do it again." MJ said, almost a bit challenging. "We're dating, Peter. We're supposed to help each other."
"You still want to be my girlfriend, even after all that?" Peter asked.
"Call me crazy, but I do, because I love you." MJ said, walking over to where Peter was and gently grabbed his hand, holding onto it for reassurance, trying to convince Peter that she wasn't planning on leaving anytime soon. "And it seems like you and I have a lot to catch up on."
"Not much on my end. I moved in here."
"Yeah... I can tell. I don't like this neighborhood."
"It was all I could afford."
"How are you... You know..."
"Not well. Today was the first time I sobbed about her since it happened. Well... Second time I've sobbed about that today, but still."
MJ hugged Peter again. "You don't have to mourn alone anymore."
Peter hugged MJ back, then took a sip of of his water bottle once he let go of MJ. As soon as Peter set down his water bottle and swallowed his water, MJ snuck in a kiss, grabbing Peter's face and holding it in her hands. Peter was surprised for a moment, then kissed MJ back, lifting her up as she hugged him tightly. Peter carried MJ to his bed, setting her down as they continued kissing, Peter running his hands through MJ's hair. As they kissed, Peter realized that despite how much he had been trying to deny it, Peter missed MJ and Ned, more than he could actually formulate into a sentence.
MJ forced Peter onto his back, continuing to kiss Peter, almost as if he was a soldier going off to war; quick and no chance of stopping anytime soon out of fear that he was going to disappear at any minute. After another thirty seconds of making out, Peter slightly screamed in pain in between kisses since MJ was applying too much pressure to his back. MJ stopped, pushing her hair behind her ears, as she said, "What's wrong?"
"I just have bruises on my back from when Prowler beat me against the wall yesterday. I'm fine." Peter said quickly, readjusting how he was sitting on his bed. He smiled at MJ as he said, "God, I missed you..."
"I missed you too. Do I need to get you an ice pack, you broken baby?" MJ asked teasingly as she got off of Peter's bed and walked over to the freezer.
"I am, indeed, broken beyond repair."
"Then it's a good thing I like broken things, huh?" MJ said, grabbing the bag of frozen peas and ace bandage vest from the freezer, walking back over to the bed and handed it to Peter. "How bad is it?"
"You tell me." Peter said, taking off his baggy T-shirt to put on the ice pack vest.
MJ looked at Peter's back, realizing that his back was black and blue and green, a galaxy of bruises covering his entire back. MJ stared at his back and found herself wondering how Peter was even able to fight with his back like that. "Pretty bad..."
"Figures." Peter said, smiling weakly at MJ. "Life of a superhero, huh?"
MJ sighed, scooting herself against Peter's headboard. "You work too hard."
"Sorry that I had to protect my favorite barista." Peter said, putting an arm around MJ. "I'm guessing that you're gonna leave soon."
"Kinda late, don't you think?" MJ asked. "I mean... Betty is covering for me all night."
Peter's eyes widened. "So... You're planning on spending the night here?"
"If that's okay with you. I mean... It's not like there are any adults here to tell us no..." MJ said, smiling at Peter. "Besides... We need to make up for the last two months."
Peter smiled more than he had in months, almost like a manic two year old, as he quickly kissed MJ again. "I love you so much. I know I didn't say it when you said it at first, but-"
"It's okay. I knew you loved me... Deep down." MJ said, kissing Peter back. "You get wifi here? We can watch GTLive like old times."
Peter smiled back. "I'd like that."
Shorter chapter today, but that's because this and the next chapter are the calm before the storm, let's call it.
The next morning, Peter was genuinely surprised to see MJ still in bed next to him. He had his arms wrapped around her torso, MJ's arms lightly wrapped around Peter's neck, snuggling next to him. MJ had barely changed into pajamas, she was still wearing the Tune Squad cropped jersey and a pair of black sweatpants, her hair fanned out around her sleeping face. Peter had never put on his pajama shirt, so he was laying in bed shirtless, clinging to MJ almost like she was a giant stuffed animal Peter didn't want to let go of. MJ's alarm hadn't gone off for school yet, so she was still fast asleep by the time that Peter had opened his eyes. Peter just laid in bed next to her, watching MJ as she slept to almost make sure she wasn't going to disappear. A minute later, MJ's alarm went off. She turned to look at Peter, smiling at him with an exhausted smile, clearly still groggy since she was letting her alarm continue to play the opening song to The Lightning Thief: A Percy Jackson Musical (she loved musicals, even if she didn't want to admit it), and quietly said, "Hi."
"Hi." Peter said, starting to sit up with MJ, unwrapping his arms from her so MJ could turn off her alarm. "I don't really have breakfast here, so-"
"That's okay. I don't really eat breakfast either. You know that." MJ said, a bit embarrassed, as she pushed some of her hair behind her ear as she also sat up, going to gather her clothes. "I should probably get to Midtown... Why they decided to throw a dance on a Sunday night and still have school the following Monday, I have no idea."
"Right, right, I have a GED class I need to get to at noon today..." Peter said as he grabbed his jeans and wandered over to his closet and grabbed a T-shirt and jacket.
MJ searched her backpack and sighed, shaking her head as she pulled out a change of clothes. "Shit..."
"I forgot to pack a shirt to wear today..." MJ complained. "I remembered my uniform for work, but not an extra shirt."
Peter scanned his closet and grabbed a baggy blue sweater, tossing it to MJ. "Keep on the crop top from last night, and then wear this over it. Nobody will know the difference."
"You... Are a genius."
"As is my brand."
MJ gathered all of her clothes, then smiled at Peter. "I'll change in your bathroom, and then I'll be right back."
"Got it!" Peter said, giving MJ a thumbs up as he changed into an old T-shirt with a science pun on it he hadn't worn in months because he hadn't thought that the joke was funny until recently, putting a blue flannel on over it.
MJ walked out of the bathroom wearing what she brought in there with her, including a blue headband that was pushing back her straight red hair, smiling at Peter. She laughed to herself as she said, "There's the Peter Parker I know... Extremely dorky shirt and all... Even if he needs a haircut..."
Peter ran a hand through his messy brown hair, the ends slightly curling, as he said, "I need to save money before I actually do that..."
MJ shrugged. "I actually kinda like the longer hair. Makes you look a little older."
MJ laughed, walking over to quickly kiss Peter on the lips. The two kept kissing, MJ twisting her hands into Peter's hair, almost like she was making sure he would stay there by keeping a fist full of curls in her hands. When they finally stopped kissing, MJ smiled at Peter and said, "Meet you at Peter Pan's, same time as normal?"
"Uh huh." Peter said, kissing MJ back. When they released, Peter smiled and said, "I really did miss you. And Ned."
"Not to bring down the mood, but that last thing could be fixed if you told Ned and got him his memory back..."
Peter sighed. "I'll ask Wanda to help me give him his memory back after I deal with the Prowler. He's targeting people at Midtown, and it's dangerous to actually have people remember me, so-"
"Be careful. Got it. Nothing new."
Peter grabbed one of MJ's hands as he asked, "How did I get so lucky to get you back in my life?"
MJ shrugged. "Face it, Tiger, you hit the jackpot."
Peter chuckled, rolling his eyes. "I'm not a Midtown Tiger anymore. At least, I haven't been since the spell."
"Once a Tiger, always a Tiger, even if you aren't exactly remembered as a Tiger." MJ said, her nose scrunching slightly as she laughed and smiled.
MJ took a few steps away from Peter and grabbed her backpack, zipping it back up and waving goodbye. "See ya at Peter Pan's after school."
"See ya." Peter said, watching as MJ opened the door. Standing outside was Pepper, holding a box of donuts and a couple of coffees. Peter eyes widened as he ran over to the door, almost like he was attempt to hide MJ from Pepper's sight despite the fact that MJ was the one who opened up the door. "Hi Pepper Stark! Why are you here!?"
MJ's eyes widened as she moved out of Pepper's way, glancing at Peter in a way that said she was confused and would need the context information later. Pepper focused on the two as she said, "I'm here for the thing. You know... What we discussed yesterday?"
Peter relaxed slightly. "Oh... Right... The thing."
"You forgot that I wanted to see the E.D.I.T.H. glasses, didn't you?"
"Kinda, yeah. A lot happened after we talked." Peter said, his face turning red as he nervously scratched the back of his neck. "A lot, a lot."
MJ laughed nervously as she said, "I'm gonna go... See ya after school, Peter."
"See ya!" Peter said, voice cracking, as he motioned for Pepper to come inside. "Entry, please."
Pepper walked inside, and as soon as the door was closed, she said, "God, you really are Tony's protégé! A random girl? Really? Did you, at the very least, take her out to dinner first?"
"You are... Totally misreading the situation Pepper." Peter said quickly. "MJ was my girlfriend before the spell Dr. Strange casted. She got her memories about me back all on her own and she came here last night to yell at me for breaking my promise to tell her and Ned what happened. We got to talking, we're back together, and she wound up spending the night here. I didn't do what you're thinking I did, I promise. We were just making out."
"You are too young to be a father." Pepper said quickly.
"We didn't do that!" Peter said exhaustedly. He walked over to his desk and grabbed the E.D.I.T.H. glasses, handing them to Pepper. "Here. Why are you here so early anyway?"
"Happy agreed to take Morgan to school this morning, so I decided to grab donuts and bring you breakfast." Pepper said, putting on the E.D.I.T.H. glasses. "E.D.I.T.H., transfer ownership from Tony Stark to Peter Parker."
Pepper waited a few seconds before she handed the glasses back to Peter. "Should be able to use those again now too."
"... Thanks." Peter said, setting the glasses on a shelf next to an Empreor Palpatine LEGO figure.
"She really got her memories about you back without a spell?"
"Yeah. We were up late talking about it last night." Peter said, his face turning red. "All we did was lay in my bed, watch old archives of GTLive, and we talked about old times. Maybe we kissed a few times, but that's the extent of it."
Pepper laughed, shaking her head. "Does she just have extreme willpower, or does she also have superpowers?"
"I know you don't remember this, but back in Europe, she literally told me that I was Spider-Man because she figured it out all on her own. I'm going with the extreme willpower thing."
Pepper realized Peter was smiling like a kid who just went on their first date, realizing that this was different compared to the kid she remet the day before, who was so broken that he was struggling not to cry every ten minutes. "You really love her, don't you?"
"She's part of the reason why I didn't want to give anyone I care about their memories back. I didn't want her to be in danger because of me." Peter explained, collapsing on his bed as he stared up at the cracked ceiling. "It's not perfect, but... This is the best thing that's ever happened to me in months! She told me that she loved me before the memory erasing thing and I finally got to tell her myself. I love her so much."
Pepper laughed, rolling her eyes. "Wow... You even act like Tony. He fell hard like this with me too. Just... Promise me you won't buy her a twenty foot tall stuffed rabbit."
"Like I could even afford to do that." Peter said, sitting up in his bed to stare at Pepper. "So... What's the real reason you're here?"
"I wanted to see where you lived... Make sure it was okay." Pepper admitted. "... And to offer myself up."
"For the spell that Wanda thinks might work." Pepper explained. "I don't have a lot of memories of you, but I have some hidden in my mind, right?"
"Well... Yeah. I would hope so. I have babysitted Morgan on many occasions and I was Tony's protégé, like you said."
"Therefore, it would be safer for the first spell to be casted on me. I have the least amount of memories, so the least amount of danger. It would just be to see if it works." Pepper reasoned out to Peter. "Then, once we all deem it safe, you can help Wanda trick Ned into letting her do the spell."
"You would do that?" Peter asked.
"You shouldn't be forced to go through life without your friends or family just because they don't remember you. I'll be the first test subject, and if it works, we'll go from there."
"Really? Thank you..."
Pepper smiled, nodding her head. "Come to my house for dinner tonight. Around 6:00. That's when we'll do the spell. And bring Wanda, obviously."
"6:00... Got it." Peter said, giving Pepper a thumbs up.
"Now... Tell me about your GED classes."
"Yeah. You're getting it so you can get into college, right? Any specific college in mind?"
"Preferably MIT, but I'm good with anywhere." Peter said, starting to talk about his life for the past two months, feeling at peace with where he was at this point in his life.
Okay, I know that this story is mainly about Peter Parker, but I wanted the other two superheroes of this story to have their own solo chapters... For the most part.
Starting off... MILES!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"... Miles, you good?" Ganke asked, nudging Miles's arm after class. When Miles didn't move from his spot, staring blankly at his desk, Ganke said, "Miles!"
"Huh? What?" Miles asked, turning to look at Ganke, snapping out of his own thoughts.
"Class is over. We gotta go to the dorms so teachers can have their after-school meeting."
"I think I'm gonna go for a walk for a while, actually... Ya know, clear my head." Miles said, gathering his backpack and slung it over his shoulder.
"Is this about what Spider-Man told you last night?" Ganke asked as he followed Miles out of the room and into the halls of Visions Academy. The walls were stark white, lockers a dark blue, and the tile floor so shiny Miles could see his reflection in the linoleum. He looked stressed out beyond belief, based on what his slightly warped reflection was showing him. The halls were empty, most of their classmates had already made it back to the dorms, so nobody but Ganke was probably going to see Miles's impending mental breakdown.
"Amongst other things I have yet to tell you." Miles admitted as loosened his necktie and unbuttoned his uniform blazer. "Dude, it's complicated, and I need to think."
"It was that bad last night?"
"He was sobbing like a little baby and he told me things that I didn't realize, but was important none the less. I just... I need a walk to put it into perspective." Miles said nervously.
"Dude, as your best friend, I am very worried about you." Ganke commented. "You looked really concerned when you got to the dorms last night. Are you sure that everything is okay?"
"No... Which is why I need to think. I'll be fine, I promise." Miles said, waving goodbye to Ganke as he walked out of the school.
Miles grabbed his headphones out of his backpack to put them in his phone as he walked, seeing his father standing outside with his squad car once Miles exited the building. Confused, Miles walked over to Jefferson, descending the stairs to get to the curb. "Dad... What's going on?"
"Nothing. I just didn't get to see a lot of you this weekend, and since you got out of school early today because of a teacher's meeting, I thought we could go out driving for a while." Jefferson explained. "You don't have anything planned... Right?"
"Well... No, but-"
"Okay then, come on! We might even stop for ice cream."
Miles reluctantly followed his father into the squad car as took off his backpack, hanging his headphones around his neck. As Jefferson pulled away from Visions Academy, he asked, "So... How was school?"
"Fine. Same old, same old, I guess."
Jefferson noticed that Miles looked ancy, looking out the windows, as he asked, "Do I have to evoke Straight Talk?"
Miles sighed. 'Straight Talk' was what his father called it when the two of them had to talk about whatever was on their minds, no lying accepted. The other person also had to give their honest opinion, no matter what. Miles stayed silent, deciding that that was the best option. After driving through traffic for a while, Miles avoiding looking directly into his father's eyes, Jefferson said, "Okay, I'm evoking Straight Talk. What's going on, Miles?"
"... I know this guy." Miles said cautiously, knowing that there was no way he was going to get out of this.
"Do I know him?"
"No... Not... I mean... Yes, but also no... It's complicated."
"Well, uncomplicate it for me, Miles. You know the rules of Straight Talk."
Miles sighed as he felt his entire body start to curl inwards as he looked at his dad and nervously asked, knowing that there was no going back once this was out in the open, "Promise me you won't freak out?"
Miles rolled up his sleeves, holding out his arms. Jefferson glanced over at Miles's arm out of the corner of his eyes as he drove, seeing a gauze wrap around it. "Miles, what happened?"
"I'll get to it. Just... Keep in mind that you promised that you wouldn't freak out." Miles said, holding his arms out a little further, as yellow beams of electricity sparked out from his arms.
Jefferson watched out of the corner of his eye in fascination, turning to look at Miles when they got to a red light. "Miles... How are you able to do that?"
"Well... I was hanging out with Uncle Aaron when I graduated from the 8th grade-"
"Oh no... Where is this going?"
"And while I was hanging out with Uncle Aaron, a radioactive spider may or may not have bit me and given me superpowers..." Miles said nervously, wincing as he actually admitted it to his father out loud. "You... You always say that I have this spark in me... Now I literally do. I can also turn invisible and stick to things, but those aren't exactly easy to show in the car."
"So... So you're the person who's been shocking people close to death?"
"I'm working on controlling how much I use. I know that I'm making your job harder, and I'm trying not to, but... Dad, I met Spider-Man, and everything is a mess and I don't know what to do." Miles said honestly. "Spider-Man told me that being a hero is all about being betrayed by people you trust and based on what happened last night... I can't tell the good from the bad. Spider-Man... He-"
"Don't tell me his identity, Miles. It's safer if I don't know."
"Mysterio revealed his identity in that video originally, and because it got revealed, May Parker ended up dying, and that's without going into detail. Only reason the rest of the world doesn't remember is because Dr. Strange casted a spell to make the entire world forget about May Parker's nephew, which is Spider-Man, just so we're clear. Spider-Man told me all that and more last night in front of her grave."
"How old is he?" Jefferson asked. "That's the only thing I want to know about him... Besides what you've already told me. How old is Spider-Man?"
"Seventeen years old. Barely older than me."
"Jesus Christ... So... Is he an orphan now?"
"Has been since he was five. May apparently raised him up until she died. He completely broke down yesterday because... The barista at Peter Pan's? The one with the red hair? She was his girlfriend before the spell and the Prowler-"
"The Prowler?" Jefferson asked, quickly glancing down at Miles's arm. "Aaron hurt you?"
"He didn't know it was me." Miles said, nervously glancing over at his father, realizing what his father had said. "You knew about Uncle Aaron too?"
"His work with the Vulture is why he was late to my eleventh birthday. Spider-Man webbed him to the car, and Spider-Man told me that he recognized him yesterday. How do you know about Uncle Aaron?"
Jefferson sighed. "The only reason I'm as far into my career as I am is because, when I was given the moment, I sold out your uncle. He came to me for help, and I sold him out. I did what I had to do so that I could provide for you and your mother and keep you two safe."
Miles shook his head as he said, "The only reason you're a captain, the only reason why you still help on patrols and are in a position to care this much about your city, is because you sold out Uncle Aaron?"
"The world, Miles, it isn't all good and all bad. It's a mixture of both. You can't have the bad without also having the good. Everyone has both mixed within them. You just have to make the active decision to decide to use what you have to either do good or do bad. I didn't want you to know that truth so soon into your life... But it can't be helped now."
"How? How do you do it?" Miles asked. "How do you actively decide to do good when the rest of the world doesn't give you any good in return?"
"The world, in general, is full of suffering, Miles, because that's what living is. It has been my belief for years now that the best people that Earth has to offer, the Albert Einsteins and the Betty Whites, the Pablo Picassos and the Natasha Romanoffs, those types of people all suffer things that the rest of the world would never be able to bear. I am fortunate enough to have suffered very little, our whole family got Snapped away, do we didn't have to worry about growing too old for one another, and yes, my childhood was bad, but as far as life goes, I have suffered very little, but have also inflicted suffering on those I wish I hadn't. Doing good, Miles, attempting to choose good... It's like a leap of faith. You will never know how your actions are going to effect someone until after you've done those actions, so you just have to jump and hope that it turns out for the best." Jefferson explained. "Based on what little you've told me about Spider-Man, it seems like he is one of those people who is going to be a force for good because he has suffered more than any person should."
"But... Uncle Aaron... How can I justify hurting him and fighting him? I know that he hurt me, Dad, but... He's still family. You and Mom always taught me that family deserves respect and love and protection. How can I justify going against everything you've taught me?"
"How I rationalize something like this every day is that if I don't do something to stop the people doing harm, then that would be like I'm hurting people too. The more harm I can take off the streets, the better. I love your uncle, you know I do, but when push comes to shove, your uncle is actively trying to hurt people, Miles. Look at what he did to you, and Aaron didn't even realize it was you. I know that you love Aaron, probably more than I do, but... He can't be allowed to harm people anymore, Miles."
Miles looked down at his arm and nodded. "Yeah... Yeah, I know."
"Do you know where Aaron might strike next?"
"I have a theory..."
"He might try to strike at Peter Pan's again. I snuck a peek at the files Spider-Man got from Kingpin, and one of the newspapers had a picture of him in a mask with MJ. They might be attacking MJ to get to Spider-Man so that they can figure out how his powers work since they don't entirely know me." Miles admitted.
"So... When I drop you back off at school, get your suit, do any repairs you may need to do, and then go stalk Peter Pan's. I'll wait for your call so I can go down there and deal with my brother."
"You really trust me to do this?" Miles asked.
"I do... And start calling yourself Spider-Man too. You own that title just as much as the OG does." Jefferson said, smiling as he placed a hand on Miles's head, messing with Miles's coily hair. Then, Jefferson said, "And I believe that this goes without saying, but this Straight Talk-"
"Doesn't get shared with Mom. I figured that much." Miles said, rolling his eyes. "Thanks Dad... I needed this."
"You're welcome. I love you." Jefferson said, then realized that Miles wasn't going to say it back right away. "What, you think that you're too grown up to say 'I love you' back now that you got bit by a radioactive spider?"
Miles laughed. "I love you too, Dad. I just wanted to see your reaction."
"God... You are my child, there is no denying it."
The storm winds... They are picking up slightly... ;)
Wanda walked into Peter Pan's at around 3:40 and walked up to the cash register, staring at the menu. MJ walked over and said, "He's not gonna be here yet."
"Huh?" Wanda asked.
"Peter. He's still in his GED class. He gets out at 3:45ish, and then he comes here. It's like clockwork." MJ explained. "He'll be here soon, but not now."
"Oh... He told me to come here so we could talk..." Wanda said as she focused on the menu above her.
"Ya know, the red velvet cappuccino is pretty good. It's our special drink for February." MJ suggested. "Seems like that would be your kind of drink."
"What makes you say that?"
MJ tilted her head as she stared at Wanda. "Are you seriously asking me that question right now?"
Wanda looked down at what she was wearing, realizing that she was wearing her red coat with a red beanie, red knitted gloves, black jeans, combat boots, and a baggy black and red stripped sweater with a white collared shirt underneath, her work name tag still pinned to her shirt. Wanda quickly took off her name tag, stuffing it into her purse at her side. "Oh... Right. Guess that does seem kinda stupid..."
"So... One red velvet cappuccino?" MJ asked.
"Any scones to go with that? Peter gets scones free for the rest of the month for Saturday." MJ suggested.
"Got any chocolate chip left?"
"Yeah, we got plenty." MJ said, going to make Wanda's coffee. "Okay, so... This is gonna be a funny question, but... What was he like in Germany?"
Wanda chuckled a little as she said, "Sam often calls him the most annoying being in the universe."
"Ya know what? That tracks out." MJ agreed. "He can get on people's nerves surprisingly easily."
"It's like his super secret hidden superpower." Wanda confirmed, chuckling a little.
Peter walked through the front door, a piece of paper with the shop logo on it taped to the store window, and almost jumped when he saw MJ and Wanda happily talking. "Um... Hey... Guys. What did I miss?"
MJ glanced back over at Wanda, smirking as she winked at Peter and said, "Just like clockwork, I tell ya!"
"What did I miss?" Peter repeated as he walked over to Wanda.
"Oh, nothing. Just us talking." Wanda said, shrugging.
"You know, if you two want to sit over by the counter, I'll get your drinks and scones over there." MJ said, turning to Peter and raising an eyebrow. "Unless you're planning on running away like you usually do."
"I'm not running anytime soon." Peter said, smirking back at MJ as he led Wanda to what were his and Ned's normal seats.
"Oo, do I smell romance on the horizon?" Wanda asked teasingly, watching Peter's face turn scarlet red.
"Stop it." Peter whined, clearly embarrassed. For the first time in a while, he actually sounded like a normal teenager.
"Come on! I don't have any sibilings to tease like this!" Wanda complained.
"By the way, you're free tonight, right?"
"Should be. Why?"
"Pepper invited us over to dinner."
Wanda tilted her head in confusion. "Pepper, as in, Pepper Potts? Tony's widow?"
"Yeah. I... Sometimes go to Mr. Stark's grave to think, I went there yesterday after we talked, and I kinda told her everything. She wants to be the first person you cast that spell on, just to make sure it works. She has the least amount of memories of me, so if it doesn't work, she stands with the least amount to use."
"You told Pepper everything?"
"Yeah... Yeah, I did."
"You're opening up again..." Wanda said in a sing song voice, playfully nudging Peter's shoulder. "Walls are coming down, you actually look happy, things are looking up, Peter."
"Now, I wouldn't say that..."
"But things with MJ? They're going okay?" Wanda asked. "Things last night went okay? She didn't absolutely murder you? I know I didn't warn you about it, but I feel like you two needed to hash things out on your own."
"We talked. We watched YouTube. We... Did things that I shouldn't be telling you."
Wanda's eyes widened. "Peter!"
"Not what you're thinking. We just made out. No big deal."
"Yeah, sure it wasn't." MJ said teasingly as she walked over with Wanda and Peter's drinks. "I totally didn't spend the night in your apartment last night. I totally didn't wake up there, in your bed, with you shirtless, your arms wrapped around me, and you also totally didn't give me your sweater to wear to school this morning."
Wanda's jaw dropped as Peter shook his head and said, "You just live for the drama, don't you MJ?"
"Seeing people squirm is kinda funny, ya gotta admit that." MJ said, shrugging. "I'll go get your scones."
"Peter don't know your middle name Parker!" Wanda said, completely shell shocked.
"We didn't do what you think we did!" Peter said defensively, motioning to MJ as she walked over with a bag of scones. "Tell her, MJ!"
"Oh yeah, we definitely didn't do it." MJ said, grabbing a scone from the bag.
"Wow... Such a big help." Peter said sarcastically.
Wanda chuckled, taking a sip of her cappuccino. "MJ, you were right. This is a good coffee."
"What'd I tell ya? It seems like your brand." MJ said, shrugging.
As MJ walked away to go do her other duties, Wanda smirked to herself as she sang, "MJ and Peter sitting in a tree."
"Oh my God, stop." Peter complained.
Wanda laughed as she asked, "So, what time are we due at the Stark lake house? I'm assuming that's where Pepper and Morgan are living, at least."
"6:00 on the dot."
"Yeah, I should be free then. My shift at Barnes and Noble was earlier this morning, so I'm free for the rest of the day."
Peter took a sip of his vanilla latte, raising an eyebrow. "You work at Barnes and Noble?"
"Vision always liked reading! Being around books puts me at ease!"
"You, ultra mega powerful, kinda destined to destroy the world, you work at Barnes and Noble, a bookstore?" Peter asked again. "Really? I'm getting that right?"
"Yes, really. I don't judge you for your life decisions."
"Um... That's all you've done since you met me."
"At least I'm not selling pictures of myself to help promote bad press. I get enough of that already."
"Okay, so, working for The Daily Bugle isn't a perfect job by any means, but I get paid!" Peter said defensively, causing Wanda to laugh.
At that moment, Miles ran into the bakery wearing an olive green coat with a red hoodie, red gym shorts, and Air Jordans, his makeshift Spider-Man suit hiding underneath it all. Miles ran over to Peter and said, "We have a-"
"Why are you here?" Peter asked. "I thought that you would finally stop after all this!"
"I can't stop when it's my uncle who's hurting people. I don't run away from challenges." Miles explained. "Listen, I know where he's gonna strike next. He's specifically targeting MJ."
"Um... What?" MJ asked, turning to look at Miles. "Who's targeting me? I mean... I knew someone was trying to kill me, but... Who?"
"Long story." Miles said, turning his attention to Peter. "He knows that you hang out here. There are photos of you and MJ in the newspaper. She's the target, not you."
"So... They're targeting me specifically to get to you specifically." MJ said, rolling her eyes as she motioned to Peter. "Great... Super, even. I expected this since I'm literally dating a superhero, but still. Great."
Miles looked back at Peter, tilting his head. "Dating, hu-"
"That is not important now, Miles. You need to get out of here before he-"
"I can handle it."
"You mean like how you handled it last night?" Peter asked. "Miles, you need to be prepared for the mess that's going to come your way the longer you do this job."
"I just wanted to be like you and help people!"
"I want you to be better and get a better life than the one I got! No offense, MJ, because I'm very happy to have the real you back."
"None taken." MJ said, watching everything go down from her spot by the bakery case, grabbing a scone from Peter's scone bag to munch on it.
"This is where you zip it!" Peter said angrily. "I understand the need to want to help people, but you aren't going to be any help if you can't concentrate on the task at hand and not let yourself get too emotional!"
"I'm a kid! I'm supp-"
"I was a kid too! If you can't concentrate, you aren't ready!" Peter argued back. "You can't let anyone or anything stop you from achieving your goal!"
"Just because that's how you were taught to fight doesn't mean that that's the right away!"
Peter felt his spider sense go off as Wanda threw up a barrier as bullets started attempting to go into the store. Wanda glared at the two spiders as she said, "Can you two have your mentor/mentee fight later? There is a guy dressed in purple and green and black outside, and we have three superpowered individuals in this building right now, we can all take him."
"Pete," Miles interrupted, staring at Peter as he took a deep breath, balling his fists. "I can do this. Give me one more chance, please."
Peter sighed, knowing that there was no way Miles was going to give up the fight. Peter found himself wondering if this was how Tony felt whenever he had to deal with Peter. Eventually, Peter looked up at Miles and said, "You better not pull your punches."
Miles nodded, grabbing his mask out of his coat jacket. "You can count on me."
Peter grabbed his backpack, grabbing his suit out of his bag as he handed it to MJ. "Hide in the alleyway until it's safe. He's after you, so stay out of his sight. I'll come find you when it's safe."
"Okay." MJ said, nodding as she quickly kissed Peter's cheek. "Be careful, Peter. I mean it."
Peter nodded. "I'll be careful."
"Be nice to the kid, Peter. He looks up to you." MJ said as she grabbed her coat. "And don't make this a you and Tony Stark situation where you're needlessly rude to someone who just needs a little guidance."
"Yeah, but I need guidance too, MJ. It's like the blind leading the blind."
"And the blind are the best guides." MJ said teasingly. "Just... Remember what it was like to be his age, Peter. You may be older, but that doesn't make you any wiser."
Peter nodded, pointing to Wanda and Miles. "You two cause a distraction while I get my suit on."
"You got it!" Wanda said, dropping the shield as her suit morphed onto her body, long scarlet sleeves with a diadem, a cape, boots, and pants. Her outfit was more modest than her starting outfit on the team, and the sight surprised Miles. She looked more grown up than she had in the past. When she saw Miles's slightly upset expression as he pulled down his mask, Wanda said, "Hey, don't take what he said to heart. Peter's just trying to figure out his way and he's going about it the wrong way with you. He cares, Miles. He just isn't showing it well."
Miles nodded. "Yeah, yeah. Sure he did."
"He did. Take it from someone who's lost more than any person should in their life, when you lose someone you love like how Peter lost May, or like how I lost Vision... Grief makes you do incredibly stupid and mean things. I literally accidentally kidnapped an entire town. He's going through the stages of grief, and he's taking out his anger on you. He doesn't hate you. He hates himself for not being able to protect May, and you remind him of himself when he was younger."
"You're a lot like he was, Miles. He wanted to make a difference for the better too, but his idea of making a difference led his loved ones to getting hurt. He doesn't want that spark you have to die out like it died with him... Pun definitely intended given your power set. I know that it's not going to be easy, taking down your uncle, but-"
"We gotta take him down. I know." Miles said quickly. "Let's give my uncle hell."
Miles and Wanda ran outside and saw Prowler, Wanda using her powers to lift Prowler into the air and slam him to the street level below. Miles shot a web at Prowler, yanking him forward as he kicked Prowler in the head.
Prowler was sent flying, crashing into a car maybe thirty feet away. Wanda glanced over at Miles and said, "Nice kick."
"Thanks." Miles said, giving Wanda a thumbs up as he ran over to continue fighting Prowler.
Prowler grabbed Miles's arm, yanking him off of the ground. Miles shot a web at Prowler's chest, using it to throw Prowler into the air and slam him to the ground. As Prowler attempted to get back up, Wanda made a tiny force field around him to keep him pinned to the ground.
Prowler attempted to break through the barrier, pounding his hands against the wall. Eventually, Prowler poked a hand through and shot an electrified net at Wanda, surrounding her body. Miles quickly ran over and started pulling the net off of Wanda, Prowler getting free of the barrier.
As Prowler walked towards Miles and Wanda, Jefferson ran out of his squad car and towards the group, aiming his gun at the Prowler. "NYPD, back away from the bakery!"
Prowler turned to Jefferson, hitting him with his arm and sending Jefferson flying. Jefferson hit a light pole, slumping down as his eyes closed. Miles seemed to absorb the electricity from the net as he pulled it off of Wanda, the electricity cracking around Miles as he turned to face Prowler. Miles glanced over at his father, noticing his slumped over form. Angry, Miles ran towards Prowler, fighting him with everything Miles had.
Peter ran out of the bakery, noticing Jefferson slumped against the pole. He ran over to Jefferson, gently slapping his face. "Officer Davis, are you okay!?"
Jefferson barely opened his eyes, studying Peter in his suit. Jefferson muttered, "M... On."
"What?" Peter asked.
"My... Son." Jefferson said, his eyes closing. "Protect... My son."
Peter's display showed Jefferson's heartbeat slowed, his breathing slightly irregular. Peter muttered to himself, addressing his suit AI, "Karen, call 9-1-1."
Peter glanced over at Miles fighting Prowler, shooting a web at a light post as he swung over and kicked Prowler off of his feet. Miles ran forward, going to shock Prowler with the leftover electricity. Peter stepped in between them, Wanda keeping her distance as she managed to put Prowler in a bubble of his own, Wanda rapidly blinking her eyes in an attempt to recover. Peter said, "Get your venom under control. This isn't going to solve what happened to Officer Davis."
Miles glared at Peter as Peter said, "You know I'm right. 9-1-1 is already called to help Officer Davis. Wanda has him contained... For the most part. We can still help out. When I said that you better not pull any punches, this isn't what I meant. Spider-Man is a lot of things, a lot of things, but a murderer is not one of those things."
Miles took a few deep breaths as he angrily glared at Prowler and said, "Your nephew would be disappointed in you, Mr. Davis."
Prowler's eyes seemed to widen in his bubble. Peter and Miles took a few steps away, Miles nervously asking, "Is my fat-"
"He'll be fine." Peter interrupted.
"Okay..." Miles said, standing a few feet away as he took even more deep breaths, calming down even more.
Peter glanced over at Miles and said, "Listen... I... I don't hate you. I just can't afford to let someone else end up like me. That's why I act like I'm annoyed with you."
"No, it's not. There's no excuse for my behavior towards you. I'm sorry." Peter apologized.
"Thank you...?" Miles said nervously.
Peter grabbed a tiny piece of paper and a pencil from one of the pockets in his suit, writing down his phone number and handed it to Miles. "Text me later about Officer Davis. Make sure he gets to the hospital okay. Wanda and I got it from here."
Miles nodded, running to an alleyway to change out of his suit. Peter walked over to Wanda, noticing that Wanda was twitching slightly. Peter asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah... Electrified things just temporarily scramble my brain. First Clint and his arrows, now that damn net." Wanda explained, shaking her head. "My brain and electricity just don't mix."
"Funny... You and robots mix."
Wanda tilted her head as she glanced over at Peter. "Ha ha... Hilarious."
"I'm serious... Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm good. I can handle him. Go check up on you know who."
Peter nodded, swinging across the buildings and looking down in the alleyways below. Eventually, he recognized MJ's bright mint green uniform, it was the brightest thing in the alleyway, a few blocks away and shot a net at the edge of the fire escape to repel down the building. When Peter got down, his entire world was upside down and he was staring at MJ. "You're okay, right?"
MJ turned around, smiling at Peter. "Yeah... I'm good. Did the fight-"
"Prowler is taken care of. We're gonna wait for the police to come and take Prowler away. One person got hurt, but an ambulance is on it's way to get him to the hospital."
"Good... That's good." MJ said, walking a little closer to Peter. "So... Why did you decide to come down here attached to a web?"
"Easier to find you if I'm running above the buildings." Peter said, shrugging. MJ smirked a little, walking closer and grabbed the edges of his mask. Peter nervously asked, "What are you doing?"
"Shh..." MJ said, tugging down the mask to reveal Peter's lips. She smiled as she grabbed Peter face and kissed him while he was upside-down, Peter smiling slightly as he kissed back. The two were so focused in the moment that they didn't notice that Ned had stopped at the entrance of the alleyway, staring at them with wide eyes, and carrying a bouquet of black dahlias that he was going to give to MJ in an attempt to get her back. To not be seen, Ned quickly walked to the side of one of the buildings, watching with fascination. MJ released from the kiss as she said, "I love you, Spider-Man."
"Oh my God..." Peter said, rolling his eyes as he tugged on his mask properly. "I love you too."
"I should... Probably head back to work."
"I'll text you later."
Peter nodded, starting to climb back up the web. "And I'll text back."
"You dork! Go!"
Peter waved goodbye and MJ started walking back to the bakery. Enraged, Ned looked at the flowers and threw them into a nearby dumpster. If MJ wanted to be with a masked vigilante, a masked vigilante was what she was going to get.
Getting out of the eye of the storm now... Winds are picking up a lot more now...
Okay... A chapter of calm before the storm...
(Also, side note, I think I finally understand why authors like torturing their audience because seeing everyone in the comments panic over last chapter was making me laugh a little too much...)
Peter walked down to the ground floor of his apartment, walking over to Wanda and her red Buick. "Hey."
"Hey." Wanda said happily as Peter climbed into her car. The car smelled homey, like warm cinnamon and chocolate chip cookies, and when Peter looked into the backseat, he saw a few pillows and some blankets laying back there. Wanda's radio was playing My Chemical Romance, which Peter honestly kinda expected, given the amount of band tees she apparently seemed to own since today she was wearing a Fall Out Boy shirt... She must've changed out of what she wore to work I between when they left Peter Pan's and now.
Peter cautiously asked, "Do you live in here?"
"I still have yet to actually find an apartment in New York within my price range..." Wanda admitted nervously, starting to laugh to herself. "No offense, but I'm not living in your crappy building. My standards may be low, but they're not that low."
"I see..." Peter said, nodding his head. "Um... Wanda, listen, I'm sorry for being rude and acting upset when you were trying to help me. I just-"
"You just didn't want anyone to get to close because you thought that you were the one who was causing them to die?" Wanda filled in. "Don't worry, I get it. When you've seen someone you love die so many times, it gets harder and harder to let people in after that. I've been there, but I'm getting better. That's why I came here to find you. I didn't want you to fall into the same trap I did when I lost Vision... Or anyone else, for that matter. I texted Bucky and Sam after the John Walker thing happened, and they're okay, and Clint told me about this other person who could use some help healing-"
"Yelena Belova. Natasha's sister. She kinda tried to kill Clint, so that's a whole other issue, but... She's Natasha's sister, and Natasha was kinda like mine. Someone has to make sure she's okay and that she heals, especially since nobody really knew about her."
"So you're tracking down the lost things and helping them deal with the world?"
"It's easy to track down lost things when you're lost yourself." Wanda said, shrugging.
The two were silent for a moment before Peter asked, "Okay... So... What, exactly, is your superpower? I've been trying to figure that out for a while."
"To put it simply, unbridled chaos." Wanda said, shrugging. "To complicate it a little more, I can essentially make whatever I want happen. That's how I know that I can give people back their memories of you. I just have to think it and it happens. The technical term is chaos magic, hence the unbridled chaos comment, but I essentially have no limit to what I can do except for the limits I put on myself. One of those said limits, and this is solely because I don't think I could handle it, I refuse to bring everyone who's died back to life. I, personally, don't think I could handle watching my mother and father die again when they get old."
"That's fair." Peter agreed, nodding his head. "So... How badly did you lose it when Vision died?"
"Do you not remember me telling you that I accidentally kidnapped an entire town?" Wanda asked.
"No, I remember that, I'm just confused on the how... And the sitcoms. I'm very confused about the whole... Everyone is a living sitcom thing."
"Well... When my grief exploded, my powers exploded too. I was doing two different spells, a time machine spell kind of thing where everyone goes back in time and a mind control spell. I was doing it all on accident, the witch who showed up because of it called what I did 'magic on autopilot', which is pretty accurate. I was so lost in my grief that I actually believed that I was a 50s housewife and that I had Vision back."
"But I thought you said that Vision was there."
"Yes... And also no. Um... Vision's body was there, that's the Vision that's around currently, but he's not the Vision I know. He doesn't have any memories that he made with me or with anyone else. He doesn't have his emotions. He's just... Well..."
"He's a robot?"
"Yes. Exactly. He's a robot. The Vision that I created was my part of the Mind Stone. When he died, part of Vision went inside of me, which I know sounds dirty, but we both got our powers from the same source... Kinda, with me, it's complicated, but when he died, the source of his power kinda flew into me. Hex Vision, as I refer to him as, was made entirely of my memories and feelings for him." Wanda explained. "Ya know... Vision gave me advice when my brother died that I still think of all the time."
"... What was it?" Peter asked cautiously.
"We were in my room at Avengers Compound and we were watching Malcolm in the Middle. I was telling him that I was drowning in my grief over Pietro, kind of like how you're drowning in your grief for May, and this robot, he was barely a month old, looked me dead in the eyes and said, 'What is grief, if not love persevering?'. The way I'm starting to see grief now is that the longer I grieve, that just shows how much I loved him."
Peter noticed that Wanda was tearing up as he said, "Um... Happy told me something similar about Mr. Stark months ago... Maybe two weeks before my entire life went to shit."
Wanda chuckled as she asked, "Why do you still call him Mr. Stark? It's not like Tony is going to murder you for calling him Tony."
"I know, but... It's a form of respect for me." Peter explained. "I kinda have this burned in my mind so I can quote it, but Happy told me, 'Tony was my best friend, and he was a mess. He second-guessed everything he did, he was all over the place. The one thing he didn't second-guess was picking you. I don't think Tony would have done what he did if he didn't know that you would be here after he was gone'. Honestly, and this is me being 100% honest, I think that that also applies to Vision. I don't think that he would have asked you to kill him and willingly died if he didn't know that you would still be alive once he was gone. I... I've been starting to think that Aunt May is the same way. I don't think that any of them would have gone out any other way."
Wanda nodded in agreement. "I agree. I don't think they would have done what they did if they were uncertain that we would be gone."
"Well... Technically speaking, I am gone. There's no record of my existence."
"You may be gone figuratively, but you're not gone literally, Peter. You just gotta own the broken bits you have and learn to make that pain productive and not destructive." Wanda said cautiously. "Listen, I know you didn't mean anything by it, but... Maybe you could apologize to Miles officially."
Peter sighed. "I know I should, it's just... Miles is a kid, Wanda."
"Um... So were you." Wanda reminded Peter. "So was I, as I matter of fact."
"That's not what I mean, Wanda. When I look at him, I see myself when I was his age. I know I'm not that much older, but I just want what's best for him, and I don't think this is it."
"You know, you were acting a lot like Tony when you were talking to him."
Peter scoffed, rolling his eyes. "I was not acting like Mr. Stark."
"Yes... You were. You were really harsh towards him, Peter. You barely let him get a word in when he was trying to explain what happened. You even kinda sounded like Tony. The amount of times that man told me to 'zip it' like you told Miles proves it." Wanda said. Peter almost froze in his seat, remembering the first big argument that he and Tony had when Peter first became his prodigy, and Peter realized that he had dropped a lot of the same lines Tony did. Sure, Peter loved Tony like a son loved his father, but he and Tony didn't exactly have the best relationship at times. Even before Tony was dead, Peter had a hard time getting a read on the guy, unsure about whether he was going to yell at Peter or give him a hug. Maybe in this instance... Acting like Tony Stark wasn't the best thing. "I know that you don't entirely realize it, but Tony created his own worst enemies, literally and figuratively. Hell, Tony technically created me and my brother since it was one of his bombs that killed our parents and sent us down a path of revenge. Tony and I... We never actually got a chance to reconcile the pain we both doled out to each other before he died. That's kinda why I'm wary about even going near Pepper and Morgan and why I haven't been by to visit since everyone came back. Don't be a Tony Stark, Peter. Don't push anyone away or push them to breaking point, because that's probably going to come back to bite you in the ass."
Peter glanced over at Wanda, shaking his head as he chuckled. Wanda's eyes narrowed as she asked, "Why are you laughing?"
"You really are the Natasha of the Avengers now, aren't you?"
Wanda shook her head. "I'm not Natasha, Peter. I'm no leader."
"But you are a healer." Peter corrected. "According to Happy, that's what Natasha did until she died; she did her best to heal what was left of the Avengers in anyway she could. That's what you're doing now. You started by healing yourself, and now you're healing others."
"Well, may as well put a little good into the world before I wind up destroying it."
"You're not going to destroy the world. That may be what's written into destiny, but the future isn't set in stone. Fate and destiny can be changed."
Wanda chuckled, rolling her eyes. "Hufflepuff."
Peter tilted his head, confused about how the conversation lead to Harry Potter. "What?"
"Your Hogwarts house. You're a Hufflepuff, aren't you?"
"Yeah... What of it?"
"Nothing, nothing. That just makes so many of your actions make so much more sense."
"What's your house, then?"
"Well... You know what they say... Every Slytherin need their Hufflebuddy." Peter said jokingly. "And for the record, not everyone from Slytherin is a bad guy. It's basically the same as being a Gryffindor, you just go about getting the same result a different way."
Wanda laughed, rolling her eyes. "Such a Hufflepuff thing to say!"
"If you're gonna make fun of me for my house, don't make fun of me at all!" Peter pouted.
As Wanda pulled into the driveway of the Stark's lake house, Peter felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. When Peter didn't recognize the number, he glanced over at Wanda and said, "I think this is Miles. I told him to call me about his father since he got injured in the fight today."
"Officer Davis is his father?"
"I really gotta take this-"
"It's okay. I'll stall for you inside." Wanda said as she parked her car, getting out and walking towards the front door.
Peter answered the phone, taking a deep breath. "Hello?"
"Hey Pete, it's Miles." Miles said on the other end.
"Hey... How's your dad?"
"He's... Well... He's not fine. He's alive, if that's what your asking. He's gonna be in a coma for a few days since his head was the first thing to hit the pole."
Peter sighed with relief. "At least he's alive."
"This is all my fault..."
"Miles, no." Peter said quickly. "Don't you dare start going down this tunnel of self depreciation. That's not going to help anyone, much less your father."
"But if I hadn't told him-"
"You told your father that you're the other Spider-Man? Really?" Peter asked. "Why would you-"
"We have this thing called Straight Talk where we have to tell each other the truth about everything. He evoked Straight Talk, so I wound up telling him everything about the Uncle Aaron situation." Miles admitted. "I know that you told me not to tell anybody-"
"Miles, it's okay."
"... It is?"
"You're not mad?"
"No. Why would I be mad?"
"Because you've been mad at everything recently. Me, the world, people trying to help you-"
"I'm sorry. I know that that is no excuse for my behavior, but... It hurt when May died. It felt like my entire body had just been melted by a raging hot fire. It hurt like I had just lost my best friend and my mother all in one go, and that's because I did. May raised me since I was five, and she was one of the few people I went to when I was having issues with something. I lost a major player in my life, and I wasn't handling losing her well. I was taking it all out on you, and that was wrong. I'm sorry." Peter apologized. "In truth, and I know I've said this before, but you remind me of me, and because you remind me of myself so much, I guess I thought that I could be as hard on you as I was on myself."
"Man, I know you're hurting. I understand that. However, that doesn't change the fact that if I had just made up some story for Straight Talk, my dad wouldn't have been there and he currently wouldn't be in a coma."
"Not that this is going to happen to your dad, Miles, but I blamed myself too, when I lost my uncle." Peter explained, taking a few deep breaths. It had been years since he actually told someone the details of Ben Parker's death, and it was almost like ripping open a freshly healed scar as he talked. "When I first got my powers, I decided to do this... Underground fighting ring to see what I could do. I won my fight, but while I was fighting, there was this guy at this bank my uncle was visiting, and the robber wound up shooting my uncle because of it. I told myself day in and day out that if I had just... Used what I could do for good instead of getting money out of it, Uncle Ben would still be alive. It took me a year to accept that I didn't do that to Uncle Ben; it was the bank robber who killed him. You need to realize that it wasn't you who put your father in that coma, it was Aaron. He is the one to blame."
"I just... I just wanna..." Miles started to say.
Peter immediately understood what Miles was trying to say. "Hurting your uncle isn't going to stop this from happening. When Aunt May died, I wanted to strangle Green Goblin for killing her. I even got the chance to do it. We were fighting on the fallen remains of the shield they're putting on the Statue of Liberty for... Some reason, I had knocked Green Goblin to the ground, and I picked up his glider to... To stab him with it. An alternate version of myself had to jump in front of me and grab the glider to actually get me to stop. I know how tempting it is to go to the dark side, to use Star Wars terminology, how easy it is to give into all of your rage, and just... End it all for one person. I have been there. However, murder and rage and hurting others when you are hurting too... That is never the answer."
"... An alternate version of yourself stopped you from murdering someone?"
"Yeah. There's at least three different versions of me, as far as I know, including myself, across the multiverse, but that's not important right now. Do you understand what I'm saying, Miles?"
"Yeah... I kinda do. It's just... I didn't think an Avenger would ever go that low."
"Our superpowers aren't what make us heroes, Miles. What makes us a hero is our ability to choose good over and over again, no matter how much we struggle making that decision. Some people struggle more than others, but what makes us a hero is our ability to use our powers for the right reasons."
Miles sighed on the other end. "Got it."
Peter looked over at the house, seeing Morgan, bundled up in a giant coat, starting to run towards the car. "Hey, I gotta go. I have a thing going on tonight."
"Text me whenever you want. I didn't exactly have a five star relationship with Tony Stark when he was my mentor, and I want to stop the cycle of shame or whatever." Peter explained. "I'm glad that your dad is okay though. If one of us should get to live with our parents, it should be you."
"Okay... And Peter?"
"Thanks for talking me off the ledge, man."
"Don't mention it. Now I really have to go because I have a... I want to say an almost seven year old running towards me."
"Dude, go. I'll text you if I need anything."
"Cool. Talk to ya later." Peter said, hanging up his phone as he climbed out of the car. As soon as the door was closed, Morgan jumped into the air to hug Peter. Peter quickly caught Morgan, picking her up as he walked her back to the house. "Hey Maguna. How was school today?"
"That's what my imaginary friend called me before he left!" Morgan said happily.
"Huh... So that's what it classifies me as with children... Good to know..." Peter muttered to himself. "You haven't answered my question, little miss. How was school?"
"Fine! We talked about math and robots and stuff!" Morgan said excitedly as Peter opened the door. "We also talked about dinosaurs!"
"Oh did you?" Peter asked, setting Morgan down. "I really like velociraptors. What dinosaur do you like?"
"I like tricertopses!"
"That's a good one."
"Um... Pepper..." A new voice said cautiously. "Who's the teenager who just walked inside the house?"
Peter looked up and saw Happy Hogan standing by the oven, staring at Peter dumbfoundedly as he set down a tray of lasagna. Peter happily walked over, hugging Happy tightly. "I'm so glad you aren't in jail!"
Happy's eyes widened. "Why would I be in jail!?"
Pepper rolled her eyes as she said, "It's a long story, Happy. Wanda, do you just wanna... Do the thing?"
Wanda nodded, glancing at Morgan. "Do you also want me to do the child?"
"Later date?" Peter suggested. "She thinks I'm an imaginary friend. She'll figure it out herself eventually."
Pepper nodded, giving Wanda a thumbs up. "That works with me."
Wanda nodded, holding out her hands. "Keep in mind... I haven't actually done this yet, so I have no idea what I'm doing. Hopefully, it'll work."
Pepper nodded. "Okay... I'm ready."
Wanda sighed, her hands twitching, as a faint red smoke like line stretched from her hands to Pepper's head, going in through her ears. Pepper's eyes glowed red for maybe three seconds, but then the glow faded as she looked over at Peter and smiled. "I remember you being at the funeral..."
"Um... What just happened?" Happy asked cautiously. "I don't remember him being at Tony's funeral..."
"You will in a minute..." Wanda said, turning her attention to Happy. Happy's eyes filled with fear for one split second as the red smoke entered his mind and turned his eyes scarlet red, the glow fading after a moment.
Happy's face went through a mixture of emotions. He looked scared, then confused, then overwhelmingly sad, then over at Peter, starting to tear up. "Pete, why didn't you tell me at May's grave?"
"I didn't want to drag you back into my life just so you could end up like Aunt May. Every adult I love dies and I didn't want you to die too." Peter explained, struggling not to tear up.
"Come here, you idiot." Happy said, holding out his arms as Peter walked forward and hugged Happy tightly, letting some tears spill out. "I love you."
"I love you too." Peter said, resting his head on Happy's shoulder.
Pepper smiled as she walked over to the cupboard and grabbed some plates. "Now that that's taken care of, why don't we sit down to eat while Peter fills us in on his life. I know you told me about MJ this morning, but I'm still intrigued about why she spent the night in your apartment."
Happy turned to stare at Peter as he said, "Please tell me you two used protection."
"We didn't do that!" Peter denied exhaustedly, Wanda laughing as she rolled her eyes. Despite how much Peter wanted to deny it, he was happy to not be alone. He enjoyed the company he so desperately wanted go push away, remembering that Happy was one of the people he fought so desperately to keep safe, yet also remembered what it was like to have people in his corner. Peter felt safe, and he liked the feeling.
Okay... A little bit more panic, coming in!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lola nervously knocked on the garage door as she asked, "Ned... Will you come inside? It's getting late!"
"Gimmie ten minutes, Lola, God!" Ned said exhaustedly as he continued to build the armor in the garage. "Or maybe another hour!"
"You need to come in and eat!" Lola argued.
"I can eat when I'm dead." Ned argued, finishing the helmet he made. He may not have super strength or stick to walls, but at least he had his brain, which is more than he thought Spider-Man had.
"I'll come in before midnight!" Ned argued, turning his attention to the lightly manged glider that had been stashed in his garage months ago. Ned was fairly certain that it was Stark Tech, but from where he wasn't entirely sure. Didn't really matter to Ned anyway. It'd be Leeds Tech soon. He needed to do this to get MJ back, if not as his girlfriend, then as one of the few true friends he actually had. This is all for MJ's own good. "I'll be done with my science project by then anyway."
Wanda stood outside the Stark lake house on the porch, staring up at the sky as she took a sip of her Cherry Pepsi. Pepper opened the door and asked, "Mind if I join you?"
"Um... No." Wanda said, taking a step to the right to make room for Pepper. "Honestly, I'm surprised that you invited me here."
"Well... Tony and I had a history, Pepper."
"Are you talking about the whole 'he locked you in your room' situation?"
"Well... That, and the 'I threw cars at him' situation and the 'he created the bombs that killed my parents and almost killed me and my twin brother' situation." Wanda said awkwardly. "The two of us never actually got the chance to talk it all over and apologize for past wrongs before he died. I thought you wouldn't want to see me because of that-"
"You mean like how you and Barnes both thought that Tony wouldn't want you at his funeral?"
"Well... Bucky had a legitimate reason. He did kinda kill Tony's parents... Granted, he was kinda brainwashed to do that, but still."
"You both did things you both regretted. I bet he forgives you up there. Only question is, do you forgive yourself?" Pepper asked. "Peter vaugely mentioned the whole... Westview thing over breakfast this morning. You should have reached out to people sooner."
"You barely know me, though, and I bet what you do know about me isn't exactly the most pleasant." Wanda said awkwardly, scratching the back of her neck. "And I did, ya know, reach out, but everyone I reached out too was dealing with their own problems and I didn't want to be a burden. Most people don't really want to be around me unless I can help them."
"Well, unlike my late husband, I don't judge people based off of first impressions, and I'm sure that comment about people only wanting to be around you when you can help."
"Only reason why Peter is around me right now is because I'm helping him get his life back on track."
"He barely knew you before now." Pepper reminded Wanda. "And I'm sure he likes you more than you realize. I mean, you were the only person who cared about him when no one else did... Granted, nobody else remembered him, but still. That has to count for something."
"I'm just commenting on my track record."
"Well... Maybe you should take a page out of the book you keep telling Peter to use and start letting people back in. I mean... That can't hurt, right?" Pepper asked, taking a sip of her own soda. "How are you holding up? I know you lost Vision because of everything and I remember Natasha vaugely mentioning something going on between you two."
"It's getting better, little by little. I just don't want to kill everything I touch." Wanda said, laughing bitterly to herself. "Apparently... The Mind Stone just heightened my powers. They should have died a long time ago. I was the one who stopped that bomb from going off and killing me and my brother and I didn't even know it. I'm also apparently destined to destroy the world. Oh, and Vision is really alive and he's flying around... Wherever and hopefully he isn't killing anyone because freaking S.W.O.R.D. took away all of his memories and feelings. I wanted to bury him and give him a nice, peaceful service, but does S.W.O.R.D. let me do that!? No! They only dismantle his entire body, only to put him back together despite that going against the Sokovia Accords and gaslight me into kidnapping an entire town because 'not everybody has the ability to bring their soulmate back online', fucking Hayward."
"You good now?" Pepper asked, laughing a little. "You sounded like you needed to have a good yell about that."
Wanda nodded. "Yeah. That felt good."
"They seriously told you that when you went to collect Vision's body?"
"Yes! How fucked up is that!?" Wanda asked angrily. "You know, I bet that if it was me who died and Vision who kidnapped an entire town just so that he could have a chance to be with me one last time, the world would be calling it 'oh so romantic' and 'swoon worthy', but when I do it, I'm called a monster, a bitch, a villain, and every other thing in between."
"Well, you know the reason why people do that. Men fear when women are in power." Pepper agreed, nodding her head. "You should have heard the backlash I got when Tony named me the CEO of Stark Industries. People said that I slept my way to the top, which I guess I did since I did technically start out as Tony's secretary, but if someone is capable of running something, they should be allowed go run it."
"Here here, sister." Wanda said teasingly, holding up her drink as a toast to the air, then took another sip.
"Ya know, I wouldn't mind if you came around here more often. It seems like Morgan really likes you."
"Oh yeah. For barely knowing you, you have already taken the title of favorite aunt. That's very hard to get, especially when Carol and Valkyrie come by."
"Yeah, no kidding." Wanda said, taking yet another sip of her soda. "Well... We can, at least, agree on one thing, right?"
"Damn the Sokovia Accords." Pepper said, shaking her head. "If that didn't happen and the Avengers didn't spilt, people would probably still be alive right now."
"Damn straight." Wanda agreed. "I mean, I haven't even told Peter about the kids I made in detail-"
"I was very lost in my grief, Pepper." Wanda said, holding up a hand to stop Pepper from saying something bad. "Before you judge me, they're technically alive... I just don't know where Billy and Tommy are."
"You have children?"
"Yeah... S.W.O.R.D. kept pushing me and pushing me, and at one point, I somehow made myself pregnant with Vision's children in the 60s, and in the 70s I gave birth to twins. They grew up in the 80s, went from five year olds to ten year olds in like... One hour, and then we had Halloween in the 90s, and then I brought them back while I was working with Stephen last month and I have no idea where they are because when I brought my version of my twins into this reality, they didn't really remember me."
Pepper chuckled as she said, "I'm gonna need you to back up for a second because you blew through like... Four decades in not a lot of time."
Wanda looked down at her can of Pepsi as she said, "I think we're gonna need big girl drinks if we're gonna unload all of that damage."
Pepper pointed to the kitchen. "I have an opened bottle of merlot in the fridge. Would you like some merlot?"
"I would love some merlot."
"So... That's the gist of everything that's happened since May died?" Happy asked Peter as Morgan sat in the living room watching some kid's cartoon on Netflix, listening to Peter explain everything that Happy's missed.
"In a nut shell." Peter confirmed. "It's been a long two months, Happy."
"You should have told me." Happy repeated for what must've been the tenth time in that conversation.
"I know, but... I thought that keeping everyone I care about in the dark was the better option so nobody else would get hurt."
"While I respect that, that's-"
"Not my decision to make, I know. MJ kinda drilled that into my head once she remembered me on her own."
"How did that happen?"
"I still don't entirely understand, but she said that she figured out that I was Spider-Man based on my fighting style because I don't change how I fight as Peter compared to how I fight as Spider-Man, and from there she figured out that her memories had been blocked. She's done the impossible before. I mean, out of everyone who knew I was Spider-Man before Mysterio, she was the only one I didn't actually tell. She told me that she figured it out on her own."
"That girl... Keeps ya on your toes. No getting anything past her."
"Yeah... No kidding." Peter agreed. "I really do love her, Happy. And you, and Ned. I just... I thought that I was protecting you guys, but in reality I think I was endangering you all because even though you didn't remember knowing me, there was still evidence that you knew me at some point. The whole Prowler situation and him using a photo of me and MJ taught me that."
"So... Is Ned the last one who needs to remember?" Happy asked.
Peter nodded. "I'm... Still trying to figure out how to get him alone. Clearly, it isn't going to be as easy as you and Pepper were, and he's probably not going to break the spell by himself. He used to come by Peter Pan's to hang out with MJ during her shifts, but they kinda broke up-"
"Hold on, they were dating?"
"Yeah... The way MJ explained it was that the spell had to give MJ someone who was going to give her the black dahlia necklace I gave her, and in the new version of the memories, Ned thinks that he bought it for MJ and told me as Spider-Man to give it to her for him. That lead to them dating in December, and they were at the Statue of Liberty during the fight me and my other variants had with all those other people from the other universes on their first date." Peter explained, then cringed to himself. "And... Sorry... About your apartment."
"No problem. I mean... It wasn't too horribly damaged. I'm honestly just happy that Pepper is letting me live here until I can find a new apartment." Happy said quickly. "And if you aren't going to say it, I will... Strange, fu-"
"That's a Mommy Word." Morgan said, turning around to stare Happy down, almost like she had a spider sense of her own for cuss words.
Happy sighed as he said, "Strange, frick your weird memory spell."
"Uh huh. If that one sentance is not the story of my life, I don't know what is." Peter said, nodding his head in agreement. "MJ and I are gonna meet up after she's done at school tomorrow to try and figure out how to get Ned to meet us somewhere so that Wanda can do the spell. He's avoiding her because they kinda had a very public break up..."
"Ooh... That sucks." Happy said, cringing. "Well... After Ned remembers, everything should get slightly better, especially if the adoption papers go through-"
"Adoption papers?" Peter asked as Pepper and Wanda walked back inside the house to get some glasses of merlot. "What adoption papers?"
"Happy, really?" Pepper asked exhaustedly as she grabbed two wine glasses. "That was gonna be a surprise!"
"Sorry... It just kinda slipped out." Happy apologized.
"What am I missing here?" Wanda asked, motioning between Pepper and Happy. After a second, it seemed like a light bulb went off in her head as she said, "Oh my God..."
"Okay, what am I missing? It seems like I am the only one in here in the dark." Peter asked, motioning to the three adults.
"You're gonna be my new brother!" Morgan said happily.
Peter looked over at Pepper and asked, "Wait... What did Morgan just say?"
"I... Don't feel comfortable leaving you in that apartment." Pepper admitted. "I know that you're supposed to be out on your own because 'hey, crappy apartments, that is the college experience' but you are still a minor. You are seventeen and you turn eighteen in August. You shouldn't be living on your own, Peter, especially in that sketchy apartment building."
"You... You're adopting me?" Peter asked. "Your solution to getting me out of a sketchy apartment building is to adopt me? Am I understanding that right?"
"Only if you are okay with it." Pepper said quickly. "You know the Stark family lawyer, Matt Murdock, and he's drafting up the adoption papers as we speak... Well... He's verbally drafting it out since he's blind and his assistant is typing it out, but the paperwork is getting drafted right now. It's going to take about two months to actually finalize the papers and get them sent in and everything, but... If Tony knew that you were in this situation, he would have done whatever he could to adopt you to get you out of there. I know that he's not around now and that Morgan and I were upset when he died, but... He's still here, floating all around us. I see him in the house, I see him in your actions, I see him in Morgan. Something tells me that May's spirit also lives within you too, and that all of your actions are influenced because of what she would you to do. As a mother, someone who is raising a kid right now, I really don't think that May would want you living in that apartment building by yourself. I know that Tony wouldn't want that either. His genuine care for you is influencing my decision here, but I know, deep down, that I am also making this decision because I wanted to take you in and make sure you're safe... For the most part. I'm not going to stop you from being Spider-Man or anything like that. I'm just doing what I know Tony and May would have wanted."
"I... I... I... I don't know what to say, oh my God... You're adopting me. How are we gonna play this off?" Peter asked, trying to hide how excited and happy he was deep down. "I mean... I don't even exist. I honestly don't even know if I have a social security number anymore."
"The truth... Roughly." Pepper admitted. "We're going to say that May Parker had a nephew that nobody knew about because you were always at a fancy boarding school on full scholarship and since your guardian recently died, I agreed to take you in as a personal favor since the Starks have been donating to F.E.A.S.T. for years and we knew May personally. We're just leaving out the bits about you being Spider-Man. Easy peasy."
"I... Thank you." Peter said, getting up from the table to hug Pepper. "Thank you so much."
"You shouldn't be on your own." Pepper said, smiling as she ran a hand through Peter's hair. "I'm gonna start clearing out a spare room we have here and we should be able to start moving you in on Saturday."
"Besides, Morgan and I could use some more testosterone around here."
"Not that he provides much." Wanda said snarkily.
Peter slowly turned to Wanda as he said, "If I had my shooters, there would be a web around your mouth."
Pepper looked over at Wanda and said, pouring two glasses of merlot, "I believe you were going to tell me about what happened when you kidnapped an entire town during your grief before Happy spilled the beans?"
"Ooh, I wanna hear this!" Happy said excitedly. "This sounds juicy!"
"Not exactly how I would describe it, Happy." Peter said cautiously, knowing more of the details of this story already.
Wanda sat down at the table as she said, "Gather around, because my tale is full of woe and it is batshit crazy... Sorry that I cursed in front of you, Morgan."
"It's okay." Morgan said, shrugging. "You're close enough to Mommy, so you can use that word."
Happy rolled his eyes. "Seriously?"
"Just sit down. This tale starts in the 50s, which was the first thing I actually remembered from this whole situation..."
Wanda getting closure with the Starks was important to me because, technically speaking, her trauma starts with Tony... And I think we all know that if Tony was still alive and if he made it through the memory spell and actually remembered Peter, he would have adopted Peter in a heartbeat.
Side note, I know that a lot of people liked that Peter is on his own at the end of No Way Home, and if you are one of those people, all the power to ya, I just knew that one of the things I wanted to do with this story was to give Peter back some security because he's still a minor at the end of the day and that minor has suffered way too much emotional damage for someone that young. He very much needs guidance in his life. I also know by reading things online and watching some Tik Toks that people really like the idea of Wanda adopting Peter, basically, but at the end of the day, they still barely know each other in MCU proper, and it just, to me at least, makes more sense for Pepper to be the one to take him in.
I don't know if that is going to be an unpopular opinion for this story, but I just wanted to explain my thought process behind this chapter just in case.
Things are gonna ramp up in intensity in the next chapter, so beware everyone!
"Hey, did you see that really cool guy outside of school?" Someone asked one of their friends as Betty and MJ walked out of school on Tuesday.
"Wonder who he's waiting for. I've never seen him before." The person agreed.
"Yeah. He seems way too cool to be here for someone..."
Betty turned to MJ and said, "By the way, you never told me what happened on Sunday. I know you didn't go home since your parents are still under the impression that you spent the night at my house, so... What happened?"
"It's a long, complicated story." MJ said as she pulled down on her black beanie to make sure it stayed on her head. "I'll tell you later, I promise."
As the two exited the school, Betty's eyes widened when she saw who she assumed everyone was talking about. "Why is he here? He's not even that cool."
MJ followed Betty's gaze and saw Peter standing at the base of the stairs wearing a thick black coat, a bright blue sweatshirt with some Star Wars phrase on it that MJ didn't immediately recognize, a black knitted beanie, black gloves, blue jeans, and a pair of sneakers, holding two coffee cups in his hands. When Peter saw MJ, his entire face lit up and he waved at her with one of the coffee cups. MJ smiled and waved back, and Betty slowly looked back at her. "How do you know Peter Parker?"
"He's a regular at the coffee shop I work at. We're supposed to hang out today." MJ said, shrugging.
"Is he the guy-"
"I really gotta go, Betty, but I promise I'll text you later!" MJ said, quickly running down the stairs to meet up with Peter. When she was close to him, she said, "I thought we were meeting at Peter Pan's as a central location."
"I got out of my GED class early, so I decided to surprise you." Peter said, offering MJ the drink in his hands. "This is hot chocolate, by the way. I know that you aren't a big coffee drinker."
MJ took the drink, taking a small sip as she and Peter started walking side by side. As they walked, Peter asked, "So... Did Ned-"
"I don't know what's going on with him." MJ interrupted. "He was nice to me yesterday, but he wasn't at school today. I tried texting him, but he just ghosted me."
Peter shook his head. "If I had just told you guys-"
"Stop the self blame. We both know that it isn't good." MJ interrupted. "The past is the past. What's done is done. We just have to... Get creative with how we corner Ned and give him his memory back."
"We need to figure that out after churros. You know I need food to think." Peter said exhaustedly.
MJ laughed as she said, "So... You have a good day so far?"
"Yeah, I'd say so. I actually kinda have news... Big news... Larger than life news..."
"So... You know Pepper Potts?"
"Tony Stark's widow? Yeah. Why?"
"... She... Is... Adopting me." Peter said hesitantly.
MJ's eyes widened. "Are you serious right now?"
"Yeah. She's adopting me. She doesn't feel comfortable leaving me in my apartment, so she's adopting me as her care dependent and giving the world the half truth of I'm May Parker's nephew that nobody knew about, so she's adopting me in her death because the Starks were big benefactors with F.E.A.S.T. and she feels like she owes it to May to make sure her nephew is cared for." Peter explained. "I'm still having trouble comprehending it, if I'm completely honest-"
"Peter, that's huge!" MJ said excitedly. "Way to bury the lead! I'm not entirely comfortable with you living in that apartment either, I didn't want to say anything in case I offended you, so the sooner you get out of there, the better!"
"Peter, your heating barely works. You have like, twenty blankets on your bed just to keep yourself warm. And I know that you have super strength and a spider sense and shit, but that place isn't safe. I think I saw people doing drugs in the lobby when I went there Sunday night, not to mention that your front door has like, twenty locks on it." MJ said quickly. "I will even help you pack up. When does Pepper want you moving in?"
"I should be good to move in Saturday. Pepper said that she was going to clean out a room for me to use."
"So... She remembers you too?"
"Yeah. Wanda gave her back her memories about me... And Happy, too. That's why I didn't text back right away last night. Pepper invited us over for dinner, so I was busy explaining everything that happened after May died to Happy, and then Happy, Pepper, and Wanda got a little tipsy as Wanda explained her life's history of trauma."
"Boy, you better have video proof of that." MJ said quickly as she tried not to laugh. "I want to see Happy drunk."
"Oh, it's funny. Of course I have video proof." Peter said quickly.
As Peter and MJ walked, Peter accidentally bumped into a tall man with short blonde hair and blue eyes on the sidewalk. The man tripped slightly, sorta glaring at Peter. Peter thought that he looked vaugely familiar... Something about the guy's face structure and his eyes that were almost too blue to be considered human, but Peter shrugged it off and said, "Sorry man. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."
"Oh no, it's quite alight." The man said in a familiar British accent that Peter, once again, vaugely recognized, but the memory was more like Vaseline over a film lense... The picture of who this was was fuzzy, barely legible. Peter couldn't exactly put his finger on it. The man seemed to recognize Peter too since he said, "Have a good day, Peter."
"Um... Yeah... You too..." Peter said, slightly tilting his head in confusion. He definitely knew this guy, but where did he know him from, and how did he know Peter's name? Nobody should know Peter except for Pepper, Morgan, Wanda, Happy, and MJ.
MJ turned to Peter, equally confused, as she asked, "Who was that?"
"I... Have no idea, MJ. I feel like I should know him, but... No cigar." Peter said, shrugging. "I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually."
"... But doesn't it worry you that he knows you? I mean... Nobody but-"
"He probably doesn't know that I'm Spider-Man, or he'll probably just come across as a crazy person because nobody else knows who Peter Parker is. No harm, no foul." Peter said, shrugging. "We have other things to worry about besides some random British guy on the street."
MJ nodded in agreement. "Right... We gotta get Ned to talk to us."
"Exactly. Do you have any ideas? Where does this version of Ned like to hang out?"
"Parties. He loves parties. Um... The gym... You've noticed that he's a little slimmer... Sports games."
"So... He's a slightly more douchey version of Flash?" Peter asked.
"... Yeah, basically."
"So... All we need is a giant party and to stuff Ned in a corner and let Wanda do the wiggly woos to him get him his memory back." Peter said, shrugging. "Easy peasy."
"Not that easy." MJ said quickly.
"Okay, we both know that out of the two of us, I am the optimist. I have to believe that it's going to be that easy, especially since I'm attempting to be an optimist once again." Peter said quickly. "It's why we work. I balance out your pessimism."
"Or my 'fake pessimism' as Betty calls it." MJ said, rolling her eyes. "Was I really that peppy before I broke that spell on my own?"
"You were a little more... Optimistic the times I saw you in Peter Pan's, yeah."
"Ew..." MJ said, wrinkling her face in disgust. "Have you figured out how I broke that spell yet?"
"Maybe you're more resistant to magic or something, I know. I know you got insane willpower though." Peter said teasingly, smiling at MJ and grabbing her hand. "That's one of the things I love about you, just saying."
MJ laughed, rolling her eyes, as she said, "I'm supposed to be the realist between the two of us... Heck, between the three of us in our trio. You and Ned come up with crazy ideas, and I bring you two back to Earth. That's how we roll."
"And we're gonna work like that again... Once we actually figure out how to get Ned alone so that we can do the spell." Peter said as he and MJ walked up to a churro stand in Central Park. "Two churros, please. One marshmallow and one rainbow."
"Okay... That'll be twelve dollars even." The worker said as they left the cash register to grab the two churros.
Peter got out his wallet as MJ said, "Peter, I can pay."
"No, I got this. I insist." Peter said, grabbing a ten and two ones as he set them down on the counter of the small kiosk.
"Here you go..." The worker said, handing the churros to Peter and grabbed the money. "You two have a good day."
"You too!" Peter said chipperly as he handed the rainbow churro to MJ, keeping the marshmallow one for himself. "Now we just gotta think..."
"I have a question..." MJ said, taking a bite of her Fruit Loops covered churro.
"So... After you got your coffee and scones from Peter Pan's... Where did you really go, because something tells me that you didn't actually go people watching."
"I went to May's grave. I'm her most frequent visitor." Peter admitted, taking a bite of his marshmallow covered churro. "I'd just fill her in on what's been going on, any bad guys I fought, how my GED classes were going, stuff like that. Wanda actually found me at her grave which is what started this whole thing."
"Well, thank God she did, right?" MJ asked.
Peter smiled. "Yeah... I mean, I barely know her, but at the same time it feels like I've known her for years because we just talk about our different experiences with unresolved trauma."
MJ's nose wrinkled slightly as she asked, "You're not cheating on me, are you?"
"What? No!" Peter said, laughing at MJ. "I mean it like... You know how in Encanto it takes Isabela and Mirabel to have a conversation and sing a song before they actually start getting along and actually act like sibilings who like each other?"
"... Yeah? Where are you going with this?"
"I'm Mirabel, and Wanda is Isabela." Peter explained. "She's honestly kinda like my older sister at this point. She cared about me when literally no one else did because nobody else remembered me."
"Does she know you think of her like that?"
"Maybe you should tell her. I get the feeling that she doesn't have any family left and maybe she could use some."
Peter nodded in confirmation. "I know. I'm planning on it."
"Good." MJ said proudly. "Nobody should be completely alone in life."
"Here here!" Peter said, he and MJ tipping their churros together before taking another bite. Peter laughed when he saw that MJ had a singular blue Fruity Pebble stuck on the tip of MJ's nose. He got out his phone and took a quick picture with one hand as he pointed to his nose with the one holding the churro and said, "You got a little something right there."
MJ did her best to look down at the tip of her nose, her eyes narrowing as she grabbed the Fruity Pebble off of it. "Oops."
Peter and MJ laughed together, a little bit of MJ's hair flying into her face from the wind. Peter felt his spider sense go off as he glanced around and saw that everyone was staring at them, extremely confused. Peter looked up and saw someone wearing an orange replica of Green Goblin's outfit hovering above them on a functional glider. Peter's eyes widened as he yanked MJ back. "Who are you!?"
"I'm the Hobgoblin." Hobgoblin said angrily as he swooped down and grabbed MJ by the waist. "And you're with my girlfriend."
MJ and Peter's eyes widened once they realized who it was. "Ned!?"
"All of you," Hobgoblin announced as he stared at everyone in Central Park, holding MJ tighter to his body and forcing Peter and MJ to let go of each other's hands. "Tell Spider-Man that if he wants his girlfriend back to come find me!"
"Ned, put me down!" MJ said angrily as Ned started flying away from the park.
"Oh shit..." Peter said, quickly dialing Wanda's phone number. This is why he didn't want to tell anyone... Well, not exactly this, he never would have anticipated Ned going to the dark side, but he did anticipate his friends being in danger because of him. Now, because he didn't tell Ned fast enough, MJ was in danger. Peter really was Tony Stark; he just created his own worst enemy. "Wanda... Come on... Pick up!"
"Hello?" Wanda asked.
"Ned is flying around in an orange Green Goblin knock off suit, he's calling himself the Hobgoblin, and he just kidnapped MJ."
"Meet me at your apartment in twenty and we'll figure out a game plan." Wanda commanded. "I'll call Pepper, maybe she can use one of Tony's synthesizers at the house to make you and Miles improved suits, and you call Miles. We need all hands on deck."
"Got it." Peter said, hanging up on Wanda and dialed Miles's phone number. He lost Ned and MJ once, and he was going to get the both of them back, once and for all.
So... I was listening to Encanto while I was writing today, and when All Of You came on, this is literally what I thought of:
Years have passed, Peter is now a father, he's living his best life, ya zoom up to the sky and see Aunt May and Tony watching him from above in heaven or wherever you go when you die:
Aunt May: Would you watch my little boy grow...
Tony, lightly elbowing May as they watch Peter: He takes after you.
Needless to say... I will be paying for everyone's therapy. I wish I could say that I'm sorry I shared this, but... I'm really not.
Also, I hope nobody is too angry with me after this chapter. We're getting into the Endgame now, I promise!!!!
So... I read the screenplay version of No Way Home and told my friend about it because she hasn't seen it yet but wants to see Multiverse of Madness when it comes out, and I may need to do a dramatic reenactment of the movie where I play all the parts just so she can be caught up to speed... The things I do for my friends...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Miles and Ganke were studying together in their dorm room when Miles got Peter's call. Miles recognized the number and answered the phone as quickly as he could. "Hey man, what's up?... Oh my God, Peter, slow down and repeat... You're joking... Okay, okay, I'm sorry, I can tell you aren't joking, stop yelling in my ear... Yes, I heard you the first time, this is a matter of extreme importance, I get it... Yes, I'm on my way... Okay, I'll look out for a red Buick."
As Miles hung up, Ganke asked, "What was that about?"
"Spider-Man's girlfriend just got kidnapped by his best friend, and I need to go help him save her." Miles explained. Ganke looked like he was about to protest, or say something about how he was confused, but Miles put up his hand to stop him. "Wanda Maximoff from the Avengers is gonna be here to pick me up in like, ten minutes, so I gotta cut our study sesh short. Spider-Man needs all hands on deck. Sorry man."
"It's fine." Ganke said, walking over to his school laptop and his gaming laptop, stuffing them into his backpack with a mobile hotspot his parents got him since they didn't know how WiFi was going to be in school. "I'm coming with you."
Miles shook his head. "Ganke, no. It's too dangerous."
"I'll be fine." Ganke argued as he stuffed his light up Bluetooth gaming headset into his backpack. "Look, you said so yourself that Spider-Man needs all hands on deck. If I can get my computers on his spy camera network that you told me he has spread out all around the city, we'll be able to find whoever kidnapped his girlfriend that much quicker. I can be the guy in the chair. I got this, Miles."
Miles sighed heavily as he said, "Are you sure about this?"
Ganke nodded enthusiastically. "Put me in, coach. I can do this."
Miles grabbed his own suit and stuffed it into his backpack. "Well, let's get a move on, man."
Ganke and Miles walked to the front of the building, standing by the main staircase as they waited for Wanda. Eventually, a red Buick pulled up and Wanda, rolling down the window, tilted down her red sunglasses and said, "Get in, losers, we're going to track down a Hobgoblin."
Miles climbed into the front seat and Ganke climbed into the back, holding out his hand to Wanda. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Maximoff. I'm Ganke Lee, and I'll be your man in the chair for this evening. I'm a huge fan."
Wanda glanced over at Miles as he said, "Ganke is my roommate. He knows about the situation, he knows that I'm Spider-Man, and he insisted on coming to help in whatever way he could."
Wanda smiled at Ganke, using one of her hands to shake Ganke's. "Well, it's an absolute pleasure, Ganke. Peter said all hands on deck, and you very obviously have hands. Glad to have your help."
"Pleasure is all mine." Ganke said, giving Miles a thumbs up.
"Hold on, everybody." Wanda said, pushing up her sunglasses. "We got two teenagers to save."
Wanda drove to Peter's apartment, and Miles started sparking in his seat out of nerves. Wanda glanced over at Miles and asked, "You still got some energy leftover from Prowler yesterday?"
Miles nodded. "I've been extra jittery all day because I haven't had an excuse to expell the leftover energy from my body."
"I think I have a plan..." Wanda said, glancing over at Miles. "And it involves you being jittery."
"Should I be scared about this plan?" Miles asked.
"No... No, of course not." Wanda denied. "My superpower may be uncontrollable chaos, but I like to think I have a little bit of order in my life and in my plans."
"The answer is yes, Miles." Ganke said exhaustedly. "The answer is always yes."
Wanda pulled up to Peter's apartment building, the three climbing out of the car, as Miles pressed the buzzer. "Pete, it's us."
"Letting you guys in now." Peter said, the front door unlocking.
"Right this way." Miles said, letting Ganke into the building as Wanda led the way to Peter's apartment.
Peter already had the door cracked open as the trio made their way inside, nervously pacing around to try and think. They must've been standing inside of Peter's apartment for close to five minutes before Wanda, tired of seeing Peter mutter to scare off his impending mental breakdown, used her powers to lift up Peter, Peter completely oblivious that he wasn't even anywhere close to the ground. Wanda cautiously said, "Hey, Peter, calm down. I know that you're worried about MJ and Ned, but we need to focus."
Peter looked down at his feet, then over at Wanda, as he said, "Oh... I'm not on the ground."
"Yes very astute of you to notice, Peter." Wanda said, setting Peter back down on the ground. "Don't worry, I have a plan."
"... You do?"
"And it involves Miles."
"Yeah, could you tell me the plan?" Miles asked. "She hasn't told me anything."
"Okay, so... This is based on personal experience, but..." Wanda explained. "It was one time when I was on the run. It was maybe... Six months into being on the run, give or take a few months. Vision and I had met in this, like... Trailer that Natasha told me about in Norway. At one point during the night, the power went off in the trailer. Vision and I are bad at getting to sleep at a normal time, so we were up late talking. Vision decided to go see what happened, so he went outside to check the generator. He managed to make it work, he pulled the string or whatever, and he got such a strong feedback from the generator that it surged his entire body. It knocked him out for like... Ten minutes, I wanna say. I don't do technology shit. That was Vision's thing. Anyway, he came too shortly after, he told me that the surge of electricity turned off his system for a moment, and at some point of him explaining technology using technobabble that I didn't understand, I literally shut him up and we kissed because I was so happy that he didn't die. It was our first kiss, which is why I remember it so vividly."
Ganke hesitantly said, "Wanda, while that's sweet and all... What does that have to do with our current situation?"
Peter finally noticed Ganke, his eyes narrowing as he stared at the fourteen year old. "Who are you?"
"Oh, right, you two don't know each other," Miles remembered, motioning to Ganke as he sat down at Peter's desk, getting out his laptops to connect them both to the system Peter had in place. "Peter, this is my best friend Ganke Lee, Ganke, this is Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. Ganke is insisting on being our man in the chair for this operation."
"I won't let you down, sir." Ganke said, giving Peter a thumbs up. "Just gimmie a sec to connect my computers to your camera system, and then I'll start looking around for Ned and MJ."
Peter watched Ganke set up his computers, getting out his headset and put it on his head. As Peter watched Ganke get set up, be got a weird sense of deja vu. It was almost like Ned was the one in the room, going back to his man in the chair routine after a long time of being away instead of being the person Peter was fighting. Peter could almost hear Ned making some freaked out comment about not doing Spider-Man stuff and instead watching porn, as if that was so much better than hacking into security cameras. Peter almost started crying, as if seeing Ganke do what Ned usually did made Peter realize what he had been forcing down for months. It made Peter realize just how lost he was without MJ and Ned, and how much of a mistake it was that he didn't just build up the courage to tell them everything right when he first saw them. The road to he'll was paved with good intentions, that was for sure.
Peter Parker was completely and utterly alone, that was for sure, but he was going to fight like hell to make sure that he was going to be alone again..
His family needed him, after all.
Miles snapped his fingers in front of Peter's face, breaking Peter's concentration, as he said, "Earth to Peter Parker... You good?"
"Um... Yeah, sorry. He just reminded me of Ned before this entire mess." Peter apologized, wiping away any stray tears. "It's nice to meet you Ganke."
"Nice to meet you too, and thank you for your service." Ganke said, bowing his head respectfully. "This city owes you everything."
"Wanda, can we get back to the topic at hand?" Miles asked. "What does that story about Vision have to do with Ned?"
"Well, the way Vision explained it to me is that when he worked on the generator is that when he got it back online and all of the energy surged through his system and knocked him offline." Wanda explained. "Ned is using Stark Tech to do his whole Hobgoblin thing, yeah? Or, at the very least, something similar? That makes sense, based on who he is and what could have been at his disposal before the memory erasure thing. What if Miles surges so much energy into Ned's suit that he goes offline? Then, while he's down for the count, Peter, you can restrain Ned, and I'll give him back his memories. Easy peasy, lemon squeezey."
"I don't know..." Miles said nervously. "I don't want to hurt Ned and all I've ever done with my Venom Blast is hurt people."
"I can help with that. I think I can keep Ned's heart pumping while you do that sparky thing." Wanda said, shrugging. "It technically doesn't go against my self imposed rule of bringing back the dead. I'm keeping the living alive."
"It's... Not a bad plan. Disarm Ned first, then get his mind back in order. Easy." Peter agreed, glancing over at Miles. He looked nervous, not that Peter blamed him. Peter was nervous before the airport fight, just like how he bet that Miles was nervous now. Deciding to give Miles a final out, Peter started to say, "Miles, you don't have to do this if you don't want to-"
"No, I will." Miles interrupted. "It's my responsibility at this point to help you get your life back in order. That... Ends, I guess, with getting Ned back."
"My life is not your responsibility, Miles."
"I'm diving headfirst into this." Miles said with the severity the situation deserved, taking a deep breath. "My family got caught in the crossfire because of this life. I understand the risks that this life entails and the rocky decisions one needs to make because of this life. I don't run away when people need my help. I'm ready for this, for all of this. You don't have to worry about me or baby me. I can handle myself."
Peter took a deep breath. Somehow, deep down, it felt like Peter was looking at a mirror of who he was when he looked at Miles, and for the first time since May's death, he was proud of what he saw. Peter smiled at Miles, turning his head slightly when he saw Pepper standing at the door with two boxes, Happy and Morgan walking in beside her. Pepper set down the boxes on Peter's bed. "One of your neighbors let us in."
"Thanks for coming." Peter said, running over to hug Pepper. When they separated, Peter asked, "You got them done?"
"And I modified the tech in Miles's suit to not be affected by his bioelectricity." Pepper added, motioning to the boxes. "Check them out for yourselves."
"Woah..." Miles said as he grabbed the bottom box since that was the one that had his name on it. "Is this... Is this an actual suit?"
Peter smiled, resting a hand on Miles's shoulder. "You deserve it. You go get changed. I'll follow behind."
Miles excitedly nodded as he ran to Peter's bathroom to change. Happy looked over at Peter and asked, "You guys got a plan?"
"Yeah... We got a plan." Peter confirmed. "Ned is gonna be just fine."
"Good." Happy said, taking a deep breath. "I'd be upset if something bad happened to him because of this."
"I think we all would be, Happy."
Miles walked out of the bathroom, wearing his new suit. It looked like Peter's original suit that Tony Stark made him when he first joined the Avengers, except the base was entirely black and it had a red spider in the center, stretching out to red web designs. Miles was smiling with glee as he said, "This is awesome."
"That's an actual suit, man!" Ganke said, matching Miles's enthusiasm as Miles walked over, the two doing their own handshake; high five, slide it out, high elbow, fist bump, a snap, and then finger guns.
Peter laughed to himself, rolling his eyes as he muttered, "Like looking in a mirror."
"What was that?" Wanda asked.
"Nothing." Peter said, shaking his head. "Ganke, have you seen any sign of Ned and MJ?"
"No, not yet. Gimme time." Ganke said, turning back to his computers
"Okay." Peter said, grabbing his new suit to change into.
Peter walked into the bathroom and opened the box with his suit. It looked like the suit he had been using, but also almost like a combination of his suits in the past. It had the blue panels on the side and the red panels on the arms, chest, and legs with the web design, but around the giant spider logo on the chest was lined with faint gold, reminding Peter of the Iron Spider suit. Peter smiled, quickly putting on the suit and the mask. When Peter walked out of the bathroom, Ganke said, "Hey, I found out where they are, and J. Jonah Jameson isn't gonna like it, though."
"Why?" Peter asked. "Is it another national monument?"
"It's the Statue of Liberty again."
Peter nodded. Even without actually fighting Ned right now, Peter was already getting an even bigger sense of deja vu. "Of course it is..."
"We'll stay here for emotional support." Pepper confirmed.
"Be careful, Big Bro." Morgan said quickly.
Peter smiled as Wanda changed into her new suit, nodding her head at the two spiders. "We got the plan?"
"Electricity surge Ned's tech to disarm him, and then give him back his memories." Miles confirmed. "We got the plan."
Peter nodded to agree. "That is, indeed, the plan."
Miles put his hand in the center of the trio, taking a deep breath. "For Ned."
Wanda nodded, placing her hand on top of Miles's. "For Ned."
Peter smiled under his mask, putting his hand on top of the others. "For my best friend. Let's go save his ass, everyone."
Okay everyone... Hobgoblin fight, next chapter!!!! That's the main part of the storm!!!!
Hobgoblin Battle... GO!
(Also, be warned, I did make myself cry while writing this chapter)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
MJ glared at Hobgoblin as he sat down on his glider, watching MJ as she struggled against her bright orange restraints at the top of the shield on the Statue of Liberty, her body dangling over the edge. MJ sighed and said, "Ned, stop this, please. This isn't you."
"You were the one who wanted the masked vigilante." Hobgoblin said angrily, spreading out his arms. "I'm just giving you what you want."
"Ned, this is not what I want. I want us to be friends!" MJ argued. "You don't know what you're doing!"
"Oh, I know what I'm doing. I'm leading your little boyfriend here so I can fight him to get you back." Hobgoblin said angrily. "I'm not letting you just break up with me like that for someone like him!"
MJ rolled her eyes. "Okay, Ned, listen to me, this isn't going to make much sense, but there's so much more that you don't understand. This isn't you."
"This has always been me!"
"That's not true Ned!" Peter said, swinging to the top of the shield and landed, staring up at Hobgoblin. This was the place his life fell apart, and now it was the place his life was going to get back on track. Peter honestly wondered if Ned knew something about this place, deep down, and brought MJ here subconsciously. That would only make sense since this was the last place the three of them were together pre-spell. Peter stood up as he said, "Just let MJ go, and we can handle this peacefully."
"There is no resolving this peacefully, Spider-Man." Hobgoblin said angrily, climbing onto his glider. "You stole my girlfriend."
"Ned, please." Peter begged, glancing around as he saw Wanda put up an opaque barrier that would stop all other news coverage from seeing what was going on during the fight. Peter took a deep breath, taking off his mask with zero hesitation. Maybe seeing Peter in the suit would jog Ned's memory, like how seeing Peter fight jogged MJ's. "It... It's me... Peter... Your best friend. I know that this doesn't make sense, but this isn't you, Ned. Let MJ go, and you and I can settle our differences... Just the two of us... Just like old times... Just you and hashing it out peacefully.
Hobgoblin glanced over at MJ and angrily said, "Coffee shop guy!? Really!?"
"Ned, we know him." MJ said, catching on to what Peter was attempting to do. "Our memories got blocked and we forgot about Peter, but we know him, deep down. You know it and I know it. Wake up!"
"I don't know him!" Ned argued, guiding the glider towards Peter, knocking him off of the shield, as Peter's heart sunk into his chest. He really was going to have to fight his best friend.
Peter shot a web at the base of the shield, swinging towards the skirt of Lady Liberty and pulling back on his mask on the way down. When Peter stuck to the stiff metal skirt, landing on all fours, Miles made himself visible, arms crossed, as he asked, "So... I guess that trying to talk reason into Ned didn't work?"
Peter sighed, pulling back on his mask as he stood up and started running towards the shield. "Save the sarcastic comments for later, Morales! You know the plan!"
"Yeah, I know!" Miles said, standing up as he followed Peter back towards the top, running after Peter. As the two got closer to the top, Peter and Miles shot a web each at the bottom of Hobgoblin's glider, literally yanking him down to their level. When Hobgoblin turned to look at Miles, Miles jokingly saluted and said, in an excruciatingly bad British accent, "Top of the morning, Govenah!"
"Dude... Why!?" Peter asked, laughing as he grabbed Ned off of his glider and yanked him up to the remains of the torch Lady Liberty used to hold, throwing him onto the platform.
"I panicked! The only other person I've fought is my uncle!" Miles said jokingly as he and Peter landed in front of Ned.
Wanda flew in front of MJ, waving her hands as the restraints vanished. Wanda quickly grabbed MJ before she fell all the way to the ground, Wanda's hand tightly gripping MJ's wrist, and said, "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." MJ said, pointing to the torch with her free hand. "Get me up there. I'm helping in whatever way I can."
Wanda nodded. "Okay. If you can help us attempt to disarm Ned, that would be appreciated... And also stay safe. I don't want Peter murdering me because you got hurt."
MJ nodded, giving Wanda a thumbs up as they flew to meet the others at the torch. Hobgoblin looked at everyone as he said, "Wow... Et tu, MJ?"
"This needs to stop." MJ said, quickly grabbing a giant mallet that was left behind from the construction crew, Wanda floating in the air behind her as her hair spread out behind her like the tentacles of an octopus, balls of red magic forming in her hands. MJ hefted the mallet up like it was Thor's hammer as she locked eye contact with Peter, understanding passing through their eyes in one solid nod. "We'll take him from behind-"
"And we'll take him from the front!" Peter confirmed as the group of four charged towards Hobgoblin.
To say that it was chaos was a bit of an understatement. MJ went low, using the mallet as a way to attempt to wack Hobgoblin off balance. Wanda was floating above everyone, shooting her balls of magic at Hobgoblin as a way to distract him while also reinforcing the support on the torch with her magic to make sure it didn't break. Miles kept shooting webs at Hobgoblin, jumping all over the place to try and get a clear shot to shock Hobgoblin, but Hobgoblin was too focused on fighting Peter, the two bouncung all over the platform. Hobgoblin used a bright orange sword that looked like it was covered in fire at his side to attack Peter, Peter managing to continuously dodge the attacks all while shooting webs at the sword as a way to disarm his friend and yank the sword away, giving Miles a clear shot at Hobgoblin. Unfortunately, the closer the webs got to the flaming sword, the faster they melted away.
"How am I gonna shock him if I can't even get a web on the guy?" Miles muttered to himself as Peter kept fighting, Hobgoblin using the firey sword to pin Peter against the shield. Peter kicked Hobgoblin in the chest, backflipping off of the shield and lunged towards Hobgoblin, knocking him to the ground.
Peter managed to punch one of the lenses on Hobgoblin's mask, breaking it completely. Peter almost punched Hobgoblin again, but froze when he saw Ned's eyes staring at him with rage. His best friend's eyes. Hobgoblin took the opportunity to push Peter off of him. "Just say you'll break up with MJ, and this all ends!"
MJ ran up behind Hobgoblin, swinging the mallet down on his shoulder and successfully making contact. As Hobgoblin rolled away, MJ grimaced and said, "Ooh... That's gonna leave a bruise..."
Peter smiled at MJ and said, "You are really good at using that thing."
"I know. I need to get me one of these for emergencies." MJ agreed, she and Peter running towards Hobgoblin to keep fighting, Wanda landing on the ground for a second so she could use her powers to give MJ and Peter a boost up for their attack.
Miles looked down at the platform they were standing on, blocking out the chaos, and realized that the entire platform was made of copper. He knew that the whole statue was made of copper, but he wasn't sure if the shield was or if the platform connecting it still was. One look at the platform and a a quick scan from his hud, and Miles had all he needed to know. An idea forming in his head, Miles loudly announced, "Everyone off of the platform!"
Peter shot a web at one of Hobgoblin's arms to pin him to the safety railing, successfully kicking the sword out of Hobgoblin's hand, the sword tumbling below. Peter then ran over to MJ, wrapping his arms around her waist as they jumped off of the edge of the Statue of Liberty, Peter shooting a web at the edge oc the platform to keep them from falling. Peter stared into MJ's hazel eyes once they jolted to a stop, smiling slightly under his mask as he said, "You still hate swinging from high places?"
"Kinda... Not as much right now. I think me falling off of this once before and Peter 3 catching me has made me impervious to heights." MJ said, her breath hitching a few times as she stared into Peter's mask. Sensing that Peter was concerned about more than just MJ being scared of heights, not to mention that she felt a little bit of blood trickling down her forehead, she leaned her head forward so that their foreheads were touching and whispered, "I'm fine, I promise."
Miles smirked at Hobgoblin as he said, "Hey Ned, you know what the Statue of Liberty is made out of?"
Hobgoblin stared at the webbing, trying to release his arm from the webby trap and completely ignoring Miles. When he didn't answer, Miles said, "It's made out of copper. So's the shield we're all standing on. And what do you know what copper is?"
Wanda smirked a little, taking flight back into the air since she figured out what was happening. "One smart cookie, that kid."
Hobgoblin sighed, rolling his eyes like he couldn't believe that he was seriously getting asked that question. "Metal? Are you really asking me a question everyone knows?"
"Copper is one of the best conductors of electricity!" Miles yelled, touching the ground the platform and releasing all of his built up Venom Blast. Neon yellow electricity coursed through the statue, the webs managing to isolate it and not shock Peter and MJ since they were holding on for dear life. Hobgoblin crumbled to the ground, as much as he could since his arm was still attached via web. Smiling triumphantly, Miles loudly announced, "COAST IS CLEAR!"
Wanda made a glowing red platform to lift Peter and MJ back up, and when they were back on the platform proper, Peter quickly said, turning to MJ "I'll hold down his legs, you-"
"Restrain his other arm, I got it." MJ said, quickly pinning the other arm behind Hobgoblin's back.
"Wanda, you're on!" Peter said as Wanda landed on the torch platform behind them.
Wanda nodded, holding up her hands up as the familiar red smoke traveled over to Hobgoblin's helmet, surrounding the helmet instead of going inside. Miles looked over at Wanda, noticing her confused expression, as he asked, "Is this not supposed to happen?"
"... No, it's not." Wanda said, trying force her magic to worm it's way into Hobgoblin's mask, and failing miserably. "Why isn't it-"
"Hold on, running a diagnostic on it now." Ganke said over the earpieces Peter had passed out before everyone set out to go to the fight. "Looks like there's a separate mini electrical current running through his mask. We need to disconnect that so Wanda's powers can get through."
Hobgoblin chuckled to himself as he looked up at Wanda, Peter practically seeing the evil smirk that shouldn't belong to Ned through his mask. "I saw you guys fighting Prowler, just like I saw Spider-Man kiss my girlfriend. I saw how you reacted to that electricity net. You aren't getting into my head, bitch. I'm not weak like that, unlike Tony Stark."
MJ held up the mallet that was still in her hands, letting go of Hobgoblin's other arm for a split second, and used the butt of the mallet handle to bonk Hobgoblin's helmet, managing to undo a clasp. The helmet fell off, Ned's hair sticking to his forehead because of how much he was sweating, as he tried to struggle away from Peter and MJ. MJ looked back at Wanda and said, "Try it again!"
Wanda nodded, redirecting the lingering red mist into Ned's ears. His eyes glowed red and stayed that way for a half a minute or so. Eventually, Ned blinked, staring at Peter like he had just seen a ghost. "... Peter?"
Peter smiled, taking off his mask to show Ned his equally sweat soaked hair, the tips of Peter's hair curling around his face. "Hey... Yeah, it's me. Everything is okay now, don't worry. We're probably just gonna stay up here until the web holding your hand to the guardrail dissolves, though."
Ned went silent, glancing over at MJ nervously and seeing the cut on her forehead. Absolute horror took over Ned's face as he realized why they were on top of the Statue of Liberty once again. "Did... Did I really-"
"Yeah, you did." MJ said, releasing Ned's other hand so she could wipe away some blood that was still dripping down her forehead. "It's okay, though, that wasn't you. You're back now, the real you is back, and that's all that matters."
"Goddamnit..." Ned said, starting to tear up.
"Dude, what's wrong?" Peter asked, trying not to cry. Peter glanced over at MJ and saw that she was attempting not to cry as well. For the first time in months, Peter didn't feel like the weight of his decision was all on his shoulders. Instead, it felt like the weight was equally dispersed between Peter and his friends. He genuinely missed this feeling, the feeling of having the knowledge that even when it feels like you're completely alone, people are helping you lift the world off of your shoulders. For months, Peter had been his own Atlas, trying to stop the sky from crashing into the Earth, but now he had two other Atlases helping him take the weight off of his shoulders. It made Peter feel relived that he wasn't alone anymore. Peter liked not being alone.
"I promised that I wouldn't go all supervillain on you." Ned said, a few tears spilling down his face. "I broke my promise, and I endangered you both. I tried to kill you guys. I am so, SO sorry."
Peter started crying too as he said, "I broke my promise to you and MJ too, so I guess we're even."
"I don't want to be even, man. I almost killed MJ... And I almost hurt you." Ned said, starting to sob. "I can't believe I let this-"
"I was in that same place, Ned, for a long time after May died. I blamed myself for everything that happened to her... Happened to you guys..." Peter said, fighting through his tears to smile at Ned. "This isn't on you, Ned. This whole situation happened because I was an idiot and didn't buck up the courage to let you both back into my life because I thought I was keeping you safe. Clearly, what I thought was safety was actually causing more harm than good. I... Am so sorry... To both of you."
"It's okay." MJ said, smiling as she cupped Peter's face with one of her hands, holding Ned's free hand with her other once again. MJ accepted her feelings as she started crying tears of joy, some of the tears mixing with the slightly dried blood on her cheek. "All of that is in the past now. We all just have to... Get back to what we consider normal, which is anything but, and that's okay. I like all of our lives better when we're a team, the three of us, working together as one unit. I... I hated the time during that spell... Acting like I really didn't care about you guys. Where I didn't know one of you, and I was stupid enough to break up with you in a public place. I do care about the both of you, so much, and I'm happy that the three of us are back together... The unbeatable trio known as Parker, Jones-Watson, and Leeds."
Peter smiled, holding out his hand to Ned, just letting the tears fall with a knowing and almost conspiratorial smile on his face. "You're my best friend, man."
Ned laughed, staring at Peter's hand as he let go of MJ's, knowing instantly what Peter wanted to do. Ned quietly asked himself, "Do I even remember how to do this? We haven't done this since December."
"Well... We better find out, right? I mean, it is our thing." Peter said, laughing as well.
Peter and Ned started with a classic handshake, then let go and reformed it above them, broke apart their hands, brought them back together in an eagle, fist bumped, elbow bumped, hit the back of their hands, side high fived, awkwardly did a fisticuffs move since Ned's other hand was still restricted by the webs, then shot finger guns at each other. As soon as they were done, Ned and Peter started bawling as Peter leaned over to hug Ned as tight as he could without breaking his back. Peter said, "You have no idea how much I've been wanting to do our handshake with you again."
"I think I have a rough idea." Ned said, hugging Peter as much as he could with one arm. Ned glanced over at MJ, noticing that she was desperately trying to recollect herself, as he said, moving his arm back to make room, "MJ, get in here. You said so yourself, our trio isn't complete without you."
MJ smiled, leaning over as she wrapped her arms around Ned and Peter, resting her head on Ned's shoulder. Peter took a few deep breaths as he said, his voice trembling as he cried, "I love you guys so much."
"I love you guys too." Ned said, attempting to hold MJ and Peter closer.
"Love you guys too." MJ agreed. "Can we all agree that the next time a memory spell happens and only one of us remembers that we tell the others, please? I don't want a repeat of this to happen ever again."
"Neither do I." Peter said, nodding his head.
"Neither do I." Ned said, laughing a little. "And can the three of us also agree to never speak of me and MJ dating again, because that is just so wrong on so many levels. You two are the OTP of this friend group in regards to a romantic pairing, not me and MJ."
Peter laughed, looking up as he realized that for the first time in months, his tears weren't sad or angry; they were happy tears. "I think we can all agree on that one."
"Oh hell yes. We are never speaking of that again." MJ agreed, the three laughing amongst themselves.
Wanda and Miles watched in the background as the sun set, Miles lifting up his mask to wipe away a stray tear. Wanda was full blown sobbing, wiping away some snot and many tears before she held out her arm to Miles, her hand balled into a fist. "Pound it in, Miles. We just reunited a family."
Miles laughed, going with what Wanda wanted and gave her a fist bump. "It's what they all deserve."
Things are going to start calming down from this point on... Now we're starting to get into the "happy ending" part of "angst with a happy ending".
Okay... Little bit of depression at the very beginning, but then things get happy.
This chapter is also known as "Giving Peter the Closure He Needs".
After the fight on top of the Statue of Liberty, everything seemed to calm down. Ned and MJ went back to school and distanced themselves from Flash, Betty and some of their other friends going with them, Peter went to his GED classes, and nobody really met up again until Friday after school when Peter, Miles, Ganke, Wanda, MJ, and Ned met at the graveyard, dressed in black, and gathered at May's grave. Peter had grabbed a bouquet of peonies, May's favorite flowers, and set them down in front of her grave. Wanda took a deep breath, taking her hands out of her black coat pockets, as she said, "Thank you, everyone, for coming to May Parker's impromptu funeral, and thank you, Pepper, Happy, and Morgan for joining us via FaceTime."
"We're happy to be here!" Pepper said from the phone Miles was holding, she, Morgan, and Happy gathered on the couch back at the lake house. "Or... Happy might not be the right word, but we're here!"
Wanda nodded as she continued with, "It seems that not everybody gathered here today was able to go to her funeral, so this is for everyone to heal. To... Give May's eulogy, we have her nephew, Peter Benjamin Parker."
Peter took a deep breath, MJ squeezing his hand for quick comfort, as he got up to the front of the small group, standing next to May's grave. Everyone watched Peter and came to a collective understanding; this funeral wasn't for May, it was for Peter. Funerals weren't for the dead, they were for the living so that the living could get some peace in the wake of the dead. Since Peter wasn't able to go to May's real funeral for obvious reason, he was finally getting the chance to get his peace, even if it was two months after the fact. Peter took a piece of paper out of his pocket, fiddling with it for a moment before he said, "I would also like to thank everyone for coming today. I know that this is mainly for me so I can finally get my closure, but I would like to thank everyone here for being my emotional support, I guess."
Peter unfolded the piece of paper in his hands and looked down at the written words. He read over what he had pre-written down, what he had spent days toiling over what to write, stories about May that painted her in the best like possible, then decided to go off script and speak from the heart. The best speeches came from the heart, anyway. "Many people knew her as Maybelle Reilly or May Parker or the F.E.A.S.T. lady, but I knew her as the one and only Aunt May. She raised me from age five onward, and even after my uncle died, she continued to raise me despite the fact that we didn't actually share any blood. Aunt May was kind and gentle, and she only chose to see the best in everyone, even when they really didn't deserve it. One of her biggest beliefs was that everyone, despite any mistakes they made in the past, deserved help and that the world could benefit from putting in more kindness into it. She instilled that belief into me until the day she died, and she died upholding that very belief. She was a good person, and unfortunately there aren't enough people in this world like her. When she died, the world lost someone who would have made it a better place."
Peter took a deep breath, wiping away some tears and taking in some air before he continued. "I don't remember my parents. I was so young when I went to live with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Aunt May was the closest thing I ever had to a mother. She was there with me during the highs and the lows of my life, and I will forever cherish the time I got to spend with her, just as you all should. Heck, I still remember what she did when she found out that I was Spider-Man. She cursed out of surprise, obviously, and then she told me that as long as I used my powers for good and I protected the innocent, she would stand by me and my decisions, 100%. I hope that she is still standing by my decisions now and that I'm doing whatever I can to make her proud."
MJ and Ned started tearing up, trying their best not to lose it on Peter. Miles and Ganke held their heads low, nodding along to what Peter was saying. Wanda, despite the fact that she had never known May personally, was quietly sobbing in the back, knowing that everything Peter was saying was along the lines of what she would have said about Vision if she had only been given the chance. Pepper put an arm around Happy as he started tearing up on the phone screen, Morgan deciding to hug Happy around his neck for comfort. Peter started hiccuping as he cried and continued with, "I hope you all value the life and the experiences you have with May Parker. There will never be another May Parker in this world quite like her, and the world is poorer for it. Aunt May deserved to grow old, but she was robbed of that opportunity."
Peter took a deep breath as even more tears fell down his face, MJ and Ned running over to give Peter a hug and calm him down. "I love you, Aunt May, in the best way a son can love his mother. I will do my best to keep your memory alive and keep your life's mission going until the day I die. I know that she would feel happy, knowing that... Knowing that I'm not alone anymore and that I have a family back."
"Hey, it's okay. She's at peace now... And so are you." MJ whispered to Peter, Ned nodding in agreement.
Wanda collected herself as she said, "That was a beautiful eulogy, Peter. If anyone else would like to pay their respects, now would be the time."
Ganke and Miles set down two other smaller bouquets in front of May's grave, and smiled at Peter as he separated from MJ and Ned. MJ grabbed the phone from Miles, Pepper smiling at Peter. "We'll see you tomorrow, okay kiddo?"
Peter nodded. "Thank you."
"May would have wanted you to be safe, Pete." Happy said, gently smiling as he reached over to grab the phone they were FaceTiming on. "We're just doing what she would have wanted."
Happy hung up the phone, MJ handing the one in her hands back to Peter. MJ asked, "You ready to go?"
Peter shook his head. "I'm gonna stay here and calm down for a second."
Ned nodded, he and MJ walking closer to May's grave. "Take all the time you need, dude."
Wanda walked over to Peter, hands back in her pockets, as she said, "So... I'll pick you up tomorrow to help move everything to Pepper's house."
Peter smiled at Wanda, walking over to her and hugged her tightly. "Thank you."
"For what?" Wanda asked, a bit confused.
"For giving me back my family." Peter said, Wanda cautiously hugging him back. Wanda was a bit confused and surprised, but she hugged Peter back, her arms around him looser than his arms around her. When they separated, Peter said, "I'll see you tomorrow."
Wanda nodded, walking away. "See you tomorrow."
Peter nodded, waving goodbye to Wanda. "See you tomorrow!"
"You already said that!" Wanda said, rolling her eyes as she walked away.
"I'm repeating it for effect!"
Miles cautiously walked over to Peter as Wanda left the graveyard, stuffing his hands into his black coat that was covering his Visions uniform. Ganke hung back talking with Ned about surveillance, MJ quietly sitting in front of May's grave as she organized the flowers to make them look neater. "So... I'll drop off my suit before you leave tomorrow."
Peter's eyes widened as he shook his head. "Miles, what are you talking about?"
"Well... You think I'm too young for this-"
"You are, but you're keeping that suit." Peter interrupted.
"New York is gonna need a Spider-Man, right?"
Miles's eyes widened as he stared at Peter, completely confused. "What do you mean?"
"Well... Technically speaking, Peter Parker is dead. Nobody really knows that he exists besides the people who matter." Peter explained. "Ya know who does still exist though? Spider-Man."
"And you." Peter added, smiling at Miles as he placed a hand on Miles's shoulder. "You're as much Spider-Man as I am, and New York needs their Spider-Man. I'm... Leaving New York for a while... Taking a step back. Giving myself the time I need to properly mourn... Everyone, including Aunt May and Tony Stark and Uncle Ben. I have been go go go since I was fourteen, and I need to be selfish and do what's best for me as opposed to what's best for the city."
"The Stark lake house is thirty... Forty five minutes out of the city. I'll still be coming for my GED classes, obviously, but once I take the GED officially, I'm gonna be going to college. Pepper is working on getting me into MIT so I can go to college with Ned and MJ since they've already been accepted there. We're all working on finding an apartment for the three of us to live in right now. For a little while, at least, I'll be Boston's Spider-Man. New York still needs theirs, and I know that I'm gonna leave New York in capable hands... Your's, specifically."
"But... You said-"
"I changed my mind, and you were the one who made that happen." Peter said, smiling at Miles. "You're ready for this, Miles. You can handle protecting this city, and it's not like you're alone. You'll have Ganke helping you, I'm letting him stay connected to my system. You have a lot more than what I started out with. Plus... You have my phone number. I will be there to help you and to talk whenever you need. Just... Make sure you don't have a one track mind when it comes to saving the city. Make time for everyone who matters."
"You really think I can do this?"
"I know you can. I'm trying to take a slightly different approach to mentoring you. Mr. Stark was always really hard on me because he didn't want me to make the same mistakes he made. I don't want you to make the mistakes I made either, but I'm opting to go a more... Supportive big brother who will bail you out of messes if need be, but is willing to let you grow and do your own thing. I'm taking a nicer than what Mr. Stark took with me." Peter admitted, shrugging. "Stopping the cycle of generational pain, ya know?"
"Wow... This is big."
"Yeah, it is." Peter said, lifting up his left hand. "Raise your hand. You gotta do the vow."
"There's a vow?" Miles asked, raising his right hand to mirror Peter.
"Yes. Other hand."
"I, state your full name, including the middle." Peter said, Miles looking at him like a crazy person. "I'm serious, Miles."
"I, Miles Gonzalo Morales,"
"Hereby solemnly swear,"
"Hereby solemnly swear,"
"To protect New York,"
"To protect New York,"
"And be a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man,"
Miles raised an eyebrow. "'Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man'? Seriously?"
"That is our official title. Say the line."
Miles rolled his eyes as he said, "And be a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man,"
"To the best of my ability."
"To the best of my ability."
"And you're officially New York's Spider-Man. Just remember to send in pictures from the security camera feeds so I can get paid by The Daily Bugle."
"Yes. I have a job, Miles. I may be living with a billionaire starting tomorrow, but I'm still planning on having an honest job."
Miles laughed as he heard his phone vibrate in his pocket. He got out his phone, seeing that it was his mother as he said, "Hola Mami... Que pasa?... No way, really!?... That... That's awesome Mom! Ganke and I are finishing up something at school, but we'll be there ASAP!... Te amo."
"Everything okay?" Peter asked as Miles excitedly put down his phone.
"Everything's awesome!" Miles said excitedly. "My dad woke up from his coma a few minutes ago!"
"Miles, that's great!" Peter said, hugging Miles tightly. Miles hugged back, squeezing Peter excitedly. When they released, Peter smiled and said, "Remember what I said, Miles. Make time for who matters."
Miles nodded, running back over to Ganke. "Ganke, we gotta get to the hospital! My dad's awake!"
Ganke's eyes widened as he glanced over at Ned. "I gotta go."
"You have my phone number, so we can discuss man in the chair business whenever you need to." Ned said, jokingly pushing Ganke and Miles away. "Now get to the hospital, you dorks!"
"So young... So innocent." MJ said snarkily as she watched Miles and Ganke run out of the cemetery, off to go figure out the rest of their lives. "I remember when we were like that."
"All they need is their very own MJ." Peter said jokingly as he smiled at MJ and Ned. "I mean... Let's be real, MJ. We all know that you are the brain cells of this operation."
MJ laughed and nodded. "Indeed I am."
"How ya doin?" Ned asked after laughing at MJ's comment.
"Better than I was at the beginning of the month." Peter said honestly as he, Ned, and MJ started walking out of the cemetery. "I love you guys."
"Love you too, you dork." MJ said, reaching over to hold Peter's hand.
"You guys know that you don't have to help me pack up, right?"
"Yes we do, especially since I still have yet to see your crappy apartment building." Ned said jokingly. "I have to see it at least once before you move to a life of luxury."
"But first, we're gonna go pick up our order from that Vietnamese place in Queens that May really liked." MJ said as Peter walked over to hold her a little closer, Ned walking a little closer. "Keeping her memory alive, ye old fashioned way."
"Damn right." Peter said, nodding once, as the trio walked out of the cemetery.
An hour or so later, Peter, MJ, and Ned walked into Peter's apartment with take out. Cardboard boxes Happy had delivered were spread all throughout the room, filled to the brim with Peter's old clothes and some things for his GED classes. Peter motioned to the room as he said, "Sit wherever you guys like. I don't really have a table... Or stools."
"Easy solution." MJ said, setting her take out on the kitchen island as she grabbed one of the blankets off of Peter's bed and spread it on the ground until it was flat. "We'll eat down here and have a picnic."
"God, MJ, you were not joking when you said that this was the saddest apartment you have ever seen." Ned said after his initial look through of the apartment as he grabbed some pillows off of Peter's bed so everyone would have something soft to sit on.
Peter rolled his eyes as he grabbed his laptop. "It was all I could afford, you hypocrites."
"Hey, MJ," Ned said as MJ grabbed the take out and moved it to the ground. "Do you remember where we were in GTLive's playthrough of FNaF Security Breach? Ya know, before Dr. Strange casted that spell? All three of us were watching it together since we missed it while we were gone for five years, and I'm blanking at where we were."
MJ shook her head. "No... And that makes me angry. Do you remember where we were, Peter?"
Peter pursed his lips, staring down at the blanket. "Ya know, this is a really nice blanket. I think this is my favorite blanket."
Ned's jaw dropped. "You watched it without us!?"
"Peter!" MJ said exhaustedly.
"In my defense, you guys didn't recognize me." Peter said, pointing at his two best friends with a nervous smile on his face.
"You know what happens!?" Ned asked angrily, laughing as he talked so Peter knew he wasn't actually angry.
"Peter!" MJ repeated.
"You guys didn't remember me and I didn't think we would ever be like this again!" Peter said defensively. "Look, I barely remember what happened in that glitchy mess! Let's just watch it from the beginning!"
MJ jokingly glared at Peter as she said, "You're lucky that you have a valid excuse..."
The trio finished their dinner and then continued packing until it was about ten o'clock. MJ looked around at the boxes and said, "Okay... I think that's everything..."
"Okay... This is really happening." Peter said, staring at the cardboard boxes around the room. Peter glanced to the corner, realizing that he had forgotten to take down the pictures covering the cracks by his bed. "Oh... Shit, we forgot about those."
"I can help you with that." Ned said quickly, glancing over at MJ. "It's not a three person job, MJ. I can help. You have a double shift tomorrow since Sasha agreed to take your shift today for the funeral. Go get some rest."
Peter nodded in agreement. "We got this."
MJ sighed, walking over to hug Peter. "Text me when you get moved in, okay? I wanna see the new digs."
"I will. Thanks for coming today." Peter said, hugging MJ back.
MJ walked over to hug Ned when she and Peter released, then waved goodbye as she left the room. Ned dug underneath Peter's bed and grabbed a teal shoebox, the edges worn to show the brown underneath. Ned held it out to Peter as he said, "We can put the pictures in here."
"Bet." Peter said, taking off the lid as he put the lid on his bed, jumping up to grab the corner of the room so he could get to the pictures that were the highest up. Peter used his other hand to take down the pictures, handing them to Ned.
Peter awkwardly asked as he grabbed the picture he taped up to the top of MJ surrounded by pigeons in Italy, "How's your arm from when MJ whacked you with the mallet?"
"There's a bruise on it, so it hurts, but it's getting better." Ned answered.
"If you need an ice pack while you're here, I have a bunch of frozen peas in my freezer. Just let me know."
"Okay." Ned said, shifting the teal shoebox to one hand so he could lightly stretch his brushed arm.
The two were silent, just doing their duty, until Peter asked, maybe two minutes later to break the silence, "So... You watch the latest season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series?"
Ned shook his head. "No. I forgot that I watched that with you, so I never watched the new season. I called it a dork show."
"God... I was such a jerk to everyone. To you, to MJ..."
"Ned, that wasn't you." Peter said, handing another picture to Ned. "Well... Technically, it was, but it wasn't the real you. It wasn't the guy who would have lightsaber battles with me freshman year or the guy who builds epic LEGO packs on the weekends. That spell turned you into a monster, but now the monster is gone."
"No it's not. That side of me is still waiting to come out."
Peter jumped off of the ceiling, pointing to his bed. "Sit."
"Peter, this isn't gonna-"
"Ned, sit." Peter said forcibly.
"Okay..." Ned said, sitting down as Peter grabbed something off of his desk. Peter sat down next to Ned, opening his hand to show Ned what was in his hand. Ned laughed, picking up the LEGO Palpatine figure, shaking his head. "So here's where Palpatine went..."
"That is you."
Ned glanced over at Peter and jokingly glared at him. "Wow... You really know how to make a guy feel better when he's down."
"Not... Not like that." Peter said carefully. "He acted good and he acted bad. He made his decisions and he acted on them. He was not a good person."
"You really know-"
"You aren't perfect, Ned." Peter continued, showing Ned the slightly broken blue lightning in LEGO Palpatine's hand. "LEGOs usually have misprints... Some weird little quirks about them. You are my awesome best friend who is also probably a wizard. I don't care about the mistakes you made in the past few months because that isn't who you are on the inside. I mean... Deep down... This is just plastic, and the real Ned Leeds beats this... Tiny piece of plastic made in China any day of the week, any time of the year."
Ned still didn't look entirely convinced, but watched in confusion as Peter took apart LEGO Palpatine, letting the tiny parts of the evil Star Wars villain rest in his hands. "And while this is also you, it's also me. We are both kinda... Scattered pieces, I guess we could call it, but as MJ usually says, 'What's broken can always be fixed'-"
"'But life is more fun when things are broken'." Ned finished with Peter, holding out his hand for their handshake. Peter laughed, the two doing their handshake quickly.
Ned held out his arms, Peter going in for the hug. Peter hugged Ned tightly. Ned winced and said, "Peter... Bit too tight. Shoulder, remember?"
"Sorry." Peter apologized, releasing Ned from the hug as he showed Ned the pieces of Palpatine again. "So... Do you think us sad saps can build ourselves back up again?"
Ned grabbed Palpatine's torso and legs, laughing slightly as he said, "Well... We better start by reconnecting Palpatine's legs and torso so he has an actual body..."
Peter laughed, shaking his head as he watched Ned start to put Palpatine back together. "Yeah, that might be a good place to start."
Once Palpatine was rebuilt, good as new, Ned glanced over at Peter and said, "I love you, man."
"I love you too."
"And thanks... I really needed this after everything."
"No problem. I kinda needed this too." Peter said, smiling at Ned and hugged him quickly once again before getting back up to his corner. "Come on, man. We should probably finish packing up my stuff before midnight."
Ned nodded in agreement, grabbing the teal shoebox one again. "Yeah, maybe."
"Hey Peter," Pepper said as she leaned against the door to Peter's new room. "You moving in okay?"
"Yeah, I'm moving in okay." Peter said, taking a break from putting the pictures onto the corkboard Pepper had put into the blue walled room with thick curtains, not a single Crack on the walls. This was definitely a lot safer compared to his last apartment. "Thanks for doing this again."
"No problem. I'm happy to have you here, Peter." Pepper said, rocking on the balls of her feet. "Speaking of, I have something to show you, if you could take a break."
"Okay." Peter said, walking away from the corkboard. "What do you need to show me?"
"This." Pepper said, walking further into the room and getting her hands out from behind her back to reveal an envelope with Peter's name on it in Tony's handwriting. Pepper held it out to Peter as she said, "I guess that the spell couldn't effect what was already written. I found this in one of Tony's safe boxes a few weeks ago, confused about what it meant. Obviously, I'm not confused about it anymore... Mostly."
Peter walked over, taking the letter out of Pepper's hands. "How-"
"I don't know. That's the part I'm still confused about. Maybe he explains a possible reason in the letter." Pepper admitted. She started backing away as she said, "I'm gonna go help Wanda move the rest of your boxes into the house..."
Peter nodded as he sat down on his new bed, sinking into it because it was so soft, as he opened up the envelope. The edges of the top of the envelope were messy from Peter tearing it open, but that didn't stop him as he pulled out a piece of notebook paper, the frayed edges from the notebook it was torn out of still attached. Peter unfolded the notebook three times, smiling when he saw Tony's neat handwriting on the inside. Down at the bottom of the page was a password, a figure of a keypad drawn next to it. Each of the buttons was numbered, but not in a normal way. Peter assumed that the way they were numbered was the order that Tony had wanted him to press the buttons in.
Peter took a deep breath before he decided to start reading the letter.
If you are reading this, I am probably dead. Back when I first met Wanda, I built a special safe that wouldn't be affected by her powers. I spent years prototyping it, so hopefully it works. Even when I knew she was gone, she got Snapped away, just like you, I put it in my study for emergencies and special things, like this letter. Hopefully, the safe does it's job and keeps magical interference out... Or whatever it is that Wanda does. Even if she doesn't come back when all this is over, maybe it'll block out the magic that Dr. Strange and the people in his tribe do. I'm writing this before we try the whole... Time travel thing, and who knows what's going to happen when we pull this off.
I'm not saying that I'm perfect , kid. I never said that. I was hard on you because I was being hard on myself. You met me at a weird place in my life, I admit that, and one of the things that happened was that people told me that I was purposely putting those I love in danger. Ya know, part of me wonders if you would be better off if I just never involved you in my bullshit, but I can't really change that now, can I?
I have made one too many mistakes in my life. I've been especially hard on myself these past five years because I failed you. I failed to stop Thanos, and because of that, you're gone. Despite the mistakes you've made, and believe me kid, you've made quite a few, you still manage to look at the world around you, look at every single one of it's flaws, every single thing that's wrong with it, and smile despite being faced with all the bad in the world and despite how much the world has torn you down. Honestly, I envy your ability to do that. It takes someone special to be able to look at all the bad in the world and actively decide to do some good and actively choose to see the good.
This world doesn't deserve someone like me, Peter. All I've ever done is hurt people, despite my best efforts to do the opposite. I hurt you by not being able to protect you, I'm hurting Pepper and Morgan by going down this path with time travel, and I know that I am hurting myself. This world doesn't deserve people like me, people who inadvertently harm everyone they care about and the rest of the world. This world, however, does deserve you.
For however much you got on my nerves with your constant optimism and pop culture references, your brand of optimism is what this world needs right now, especially when everyone comes back... Assuming this crazy time travel plot works. I wanted to make a suit of armor to surround the world and keep it safe, but I didn't realize that I had let the suit walk into my life. You're the suit of armor around the world, Peter. You're the one who's going to protect the world long after I am gone. At this point, I just want what's best for you, and the best way for me to start doing that is to bring you back.
I know that I didn't show it well when you were here, Peter, but I do care about you. You were too young when I got you to do this job, but I saw the YouTube video of you swinging around and... I knew that you would make a good addition to the team. If this crazy time machine plan doesn't work... I don't know what will happen and what I'll do. I'm gonna get you back, one way or another, that's for damn sure. Once I do get you back, and you know I've figured it out if you're reading this letter, I am going to give you the biggest hug I can. If I haven't by the point you're reading this letter, remind me, okay? Ya know... If I'm still alive when you're reading this letter. I'm just assuming that this whole adventure is going to end in my death. If I didn't hug you before I died, give yourself a hug and pretend that it's from me. That would give me peace in the afterlife.
I love you 3000, Kid (that's something Morgan told me, so I wanted to say it to you, hopefully you've met Morgan by this point), and you deserve a much better mentor than me. Maybe after I am gone, you'll be able to find one.
P. S., the password on this page is to a secret room I had built into the basement. It has the same anti-Wanda security system built into the walls as that safe did. How Pepper didn't realize this when I originally got the house built, I have absolutely no idea. She's usually so much better at picking up on my schemes. I know that when I had it built, Wanda wasn't technically around, but I wanted to make sure that what was in there would survive, no matter what happens, and that only you could get inside. You may wanna go check it out once this letter gets to you... If I'm not too late for college.
Peter wiped away a few stray tears as he got up and walked to the living room where Wanda and Pepper were organizing Peter's things while Happy was outside having a snowball fight outside with Morgan. Pepper glanced over, realizing Peter was in the room, and asked, "What was in that letter?"
"There's a secret room Mr. Stark had built into the basement that he wanted me to check out." Peter said simply.
Pepper sighed, shaking her head. "Of course he did."
"If you wanna check it out too, Pepper, I can continue organizing up here." Wanda said, smiling. "I got this."
Pepper nodded, following Peter down to the basement. Peter looked around, finding a keypad built into the wall behind a framed picture of Stark Tower, the buttons on the keypad glowing from behind the edge of the picture. Peter took the picture off of the wall, focusing on the letter. Pepper cautiously asked, "So... How'd that letter survive Strange's spell?"
"That safe you found it in, Mr. Stark built it to stop Wanda from breaking in when he first met her. My guess is that he built an electric field into it since Wanda doesn't mix well with electricity... Though, I guess it's more appropriate to say that magic and electricity don't mix. That electricity must've stopped Strange's spell from erasing the letter's existence, but since my records are all on databases, that's why those didn't get erased... And it stopped what is in here from disappearing too." Peter explained, putting in the code. As he put it in, Peter realized that the pattern Tony had programmed it to be, he had just numbered what buttons he wanted Peter to press on the paper. The passcode lined up to be the date that Tony had first recruited Peter to join Team Stark.
A door popped open, and Peter cautiously entered. Seeing that the room was pitch black, Peter felt the wall for a light switch and flicked it on. Inside was a spare couch, covered in dust, and a TV that hadn't been touched in ages. Littered all around the room was cardboard boxes in varying shapes and sizes, stacked all over the room. In corners, on the couch, by the TV, cardboard boxes were everywhere. There must've been at least thirty of these boxes in the room, if not fifty. Peter walked over to the closest box, taking it off the stack, setting it on the ground, opening it up and seeing a bunch of picture frames in it. Peter picked up a thick blue picture frame that looked familiar, realizing that the picture inside was of him, May, and Ben on his sixth birthday. Peter was smiling wildly at the chocolate cake in front of him, May hugging him tightly, and Ben kneeling beside Peter with a smile on his face. Peter smiled, starting to tear up, as he said, "Oh my God..."
"What?" Pepper asked.
"May and I thought we lost these when we came back from being Snapped... But they were here this entire time..." Peter said, wiping away a few tears as he showed Pepper what he was holding. "Pictures of me... Where I still exist. I thought that there were no more pictures of me that existed, yet here they are."
"Really?" Pepper asked, a bit surprised, as he took the picture from Peter's hands. "Well, I'll be damned."
Peter grabbed an envelope that was in the first box once he saw it hiding between two other picture frames, his eyes widening when he saw what was written on the envelope. "Oh my God..."
Peter turned to face Pepper, showing her the envelope. Written on the front was Peter's College Fund Account Details. "He set up an account for me to pay for college..."
"Will wonders never cease..." Pepper said, laughing to herself as she lightly dusted off the picture. "Even in death, even without anybody else or any spell realizing it, Tony was looking out for you, one last time."
"Is it okay if I take this picture upstairs to put in my room? I'm gonna look through all this later tonight and organize it, but I wanna put at least one of these in my room." Peter said, gently taking the picture back from Pepper.
"I'll help you after Morgan goes to bed." Pepper confirmed. "And maybe we can... Clean this room up. Make it like... Home base for Spider-Man activity or a place to hang out with your friends. Make it a little more homey."
Peter smiled at the room, taking a deep breath. He laughed slightly as he said, "Thanks... Tony."
Peter walked out of the room, hugging Pepper. "And thank you too, Pepper, for giving me a home again."
"Well, I kinda think Tony gave you to me. I mean... I did find you again at his grave." Pepper said, leading Peter back upstairs to his room to finish unpacking. Wanda had moved more of Peter's boxes into the bedroom, and Peter set the picture of May and Ben onto the black dresser.
An hour or two later, Peter hung up the last of his shirts in the closet. Wanda smiled, looking down at the watch at her wrist, as she said, "It's time for me to go. I have a shift at Barnes and Noble in like... Two hours."
"I'll walk you out to your car." Peter said, smiling as he and Wanda walked out of the house. As they made their way to Wanda's car, Peter asked, "So... Where are you going now?"
"Clint gave me some info on Yelena two days ago. In between my shifts, I'm gonna try and track her down. I kind of have a knack for that, apparently." Wanda said, lightly nudging Peter with her elbow.
"Well... Don't be a stranger, okay?" Peter asked. "You have my phone number if you ever wanna talk."
"Yeah, well, after all of this, I have a feeling you kinda hate magic." Wanda said cautiously, playing with the edge of her coat. "I don't want what I can do to burden you any more than what Stephen did or anything like that. I was planning on-"
"I may not like magic that much, you're right about that, but I do like you." Peter said, awkwardly stuffing his hands into his sweatshirt pocket. "Just... Promise me that you'll stay in contact? Please?"
"Why are you so concerned about that?" Wanda asked, motioning to the lake house. "I mean, you have a family back. You have some semblance of a healthy, secure life back. Do you really want to drag someone who's destroyed and lost everyone they've ever been associated with into your life?"
"You... May have lost your family once, but I'm not planning on leaving you anytime soon. You and I are survivors. Even when bad shit happens, we find a way to deal with it. We may not be able to deal with it in the best ways, and we need to work on that, but survivors flock to other survivors." Peter said cautiously. "I know that you barely know me, and I barely know you, but... You're in as much need of a family as I am. I like Pepper and Morgan, but... They're not going to completely understand what it's like to lose your entire family in one fatal swoop. I know that they lost Mr. Stark, but losing one family member isn't entirely the same when you've lost your last one. You know what that feels like, same as me. I want to keep in contact to keep us both accountable and to make sure we're both doing okay. If it helps... Think of me as your little brother or something. You have to make sure your little brother is okay, and your brother has to make sure that you, the big sister, is okay."
Wanda smiled, starting to tear up and walking closer to Peter as she held out her arms. The two hugged each other in unison, Wanda holding Peter tightly as she said, "You turned out alright, Peter."
"And you're finding your way." Peter said once he and Wanda separated.
"Morgan, Peter," Pepper said as she walked out onto the balcony, standing by the door. "Come help me make dinner!"
"I'm gonna go." Wanda said, walking to the driver's seat of her Buick. "I'll text you tomorrow."
Peter smiled, waving goodbye to Wanda. "You better, Maximoff."
Wanda laughed, rolling her eyes. "Later, Parker."
Wanda drove away as Peter walked back to the house, Morgan running over to Peter. Peter picked Morgan up and carried her back to the house, asking, "So... What are you hoping your mom wants us to help her make for dinner?"
"Cheeseburgers." Morgan said bluntly as Happy joined Pepper inside.
Peter laughed as he said, "Something tells me that it's gonna be a little more elaborate than cheeseburgers."
"Darn it..." Morgan pouted as Peter opened the door to the house. For the first time in a while, Peter actually felt like everything was right in the world. Sure, nothing was perfect, but as far as Peter was concerned, this was close enough.
Chapter 21: Epilogue
Remember how I said that I wanted to give the other "main characters" their own solo chapters to give them some screentime? Well... Majority of this epilogue is Wanda oriented. Remember that blonde guy who remembered Peter's name????
(Also, lowkey, this chapter is longer than any other chapter in this story)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three months later...
Wanda was walking through Times Square, talking on her phone as she left her shift at Barnes and Noble. "No, Yelena, I'm not gonna be back at the apartment for a few more hours... You know what's going on. Peter successfully passed his GED with flying colors and Pepper managed to get him into MIT. He, Ned, and MJ are celebrating at Peter Pan's since they all successfully got in, and I'm stopping by to join in the celebration."
Wanda sighed as she double checked that Peter's congratulations present and card was in her big red purse. Wanda's brow furrowed as she thought she heard someone say her name I'm the distance, but elected to ignore it. She was probably mishearing things. "Yes Yelena, I'll bring you back that strawberry donut you love so much... And yes, I will see if they have a doggy bag for Fanny."
"Wanda!" The voice Wanda heard said. Wanda glanced up and saw Vision making his way towards her in the crowd. Wanda literally froze in the middle of the sidewalk once she realized it was Vision. His human disguise looked the same as it did before he died, same pale, perfectly porcelain skin, same blue eyes, same blonde hair, though it had looked like Vision had made it artificially grow out a little. He was wearing blue slacks, black shoes, a thick black coat, it was still chilly in New York despite the fact that it was May, and a bright yellow scarf poking out from under his coat. He looked like her Vision, but Wanda knew deep down that that wasn't true.
"Yelena, I'm gonna have to call you back." Wanda said, hanging up her phone. Wanda glared at Vision as she turned around and walked in the opposite direction.
"Wanda, wait!" Vision yelled over the crowd, pushing through the crowd as he ran to get closer to Wanda. Vision managed to catch up to her, grabbing one of her hands. "Wanda, let me explain-"
"Why should I open myself up to this?" Wanda asked, not turning around. "You're dead. This... This white version of you... You're a ghost of a man I knew and loved."
"I know that I hurt you in ways that I now understand-"
"You will never understand because you don't remember."
"But I do. Hex Vision unlocked the memories that S.W.O.R.D. hid away to make me their weapon." Vision said, managing to take a step closer to Wanda as she seemed to relax slightly. "I'm sorry that I tried to kill you. That wasn't me."
"And this still isn't you. Just because you have your memories back... That doesn't make you the same." Wanda said, trying not to cry. "If you were the same, you would have stayed and tried to protect our children from S.W.O.R.D."
"Not to be that person, but they weren't technically mine. They were Hex Vision's." Vision said awkwardly. "And I had something else to take care of."
"And what was that? Killing other Avengers?"
"... Have you ever heard of the Ship of Theseus?"
Wanda scoffed, shaking her head. "Oh... My God."
"That is such a Vision thing to say."
"Because I am Vision." Vision said, smiling sadly. "Wanda... Darling, please look at me."
Wanda turned to look at Vision, tears in her eyes. "You don't get to call me that. Only he did."
"I have what S.W.O.R.D. considered the rot back."
"... What the hell does that mean!?"
"S.W.O.R.D., when they got my body, they blocked my memories and my emotions." Vision explained. "After Hex Vision gave me my memories back, I went to Wakanda since that was the last thing I remembered. I met Princess Shuri again, and... It took over a year, but she managed to undo the firewall blocking my emotions. I've been looking all over the world for you ever since."
Wanda shook her head. "That doesn't change anything. The Vision I loved died in Wakanda. I have accepted that. You are just a cheap imitation."
Vision sighed, still holding firm onto Wanda's hand. "Despite what you tell everyone, red is not your favorite color. You feel like you have to tell people that red is your favorite because it's the color of your powers and everyone just automatically gets you red things, but in reality, your favorite color is green. Not dark green or pastel green, though. Sage green. You're very particular about that."
"Reciting facts about me that you 'remember' isn't going to change anything."
"It takes you an extraordinarily long time to order food because it's hard for you to make up your mind since you didn't have many options growing up." Vision said, managing to grab Wanda's other hand as she went back to avoiding eye contact. "You consider yourself a monster because of what you can do, but you don't tell anyone that because you don't want anyone to worry about you. When you make your own sandwiches, you cut off the crust, and then you cut your sandwich into eighths because it makes you feel like a giant and that makes you happy, but you don't tell anyone that because you're scared that people will see you as weak and childish, so I just cut your sandwich that way whenever I made one for you while you were on the run. You never actually told me about that little quirk, but I know you appreciated it. When you get really happy, your nose scrunches up in the most adorable way I have ever seen, and I do my best to make you laugh hard enough to see that happen, even if I don't entirely understand the concept of humor. When you get anxious, your eyes turn a faint red color, barely obvious enough unless you're really paying attention, which is why I would always put on The Dick van Dyke Show whenever you were almost caught while on the run. You are the first person I think of after charging my batteries, and you are the last person I think of before charging myself again. I know how much you must hate me for what I made you do to save the world, but you, Wanda Marya Maximoff, are the one person in this world I love unconditionally. I just didn't have my memories right away to remember that fact."
Wanda started tearing up, shaking her head. "Why are you making this so hard?"
"What do you mean?"
"I accepted that you were dead." Wanda said, looking up at Vision. "I hated what you made me do because I didn't want to lose anyone else in my life."
"Then let me back in, please." Vision begged, taking one of Wanda's hands and gently pulled it up to his lips, quickly kissing it. "We can start again, Darling, if only you would let me in."
Wanda shook her head, tears falling down her face. "I really hate you Vision."
"Darling, we both know that isn't true..." Vision said gently. "'When you realize you want to start the rest of your life with someone, you want to rest of your life to start as soon as possible'."
Wanda hiccuped slightly as she wiped away her tears with the other hand Vision had let go of. "Really? Quoting When Harry Met Sally on me?"
"Well... It is your favorite movie, despite the fact that you tell everyone that your favorite movie is House of a Thousand Corpses. I can tell based on the fact that you get your little nose scrunch during When Harry Met Sally and that movie was always your first choice for movie nights because 'Not everyone can handle how hard-core House of a Thousand Corpses is'." Vision said as he grabbed Wanda's hands again. "Not to mention... This is a When Harry Met Sally type of situation, don't you agree?"
Wanda shook her head, trying to stop the smile from growing on her face and slightly failed. "I hate you, Vision. I hate you so much."
"Now Darling," Vision repeated, his voice making Wanda melt. The fact that Vision wasn't even trying to seduce Wanda, he was just talking in his normal voice, the same British accent Tony had programmed JARVIS with, was making Wanda remember why she fell in love with Vision to begin with. "I think that you and I both know that that isn't true."
Wanda got on her tippy toes and wrapped her arms around Vision's neck, Vision bending down slightly to meet Wanda halfway as the two kissed, wrapping his arms around Wanda to hold her close. A few people on the street who had been watching them started clapping. When Wanda and Vision pulled away, Wanda's face was bright red, her eyes glowing the faint red they did when she was anxious. Vision looked at the crowd they had gathered and said, "Okay everyone, show is over, if you could all go about your business, we would very much appreciate it."
Everyone shrugged as they continued walking to their various locations. Vision glanced over at Wanda and asked, "Am I forgiven for the attempted murder thing?"
Wanda looked up, stared into Vision's very soul, held up her fist, and lightly punched Vision's chest. Vision broke eye contact to glance down at where Wanda had punched him, his eyes flitting back up to Wanda's, before she said, "I still hate you."
"And that, in Wanda language, translates to 'I still love you', correct?" Vision said hopefully.
Wanda laughed a little, smiling at Vision, as she asked, "What do you think, you idiot?"
Wanda started walking back towards Peter Pan's as Vision followed like a gleeful puppy dog. "Where are you going?"
"To a graduation party. Spider-Man is going to MIT." Wanda explained. When Vision still didn't follow completely, she said, "Do you want to come with?"
"Oh, I'm never leaving you again." Vision said, taking a few longer strides until he was side by side with Wanda, tightly gripping her hand. "I didn't think that was ever in question."
"You know that I'm not going to 100% believe that the real you is back for a while, right?"
"I know. I'm just going to have to find small ways to convince you of that fact every single day until you do." Vision confirmed. "I did say that we would see each other again..."
Wanda smiled, rolling her eyes. "I love you, you dork."
"So... Spider-Man is going to MIT?" Vision asked.
"Yeah... It was kinda complicated, but he made it through." Wanda confirmed.
"You've gotten to know him?"
"Yeah... It's kinda complicated, to say the least." Wanda admitted.
"As are most things in life." Vision confirmed. Vision cautiously said, "I love you, Wanda, and I'm happy to have you back."
Wanda nervously smiled back at Vision and said, "I love you too. And I am happy to have you back, don't get me wrong, I'm just... Having a hard time believing this because the last time I saw you-"
"I tried to squeeze your head in. I know." Vision interrupted. "I'm sorry... About everything."
"I am too."
The two were silent for a moment before Vision commented, "You dyed your hair."
Wanda's eyes widened as her face turned red, using her other hand to toss some of her dark brown hair over her shoulder. "Yeah. To make it a long story short, Spider-Man and I had to team up with Clint's mentee and Natasha's younger sister to take down this lady... It's a long, complicated story, but in order to sneak into the party where we were gonna fight this lady, Spider-Man and I had to pose as sibilings. It was either I bleach my roots and go back to being a ginger and have Spider-Man be a ginger too, or I go back to being a brunette since Spider-Man also has brown hair. We both decided that he wouldn't look good as a ginger, so I just dyed my hair back to brown."
"I always liked your brown hair." Vision said, his face becoming slightly red as well. "Brown hair always made your green eyes look a little lighter... The red hair made them a bit too intense for me."
"Okay, that's rude." Wanda said, chuckling to herself. "Accurate, but rude."
"Since when is Clint Barton a mentor? And since when does Natasha have a younger sister?"
"It, um, it's-"
"Complicated. You've said that a lot today." Vision interrupted teasingly. "So... What, exactly, have I missed?"
"News doesn't reach Wakanda quickly, I take it?" Wanda asked.
"Not exactly, but they're working on it." Vision said quickly. "What was the mission?"
"Well, it's complicated, but there as this party Clint's mentee's aunt was throwing, and... Spider-Man got invited because he is Pepper's son now, and-"
"You mean Tony finally officially adopted him?" Vision asked, Wanda nervously looking over at Vision as he talked. "Rhodey and I predicted that he would adopt Spider-Man eventually, I'm honestly surprised that it took him this long."
"Did they not tell you in Wakanda?" Wanda asked gently.
"Tell me what?"
"Vis... Tony's dead."
Vision paused, his brow furrowed in confusion. "What?"
"And Steve... And Natasha." Wanda explained cautiously. "Nat died to get everyone back and Tony died killing Thanos. Not gonna lie, nobody is entirely sure where Steve is, he... Came back old, Scott says that Steve somehow got onto the moon, Sam and Bucky say that he's just gone, but Clint and I just say that he's dead for simplicity."
Vision's eyes widened as he asked, "What do you mean all three of them are dead!?"
"Well... From what I understand, to get the Soul Stone for the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos used the stones to destroy the stones after he Snapped away half of life on Earth so they don't exactly exist anymore, you had to lose what love most. Someone thought that it was a brilliant idea to send Natasha and Clint there to get it. Clint came back and Natasha didn't. She literally died to bring everyone back. Tony used his version of the Gauntlet to kill Thanos from 2012 and his army, forgot to mention that Tony invented time travel, that's important for Steve later on, and the energy of all the stones for the snap drained Tony of his energy. After Tony's funeral, Steve went back in time to return the stones, and when he came back, he was an old man. He gave Sam the shield and now after a big fat mess, Sam is Captain America." Wanda explained. "Did Shuri really not fill you in about everything that happened the five years we were gone? Wakanda was literally involved in Sam and Bucky's big fat mess."
"I'm... Sorry, I was dead for five years before S.W.O.R.D. brought me back?" Vision asked. "Or... More accurately, when S.W.O.R.D. used your powers to bring me back?"
"God... I really do have to catch you up on stuff... Anyway, Clint told me that Yelena, that's Natasha's younger sister, she's an ex Widow too, apparently they were a part of some mission in Ohio in the 90s together for like... Three years, I think, but anyway Yelena kinda got hired to kill Clint because she wasn't handling Natasha's death well, that's part of the whole... Party bust situation, but now I'm living with her and her dog Fanny. We've kinda formed a... Support group, I guess." Wanda said, shrugging. "She got Snapped too, so we both kinda... Have the same emotions."
"Well, I have a feeling that this is going to be quite the story..."
"I'll tell you the rest later." Wanda said as they approached Peter Pan's. "We're here, so... Play it cool while I explain it to everyone? Please?"
"When have I ever not played it cool?" Vision asked, scoffing.
"Do you really want me t-"
"Of I don't really want you to answer that."
Wanda laughed, walking into the coffee shop. Peter, Ned, and MJ were at their usual spots, talking and having fun, laughing at some joke on Miles's phone that Miles and Ganke were showing them. Wanda dragged Vision inside, Vision smiling at Wanda, as Wanda said, "Hey guys!"
Peter, Ned, and MJ glanced up and saw Wanda and Vision, Peter and MJ quickly glancing at each other as Peter abruptly stood up, pointing at Vision. "What is he doing here!?"
"... What?" Wanda asked.
"Sir, I have a mallet behind this counter in case of emergencies, and I will not hesitate to go all Thor, Son of Odin, on your ass if you do not leave the building!" MJ said, bending down behind the counter to grab a mallet that said For Emergencies Only written on the handle.
"Why are you two freaking out about that blonde guy who's holding Wanda's hand?" Ganke asked, he, Miles, and Ned sharing a confused look.
"He knows who I am!" Peter said quickly.
"... What?" Ned asked.
"Before you kidnapped me, some blonde guy on the street bumped into Peter and addressed him by name!" MJ explained, pointing to Vision as Wanda gave him a perplexed look. "That's the guy!"
Ned abruptly stood up, grabbing the sling ring on the table and put it on his fingers, holding his hands up. "Either you leave, or I make you. My hands are very tingly!"
"A-And I'm sparky!" Miles said, looking at the other three like they were maniacs as he held up his fists in a fighting position.
Ganke looked at the four, tilting his head, as he backed away and said, "Yeah... I'm gonna let them do their thing."
"Children, calm down!" Wanda said, turning to Vision, letting go of Vision's hand. "Explain how you know him, ten words or less."
Vision held up his hands to count as he said, "We were on Team Iron-Man. Five words exactly. Smiley face."
Wanda had to stop herself from laughing at Vision's goofy smile as she asked, "Okay, but... Did you happen to go off world at some point in December?"
Vision's eyes narrowed. "Yes... I did. It was when I first got my emotions back. I got so excited that I flew off world for maybe... Two minutes before I went back down. How did you know about that?"
"Okay... Relax, teenagers." Wanda said exhaustedly, Miles, Ned, MJ, and Peter not easing up. "He's cool."
"That still doesn't say who he is! How does he know me!?" Peter asked.
Vision's jaw dropped. "We fought together, Peter! I understand that I was red last time you saw me, but you should still be able to remember me!"
Peter's head flicked to Wanda as he said, "You told me you didn't know where he was!"
"I didn't until he found me in Times Square today!" Wanda argued. Wanda motioned to Vision as she said, "I mean... This is good, right? I mean, I have someone back too, and I'm not completely alone anymore, not that I wasn't because now I have you, and-"
"WANDA!" Peter said loudly, Wanda freezing mid sentance. Peter motioned for everyone to calm down, then pointed at Vision. "You hurt her again, and I hurt you. I don't know how yet, but I will figure it out."
"Okay..." Vision said cautiously as Wanda walked over to Peter, smiling as she got out a card the present she got for Peter.
Wanda handed the card and the clear tube of sparkly red and blue dice, hugging Peter. "Congrats, Peter. There's money in the card. Spend it wisely."
"Thanks Wanda." Peter said, his eyes turning to the tube of dice. Peter held them above his head proudly and announced, "Cool math rocks!"
"Cool math rocks!" MJ and Ned echoed, the three high fiving.
"Cool... Math rocks?" Vision asked as he and Wanda sat down at a nearby table.
"DnD Dice." Wanda translated. "He, MJ, and Ned have gotten into DnD recently, so I thought I would get Peter his first dice set. They sell those at Barnes and Noble for like... Ten dollars. They're from the superhero collection... Spider-Man, obviously. They're even talking about joining this DnD group on MIT campus."
"By the way, Wanda," Peter said as MJ walked away to go make Wanda's favorite tea. "Mama Stark wanted to know if you were going to join us for dinner tonight. Morgan does too. She misses her favorite auntie."
Wanda laughed, rolling her eyes. "Yelena and I were literally there yesterday."
"Morgan?" Vision asked. "Who's Morgan?"
Peter sighed, tilting his head as he looked at Wanda. "How much does he not know? Did Dr. Strange's spell just erase the wrong memories or something?"
"Dr. Strange? Who's that?" Vision asked, glancing over at Wanda. Wanda opened her mouth to talk, but Vision interrupted and said, "Let me guess, 'it's complicated'?"
"... Yeah." Wanda agreed, glancing over at Peter. "He didn't even know that Tony, Steve, and Nat were dead."
"Have fun catching him up." Peter said snarkily, Wanda playfully glaring at him.
MJ walked over with a coffee cup and set it on the table. "There is your strawberry tea with lemonade, Wanda."
"You still have strawberry donuts left, right?" Wanda asked. "I promised Yelena I would bring her back one."
"Yeah. I'll pack it up for you before you leave." MJ said, glancing over at Vision. "Do you want something to drink too... Or can you even drink... Or eat?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Vision said politely, deciding that that would be easier than explaining.
Outside, a few police cars zipped past the window. Miles hung his head as he grabbed his backpack and started walking out of the building. Ganke got out his laptop and his headset as he said, "HQ will be here today."
"Got it." Miles said, giving Ganke a thumbs up.
"Break a leg, Squirt!" Peter said teasingly. "Tell Ganke if you need any help, and I'll suit up."
"Yeah yeah, whatever. Spider-Man is on the case." Miles said, saluting Peter as he ran to the alley to change.
Vision looked between the door and Peter, nervously pointing at Peter as he said, "But... You... He is... You are..."
"It's complicated." Wanda and Peter said together, the two laughing as Vision hung his head in shame. For the first time in a long time, both Wanda and Peter were at peace, which was something of a miracle in itself.
Miles came back maybe an hour later, and soon after, everyone else left. Wanda grabbed her strawberry donut as she and Vision left. Vision cautiously asked, "Am I allowed to see where you live?"
"Well... You said so yourself. You're not letting me leave your sight anytime soon." Wanda said, smiling at Vision. She quickly turned around and waved goodbye to Peter, Peter giving her a thumbs up as he watched the two walk away.
"Hey, aren't we headed to your house, Mr. Stark?" MJ said teasingly as Ned grabbed his backpack, the three headed to Peter's small blue car that was parked by the curb. Pepper had gotten him the car from a used car dealership to make commuting to New York easier, and Peter was still paying off the cost of the car to Pepper. She had insisted that Peter didn't pay it off, she was Peter's legal guardian by this point and the car was technically a gift, but if May had taught him anything, it was that you had to work hard for what you got. Nothing really came without strings attached, but Peter wasn't upset by the strings he was attached to his friends with. He actually thrived better with those strings attached.
Peter rolled his eyes as he got out his car keys. "Okay, if you are going to make fun of me like that, can you at least use my actual last name? My legal name may technically be Peter Benjamin Stark so I can have like, an official bank account and stuff, but I'm still the same old Peter Benjamin Parker."
"I know, but you literally only called Tony 'Mr. Stark', and now you're technically Mr. Stark." MJ said teasingly.
"I'm gonna go back to using Parker when I'm older." Peter said defensively. "I mean, names are really no big deal at this point."
"I don't care what my last name is in the future as long as I can name my future daughter Dahlia." MJ said, rolling her eyes.
"Funny... I was planning on naming my future daughter May... After Aunt May, obviously."
"Then there are only two choices you two have." Ned said jokingly as he climbed into the backseat. "Either hope for twins or hope for a boy."
The trio laughed, realizing how ridiculous the conversation was. MJ climbed into the passenger's seat, glancing over at Peter. "I don't care about all that right now though. We're too young to be thinking about children... Having children together. The future is wide open. I mean... Who knows... Ned could end up dating Betty again."
Ned rolled his eyes. "Oh my God, shut up."
"We're your friends! We're allowed to tease you!" MJ said, laughing.
"We'll have plenty of time to tease each other later. We don't wanna be late to dinner." Peter said, shaking his head. "I know that you're both spending the night, but still. Plenty of time to tease each other later on."
Peter put the car into drive, pulling out into the street. As he, Ned, and MJ continued talking about future plans for college, classes they were excited to take the next semester, Peter smiled to himself. For the first time since he was fourteen, it seemed like the ghosts in his head, memories of people past and present, finally seemed at peace.
Thank you to everyone who found this story and decided to give it a shot! The end of No Way Home hurt me, like I'm assuming it hurt a lot of you, but what got me in the movie theater wasn't Aunt May's death (though that did catch me off guard), it was Peter going to May's grave and Happy being there, but Peter not talking to him because he wanted to keep Happy safe. When I was in the seventh grade, I was kinda forcibly put into a similar situation that Peter was at the end of NWH... Minus all the magic stuff.
My grandmother, who I loved very much and spent a lot of time with, got diagnosed with stage four cancer and died close to the beginning of September. Not even a week after her funeral, my stepmother gave birth to my little sister, who is currently seven. She's my only little sister, and there's a thirteen year age difference between us. My father and my stepmother basically forced me to focus of all of my energy on becoming the best big sister and the responsibility that comes with it instead of letting me talk about my feelings about the loss of my grandmother. I wasn't able to actually process my feelings about my grandmother until I was in my sophomore year of high school.
My situation is very different, but the fact that Peter had someone there who he could have confided in, but chose not to because of his responsibility broke me in the theater because that reminded me of when my grandmother died because I didn't really have a support system, like how Peter's support system vanished at the end of the movie. It left me feeling horrible because, as someone who kind of experienced that in real life, in my opinion, that's one of the cruelest things you can force someone to go through, real life or fictional. Honestly, I wanted to give Peter the closure I didn't get until later on in my life, I'm not gonna lie about that. This was a very emotional story for me to write, as I'm sure everyone can imagine, and I am very proud of how this story turned out.
Hopefully, everyone enjoyed reading this story and seeing the chaos unfold as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you enjoyed reading this, I do have other stuff on my page if anyone wants to give that a try.
(Also, sorry that I gave everyone panic attacks about Ned. I just felt like NWH was setting Ned up to be a villain in a potential new trilogy, and his whole arc was inspired by this theory I found online after watching the movie... Sorry.)