Hey look I'm alive

Chapter 10

The blue-white flickering hue of an old, beat up laptop illuminated the messy interior of a teenage boy's bedroom. The light revealed several things otherwise unknown to daytime explorers of the dense jungle of half eaten food and tossed aside shirts. The true nature of the boy was one of them.

Sweatshirt material, red and blue, loosely stretched across a lanky but muscled frame. Messy brown hair fell in front of tired blue eyes, and a ski mask, outfitted with scratched swimming goggles, lay crumpled on the desk next to the old keyboard. A double wire stretched to the boy's ears, the earbuds set to a low volume.

And on the screen was a blurry news camera picture of a girl being carried into a quinjet.

Peter Parker squinted at the image, fingers flicking the mouse expertly to zoom in, but the group of some of the world's most famous heroes was not his point of interest. He was focused on their most recent capture.

Wet, tangled black hair framed the bruised and bloody face of a girl around his age. Her body was thin and underfed, and collapsed easily into the over-the-shoulder carry that Hawkeye had slung her into.

What surprised him most was her wings and tail. Black, leathery appendages arched from her back, each of them looking bigger and sturdier than the emaciated girl who carried them. The spined tail wound out from underneath her shirt, about two feet longer than her legs. It dragged on the ground, double tailfins gouging extra lines in the dirt.

And above the picture read, in bold print, those words that had been targeted at him once before- 'A NEW MENACE?'

Could this be the same girl that had confronted him on the deck of the tower? If so, did that mean that she was being accepted?

He struggled to remember the details- adrenaline had taken over in that moment, and all he could truly, clearly recall were her glaring eyes. Strikingly, unnaturally emerald green orbs that shot fire even through the sadness that resided behind them. He would think he'd remember something as glaringly obvious as a pair of wings, though.

If it really was the same girl...why hadn't she chased him?

Maybe that wasn't the right question.

Peter sighed, scrubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes and then running his fingers through already mussed hair.

Was it even his business?

"Can I have the wifi password?"

Vision jumped slightly at the sudden voice from behind him, and turned to see his charge offering him a phone. It was an old thing, barely able to be considered a smartphone, with a spiderwebbed screen and a chipped casing. The phone was unlocked and ready to be connected, but it was hard to even see the keyboard through the cracks and dead pixels.

Had she fished the thing out of a dumpster?

The machine-gone-man moved to speak, but Erika was already retracting her hand, face flushed. "You know what? Never mind, I-"

"I'll do better than that."

She blinked, words caught in her throat. "What?"

Vision reached over and pulled the phone from her hand, then threw it over his shoulder. It landed in the trash with a hollow clang. "Hey!" Erika gave him a horrified look and moved to run past him, but he held his arm out to block her path.

"Just trust me. Come on." He beckoned for her to follow, then, without looking to see if she would obey, started down the hall toward Tony's lab.

Ten minutes and a new Stark phone later, and they were sitting across from each other in the living room. Erika was curled on the couch with her knees to her chest, thin hands gripping the new phone and the quiet clicks of typing erupting from it as she set it up. She was still wearing the sweatshirt, the oversized hoodie absolutely swamping her and making her look almost less starved. More human. Only her tail, sticking out from under it and curling around her feet, broke the illusion.

He could see now how she had hidden for so long.

"Why do you hide your wings?" He asked softly after a moment.

He noticed the subtle twitching of her hood as he said that, her abnormal ear flaps causing the fabric to ripple as she pressed them to her head. She hadn't liked that question. Erika's green eyes briefly lifted from the screen, fingers pausing in their busy tapping. "Why do you care?"

"I'm just curious, I suppose, why even when you know you won't be judged you hide who you truly are."

The girl squinted at him, suspicion crossing her features. "What if I'm just cold?"

"But I know you're not," he responded, mechanical voice taking on a hint of annoyance at her avoidance. She was clearly sweating, yet seemed unwilling to remove the thick clothing.

Erika stared for a good minute before she shook her head. "It's none of your business," she ground out between gritted teeth, before sullenly returning her attention to the phone.

He had struck a nerve, it seemed.

Vision sighed, fingers tapping idly on the couch armrest. It might take a while for her to speak cordially with him...which was fine. His only worry was that she would be hesitant to open up to him more than others. After all, most of the Avengers had shared her sentiment about his unnatural nature, and it had taken even Tony a while to get used to his presence.

As if his whirling thoughts had summoned the man himself, the elevator doors dinged open and Tony stepped out of it. "Honey, I'm home!"

The girl jumped at his entrance, and the AI couldn't help but notice how she quickly slipped the phone into her sleeve, then hunched over and stared across the room at him as if she were a rabbit testing the patience of a hunting dog.

He arched an eyebrow at her as he slipped off his suit jacket and slung it over his shoulder. "You can have the phone, kid."

Erika bit the inside of her cheek abashedly and slowly slipped the device out of her sleeve.

"For a pickpocket, you're pretty bad at hiding your emotions," he remarked, continuing to speak as he kicked off his shoes and headed for the door. "Maybe work on that a bit."

Erika waited till he was out of sight, then poked her tongue out from between her teeth slightly in the first display of comfortable teasing she had shown since her arrival.

Perhaps she was becoming more used to the idea of living there. Vision listed his head to the side, then stood up and silently walked out of the room, deciding it was best if he left her to her own devices for now.

Besides...Wanda would be arriving soon, and he wanted to cook dinner.