I can't believe the amazing feedback I've gotten on this story! You guys are AMAZING! I think you will be surprised and excited about what is in store for you. As always - for you Crystal - may the road to your birthday be paved with epic fan fiction, nerdy delights, art and writing, AND NO MORE HEADCOLDS!
Read on my lovelies,
PART ONE - REALITY
In the Flesh
"Holy shit," I breathe in the sight - the smell.
It's a warm day. Sunny. Car horns blast at each other in traffic, a cab jostles by. There's a street vendor selling hot dogs.
I turn in a circle, overwhelmed. It feels so real.
I mean, I guess it is real. It's my reality. Alternatives, he called them. I could stay here for awhile if I like, but…
If what Dr. Strange said is true, then Mr. Stark could be single-handedly defeating Thanos with some sort of amazing miraculous loophole that no one ever thought of, and when he does, he uses the infinity gauntlet to bring us all back. Maybe time gets reversed and I'll just wake up on the bus going on a field trip and I won't remember any of this. That would be… not unwelcome.
I wouldn't mind forgetting how I died.
So Mr. Stark's probably going to save us all.
That's got to be it.
I know if anyone could figure out a way to do it, it'd be Tony Stark.
I find my mind keeps replaying my last moments alive like a sicko. Mr. Stark held me while I died. He made sure I wasn't alone. But now, I've left him alone. The immeasurable sadness I feel stops being for me - I feel it for him. I couldn't repay the favor. He made sure that he cradled my obliterated body in his arms until I wasn't there.
I wish now that I could be there for him, telling him he's not alone, that he can bring us back, and Dr. Strange made sure he was set up for success.
I wish I could say this to him.
I wish I could talk to him right now.
I glance around me. The door remains open behind me, a pool of white mist beckoning with eerie silence on the other side. I carefully shut the door, and step away from it.
No one notices me or the door. The sidewalk isn't super crowded, but anyone who steps close enough simply walks around the door, as if instinct tells them to not run into it.
I turn my back on it, nervously, and walk a few steps towards the hot dog vendor. Then I turn and look back.
For a second I panic - but too soon - there's a glimmer of white in my peripheral vision. The door moved. Now it's in the side of the building, looking like a side-entrance to this pawn shop. I walk back to it and open it once more - fog and nothing.
I can do this.
I turn and walk up to the hot dog vendor.
"Hello," I say carefully.
"What'll it be?" he responds. Every unpleasant thing about him - his bad teeth, his body odor, his shabby clothes and slightly unwashed-looking hands reaching for a bun, is the most welcome thing I think I've ever seen.
"You can see me?" I ask.
His eyes narrow. "Yeah?"
"What am I wearing?" I add.
"Uhhhhh," his eyes look me up and down doubtfully. "Clothes? Like jeans and shit?"
I look down. I see that too.
"Look, do you want a dog or what?" he continues, voice growing agitated. "Money first."
"I'm so sorry, I don't have any money," I say. "I just wanted to… to… never mind. Sorry to bother you..." I start to walk away.
"Look, kid," the man sighs with an annoyed huff. "I burnt one'a these a half hour ago. Save em for my Rott at home. But you can have one if you're hungry."
I turn and look back at him. I don't remember the last thing I ate - wait, yes.
A shared sandwich with Ned on the bus on the way to our field trip. Which means it's been over twelve hours since I've had anything to eat, if I could guess. It was difficult to tell how much time had gone by on the creepy ship driven by the Voldemort dude, and how long we fought Thanos on the planet where we… we…
where I… died.
I blink. "Th-thank you." I walk back to the cart. "I mean, if it's okay. Yeah. I'll have the burnt one. I'm really sorry I don't have money, though…"
"Don't sweat it," the man grumbles, tucking it into a bun, too, and about to hand it to me. Right before my hand touches it, he yanks it back. "You ain't been doing drugs or anything, right?" he asks. "Screwing around with me because you got the munchies?"
"No sir," I say quickly. "No, I don't do any of that stuff."
He hands the hot dog to me. "Stay in school."
"Okay," I nod heavily. "Thank you. Really. It's really nice of you."
"Yeah, well, beat it before the other homeless guys think I'm just giving free food away."
"Thanks," I repeat, holding the hot dog close to my chest and walking down the sidewalk, ducking down a thin, dirty alley to eat in peace. I try not to snarf it down, but it's hard not to feel a sort of panic, like, I never thought I would eat anything ever again, so I should consume this as quickly as possible before something goes wrong.
I slow down and try to take slow bites. Pausing between each one to take deep breaths and look around the alley. Right side, a chain link fence ends the alley between the backs of the two buildings. There's a dumpster, too. On the left, the sidewalk is still busy, people walking by with grocery bags and walking dogs.
I look at the wall in front of me, and a white door appears. It looks like mist, forming out of a cloud and growing more and more solid.
Okay. Cool. So the door just follows me around.
And totally doesn't make any kind of scientific sense, no matter what the neurosurgeon says! This is just straight up magical stuff. I wonder how often Dr. Strange has an argument with himself about mysticism vs. scientific theory.
I bet the debate ends if his cape slaps him in the middle of it.
Personally, that thing sort of creeps me out. Maybe if it looked more like the carpet in Aladdin it would be less weird.
When I finish eating I leave the alley way, walking back down the sidewalk the opposite direction of the hot dog vendor. Shoving my hands in jean pockets, trying to look like I belong here. I wonder if it is like one of those Inception sort of things where the imagined figures populating my alternate world will attack me if I look too invasive.
Every so often I glance over my shoulder. I see a white door whenever I look, usually in a different place. Once in a storefront. Another embedded in the street beside me. Another on the second story of a nice apartment building behind a balcony railing. Always forming somewhere close right when I look for it.
Eventually I have no patience any longer.
I break into a run. As fast as I can. Accidently knocking into people, jumping over (or running into) obstacles like trash cans and fire hydrants. When I start to feel tired, I keep pushing. When I feel like I should stop and rest, I don't. If I wasn't Spider-Man, I would have probably thrown up that hot dog.
Fists clenched, lungs heaving, I push myself until all I can think about is getting some water and collapsing for a little while…
Then I turn a right onto my own street.
I don't have keys with me. I click the buzzer outside for my apartment.
"Hello?" Aunt May's voice.
"AuntMayit'sPeterpleaseletmein," I cry out in a single breath.
"Peter? Like my NEPHEW Peter?" she sounds confused. "Um. Sure honey." It's weird hearing her say my nephew, she never called me that. She always just called me her boy.
The door buzzes and I yank it open, dashing for the elevator and slamming my hand on the button. It takes a frustratingly realistic time to arrive, ding, open, and then I'm in - foot tapping agitatedly - another ding, doors opening,
Running down the hall, lifting my hand to slam on the door, but it's already opening and Aunt May is standing there expectedly, eyebrows raised with concern, I rush at her and throw my arms around her and I'm crying with happiness - exclaiming things I don't even understand - blabbing in utter nonsense that she's okay, I'm not dead, she's not dead either, if there was a way that I could express that I hadn't meant to leave without saying goodbye...
She rubs my back hesitantly. "Peter - Peter honey - calm down. It's okay…" She pulls back too soon, keeping her hands braced on my arms, looking me up and down. "Are you hurt? What's going on?"
How do I even start?
"You - I mean, I…" I stutter. Is she even real? Or just a… figment of my weird alternate realities that didn't start until I was in them? I hate the idea of this place not existing simply because I'm not in it. Isn't this Aunt May? Isn't she thinking - feeling - fearing, as much as me?
"Why don't you come in sit down, sweetheart," she pushes me to the tiny table and chairs in the kitchen, kicks the apartment door shut behind her, and pulls out a chair. I slump into it heavily. "I'll… get you some water. Tea, maybe? Soda? What do you like?"
"Water is fine," I rasp. This feels off. Like I'm a guest. Like she wasn't… afraid for me. Did I not disappear from a school field trip two days ago?
I nearly slap my forehead in frustration. Because that was the reality I LEFT. Of course she doesn't miss me. I had forgotten already. That was the reality I died in.
Just because she's here doesn't mean it's the same one.
I'm in a different reality, I remind myself. Just because she is here doesn't make it… correct.
She places a glass of water in front of me, and I take two shaky sips. She watches me for a moment before lowering herself gingerly into the chair across from me.
"Everything is going to be okay," she says softly. "Just take some deep breaths. Okay?"
"Okay," I gulp. I should have tried to act normal.
There is no way that this ends well for anyone.
"You can tell me what's wrong," Aunt May says firmly. "Whatever it is."
I don't say anything at first. I take another drink.
"Did you have a fight with your dad?" she asks.
I look up at her, blinking. Once. Twice.
"What?" I ask hoarsely.
"Did you have a fight with your dad?" she repeats. "I remember the only reason I ever ran away from home as a teenager and felt that scared and hopeless was when I had a fight with my parents."
My lips form a confused, sort of sarcastic response in pure disbelief before I can think it through, imagining Thanos's terrifying smile.
"I fought with… someone… I mean," I say uneasily. "But… it's not..."
"Do they know you're here? At least?" she prompts. "I mean, you can stay here as long as you like, but… at least… let me call them. Tell them you're here. They'll be worried to death."
"Them…?" I repeat, like a parrot.
"I'll call your mom," Aunt May says, more to herself than me. "She can tell your dad so he doesn't go crazy. He's a worrier, that one."
"Call my mom?" I repeat again.
"Peter, honey, are you sure you're okay?" May asks again. "You look like you're in shock or something. Should I grab you a blanket? Isn't that a thing? Wait," she stands up suddenly. "You got into a fight? Like a FIGHT FIGHT? Like a school bully vs. nerd sort of fight?"
She's looking at my bloody knuckles from marking the door to Dr. Strange's plane.
"Yeah," I say, trying to make my confession look guilty.
"Jesus christ," Aunt May throws her hands in the air, looking very Italian, and marches over to the freezer. She yanks open the door and pulls out a frozen bag of carrots, stomping back to me and placing them gently over the back of my hand. "You sounded like it was the end of the world earlier, not a fist fight." She slumps back into her chair, still confused. "But why did you come here?"
I shake my head. I didn't come here to put myself into the shoes of a Peter Parker that doesn't exist. I came here to - to - I don't know, I guess. I certainly didn't come here as like, evil-clone-time-traveling version of myself trying to live a lie. I just wanted to tell everyone that I was back, that… that we needed to be prepared… in one universe or the next, Thanos could still be out there…
"Aunt May," I say. "This is going to be difficult for you to believe, but I really came from…"
My words are cut short by the sound of the apartment door opening behind me.
"Hi there, stranger! Look who is paying us a visit," Aunt May greets cheerfully, looking over my shoulder.
I turn slowly and look behind me. Uncle Ben walks in - smiling - putting his satchel down on the floor by the front door where I've dumped my backpack so many times - closes the door behind him - says,
"Hey, there, Peter!" like he hasn't seen me recently except in casual interactions -
Closes the door behind him -
The apartment door slowly turns from that weird gray color to solid white.
There's a mist bleeding in a bit around the edges.
Neither of them notice.
My mouth is hanging open.
"A pigeon is gonna fly in there and make a nest if you're not careful," Uncle Ben says, walking by me and ruffling the top of my head like I'm a ten year old embarking on little league for the first time. He leans over Aunt May and she greets him with a kiss, grinning into it, and he's walking to the sink to wash some of the grime from work off his hands.
"So how's it going, you two?" he asks over his shoulder, the sink running loudly.
"Peter's had a bit of a rough day," May replies.
"Oh, really? What happened?"
"Peter got into a fight at school," May answers.
I start to protest.
"Oh boy, you're in trouble for sure," Uncle Ben laughs, turning off the sink and drying his hands. "My brother hates fighting." He turns around and leans on the counter. "So what happened? Was it Flash Thompson again?"
My heart beats faster. "Flash? Flash couldn't punch a pillow even if he aimed for it. Determine the mass and weight, maybe, and then solve the equation - incorrectly - on paper, but..."
They're both blinking at me in slight confusion.
I look down at the frozen veggies on my hand. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Why don't you come sit with us," Aunt May says carefully. "I think we should talk."
Uncle Ben's face grows concerned. He sits down beside May so that they are both facing me.
I can't believe what I'm seeing right now.
I have to physically grip the table leg with my uninjured hand to ground me. To keep me from jumping to my feet and throwing myself in his arms and crying and asking for his forgiveness.
I wish I could explain what happened to him in the other reality, only to hear him say that everything was okay and no matter what happened in other universes he'd always love me in this one…
He looks like he always did. Dark hair. Dark eyes. A little silver at the temples… thin build, but strong. A type of guy that looked trustworthy the moment you looked at him. Made you feel safe… loved… protected.
"Peter got in just a second ago and um - to be fair - you were absolutely hysterical," Aunt May says calmly. "I just… want you to tell us if you're not giving us the whole story. You know we're always here for you if you need us. But…"
"Define hysterical," Uncle Ben looks at May with seriousness.
"Sort of screaming at me and crying," May answers. "I'm not going to lie. Really freaked me out for a second."
Uncle Ben looks back at me, and REALLY looks at me, like the kind of look where someone with superpowers is reading your mind to determine the truth. "You don't look so good," he admits.
I nod with a nervous gulp. "I'm not… so good?"
"So aside from the fight," Aunt May says gently, "Why don't you tell us what else is going on."
"I…" I begin to stutter. "I don't… I don't know…"
"What about when you said when you came in?"
"I don't even remember what I said," I confess.
"You were saying that you weren't dead and that I wasn't dead and everything was going to be okay," Aunt May repeats carefully.
Uncle Ben blanches with surprise. "You said what?"
"Sleepwalking," I blurt out. "I've been sleepwalking. Had a crazy dream everybody died and I woke up on the sidewalk out front."
"Yeah, that's a bullshit answer," Aunt May exclaims.
"I'm going to need to hear a real one," Uncle Ben quickly agrees. "I think you safely have about… five minutes before I'm calling your parents. Just to…" his tone changes, and he reaches forward and gently lays a huge, weathered hand on my arm. "Son," he says softly, "If you're having like… a nervous breakdown… or you're depressed, or into something you shouldn't be, or whatever the hell kids get into nowadays, there's help for you - WE can help."
This was going downhill fast.
"I'm not lying," I lie. "I really did have a horrible nightmare that everyone died and I wanted to see you and make sure you were safe."
They glance at each other. They don't buy it for a second.
"Please don't tell my parents I scared you," I ask quietly. Not that I care if I get into trouble with parents who… probably aren't real, technically. Neither of them are. None of this is.
It's a world without consequences. What will they do? Ground me?
Do I want to face the completely unreal-consequences just so I can see their faces again?
I wouldn't… I wouldn't mind seeing them.
I only remember their faces like a childhood moment you don't actually recall but you've had explained to you so many times that it feels like a memory instead.
"I didn't mean to scare you," I add. "I was just - I was scared. I overreacted."
"So…" Uncle Ben leans back in his chair and crosses his arms over his chest. "Did you fall asleep in the middle of the street before or after the fist fight?"
He's being sarcastic with me. Shit. I'm a horrible liar.
I'll have to come up with something else.
"I'm Spider-Man," I blurt out instead.
"What the fuck?" Aunt May practically shrieks.
Some things don't change, apparently.
"What's a spider man?" Uncle Ben exclaims with confusion.
Aunt May pats his shoulder. "That wall-crawling vigilante I showed you on YouTube."
"There's a few of those!"
"The red one!"
"That was a real thing?" Uncle Ben gasps. "Wait - you - and you're it?" he points at me. "How did you - what did you - does your mom and dad know? Please tell me that you told them and I don't have to be the guy…" suddenly he ducks down and looks under the table.
"What are you doing?" Aunt May asks.
"Looking for hidden cameras." Uncle Ben sits up again. "Is this a prank?"
Aunt May smiles in spite of herself.
"Not a prank," I reply hoarsely, and her smile quickly vanishes. "Okay - listen - this is hard to explain - it's just…"
"Prove it," Uncle Ben says. His eyes are twinkling. He thinks I'm just trying to pull one over on him. He always had a great sense of humor… but…
I sigh and stand up, looking around the apartment. Only now I realize it's setup differently. No embarrassing school photos in frames of me placed all over. It's weird how different a place looks just because I wasn't raised there.
Apparently I was raised somewhere else, with a fully alive mom and dad.
"What do you want me to do?" I ask sheepishly.
Uncle Ben chuckles. "Climb a wall, I guess."
I go to the emptiest wall on the inside of the living room running parallel to the apartment hall outside. I stick my hands, fingertips only, on the surface and crawl steadily up.
They don't realize they're truly seeing what they're seeing until my feet are a good few feet off the floor, and I'm bumping my head into the ceiling, and then I move my hands up to the ceiling, and begin crawling across the ceiling. I stop in the center, and look down at them upside down, my hair flopping and my T-shirt riding up into my face. "Like this?" I ask.
Aunt May and Uncle Ben are both standing, watching me with mouths dropped open.
I unstick one hand and lower myself back to the floor, then release.
I stand there awkwardly, waiting for them…
"Please say something," I giggle. I never imagined having this conversation. Ever.
"This isn't funny," Aunt May barks.
"I have no WORDS!" Uncle Ben says at the same time. "How long have you been doing this?"
"Since my last field trip to the Os..." I try to explain.
"WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS!" Uncle Ben continues, throwing his hands in the air. "Are you like - an Avenger now? Are you - like, a Robin Hood? What - what - what - …"
"Yes, I'm an Avenger," I say, lifting my chin a little higher.
Aunt May drops back into her chair.
"Mother of God," Uncle Ben says, mouth hanging open still.
It's just silent for a moment.
"Do you need more proof?" I ask confusedly. "I can… um… like… do this?" I reach down and pick up the couch, holding it up in midair for a moment as if it's made of paper, and then set it back down. "So..." I say again. "You good? You both good?" I glance down at Aunt May.
"Aunt May," I exclaim. "Are you going to FAINT?"
She looks rather green.
"No," she says shortly, but she does stand up and go over to the sink, leaning over it and taking deep breaths. Then she runs the faucet and splashes some water on her face.
Uncle Ben stands there stoically, worry written across his face. "How did they let a fifteen year old boy in the Avengers?" he asks.
I shrug. I don't know that, either. "I know this is a lot to take in…"
Aunt May whirls around, finding her voice. "A LOT?" she yells. "A LOT TO TAKE IN? This isn't like - teenage pregnancy that you're confessing here, Peter! This is - this is incredibly dangerous! Possibly illegal! And REALLY dangerous, did I mention that? And not telling your PARENTS… God almighty…" I start to answer, but she goes on. "Last I saw anything of Spider-Man on the news was he took down a fucking plane and captured the terrorist who tried to hijack it!"
Not sure if her summary of Toomes and Moving Day was a little off, or if she was recalling an incident in this reality that I never truly had before.
I don't know how to answer so I just grin awkwardly instead.
"You look like your Dad," Uncle Ben grumbles.
"Don't you give me that stupid smile," Aunt May wags her finger at me. "You can't just blush and mumble your way out of this one. I'm calling your mother. End of story. I'll be the bad guy if I have to if it means protecting you, do you understand?"
I nod carefully. "Yeah, um, you might want to wait on that. Just… please wait a moment. Hear me out."
She pauses with one hand reaching for the wall-phone that she always insisted we keep because it was cool and retro, the long curling chord dragging along the ground after years of stretching all over the apartment because she took it with her from room to room…
"There's something bad coming," I say calmly. "I… being an Avenger… I get to do a lot of things I can't tell you about. I get to travel the world. I've fought battles and…" my eyes start to fill with tears, and I furiously blink them away, wiping my nose on the back of my hand, my chin trembling annoyingly. "So… the last one I was in… it didn't go so well."
Uncle Ben walks towards me, reaching for the remote on the table beside the couch. "Is it on the news?" he asks.
"Uh, no," I reach forward and take the remote from him, setting it back on the table. "It won't be on the news. It was in…"
"Space," I add weakly.
Aunt May snorts. Then she sees I am perfectly serious.
"A lot of people died," I continue, the tears coming down anyway. "I thought - I thought that you - that you both - when it was over, I had to come see you - even if I know it doesn't - work that way - I wanted to make sure you were okay…"
I am looking at Aunt May when I say this.
Uncle Ben feels like… a mirage. A hallucination.
Aunt May raised me.
She's my mom.
She was the one waiting for me to get home from a school trip and then probably called Stark when I didn't and reached voicemail and then called Pepper and Pepper told her and then Aunt May would break down and say I hadn't come home from the trip yet and…
I am looking past Uncle Ben - a cruel reminder of my past in this alternate reality -
And I am begging Aunt May to hear me. Across space, and time… let the real Aunt May, wherever she is, know that I still love her. Even though I died crying and begging for my life - I miss her. I want her to know that she'll be okay. That maybe someday I'd be okay too.
Unless she turned to dust, too.
Aunt May is looking at me - really looking at me. She's sees something in my eyes that Uncle Ben doesn't. I don't know how but she does.
Uncle Ben steps forward and gives me a hug. I start to cry but, but - I keep my eyes open, and I'm looking over his shoulder at Aunt May.
Please hear me, Aunt May.
Please hear me.
"It's okay, Peter," Uncle Ben is saying, "As you can see we are perfectly fine! Healthy as ever, and always happy to see our favorite nephew." He rubs my back. "I think May would agree that we're a little more worried about you than you should be worrying about us," he says, pulling back, keeping his large hands on my shoulders. "I don't know what sort of team that Tony Stark thinks he's running if he just lets the youngest and probably bravest member of the Avengers run off to god knows where after a devastating battle without first getting him some help and calling his parents first. If they expect you to be a soldier they can at least connect you with counselors and health benefits and that sort of thing."
Oh, Uncle Ben. So practical as always. He disengages from the hug and stands beside me, talking in that grown-up sort of voice, the one he used when he was trying to communicate with Aunt May above my head as a kid and keep me from knowing what they were conversing about.
"He must be an idiot to not see that you were in no state to make house calls. Why don't you come back and sit down and we'll call your parents? I swear, we'll help you break the news to them. Gently. If there is anything I am good at, it's easing your dad through tough news."
May nods. "I think that's a good idea. I'll tell them to come over. We'll just all… sit down together and have a little family meeting."
This sounds like a bad idea.
"Aunt May," I say hesitantly.
Suddenly the phone rings. That old, rattling BRING, BRING that sounds like it's going to shake it right off the cradle.
"I bet that's your dad," Uncle Ben guesses.
Aunt May mouths "Sorry," and answers the phone.
"Parker residence!" She tries to sound normal, but her voice cracks, and she clears her throat. "This is May speaking."
She falls silent, listening. Then her eyes grow wide. She looks at us. Then she looks away.
"You're who?" she repeats.
"Tony Stark?" she says. "THE Tony Stark?"
My whole body flinches. Uncle Ben notices, and his brows furrow at me.
"You want to talk to Peter?" she says out loud, glancing at us, her face still a shade of green that I'm a bit worried about. "And what makes you think that I know where my nephew is?" May tries to say innocently, noticing my look. "If Iron Man can't keep track of a 15 year old Avenger, how do you expect his Aunt to?"
She bites her lip and listens to the response, and I leave Uncle Ben's protective bubble and walk over to her.
"It's okay, Aunt May," I say, reaching for the phone. "I'll take it."
"You sure?" she whispers, one hand sneaking up to cover the receiver. "I can tell him to get lost. I don't care if he's the richest man in the US."
"It's okay," I repeat, dettaching her hands gently from the phone. She stands there gaping as I lift the phone to my ear. "Hey, Mr. Stark," I say casually, my voice cracking with worry.
"Where have you BEEN?" he exclaims into the phone. "For the love of Christ we've been pinging your damn suit only to find it still webbed to the chimney of your HOUSE? I had to send Rhodes to play fetch like a golden retriever."
I blink. "I was just… visiting…"
"As you can see, I was able to track your whereabouts regardless," he answers with a sigh. "Water under the bridge. Say what do you think about a little trip to Jersey?"
"Jersey?" I repeat dumbly.
"Little… uh… impromptu meeting," he says. "Let's just say we got a lead. I want you in on this."
"A lead on what?" I ask sheepishly.
Aunt May and Uncle Ben simultaneously widen their eyes.
"Have you been asleep for a week? Kid. Banner. Dr. Banner. We may have found a lead on his location at last. You know he's the only one that might have a shot at this."
I nod to pretend I understand.
"Are you nodding?" Mr. Stark asks. "You know I hate it when you make faces over a call."
"Sorry, yes, sir, uh, I'm nodding," I say quickly. "I'll go with you to Jersey. No problem. As long as Mr. Rhodes got my suit."
"Good. Cuz I already sent a car. Suit's in the case on the seat. You can change on the way. They should be outside of May and Ben's apartment in three… two… one."
I hear a car horn blare loudly outside.
"Make it snappy," Mr. Stark says, and he hangs up.
Reeling with shock - disbelief - at all of this - how it feels, how WRONG it feels, almost like I bought a few androids online, dressed them up in my friend's and family's clothes, and pretended to have conversations with them.
I hang up the phone slowly.
"I can't believe you're Spider-Man," Aunt May says. "And that Tony Stark just called my kitchen phone."
"You don't have to go," Uncle Ben says charismatically, walking back into the kitchen. "You just got BACK from - from - whatever the hell you got back from. Your hand's all scratched up. You're," he reaches over and brushes a leftover tear from beneath my eye. "You're just a kid. You don't have to go."
"I'm an Avenger," I say slowly. "I always go."
"Do we still call your parents?" Aunt May asks carefully.
"Not yet, I promise I'll…" I stop. "They'll know. But I have to go."
I step towards the apartment door and freeze.
The white door.
I had forgotten.
I would just go back to the doorchard. Into the white mist again - silent.
Silent, silent fog of nothing, only reminding me that I'm dead.
I don't want to go yet. Not again.
I want to go to Jersey and find out where Hulk is.
What - what if -
What if where Dr. Banner is in THIS universe is important to the OTHER universe? What if I can find something out that will help them defeat Thanos?
What if they resurrect me and I come back equipped with days - months - years of studying anything and everything I could get my hands on in every universe ever, and I can help provide the knowledge that we need for victory?
I look at the apartment door. Then I turn back to Uncle Ben and Aunt May, standing side by side.
I throw my arms around both of their necks, burying my face between them. "I love you both so much," I whisper. "More than you know. I'm - I'm not just your nephew. I'm not. You're like my other parents. I love you both so much."
I hear Aunt May gasp a little, and her arms squeeze me so tightly I'm afraid she'll burst blood vessels. Uncle Ben gently runs his hand over the back of my head, smoothing my chaotic hair away. "We love you too," he says, his deep voice gentle. "You know… we never had kids, or anything… but… we never felt like we missed out as much in that regard. Cuz we had you. You're our boy."
"Our boy," Aunt May repeats, kissing my cheek. "Be careful out there. Please. Come back and see us again soon."
I will, Aunt May.
"Okay," I say instead. "I'm - I'm really sorry, to ask this, I know the window sticks a lot, but…"
Their eyebrows raise, expectantly.
"I need to use the fire escape."
Coming Next: Tony Stark and Peter are off to New Jersey to meet an informant who might have a lead about Dr. Banner. But Peter is having difficulty accepting the stakes of the universe he is in, when he feels like a spy from another world gathering information for his own battles...
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