Just a short piece about Miles bumping into Mary Jane, 6 months after the events of the movie. Let me know what you thought :)
New York was a city quite like no other. Lights sparkled like stars, and the sounds of the busy roads and people buzzed with vibration, like insects in a world so very different to that of anywhere else. It was beautiful, without a doubt, yet it was far from perfect.
However, the falling and flying was still beyond anything Miles Morales could ever imagine. Even now, six months after he was bitten, after his whole life just went a little bit crazy, he could never get over the thrill of falling, falling, falling, until the world zipped past him as he flew. If he could have one love in life, this was it. He had never felt so free, with the building zooming past him whilst his shooters guided him through the city.
But times got hard, even now. Right now, he was flying, embracing the newfound power and freedom he was only capable of dreaming about a few months ago. But it didn't mean he was happy. Right now, he was simply running away from a conversation he was still not ready to confront. He would never be ready.
Miles and his father, Jefferson, we as close as they ever could have been, and yet Miles still felt they were worlds apart. Jefferson would never understand the underlining grief Miles still carried with him. Sometimes Miles would wake in hot sweats in the middle of the night, and sometimes he would choke on sobs that caught him when he least expected it. Six months was not a long time, especially when the person lost was the only person who ever truly understood Miles.
He missed Uncle Aaron terribly. He missed their late nights in the shadows of New York, displaying their art together as they always had. It was a time in Miles's life he would never get back. He wished so much that he could go back; just to cherish those moments one last time. But he couldn't go back. He was alone, with a whole city in his hands.
It frightened him sometimes. He would never admit it to anyone; it was hard enough to admit it to himself. Yet he felt that if Uncle Aaron were still around, he would feel as alone. But he wasn't here anymore. He was ripped away from him, taken so sharply it was as if a knife had pierced Miles through his chest. At first the pain had been crisp, almost unbearable, but now it was a heavy numbness he just couldn't shift.
Tonight, Jefferson had tried to approach Miles about his on-going grief. But his son just wasn't ready yet. Maybe he never would be. But when Jefferson had approached Miles just an hour earlier, just for a talk to see how he was doing, Miles had panicked. When he panicked, his only option was to fly. He barely remembered running out of the door, only that before he knew it he had the wind in his ears and the sound of New York swimming all around him.
Damn it, he thought as he fell, the tarmac hurtling towards him until he shot a web up, launching him above the sky scrapers. In truth, all he wanted was someone to talk to, but his father would never be that person. Worse still, he knew whom the right person to speak to was, but there was no hope of speaking to him ever again. Dimensions divided them, and it was simply the memory of his voice that carried him through.
Peter Parker, as broken, drained and exasperating as he was, was the one who caught Miles before he fell into a pit of despair. Through tough love, and eventually mutual understanding, Miles could be the man, or rather Spider-Man, he needed to be. He didn't need to be like Peter, he needed to be better. This dimension's Peter Parker had failed, and it had cost him his life. Miles needed to honour that, and do what this world's Peter couldn't. Furthermore, he needed to be better than the Parker he knew, because if he ended up in the mess he did, there was simply no point in trying.
Peter taught him that in the short days they spent together, and he would have given anything to hear some guidance now. He needed him. He needed to speak to someone who understood, who had been where he is and overcame it.
But he wasn't here, and he wasn't coming back.
Miles felt himself land gracefully onto the ledge of a building, looking down at the not-too-far-away pavements below. He pulled his hood over his head and shuffled into his hoody, grasping whatever warmth he could get. Even though it was summer, the nights grew chilly, particularly when up high. He found himself wearing his hoody over his suit more often, along with his jeans and sneakers, simply because it was warmer when he patrolled in the evening. He signed heavily, and hung his head, completely defeated.
The streets were as busy as ever, people hustling and bustling into the night as much as they did during the day. People were loud, shouting to a point it was almost annoying. With others it was easy to tell that they just wanted to go home and settle in for the night; hands in pockets, heads now, feet moving so fast they almost took off running. It was fun to watch people, trying to figure out where they might be going. Every single one of them had a life, a family, and it made Miles's chest ache that little bit more.
But then, among the moving heads and raised voices, one lady caught his attention. A red head whose hair fell in perfect coils, framing a face that looked at nothing but the ground. People shoved past her, some acting as if she weren't even there. It was everyday life, but seeing this annoyed Miles. He'd seen this woman before. She was older than him, and she was beautiful. Her clothes consisted of smart casual, with a black leather jacket and dark jeans. He could hear her boots slapping the ground in her haste, and her breath caught each time someone shoved her. Miles squinted, just to be sure, only to hold his breath when his guess was confirmed.
Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker's wife.
Unwittingly, Miles found himself following her. Carefully and quietly, he jumped onto each building ledge, crawling on walls as stealthily as he could so as not to startle her. This was the first time he had seen her since Peter, in this universe, was announced dead. Seeing her then was gut wrenching. Seeing her now was… unbearable. People pushed her like she was a nobody, like she was no better than anybody else. Maybe she wasn't; after all, he didn't know her. But he couldn't imagine how she felt now. He, in a sense, had replaced Peter, and that must have brought with it an unimaginable sense of grief. So he followed her, not because he was creepy, or because he was curious. He felt like he owed it to her and to Peter to, just this once, make sure she got home safe.
Maybe she wasn't going home. Maybe she was going to work. Maybe she was seeing family. It didn't matter. Miles wanted go be sure she was safe, because he couldn't think to do anything else. Guilt urged him, because if it were he, he would be furious that someone had replaced someone he loved.
She rounded a corner, and the alley was dark. But he wasn't concerned. His eyes stayed focused, and the buzz in his head didn't happen. So he crawled within the shadows on the wall of the building above her, carefully watching, anticipating her next move.
What he didn't anticipate was a sob to rip right through her. He watched as her knees buckled, and her hand fell out in front of her to catch herself against the wall. Her handbag clattered to the ground, its contents rattling around her feet. It sounded like she could barely breathe, and her whole body shook with grief. Miles could only stare, at a complete loss in what to do. What could he do?
He wanted to speak, to open his mouth and call to her. He wanted to tell her it would be all right. He wished he wasn't in the suit, just so he could walk to her and pick up her bag, just so he could give it to her and ask if she was okay. But he couldn't. Something stopped him. He could only watch, feeling her despair and listen to her anguish.
This was a bad idea, he thought to himself, and began to retreat. But he moved too quickly. The sound of his jacket shuffling startled her, and suddenly he was blinded, his fingertips tingling so much they were on the verge of pins and needles, and his brain almost pounded, dragging his eyes to the danger. He jumped along the wall, spinning as he did so that he could launch a web. He caught the empty handbag effortlessly, yanking the string of web so that he could hold it. Her movement startled him, but not enough to accept her assault. He stared through the mask, and she was staring right back at him, fury in her eyes.
"How dare you," she hissed, her voice like venom. "How dare you!"
"Um… miss…" he stuttered, startled into frightened stammering. What did he say? What could he say now?
"Go away!" she screamed, leaning against the wall like it was hard to stand up straight. "How could you? How could you wear what he wore?"
He saw the tears in her eyes, and suddenly he felt wretched. "Please, I didn't mean to scare you." He said quietly as he lowered himself to the ground, hunching himself over, silently promising her he wasn't a threat. With her bag in one hand, he held his free palm up and forward, demonstrating surrender. She shook against the wall, unable to look at him directly.
She said nothing for a moment, and Miles allowed himself to edge towards her. He moved slowly, not wanting to frighten her further, and carefully reached out his hand with the bag. He had to lean towards her, more and an arm's length away. For a second she didn't try to reach for it. She instead looked up, staring directly at him, straight through the white eyes of his mask and into his own. He held his breath. She was slightly taller than him, but not by much, and he felt like he should have made himself even smaller. Her gaze was heavy, like nothing he had ever felt, and it was agonising.
He let the handle of the bag slip to the very tip of his index finger, allowing it to balance. It swayed, but she did not release her gaze. Even when it fell and she grasped it, her eyes never left his. In the seconds that felt like they lasted for hours, he took in her face. Her skin was pale and tight, the furrow in her brow barely creasing it. Her eyes, orbs of grey swimming with so many emotions, were captivating. They looked like they had seen many things throughout the years, yet they remained fierce and unforgiving.
"I'm sorry," Miles whispered, backing away. Somehow, knowing this was Peter's widowed wife, it felt like he was speaking to a ghost. "I'm so sorry,"
He was about to turn away when she finally spoke again. "Why?" it was no more than a croak.
"P-pardon?" he replied, partially turning to face her.
"Why do you wear his mask? Why can you do what he could do? Why are you acting like you're him?" Her tears glistened, and Miles's heart broke along with hers.
"I didn't want this." He croaked back. "I never wanted this." He knelt down, tucking his knees to his chest and lowering his head, his hood hiding the face of his mask. "He said he would help me,"
"What?" her voice was barely a whisper now.
"I… we…" he couldn't find the words.
"You were there? That night?" she whispered.
"I didn't go looking for him, but yes, I was there." He murmured, raising his head once more. "Things were happening to me, and he said he would help me when it was over, and he… he…" he couldn't finish.
A moment of silence passed, and suddenly Mary sighed so heavily it was like she was releasing years worth of stress in one breath. And she mirrored him, kneeling down, knees to her chest, and their eyes met once more. Her head was cocked to one side, allowing her tears to sparkle on her cheeks.
"You're just a boy," she observed, her eyes finally drinking him in. Ordinarily he would have recoiled at such a description, but here and now she was right; he was just a boy.
"Believe me, miss, I don't want you to feel like I've replaced him. He will never be replaced. I didn't know him," only a white lie, "but it didn't take much to know he was a great man. I will never be him; I only want to do him justice. I want to do you justice."
A beat passed. "You changed his suit." She said. Her voice sounded flat now.
Miles said nothing. This woman was something else. She was fierce and frightened and even curious, all at the same time. She was strong. She was going through this horrendous grief, just like he was, and yet she seemed so much more in control of herself her and now. And yet, just moments ago, she was sobbing alone in an alley. In the space of five minutes, he had seen her at her weakest and at her strongest. It was astonishing. It was a power in itself, just being able to collect herself and stand her ground when all she truly wanted to was weep.
"Please don't see me as him," he murmured, shuffling on his heals. "I can never be him."
She drank him in a little more. "You sound like you miss him."
"I do." He said truthfully, just not the Peter she had known. Maybe this world's Peter would have turned out the same, maybe not. The mere thought brought along immense guilt, and it weighed him down a little more. Right now, all he wanted to do was cry.
"How can you miss him if you barely knew him?" she asked, and she sounded genuine. She was clever. He couldn't answer that. Instead he moved forward, slowly, and gently grasped her belongings. One by one, he dropped them into the bag held loosely in her hand: a purse, and hairbrush, a bottle of water, and a set of keys. She allowed him to do so, watching him with her insanely heavy gaze.
"I doesn't go away," she murmured. He looked up, not saying a word, and she continued. "The missing, the wanting. It will never go away. Sometimes I wonder it things had been different, if I had told him to not go out that night, or if I had helped in some kind of way, then maybe…" she trailed off. His own thoughts trailed off, too. He wondered all the time if he could have saved Uncle Aaron, if maybe he had done one thing different it could have saved him. Maybe if he had known what Aaron did, if only he knew he worked for Kingpin, then maybe he could have talked him out of it. Maybe…
"But there's no point in wondering." Mary's voice crashed through his train of thought, making him jump. "The longing never goes away. I manage, just about; I just have bad days. So many people have told me it gets easier."
"I don't know if it does." Miles replied.
"Oh, I believe it does. Seeing you, though, makes it so much harder." She spoke the truth, but it pained him more than she would ever know.
"I'm sorry." He murmured, unable to think of anything else to say.
"No, it's me being selfish. I want to say I hate you for it, but you're just a kid. I can't hate you for something beyond your control." She sighed, rising to her feet. "Besides, I have no doubt in my mind that he would have helped you. It's just so hard," she wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her jacket. Miles liked her. He liked her because she was the most honest person he had met, and it wasn't hard to see why Peter thought so much of her. She was so real. She wasn't delicate, she wasn't strong, she was just a human managing to get by.
She inspired him, and he knew full well that was never her intention. She was confronting him to fight her own demons, and in the process, she fought away his, too.
"I will do him proud, Mrs Parker. I will do good by the both of you, I promise." He said, standing up.
For the first time, though it looked a little painful to do so, she smiled. "I know."
Nothing more needed to be said. In half a beat he was gone, leaving her behind to carry on with her life. He promised himself he wouldn't go to her again – she didn't need him. Right now, he just needed to get home. He needed to go home and simply hug his parents. Maybe he wasn't ready to talk about Aaron to them yet, but piece-by-piece he would get there. He just needed to believe that it got easier. There was no point in dwelling on the past, only that he needed to focus on recovering and getting a hold of his grief.
Peter wasn't here to guide him anymore, and yet somehow he spoke through his wife. Mary Jane had helped him unwittingly, and maybe, just maybe, he had helped her get that step closer to mending herself. Peter was going to live on, and it wasn't going to be through Miles. He would live on through her, and that was going to be enough once she knew that for herself.
Miles made his way home, eagerly anticipating an embrace from his parents. Right now, that was all he needed.