Nice. An update. Nice.
"I still," Tony hissed with a kind of ferocity that made even Nick Fury blink in surprise, "maintain that we should have found the body."
The Avengers plus one Pepper Potts were spread out in the largest meeting room on the helicarrier, pointedly avoiding each others' gazes except, perhaps, for Tony, who was glaring openly at everyone and anyone who dared raise their gaze, and Natasha, who was meeting that ferocious stare calmly, despite that twitch in her eye that informed the room she was anything but calm.
"Tony," Clint said delicately, his hearing aid switched off to avoid having to deal with any yelling, and squinting to read people's lips, "the transmitter stopped doing its thing. It stopped transmitting." It wasn't as though Clint was glad or anything else about the whole situation. A kid – well, a very young adult was dead. He'd had to deliver the message to Gwen Stacy and – oh God, May Parker herself.
He hadn't wanted to be the one to tell her that Peter was Spider-Man, and dead. But it was between him and Nat; they couldn't send one of the more noticeable Avengers. Captain America or Iron Man walking into Queens would have aroused suspicions, and May Parker would not have been happy to be told by the men who had preciously nearly killed her nephew that he actually was dead. And it wasn't fair on her to have the whole world find out that her adopted son was a superhero, it wasn't fair to have all these insincere apologies from people she'd never met before in her life, it wasn't fair to have rabid fans or collectors break in to her house and steal parts of Peter as trophies, as though he was never a person but a symbol.
And maybe he was, to some people.
"And those things are sturdy. Nat said the only way for one to stop would be a super-charged electric shock or a fire. And really, either could have – been responsible for the damage to the transmitter. And…" he trailed off as he bared the full-force of Tony's most angry glare that could be bestowed on man, woman or child.
"That doesn't mean anything, when we still haven't got a body," Tony snarled. "Fire doesn't miraculously disintegrate everything! We should have found – remains, bones, anything. For God's sake, we found a fridge that still had fresh eggs in it. Why couldn't we find – ? Why are you all not – ?!"
"Tony," Steve interrupted, swivelling to face him from his stoic position gazing out at the clouds. "Do not think for one second that we are not as upset about this as you."
Tony threw his hands up in the air. "Then why is no one saying anything?"
"Because although it's really fucking hard to accept that we fucked up, brought a child onto the team and then got him killed, it's happened, it's done, and we can't bring him back," Natasha hissed, snapping from her calm demeanour. "All we can do is to never allow something like this to happen again."
Tony leapt to his feet and pointed and accusing finger at Director Fury. "He should never have been on the fucking team in the first place!" he shouted, turning red in the face. "You knew Peter was a kid, and yet you allowed – you – you blackmailed him into being here!"
Fury's eye narrowed. "My reason for putting Peter on the team was to remove threats. Working in a team would have made it less likely he suffer an early death or the emotional and physical injuries involved with such a life."
"Oh, and the way you went around it was superb," Tony growled. "Sending two fully grown superheroes to batter him to death!"
"That was before – "
"Oh, but you suspected, didn't you? You knew he was a teenager, don't deny it!"
"I saw it as the only way for Peter to avoid the same fate as Kamala Khan," Fury said firmly.
"Kamala Khan died months after Peter joined us! And – and you said to my face that you set us after Spider-Man because he was a danger to society! "
"And yet they both suffered the same fate," Fury replied coldly, ignoring the latter part of Tony's rant. "If I had found Kamala before the – Goblin or whatever, then the world would be populated by another two superheroes."
"What?" Steve asked, almost getting out of his seat. "Kamala had powers?"
"Kamala was a mutant, from what we could gather," Natasha interjected, one finger slowly tapping on the shiny tabletop. "Or from a subset of mutants. We're not sure. But when she died, a budding superhero called Ms Marvel disappeared from the streets." She gave a humourless smile. "Considering the events, it wasn't hard to connect the dots. Same place, same time."
"How many other teenage heroes are running around the place?" Steve demanded. "Do you know?"
Natasha looked at Fury. He sighed, and rubbed his temple with a large hand. "Hard to say, there's been such an increase in activity. People are getting powers all over the place. We can't pinpoint mutants, we only know about them when they draw attention to themselves. Make a name for themselves. Like the man running around dressed as the Devil in Hell's Kitchen."
"He's clearly not a teenager."
Fury shrugged. "That's beside the point, Stark. I just said we don't know until they draw attention to themselves. And unfortunately, that's what our young friends Parker and Khan did."
Steve was getting twitchy. "But why did the Goblin go after them, explicitly? He hasn't made any discernable or serious attempts against us. And surely we're the bigger threat than a few teenagers in suits."
"Are you conveniently forgetting the attack on Stark tower?"
"But that wasn't an attack against you. He was after Peter. He was specifically targeting Peter – well, Spider-Man. It doesn't sound like he knew Peter and Spider-Man were the same person."
Bruce raised his hand.
"You don't have to raise your hand, Bruce."
Bruce lowered his hand. "I don't think the Goblin's going after them because they're threats. He's – " he fumbled with his words, brow furrowing. "He's going after them because they're easy targets."
"What do you mean?"
"Are you saying he knows they're teenagers?" Tony asked, turning redder in the face. "And he's targeting them?"
"Not because they're teenagers," Bruce added hurriedly. "But because they're alone, or inexperienced, or visibly weaker. From what it sounds like, Ms Marvel acted alone, and mostly on the more minor crimes. Well," he frowned, "crimes that don't involve destroying the city or world. Murders and muggings and rapes. Street violence. Burglaries. You name it. Despite her quite formidable shape-shifting abilities, she was hopelessly unprepared for that kind of attack, with that sort of firepower." He stopped. "As was Peter," he added somewhat reluctantly.
"Hey! Spider-Man had clearly joined the Avengers!"
"He was still injured," Bruce said.
"But why?" Steve cut in, settling back into his seat thoughtfully. "Why does the Goblin want to get rid of the younger heroes? If they don't pose a threat, and he isn't necessarily getting rid of them as publicly as he could to – I don't know, fear-monger? – then why is he bothering? It doesn't make sense."
"Yeah," Clint agreed, boldly turning his hearing aid back on when he realised people weren't blaming anyone anymore. "It's not like he publicly said 'hey everyone! I killed Spider-Man and Ms Marvel!' I mean, for all intents and purposes, Spider-Man just, like, left the scene alive, Ms Marvel was never near that hospital block and just gave up the superhero act to be normal. What he's doing doesn't have a massive effect on the public."
"A personal vendetta, then," Steve said grimly.
"Then we have to find him, and stop him before he kills any other kids."
Harry's new assistant poked her head meekly into his office.
"Hm?" Harry looked up from his screen, hastily minimising the windows about the fire that had claimed his childhood friend's life. "What is it, Felicia?"
She promptly walked over, coffee in one hand and one of those awful wraps from that café just next to Oscorp. "Lunch and coffee, sir."
"Oh. Oh! Right, thank you," Harry said quickly, taking a little too long to process what she said, his head far too full of fires and suspicion. "Beef?" They were slightly more enjoyable than the chicken ones, where he could almost taste the added hormones. He fumbled to sweep a few papers off to make space for the food.
"Unfortunately," she said dryly, "no. Chicken. Even the legendary Demeter's Delights can't hold seem to make enough beef ones. And I can assure you, there's bound to be the same amount of hormones or whatever in the beef as the chicken anyway. Try not to taste it."
Harry smiled. "I won't."
"Probably for the best." She planted them both down by his hand, smiled back, and turned to leave.
He hesitated for just a second, and then made up his mind. He maximised the articles he hid from her as she entered.
"If I were, say, Spider-Man or some other superhero, what would you suggest I make a suit from?"
Felicia's eyes darted to the screen, where the article detailing the fire and Spider-Man's subsequent inaction in further criminal matters around New York.
"Something flame retardant," she suggested wryly. "Resistant if possible. Some kind of modacrylic, definitely. They're fairly resistant to chemicals, fireproof, hypoallergenic, fast-drying."
"They're used in wigs, carpets, and some fake furs, I think." She shrugged.
Harry cracked another smile. "Oh, I'm sure Spider-Man and other superheroes are running around the world with fake fur on their costumes." He shook his head and laughed softly. "Can you imagine how ridiculous that would look?"
Felicia's smile seemed to become a little fixed.
"Preposterous, I'm sure. But that's what I'd use. Or that stuff used in space suits."
"Maybe not. And Felicia, what would you say would happen if a human was caught in a burning building?"
"No – well, yes, that would probably happen – but to the body?"
Felicia laughed awkwardly. "These are very specific question, Mr Osborn. You're not accusing me of something, are you?"
"No. I'm genuinely curious. You're clever; I've seen your results from your college courses and these seem like the kind of things you'd probably know."
"I'm flattered," said Felicia, chewing her lip thoughtfully. "I'd say there would definitely be remains. Flesh would be burned off, hair too – "
She didn't seem to notice Harry's blanching, and his flinch –
"But I'd say there'd be bones left. Nothing nice to look at, but definitely something there. You know, like how Luke Skywalker found his aunt and uncle."
She sighed. "You've never seen Star Wars?"
Harry shook his head sadly. "Father didn't approve of science-fiction."
"Reality right now is like science fiction. I think laser sword fights are perfectly reasonable in this day and age. Anyway, charred remains, I'd say."
"Not really. I need to leave now, sir, I have those documents you wanted me to transfer to your late father's lawyers."
"Right! I almost forgot about them."
Felicia nodded, and left.
Harry watched her go, and his smile dropped from his face. He rested his hand over the image of the fire.
"So," he murmured. "Fireproof suit. And charred remains."
He frowned. "So why couldn't they find Peter's body?"
And once more comes the hiatus.