Author's Note: Surprise, surprise, it's a gift!fic. This one is for the oldprydefan. Anyway, just a little post-HoM conversation because, well, it was a big thing and everybody needs to converse sometimes! Yeah. Titled for a Jimmy Eat World song that just kind of fit. Special thanks to Sue for betaing and helping me out and various things of that nature. Cheers!
Note2: Edited 05/18/09. Changed some word choices, cleaned it up, fixed grammar, etc. Plot is essentially the same with only very minor revisions.
Disclaimer: Characters mentioned are used without permission and are trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. I do not own them and am simply borrowing for my purposes. Please don't sue
Hear You Me
He's always loved the New York skyline, especially at dusk. That's the time when sun peaks through the various skyscrapers, reflecting off shiny walls of windows and blinding him. He doesn't mind, though; he's never minded. Because this is the time when the city at its most peaceful. The time when he can get lost in the golden glare, mind blessedly blank as he basks in the glow. Crouching on the rooftop of his former apartment building, he watches the sunlight dance through every gap it can. And it's almost enough to put his mind at ease. Almost.
"Hey," a soft voice floats to his ears, surprising him. He doesn't move, though, pride not willing to betray the fact that he was caught off-guard. Besides, he reasons, if there were any danger, his Spidey-sense should've alerted him long before she said a word. It takes him a minute but he's able to place her voice, frowning when he realizes who it is. He decides if he ignores her, maybe she'll realize he doesn't want to talk about whatever it is she's come to talk about (and he has more than a hunch he already knows what it is) and leave.
It turns out to be a vain hope because she doesn't hesitate to take the seat beside him, legs hanging over the edge of the building. They swing lightly back and forth (something that makes her appear younger than she actually is) as she follows his gaze off into the distance. The silence stretches between them for what feels like a long time and he hates that she's ruining this moment. Because, with her there, he can't not think. Especially about the things he so desperately wants to forget.
"So what'd you lose?" he asks finally when he realizes she's not planning on speaking again any time soon. His tone is light and conversational but he can't hide the bitter frown on his face. Not for the first time he's thankful for his mask and the anonymity it provides him.
Her eyes drop to her lap and she shrugs. "Everything I've ever wanted, of course," she replies, voice soft but strong. "A normal life. A real family with my parents—both my parents, together. To be a teacher, apparently." She laughs, though there's an unmistakable sadness to it. It's something he recognizes all too well. "I always thought that was just something I fell into, but I guess I ended up falling in love with it." Her eyes glaze as she looks at him for the first time. "You understand that, don't you, Peter?"
"Don't-don't call me that." He stands quickly and she follows suit, eyes wide in a silent apology. He ignores it. "Don't say my name like-like we're friends." Because they're not. Not really. The occasional team-up here and there doesn't make a friendship. Hell, he wasn't even really friends with Johnny for years and they practically used to team up every other week. No, he knows what this is, and he wants no part of it. "Just because you feel sorry for me—"
"Sorry?" she cuts in, brown eyes flashing with a new emotion: anger. "For you?" She shakes her head, hands on her hips, and he has the distinct impression that he's about to be scolded. "I think you've got the wrong idea here, Peter." She says his name with purpose and, this time, he doesn't object. "I don't have time to feel sorry for you. Mutants everywhere are losing their powers, some of them have even died. If I'm going to feel sorry for anyone, it's them." She's staring defiantly at him, daring him to argue or question her.
He doesn't. Instead, he gives a short nod of understanding and looks down at her. (She's really quite short.) "Then why are you here?" he returns. It's not an accusation (because that hadn't worked very well the first time) but just an honest question born of natural curiosity. "If it's to offer yourself up for me to talk to, thanks but no thanks." It'd been awkward enough when Wolverine offered; he didn't need his short, female, one-time protégé-slash-sidekick to do the same. Just—no.
"See, that's the part where you still think I feel sorry for you," she replies dryly, "even after I told you I don't." He feels sort of offended and it must show in his body language because she puts a placating hand on his arm. "Don't get me wrong, I'm sorry about what happened to you, but I don't feel sorry for you. There's a difference." She's right. He knows she's right. But she still hasn't answered his question. "The reason I came to see you," she continues, lips curving into a shy, semi-embarrassed smile, "is because I thought…" Her face has begun to turn an impressive shade of pink as she finally blurts out her intent: "I thought maybe I could talk to you."
He blinks, uncertain that he's heard her right. When she looks at him again, though, her eyes don't lie; he's not sure they could, even if she wanted them to. Still, he has one more question and it's an important one: "Why me?" He's been an absolute wreck since the whole House of Magnus thing happened, he knows he has. Because, for that brief instant, everything was different and now everything that he has is tainted. Even Mary Jane. For so long she was the one thing he could count on and now he's consumed with guilt every time he sees her.
"Because…" she trails off as she looks out again. The sun is hidden now, leaving a pink and red sky that fits in a sort of ominously ironic way. Then she turns back to him. "Because I can't talk to the rest of them—the X-Men, I mean. Only a few remember and they don't understand. They can't." Her face darkens and he has the distinct impression that he knows exactly how she feels. "They never could." There's disappointment in the way she says it and he thinks she's probably felt this way before. "And the rest just have no idea."
That he understands. It's pointless to try and talk with them because, even though they were there, they didn't experience it. It's like hearing a story or fairytale. They can't ever know how real it was. He can still hear his son's laughter, feel Gwen's touch, see Uncle Ben's smile. That's what makes it so hard. They all had exactly what they wanted—what they dreamed of—and it was real. It was real and they destroyed it. Some days he's not even sure why they did it, either.
But that's the point, isn't it? What's done is done and now those of them that remember have to come to terms with it. There's no other option. He looks at her—really looks—and knows his answer. She's not asking so much of him, really, and who knows? Maybe listening will help him heal, too. "Yeah," he murmurs, more to himself than her. Then he smiles behind the mask and it feels like his first real one in a long time. It gives him hope. "Okay, let's talk."