It'll Melt


Jessica Drew winced as she pulled Spider-Woman's "face" over her black mane. She was never going to get all of the Sandman out of her hair. "I hate masks," she muttered to herself.

"Why do you think I wear a helmet?" Tony Stark stopped on his way to the kitchen just beyond Jessica's couch. She turned uncomfortably, yanking the last of Spider-Woman away and tossing the mask onto the seat beside her.

"I suppose I always assumed you didn't want to mess your pretty boy hair," she smiled. It was so strange – being here, in a real Avengers headquarters (complete with a lounge area and free-standing kitchenette a few yards away) – and weirder still staring up at Iron Man.

"Well," Stark rounded the couch, taking a seat next to her, "there's that." He smiled uncomfortably. He'd been trying to piece together his memory for weeks now – he'd garnered pieces here, tidbits there, but there was still so much he didn't know.

Except that maybe he didn't belong here, founding Avenger or not. Tony sat back uncomfortably. He'd rehearsed this, and while this wasn't the time he'd chosen (instead opting for the morning hours, preferably pre-supervillain and post-coffee) – well, it'd have to do. "I'm sorry."

"For sitting on my mask?" Drew yanked the red fabric from under his tattered jeans. Was she really talking to Tony Stark? To Iron Man? She'd spent so long trying to reconstruct her life, to piece together what it was the Skrull Queen had done while wearing her face. She'd garnered pieces here, tidbits there, but there was still so much she didn't know.

Except that maybe she didn't belong here, former Avenger or not. Maybe she –

"No, actually," Tony watched her crinkle her mask and toss it to the loveseat opposite them. "Sorry… for, you know…"

"Tony," she put her hand on his leg. "A lot's happened. A lot that I don't even know, and…"

"Listen. Jess..."

"It's not a big deal," she stopped him again. "I wasn't even there for most of your whole… thing."

"Jess," he leaned forward. "It's not about that. It's not about any of that."

"Then what?"

"I wanted to apologize to you for… well, listen. It's not easy, and…"

"Are you okay?"

"It's about Force Works," Tony sat back uncomfortably. "I've been piecing things together, reviewing files, everything, and I really want to apologize for something that happened back then. Our time together there…"

"Tony, stop."

"No, Jessica. I want you to hear this. I need to get this off of my—"

"Uh," Jessica ran her hand through her hair – more Sandman goo – "Tony, you have the wrong Spider-Woman."

Stark's jaw dropped – and then, with a quick grin, he winked. "I know. I'm just kidding. I have all of these ice-breakers that I've been rehearsing, and –"

WHOOMPH!

Stark winced under Spider-Woman's assault, the newly-minted and "official" Avengers couch pillows slamming into him. The two laughed as Tony caught a third pillow – and for just a moment, they each thought that this – all of this – could maybe mean they'd found a new home.

"Look at 'em," Peter Parker leaned against the island in the kitchen area. Wolverine finished the last of his sandwich to his left.

"Look at wha'?"

"Sitting there," Parker downed the last of his bottled water, "laughing."

"Pricks," Logan tossed a paper towel into the garbage. "Real pricks."

Spider-Man turned. "What's your problem?"

"Me? I got plenty, Pete," Wolverine turned. "And I know they do, too, but they're still out there laughin'. Maybe you should try it."

"You're always on his side."

"Stark's?" Logan laughed. "We've all made our bad decisions, had our moments a'darkness, kid. Sometimes it's black goo that falls outta the sky—"

"—or Weapon X brainwashing," Peter glared.

"How'd you know—"

"You have a wikipedia page."

"A what?"

"It's kind of like – no, nevermind, I'm just saying that I know that. But this is all just kind of, I dunno, weird. I can't help but feel like—"

"He got his best friend killed and turned almost everyone he's ever cared about against each other," Wolverine grabbed Peter's shoulder. "He thought he was on top of the world and let Norman Osborn 'save' the day. Look where that got everyone."

"Shouldn't you be hopping on an X-Plane or something?"

"I'm just sayin' he's no Osborn, Peter," Logan stepped back. "You of all people should know that."

Wolverine grabbed a handful of chips and made his way toward the door, Parker eyeing him the entire way. "Where are you going?"

"I've got a plane to catch."

The door shut quietly behind Logan, his words echoing in Peter's ear. He had a nagging feeling inside that he had more anger toward Stark than the others – maybe without any explanation – and –

"You didn't drink the last water, did you?"

Peter turned, slipping his mask over his face. "Tony."

"Peter."

"I was just, uh… heading out," Parker moved past him and toward the window.

"We have stairs," Jessica watched him.

"I'm gonna do the solo thing for awhile," the window raised, Peter poising himself for a moment before taking his first leap. "I'll catch up later!"

Spider-Woman winced as she watched him leave, turning back toward the kitchen just long enough to witness Tony's disappointment.

"Any luck with the ice-breaker?"

"Looks like everything's still frozen," Stark pulled the refrigerator open as she stopped beside him. He surveyed its contents for a moment, grabbed a bottle of water and smiled. At least he had one Spider on his side. "But it'll melt."