So there's a gigantic blizzard outside my window right now, and I can't even make it to the dining hall because the snowdrift is higher than my knees. I only wish it happened on a school day - a Nor'easter if I ever saw one.

Now guess who has to go through the five stages of grief? And she's not even half-way through.

Then again, Falcon is also emotionally constipated, so it'll probably take her a while. She also has PTSD, although she tries pretty hard to hide it.

Sorry, not a lot of action here, mostly dialogue and character stuff. A NECESSARY WEASEL in these kinds of works, otherwise this story would just be one flat action fest with no substance. I also wanted to flesh out relationships, because Falcon is really bad at them...

Anyways, read and enjoy!

Reviews are appreciated.


Chapter Nineteen

Anger

Falcon woke up to a crisp fall morning and Spider-Man's face peering down at her.

"Ah!" she cried, swinging her fist out of impulse. Spider-Man ducked out of the way in time, but hadn't expected her foot to come up as well and plant him a good one in the chest. He fell backwards, clinging to the side of the web hammock and throwing her a look.

"What was that all about?" he demanded, sounding indignant.

Falcon looked around, bewildered. How did she get here? How long had she been here? Wait, what time was it? What happened last night? Maybe she should head home, make sure Aunt May hadn't called the police on her disappearance. "Uh-um, sorry. Where am I? How did we - ow!"

She tried to get up and a sudden pain in her side caught her by surprise. Falcon clutched her chest, feeling the bone beneath her suit. The suit itself was made of a thick, black, tough material - she didn't know what it was called, but it was certainly effective, enough to protect her from pocketknives to handgun shots. Of course, she only discovered this the hard way, but was more than happy to find herself not dead afterwards. As it were, sewing through the material was near impossible, so her stitches were almost as thick as the material itself.

So, when she felt for her bones, Falcon found it a little difficult. Her radar took a few minutes to boot up, which meant that she must've really conked out. Her ribs, though sore, were solid and sturdy. Falcon smiled to herself. "Wow, that was a lot faster than I expected."

Spider-Man pulled himself up, perching on the edge of some scaffolding. "What was fast? Because you slept for ten hours straight. You snore like a lawnmower."

Falcon threw him a look. "I'm talking about how fast I healed. Like, some months ago I broke my, um, ankle -" Falcon wasn't sure why she lied, but she had the uncanny feeling that Spider-Man seemed oddly familiar. But she couldn't figure out what about him gave her a sense of déjà vu. "It took almost two weeks to heal. I mean, it was still fast for bone breakage - but I never healed overnight like this."

Spider-Man tilted his head, thinking for a moment. He scratched his chin before saying, "Huh. That is strange. It's like you're evolving. Literally evolving what might've taken a hundred generations in only weeks. You're body improves itself to suit its environment. Hey, I bet if you drown enough times, you'll grow gills!"

"How about no." Falcon replied, pulling herself up. She rolled her shoulders, getting her blood flowing and muscles loosened. Wow, her entire body felt like carved stone after her fight with Freaky Android/Dr. Grace. "You heard what happened last night?"

"You mean the freak lab accident where MIT graduate Dr. Grace Martin had her mind implanted into the highly advanced robot she built and has conveniently escaped police custody, while her body is now in a deep coma at New York General?" Spider-Man asked, mocking confusion. "I mean, unless you were talking about that Lakers/Celtics game, because that turned out to be completely unbelievable."

Falcon sighed and shook her head. "No, it's the first one. That was really rough."

"Tell me about it." Spider-Man snorted, tossing his head. "You sang lullabies the entire way here!"

"I did not!" Falcon protested, almost breaking out into laughter as Spider-Man cackled at her reaction. Wait, was she laughing with Spider-Man? That never happened before. Oh, man, did this mean she didn't hate him anymore? Somehow, Falcon didn't think it was possible for Spider-Man to ever become that likable.

"Did too!" he snickered. "Honest, I tried to shut you up, but I didn't know how. Your helmet is a very convenient tool. I can't close your mouth with web-shooters. It'd only be ironic if you talked more to make me want to use them."

Right then, Falcon's stomach grumbled, and she was overcome with a vast emptiness in her gut. "You don't happen to have any food on you, Spider-Man, do you? Because all that super-healing really burns up the calories."

"Way ahead of you," Spider-Man stuck a thumb to his chest, standing up. "I got the metabolism of a rock star. I got some pizza earlier, ate two whole boxes. I saved half for you, thought you might be hungry after a night of kicking butt."

From a ledge above them, Spider-Man pulled out a cardboard box. He tossed it over to Falcon, who caught in midair before it could tip and spill its contents. "Hey, watch it! You could've dumped it all over the place."

"And confuse some perfectly normal construction workers while I'm at it," he said, dropping back down. "Sausage and pepperoni pizza falling from the sky? They might think the Universe is trying to tell them something."

"Or maybe the Universe is very hungry," Falcon opened the box and examined the pizza. New York's Finest delicacy, she supposed Spider-Man wasn't completely clueless.

While her stomach grumbled, Falcon hesitated. She couldn't eat without taking off her helmet. As the chances of Spider-Man actually recognizing her were one out of six million New Yorkers, she didn't want to take the risk. Spider-Man seemed to notice this and asked, "I'm guessing you're not wearing a mask under that helmet, huh? Otherwise, you'd totally be chowing down right now."

"Guilty as charged." Falcon shrugged, her stomach complaining louder now. Boy, that pizza looked like the most delicious thin in the world right now.

"Oh, look, a bank robbery," Spider-Man said nonchalantly, not even looking around or pointing it out. Falcon certainly didn't hear anything. "I gotta go. You work on that mask-under-the-helmet idea, okay? Have a good morning and try not to die again."

He gave her a curt nod before swinging off. Falcon smiled to herself, watching him go. If there was such a thing as common superhero courtesy, Spider-Man had it down pat.

With no witnesses around, Falcon removed her helmet and practically inhaled the pizza before her. She had a nasty case of helmet hair, thanks to sleeping in it all night. She tried combing her fingers through to fix it. It helped some, but she decided that tying her hair into a bun was about as good as it was going to get.

Falcon was still hungry after eating six slices, but as much as she wanted to go for more, she knew she had to return home. Who knew what new adversaries she had to face there?

OoOoO

I considered sneaking into my bedroom window, but I didn't know how I was going to convince Aunt May I was home all night. Instead, I walked in through the front door and got immediately bombarded by a furious Gwen Stacy inside.

"Where the hell have you been?" she shouted, tackling me in a hug, although it felt more like a choke hold. "I've been freaking out! I left a dozen messages and you never picked up!"

She pointed out the phone for emphasis. There were, in fact, twenty-two missed calls on the answering machine. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I, uh, pulled an all-nighter," I told her. I had planned my excuse in advance, in case anyone asked (and I knew the would). "At the library."

"On a Friday?" Gwen squinted at me, scowling. She pulled back and planted her hands on her hips, "After you were attacked at your workplace and didn't bother to tell anyone? Yeah, I thought so. I asked Peter to check the library out for me. You know what he said?"

My heart went cold. She sent Peter? "Um...no?"

"Nothing!" Gwen threw her arms into the air. "He said nothing! He hasn't called me all night, either. Probably forgot again, he's always out, chasing Spider-Man. He's probably going to tell me his stupid phone died!"

"Who died?" said a new voice. Behind me, Peter peeked his head in through the still-open door. He looked surprised by Gwen, who now threw an angry look at him. "Gwen, what are you doing here? How'd you get inside?"

"Your Aunt May let me in, and let me tell you, she's gonna rip you both a new one when she gets back!" Gwen yelled at him. Peter jumped at the volume of her voice, slowly entering the room. He held up his camera, as if it might protect him from her fury. "I don't know what it is with you two! Does it run in the family or something, running off and disappearing for hours on end? You -" she stabbed a finger at Peter. "- never got back to me about the library thing."

"Hey!" Peter held up his hands in innocence. "I checked, I swear. I tried to get back to you, but then there was this thing Jameson wanted me to get...well, anyways, Amy was there. I swear she was."

I had closed my eyes, waiting for him to deliver the horrible truth, but turned around and looked at him in surprise. I sure as hell wasn't at the library. Why would he lie about that? "S-see, Gwen? I told you. I was at the library."

Gwen looked between the two of us, frustration etched into her face. She folded her arms across her chest. "That doesn't excuse the fact that you never did anything after the attack at the APEX tower. Jeez, Amy, it was on the news, people almost died, and you never thought to call us in case we though you did?"

"To be fair," I shrugged my shoulders, finding it difficult to look Gwen in the eye, especially when she was giving me the Look. "I was pretty out of it. I didn't really want to get caught up in another police matter. Not after the last time."

A look crossed Gwen's face and she dropped her arms. She still looked upset, but not nearly as furious. "Oh. I get it. I didn't think you would -"

"Can I delete the messages on the phone now?" I interrupted her, not wanting to discuss the matter further. I didn't want to bring up my mom again, but I couldn't figure out any other way than to guilt Gwen into letting it go. It certainly made me feel guilty for doing it. "It's starting to bug me."

She stepped aside. With her anger gone, Peter saw it safe to dash forward into the kitchen. "Sorry, yeah. I think some are from Astor Sloane. And some doctor lady called while I was waiting. I didn't pick up. She wanted to talk to you, for some reason."

"Doctor lady?" I frowned, going over to the machine. "I don't know any doctor ladies. And why would Astor Sloane call me?"

"Well, she's an intern at APEX, too, remember?" Gwen raised her eyebrows. "Maybe she thinks you died or something."

"Wouldn't that make her day," I muttered under my breath. Picking up the phone, I dialed Astor's number. I never thought I'd ever want Astor to not worry about me, the possibility of it ever happening boggled my mind. It's like my entire world just did a back-flip and decided it liked being upside down. "Hi, Mrs. Sloane, is Astor there? It's Amelia, from school."

"Oh, Amelia!" Mrs. Sloane was a sweet lady, from the times I've met her (two), and apparently had no idea that Astor used to bully me. It sometimes bothered me, but after the whole I've-got-superpowers-thing, I decided to get over it. "How nice of you to call! Astor's been losing her mind since last night, I'm sure she'll be happy to hear you're still alive."

She said it with such cheer, such sincerity, that I almost believed her. There was a second of scratchy silence as the phone was passed from mother to daughter, and out of the receiver came Astor's shout: "Fletcher, you better be calling with good news or I'll -!"

"If by good news you mean I'm alive, than yes, I am," I rolled my eyes, satisfied to have interrupted Astor before she delivered her threat. "And those three phone calls? I didn't know you cared."

"Shut up," Astor snapped, although I could hear a tinge of embarrassment in her voice. "You just vanished after the power went out, what was I supposed to think? I almost thought it was you in the machine, at least until it started talking. What happened to you anyways? How did you get away?"

"I ran out the door, pulled the fire alarm," I told her as much as the truth as I could manage. "And called the police. Traffic must've held them up."

"Well, you totally missed the cool part where Falcon showed up and kicked ass," I could hear Astor smiling through her words. She sounded pretty smug for some reason, "Well, it was dark and kind of hard to see anything, but she was totally there. I wish I had a chance to talk to her now. I always thought she was kind of a poser, you know, following Spider-Man and all, but she seems pretty chill. You think she'd like me?"

"Uh..." Astor, a fan of Falcon? Didn't see that coming. "I don't really know, I'm not an expert on superheroes."

"I thought you read comic books and stuff. Isn't that what nerds do?" Astor demanded, and I made a face. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who stereotyped and had it wrong - at least I realized it, though. "Hmph. That's what I get for asking your opinion."

I inhaled through my nose. "Not all nerds read comic books, Astor."

"Oh, right. You're, like, the lame version of a movie guru," Astor's voice was heavy with sarcasm. "Look, I gotta go. Good job on not getting yourself killed, though. Out of everyone, I thought you were definitely a goner."

"Gee, thanks," I muttered and heard the click of the line ending. Still frowning, I placed the phone back on its stand and turned to Gwen, who crossed her arms and raised her eyebrow at me. "What?"

"You know what," she said, not even blinking. "I don't know how you can treat that disaster at APEX building like it was nothing. People could've gotten hurt, Amy. They could've died. Doesn't that bother you?"

"Well, they didn't," I told her, trying to figure out why she was making a big deal out of this. I did my job, people's lives were saved. What more was there to it? "I don't understand what the problem is here."

"The problem, Amy," Gwen glared at me. "Is that you don't think the welfare of innocent people is as important as, well, whatever you think is more important. Hell, does it even bother you that you might've died? Like, at all?"

I stared at her, speechless. Her words felt so specific that I almost wondered if Gwen knew the truth, my secret. Gwen took my silence as agreement or surrender.

"You need help, Amy," she said sternly. "It's like you can't feel emotion anymore."

I gaped at her, and suddenly anger took its place. "Can't feel? What's that supposed to mean? Just because I don't think it's a big deal doesn't mean -"

"No, Amy, it is a big deal, and I don't know why you think it isn't!" Gwen threw her arms up into the air, then back down for emphasis. She took a step forward, almost stomping, and made me back away into the wall. "What are you trying to prove, Amy? Because none of this makes any sense! It's like you don't care. You're apathetic!"

There's that word again. Apathy. I've been trying so hard not to be apathetic, and I thought I had accomplished that by being Falcon. I've dedicated my life to this new identity, and Gwen thinks I don't care? I felt my fists clench and it was all I could do not to take a swing at Gwen. My vision went monotone and all I could think of was how great it would feel to hit her, to make her take that back.

Instead, I shouted, "Get out! Get out, now!"

She blinked, caught off guard by my shout. Her shoulders slackened and she stepped back. "W-what?"

"I said, leave!" I stabbed a finger towards the door, shaking so hard my vision was getting blurry. "Now!"

Gwen stumbled back, her hands going to her coat as she backed out the front door, not taking her eyes off me the entire time. I could read her expression, clear as day. Confusion, worry, but most of all, fear.

She had no idea.

As soon as Gwen was out of sight, I slumped against the wall and dropped my head into my hands. I took deep, shuddering breaths, trying to get myself to calm down. What the hell was that about? I couldn't believe how close I was to hitting my best friend, how a part of me had completely separated itself from my rational mind. A sudden anger that I could barely control.

Where had it come from? Had it always been there, just not properly provoked? I remembered my last fight with Mom, the exploding bowl. Was that the same thing, just manifesting telekinetically instead of physically? The idea of something like that happening again terrified me. What if I couldn't hold it back the next time?

"Am I allowed to ask what that was all about?" Peter appeared in the kitchen doorway, eating a banana with a puzzled look on his face. "Or is it girl stuff?"

I just shook my head. An overwhelming exhaustion took place of the anger, and now I was just relieved to be home. Man, I really just wanted to take a nap. "We just had a...um, disagreement."

Peter's eyebrows shot up. "Understatement of the year, but I'll bite. What about?"

I bit my lip, thinking it over. I didn't just want to drop the subject, but I didn't really want to ask a question that might give me away. I wanted to ask him why he backed me up about the library situation, but this didn't seem like the conversation to bring it up in. Instead, I chose my words carefully, "Have you ever felt like you could hurt someone you cared about, like you didn't mean to but it was as if something else just took over?"

He chewed on his banana thoughtfully, then swallowed. "Can't say I have. Why? Is that what you were arguing about?"

"N-no," I shook my head again, staring at the floor and stuffing my hands in my pockets. "She just thought I wasn't taking the thing at APEX seriously enough. I mean, I don't know. As far as disasters go, it just felt kind of..."

"Distant?" Peter asked quietly. "Like you've had worse?"

I looked up, surprised. "...Yeah. How do you know?"

He shrugged, not quite meeting my eyes. Peter's eyes wandered around the room, resting on a shelf of picture frames on the wall of the living room. He walked over to them, pointing to one in particular. I drew closer as he said, "After Uncle Ben's murder, I went to this dark place, and for a long time, I couldn't get out. A part of me didn't want to - I just felt so angry, all the time, and I wanted to do something about it. I couldn't stand the injustice of a good man dying because of a stupid mistake, all because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"What did you do?" I asked, gazing at the picture of a young, bespectacled Peter playing with a chemistry set with his Uncle Ben. I had faint memories of the man, but most of what I knew about him was bits of information Mom had supplied after he died. There were a lot of things I didn't know until then, and it made me feel guilty to think I never tried to get to know him better.

"For a long time, nothing," Peter's eyes were glazed over, lost in a memory. It might've been a good one, from the small smile playing on his face. "But I remembered what he had told me, before he died - it gave me strength, a way to move on. Being so angry for so long...I don't think it's good for anyone."

I made a face, turning away from the frame. Guilt was making me feel uncomfortable and I didn't want Peter to see it. "And how do you feel now about it?"

"I don't know." Peter blinked, falling out of his reverie and giving me a look. "But it's not the same as before. It's different now... a lot more different."

"In a good or bad way?" I asked. I was almost starting to feel hopeful. Peter was who I could be, a positive result to all this craziness in my life, if I could just make it through.

"Good way, I suppose. I mean, I feel angry sometimes, but I guess that's just natural. Not like Eddie. He handles things, well, his own way."

I paused, frowning. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you know how he is." Peter tossed the banana peel - it dunked into the trashcan across the room, falling neatly inside. "It's like he's got a death wish, he'll take whatever chance he'll get to put himself into danger. Don't tell me you've never noticed that before."

I smiled sheepishly. Really, it wasn't one of his features I found myself particularly infatuated with. But Peter had no idea, so I said, "It's...it's not always obvious, I suppose."

Peter smiled and shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I'm sure it'll turn out all right."

Just then, the phone rang. I turned and picked it up. The caller ID wasn't familiar, but I answered it anyways. "Hello?"

"Hello, this is Dr. Mary Winters, at Brooklyn Labs." Said a woman's voice on the other end. It sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn't remember where I had heard it last. "Is...is Amelia there? Amelia Fletcher?"

"Speaking."

I heard a heavy sigh of relief on the end, and threw Peter a strange look. Was this the doctor lady that had tried calling earlier, when I wasn't around? He mouthed Who is it? I shrugged my shoulders and said wordlessly, Doctor, Brooklyn Labs?

He shook his head, confirming the fact that this call wasn't somehow Peter-related as well. I spoke into the phone, "Um, can I help you?"

"Er, yes," she said, stumbling over her words as they came out in a rush. "I don't know if you remember me - from the bus accident? You got a nasty cut and maybe an infection...oh, well, you're fine now, I assume, but I ran some tests on that contaminant and finally got the results."

"Finally?" my eyebrows shot way up. That was over six weeks ago. How long did it take for a lab to run a little test? I've had so many other things on my mind since then that I had forgotten entirely - and really, after almost slugging my best friend, I figured I had a lot more important things to worry about. "That was ages ago. How long do those tests take?"

"I am not CSI," the woman replied wryly. "It takes a lot longer than a TV-show montage to identify an unknown substance. I had to go through thousands of databases and ran a series of tests on lab rats. The thing is...well, I believe you should come here and see for yourself."

The way she said it gave me the feeling the results weren't particularly good. "Um, okay. You want me to come over today?"

"The sooner the better. I fear that..." Dr. Mary Winters hesitated, the line going silent. I waited a few more seconds before prompting her. "Forget it. Please, this is very urgent. Come as quickly as possible."

Click.

"Well, that was weird," I said, staring at the receiver before setting it back down. She didn't even give me an address. I turned to Peter and asked, "You don't happen to know where Brooklyn Labs are, do you?"

"GPS," Peter replied, pulling his phone out of his pocket. "Going on a road trip?"

"Looks like it."

He grinned. "I will happily oblige to be your travel buddy."

I snorted, going over to the door and picked up my bag where I had dropped it. Well, so much for that nap I was looking forward to. "Come on. I bet she's going to tell me I have cancer or something. I mean, how bad can my luck get?"