A/N: I wanted to write this after seeing "Kraven the Hunter" because Ava is easily my favorite character and I felt like she needed a little bonding moment. Sidenote: Mild shipping.
Disclaimer: I do not own USM or any associated characters.
Devoir- something for which a person is responsible; duty.
If he hadn't taken the soda up to his room, he probably wouldn't have spilled it all over his shirt, and he probably wouldn't have had to get out of his nice warm bed to try and head downstairs to throw it in the washer along with the massive pile of his new roommates' disgusting clothes... The stench made him hold his breath.
With his elbow, he flipped on the light that would lead him down into the basement and guide him safely down the stairs. Peter yawned and shivered as the cold basement air slammed into his face and drew goosebumps to the surface of his skin. The steps were taken in stride, and he quickly moved to dump off the clothes in the wash and tossed the basket aside to be dealt with at a later time when he wasn't so exhausted. If anyone tripped over it, it was their own fault.
But then he picked up on the most minuscule sound on the other side of the room, almost unperceivable if one wasn't paying close enough attention. Peter's gaze trailed to that side of the dank space and watched as shadows played across a lonely girl's face. "Ava?" he questioned softly, rubbing one eye and wondering if this wasn't all some sort of strange dream.
"Hey, Webhead," she responded in a quiet tone, barely looking up at him. She was curled up on the floor, wedged between a wall and the water heater with her knees tucked up against her chest, arms around her legs to tuck them in close to her body.
"What're you doing down here? It's almost two in the morning and we've got a physics test tomorrow." Another yawn tried to spring to his lips, yet he suppressed it and swallowed the urge. "Actually, I'm surprised you're not laying in bed with a textbook wide open."
"Not up for studying tonight." Her feet tensed and relaxed slowly as one hand took hold of her loose pajama pants in a tight fist; Ava's eyes were now fixated on the floor, those few concise words coming as if programmed while her mind wandered elsewhere, in other realms of time and space...
Peter almost wanted to go back to bed. He could feel the warm blankets envelop him in that same soothing way that an icy saltwater wave would strike on a hot day at the beach. But he knew it'd been a long day for her: confronting her own demons, managing her own memories, and fighting to the death. Until today, he didn't know Ava had it so hard, but she was strong, and he recognized that she couldn't stay strong forever. Maybe now was that moment of weakness.
He moved carefully, kicking aside the left-behind laundry basket in order to better see her where she'd holed herself up in that little corner. Peter crouched down in front of her. "Are you alright?"
Ava's lovely brown eyes peered up at her inquisitive and worried comrade. Her lower lip quivered for a heartbeat. Strength is defined in far too many ways to find a concrete meaning behind such a word, but she'd been strong all day, and now she felt like she had every right to be weak. "No."
"What's wrong?" Pete actually reached out and gingerly placed his hand over one of hers. She'd never been much of a talker when it came to who Ava was, exactly, but he could feel some of that hard outer shell melting since she'd moved in here. Maybe she felt safer here; he sure wished that was the case.
"It's been a long day," she murmured, pulling her hand away from his and running it through her hair, hating the feel of proper human contact. It was... unnatural for her to feel skin against her own that wasn't a punch or kick and that was more intimate than a high five. "I've been fighting the amulet all day... It's just exhausting."
"Well, I think the best way to combat that exhaustion would be to climb into a bed rather than just sitting around down here and hoping to stay warm." A wan smile passed through his features.
Her gaze drifted back to the floor. Typical Peter. He would never change...
"Ava, you can talk to me." He gave her his most sincere half-smile. Again, he reached out to touch her, on the knee this time, and instead of coping, she shied away like a frightened horse; still, she didn't make eye contact. "I'm your friend. We're like family."
She scoffed. "Family." Those caramel brown eyes grew dark, and a cloud of darkness passed over her faces. "My family is what led me here. And I'm tired of coping with their mistakes and dealing with consequences I didn't ask for." She brushed a stray piece of hair from her eyes.
"We know you didn't ask for it." Peter gave a shrug. "None of us really did. Except Danny. He definitely asked for his powers."
It was like she didn't hear him. "I've been training for the amulet almost my entire life. When I wasn't in school, I was out in the dojo or with a different master. My father could only teach me so much." Her lips pursed, and a heavy silence built in the air, thick as China's smog and almost more depressing. One would need a machete to cut through it. Yet Ava continued through such darkness and heaviness. "When he died, it was my duty to take on the job of protecting the amulet. It's my job. I swore to myself I'd keep it out of the hands of others as well as keeping it out of the reaches of those who wouldn't be able to control such incredible power." Her forehead touched her knees as her face was buried and hidden. "But I can barely control it myself."
Peter was silent for a long moment. He had no relatable experiences, except maybe the Venom debacle, and he didn't want to attempt a joke. He couldn't even touch her without scaring her off. Her attitude was that of a tiger, but her personality almost bore more of a gazelle.
"I don't deserve the amulet," she sighed heavily, and he could hear her words constricting. Her eyes were watering, but he couldn't see that. "But I can't put it in anyone else's hands. I can't trust anybody to take care of it for me, and I can't keep it safe myself. I don't know what to do."
"Stop beating yourself up, Ava. You're smart and amazing and a kick butt fighter." He smiled even though he knew she couldn't see it. "You're strong, and even when you aren't, you've got us, and we're more than willing to protect you and the amulet from anyone or anything." Peter stayed crouched down and watched her face rise up from its hiding place. "No, you can't always keep the amulet safe, but at least you're trying, and I'm sure your family would be proud of that if nothing else. Because you could've just given up by now and handed it over or let yourself go to its power, but you don't. You're trained to keep it safe through morals and logic. You know how to protect it and we know it'll always be safe as long as you've got it."
Barely a half smile made its way onto her lips. "Thanks, Webhead."
"Not a problem," he said calmly, now rising to his feet and stretching out his legs. "Now come on, let's get you upstairs and in bed. Physics test tomorrow." He reached down, prepared to pull her up.
She got up on her own, using the wall as a brace. Ava felt the amulet shift in her pocket as she rose. "I'll head up and study for the night," she said gently, running one hand through her hair. "Night."
"Night," he replied before heading over to finish up his laundry along with the rest of the dirty clothes pile.
As she made her way up the stairs, using the railing to brace herself, Ava realized that she didn't feel any better about her ultimate power or her lost family or her lack of control. Still, Pete made her feel less alone. Her chest felt less empty; someone cared. They all did. And she knew that. But they'd never made a point of saying it or proving it.
A/N: Kind of cheesy, yeah, but I'm pleased with it. Leave a review? This is my first USM fic and I wanna know if I did alright. Leave feedback and constructive criticism, thanks for reading!
P.S. Definition at top from online dictionary.