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smile, the worst is yet to come

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    He could feel himself falling apart. Dissolving into ashes. The world grew dark as his eyes burned away. "I don't want to go, I don't wan' to—" The words slurred together, and he could taste his tongue disintegrating before—

Everything was gone.

 

.

.

.

 

    Peter shot awake, flinging restricting covers off of himself as he tumbled out of bed. The world was so bright . He overslept and sunlight streamed through his window, lighting olive green walls, highlighting dust motes floating through the air in front of cluttered shelves and— a siren wailed outside— it smelled like air fresheners and— a dog scrambled across the ceiling, the floors of the apartment above—

 

He curled up on the hardwood floor, eyes closed, hands pressed hard against his ears, but it didn't keep out the -- voices chattered indistinctly -- cars drove through the streets outside— the floor shook minutely as someone— Aunt May— walked through their apartment.

"—Peter?" The light knock on his door could've been an explosion.

He-he couldn't breathe. Everything was too much , too distracting, he couldn't focus and he needed to, needed to focus on breathing but all he could do was shake-- shake apart into pieces that drifted away— he didn't want to go, he didn't want to die, oh god oh—

"—eter? Peter, listen to me! It's okay, is okay, I'm here. Breathe with me, okay? In, two three—  out, two three—"

Aunt May. Aunt May. She was alive, she was okay.

But he wasn't— he felt himself die— he was dead. What was going on?

Aunt May was still talking, he— a car honked— he flinched, pushing his forehead into his knees— knees that shouldn't be there, he felt them slough off as he died like everyone around him had died, the nice space aliens who had turned to dust before his eyes and all that was—

A hand touched his arm, a voice cried his name but it was so loud he couldn't focus on it, couldn't hear right. And of course he couldn't hear right— a sob shoved its way out of his throat— his head crumbled to pieces—

There were arms around him— Mr. Stark held onto him as he felt his organs decompose inside him, and it was all so fast so fast he didn't want to die—

 

The arms around him tightened, a hand moved across his hair. It wasn't Mr. Stark— it definitely didn't smell like him. No this was—

Aunt May, who smelled like her perfume and burned pancakes, who was whispering that it was fine, he was safe now, everything was okay. He- twisted to bury his face against her neck as he cried and tried to catch his breath and tried to make sense of it all.

 

How long they sat there, curled around each other, he didn't know. He didn't know anything. Even after he caught his breath and calmed enough to stop shaking and crying -- the anxiety replaced with only numbness— nothing made sense. He died, that much he knew for sure. Everything was— had been— so real. Too real to be a dream. Dreams didn't hurt like being flung around by a Hulk-sized purple alien did. And—

Yeah, Hulk-sized purple alien. His dreams could get strange sometimes, but not that strange. And besides, he barely recalled his own dreams, but this? His memory was too clear.

Eventually, Aunt May coaxed him off the floor and into the kitchen, where indeed there were burned pancakes, but there were a good number of unburnt ones too, and they both settled down to eat the now-cold breakfast.

"I'm here, Peter, if you ever want to talk to me. About anything, not just," she lifted a hand to gesture, but flattered, as though not sure what could express— "that." Her eyes met his, only for a second before his own gaze skittered away. "I love you, Peter."

"I love you too." His voice came out weak, hoarse. He cleared his throat, speared another piece of cold, syrup-coated pancake, and shoved it into his mouth to put off speaking for just a bit longer.

 

Of course, he couldn't put off the awkward questioning for too long. Aunt May was worried about him, she always was.

"Did something happen, at the party last night?" she asked.

His eyes flicked towards her again- registered the worry and concern on her face, pinched brows and sad eyes, and... He looked away again, down at his almost-empty plate. The party? What party? He hadn't been to a party since— "Liz's party?" He cringed at his voice, not only from the roughness, but the fact he hadn't meant to speak aloud to begin with.

"Was there any other party?" Aunt May asked, trying for a joking tone and not quite managing.

"Oh. Uh. No. It was— the party was. Fine. Uh, a bit loud. Too loud. I left early— you know." He was so confused. First he died, then he woke up, and now he's... being asked about a party that happened last year.

What happened? Time travel? That, as horrifying as the thought was, seemed like the most likely explanation. So, aliens and time travel? Some sort of, what, Edge of Tomorrow scenario? Except that happened over a really short time, that movie, they only repeated the time since meeting the aliens. And always a short time, like Groundhog Day. And it probably wasn't a Harry Potter kind of situation— except, the wizard did have a... Time Stone necklace? Was that like a Time Turner? Did the wizard cast a spell on him? But he said he'd let Peter and Mr. Stark die— but then he didn't let Mr. Stark die, after he got stabbed, he got stabbed, because Peter didn't keep the Gauntlet away from the big purple Hulk-alien, and then— and it was all Peter's fault. He got the friendly aliens killed, and the wizard who he was supposed to protect, and then himself, and Mr. Stark probably died right after—

A soft touch on his shoulder drew him out of his thoughts, and he realized he was crying again as he blinked up at Aunt May's blurry, worried face.

 

She pulled him into another hug, made awkward by their positions— him, sitting on the chair, her leaning over him, but it was so. Soft, his face was pressed against her warn cardigan, and warm. Comforting, as always. Aunt May was really the best at giving hugs.

He leaned further into the hug and tentatively wrapped his own arms around her, careful not to squeeze (with his strength, that would be a disaster).

"I'm here." She was crying too. "I'm here, Peter. I'll always be there for you, no matter what."

That, Peter couldn't help but think, wasn't true. Uncle Ben was proof that no one could be there for you forever. You don't know when they'll leave.

Her arms tightened around him, as though realizing the same thing. Or maybe just a response to the helpless sob that had escaped him. "If." She took a deep breath. "If someone hurt you, don't hide it. Just tell me, okay? We can get through anything . Together. Alright?"

She thought—? Oh. Okay. Yeah, that would be. A fair conclusion to make, if your teenager came home from a party and started having panic attacks and crying and wouldn't tell you why. But, still, "Nothing h-appened. At, at the party. Nothing happened. "

"Okay." A hand carded through his hair, comforting. Aunt May leaned further against him as she sighed. "Okay. But I'm here, I'm here, Peter. You can tell me about anything. I'll always love you. No matter what, I love you."

"I— you too." He pulled away from her lightly, and she let him, leaning back herself. They stared at each other, eyes both wet and teary. "Nothing happened," he whispered, and dropped his gaze.

"Oh, Peter."

Those two words made him almost break down again. Aunt May was trying so hard to help him and- he didn't even know what happened. It could've all been a dream. But. But it wasn’t. He knew it wasn’t. What he didn’t know, had no idea about, what was he would do next.


For the time being, Aunt May solved that dilemma with an offer of a movie marathon. Something to take his mind off whatever was bothering him, she said. And so it was that the smell of popcorn and butter filled their apartment and they settled down to watch Lord of the Rings.

By the time Boromir was giving his “One does not simply walk into Mordor” speech, Peter felt his head was clearer. Clear enough to try again to figure out what had happened. The very basics, he had down. That is:

  • He died.
  • He is not dead.
  • He is in the past- according to his phone, it’s Sunday, September 10th. The day after Liz’s party, the week of Decathlon.
  • He died.
  • Everyone died.
  • Okay, maybe he’s not thinking clearly.

But the point was, he was definitely in the past. He had definitely time traveled. Now that he knew what happened, and what will happen, he could figure out what to do next.

He could… Okay, so, he didn’t have a plan. He had less than a plan. But he had— seven months? That sounded right. About half a year to plan what to do when the aliens would appear.

So, yeah, he thought. Step 1: tell Mr. Stark and the other Avengers. And the ‘Exvengers’ too. Step 2: tell the world’s governments? Maybe? He wasn’t really sure if normal armies would be good in this sort of situation. The Avengers handled The Battle of New York by themselves, but they did have the help of a nuclear missile. Maybe if they nuked Purple Alien Hulk, he would die? Uh, Step 3: no step 3. Step 4: Try not to die again.

Okay, yeah. He could do this. He could totally do this.

 

But, tomorrow. He had half a year, so for now, he could rest. The exhaustion he had felt since waking was finally too much to ignore, and falling asleep with Aunt May’s arm wrapped around his shoulder and a movie playing quietly on the TV was easy.

 

Chapter Text

 

          The next day, he woke up too early. At some point, he had either sleepily walked to bed, or Aunt May had carried him. Either way, he didn’t remember getting back to his room and the thought of not knowing what happened made his stomach twist. A half-formed thought about waking up in a different time again worried its way into his mind. But, a quick check with his phone confirmed it still was. The past. Monday, September 11th. Which he still didn't understand— But—  It didn’t matter right now.

 What mattered was making a real plan and enacting it.

He had about half a year before the universe ended. Half a year to stop it. To gather the world and fight back against Purple Alien Hulk— whose ‘name’ was getting a bit annoying to repeat. Maybe Peter could call him PAH? Peter wished for a moment he could remember what PAH was really named. (Something with a... Th — maybe?)

But— that wasn’t important right now. You didn’t need to know someone’s name to fight them.

So, Step 1: Contact Mr. Stark. And the other Avengers, but Iron Man was the only one Peter actually had contact with… Sort of.

It was with a sinking heart that he remembered— This was before fighting the Vulture (on the Invisible Jet that was definitely not stolen from a Wonder Woman comic). He really doubted Happy was going to answer any calls.

 

And… How do you even go about telling someone, ‘Hey, so! I'm from the future and we all died!’ You can’t just text someone that. That definitely requires an in-person conversation. Which he would have to somehow schedule with Mr. Stark.

 But, texting Happy something would be good to start with, he decided.

 from: Peter — recipient: Happy

Hi happy. I really need to talk to Mr. Stark

 

As he stared down at the phone and long list of messages left on read, he couldn’t help but doubt Happy was going to care. Maybe he should— Yeah, he was going to call.

The familiar, “You have reached the voicemail box of Happy Hogan,” was the only reply he got.

“Happy! I— Have something really important to tell Mr. Stark, if you could just. Let him know. So he can get back to me, and then I can tell him- It’s really important— but it’s— I’d rather— tell him in person? If that’s— If I can.” He sighed. In a quieter voice, he added, “Uh, sorry for calling at— four AM. Uh, goodnig— good morning, I guess.”

He flopped back onto his bed. Well, nothing to do now but wait…

Yeah, it only took about 30 seconds for waiting to be too much. He felt so, restless. Jittery. He needed something to do. Maybe... He looked at his phone again.

He didn’t notice how much time had passed, but the sun was beginning to rise as he read through yet another Wikipedia page. Somehow, looking up time travel had led to movies about time travel had led to time travel theories had led to learning about paradoxes and alternate realities and quantum mechanics and – well, before he knew it, he was reading an article about high-speed bullet trains. Wikipedia binges, y’know?

A brief passing thought had him looking up magic gems— and then magic gloves. And then gauntlets once he realized that was the word he was trying to remember. It didn’t give him any information about alien artifacts, but he did find an old cartoon about ghosts that had a Reality Gauntlet powered by gemstones, so that was. Useless, but kind of cool.

Aunt May was up and taking a shower by the time he thought to look up the only new person whose name he barely remembered: the wizard, Doctor Strange.

It turns out, that wasn’t his made-up name! He was really named Doctor Strange— or, actually, Stephen Strange, MD. He was some famous neurosurgeon who disappeared after a terrible car crash.

That, Peter thought, was a really weird origin story. Though, he supposed he had no room to poke fun. Getting bit by a spider wasn’t exactly an origin story that sounded great either.

Now that he thought about it, actually, disappearing and coming back as a superhero was pretty common. Bruce Banner went missing and came back as The Hulk, Captain America was already a superhero when he disappeared, but he came back as an Avenger. Bucky Barnes disappeared and came back as a cool cyborg assassin, not really a superhero, but still part of the trend. Mr. Stark disappeared and came back and became Iron Man.

The other Avengers, he didn't know enough about to know if their origin stories had a trend. But now that was thinking about them… He really hoped the others didn’t suffer too much. PAH must’ve gone to Earth to get the last gemstone from Vision. It was only a few minutes between him leaving the planet and everyone— everyone dying. So, really, no one had time to suffer. Hopefully.

Not like— Not like Mr. Stark, who got stabbed.

 

Oh, great. There he went, thinking about the stuff that made him freak out again. The hairs on his arms were standing on end, and his senses buzzed with danger .

The need to do something wouldn’t leave, but there was nothing he could do. Only— he could only.

 from: Peter — recipient: Happy

Please let me talk to mr stark it’s really important

 

He could only wait.

 Maybe Happy didn’t realize how urgent this was?

 from: Peter — recipient: Happy

Something bad is going to happen, I need to warn Mr Stark

And have him warn the avengers

Please get back to me soon

 

Again, it wasn’t like Peter could tell him, ‘Hey, I’m actually from seven months in the future and we all died,’ over text. That’s really an in-person conversation. Who was going to believe— Peter himself barely— it was just. Super unrealistic, right? Time travel! That doesn’t happen! Except, it apparently did. Happen.

“Peter?” A sharp knock on his bedroom door startled him out of his thoughts. And onto the ceiling. (Being jumpy + having superpowers? Would not recommend.) He hung there for half a second that stretched on too long.

“Peter?” It was just Aunt May. He really needed to— to calm down.

“Ye—” his voice cracked. Great. He swallowed as he lowered himself to the floor as quietly as possible. “Yeah?”

The door opened slowly. May’s worried face peaked in. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I— I’m.” Actually… “Not. Not really. I’m not really— Aunt May, can I stay home today? I don’t—” feel so good, Mr. Stark. He cringed.

Aunt May stepped into the room, and his Spider-Sense wailed at him. He flinched, but it’s just Aunt May, it’s just Aunt May. She would never hurt him. He really wished his senses were less reactive.

“Hey?” She had stopped close to him, hand raised to touch him. Her voice was soft, comforting. “You okay?”

He— couldn’t really answer that. Giving up on a verbal response, he stepped forward, closing the distance between them and leaning against Aunt May for a hug, which she quickly reciprocated.

“Oh, Peter.” She sounded so close to tears – it made Peter tear up too. “I have to go to work— I won’t be here if you stay home. But of course you can.” May hesitated for a moment. “If anything’s happening at school—”

He shook his head.

She sighed. “Okay. Okay. You can tell me, though. Nothing will get better if you don’t talk about it. I can— People can help you fix things, if you just tell us what the problem is first. Okay? It doesn’t have to be me, but there’s— I’m sure there’s someone at school you can tell?”

“Yeah— yeah. Thank you. I—” He pulled back, rubbing at his eyes. When he looked back at Aunt May, she was watching him, concern written on her brow. “I love you,” he said, almost a whisper.

Aunt May’s face softened. “I love you too. Hey— Are you up for breakfast? We still have some pancakes leftover!”

Peter smiled at her cheerful tone. “That’d be great.” Together, they went to the kitchen to eat.

 

           All too soon, Aunt May had to leave for work, and Peter was left alone with his thoughts again.

After only a few minutes, he was calling Happy again. And again. And again.

Happy probably hated him. Peter was being to annoying, calling and calling. But it was important. It was really— He had to talk to the Avengers. To someone .

“—Something really bad is going to happen, please, Happy, you have to believe me. I have to – I have to warn everyone. I have to— Happy, please — Please— Tell Mr. Stark—”

 

Step 1 of his Plan To Save The World was not going very well.

But he needed to— He needed to have a plan. A better plan than they had yesterday— in the future— where everyone died . Getting the Gauntlet away could still work, but they— Though now that thought about it more, it was really. Just. His fault. He could’ve stopped it if he had only held onto the gauntlet better. But he didn’t, PAH got it back and— and everyone died. And— his phone slipped from his fingers, clattering against the floor, and followed it, sinking to the ground, back against the kitchen cabinets as he wrapped his arms around his knees.

It was like Mr. Stark said, months ago (a week from now): (if) people died, that’s on him.

 

Fear and guilt was eventually replaced by numbness and exhaustion, but he still couldn't stop crying. Which was dumb, he was dumb. He felt weak and tired and his eyes burned.

Even though he woke up only hours ago, he felt even more exhausted than he had last night. His stomach rolled with nausea, making him regret the small breakfast he had managed to eat with May.

Shakily, he picked himself off the floor and stumbled to his room, where he curled up on his bed. The blankets he wrapped tightly around himself would hopefully keep him from falling apart.

 

          He had just managed to fall into a fitful sleep when the shriekingly loud noise of a phone ringing startled him awake. Aunt May checking up on him, he thinks as he untangled himself from the blankets. He'd missed the call by the time he got loose and realized his phone was still in the kitchen.

Luckily, it rang again only a few seconds later. Grabbing it quickly, he answered without checking the caller ID. “Hi, May, I'm fine—”

“Not May.” A jolt of— fear, happiness, grief, relief, something — ran through him.

“Mr. Stark!”

“Ouch. Warn me before you yell next time.” Over his mumbled apologies, Mr. Stark continued, “I heard you've been bothering Happy all day, and if you're worried about the guy with the wings: don't be. I've got it covered, kid. The FBI is on it. You don't need to deal with everything by yourself; there are professionals who know what they're doing who can help you. They'll find the people soon and have them arrested.”

That was. Peter blinked. Okay, so apparently all he needed to do to have Mr. Stark actually communicate with him was sound panicked enough when he called? But… Peter had honestly forgotten about The Vulture.

“You there, kid?”

“Oh, yeah! I— I know who the Vulture is already, Mr. Stark.”

“What.” Mr. Stark's voice was flat.

Oh. Maybe it wasn't best to tell him quite so soon.

“How do you know? Did he find you again? Is that what happened?” Peter cringed at the sharp tone.

“No, no! Nothing like that! I just— I just. I know who he is.”

“Did you track him down?”

“Nnnn- I guess?”

When? You were home all day yesterday— at least Spider-Man was. You didn't go out without the suit to track down criminals, did you?” Mr. Stark was starting to sound frantic. Yeah, Peter had really messed up this conversation.

“No! I— Mr. Stark, can I talk to you in person? It's a really long story, and I don't think it's— I don't think I should tell you over the phone?”

There was a long pause that left Peter cringing and expecting rejection before Mr. Stark answered. "Sure, okay. Okay. Yeah, we'll have— Happy will pick you up after school."

"I didn't go to school today."

“Are you hurt?" Mr. Stark asked instantly, voice sharp with worry.

"No, I'm. I'm— I'm fine. I'm. It's. I— I can tell you— in person—"

A long sigh crackled across the phone speakers. "Yeah, yeah. Okay, kid, Happy will be there asap. He'll call you when he is."

"Okay." The relief he felt at actually being listened to is overcome with anxiety at knowing he would soon have to talk about— about what had happened. To voice it aloud.

Before Mr. Stark can hang up, he blurts, "You'll believe me? When— when I tell you. Everything?"

"... I don't have any reason not to believe you about anything, kid." The reply is soft, still worried. After a moment, an even softer question followed, even more worried, "Do you need medical attention?”

“No, no— I'm not. I'm not hurt, not. Physically. Nothing, nothing really happened , it's just. I just. I don't know how to— I need to— I'll. I'll," he paused, took a deep breath, and tried to calm down. Think logically. Mr. Stark said he would listen to him. That was good. Step 1 was finally going well. But... believing was a whole nother thing. Peter had no proof . Nothing happened, not really. Not yet. But it was real to him; he knew it was real, but it hadn't happened. He woke up in the past with only memories, and. How unbelievable was that? More aliens, Infinity Stones, an adventure that sounded like something out of a bad DnD campaign. Purple Alien Hulk. Mr. Stark getting stabbed and everyone dying before his eyes before he too—

"Hey! Kid, kid, Peter! "

He gasped in a breath. Tried to reply, only ended up making a soft whining noise.

"Peter, you with me? It's alright, it's— Happy will be there soon. Ten minutes, less."

"Mr. Stark—" or at least, that's what he tried to say. The end result came out garbled, incomprehensible.

"Need a distraction? That helps, right? Helps me. I've been— no that's— okay: safe topic, completely safe." And then he began telling Peter about the new StarkPhone, the upgrades he had made personally for it, how he had debated making his own version of Siri- 'because, honestly, he could and did make better AIs than that when he was 17'— and because Microsoft released a Cortana app for StarkPhones, and 'that was just insulting.'

It's nice , it was, but it also made him remember Mr. Stark holding onto him as his body fell apart, trying to comfort him as he died. This was, he realized a bit hysterically, going to be so much harder than he thought.

Still, it was, it was a welcome distraction. It took a few minutes, but it helped. As Mr. Stark was telling him about a robot named ‘Dummy’ he made in college, Peter even managed to voice a question— just a simple, “You named your learning robot Dummy? ” (“I was drunk. Don't do drugs, kid. And definitely don't science while you're on drugs. Words of wisdom: remember that.”)— And he even managed to laugh at Mr. Stark’s stories of Dummy and why he deserved his name.

His barrage of information was too-soon cut off by Happy's arrival. The driver was waiting on the street outside, Mr. Stark told him, and Peter has to— hang up and probably change his clothes, and while Mr. Stark's rambling had helped ( a lot, actually), he was still on edge. His Spider-Sense prickled with anxiety for dangers he knew logically weren't there.

But, he could do this. Just. Hang up the phone, get dressed in clean clothes— ones not covered in sweat from nightmares and anxiety.

“Everything alright, Peter?" Mr. Stark's voice sounded small from the phone held loosely in his hand, dropped away from his face.

“Oh." He raised the phone to his ear again. "Yeah, I'm. I'll be out in a minute, tell Happy.”

"Alright. If there's n-"

"Thank you," Peter blurted before Mr. Stark could hang up or Peter could lose his nerve. "Thanks for, everything."

"Of course," Mr. Stark sounded awkward, like he wasn't sure how to reply. "You don't have to thank me..." They're both silent for a second. "I'll see you soon then." With that said, he hung up, before Peter can finish saying—

"Bye..." The word trailed off as he blinked down at his own phone.

 

Right, well. Happy's waiting. Digging the softest shirt and sweater he owned out of his closet, he got dressed.

As he walked out the apartment door, he realized he should probably tell Aunt May he was going out. He texted her as he jogged down the stairs:

 from: Peter — recipient: Aunt May

  I'm going out. Need to get out of the house. I'll be back soon.

 

Spotting Happy's (Mr. Stark’s, really) car would've been easy even without the man standing beside it. Peter's face twitched into a smile that probably looked more like a grimace as Happy opened the door for him.

 The drive to— wherever, Peter wasn't really sure honestly. (Stark Tower was sold, or being sold, at this point in time, so probably... The Avengers Compound, then?)— was quiet, both Peter and Happy not willing to speak up and fill the silence.

 Instead, it was broken by the bzz of Peter's phone, receiving Aunt May's reply.

 from: Aunt May — recipient: Peter
OK. b back when I get home

  

He sent back a quick confirmation, and realized the car had stopped by the time he was done. Just at a light, he found, looking up. Happy was staring at him through the rearview mirror, and Peter realized how terrible he must look, bags under his red eyes from a sleepless night and too much crying, hair a mess. And really, he probably should've showered.

Happy was still staring at him.

This was getting awkward.

Chapter Text

 

     In the end, Happy was silent through the entire ride, though Peter felt like he was being watched, dissected with eyes the whole time. He tried to ignore it and focus on what he would say to Mr. Stark upon arriving, but the feeling of being judged was hindering him from concentrating. Making him even more nervous than he already way.

The bare bones of a plan were there, but he. He couldn’t really. Find a way to say it that wouldn’t sound ridiculous. ‘Two space aliens in a doughnut ship came to Earth to find a wizard and a magic gemstone to give to a big purple alien who wants wipe out half the universe to cure overpopulation.’

It was ridiculous. It was.

And now that Peter thought about it more— Having gemstones capable of changing reality across the whole universe, and choosing to cure overpopulation by killing people rather than creating more resources for them was. Not a good plan? At all? Unless Peter misunderstood PAH’s whole plan to start with. That was a possibility. Or… Staring out the car’s window at trees passing by, Peter wondered if the PAH was even telling the truth about that.

PAH was probably a cultist, Peter mused. Like that Cool-Aid guy. He says pretty things, draws people into his death cult. And then kills them all. Does he really believe in the ‘death is the only cure to overpopulation’ rhetoric he was preaching? Or did he just want a believable reason to wipe out half the galaxy?

With a jolt, he realized they were driving up the Avengers Compound driveway and he just wasted all his planning time thinking about what PAH’s motivation was, instead of planning.

He swallowed, the sound thunderous to his ears, and tried to keep his breathing even— in, 2, 3; out, 2, 3. He just needed to. To say what happened: Aliens come again, not Chitauri, different ones. They fight. They get stuck on the alien ship in space. They— meet up with other aliens, can’t forget about the— way they faded into dust as Peter’s spider-sense screamed at him ‘you’re next!’— Can’t— Peter swallowed again, breath stuck in his throat as his stomach twisted with nausea— Can’t forget about them.

He’s distracted again, he realized. And tried to, tried to redirect his thoughts. He just needed to tell Mr. Stark. That aliens came. That they lost. And then— and then come up with a plan and bring the whole Avengers team together again so that next time— this time— they can win.

Yeah. Yeah. Think positive— It would be fine. Mr. Stark would believe him, he’d have to believe Peter. Who would lie about. Alien invasions? Probably a lot of people, constantly, especially on the History channel, but that’s. That’s beside the point. He just— he just needed to tell Mr. St—

The back of his neck tingled with a warning that makes him jump even before— the car door snapped open to reveal Happy.

“We’re here,” he said. A bit unnecessarily. The first words spoken to Peter yet.

Peter wanted to reply, but nothing came. Instead, he mutely got out of the car— tried not to flinch at the noise of the door closing that he knew was coming but was still so loud.

He followed after Happy into the building, through smooth corridors sided by large windows. Happy had gone back to being silent and intimidating, like he was on the ride over. Peter trailed behind him silently, looking out at the view of the large yard and distant forest as he walked, hoping for a distraction, but it did nothing to stop the anxiety twisting in his stomach.

A ding signaled an elevator’s arrival; the doors popped open just before they got to it. Peter had startled at the noise, and Happy was staring at him again.

He’s concerned, Peter realized again. It’s weird, coming from Happy, who was always so aloof. Uncaring.

It was even weirder standing next to him in the elevator. With nothing but reflective walls to stare at, Peter was all too aware of the not-quite discrete glances Happy was sending his way. Luckily, the elevator ride didn’t last long, and the doors slid open with another cheerful ding only a few seconds later.

"Welcome, Happy, Mr. Parker," an oddly mechanical, yet accented voice said as they walked into the room. "Boss is in the kitchen."

"What is he doing in the kitchen?" Happy muttered, sounding. Well. Unhappy.

The second thing he’s said all day, Peter realized, and it’s to complain. How Happy got his nickname, Peter will never know. Maybe it's ironic? He mused as he’s led down another hallway to yet another room— this one a lot larger, some sort of open floor plan with more big windows overlooking a meadow and the forest outside. And sure enough, there was Tony Stark, standing at the kitchen counter.

He looked up as Peter and Happy came in, and Peter feels a jolt of— anxiety-happiness-fear-relief— an odd mix of emotions that make him more than anything just want to curl up and go to sleep again.

“Kid," Mr. Stark greeted, his voice carefully measured. Precise. Not quite emotionless, but flat, hiding emotion? Peter doesn’t really know how to describe it, but the sound made him...

It made him cringe, expect rejection already. He twisted his sweater sleeve between his fingers and stared back at Mr. Stark staring at him. Much belatedly, he realized he needed to respond. "Uh,” he said. Great job there, Parker. “Uh," his voice felt stuck in his throat. He lifted his arm to wave instead, but aborted the motion halfway through, then thought better and— his arms fluttered awkwardly.

Mr. Stark’s eyes were still on him, watching calculatingly. Peter glanced away, swallowed again, and tried to tell his heart to stop hammering against his rib cage, before he looked back, his eyes focused to the left of Tony's head.

Mr. Stark took a step towards him, opened his mouth and Peter tensed, ready for an interrogation— “Are you hungry? We have takeout: Chinese."

Peter. Blinked in surprise. What? "I— uh. I ate already."

"Alright, well," Tony, standing front of him now, clapped his hands, and Peter flinched at the sound. “I’m eating, and you can join me if you want." He waved a hand at Happy, a shooing motion, and threw an arm around Peter's shoulder, gently steering him towards the kitchen.

He wasn’t quite sure how Mr. Stark convinced Peter to join him at a bar stool at the— breakfast nook, he thinks it's called— but that's where he found himself, with a container of shrimp fried rice in front of him. (He doesn't really like shrimp fried rice, but says nothing.)

He glanced at Mr. Stark out of the corner of his eye, and realized Mr. Stark was watching him too. Peter's eyes flicked away, and he hunched forward a bit more, pulling the sleeves of his sweater over his hands and twisting his fingers across the soft Angora wool.

It was another minute before Mr. Stark spoke— a minute Peter spent trying to take deep, even breaths. While trying to think again of what he'd even say to convince Tony about the whole time travel thing.

"Probably should have asked you to bring your suit," Mr. Stark mused aloud.

Peter flinched. "My—" he swallowed, "My suit? Wh—" realization hit him. "You want to," his breath caught, "to, take it away?" Of course. Peter hadn't destroyed a ferry this time, but you can't exactly be a superhero and— and panic constantly and cry at the drop of a hat, like he's starting to now. Again.

"What? No, no. Why would— C'mon, kid, don't cry." Stark reached towards him but faltered as Peter flinched away, leaving his hand hovering over Peter's shoulder. "What did I do?" he muttered, a bit helplessly. "Stop crying. I'm not taking your suit away. (Why would you think that?) I just thought we'd replace the parachute, and fix it up so that you can't get stuck in it again. Kind of ruins the purpose of the 'chute, if that happens." Mr. Stark was rambling again, Peter realized, like he did earlier to calm Peter down. Trying to help. "I was thinking just change the deployment settings— it's supposed to go off if you're traveling at a certain speed, far enough in the air, but I'm sure we could change that, add a sensor for direction too, to make sure you back is facing up when the 'chute deploys."

"Sorry." Peter scrubbed at the tears in his eyes.

"What for?"

Peter looked at him, a bit disbelievingly. "For— freaking out on you?"

Mr. Stark stared back. "Yeah, about that..." His eyes narrowed a bit as he thought about what to say next.

Peter looked away. He'd have to start talking soon, about the spaceships that would come, the wizard, PAH. Dying.

He... Couldn't think of any way to actually say it.

For a long moment, they were both quiet, trying to collect their thoughts.

"Why the freak out? Earlier, over the phone. What happened?"

And there's the question. Peter swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. His neck tingled, goose bumps spreading across his skin. "Uh," he began, and. Can't say anything further.

What can he say? What can he say? 'I think I'm from the future?' Yeah, yeah. Simple to say, he though. He rehearsed the phrase in his mind a few more times. Opened his mouth to voice it aloud. "..." Nothing came out. His mouth was dry and his eyes were wet.

"You okay, kid?" Mr. Stark sounded... Like he wasn't sure whether to let Peter know he was worried, or to hide it. "Take your time?" he offered, uncertain.

Just talk, Peter screamed at himself. "Uh," he began hesitantly. "Have you seen that one old movie? Peggy Sue Got Married?" He cringed at the question, wondering why on Earth he had to go and introduce the topic like that.

There was a long pause as Mr. Stark gave him a blank look. "Alright, you've lost me. What does that have to do with anything?"

Talking about movies was at least something Peter could do. Even feeling mortified, it was. Easier to start the topic like this, actually. "It's this movie about an old lady who just got divorced, who goes to her high school reunion," he began. "And she passes out during it and wakes up in the past, during her senior year?"

"Can't say I've heard of it," Mr. Stark says slowly. "So— what? You're actually a really old Peter Parker?" he scoffed.

Peter flinched again. "N— not really old. I—" Mr. Stark doesn't believe him. How was he supposed to convince him? "It's how I know who Toomes is— who the Vulture is—"

"You're really going to use time travel as an excuse instead of just—" Tony cut himself off because—

A sob escaped Peter’s throat and the tears he had managed to suppress were falling freely from his eyes and. "I'm not— I'm not—" his voice was small, "I'm not lying."

"Okay. Okay! Kid, don't cry!"

The sharp, panicked tone didn't do anything to help.

"Alright, I— Time travel, okay. Say I believe you: how'd it happen?"

Another sob left Tony looking even more panicked. "I don't know,” Peter gasped. “I— I know it's not believable, Mr. Stark!"

"Okay— okay, Peter, it's okay. Just tell me everything you can, alright?" His voice was tight as he tried to force his tone to be calm and even.

Peter hunched forward even more, wrinkling his nose at the smell of the rice in front of him, and twisting the soft sweater cuffs between his fingers even more as he pulled his arms close to his chest.

Tony made a soft noise next to him, like he wanted to say something. He stilled, leaned back, worried that he's crowding too close to Peter.

Peter forced himself to be quieter— to stop making so much noise. His sobs became muffled, the tears fell silent as he tried to pull himself together. He knew this would be hard, he knew it, but. How do you even begin to tell someone that the world ends and everyone dies because they failed- Peter failed.

Evidently, he'd spent too long trying to work up the courage to talk, because Mr. Stark spoke again. "How far into the future are you from?"

That's. An easy question. Peter almost appreciated it. "Seven months." His voice was hoarse, hard to hear.

"Alright. So... The Vulture?"

Peter shook his head. "Toomes was— is— will be? Stopped. Really soon. Uh.” He scrubbed at his eye with a sleeve-covered fist. "Homecoming night."

"And when's that?"

"... Two weeks?" Peter's chest hurt. He took a few measured breaths, feeling Stark's eyes on him the whole time.

Tony sighed ever so slightly, an unnoticeable action if Peter hadn't been so wired, senses tuned in to everything around him. "What happens in seven months?"

The hairs on his arms were standing up again, or maybe they had been the whole time. "There's, um. Uh. There's— aliens?"

"Aliens." Mr. Stark's voice is flat. "Again."

"They're— different?" Peter offered. "There were. There were, two of them, on Earth— and in the ship— that we— that I saw."

"The ship."

"It was shaped like a doughnut." The words came out almost hysterical.

"Alright," Tony said, sounding resigned. "Time travel. More aliens. What else?"

"There's— there's a wizard."

"Are you—" He’s annoyed again, Peter though and he flinched, but Mr. Stark cuts himself off. He sighed, rubbed his eyes and then dragged a hand down his whole face. "Explain."

"I don't— I mean, I only met him that day—" Peter took a deep breath. "Doctor Strange. I looked him up— Yesterday. He's, he's actually a doctor, that's not just a made-up name."

"The wizard is a doctor?" He sounded tired now, not just resigned.

"Yes?"

"Okay," Stark said with a sigh. "Alright." He rubbed his wrist absently. Took a deep breath. "Aliens. A wizard. What happens?"

"Uh." Peter took a deep breath too. "I didn't see the— I was on a field trip, on the bus, when I saw the ship? I got there as fast as I could," he added quickly, "but I didn't really— I didn't see all of the fight?"

Mr. Stark was giving him a worried look, and Peter cringed.

“But I,” he was quick to gasp out, hoping Mr. Stark isn't disappointed with him, “I was there for— you told me to protect the wizard, because the alien was after him— or his necklace, I guess? The— there's a gemstone on it, and they wanted—”

“Slow down, kid,” Mr Stark interrupted. “Take a deep breath.”

Peter did just that. And then repeated, taking a few more measured breaths. For a moment, he thinks he’s going to throw up, but the feeling faded back to an ever-present nausea instead of the sharp ‘I’m going to vomit right this second’ kind. Still, when he swallowed again he tasted acid.

“You with me?”

Peter blinked, refocusing on Mr. Stark. More time must’ve passed than the few seconds he thought. He— realized Mr. Stark asked a question, and nodded in response.

“Alright. You’re good. We’re good. Can you,” Mr. Stark was the one hesitating now, as unsure as Peter was. “You up for continuing?”

Peter nodded again. “Yeah. Yeah.” He needed to keep talking, but more words didn’t come. Instead he just repeated, “Yeah,” awkwardly before forcing himself to shut up by taking another deep breath and letting it out slowly. He needed to get to the end, to the point. “They wanted the wizard’s necklace stone.” The words were out before he could think them over and he regretted it instantly.

“His… necklace stone.” Seeing Peter’s expression, Mr. Stark backtracked, “Sorry. Continue.”

The simple apology surprised Peter. It threw him of for a moment, left him blinking in surprise. “Uh. Right, the. Necklace. It was, like a Time Turner? You know, from Harry Potter?”

“Everyone knows Harry Potter— Is that what sent you back in time?”

“I don’t— I don’t? Think so?” Actually, Peter wasn’t sure. “The wizard didn’t have it anymore, when I— He didn’t. Uh— Um.

“There was— this other alien. Who the aliens—” He was getting ahead of himself. “The aliens who came to Earth caught the wizard,” he said quickly. “You— future you?— told me to protect the wizard— sorry, I said that already.” He twisted his sleeves between his fingers again, letting the repetitive gesture ground him. “The small alien— he was big, but smaller than the other, I mean— was a wizard too, I think? His… His magic looked different from Dr. Stranger’s, but he— was telekinetic? It was pretty cool, actually. I mean, if he weren’t trying to kill us it would be cool!”

Peter almost wished Mr. Stark would interrupt him again, but the man is just staring at him, listening to Peter flounder around trying to tell him what happened—happens.

“So the— Dr. Strange was taken to the spaceship, and I followed him. And I almost rescued him! But I— didn’t.” He cringed, looking over at Mr. Stark for a reaction, but his face was carefully blank, so Peter continued. “So, I got stuck on the outside of the ship while they were leaving, and— uh, it got a little fuzzy and I think I might’ve passed out at some point—”

Mr. Stark makes a noise at that, a sharp hiss of breath, a gasp of shock maybe.

“—But I was fine! I was— I think you sent me a suit? It was really cool,” Peters reassurances turned into excitement. “It was really cool. Like, an Iron Man-inspired Spider-Man suit? I think it was nanotech, it seemed like nanotech. It was really light, and really comfortable— not that my current suit isn’t comfortable, it’s just that this one was surprisingly— I mean, it’s not surprising, at all, I—”

“I’m glad you like the suit,” Mr. Stark cut him off, and Peter has never been more grateful to be interrupted before.

“Right, right. Yeah, I got the new suit and— you activated the parachute to send me home, but I— it was a really long way down and I was— I didn’t want— I kind of— grabbed onto the ship and stayed on it?

“Yeah, that was— probably a bad idea, I’ll admit it!” Peter added quickly as Mr. Stark’s eyes twitched, the only indicator of what he was thinking. “Anyway, I got into the ship through— um, I’m not actually sure, some hatch on the outside? That hadn't closed yet? But I got on, and I managed to find you. There wasn’t anyone on the ship except the one alien, and us? It was kind of weird, I guess— uh, it was all automated? I— kind of wish we had time to study it. Alien tech— really cool, right?”

He glanced at Mr. Stark who was still watching him intently. “Very cool,” he said, encouragingly.

Peter grinned. “Yeah.” His smile faded. “Uhm. We found Dr. Strange and the alien, and he was kind of— getting tortured for the timestone, the gem, necklace. Um. But we— rescuing him was pretty easy! You blasted a hole in the wall of the ship, and the alien got sucked out and I grabbed Dr. Strange, so! That part worked out!”

“That part?” Mr. Stark asked slowly.

“Uh. Y— yeah. Uh, it. It kind of went— downhill? From there?”

Mr. Stark closed his eyes as a pained look flashed across his face. “How downhill?” he asked.

Peter chewed on his lip before answering. “Well, we crash landed the ship onto this, um, planet. And, then the ship was broken into by who we thought were other aliens working with— um, the big, the boss of the ones who kidnapped the wizard? But they were actually with us! Or, against him! So, they became our allies?”

“That's,” Mr. Stark said slowly, “good.”

“Yeah! They were able to tell us a but more information about— uh, the aliens boss. I've— I forgot his name, so I've just been calling him Purple Alien Hulk? In my mind?”

“Hulk?”

“Yeah, he's. I've never actually met the Hulk, but it seems like they're the same size? He's— the guy is. Really big.”

“You said the new aliens told you more about him?” Mr. Stark asked, redirecting the conversation back to what really mattered.

“Oh! Yeah. So, the— uhm, PAH, for Purple Alien Hulk?— wanted— wants— these things called, um. Infinite? Stones? Infinity? Uhm. Yeah, I think it was Infinity! Uh.

“Sorry,” Peter said, “I didn't really. Understand everything?”

“Tell me what you do know.”

“Right. Right. Uh, he's after these Infinity Gemstones, like the one the wizard had, and he— he told us this part himself— he wants to wipe out half the universe to bring balance to it. Using—”

He told you that?” Mr. Stark asked sharply.

Peter nodded, feeling tears build up in his eyes again. “Yeah,” his voice cracked. “Yeah, he— he. He.” Peter took a deep breath. “He succeeded. I think.”