|Ben Reilly (teamclone) wrote in the100,|
@ 2016-04-14 12:34:00
“Well, those Kravinoffs, they didn’t know what they’d gotten into,” Ben said as he bounced little Benjy on his hip. “Hunters they might be, but they really underestimated the power of a bunch of spiders getting together. Sure, Kaine tried to go off and do something stupid, he’s good at doing that sort of thing. Y’know, pretending to not to care while caring way too much. But all those spiders, they got there right in time to stop that ritual and get those Kravinoffs locked up. Of course Kaine grumped off without so much as a thank you, but again, that’s Kaine for you.” He looked up at the ceiling as he puffed out a sigh. “Although I wonder how much choice he had in it considering the next meeting he had with Spidey…” he mumbled absently.
Falling back on habit came easily, especially when the world decided to turn upside down. Again. His turn for Benjy duty came up and well… Back home, storytime was always a thing. Even more so when he had the kids by himself. The stories always flowed better when he didn’t have to worry about the disapproving MJ look. The Kravinoff story came easy enough, inspired by Benjy’s fondness of running his hands through the fur collar of Loki’s coat and latched onto because it was a distant and unhindered memory. Easy to just sink into the story, focus on that and the little child’s reactions instead of… well… pick a number on the worry for the day… Plus it was better than moping around in an equally mopey magical apartment.
But now they’d reach the end, so…
“And that’s the last Spidey’s seen of them since,” he puffed out, flopping down onto the sofa as he held Benjy up to give him a bit of a flight. He made a face, plopping Benjy down onto his lap as he shifted his weight to see what he’d sat on. He pat the cushion under him and then the long coat before finding the pocket and pulling out the… phone. He blinked a few times, staring at it. He’d only started actually wearing the coat the day before. Previously he’d just dragged it out when he visited the apartment or to just have around when he could manage sleep. But he just needed the scent a bit closer now in an attempt to soothe that increasing prickling of nerves. He hadn’t noticed the phone before now though… The sight of it sent that same lonely pang through him and-
“Hey!” Ben started as a tiny line of webbing shot out and snagged the phone from his hand. He scowled at the giggling toddler who triumphantly held the phone in his tiny hands and poked at the screen. Wrapping his arm around Benjy’s waist, he pulled the toddler closer as he tried to wrench the phone from the stubby little fingers. “Aw, c’mon, that’s not yours and you’re going to get some glares along with the nose wrinkle if you crack the screen,” he mumbled as he finally wrestled the phone away.
He didn’t expect to find his own face staring back at him though. He blinked a few times again, just a few times before his mind caught up and recognized the moment. He remembered that moment, although he hadn’t noticed Loki snapping a picture. Curiosity taking hold, he swiped his thumb across the screen, eyebrows raising and a small smile tugging at his lips at the next candid of him. At Benjy’s waving hands, he laughed softly as he held the phone more where both of them could see it. “You’re not missing much, kiddo. Just pictures of the ugly mug you’re looking at already,” he joked as he swiped through the images.
The more time slipped by, the more Peter’s mind started playing cruel tricks. Then again, if there was any cruel trick out there, it had to be not even getting to say goodbye to MJ. In a revolving-door style life of people coming and going, she’d been a constant. They always found a way back. It was just how they worked, and how they worked together. Except…
Except now there wasn’t much of a prayer that she would arrive back here with any memory of what they had been through in over a year’s worth of rekindling a flame that hadn’t really gone out in the first place. A year of navigating what they had lived through, and what it was like to be parents. If she came back, there was no telling how much he’d have to explain. ‘No, you were here. You were here the whole time, MJ. It got me through so many days -- I swear, I’m not playing around.’
But the fact was that, when Peter looked up from his work, no one else was around the lab. It was into the evening. He was only there because to go back to his bedroom would be the same knife in the gut it had been every day since she vanished. Ben had Benjy. He was just avoiding everything else. And that half worked sometimes. Other times? Loneliness was too lonely to bear. He’d picked up his work and shoved his hands in his pockets. An empty housing unit meant one thing: Ben was haunting the usual spot. Peter couldn’t blame him. Once you got used to something, even if it was torn away, gravity existed. You always came back to the places where good memories happened.
Peter knocked on the door. Loki’s door. It was a sure bet, he felt. Ben had to be here.
Ben’s head snapped up and whipped around towards the door at the knock. The sound just knee-jerked his heart up against his throat, hope swelling up fast and fierce before just as quickly draining away. People didn’t normally knock on their own door. Unless they were expecting someone to be there and, well, even then Loki wasn’t much of a knocker. Especially with his own possessions. And he wasn’t sure if he’d want to find out a situation where Loki would be...
He breathed out a heavy sigh, taking a moment to wallow in that quick kick of disappointment and not really paying attention to keeping Benjy from swiping through the photos. There was a short list of people who’d be looking for him here, even shorter now, and… well… He wouldn’t say no to the company. Especially when the company was pretty much in the same boat he was in.
“Door’s open,” he called out as he rested his head back against the top of the sofa. “You missed storytime, but I’m sure if you ask nicely, I can come up with another stunning tale of suspense and intrigue about New York’s favorite super-hero.”
Peter breathed out. It might have been relief at hearing Ben’s voice, but that small reprieve was here and gone in a blink. He opened the door and closed it behind him, turning his gaze to the interior of Loki’s apartment. Soggy cereal was the thought that sprung to mind. It was as if the place had gotten waterlogged and was drooping from the corners. It looked sad, honestly. Maybe that was appropriate.
“Another story about Super Benjy, huh?” Peter tried, his voice a helping more cheery than he really felt. He walked over to the duo on the sofa and swung down to sit beside them. “Webbing up the baddies, saving New York, and getting home in time for Sesame Street?” He reached over and booped the small redhead on the nose. Benjy offered up a laugh and a wide grin, reliable as ever.
“So you’re looking after your uncle for me? Knew I could count on you, kiddo.”
A grateful smile quirked his lips in response to the cheer. Sure, Ben knew exactly what Pete was doing. They both did it plenty. Even so, the attempt helped push away that bit of lingering wallowing and toss the focus to the few good things. Pete was still here. Benjy too. That was something. Sure, the sprout was from an alternate universe and the spider-powers still caught him off guard, but Benjy still felt like a piece of home. So much so that sometimes he could forget even easier that Peter wasn’t the Pete from his world. Like now, especially when the room had more New York flair than theirs, even if it was sagging around the edges. The glint of gold on the other man’s finger wasn’t a foreign sight. At least it wasn’t until he remembered that the ring wasn’t as much a permanent fixture on this Peter. He raised an eyebrow but kept it at that considering, well, pot kettle. At least people wouldn’t notice the new jewelry as much as they would Ben walking around with a new coat.
“Pretty sure they have Sesame Street on demand now,” he joked back. “All the flexibility of scheduling saving the day for lil Super Benjy.” Of course his grin just grew, full of fondness as Benjy kept laughing, his attention split between ‘daddy’ and the phone. “You’ll need to up his pay with how well he’s keeping me out of trouble. Best baby babysitter around. Five stars, would use again.” Bouncing Benjy lightly a few times, he looked curiously over at Peter. “Start going crossed eyed in the lab?”
“He can bill me later,” Peter answered with a small smile, letting the boy grab hold of his hand. It was a crazy thing to go from having zero experience as a father to being a stand-in. If the day came to say goodbye to this little guy, he was going to feel that gut-wrenching stab all over. Benjy had become part of his life, same as this Ben. A year meant you fell into routines, got used to the people around you -- and when they vanished, you felt their absence. Family, his brain supplied. That was exactly how it felt with family, even if it wasn’t the one you were born with. If Ben’s new wardrobe was anything to go off, that rang true for more than one person sitting on the sofa just then.
“And yeah, how’d you know? It’s…” Peter waved a hand around. “No good forcing my brain to brain. My eyes were itchy, couldn’t focus. Looked at the clock, and suddenly it’s after dinner. Typical Parker stuff. Which, by the way --” He gave the toddler an eye-narrowed look. “Someone’s bedtime is creeping up. You work too hard, little man. Got to get some Z’s in or else you’ll be chugging coffee like a madman tomorrow.” Benjy, seizing his spotlight, narrowed his own eyes back. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m confusing you with me again. Gotta stop doing that.”
“He can be taught,” Ben said with a laugh. “Actually admitting that the brain can’t brain anymore. That’s like, what? Half a step forward?” He smirked as he shook his head. “And then three steps back by giving advice you should be following to the kid. So, we’re at… now much negative now? Y’know, carrying over whatever was there before.”
Of course, it was just teasing. They usually could be good about pulling themselves away to reboot. At least back homes. Except that their usual go to for getting their brains back in order and everything sorted hadn’t been available for a year. He was pretty sure that Peter was floundering about as much as he was in finding a good equivalent. His mouth turned down in a thought a moment, weighing the pros and cons. He knew the view could be a mixed bag for himself and with everything else going on…
He raised his eyebrows as he nodded towards the open door at the other end of the room. “It’s not much compared to… well… but if you want something new to focus on or a different thing to sigh about, this place has a great view.” He made a face. “Well, usually has a great view. Right now it looks a bit more like a month’s worth of cold, cold, cold rain.” He let out a soft chuckle. “Y’know the kind, yeah? Soaks right through the suit and no matter how many warm showers you take, you still feel chilly.”
“Best advice is to never start on coffee. Then you never have to worry about stopping.” Peter had just about deflated into the cushion, which was impressive because the cushion itself had sprung a leak. It was weird to describe, but it felt like a quarter of the materials that currently made up the apartment had been replaced by jell-o. Not to say it wasn’t comfortable, but Peter knew that it wasn’t the original intent. And neither was whatever Ben was relaying to him.
Peter offered a short, if not apologetic smile. “Not sure I need any rain in my day, Ben. But thanks.” Besides that, Peter knew that that room had been Loki’s bedroom. View or not, it was personal space. “How long you been holed up in here?”
A finger went up to Ben’s lips. “Shhhhh, don’t say that too loud. I might still have to fall back on that coffee shop job. Don’t scare away my customers.” He ruffled Benjy’s hair. “But you? You follow that advice well. It’ll save you money and your poor nerves too.”
He shrugged. “Hey, your loss. And… uh…” He frowned as he glanced around, as if there’d be some sign in the sagging structure to give him an idea of how much time had passed. “Short enough that we haven’t needed a diaper change… Hold on…” He tried to lift the phone closer so he could peek at the time, but the motion got stopped very quickly by two tiny arms.
“Nooooo woof woof,” was the plea to go along with the arm capture. He blinked a few times. Woof woof? For a second he wondered if Benjy had managed to scroll all the way back to that hellhound Loki had when he was ‘little’. Catching a glimpse of the phone screen though, his eyes went wide and eyebrows arched up at the somewhat familiar eyes staring back from the mottled gray and brown furred face. Oh. That woof woof. “Um… yeah… uh…” he fumbled, his eyebrows pinching down. “...what time is it?”
The comedy act that was playing out in front of Peter made him narrow his eyes with suspicion. He didn’t catch it at first, but that wasn’t Ben’s phone. And that meant that the pictures were likely taken by the owner of that phone. This was Loki’s apartment, as well. Things slipped right into place, and with that smooth transaction came the realization that Benjy had just seen his first werewolf. Peter’s brows knitted. There were larger implications, of course, but this room was already steeped in heavy emotion.
“It’s…” Peter pulled out his own phone and prodded the screen. “Eight forty-three.” Which meant it was exactly twenty minute since the last time he’d checked. Time was crawling tonight, and not in a good way.
“Pretty sure that means it’s time for someone’s B-E-D.”
The answer dragged Ben out of his stare, his eyebrows arching back up as he turned his attention to Peter. ‘Really, only that?’ and ‘Geez, that late already?’ warred for his reaction. Late and not late. A lot of time and not a lot, but maybe that’s because Peter’s question had mentally prepared him for a ‘oh, by the way, it’s past midnight and you were getting on me about being in the lab’ sort of thing. Especially since time always did have a way of slipping by with them… Oh, oops, sorry, you mean 5 PM for that date. Ha. Don’t know why I thought you meant 5 AM. Classic them.
“Is it P-E-T-E-R’s? I bet it’s P-E-T-E-R’s. Definitely not anyone’s whose name starts with B,” he joked, even as he shifted his grip on Benjy, forgetting pulling the phone away again in favor of getting a better hold on the kid so he could stand up.
Or, well, try… He made a face as the first attempt failed spectacularly. Guess he flopped down on the sofa a bit harder than he thought. Huffing out a breath, he freed a hand to hold it out towards Peter. “Little help?”
“It might be P-E-T-E-R’s, but B-E-N-J-Y is part of the package deal,” Peter answered, although he paused to watch Ben make an attempt to get his footing. Given how the sofa was giving way under any pressure, it was a wonder he’d even gotten that far. Spider-Strength didn’t equate much if you couldn’t get your balance.
Sighing, if only for show and because the moment felt like an isolated bit of normal despite their situation, Peter kicked himself to his feet. He reached out a hand to Ben, and couldn’t help a small grin as Benjy decided to take it upon himself to grab it. Peter lifted his other hand, nodding for Ben to take it before the redhead decided to claim that one, too.
A matching smile answered the toddler’s gesture. Considering all the other powers, Ben wouldn’t be surprised if the little child could surprise them all and pull both himself and his uncle up from the sofa with no help. However, testing that out… Not really the best idea. His hand shot up, grasping Peter’s before Benjy could beat him to it. With the leverage, all it took was an easy tug to get himself up. He squeezed Peter’s hand in gratitude and was going to let go, except…
The ring caught his attention again. Held his gaze a bit too long. Maybe Peter and Benjy weren’t the only ones needing sleep. Maybe the weeks of thoughts and feelings just simmering and the heavy weight in the room despite all the joking finally snapped something. Whatever reason, the words were tumbling out of his mouth before his brain registered that he was talking.
“They’ll be back.” His lips pressed together in a tight line. Familiar words. A mantra he’d taken up in his head to keep going. Hanging onto the little bits of hope he thought he saw saying this wasn’t the same old same old disappearances. The room they were in still existed. Benjy and Alison’s kids were still here. It had to be different. The alternative… well, thinking about the alternative didn’t lead to any happy endings. The firm but soft words were always just in his head though. He hadn’t said it outloud and now that he had… He blew out a breath before nodding and letting go of Peter’s hand to clap on his shoulder. “They’ll be back.”
For a minute -- or what felt like one -- Peter was quiet. Every little vocalization of what was missing made it that much more real. He swallowed, though his throat had gone dry.
There was a smile, though. Small and knowing. Ben was struggling with the same, and though they’d veered in different directions as far as coping went, there were always similarities and common ground. Ben was telling himself that as much as he was telling Peter, and Peter recognized that. And, really, Peter believed that.
“Yeah, I know,” Peter returned. “C’mon. Tomorrow might be better.”