WHO: Flash Thompson (trn123), MJ Watson (616) WHEN: Last night, during dance party! WHERE: Parker housing! WHAT: MJ forgot something, comes back to get it and discovers who Edith/Swift was. WARNINGS: It's super cute. I want to hug Flash lots.
This was a bad idea. Flash knew that the request was a bad idea as soon as he heard it. And still he went along with it. He really needed to start learning to maybe not do the bad idea instead of running full tilt into it. But he’d talked himself out of the favor being a bad idea. It was a favor after all. A good deed. His feelings were just clouding things and he’d have to give some excuse of why leaving a small child with him was a bad idea. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to actually give a full explanation on the why without yelling and snapping being involved. Plus, this was for Peter and MJ. Something good to do for them. Some little thing to make up for… well… where to even start the list… He could do this for them. It was just babysitting.
Except ‘just babysitting’ had been chasing a toddler around who pretty much wanted nothing to do with him and wasn’t afraid to show it. He finally managed to coax Benjy down from the ceiling with minimal webbing getting stuck in his hair. The key point of his success rested on the fact that Benjy was half asleep at his perch. Definitely plus side of all the running around and protesting. The downside was that Benjy didn’t make it far before falling fast asleep and Flash now was now stuck sitting on the floor with the kid half curled on top of his lap.
He didn’t want to move. Mostly for fear of waking up the slumbering child, but also because of the memory it tugged. The kid was older, the hair blond and not red. Sitting on his- her- whatever bed and not the floor. The town going crazy with all these new-old memories and needing to comfort the boy. Try to comfort. Do what he would have wanted at that age. Gave the boy a hug. Told him it’d be ok. Kept his mind off of it all with some stories… Not for the first time, he wondered what had happened to that bit of whatever that’d come together to put that kid into being.
He sighed as he very carefully ran his fingertips over Benjy’s red hair. His eyes were distant, his head resting back against the wall as he absently hummed… something… Off tune yeah, he still couldn’t help that, and fumbling at a few times, the memory of how exactly the tune went staticing in and out. Something from one of Mary’s plays? He wasn’t quite sure, but it was comforting in the moment.
It wasn't from a musical. As it turns out, it was an Edith Piaf song. MJ couldn't remember the name of it, but she could remember that her mother used to hum it to her when she was little. Well, Mary's mother did. It struck MJ as oddly familiar and comforting, even as she remembered that it hadn't been real. The younger Flash was full of surprises, wasn't he?
The way he was sitting, with a toddler asleep on him seemed familiar too, and it took a moment for her to realize why.
In the doorway, MJ's confusion was all over her face as she quietly called out, "...Swift?"
The situation was so familiar. It could have been any of a million days back in that small town really. Still in that moment, Flash broke off mid-hum, tilting his head to focus on the doorway. “Mary? You’re-” He frowned, his brow furrowing in confusion. Not the voice that should have come with everything else in his head… Or the right room either… His eyes focused fully on MJ and then widened as his stomach dropped and his face paled. Oh…
His gaze dropped, trying to find something to focus on. The small child wasn’t really any better. Lifting his hand up and away as if he’d been caught, he swallowed hard, wanting to just bolt, but not wanting to move too much and waking up the kid. “He… um… he just fell asleep,” he mumbled quietly. “And I didn’t want to… yeah, ok, floor’s not good for that, but that’s where he crashed and me holding him when he’s awake isn’t really… it don’t really…” He waved a hand awkwardly. “He’s asleep now at least.”
She'd only come back for a jacket, but she wasn't willing to just leave. She'd thought Edith had been a fabrication. That little Parker had no bearing on anything because Edith and Parker had never really existed. At least, that was what she told herself to keep from feeling too sad over their loss.
"You didn't tell me," she whispered. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Flash let out a puff of breath that was half laugh and half sigh. He rolled his eyes before looking back at MJ, his eyebrows raised. “Y’really gotta ask?”
He was tempted to leave it just as that, but… that wasn’t being better, was it? He didn’t have a clue, but some people thought talking was good, so… His head leaned back against the wall and his eyes closed as he shrugged. “No one wants to talk ‘bout this sh-” His lips closed quickly on the word and he made a face. “- stuff. Kinda agree with ‘em and…” He threw one hand up in the air. “How do you even start talkin’ ‘bout that?”
MJ wasn't as close to this Flash as she was the one she grew up. He had no one he knew here, she realized, so really, who would he talk to about any of that? She felt a pang of guilt for not trying harder, for not reaching out more. He may have been a teenager, but that didn't mean he didn't want help. He just didn't know how to ask. That seemed to be a common theme among Flashes.
She crossed the room to where he was and slunk down against the wall so that she was shoulder to shoulder with him. Benjy was completely zonked out on Flash's lap, so much so that MJ thought she might be able to scoop him up gently without waking him. But she didn't, because if this Flash was anything like theirs, he wasn't going to want to keep talking or sticking around if he could help it.
"I thought Edith &mdash: Swift — wasn't a real person, and I really loved my sister there." She loved Gayle, too, but MJ had made a vastly different choice in that matter. Maybe it was that Gayle was older that made MJ want to run away more. She was sure of it. Everyone, including MJ, told Gayle not to get married so early. Not to have a baby so young. Not to have another child since her marriage wasn't going so well. Babies never solved your relationship with your husband. Didn't Gayle learn that with their parents?
Edith on the other. She'd gotten pregnant so shortly after their mom died that Mary felt compelled to help her sister and sacrifice her own dreams. Edith needed her. "I've still got those feelings for her."
Flash wrinkled his nose at the slip. Just one of those things that had transferred over, wasn’t it? Eugene. Edith. There were probably worse options out there, but he’d hated the new name just as much as the old, although not for all the same reasons. The rest… He wasn’t sure how to deal with it. The concept was strange to him. Family that cared. Strange but not strange because he remembered both. Absent parents who, well, it was better when they were absent anyways… but then also absent father, dead mother, and a sister that stuck around through thick and thin…
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out before cracking open his eyes and turning his head enough to look at MJ. “For f- messing everything up. I’m sorry.”
Nope. That wasn't going to do. MJ did what MJ did best; she reached around his shoulders and pulled him closer to her. She stretched her other arm across his chest to link her fingers with her other hand. She dropped her chin to his shoulder. "You didn't mess up anything I couldn't handle. You got that? If I — Mary — didn't want to be there with you, she wouldn't have. You and Parker were all she had left. She was okay with that."
Even though Flash had an eye on MJ, the hug still took him by surprise. Or well, this sort of hug. Sure, there were ‘we just won the big game’ or ‘we just kicked that bad guys’ butt’ hugs of excitement and back pats, but those hugs weren’t like this one. His brow furrowed and his mouth tugged down slightly, not quite being able to believe the words. “Y’don’t gotta say that, y’know?” he said softly. “To make me feel better and all… I know that just ‘cause you think and say that kinda thing, it doesn’t make it all the way true…”
MJ's eyebrows rose.
"I don't know what kind of MJ you've got in your world, but she's terrible at her job if you think I'm saying this just to make you feel better." The truth was: knowing that Flash-slash-Edith was actually here made MJ feel like she had more of a tether — her own tether. Not through Peter, but through herself. She didn't feel quite like a tag-along in certain instances (not that any of the Spider-men ever made her feel like that). "If it makes you feel better — awesome, great — but I'm not saying it just to make you feel better. I'm saying it because it's true, and if we were family there, then I see no reason we can't be here."
She kept her voice low, not wanting to wake Benjy because this conversation would be over as soon as that happened. She wanted Flash to know that he wasn't alone, just as much as she wanted to not be alone. Belatedly, she wasn't sure what kind of family life this Flash had. Was it similar to theirs? Because being family might not be something he wanted. May not even want to associate with it. "If you wanted."
His eyebrows pinched together more in confusion. “MJ back home? Nah, she says whatever she feels like no matter what anyone else thinks. She only does what she wants to do, but what’s she…” The frown intensified as he tried to piece it together. “I… I wasn’t talkin’ ‘bout you you being MJ and doing that ‘cause you’re MJ. I meant…”
He pressed his lips together. He never talked about this stuff. It’s just something you didn’t do. Ok, ok, so he’d kinda talked to Peter about it, but he hadn’t known it was Peter at the time and his hand had been forced there considering, well, first his home getting attacked and then the whole symbiote thing. The situation wasn’t really something he wanted his idol to see and even less something he’d want a classmate to know. Even if it was just getting a glimpse of the obvious stuff. He still couldn’t believe that Parker hadn’t used that against him, but then… he wouldn’t be Spidey if he did, would he?
He breathed out a sigh as he shook his head. “I meant family. They can say stuff like that just ‘cause…” His head tilted slightly in thought. “Old Flash said he has a sister… I don’t got a sister ‘cept for those new life memory things. It’s new…”
"They say that stuff and then they never actually follow-through. It's all talk. They don't really mean it. They hold it over your head." MJ may have had some experience with that. She'd risen above it, thanks in part because of Peter and the strength he taught her she already had, and from his kindness to people, even when they'd done him wrong. That was the thing about Peter Parker (or Spider-Man, depending on who had the most contact with); he was always changing your life. For the better, usually.
MJ kept her arm around him, though it was a looser hug now. "Listen, my family's all messed up. My dad was an abusive alcoholic. My mom died when I was pretty young. We moved around constantly. I never let anyone get close. My older sister got married straight out of high school, had a baby. Got pregnant again, thinking it would fix her marriage, but her husband ran off. She just expected me to drop whatever plans I had at 16 and babysit for her constantly. Take care of her. Do all the things she wanted her husband to do."
She let out a small sigh. "I couldn't do it then. I felt like she'd refused to listen to all of my advice — "don't get married so young, don't try for a kid, they don't fix your problems, getting knocked up doesn't mean he'll stay." And then when she got into a bind, she wanted to shove all of her problems on me. The difference here is that Mary wanted to stay. As much as she had plans and ideas for her life, she was terrified that something would happen to Edith, to you. She didn't want to leave you alone. Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe it wasn't. Either way, she loved you."
MJ gave his shoulder another squeeze. "In the end, family's what we make. It's not the people who are forced on us by blood. It's the people we form bonds with, the kind you never want to let go of. And I don't want to let go, so it's for me as much for you."
Flash just sat for a moment. He didn’t know what to do with all this information. He wasn’t even sure if he knew this much about the MJ from his world’s life, but then no one really wanted to talk about this sort of thing. He was at least pretty sure that MJ’s homelife wasn’t that bad. Maybe… After all, if he could hide his shitty homelife as easily as he did, MJ would have no problem at all. It was a lot to take in and a lot to go over and he wasn’t really good at either. What was he supposed to do now? Spill about his life? This seemed like a ‘show me yours, I showed you mine’ moment… Except he still had that stubborn knee-jerk about keeping his mouth shut. Not that it’d harm him here...
The last part made sense. Or was starting to make more sense the longer he was at the Academy. He used the word team instead, but it’s meaning was edging more and more into that seem meaning as family. Especially with the other Web Warriors…
He nodded slowly. “Yeah…” he mumbled before making a face. “You ain’t gonna call me sister, are you?”
Ah, teenaged boys. Sometimes MJ forgot how emotionally stunted they could be. She patted Flash's shoulder before ruffling his hair and giving him a crooked smile. "Not unless you really make me mad." She gave his shoulder a nudge with her own. And if she could keep Gwen's secret with Osborn, she could sure as hell keep this one. "Seriously though, if no one knows, your secret's safe with me."
Well, that was new. Another thing Flash wasn’t sure how to deal with. Or well, that part wasn’t new, but most of the hair ruffles he got before would involve retaliation. But this wasn’t really the locker room. He let out an amused snort even as he wrinkled his nose. “I’m fucked then,” he said and then winced. He risked a glance down at the sleeping kid and blew out a sigh of relief that it looked like the mess up would go unnoticed.
He shook his head, his hand reaching up to straighten his hair as much as he could. “Ain’t told no one.” He shrugged. “Don’t know if Old Flash still thinks I was Cole or not. Don’t really wanna ask him.”
"You tell people in your own time." MJ nodded once. "If you want to tell them." She paused briefly and then pushed herself from the floor to crouch in front of him. "But you know our lives; someone'll find out the hard way and it'll be worse so just go into it knowing that not everyone will be as cool as I am."
MJ was one of the few people who could manage to pick up Benjy without waking him. He snorted, sort of bubbling his lips as she eased him off Flash's lap and against her chest. Benjy was drooling as he had a tendency to do when he was completely zonked out. "I'm going to put him to bed, then head back out with Peter. He should be out for the night so you should be able to do whatever you want in here."
Flash frowned. He wasn’t sure why anyone else wouldn’t be cool about it. It wasn’t like anyone was really that happy to talk about what happened back in that weird world, so they couldn’t get mad at him for not talking about it. Especially considering he was the one who got turned into a girl and all.
“If we’re going by our lives, I’ve got 3 years and a big battle to go,” he shot back as he kept his eyes on Benjy. There was a twinge of familiarity at the sight he didn’t know how to deal with. A tiny part was… that homesick feeling that still kept hitting him like a truck. Sad and lonely and wanting. But the larger part was relief. He still didn’t know what happened to Parker. He didn’t want to ask. But if the child was just magic or something, then at least he got out before it got bad, right? Had a good last hour before he went wherever the magic went.
Pushing down that thought, he blew out a sigh as he shrugged. “It’ll give me time to try and beat Cho’s high score. One of these months I’m gonna get it.”
MJ didn't know Cho very well, but he seemed just the kind of smart ass that Flash would migrate to, especially at this age. If it made him happy, though, then that's all MJ cared about. She disappeared quietly into the bedroom and deposited little Benjy onto his bed, covered him with a blanket, and headed back into the living space. She closed the door as quietly as she could.
"Isn't he the one that's supposed to have like a super computer brain or something? I can't always keep up with all the superheroes. There's so many of them." And before she's gotten here, she'd been actively trying to forget them all.
Flash relaxed, the worries of waking the small child calmed and the topic a whole lot easier to handle. He nodded as a grin spread across his face. “Yeah, he’s super smart. He can do like college math in his head. Just look at a computer screen full of shit and come up with an answer.” His grin widened as he tapped his forehead. “Even figured out a way to give his suit spider-sense just by looking at my brain. That’s gotta be genius work there.”
"Sounds almost like a superpower, if you ask me." It sounded genius to Mary Jane, but it also sounded incredibly terrifying. Most of Peter's worst villains were the genius ones who could do the kind of things that Flash was talking about. And then there was Mr. Fantastic, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym: all smart guys who had messed up big time with their egos. Even Peter's smarts had hindered things a time or two.
She jerked her thumb over her shoulder toward the door. "You good now or you want one more hug? Cause I've got another one in me."
He glanced at the door and then back at MJ. He thought over the question a moment before nodding. “Yeah, I’m good, but…” He shrugged again, as if it was no big deal. “I wouldn’t say no to a hug. Just don’t take too long. All those people are gonna start missing the star of the party.”
MJ gave Flash one of her knowing smiles before she moved in for a hug. She pulled him close and squeeze him like she damn well meant it, because she did. When it was over, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for watching Benjy tonight, Flash. I know he's the happiest, hyperest, webbingest kid sometimes — I completely blame Peter — but it's good to have a night off to dance away some of the stress going on."
She fought the urge to ruffle his hair once more, and bounded for the door. "He shouldn't wake up. He's usually out for the night when he's out for the night, but if he does, come get one of us."