Actions

Work Header

unravelling;

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry.”

His eyes moved to you slowly, and you watched as his thoughtful expression twisted into one of confusion, uncertainty. 

“About your family,” you clarified awkwardly, nodding your head towards the ring he kept absentmindedly touching. “It must have been...I guess I kinda know what that’s like and just wanted—you know what? Nevermind. Fury probably wants me for something—”

“No, please, wait,” he quickly interrupted, his fingers wrapping around your wrist and you ignored the spike of adrenaline at his proximity. At having to battle down the instincts installed into you for years to take out the threat. “I would be honoured if you told me. If you don’t mind sharing, that is. It was...it was difficult for me to address it earlier.”

You gazed at him for a moment, trying to gauge his sincere expression but there was just something about him. There was something about Quentin Beck that didn’t sit right with you. At all.

The first time Fury had introduced you, he had looked at you with a too wide, too gleaming smile. Like somehow you standing there should be impossible. The smile had made his already handsome features even more striking but a shiver had crawled down your spine when you saw it. For it held an almost malicious, cutting edge to it when he grasped your hand in his.

“I’m...I’m sorry. I just never expected,” he had whispered then, breathless and shaky, the grip on your hand almost painfully tight. “I never dared to hope that this Earth...that you would be here too.”

And then he had lifted your hand in front of everyone and kissed it. You snatched it back as quickly as possible but the damage was done. Quentin pulled away too; awkward and apologetic, and although his words had rung false in your ears, Fury stepped in nevertheless, pacifying the situation immediately. The long look he shared with Maria after the moment was over was almost impossible to miss for a trained eye though. 

You had agreed to move past the uncomfortable first encounter to deal with the Elementals situation but things remained tense between you. 

Over the past week, you caught Quentin looking at you often. Sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with a thoughtful expression on his face. Most often than not though, his face was carefully blank. But you couldn’t help but read something close to annoyance in the subtle pursuing of his lips and the tightens around his eyes whenever he gazed at you.

Fury had been clear though: whatever issues you had, you had to sort out. Beck was proving to be the best and only weapon against these destructive monstrosities. 

“My dad,” you blurted out, tugging your wrist away when he continued holding on. He let you go, fingers lingering for a moment too long, and you cleared your throat, glancing away and then back at him. His expression was mild, open, intently focused on and you licked your lips unsurely. You hoped that by talking with him and clearing the air, you would be making your work situation easier but now you weren’t so sure anymore. “During the Blip? For me, it was a split second. Blink, he’s alive. Blink, he’s gone. He...he died thinking I was dead. I wish I could...I wish I could just let him know, you know? So, I’m sorry this happened to you. I really am.”

“You were close to him on my Earth,” he said after a beat, his words soft—like a secret. “He loved you dearly.”

“You knew my dad?” you asked quietly, unsurely, a lump suddenly in your throat. “How?”

He gave a one-shouldered shrug, almost forcefully casual before glancing down, “We were friends,” he said simply. Like that was supposed to explain everything. 

“Do you kiss all your friends upon seeing them?”

That gave him a pause, his eyes flickering back to your face, eyebrows pinching, “We were...close.”

“Close, huh?” you repeated, crossing your arms over your chest, unable to shake the sceptic sting you felt at his words, “And what did...other me and you talk about, exactly?”

This time, he moved from his spot against the wall, coming to a stop only inches away, “Well you liked my powers a lot,” he said lowly. “Give me your hands.”

“Excuse me?”

His smile was slow, almost sly, “Don’t you trust me?”

You tried not to snort at his words, eyes narrowed as you looked at him, unmoving. He waited patiently, a certain smugness about his features that said he already knew he won. Your curiosity would win out—he was betting on it. Eventually, you relented, reluctantly extending your hands his way with a small huff he was too close to miss.

Quentin cradled your hands in his carefully, turning them palms up with his own hands resting under yours, and gave you a grave look, suddenly serious, “Deep breaths. This is very important.”

Suddenly alarmed, you glanced at him sharply, “What are you—”

But you got your reply the next second.

Familiar green vapour started forming at the palm of your hands and you gasped, trying to jerk back on instinct. 

Shhh,” Quentin soothed, his grip tightening immediately, expression wavering. “Don’t move, it’s harder to concentrate.” 

Eyes wide and lips parted, you stared in mute awe as tiny green tornadoes started forming in your hands, swirling lazily into life.

“Oh wow,” you breathed quietly, staring at your hands, momentarily mesmerized. Until a moment later, an alarming thought crossed your mind. “My hands aren't going to...fall off or something, right?”

He laughed at that, one corner of his mouth curving to side as he peered at you. For the first time since you met him, the almost mischievous expression on his face appeared genuine. 

“Not unless you sneeze,” he pointed out idly, tone light enough that you knew he was joking, and you rolled your eyes at him. “Like it?”

“They’re fine,” you replied coolly with a tilt of your chin and he nodded stagily, still grinning smugly before the small tornadoes started fading from your palms. “I’m not really fond of tricks, to be honest,” you added when the last of the green mist disappeared.

Eyebrows arching, Quentin allowed you to pull your hands back, “And why not? People find them entertaining.”

Giving him a measured look, you finally replied, “‘Cause the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he never existed. Basically, it’s all lies.”  

His smile widened, all teeth, and you shifted unsurely, feeling lost at his reaction. He shook his head slightly, glancing at you from the corner of his eye. “You're still the same, huh? I’m glad this world has you. And I look forward to getting to know you soon.”

You absently wondered why the last part almost sounded like a threat. 

With one last look at you, he moved to walk past but you turned with him, “Quentin.”

He froze in his tracks, his back still turned to you and the crisp red cape only accenting the width of his broad shoulders. “Yes?”

“In your world,” you began slowly, dreading the answer you already knew. “You said that everyone died. That includes me, right?”

“Yes,” he agreed, turning to look at you, expression grievous and gaze impossibly sad. “Yes, you did. In my arms.”

And then he walked away without another word, and you tried—and failed—to fight back the sudden chill in your bones. 

And the sadness.

. . .

It would be slow. 

The unravelling. 

Tantalizingly, beautifully slow. But he could be patient if needed. 

Who was he to overlook potential right in front of him? 

He was a man who turned problems into solutions after all.

Every story needed a hero.

And every hero needed someone to love and protect. To cherish and motivate him.

He could do that. So very easily, he thought, glancing back at you over his shoulder. 

Yes. The unravelling will be delicate work, dedicated work, but the end result will be oh so sweet.

Chapter Text

“Hey, hey, careful now,” a distant voice spoke, their words distorted and warped.

A groan bubbled at the back of your throat; a weak sound of a wounded animal, and you blinked slowly, trying to clear your vision. 

“Quentin?” you breathed, confused, your sight still swimming as you tried to focus in on his face. “What—?”

Shhh,” he soothed, fingers cradling your neck as he wrapped his other arm around you. Your stomach lurched at the jolt, and you groaned again, noting the way his expression twisted with worry and almost...tenderness. “You were injured while trying to help the civilians. I’m sorry I couldn’t kill it faster. When I saw it hit you—”

His voice cut off, the planes of his handsome face twisting as if pained. His golden chestplate was warm when you leaned your cheek against it, staring up at him in confusion. 

“You saved me. Thank y-you,” you slurred, words difficult against your tongue. “You’re...hmm...you're warm,” you added sleepily, your eye fluttering shut. 

“No, no,” he murmured quickly, tilting your chin in his direction, the elegant length of his fingers tracing over your skin gently. No matter how soothing the contact was, the motion still made you wince in pain, and you shifted away from the delicate touch. “Stay awake for me, honey. Can you do that?”

“I’m...no…”

Quentin’s arms tightened around you slightly, pulling you close, and the last thing you saw before you closed your eyes was his striking face staring down at you. “It’s alright,” he whispered, silky soft and comforting. “Don’t worry. I’ll be right there when you wake up.” 

By the time the darkness took you, the memory of the slight, sly smile curving his mouth was already gone. 

. . .

Waking up the second time was slower, and more painful. 

Your head was pounding, your body ached and your mouth felt dry when you tried to swallow weakly. 

“Here.”

A glass of water appeared in front of your face and you leaned in clumsily, clicking your teeth against the glass in your hurry. 

“Careful now,” a familiar voice cautioned, and you blinked a few times to clear your vision. Quentin sat beside you, still clad in his ridiculously extravagant armour as he held out a glass of water in your direction. “Here, let me.”

He leaned closer and you had to hold back your instinctive response to jerk back from someone trying to evade your personal space. He paused for a second upon seeing your reaction, his expression crumbling, and a hint of sadness breaking free. 

“You’re safe,” he insisted, tone almost cutting, “The threat has been neutralized. It will never hurt you again. I made sure of it.”

Your fingers hovered over the bandages around your forehead before you looked at Quentin again, still silent. You reached for the water in his hand carefully, your fingers brushing against his for a moment. He didn’t let go of the glass though, his gaze worried as he stared at you. 

“Your fingers are shaking too badly,” he said quietly, his words a soft lull that made you want to lean into him. “Let me.”

This time when he moved closer, you kept perfectly still, your wary gaze still focused on him as you took slow, methodical sips of water. It felt awkward to be this vulnerable in front of him but Quentin kept his expression perfectly blank. If anything the blue of his eyes seemed to be intently focused on you, leaving no room for anything else.

“Better?” he questioned when you pulled back, leaning against the small cot you were placed on. “You were out for a while. Fury said—”

“I’m not her,” you cut him off harshly, your words low and throaty. “The other me. From your Earth. The one you knew. I’m not her.”

Quentin’s expression shifted with your words. You couldn’t quite explain it but the closest you could get to describing it was vacant. Like it was either too hard for him to listen to this or he couldn’t focus on your words at all. 

“I know that we were...friends,” you explained further, your words still slow, and you felt the word ‘friends’ curl uncomfortably in your mouth. “But I’m not her, okay?”

The silence your words left felt heavy and you held back a sigh, realizing that perhaps you were being too harsh for saying it so bluntly. But the hazy memory of the way he cradled you when you first woke up still lingered, and there was nothing friendly about the way he held you so impossibly close. 

Quentin lowered the glass on the table with a loud clatter, making you jump slightly with a wince of pain. His own hands shook and he immediately laced them together, brushing his fingertips against the familiar golden band on his ring finger, seemingly out of habit.

“No. No, you are not her,” he admitted breathlessly, and you felt your heart twist at the despair colouring his hushed words. He chuckled lowly, the sound hollow and forced, as he shook his head lightly, his head slumping downwards. “At all actually. And I...I feel relieved in many ways. You’re your own person. But your face is so familiar and—I just miss them so much. I miss you. And—and it was my fault you all died—”

“Stop, you can’t do this to yourself,” you argued right away, shifting into a sitting position with a small huff of pain. “It will not bring them back, that’s true, but what you’re doing now? Fighting and saving this world even though you’re grieving so much? Even though you don’t owe us anything? That takes a special kind of strength and bravery. You’re a hero, Quentin. I know it may not be much comfort to you now but—”

No,” he cut in, his voice rough and thick with emotion, as his fingers reached out and wrapped around yours. He glanced up at you, his eyes shining with an almost feverish light. “No, you have no idea how much that means to me. Especially coming from you.” 

“I’m a nobody with nothing to my name,” you replied wryly, contemplating moving your hands away but his were...warm. “Hardly the stuff of legend. Or anyone you should care about.”

The now familiar crooked grin curved one side of his mouth in reply, “Then we’re just alike, you and I, and I take comfort in that.”

Trying to keep your sceptic scoff at bay, you shook your head, immediately regretting the decision when you felt another sharp sting of pain slice through you. 

“Dunno. Doubt I could pull off that cape, Quentin,” you said through gritted teeth, flashing him a weak smile. “I think I would trip over it and crack my teeth on the pavement the first chance I got.”

There was something secretive, almost curious, about the way he was gazing at you at that moment—like he was working hard to peak into you and unravel you from within. His hands were still—irritatingly, maddeningly—comforting and warm around yours, but then there were his eyes. Maybe it was because they were such a distinct shade of blue but for some reason, they always managed to insert a sliver of ice into your heart whenever he looked at you liked that. 

“What?”

Quentin looked away with a grin before pulling his hands away from yours, letting his fingers graze against yours. Despite your carefully constructed composure of calm, you almost exhaled in relief when you felt the sudden tension between you fade.  

“It’s just…” he trailed off, unsure, eyes downcast. “I like the way you say my name. Makes me feel like you can actually see me. Purposeful. It’s pretty stupid, I know. The other you had that gift too. I suppose it’s one of the few similarities you share.”

Oh.” 

Awkward.

It would be a lie to say that your stomach didn’t flip pleasantly at his words. But Quentin was a man grieving for his lost family and with a potential global catastrophe on his hands. He had bigger worries. As did you. 

Besides, you weren’t too sure any interest on his side would come from a healthy emotional state, considering the shock of what he had recently gone through.

And yet—

“It’s a quirky name so I guess I like saying it.”

His eyes sparked with life and he grinned widely. And you ignored the familiar shiver down your spine that whispered how this wasn’t a man smiling at you but a predator baring its teeth at its prey. 

“Good.”

. . .

He won’t have to fake it.

Which, in hindsight, was probably one of the best things to come from this sticky situation. 

You were no striking beauty, that much was true, but you face held a peculiar pleasantness he could not quite put his finger on. You were shrewd—as if he could deal with an idiot, honestly. Witty too, but only when you wanted to be which reminded him more of himself than he would care to admit. You had better instincts than most as well which was what drove him to be pushier about his plan in the first place. 

He had to pull you in, he had to warm his way inside.

And he wanted it too.

He didn’t really deserve this, but he wanted it anyway.

It was surprising. Initially, he expected you to be a side project, a safe-guard, another twist in the story for him to use later. 

But now.

No, he won’t have to fake it. And that was brilliant because he couldn’t think of anything more tedious and irritating if he tried—well maybe having to listen to Peter whining about his teenage hormones but sacrifices for the greater cause and all that. 

He knew faking it simply left too many open doors for errors in the long run, and there could not be any. He worked too long and hard for everything to crumble now. 

Quentin flexed his fingers slowly, gazing at them curiously. He could still feel the phantom warmth of your hand in his. 

You’re a hero, Quentin.

He smiled, fingers folding into a gentle fist, and sighed in satisfaction for the first time since Tony Stark’s death. 

Chapter Text

Life can be over in a moment. 

For you, it was over in a blink. It hadn’t felt like dying—not really. It had felt like...weightlessness. Freedom. As twisted as it sounded. For you it was a breath, for the world it was five years. 

When you came back the world had moved on; a cold, foreign place that made you constantly feel out of step. And then the news about your dad…

Biting back a sigh, you approached the familiar figure with no small amount of wariness. 

“You okay, kiddo? I know this all seems sudden.”

Peter’s wide-eyed stare greeted you and he stuttered, his expression faltering upon seeing you. “(Name)? Oh. Y-You’re here too? I mean—yeah, it makes sense. I just haven’t seen you since…”

Since the funeral. 

The memory was still bitter and far too fresh in your mind, but you knew it was even worse for Peter. Tony, for all his faults and virtues, was like a father figure to Peter. His death had affected the boy on a level you suspected it affected very few. You knew how much it stung to lose a parent, and had protested loudly when Fury insisted on bringing Peter in for the Elementals situation. The kid deserved some time away from all this—from the chaos and death, especially since his grief was still so fresh. 

“I’m sorry,” you muttered apologetically, meaning every word. “Everything has been crazy since the battle, and I know that’s no excuse, but there never seems to be enough time to check in.”

Peter’s face was like an open book, and you almost winced at the flicker of hurt you saw in his doe-like eyes. “No, no—it’s okay. I completely understand. You have all this to deal with,” he finished off awkwardly, gesturing his hand vaguely towards the temporary base you had set up. “Though—I was wondering if m-maybe…”

“Out with it, Peter,” you said with a wry twist of your mouth and held back a smile at the embarrassed shuffle he did. “What do you need?” 

“I was just wondering if you could please talk with Mr Fury and explain to him that—that, I just want to enjoy my trip,” he rushed out, an almost desperate edge to his words. “And I appreciate him needing my help—really, I do, it’s a real honour—but I just need...time.”

Your face creased with worry and you place your hand on Peter’s shoulder, stepping closer. You expected him to push your hand away the same way most flustered teenage boys would, but he only leaned into your touch and your heart clenched at the sheen of raw pain suddenly reflecting in Peter’s eyes. Sometimes—too often—this boy was so amazing, it was hard to remember that he was still just a boy. Still growing, still developing. That just because he could fight toe-to-toe with some of the strongest and best out there, his heart was still young, still barren of scars and heartache. 

Though, you suspected that had changed now. 

He was no longer that same wide-eyed, awestruck kid Tony had introduced you to with a snarky grin and a pointed look in your direction. 

Peter was a good kid though, and it twisted your stomach just thinking how isolated he must be feeling. How torn apart. 

“Peter,” you addressed him, the syllables of his name full of worry, “Do you want to talk? It’s normal to not feel okay, kiddo. Talk with someone. Even if it’s not me, then your friends or aunt.” 

He looked up at you, eyes shining, and shook his head weakly, “No, they won’t—they won’t understand. Would it...would it be okay...if you? Would you mind? I don’t want to bother you.”

“You’re never bothering me, Peter.”

“But the Elementals—”

“Have people far more capable and powerful than me dealing with it,” you cut him off, giving his shoulder a squeeze and a small, warm smile. “If you want to talk right now—”

“Mr Parker, there you are,” a familiar voice interrupted loudly from behind you, and you turned sharply towards it. “It’s good to see that you haven’t left yet.”

Fury stood in the archway to the base, his arms folded behind his back and face stern. Quentin stood beside him, his eyes focused solely on your hand on Peter’s shoulder and a slight tilt of his head. You caught his gaze, blinking at the way his expression softened upon seeing you, a slight smile curling his mouth.

“I need to talk with you, Mr Parker,” Fury instructed easily, turning away without waiting for a reply. “Right now.”

“Actually Peter and I were just—”

Fury halted, his eye focusing on you, and surprise marrying his features, “Chit chat can wait for later, I think. I don’t know if any of you noticed, but we have a big problem to deal with, and not a lot of time or manpower to do so. So Mr Parker, if I may?” 

Peter stuttered weakly, eyes shifting from you to Fury in a slight panic. Giving his shoulder a comforting squeeze, you offered him a brief smile, “We’ll speak later, kiddo.” 

Peter nodded, his relief palpable, and moved after inpatient Fury who was already turning to walk away. 

Chewing thoughtfully on your bottom lip, you watched them walk away silently. You were so focused on their retreating backs, you almost missed Quentin coming to a stop before you, his blue eyes thoughtful. 

“Didn’t realize Fury was back yet,” you spoke, confusion apparent in your voice when you looked up at the man in front of you. “I thought he was going to be out for another few hours?”

“He must have come back early,” Quentin replied easily, almost eerily calm, but there was something strained about the smile he was giving you. “He strikes me as an elusive man.”

You hummed in agreement, absentmindedly wondering why Fury was so insistent on Peter regardless of his wellbeing. The thought made your stomach twist into knots. 

Just because someone can fight, doesn’t mean they should

“You care for him.”

Your eyes swung from the archway towards Quentin who was peering at you intently, and you felt something in your stomach do a little flip at the burning intensity in his gaze. 

He didn’t need to clarify who he was talking about. You already knew. 

“He’s a good kid,” you finally found your voice, words hushed, a touch bitter, “A really good kid. And everyone expects so much of him. Too much. They place all this responsibility on him and expect there to be no side effects. He’s a hero—he was born to be one, there is no arguing that. But he should be allowed to be himself too.” 

The bubble of irritation that had kept smouldering inside your chest all day seemed to have finally boiled over. By the time you finished your little rant, you needed a steadying breath, your heart beating just a few beats too fast. 

“Sorry.”

“Never apologize for caring about people and their feelings,” he told you seriously, and you couldn’t help but feel like there was something being unsaid. “Not enough people do.”    

“That’s deep, Quentin,” you joked with a tired smile, “I wish I could change things but...well...”

You shrugged helplessly, feeling angry on Peter’s behalf and your own too. That no matter what you did or achieved, your voice still mattered little in the grand scheme of things. 

You were so lost in thought, you didn’t feel Quentin take a step closer. Not until his warm fingers brushed against your face, the pad of his thumb skimming under your eye delicately. 

He observed you shrewdly, his eyebrows heavily furrowed, “You look tired, honey.”

A pleasant shiver raced down your spine at his nearness, at his touch, and the low baritone of his voice as his eyes slowly traced over your features. 

He pulled back swiftly upon noticing your startled expression and cleared his throat, looking away from you, “Sorry, habit.”

Habit?

“Sorry I—I should probably go and find Peter and—yeah.”

Casting your eyes down, you moved to walk past him but his warm fingers wrapped around your wrist, halting you and making your eyes fly up to meet his. 

“Come away with me.”

With the shadows of the underground tunnel dancing across his features, Quentin looked equal parts mesmerizing and unsettling as he leaned closer. His voice and face were compelling enough already, and the look in his eyes wasn’t helping either. Heavy and focused entirely on you. 

“To the city,” he added softly, thumb scraping lightly against your inner wrist. “You haven’t healed properly yet and you’re overworking yourself constantly. And I—I admit that I need to clear my head as well. Everything seems to be happening all at once and I—”

His voice cracked and he closed his eyes with a weary sigh, “It’s been very difficult. And—and you’re the closest thing I have to a friend in this world.”

You swallowed the lump in your throat, trying to force casualness into your tone, “In that getup? We’re bound to grab the attention of the circus.” 

His laugh was a rich sound of pure mirth and the sharpness of his grin made him look positively devilish.

“I can change clothes easily enough, I think.”

Sighing, you nodded your head in agreement, loosening your shoulders, “You’ve been working harder than any of us to protect this world, Quentin. You deserve a break. The least I can do is accompany you.” 

He lifted your wrist then—fingers still comfortably warm around it—before taking your hand in his, and laying a lingering kiss against the back of it. The exact mirror image of your first meeting. 

You tried not to focus on the heat of his lips, or the scratch of his beard when it brushed against your skin. And especially not at the way he glanced up at you, his eyes burning with triumph and a thousand nameless things. 

“I’ll see you soon, honey.”

(You failed.

. . .

The kid

Peter, Peter, Peter.

Quentin liked him enough. He was smart, at least. That was admirable in and on itself. An awkward mess but most kids were. He sure was. 

Admittedly, under different circumstances, it might have been fun to mentor a smart one like Peter. At least he would make the conversation interesting, unlike most people. 

And he was long since aware you knew the kid as well. Your face was a frequent one at the Stark Industries. Though he had never seen you himself—what a pity—being usually stuck inside one of the labs, wasting his days away, he still knew

But he had underestimated just how much you cared, and how much Peter acted like an imprinted puppy when you were concerned.

You began as a complication that turned into a work in progress to—hopefully—a masterpiece when it was all said and done.

He couldn’t afford...complications. 

No, no. He had been denied too much—all his life, over and over again. He deserved this. He deserved something gentle and good for once. 

And he would take it because you weren’t denying him—were not pushing him away.

They say the Devil’s in the details. 

Now, Quentin only needed for everyone to play their roles to perfection.

He needed for your delightful, fascinating self to lose that remaining shred of wariness you still clung to. 

“Patience,” he murmured under his breath, remembering your circus comment with a sharp, delighted smirk. “We’re just getting started after all.”

Chapter Text

“What are you thinking about?”

His voice was smooth and expression mildly curious as he turned to look at you. 

“That seeing you without your usual getup is almost as bizarre as the thought that I’m walking around with a man from a different dimension.”

Quentin chuckled at that, teeth gleaming in the low street light as his arm brushed against yours. 

“Is it really that strange?” he questioned softly, his expression suddenly guarded. “I thought you enjoyed our walk?”

You did. A lot.

But something kept scratching from under your skin—some indescribable thing you couldn’t pinpoint no matter how hard you tried. Quentin was nice and charming and conversation with him flowed almost effortlessly. You enjoyed his often biting sense of humour too. 

His gravitational pull was getting harder and harder to detach yourself from because some part of you didn’t want to anymore. 

Still, that nagging feeling refused to go away.  

There was a certain air around Quentin when you were strolling through the streets together earlier that confused you. He had walked so close to you that to most people you two would have looked like a couple without a doubt. He felt comfortable leaning into your space, and you felt surprisingly comfortable having him there. 

You couldn’t say that about a lot of people. It was in your job description to be guarded, to be watchful and observative of others.  

Truthfully, the silly knot in your stomach was starting to become irritating. Quentin had proven himself to be a man of honour and bravery, and you all needed him. Fury knew it too. Without Quentin, and with Avengers still in disarray, you doubted you would be able to find anyone to handle this escalating threat in time. 

He fought bravely for a world he didn’t have to fight for. He fought bravely for your world even though he had just lost everything. He was nice, funny, attentive…

“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was such a bore,” his smooth voice tore through your thoughts, and you found that familiar—too sharp to be completely harmless—smile lingering on his face when your eyes flew up to him. It painted his features in a different light, a slyer light, and you blinked only to find it gone. “I hate to think that you felt somehow obliged to come—”

“No, god, Quentin,” you muttered, shaking your head before he even finished. “It was a lovely walk, thank you. It’s just been a long day and I got lost in my own head for a second. But you were right. I did need this time away from the base.”

Relief shone clear and bright on his face, and he sighed faintly, his shoulders sagging, “Had me worried for a sec there, honey.”

You shifted, fighting back a shiver at the affectionate pet name, and nodded your head towards the base entrance. The street around you was quiet, dim light and distant laughter making the atmosphere almost surreal. You could almost imagine yourself on a vacation with someone you loved, carefree and happy, as you both explored the city into the early hours of the morning. 

Glancing up towards the moonless sky, you bit back another weary sigh. Perhaps…

“(Name)?”

You exhaled softly at the sound of your name, meeting Quentin’s endless blue gaze steadily. 

“Yeah?”

He looked at you for a long moment before cutting the distance between you. Without his armour he looked so…normal. Ordinary. Exceedingly handsome, yes, but also normal. With Steve and Thor—and even Tony and Clint—it felt like they could step out of the armour but never the role. They carried themselves with a different air. 

Quentin, without his costume, looked like a man you could run into on your way to buy a coffee. 

You liked it. 

“I wanted to ask—”

He cut himself off sharply, frustration twisting his features as he looked away. For a long moment, it was silent before he ran the palm of his hand down his face, lingering on the jaw. 

“Quentin?” you prompted, confused and a little startled by the clear conflict raging across his face. “What did you want to ask?”

He shook his head immediately, still not meeting your gaze, “It’s nothing,” he muttered, a touch disgruntled and you frowned. 

“Don’t do that,” you told him sternly, “Don’t start saying something and then act like it’s nothing. Don’t deflect. Just ask me.”

“I can’t,” he shot back, angry and frustrated, but clearly not at you and at some other outside force. “Do you remember the story I told you on our walk?”

You nodded your head, and upon seeing his expectant, almost impatient look, replied with a confused, “About the man who took everything from you?”

Quentin nodded his head once, the look in his eyes colder than before, “I dedicated my entire life to him, gave him my life’s work, and he took everythingfrom me. Left me with nothing. That man was selfish. He was always so selfish and I…I don’t want to be like him.”

“Quentin, you’re not,” you argued, reaching to touch his arm in a comforting gesture when you saw how his face twisted with pain. “You’re saving lives every day. You’re nothing like that man who wronged you. Do you hear me? Nothing.”

“Then why do I want to be selfish right now?” he breathed, his words hushed and gaze piercing as he stepped closer to you and you felt yourself freeze. His hand lifted, his fingertips featherlike when they brushed against the arch of your cheek. “And I can’t. I can’t ask something so selfish of you and yet…”

“I don’t understand,” you mumbled unsurely, fingers twisting around the hem of your jacket. 

You noted the sardonic twist of his mouth but it was gone in a second, his blue eyes full of something close to longing while they took you in. His thumb brushed under your eye in an increasingly familiar gesture before he dropped his hand from your face. 

“It’s better if you don’t.”

And then he walked away without another word. 

“Stop, hey, I know you’re angry but you need to breathe.”

You pulled on Quentin’s arm harshly, trying to break free from the one thing currently stopping you from finding Peter. But the man before you simply placed his other hand on your shoulder, fingers curling gently but firmly into your shoulder. 

“You’re damn right I’m angry,” you snapped, breathing heavily as you steadied yourself against him. “He had no right. Tony gave Peter the deadliest and most advanced AI on the planet without an instruction manual. Is it so hard to believe that he made a mistake? Fury had no right to shove one incident in Peter’s face like that and use it to belittle him in front of everyone.”

“I know,” Quentin stated calmly, his voice low, “And I agree. Fury was out of line back there. I know you care for the kid, but he needs you here to support him. Don’t let Fury get to you both.”

Inhaling deeply, you nodded your head, allowing yourself a moment to simply lean into his soothing touch. 

You hadn’t spoken since his sudden departure last night. Fury had called a briefing first thing in the morning too, monitoring the Fire Elemental situation throughout the day and prepping battle plans. Quentin had seemed preoccupied the entire day as well, and more often than not, you found him tracing the lines of his golden ring with a pensive frown. 

It made sense. The Fire Elemental was the one who destroyed Quentin’s entire world. Because of the Fire Elemental, he no longer had a place to call home. 

“I’ll talk with him, if you like, make sure he’s okay,” he offered after a stretch of silence. His thumb rubbed a comforting circle against your shoulder blade and you breathed, feeling your muscles beginning to relax. “Only if that’s alright with you though.”

You lifted your own hand, placing it on top of his for a brief moment, squeezing once, “Thank you.”

Quentin’s breath hitched slightly before he dragged his fingers from under yours and you almost winced when you noticed the gleam of his ring. 

Just another reminder that he wasn’t—

“I also need to apologize for my behaviour last night.”  

Shifting from one foot to another, you gave him an awkward side glance, “I just don’t understand what happened. Did I say something to offend you or something?”

He huffed a half groan—almost like he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. “No, nothing like that I just…”

He trailed off, his eyes moving over your face slowly, and there was something soft and surprisingly sad about the way he was gazing at you. 

“The Fire Elemental is different,” he began, and you felt the weight of his pain then. Felt it in the way he seemed to have to force every word out. “It’s deadly, it’s ravenous, and it will never stop—not unless I kill it. But I failed the last time and there is a good chance that this time I may—”

It felt like someone dropped heavy stones inside your stomach, making your meagre dinner turn uncomfortably at the implications of his words. 

“You won’t.”

The insistent harshness of your words seemed to surprise you both, and Quentin exhaled unsteadily, almost like he felt the impact of your words.

“If I don’t make it—”

“Don’t say that. You will have backup.”

The look he gave you was so serious, so cutting, that your mouth clamped shut on instinct.

“If I don’t,” he repeated quietly, lacing his fingers with yours, “I want you to have this.”

It wasn’t till you felt the warm heat of smooth metal in your palm that your heart stutter in your chest. 

No,” you breathed, panicked. “No, you can’t give me your ring. You can’t.”

The slight smile across his mouth was warm, indulgent, and under different circumstances, you might have even considered it mocking. 

“You still haven’t figured it out then?” he quipped without waiting for a response. “It’s yours. It’s always been yours.”

Your heart was hammering so loudly in your ears, you could barely hear yourself think. 

“What?” was your blunt, unintelligent reply. 

“When Fury first introduced you I thought I was looking at a ghost,” he explained, his voice low and wistful as he gazed at you with a tilt of his head. “But there you were. Alive again. I knew you won’t be the same but…it didn’t matter. I knew, then, that I would rather die than allow your world to suffer like mine did. I swore to myself that I would never go through the pain of losing you again. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to feel pressured into feeling a certain way about me. You’re your own person and I’m glad I got to meet you.”

“Quentin.”

So many things. 

So many things suddenly made sense. The way he always gravitated towards you, how comfortable he felt around you, how easy-going and affectionate he was. How worried he was when you got injured during the last battle. It must have been like seeing his worst nightmare repeating all over again. 

Maybe the uncomfortable coil in your stomach had more to do with the universe itself giving you a nudge. Subtly telling you that in a different world, this was the man you had tied yourself to. 

“Take it,” he told you hoarsely, folding your fingers over the golden band till you could feel the metal cutting into your skin. “I’m only returning what’s already yours. You’ve always fascinated me (Name). I’m just lucky that once upon a time you found me fascinating too.” 

Quentin—”

“Am I interrupting something?”

Fury’s voice made you flinch, and you saw a brief glint of something dark and dangerous dance across Quentin’s face before his expression smoothed. He didn’t let go of your hand straight away, instead giving your digits a squeeze before letting go.

“Not at all, sir,” he responded politely, nodding his head in Fury’s direction. “I was just about to head out and look for Peter actually.”

Quentin’s eyes shifted to you, a silent question burning in them before he vocalized it, “Do you accept it?”

It was exceedingly difficult to find your voice after that, but, eventually, you did. 

I do.” 

Good things come to those who wait.  

Traditional methods proved to be far too slow, however, and he had to come up with something else to give you that little push you needed. 

The ring had been solely his idea. 

All ideas concerning you were his and his alone. 

His team was talented but they were replaceable. He could always find more clever people slighted by the great Tony Stark. You, on the other hand, were not so easy to replace.

Still, the Academy was well and truly overdue a call to him and they needed to get on that. Because, admittedly, even he had surprised himself with how easy it had all flowed—dramatic as it was. 

But that was just the thing, it was easy with you. During your walk, he didn’t need to pretend to be interested in the conversation once. It came naturally and was surprisingly engaging too. He hadn’t meant to tell you about Tony yet, but the words had slipped out all the same. It didn’t matter that you had no idea who the man in the story was, your horrified outrage had been enough. 

It felt so good to see you angry on his behalf. 

And then came your dainty touch on his hand, skin to skin, and it felt like some foreign high had suddenly hit him—exhilarating and uncomfortable as the roll of his stomach.

Well.

One had to become the role they play in order to make it believable.

The Fire Elemental would be the final push—the big push—and he could almost imagine you now. See you clenching his ring tightly in your hand and watching the battle with a halted breath. 

He was rather looking forward to almost dying. 

Chapter Text

“Should I be concerned?”

“No, sir.”

“Good,” Fury intoned flatly, his visible eye scrutinizing you carefully, shrewdly, “Cause the last thing I need right now is to be worrying whether you’ve been compromised. Have you?”

Your gaze focused on a spot just above his head, and you kept your expression empty of any emotion when you answered. “No, sir.”

Fury peered at you for another long minute before his expression lightened somewhat. “Beck is a good man,” Fury said slowly, watching you just as closely, “The type of good we could really use more of around here. I respect that you may have formed some sort of…connection. But right now, I need you both focused on handling this threat. Think you can do that for me?”

Your clasped hands tightened into fists behind your back, the warmth of Quentin’s ring warming the skin of your palm. “Yes, sir.” 

“Whatever happens, I’m glad we met.”

What was he doing? Oh, god no

The ring in your hand felt like it was scorching through your skin and you held it so tightly, you had no doubt it was going to leave an imprint.

The Fire Elemental roared its fury, and from where you stood next to Hill and Fury, you could just make out Quentin’s head turning in your direction for a moment. He must have said something that was lost to the roar of the monster because the next moment familiar green glow started surrounding him. His body convulsed, and you just made out Peter’s terrified shout before Quentin drove straight for the Elemental. 

You didn’t realize you were running till the blinding green light took your sight, causing you to stumble against the debris. You knees creaked as you braced against a fallen chunk of a fallen building, scratching your palm on the coarse stone. Spots danced in your vision and you shook your head a few times, trying to locate Quentin or Peter in the leftover chaos. 

The Elemental was gone. 

Not even a trace of it remained—only the mayhem the fight with it had left behind. It was while taking in the damage that you spotted Peter—now clad in all black—rushing towards a lifeless figure on the ground. 

Your stomach sank at the sight, and you dashed forward too, your fingers still impossibly rigid around the band of metal in your palm. 

“Beck?” 

Peter’s voice was small and thin in a way that told you he was barely holding himself together. It was clear that this struck too close to the memory of having to kneel in front of Tony as he faded away. 

You rushed to them, falling hard on your knees next to the motionless Quentin. His face was covered in dust and dirt, small beads of sweat still clinging to his brow as he lay unmoving on his back. 

“Quentin?” you whispered thickly, hovering your hand over his burning cheek. “Quentin, can you hear us?”

Your fingers started to tremble the longer he remained unresponsive, and you heard Peter’s breathing pick up in panic. 

Quentin?” you repeated with more force, your fingers coming to rest against his cheek. 

A raspy groan filled the still evening air, and his head turned slightly to nuzzle into your hand, his eyes fluttering open weakly. 

“(Name)? Am—am I dead?”

A gust of relieved breath escaped you and you laughed weakly, shaking your head, “No you’re not. Quentin, you did it. You destroyed it.”

His expression softened with wonderment and he exhaled softly, eyes shutting briefly, “You’re safe then.”

“Oh, thank god,” Peter exhaled shakily and you chuckled, nodding your head at him in reassurance. 

At least for tonight, you had avoided more casualties. 

You looked back at Quentin only to find him already gazing at you, his eyes half-lidded. It was hard to find appropriate words to say to him after what just happened, and especially after the bombshell he dropped on you before the battle. 

Married.

Some version of you had loved this man. And you could see why. 

Swallowing thickly, you pulled back your hand from the warmth of his cheek, already missing the scratch of his heavy stubble against your skin. 

His expression fell slightly when you drew back but he schooled his features within seconds, grasping firmly onto the hand Peter eagerly offered to him. 

“You okay, Peter?” you questioned as you navigated Quentin’s weakened body into a sitting position. “No injuries?”

“Yeah—no, I’m totally okay,” Peter quipped back right away, still sounding a bit frazzled. It was hard to keep your composure under these circumstances, so it was understandable. “Just peachy.”

When Hill and Fury found you moments later, you weren’t surprised to hear about Fury’s offer to Quentin. He would fit in, and Fury was right, this world needed someone like him. 

Someone who would be willing to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Someone who would not only be a good leader but also respected and liked. The team needed that—now more than ever, and Quentin could be that missing link. 

You fidgeted with the ring in your hand, stiffly standing to the side when Fury turned his attention to Peter. 

“The choice is yours.”

Your bones almost groaned from how hard you were clenching your jaw. It was only respect and sheer force of will that stopped you from opening your mouth and snapping at Fury that what he was doing was not only unfair but also cruel

Fury had always been a ruthless man—he lived a world where he had to be one, but he was always fair too. That’s why you worked by his side for all these years. Not because he went around putting psychological pressure on grieving teenagers.  

“C’mon, I’m treating you both to drinks,” Quentin spoke up and you blinked yourself out of your stupor, your fidgeting fingers stilling for a moment. 

“I can’t,” you said softly, ignoring the way Quentin’s eyes drilled into you at your reply. “You two should go ahead though.”

“What, why?” Peter spoke up, turning his doe eyes your way, “It—it might be fun. Just like the old days,” he added, a touch softer and your heart twisted. 

The old days.

Yeah. You still remembered those. How Peter used to come to Stark Industries under the guise of his “internship” which always ended up being either training or you two crashing Tony’s private lab. 

Peter hung onto every word—and actually understood most of the theory—behind whatever Tony was rattling on about on the day. 

Tony acted like having you two crash his space was the worst thing in the world—often reminding Peter to stop drooling all over his workbenches—but you knew he secretly enjoyed having attentive guests who at least got the gist of what he was talking about. 

The memories of those visits—the pizza and the laughter and the science you rarely understood—were precious to you. You couldn’t even begin to imagine how much they meant to Peter now, having lost Tony the way he did. 

“After heroes do battle, us mortals have to do the cleanup, kiddo,” you told him with a wry half-grin. “And in case you haven’t noticed, the square is literally on fire.”

It was Quentin’s voice that cut through the night next. “Peter, can you give us a minute?”

The boy glanced slowly from you to Quentin before bobbing his head repeatedly, “Uh, yeah. I’ll just be—I’ll just wait…over there somewhere.”

The stretch of silence that fell around you wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t tranquil either. Tension laid thick over you both, and you absentmindedly rubbed the smooth edge of his ring. 

“If you’re angry at me—”

You laughed; an exhausted, almost disbelieving sound, “For what? Being willing to die for a world that’s not even yours? For being brave? For saving everyone here?”

“For scaring you.”

His words were soft, kind, and you felt your lips tremble before you pursed them firmly. He outstretched his hand towards you, and your eyes fluttered shut when you felt his hotter fingers on your face.

“It’s fine, you don’t owe me anything, Quentin,” you told him frankly, turning your face away and letting his hand drop. “Take care of him for me, will you? I think he admires you a lot and he could use someone like you in his life,” you requested with a nod in the general direction Peter had wandered off to.   

You couldn’t quite pinpoint the expression on Quentin’s face as he peered at you, but you did know that it was making you feel exceedingly flustered the longer he did. The burning intensity that had warmed his eyes was impossible to ignore or escape.

“And what about you?” he asked, his words so soft it felt more like a silky caress against your senses. “Could you make space for me in your life too?”

Shaking your head with a light laugh, you peered at him with narrowed eyes, “That’s dangerous talk Mr Beck,” you pointed out idly, but you still reached out and brushed a spot of dirt just above his brow. “But I think I might be a little fascinated with you as well. Just a bit though. Can’t have that head too big for the fishbowl just yet.”

Yeah, you liked his laugh a little too much. 

After Quentin and Peter left, the cleanup work began in earnest. 

It was a slow slog because the authorities were asking one redundant question after another but thankfully Hill usually dealt with the authorities, leaving you with the management of the actual cleanup. Fury was simply overseeing the process as a whole and was already busy making plans for the trip to Berlin. 

It was fine. 

The mission was over. 

After tonight, you could finally go home. 

Home. You weren’t sure it could even be considered as such anymore.

After losing your dad, Tony and even Nat, nothing felt real anymore. In your line of work, you didn’t have a home of four walls and a wooden door. Instead, you had a band of unlikely people banding together to achieve something greater. For you, a family had been disgruntled arguments about breakfast every day with people made of flesh and blood. 

Family had been the Avengers. 

But then came Ultron, and Siberia, and finally Thanos. 

And now with three graves and memories that you tried your best to bottle down, nothing had felt safe, familiar, since. 

Except

Your fingers slid into your jean pocket, brushing against the ring that sat safely tucked away and you smiled faintly. 

Ironically enough, you knew what all three of them would say to you in regards to Quentin. 

“There you are.”

Your gun was out of the hostler faster than the figure in front of you could react. Quentin’s face slackened with shock, hands flying up, familiar green vapour curling around his fingers. 

“Woah, just me.”

The breath inside your lungs rushed out all at once and you suppressed a groan. “Not…the best idea to sneak up someone like that. Can your mist even stop a bullet?” 

His lips parted but he hesitated in answering, making you drop your arm in disbelief, and slip your gun back into its hostler. 

His hands lowered as well, the green disappearing from around his fingers and you eyed each other silently for a prolonged moment. 

“Were you waiting for me?” you wondered jokingly, your eyebrows arching upwards when you realized he was standing right outside your room. 

Quentin didn’t seem to share your humour, however. His expression was drawn, lips tight and shoulders tense. 

“Fury told me. About you flying back to the US in the morning.”

Oh.”

Quentin took two controlled steps towards you, and it was hard to determine if he was more angry or annoyed. His expression kept dancing between minute twitches that indicated from one to another. 

“Why—”

“Because we won,” you cut in before he could get more upset. “Because we won, Quentin. You avenged your world—had almost died doing it too. You were going for celebratory drinks with a kid who needed it just as much as you did. Because we won and Fury as good as offered you a position with the Avengers. And I…I wanted to just enjoy it and not think about it.” 

“Don’t go.”

It sounded like a plea with sharp edges of steel wrapped around the syllables, almost making them sound like an order.

Quentin took a step, and then another, till there was barely any distance left between you at all. “I know I have no right to ask you this. I know. I don’t ever want to pressure you into anything, but come with me. Come to Berlin. I need you by my side.”

“Quent,” you soothed and noticed how his gaze heated at the nickname. “It will be a few weeks—maybe months—at most. When Fury makes it official you can stay at the new Compound with others and maybe then…then we can get to know each other properly, without all this madness.”

Quentin cupped your face, the warmth of his hands sinking into you and momentarily hitching your breath. 

He gazed at you with a tilt of his head and an odd little smile on his face. 

And then he kissed you. 

It started out soft; a gentle, silky brush of his mouth against yours. It was the type of kiss every girl and boy hoped to receive from their crush—the type of kiss that made butterflies explode in your stomach and your toes curl.

Then Quentin’s head tilted and he became a black hole. 

A devouring, dangerous thing whose gravitational pull was proving to be impossible to escape. 

The switch was so sudden you could only gasp against the intensity of his lips, tongue and teeth, exploring and marking every inch of your mouth. His mouth was hot, his teeth eager to nibble and claim, causing you to muffle a groan of pleasure every few seconds.

The only offset to the hardness of his kiss was the delicate way his thumbs traced over your cheeks and jawline. The softest, most delicate touches that made heat bubble in the pit of your stomach. 

You hadn’t even realized you hit the corridor wall till the new level of support registered. There was hardly time to force air into your lungs before your fingers reached for him, tangling eagerly in his hair. 

Tugging on the rich strands, only seemed to urge him further, a subdued groan vibrating through his chest with every jerk. It was like he wanted—but couldn’t—hold himself back. And that was just fine by you. 

Pressing even closer, you sank your nails into the back of his neck, a near desperate moan slipping from your mouth when he grunted in appreciation again, hips pressing into yours. Harder.

When he finally pulled back for air, it was like seeing Quentin for the first time.

A wild, hungry thing stared back at you. His perfectly neat hair was in disarray and his pupils were so dark it was hard to tell his eyes were blue at all.   

His stubble scraped intently against your cheek when he trailed his lips up your jaw, his words like molten honey against the shell of your ear when he whispered, “Stay with me.”

You may have been a moth, but he wasn’t just a flame. 

No, he was a star going into a supernova, and you no longer minded the idea of burning and unravelling in his arms.

Quentin was going to buy Peter Parker a fruit basket. 

The biggest, most colourful one he could find. 

The kid had truly gone above and beyond the call of duty and played his part to perfection

EDITH was his now. 

Finally, after all these years, the key to everything was under his control and he could already see his victory in sight.

The battle was won, Fury had welcomed him with open arms and…

There was you

You, you, you.

Peter had done everything Quentin had wanted him to do. So easy.

It should have been easy with you after this too. He had practically been on cloud nine after his toast speech, venturing back to the base to find you. There has been a grin on his face and a pep in his step before Fury had to go ahead and ruin it. 

You were leaving. Going back to the Avengers HQ back in the US because the threat was officially terminated and you were no longer needed. 

As if he could have that. As if the thought alone didn’t make him bristle with anger. Fury had picked up on his immediate irritation but did Quentin care? Not really. After London, it won’t matter anyway. 

But with you, it wasn’t so simple. He wanted you to be there when he became an Avenger. He wanted you to want to be with him. He wanted to tell you the truth and convince you that he had to do this. 

He could make you believe whatever he wanted. But—

He could spin you a thousand dreams, a thousand realities, but it would still end the same. With him

But—

He wanted, he wanted

Fuck.

Chapter Text

The call came in the early hours of the morning.

Long after the team left for Berlin. 

Long after Quentin had gone with them, gaze lingering on you like he was moments away from walking back to you. 

You had refused him.  

Had taken his face in your hands and kissed him softly, mouth lingering on his till all you could feel was the warmth of his laboured breaths fanning against your swollen lips. 

“I know how much you want this opportunity,” you had murmured in the centimetres separating you, “I know you need it. This is your journey and you should honour your world by doing this. When it’s done, and you’re content, find me again and ask me then.”

His fingers sank into you, hard and greedy, and the inferno raging inside his eyes made you want to kiss him again, “Will you say yes then?”

Your smile was secretive, and you held back a cheeky grin, “Maybe.”

Quentin’s stared had focused on you intently, the fingers against the back of your neck tightening minutely. “Let me in,” his request was soft but the look in his eyes was all consuming, unyielding. “Tell me you will stay no matter what.”

He had leaned into you, arms tight around your body, and lips hovering over yours as he focused his attention solely on your mouth. Nerves twisted your stomach, a familiar bite of anticipation and adrenaline coursing through your body. 

“Are you trying to seduce me Mr Beck?” was your strangled whisper, and Quentin’s gaze moved slowly from your mouth and up towards your face. 

“Yes,” he said bluntly, making you laugh and lean into him, your nose brushing against the curve of his neck. “I thought I made that pretty clear.” 

Eh, I don’t know,” you teased, pressing a lingering kiss against his skin and felt a shallow hiss of breath escape him at the contact. “I mean you were laying it on pretty thick earlier…”

The fingers holding the back of your neck twitched, and you felt him pull you closer, his scorching breath tickling your ear, “Oh, honey, if you think that’s laying it on thick…”

You felt heat bubble up inside your stomach at the low tilt of his voice in your ear, sly and coaxing.

Trying to regain control of your emotions, you slipped your hand inside your jeans, pulling out Quentin’s ring and showing it to him. 

“I’m going to keep this till you come and collect it,” you told him, leaning back and catching his gaze. He looked untamed; wild strands of hair brushing against his forehead, his lips red and parted, and whatever was blazing in his eyes made your stomach flip. “Come back for it when you’re an Avenger.” 

He was silent for a long minute, expression unreadable, but something lingered across his features. 

Finally, his hand had moved from your neck to lay against the side of your face, his thumb tracing your bottom lip. “I will hold you to that,” he said austere and distant. But then with a blink, his grin was back and he kissed you slowly, claiming every inch of your mouth before he pulled back, unhurried and satisfied, and slid his ring on your thumb—the only finger it fit comfortably onto. 

That had been hours ago.   

And the ringing kept persisting. There was only one problem. You knew the sound your alarm made, you knew the sound of your ringtone, and this was neither of those things. 

Your heart leapt when the realization struck you. 

Rolling from your bed, you ran for your bag, closing and opening compartments till you located the slim black device. 

It was a prototype of a phone. Designed and created by Tony himself, and a phone that hadn’t rung once since his death. 

The thing about Tony was that even though he shared his technology with the world, there were certain things he never allowed others to touch. His suits had been one of such things. But this—

The most secure line on the planet, no one can trace it because I designed it. Duh.

You could count on one hand the number of people that had one of these phones.

Tony had always placed his family above everything, no matter how much of a snarky bastard he might have been about his methods. 

When he had given you the phone shock had been too light of a term to express what you felt. 

In case there’s ever a need,” he had told you with a nonchalant shrug as he placed the phone on the table in front of you. He had moved on right away, not lingering on the topic for longer than he deemed necessary. 

Yes, a need. Like looking after the people he loved most after he was gone. Tony had simply given you the means to reach them without anyone knowing it or using it against you.  

And now, for the first time, it was ringing. 

You hesitated in answering, your breaths laboured as you stared at it, some nameless dread churning in your gut. Biting on the inside of your cheek, you finally swiped the answer button, lifting the phone to your ear. 

“Hello?” you croaked out, your voice a mess of nerves and lingering exhaustion. 

“Oh, thank god! (Name)! You picked up,” exclaimed a familiar boyish voice through the receiver. “Mr Stark gave this to me ages ago and told me to only use it in an emergency or he was going to tell my aunt to ground me—anyway, (Name), I need you to listen to me. Listen. He—it was a lie, all of it, he was lying to us and I gave him—”

“Peter,” you snapped into the phone, the boy on the other end immediately falling silent. “Breathe, kiddo. Back up. Now calmly tell me what’s going on. Who is he?”

“Beck,” Peter breathed shakily, hurt and anger clear in his voice, “The Elementals, his story, it was all lies. He used projection technology and I trusted him like an idiot and gave him EDITH. Please, please, (Name), I don’t know what to do and—”

“Peter, that’s—it can’t be—” you muttered weakly, ice racing through your veins and sinking straight into your heart. Your mouth stung, the lingering taste of Quentin suddenly feeling like poison. You trusted Peter, but there was still a part of you that couldn’t believe what you were hearing. “How? What proof do you have? Why would he even lie?”

“Please, (Name), I need you to believe me,” Peter pleaded hoarsely, his voice wracked with worry. “Mr Stark—I failed him—I—”

You felt like you were going to be sick. “Where are you staying? I’ll be there as soon as I can. Speak to no one till I get there. Do you understand? Good.”

. . .

You stared at the projector in front of you with a detached expression. 

Facts and words Peter was rattling off were sinking into your brain, but you felt hollowed out to the very marrow of your bones. 

A fraud, a liar

It felt like someone was squeezing your heart in their fist—an aching, quivering sort of pain, you felt pathetic for feeling. 

You hadn’t known him for that long, that was true, but you had felt like what you had could have, possibly, one day been something so much more

liar

Everything you knew about Quentin Beck was a lie. 

The silky web, the beautiful spell; they were finally gone and you could see him for what he was. 

Was there anything real about him? At all

Did he even—

Was every word, every joke, touch and kiss you shared with him been a lie too? 

You rubbed the golden ring on your thumb almost frantically, staring at the projector in front of you with a glassy stare.

Why did it hurt?    

“I will go to Berlin alone and find Fury—”

“No,” was your immediate and stern response to that. 

Peter faltered, his expression falling, clearly mistaking your sternness for anger, “I have to fix this.”

Your eyes turned away from the projector and you moved towards the hotel window, moving one of the heavy curtains slightly to the side. It was still too early for anyone to be out and about but looks could be deceiving.

“If he has EDITH then he either already knows you know or he will soon,” you told them seriously, trying to keep the anger out of your voice and letting the curtain fall back into place. You crossed your arms over your chest, frowning in deep thought. “That means that everyone who knows about this is in danger. Which also means that we absolutely cannot go about this in a predictable way. If—since he’s done this...it means we have to plan ahead of him. We need—”

You trailed off, the finger rubbing against the ring on your hand stilling with you.

“Well?” the girl—MJ?—demanded bluntly. “What do we need?”

“He doesn’t know that I know,” you whispered, your eyes closing momentarily. Suddenly, the next course of action seemed painfully obvious. “Tony made these phones himself, they’re untraceable. We can use that. Fury may have gone under, but that the fact that I know can still be an advantage if we use it right. A distraction,” you mused pensively, your eyes fixing on Peter. 

It struck you, then—once again—just how young Peter really was. How brave yet soft-hearted. And Quentin—

Your jaw tightened, your fingers closing around the ring, tightly, violently. A part of you wanted to rip it off your finger and throw it far, far away. 

You remembered the taste of him against your tongue; the haunting, delicious warmth of his body sheltering yours while he consumed some part of you. You remembered the look in his eyes—the dark, ravenous glow in them as he scrutinized you with unbridled desire after. Like a vulture picking out his favourite prey.

Now, your mouth felt like a graveyard for everything you could have been. 

“We will give him exactly what he wants.” 

. . .

“How did he react?”

Your eyes remained fixed on the moving scenery outside your window when you answered with a plain, emotionless, “Pleased.”

Quentin wanted you in Berlin with him. 

Ringing him and telling him that you have changed your mind, that you weren’t able to sleep with the thought of him being away from you for so long, was easy. You didn’t need to fake the longing in your voice—only the image of him as he was before his lies destroyed it. 

Seems like your gut was right the whole time, whispering to you constantly that there was something about this man that was wrong, misleading. 

The low, calm timbre of his voice had flowed in your ear just like the honey he liked comparing you to so much. Except, this time, it left a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. 

A snake coiling tighter and tighter around its prey. 

A monster sinking his claws and teeth deeper and deeper. 

You had finished the call with a gentle, “I’ll see you soon, Q.”

His reply had been an equally delicate, “I’ve missed you, dearest.”   

The tears came then, hot and heavy, and you were glad that Peter was not there to see it. 

It felt embarrassing to admit just how much it hurt. How bitter this betrayal felt. 

You had liked him a lot; a lot more than you should have. And it had been so easy for him too. It had bewitched you; his care and gentleness, his story and apparent connection to you. 

A handsome man with silk for a voice and an ocean for eyes. A man who looked at you like it would be impossible for him to breathe if he wasn’t looking. 

Lies, lies, lies. 

Poisonous and ugly whispers that made you feel like an idiot. Made you feel dirty and used.  

“I’m really sorry.”

Your head turned slightly, eyes locking on Peter who sat curled up on his seat in front of you. “Why are you apologizing?”

Peter swallowed audibly, not meeting your stare and your heart ached at how tiny he appeared in his seat, worn. His face was pale and eyes blown too wide. His lips trembled and he laughed weakly, something wet twisting his vocal cords. “Cause this is my fault. If only I hadn’t given him EDITH...I failed him. Mr Stark would be so disappointed in me—”

“Don’t you dare,” you practically hissed, and immediately faltered when you saw Peter’s shoulders curl inwardly further. You exhaled forcefully, trying to calm down your temper before you reached across the tiny table and gave his trembling hand a squeeze. “Peter, look at me.”

He did. Those doe-like eyes were sad, lost, and your fingers tightened around his even further. “Tony was not a perfect man. He messed up constantly, he wasn’t always nice or easy to be around. Once upon a time, he wasn’t even that good of a person. But the one thing he always was and always will be, regardless of anything, is proud of you, kiddo. So don’t do this for him, okay? Do this for the man you will become one day soon. Do it for you. The one person Tony believed could be greater than even he was.” 

He nodded his head with a weak smile, staring at his lap, and you allowed him a moment to take in your words before tentatively pulling your hand away. Peter stared at his lap for a few minutes, silent, and it wasn’t until your eyes moved to stare at the scenery outside again, that he spoke. 

“I know you care for him,” Peter voiced suddenly, his words sad. “I saw the way you two were always looking at each other and I’m sorry. I really thought—I mean. He told me all this stuff—at the bar, about how much he likes you—”

“Peter,” you cut him off, pained. He fell silent. “We have a plan. You go to Fury. I will keep Beck occupied. We get EDITH back. Right now, that’s all that matters.”

“Okay. Yeah, you’re right.”

Your expression softened a touch, and you gave him a slight smile. “Get some sleep, kiddo. We’ll need you sharp for the job. We’re still a few hours out.”

Peter peered at you with a silent look of understanding before resting his head against the seat and closing his eyes. 

Your gaze wandered back to the window, and you touched the warm band of metal once more—unable to let go, unable to forget. 

“Hey,” Peter spoke up, his voice hushed, tired, and eyes still closed. “I’m really glad you’re here.”

Your lips parted, and you smiled at him sadly, even though he couldn’t see it. Your fingers slid away from Quentin’s ring and you simply told him, “Me too, kiddo. Me too.”  

. . .

You had a plan.

That much was true. 

For one, you always carried cash on you as was standard for any agent working on an overseas mission. Cash couldn’t be traced. You bought one ticket for yourself—just in case Quentin was watching the camera feeds—and Peter had easily managed to sneak in later after the conductor had finished his rounds. 

You couldn’t take the risk of leaving the train together, so you split up as planned. 

You went first. 

Quentin was expecting you, and even if he had eyes on Peter, he couldn’t avoid you without blowing his cover prematurely. As far as he knew, you had no clue about him. While you were no spy, or an Avenger, you had been friends with these people and have learned a thing or two atop of your standard training. 

There was no way Quentin would have known you snuck into the hotel where Peter was staying unless he had eyes inside the hotel which seemed unlikely. As far as he knew, he had won and Peter had withdrawn. 

Whatever little time you could buy Peter would be worth the danger of walking straight into the lion's den. 

You had given Peter possible locations Fury and Hill might be staying at. It was unlikely they were at the HQ yet, though you had given him the address for that too. 

For you, it was more straightforward. 

Quentin had given you the address of the hotel he was staying at. All you needed to do was get a cab. 

Keeping a keen eye on your surroundings, you scrutinized anyone and anything that might be out of the ordinary. 

The station was bustling with life but there was no one that particularly caught your eye. There was a chance he wasn’t watching you at all, or had cameras doing so through EDITH, but you weren’t about to take chances. 

The cab ride to the address you provided was spent gripping your fingers tightly into fists and chewing on the inside of your cheek. One way or another, after today, there would be no more illusions. 

You hoped Peter was alright and on his way to Fury now. If he was successful, he would ring you once. When you felt the buzz, that would be the signal that Peter was bringing the cavalry to the address you gave him.

But first. 

Holding the phone pressed to your ear, you listened to it ring without an answer. Worry started pooling in your stomach before there was a click and—

Hi honey,” Quentin’s silky voice greeted you, and you could almost hear the smile on his face. You could certainly see it; gleaming teeth, menace and trickery. “How was the journey?”

“Fine,” you exhaled, not having to fake your exhaustion. “Long, but fine. I’m on the way now—what is that noise? Was that a train?”

A pause. “Oh? Yes, it was. Seems like you caught me,” he joked and you felt something in your stomach drop. “I got impatient waiting, so I decided to greet you at the station but your train must have come early. I know it’s stupid, don’t laugh at me,” he trailed off with a warm laugh. 

“Meet you at the hotel then?” you attempted at nonchalance, careful not to show your worry. If he was at the train station—

“I’m almost there,” he countered slyly, “Bet I can beat you there? I’m eager to see you again.”

It was difficult to control your tone when you replied with a casual, “Will you be flying? Cheater.”

His rich laugh trickled across the line and you felt your heart ache at the sound of it. 

“Scratch that, I can’t wait to see you.”

And then the line went dead.

. . .

“There you are.”

It was as painful as you expected it.

The impact of seeing him again hit like a physical blow, and you walked straight into his open arms, wrapping around him and burying your nose against his chest. Quentin chuckled, sounding impossibly pleased, and you felt his cheek against your head, breathing you in with arms like shackles around you. 

You felt it now. You could see it now.

Like a trickster god playing at being an angel, but smiling with a smile of a devil. 

You could see right into him now, and what you saw made whatever little doubt you had ebb away. 

“I’m happy you came,” he breathed into your hair, his voice so earnest it almost made you want to believe him. Almost. “It wasn’t the same without you here. Fury is not that great of a conversationist, I’ve come to find. Maybe it’s the differences between our worlds. Or maybe he’s just a bit dull. The jury’s still out on that one.”

Bingo.

You were right. He was still trying to sell you his lies. He didn’t suspect anything, or if he did, he wasn’t showing his hand just yet.

“But that,” he began purposely, his voice dipping as he pulled you back, his gaze fervent as he studied you. “Doesn’t matter right now.”

“What’s with the new clothes?” you questioned before he could say anything else, taking in his unusual, dark camo getup. “New look?”

Something flickered across his face and his mouth stretched into a lazy smile. “Training,” he indulged you, his fingers featherlight against your skin as he traced them down your neck and arm. 

His elegant digits locked around yours, rigid, and he lifted your hand, his expression immediately lightening at what he found.

He raised your hand to his mouth, kissing the golden ring delicately, a slight smirk dancing across his lips. The scratch of his stubble across your skin boiled your blood in that too familiar way but you didn’t react otherwise. 

You wondered then—with your blood roaring in your ears—why he looked so victorious

“Am I a replacement to you?”

Those words, you knew before he even replied, took him by surprise and it was good to see his face crease with confusion. He pulled back, still gripping your hand in his, and tilted his head with a frown.

“I don’t think I follow.”

You jerked your hand back, deciding that if he wanted to be obtuse, you were just fine with playing games too, “In your world, we were married. You must have loved me, and I died. Then you came here, and here I am. I may be different but I still look like her…”

Understanding flickered across his features and you waited with bated breath to see what he would do.

Quentin took a step back and then another. He was looking away, expression caught between sadness and hurt. “You think I’m using you?”

“I don’t know what to think anymore,” you told him honestly, and watched the way the light filtered through the hotel window, illuminating one side of his profile in light, and submerging another in the shadows of the room. “I like you, Quentin. A lot. But this—us—is a bit sudden, and I would be an idiot if I didn’t entertain the thought. Make me believe. Give me a reason to believe you, and the fact that you care for me.”

“Where did this come from, sweetheart, hm?”

And there it was. The anger, the bite of venom in his voice as he turned to slowly walk—prowl—towards the coffee table. 

“What’s my father’s name, Quentin?”

He stopped dead, glancing towards the ceiling before looking back at you, expression troubled. “You never told me,” he answered coolly, his expression carefully smoothed into something blank and distant. Removed. 

“Did you even know my father? Or was that a lie too?” you drilled him, every word angrier than the last. “Did you have fun? Toying with me the way you did. Are you even capable of genuine emotion or are you only good at faking them?”

Quentin turned to face you fully, his expression grave and eyebrows furrowed. A perfect example of a troubled victim, an innocent, being wrongfully accused. 

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” he shot back, frustrated, but there was no aggression in his tone or otherwise. He took a step towards you, reaching out. “Honey, what’s going—” 

He didn’t get to finish because between one breath and another, he was looking at the barrel of your gun.  

“I know, Quentin. I know.”

He shook his head in disbelief, stilling in his tracks, and an angry scoff escaped him. His burning frustration was clear to see across the planes of his handsome face, his head dipped down. He stayed like this for a moment, his features obscured from your hard gaze. 

The rigid line of his shoulders suddenly loosened, and a slight chuckle echoed from him. 

Your heart twisted when you saw how the slow, blooming cold smile curved his mouth into something sharp, dangerous. He extended his hands like a showman about to take a bow after a great performance, lifting his head and meeting your stare with a playful, sly grin.

Oops,” he hummed cheerfully, his voice icy, “Seems like the cat’s out of the bag, honey.” 

“You son of a bitch.”

Quentin sniggered like a kid, teeth gleaming, but this time the sharpness was on full display—like a blade being unsheathed. “Tsk, tsk, such language. Lower that thing, honey, we both know you’re not going to shoot me.”

“Oh, I won’t be so sure,” you replied, your voice full of sharp bitterness, and you hated the slight quiver of pain you heard despite it. “I’m very tempted right now.”

“No, you’re not,” he stressed, bored, and a touch annoyed. “Wanna know why? Cause I already won. See, getting inside peoples’ heads? Easy. And I mean pathetically easy. Just look at how you all lapped up that ridiculous story about different dimensions. But to get inside there,” he stressed, pointing his index finger at your chest, making your heartbeat flutter from the fervid stare he was giving you. Like he could somehow see right into the heart of you. “That, dearest, is the ultimate price. And I have it. It’s mine.”

“Go fuck yourself,” you spat back, and immediately reminded yourself that you could not lose your head. That he was doing this on purpose, and that his gloating, arrogant expression was for the sole purpose of getting you to mess up. “You don’t have anything, and you never will.”

He rolled his eyes, forcing a loud breath through his clenched teeth, “Well, I would much rather you joined in on any future, hmm, activities. But again, wrong. You know what though? You look so adorable when you’re angry, I think I’ll always forgive it. And look, I get it—I do. I lied, blah blahthat’s so mean, but we have to move past this.”

“You tricked me, you manipulated my feelings,” you hissed instead, your grip on the gun tightening, “I don’t even know you. Everything about you was a lie, and I hate you for it.”

That made his smug smile falter, the corners of his mouth turning downwards before he seemed to regain his senses. A blink and his playful expression was replaced with something serious, drilling and…

“No you don’t,” was his faint whisper. “You don’t. You’ll see.”

It was your turn to grin at him mockingly, “Yeah, I do. And soon this entire building will be swarmed by SHIELD agents and you will never see the light of day again.”  

He blinked at you slowly before laughing loudly, seemingly enraptured. “Ah, yes. Almost forgot about this. You know, I’ll be honest. I was very pleasantly surprised. I decided to play along and see what you would do and you were...spectacular. I mean simply exceptional, until you got angry, that is.”

Your confidence started chipping piece by piece, raw fear filling your veins as you listened to him talk.

“It was a smart plan, I give you that. I had no idea,” Quentin explained, his tone full of delight as he started moving steadily in your direction. “That is until the kid blabbed, of course.”

You felt your heart stutter in your chest. 

“Where is he?” you breathed, terrified. “Where is he, Quentin?

He looked at you almost sadly, “I’m sorry. But you must understand—”

He didn’t get to finish.

Because the bang of the trigger being pulled sliced through the room like thunder. 

Except instead of collapsing in pain from his injury, Quentin burst into too familiar green vapour.

Aww, you aimed for the leg,” his voice echoed all around you, the sunny hotel room melting away. “See, you do care.” 

“No,” you mouthed in terror, your eyes trying to locate an escape but as far as you could see there was nothing but darkness. “This isn’t real.”

“Of course not,” Quentin chided playfully, stepping out of the darkness, now clad in his Mysterio costume. “I don’t want to hurt you, (Name). And I could—it would be easy. I don’t want you to fight me either. I may have lied to you, that’s true. And I’m sorry I had to. I really am. But we both know you have a place with me. You want to be loved, that’s why you accepted me. I’m a good liar but not that good. And I can love you. Stand with me.”

You tried to grasp onto your gun again, only to find your hand empty. “What did you do to Peter?”

He approached you slowly—like one would a wounded animal—and touched your cheek tenderly. The grief already clawing up your throat stopped you from snapping his hand in half. If he was even real. 

“He’s dead.”

You shook your head, tears burning in your eyes, “No, no, you’re lying. Stop it, please, he can’t—this isn’t real, he’s not—he’s not—”

“I’m sorry.”

Your lips parted to scream—

Darkness. 

. . .

The spoils of war go to the victor.

And you were in his arms before you could hit the ground. 

It felt good to have you back, safe and protected. Beautiful.

He wished the circumstances were better but it was always going to end like this. From an obstacle, to curiosity to…

Hmmm.

Well, you have become something important, something vital. Annoyingly, insufferably so. 

The unravelling was complete. 

Destruction?

Mutual

Chapter Text

They say that whoever the Devil smiles at becomes his favourite. 

The Devil looks after his own, and cradles them with hands full of sin till you drown in the blood you spilt doing his bidding. 

Quentin Beck wouldn’t stop smiling at you. 

“Do you understand now,” he spoke, soft and quiet, and you could feel his eyes tracing over your dishevelled visage. “Why I had to do what I did? Stark…he took and he took. My work, my livelihood. He destroyed me. What kind of man does that? What kind of hero does that? I can give this world a better one, a better protector. I want you by my side when that happens.”

He let his words hang in the air between you, and you stared at your hands silently, stared at his ring too. 

A part of you did understand.

To have everything you’ve achieved in your life to be taken from you was an awful thing. Inconceivable. It left a bitter taste in your mouth that Tony did it in the first place. 

But.

You also knew Tony. 

“So all this,” you croaked out, your voice like crushed gravel. “All this…just so you could get back at a dead man?”

You heard Quentin’s crisp steps draw closer to where you sat curled on the floor, and he squatted before you, his fingers hovering over your shoulder but you jerked back before he could touch you. His hand dropped heavily, and you heard his frustrated exhale. 

“Stop acting like a child,” he remarked coolly, “This is important—”

“You killed him,” you snarled, fury shaking your limbs and your breaths laboured, manic, “He was a kid—he was just a kid! Y-You monster. All this because of your ego—”

“Calm down,” Quentin chided, still calm, but you saw how his mouth tightened. You told yourself that the minute trace of worry in his voice was carefully faked. “You can still hurt yourself in here.”

You bared your teeth at him; a savage, mocking act that made his expression smooth into a taut mask. “Take it,” you hissed in raw fury, and practically tore your own finger off in the process of removing his golden ring. You threw it right at him, trying and failing, to mask your surprise when it hit his chest instead of sailing through him like you expected. The dull ping of metal hitting the floor was deafening. “Take it, and keep it. Because I don’t want it, or you. You—I will never forgive you for this.”  

The look in his eyes was cold, burning, expression eerily calm but he showed no other reaction. 

“Anger is not distance, it’s not indifference,” he told you softly, almost sympathetic, “Anger is passion. You’ll see that soon enough.”

The world around you twisted, faded and he was gone with it.

. . .

Voices.

Quentin was not working alone. 

Though you could not trust your own senses, sometimes when you focused just hard enough you could hear distant murmurs. He never allowed anyone else near you, constantly keeping the illusion up, changing it up just when you started getting accustomed to whatever he made you see. 

You expected him to scare you, to use his power over reality itself to hurt you somehow. 

He didn’t.

He showed you fields and mountains, beaches and parks. Like trying to keep a wild animal placated. 

You’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve tried to escape, and hurt him in the process too. Every time you did, he simply faded into green mist, his smiles faint and indulgent. 

He believed you would see the metaphorical light he was pushing you to see. 

He believed you were meant to stand by his side. Simple as that. 

Distantly, you wondered just how far he would go to see this vision of his fulfilled. 

“Why not kill me?” you finally asked after an endless silence between you. He seemed happy to sit back and simply watch you. It made sense—after all, he no longer had to pretend to be a tortured hero. Now he was just liar with a sharp, charming smile. “Why bother with all this?”

He exhaled dramatically, and you felt your eyebrows twitch in annoyance when you glanced up at him. 

You were sitting in a field of wildflowers. He sat opposite to you, the bright rays of the artificial sun giving him a halo that made you want to rip into him with your bare hands. 

“I’ll be honest,” he began like you two were discussing the weather, “That was my first thought. You weren’t supposed to be there. Do you know how carefully I planned everything? So that there would be no Avenger interference? Fury and his rabid guard dog were already hard enough to fool. As far as I knew you were still back in the US helping with the formation of the new team. Yet there you were. I had to improvise, and the rest of the plan came together easily. You ended up being Fury’s last-minute miracle,” he explained with a small scoff. 

You glared at him from the corner of your eye as you listened, and his expression softened into something playful when he noticed you were finally looking his way. 

“Is it really so hard to believe that I actually like you, honey?” he wondered, a sly undertone bleeding through, “The world needs someone to be the new Iron Man. I can provide that. And every hero needs a reason to fight. Of course, I can’t have just anyone with me. But you—you’re special, you’re just too used to living in the shadow of those deemed greater than you. Just like me. You see it, don’t you? How alike we are. Always overlooked. Always taken for granted. But I see you (Name). I saw you from the moment I first laid eyes on you, and I like what I see.” 

“If you killed me,” you rasped slowly, your glare unwavering, “Someone else would have turned up. One of the Avengers. Someone who would not be so easily fooled. I may not be a genius but don’t think that you’re the only one who can see things clearly now.”

His grin was slow coming, wicked, “There’s that too,” he hummed pleasantly, staring at you with something hot and consuming in his blue eyes. “It won’t matter soon though.”

“What?”

Dread tickled your stomach and you froze when Quentin shifted to kneel before you. A shiver crawled up your spine when he leaned closer—so close that for a moment you thought he was going to kiss you. 

“When this is over, and Mysterio’s name is worshipped around the world,” he whispered to you like a secret; a lover’s intimacy lacing the low timbre of his voice. “We can start again. With time, you’ll see, I know you will,” he murmured, touching the top of your head before he leaned in and kissed your forehead.

He lingered for a moment, inhaling deeply, and your shock finally fading, you jerked back from him. He caught your hand before it could connect with his face, and he bared his teeth in a cold smile. 

“I’ll be back for what’s mine,” he promised you quietly, his free hand brushing against the edge of your jaw. His eyes pointedly moved towards your chest, and you gritted your teeth at the way he still made your heart jump. “Don’t miss me too much now.”

The sun behind his head burned so fiercely your eyes watered, and Quentin faded from your sight with an amused smile.  

. . .

You tried to tell yourself that it was a lie.

That Peter being gone could not be true. 

That kid was tenacious and even more gifted than he probably realized. He would never give up, would never allow bad things to happen unless…

Your heart stung every time the memory of his awkward, happy smile came to mind. 

He was only sixteen

He had his entire life in front of him. 

If Quentin really believed you would ever forgive him for taking Peter from you, then he was even more gone than you first suspected. 

You had hoped that Quentin was simply lying to you. But Peter would have come for you even if he hadn’t found Fury, you knew that. He was already antsy about the idea of you going alone. 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

You weren’t sure who you were directing your apology to. Maybe May, perhaps Tony, and even Peter himself.

You had failed them all. They trusted you, and if only you’d been good enough to see the earlier signs that something was wrong, then none of this would have happened. Too many things didn’t add up about Quentin from the start, but you chose to ignore them.

You failed them all because you were too blinded by the idea of love to see. 

Because of your selfish hope for something good—for once—the boy you swore to look out for and always protect was dead. 

And you knew, deep down, that whatever Quentin had planned next would be equally as terrible. He believed it was his right to be the next Iron Man, and now you knew he would do and sacrifice anything to achieve it.

“We’re just alike, you and I, and I take comfort in that.”

“You see it, don’t you? How alike we are.”

Your fingers tightened till you could feel your nails biting into the skin of your palms, and you reminded yourself to breathe. 

Just alike indeed.

Quentin Beck may grow to regret that comparison. 

. . .

You screamed from the top of your lungs. 

The sound was loud and shrill against the peaceful illusion of a sunny park with a pond full of ducks. 

Your eyes were squeezed tight, jaw clamped shut as you screamed again, twitching on the floor. 

The silence that lasted only a few seconds filled with distant murmurs—like a far-reaching sound from underwater. 

You screamed again, louder, more pained. 

Murmurs drew closer and you gritted your teeth trying to focus on them. 

After all, how effective can an illusion be if you can’t see it? 

“What the hell is happening?”

“I don’t know but shouldn’t we do something?”

Male and female. 

Oh, you had been right. Quentin didn’t let anyone close to you but someone else was watching over you while he was gone.

Good. 

“He said that if anyone touches—”

You convulsed on the floor, whining in pain, and the shuffles drew even nearer. 

“He also said that if anything happens to this one, he will have our heads. You want to take that risk after his earlier stunt?”

A shuddering breath, clearly terrified.

“No.”

You curled tighter into a ball, straining your ears over what the illusion was telling you, you should be feeling and hearing. 

“Then kill the image for a sec. We’ll check everything’s okay and won’t tell others about this. And especially not Beck. No one has to know.”

A wet whimper trembled your lips when you felt the barely-there pressure of the heavy illusion fade. 

They approached you silently, cautious, and you continued playing along, shivering and crying in your spot on the floor. Mentally, you tried to recall all your training, everything about visualisation of the enemy position, and all the weak spots in a human body. 

“Hey, you—”

You struck out, vision swimming from the suddenness of the movement, and heard something crack followed by a cry of pain. Your fist drove into the second individual’s leg, crippling them immediately, and you rolled, scrambling on your feet and wrapping your arms around the woman’s neck. 

The man lay prone on the floor, clutching his injured face as he scrambled away from you. 

The woman squirmed wildly, and your arms tightened painfully, dangerously, around her neck. 

They may be smart people, but they were still just civilians. 

The man stared at you in terror, and when you spoke, you hardly recognised your own voice, as twisted by grief and betrayal as it was, “Where is he?” 

. . .

If Quentin believed—wanted—to be the hero, did that then mean that your desire—need—to stop him made you his villain?

You thought about Peter. 

You thought about a boy with a too-wide grin, awkward mumbling and a good heart. The boy who did right by the world simply because he believed in it, a boy who snored in his sleep, who used to walk with a giddy bounce in his step whenever Tony trusted him with some cool technology he was working on. 

A boy you found just before Tony’s funeral, silent and pale, with hands shaking and eyes red. A boy who was barely holding himself together after losing someone else yet again.  

A boy who was dead because Quentin had to prove a point. 

Because he had to play at being a hero. Because he desired that slippery, raw thing called power more than anything.

If he wanted to be a hero, that’s fine.  

If he wanted to create tornadoes just so he could save the world from them, that’s fine.

As long as you could, you would fight to stop him.

You would make your own tornadoes—just for him

And for Peter. Because you owed that boy at least this much.

Being Quentin’s villain was just an inevitability. 

. . .

They gave you the location, and they gave you Quentin’s plan too. 

But by the time you managed to get to the Tower Bridge, his operation was already in full swing. 

The Storm Elemental was bigger than the previous ones, causing twice the destruction and even though you knew there were civilian lives at stake—innocent lives, lives you should be looking to save and protect—you beelined straight for Quentin’s location. 

Cut the head of the snake. 

It was a blur. 

Of destruction and chaos and when you saw the Elemental—the illusion—starting to fall apart, there was only one thought in your head. 

Someone knew. 

Someone else had figured it out. 

Quentin would have made sure everything worked to perfection, that there were no faults in the execution of this plan, especially not with how likely it was that Fury was watching this from somewhere close.

You had tried ringing him, and Hill too, but there had been no reply from either. 

And then you saw him

Your steps staggered to a stop. 

In front of you was a sea—a wall—of white drones. 

But kneeling in the wreckage, mumbling to himself was—

The familiar figure froze, his head lifting and the air in your lungs burned.  

You stumbled forward, your hands shaking and heart beating so loudly it felt like something was coming loose inside you. 

Even if he was an illusion—just another cruel illusion—it didn’t matter.

The figure jumped to their feet, raising their hand and waving it frantically at you, “Wait, stop, tell me something only (Name) would—”

Your arms wrapped around him tightly, body knocking into his, and you allowed the strangled exhale rattle free from your lungs. 

Solid. Warm

“Peter—”

Your voice cracked, and you felt the younger boy huff softly—in relief, in happiness—and you felt his body relax as he squeezed you equally tightly. 

“Oh—okay. It’s you, you’re real, it’s really you,” he mumbled, a touch frantic against your ear and you only held him tighter, “Okay, I’m getting a weird sense of Deja Vu right now.”

It was hard to speak. It was even harder to think.

The relief you felt at seeing Peter was almost enough to crumble your spine to dust. 

“He told me you were dead.”

Peter pulled back, and you heard him swallow audibly, “Almost,” he admitted and your blood boiled at the exhausted, soft edge of fear in his young voice. “He told me that I was a burden to you. To everyone. That—that if I’ve just been better Mr Stark would still be alive—and—”

Your nails sank into Peter’s shoulders, “This is not on you,” you stated, your tone firm. “Do you understand? This is just Beck—Mysterio—trying to get inside your head. You could never be a burden to me, kiddo. And Tony’s death was not your fault, you know that. He made his choice. He chose to protect people he loved the only way he knew how. It was his choice, Peter, and his alone.”   

Even though you could not see his face, you could still feel the slight tremble of his frame as you gripped onto him. A part of you was terrified to let go in case he really was just another elaborate illusion. 

“Okay,” was his quiet, shaky response, “Okay. I need—I need to stop him. I have to.”

“Why do you think I’m here?” you questioned idly, coldly, and saw Peter straighten. “No more tricks. We end his performance now before anyone else gets hurt. Any ideas?”

Peter nodded his head, hesitation clear in the way he held himself that told you he was desperate to ask you what happened on your end. But that could wait till later. 

“Yeah, but I dunno if you’re going to like it.” 

“Try me, kiddo. And make me a window to sneak past those things too if you can,” you asked him, moving your gaze around to find a suitable blindspot to use. “We hit him from two fronts. And if you get caught in an illusion, close your eyes. The effect is not as powerful if you do. Be careful. You fake die on me again, I’ll kick your ass myself.”

Peter laughed breathlessly, nodding his head, his attention focusing on the drones as he looked around, calculating his trajectories. He was already slipping into battle mode, the state in which everything was honed towards only one thing: victory. 

It was hard to ignore the lump in your throat when you saw him picking up the Tower Bridge sign, wielding it like a shield and a piece of technology that looked eerily similar to Tony’s arc reactor. 

You could almost hear Steve’s voice in your ear as you watched the younger boy, “Being an Avenger isn’t in the title, it’s in the willpower to do what’s right.”

They would be so proud of you, kiddo. 

. . .

BANG

“You can’t trick me anymore.”

You stumbled to a stop, eyes wide as you took in the scene in front of you.

Quentin with a gun aimed at Peter’s head, and the boy holding it to the side as an illusion of another Quentin faded on the floor. 

He tried—

Peter dropped Quentin’s hand harshly, grabbing EDITH glasses and you watched as the man stumbled back, falling to the floor with a heavy thud. 

It was then that he noticed you.

You strode past the mess of destroyed drones in your path, and felt Peter’s eyes turn to you when you moved past him, kneeling before the still smiling Quentin.

“Hello, dearest,” he rasped with a familiar sly grin, “I was thinking we could grab dinner later—”

He groaned in pain, and your eyes moved down towards his bleeding chest, the dark colour spreading rapidly. 

“I hate you for what you did,” you whispered sadly, your words soft and frayed. “I hate you. I hate you.”

You repeated the words again, and again; a wall, a weapon against what you really felt tearing your heart apart.

“It—you—were real,” he breathed, his words low and heavy, and you could see the life draining out of him right in front of you. “You were real.”

You stared at the blue of his eyes, knowing full well that these were his last moments, that soon you would have to live in a world without him in it. 

Liar.”

He chuckled weakly, the sound wet and gurgled as he reached for you with shaky fingers. His thumb swiped under your eye and you felt your silent tears come harder, blurring your vision. His hot blood stained your skin, but you still leaned into his hand, allowing yourself one last moment of weakness with him. A silent goodbye to what you could have been.   

“See, you do care,” he said with a weak, but still smug smile. “Knew it.”

Your lips trembled when his hand slid away from your face, and you caught his fingers before they could hit the ground, cradling them in yours. 

Real,” he breathed once again, softly, forcing something into your hand before his fingers relaxed against yours.

And then he was still.

Gone. 

And there, sitting in the palm of your hand and covered in his blood, was Quentin’s golden ring.

It was hard to determine how much time passed before you felt Peter kneel beside you.

“Are you—I mean—” his voice was cautious, thin. 

“Is this real?” you whispered faintly, your voice hoarse, cradling the ring in your hand. 

Peter hesitated. “Yeah, it’s real.”  

Nodding your head, you pointedly looked away from the body in front of you, swiping the heel of your palm across your face. 

“Are you okay?” you demanded sternly, turning your gaze onto him. “You look like—”

Peter leaned closer, wrapping his arms tightly around you and you shuddered, closing your eyes. Your arms wrapped around him too, and you chose to make no comment about the dampness you felt against your neck while he trembled in your arms. 

“It’s okay, Peter,” you hushed him. “It’s going to be okay, kiddo. I promise. It’s going to be just fine.”

You mumbled the words repeatedly—a litany of reassurance that made your heart ache.

The words repeated until your voice thinned to nothing more than a tiny mumble in the air between you. 

After all, you needed to convince him as much as yourself of their sincerity.  

. . .

Fury stared at you blankly, coolly, “What’s this?”

You worked your jaw, your fingers tracing the curve of his ring around your finger.

“Not my resignation, if that’s what you’re wondering, sir,” you told him stiffly, your eyes focusing elsewhere. ”I will be back but I’m...stepping back for a bit.” 

“What happened between you and Beck—”

“With all due respect, sir,” you cut him off for the first time since you started working for him. “You have no idea what happened. And what did happen, isn’t the only reason why I chose to do this. I need time away from everything. I’ve needed it since the battle but I put the team before myself. I—I need this, sir.”

Fury’s expression was hard, gaze scrutinizing every twitch you made before he sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I haven’t given you permission for this.”

You suppressed a slight smile, suddenly remembering all the times Tony told you how you should tell Fury to take a hike. It was very tempting right now. 

“I wasn’t asking for one.”

Then you turned around and walked out of the room. 

He didn’t stop you. 

And for the first time in a while, the smile curling your mouth was a private, joyful thing full of overwhelming relief.

. . .

“Where will you go?”

You tilted your head, letting the sun warm your skin, and peeked at Peter from the corner of your eye. “Iceland first since always wanted to visit there. Africa after that. It’s beautiful and rich in with culture you don’t encounter every day.”

Peter stared at his chicken nuggets with a silent frown. 

“What is it?” you questioned, noticing the way he was suddenly scowling at his food. 

The boy next to you sighed—a sound of pure exhaustion, and cleared his throat. “I just—I kinda wish I could come with you. It would be nice to get away from everything for a bit.”

Biting back a sad sigh of your own, you nudged him with your elbow, causing him to glance up at you. “The neighbourhood must be missing their friendly spider by now, no? Besides what about your girlfriend?”

The tips of Peter’s ears went red, and he looked away from you, making you laugh under your breath. 

“She’s not my girlfriend.”

“Sure she isn’t,” you teased, winking at him when he glared at you without any real heat. “I like her, kiddo. She has a bite.”

A comfortable silence fell over you both, and you sat together peacefully, watching children play football across from you. Despite the attack just yesterday, people were already going back to their daily lives. 

“Tell you what,” you proposed, watching his head turn curiously in your direction. “If you ever need to really get away from it all for a week or two, you know how to reach me.”

His lips twitched into a faint smile but genuine happiness lingered in his doe-like eyes. “Thanks, (Name). What about you though? Are you sure you’ll be okay? Y’know, by yourself?”

You tried very hard not to look at the ring on your finger. Any thought of him was still too raw and hurt too much. You imagined it was going to be that way for a while. 

You raised your McDonald’s paper cup in his direction, and Peter fumbled with his, hurriedly tapping his against yours with a dull thud. 

“I’m going to be just fine, kiddo.”

. . .

The hotel door opened with a click and you grinned at your phone screen, dropping they key card on the table.

Don’t drool on MJ on the flight home. ;)

You hit the Send button with a slight smirk, knowing that there were only minutes left before take off, most likely leaving Peter with just enough time to see the message but not respond to it. 

You dropped your bag in the corner, turning towards the bed and froze. 

“Hi honey,” he purred with a cutting grin. “Missed me?

Quentin sat in the armchair, legs crossed and his long fingers drumming restlessly against the armrest. He was clean-shaven, making his features look more gaunt in the low light. His eyes drilled into you, unblinking, and for a moment you thought he was a ghost, coming back to haunt you from beyond the grave. 

How?” you breathed, the word practically tearing itself out of your throat and your heart hammering in your chest. “I saw you die.”

Quentin laughed, low and delighted, his fingers slamming against the armrest with a thoughtful hum.

“Oh, dearest,” he started in a sing-song voice. “Did you really think I went into this without contingency plans? After I’ve been planning this for years? No, no, see you don’t win this type of game without always being the smartest guy in the room. What you saw on that bridge was exactly what I wanted you to see.” 

“As will others,” he added, tilting his head to look at you with a hint of an ironic smile. 

You didn’t move a muscle, remembering the feeling of his blood on your face, of his quivering breath. How?

“What are you talking about?” 

He turned his head from side to side, a little thoughtful, and with a pondering expression on his face, “Ideas are contagious little things,” he explained unhurriedly, like he wanted to make sure you were taking it all in. “But really, I should be thanking you. You’ve been such an inspiration to me, honey. I would go as far as to say I have only you to thank for everything that’s about to happen.”  

The barrel of the gun pointed at his head, and you stilled your trembling hand, levelling it on his curious features without hesitation. 

“What did you do?” you demanded angrily, recalling the fear and chaos he had unleashed just 24 hours ago. 

Suddenly, you couldn't help but feel like the biggest idiot ever for even thinking about mourning someone as rotten as him.

Quentin sighed, rolling his eyes, “Please, don’t shoot,” he stated dully, shaking his head slightly. “Come now, you’re smarter than this. Of course, I wasn’t going to drop by without taking precautions.”

Your breaths turned more shallow as the realization sank in fully. Noticing your grim understanding, Quentin stood up slowly, stretching his arms wide like he wanted to coax you into a hug. 

“As for your question, dearest, I did exactly what needed to be done,” he told you with a small scowl. “Everyone made mistakes left and right because they’re, well, idiots.”

His hands lowered and he moved closer towards you, grinning lightly at your angry expression. He stopped halfway across the room, pointing his finger right at you. “But you want to know what mistake you made, honey? Your mistake was thinking that I was lying to you on that bridge. I wasn’t. And now, we will get to see the fruits of my hard labour together.”

You couldn’t linger on his words, you couldn’t—

A distraction. You needed—

“What did you do Quentin?”

He moved closer, and you loosened your grip on the gun, diving towards the phone on your table only to find it gone.

You jerked around, aiming your gun at him but there was nothing. 

No Quentin, and no hotel room—just darkness.

Your hand was empty too. 

“Well, it’s just like you said,” his voice echoed from all around you, and you turned in every direction trying to find him. Green mist exploded around you, making you cover your face but it was gentle, lapping around you like a cacoon. 

Quentin emerged from the twisting green calmly, and you held back a flinch when he took your chin in his hand, his thumb lingering against your parted lips. His expression was full of ravenous sort of longing as he examined you intently.

He met your stare steadily, and you watched how his mouth stretched into an unholy, victorious smile.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he never existed.”