[ TWENTY-THREE ]

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          As they swing home, they remain tense and alert, not truly knowing if the battle they just fought is over

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          As they swing home, they remain tense and alert, not truly knowing if the battle they just fought is over. Even as they change into their soft sleepwear, they are wound up tight. Clover tucks her suit under her bed like usual, while Peter shoves his in the attic crawl space above his bed. May is in the living room, watching re-runs of Downtown Abbey, when suddenly the noise from the TV stops. May shuffles into the kitchen and picks up the phone, upon answering she walks down the hall and knocks on Clover's door. Clover opens it a crack to receive the phone.

"It's Liz" she says.

As Clover closes the door, she cringes as she puts her ear up to the phone, waiting to hear Liz yell on the other end.

"What's up with you" she asks.

"Nothing's up, everything's normal" Clover says.

"Why do you lie to me? I thought we were friends. I thought we told each other everything. Now I don't know how long you and Peter have been lying to me, and Michelle, and Ned...and your Mom but it needs to stop. What are you hiding Clover, why have you begun to push us away like Peter has. Why?" Liz says, her voice pleading for an answer.

Clover has lied to her loved ones enough times to be able to deal with the desperateness, but Liz is beyond desperate. Her voice is an indescribable emotion that someone uses when they've lost someone, when someone has just died and you're asking why them? Clover couldn't answer Liz, nor could she answer anyone else with that question. It isn't that she doesn't know the answer, it's the fact that she knows it and hates it. She has to because it's what has to be done.

With a click of the phone, she hangs up, leaving Liz in silence.

Clover slowly sinks to the floor in her bedroom, tears and sobs pouring out of her body like a flood. She has no real reason to cry other than the fact that it makes the pain bearable. She doesn't look up as her door creaks open and arms wrap around her. She doesn't have to as Peter's warm morning rain scent wafts into her nose. Peter pulls closer and whispers in her ear.

"I don't want to keep doing this...lying. But we have to. It'll be alright" Peter says.

Clover and Peter stay like that for a few minutes. The only two with the weight of the world on their shoulders and the only two who can lighten the others burden just slightly. However, a doorbell shatters their moment of silence and a call from May causes them to wipe their eyes and make their way to the door. As they cross the threshold into the kitchen, they can see none other than Tony Stark standing in their door way, his face smiling but his eyes piercing.

"Ah there you are Underoos! I've been meaning to touch base with you. And I just can't seem to get through to you..." Tony says, his last sentence a double entendre.

May leads him towards the couch, "I'll let you two talk...I'll be in my room. Clover do you mind giving the two gentlemen some space to talk?"

Tony waves her off, "Oh no, I would love to talk with Clover as well...see I was thinking about starting up a youth soccer thing and I'd love to get her input" he says, his voice overly sugared.

May smiles and walks to her room. As soon as she is out of sight, Tony's face turns to pure stone. He stands up and has to clench his jaw to stop from yelling. He points at Clover and sternly motions for her to sit. She jogs to her seat and sits snuggly against Peter's side.

"What do you kids think I meant when I said to STAY AWAY from the vulture. Huh? Did you think it was a suggestion...NO! It was not...it was a full on demand!" Tony sternly shout-whispers.

Clover lowers her head, away from Starks harsh gaze. But Peter looks straight into it, "We wanted to do something about it. We did too...we figured out what he's planning and found out he had a sidekick, Shock-"

"I don't care if you found a hellicarrier of doom! I told you kids to stay away, you don't need to get wrapped up or hurt in this"

Clover snaps up, "We're far more capable then you'd think. Why don't you trust us, why don't you believe in us?"

Tony sighs, "Gimme the suits...now"

Clover and Peter couldn't believe the words they were hearing. Each slowly shuffled to their rooms and came back with their beloved costumes and laid them on the table. Tony folded them neatly and placed them in a briefcase. He turned away from the two and walked to the door.

"You know we're nothing without those suits" Peter calls.

Tony looks back as he reaches for the door knob, "All the more reason you shouldn't have them"

With a small click Tony is gone, leaving the two to watch on in horror as Tony Stark leaves with their greatest asset. It's a little while later that May comes out of her room with a basket of laundry and heads down to the laundry room. Peter and Clover sit on the couch in a daze, just staring at the wall. They never thought this would happen, that they would lose their suits because they did something good. However, the thing they don't realize is why, why Tony did this. Not to punish but to teach, because all great heroes rise in the face of adversity.

••••

Liz could not believe how Clover was treating her, hanging up was a low blow for anyone. All she wanted was for her friend to talk to her, however that seems impossible. Liz just wanted the boy she loved to spend time with her, that too seemed impossible. So Liz puts down her phone and stares at her two other friends around her, waiting for a response.

"She hung up" Liz says.

Ned and Michelle shake their heads in disbelief, "I can't believe her" Michelle says.

"They've become different people" Ned adds.

"What are we supposed to do? Ignore the fact that something is going on?" Liz says.

Ned shrugs and Michelle just bites her lip. It is in times like these that you never know what the rights thing to do is. Their friends are drifting away and they can't seem to float down stream fast enough.

"We'll talk to them tomorrow. There's nothing more we can do today" Michelle sighs, lifts herself from the couch and walks towards the front door of Liz's house. Ned follows behind her.

          Liz hugs her friends at the door and waves them off as they walk into the cool evening breeze. She shuts her door and lets out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. She lets her body slide against the door until she is sitting on the floor, ready to cry. She chokes back a sob, not wanting to cry. But she does anyways because she is lost and so utterly confused, she thought friends were supposed to be open with each other, not hide secrets. She also cries for the fact that even if Clover tells her what she's been hiding, Liz isn't sure if she can ever forgive her.

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