Wade offered to help supply Peter with a vast assortment of items needed to safely hack into the Osborn company’s system. It took some digging around, but Peter finally managed to pinpoint where the prototypes had been stored. At that point, it was a matter of going through the video feed to find out who had access and who had been in that storage block recently.
As the cameras rolled through footage, Peter made up a profile on each person he came across. They ranged from supervisors, to techs, to janitors. Peter did his best to research reasons as to why they would be involved in such a scheme.
The janitor had a heavy case built against him. He had an omega sister that suffered an assault in her teen years, had access to various places within the company (including secured areas), and ate with a collection of research assistants during lunch every day. He had the motive and the means, and he was in the storage block on a regular basis to clean.
The problem was, Peter never saw any sign of him pocketing something. The canisters in question were about the size of a soup can, and they were shoved far back in the shelving units of miscellaneous objects. Unless the man had a sleight-of-hand power, Peter couldn’t peg a point in time where the janitor would have come across the canisters.
Well, super powers weren’t completely off the table. Anything goes in the world they lived in.
Peter sighed as he pored through yet another video entry, freeze framing when the janitor passed by the goods and then fast forwarding through the dull parts as Peter waited for someone else to enter storage. The only other thing that Peter could think of was that the room had motion sensor lights. Perhaps someone knocked them out and entered while filming was compromised?
And also managed to not be filmed by the night cameras. Peter had to hand it to Norman’s security for his company — it was tight. Of course, that left Peter with no idea where to go next. Perhaps there were other canisters stored somewhere else? Or perhaps the plan was a long time in coming and the product had been acquired years ago.
“Maybe I should just start investigating the people on the list…” Peter mumbled to himself.
“Already on it!” Wade happily replied. “Your janitor there leads a boring life. No underground connections, no big legal connections either. In fact, I have him pegged as going to the same bar every night. He’s a by-the-clock regular.”
Peter groaned. His one good lead was slipping further and further from reach.
“You started from the day of the incident and worked backward, right?” Wade asked.
“Yeah…” Peter slouched in his chair. Hitting a button to rush through the next empty hours of footage. “I’m four months back at this point, but I’m still not seeing anything.”
“It’s a tedious process,” Wade sympathized. “I always hated this part of the research.”
Someone walked on screen and Peter hit the button to slow things down, waiting to see where they went. It wasn’t one of the people who regularly visited the area. The woman was in a fine silk top and a pencil skirt, sporting heels severe enough that Peter winced at the thought of walking the storage rooms in them. Her hair was long, wavy, and white blonde. It wasn’t until she turned to start checking item numbers of the shelves that Peter noticed her very ample bosom and it clicked who she was.
Felicia, Harry’s personal assistant. Felicia did everything for Harry, from taking calls, to compiling his schedule, to preparing his meals. Harry was even known to send her to finalize changes within the company since her negotiation skills were unparallelled. Norman hated her. He called her an indulgence of Harry’s that was often given too much power considering her position.
Peter thought about how much trust Harry had placed in Felicia, and how she was known to carry out every order he gave, no matter the request. She was a perfect assistant. She was fiercely loyal to Harry and was rumored to be trying to throw in her eligibility as a well-to-do beta that could fix Harry’s perpetually single status.
And right there on the screen, Peter watched as she pulled out the box he knew contained the canisters in question, moved some into her large purse, and then carefully set everything back the way it had been. Without seeming the slight bit ruffled over her actions, she turned and walked back out, chin high with professional purpose. Nobody questioned her presence.
Peter felt sick. Was it really Harry? Had Harry sent his assistant on a mission she’d have no clue was as dangerous as it ended up? Did Harry plot it all? Why? Why would Harry go through all that only to be terrified of Peter getting hurt? Peter was Harry’s only omega connection. Even with all signs continuing to point in Harry’s direction, it made no sense.
Wade whistled at Peter’s computer screen. “She’s got a rack on her, that’s for sure.”
Peter paused the video feed and fretted at his bottom lip. “Can you run a background check on her?”
“You sure?” Though Wade wasn’t saying it in so many words, he was questioning whether Peter should be focusing on the assistant instead of the Osborn that employed her.
“I’m trying to be thorough.”
It was an excuse, and they both knew it, but Wade was holding himself back from more than a sarcastic comment, at least for the time being. Peter closed his eyes and tried to calm his nerves. He had to stop letting emotion cloud his judgement. If it weren’t for his connection with Harry, it would have been obvious who all signs were pointing to.
Then again, if it weren’t for that connection, Peter wouldn’t have recognized the canister in the first place, nor understood how out of character it all was for Harry. He couldn’t afford to have something like that be tied to him, not with the tenuous position he was in, trapped between his father’s demands, keeping a good face for the company, and managing the criminal organizations that were after his father’s head.
Was someone trying to set him up? Was that something Peter should even be considering? He couldn’t tell where his emotional attachment ended and the facts began.
“Uhh, Petey? You might wanna take a look at this.”
Peter scrubbed his face and spun around in his chair. “What is it?”
“I’ve been keeping an eye on the underground network for any news on the Osborns.”
Peter almost stopped breathing. “Is there a hit?”
“Oh, there’s a hit, but it’s not on the Osborns. It’s for Norman’s nurse.”
“What?” Peter was out of his seat in an instant, rushing over to look at the information Wade had up. On the screen was a professional looking woman with shoulder length black hair and a lab coat, looking to be in her late thirties. Her name was Mariah Crawford. “Who put out the hit?”
“That’s where it gets crazy.” Wade pulled up the name, but Peter didn’t recognize it. “That’s one of Norman Osborn’s pseudonyms for when he’s dealing in bad shit.”
“Wait… So you’re saying Norman put out a hit on his own nurse?” Peter suddenly remembered the phone conversation he’d overheard the night he spent with Harry. Norman had been convinced that the nurse was trying to kill him.
“What do you want to do?” Wade asked.
“Shit…” Peter turned to look at his suit that was still a crumpled mess at the end of Wade’s bed. “Get me her address. I’ll go pick her up. In the meantime, I need you to find out whatever you can on her.”
Wade’s fingers started flying over the keyboard. “I have a few safe houses. I’ll give you the address to one. Try to get in and get out before the guns show up.”
In no time, Peter was suited up and out the door.
Hunting down Mariah’s apartment had been easy. Sneaking inside had been child’s play. Finding Mariah in the house took only a few seconds. Convincing Mariah to go with him, well, that was a little more complicated.
“Who the hell are you, and why are you in my house?”
Granted, those were reasonable questions for a woman in her position. After all, Peter was an unknown costumed man breaking into her home. Peter didn’t have a reputation, good or bad, for someone to draw conclusions from. Nobody knew who he was. So Peter didn’t fault Mariah for pointing a gun at him and being scared, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t frustrated. They were low on time.
“I’m trying to get you out of here before anyone else shows up. There’s a price on your head.”
Mariah took a step back and kept her features in a controlled mask. If she was surprised or terrified or disbelieving of Peter, it was hard to say. She was just doing her best to stay brave in a very uncertain situation.
“And how do I know you’re not just here to kill me for the money, then?” Mariah asked.
“If I was, I wouldn’t have gone about this by walking right up to you and telling you about it.”
“What if you want me alive?”
“The order is only proof of kill.”
“Who wants me dead?” Mariah asked in a surprisingly steady voice.
That part did get a reaction from her. She tensed up and her eyes went wide with fear. “He knows.”
Peter was about to question that when his Spidey sense went off in a big way. He lurched forward and pushed them both to the ground. A rain of bullets from something fully automatic peppered the air over their heads. Fear shot through Peter as he realized how many of those bullets could be flying into other apartments and hitting innocent people.
Apparently, someone else thought that, too. There was a muffled shot from a gun with a silencer and a slump. Someone complained in the hallway about amateurs and collateral damage. How many people had already shown up to kill Mariah?
“We gotta go,” Peter said, hauling the nurse to her feet.
“I have to grab—”
“No time!” Peter pulled her towards a window, but they didn’t make it before whoever was in the hallways made his appearance.
He was clean cut, well dressed, and sported only a single black medical mask to hide his features. “No hard feelings, but this one is mine.”
Peter shot webbing at the same time the man raised his gun. It dropped to the floor in a glob of sticky and would be impossible to shoot. Mr. High Class Assassin didn’t find that very amusing. He pulled out a knife and charged Peter without another word.
All the training Peter had done kicked in. Wade was right, Peter didn’t need to rely entirely on his Spidey sense. He could assess incoming attacks on his own and counter them with more efficiency than just trying to jump out of the way. The man was good, but Peter was better and super powered.
Webbing the assassin to the floor was really just double tapping. Peter had managed to knock the man out of commission on his own within a minute. He might have broken a few bones, but he only felt vaguely bad about it considering the guy was a paid murderer.
Once that was over, Peter realized that he’d lost track of the nurse. “Mariah!”
He heard something thunk in another room and headed there. She was grabbing things and quickly stuffing them in a bag. Peter insisted that they needed to leave asap. That time, she didn’t argue, just slung the bag over her shoulder, grabbed her purse and some shoes, and followed after Peter.
He decided not to waste any time and just took hold of her around the waist and started swinging them through the buildings to get as much distance between them and the apartment as he could. Police sirens were already making their way through the buildings below them. Mariah clung to Peter in silence, terrified of the distance between her feet and the concrete.
Once Peter judged their proximity safe enough, he dropped them down onto a rooftop. They could rearrange themselves and go at a slower pace to the safe house. First, however, he had a few questions he needed to ask.
Mariah was clinging to her bag in a tight grip as she stared at the unmoving gravel beneath her feet and gasped for breath. Peter was starting to get the sense that she didn’t like heights.
“Why does your boss want you dead?” Peter asked without preamble.
There was silence, filled only by Mariah’s gulps for air. Peter waited her out. It wasn’t like she could leave the rooftop until he was ready. There was nowhere for her to run and her gun was long gone.
“I don’t know,” she said at long last, her voice carefully neutral. “Everyone at the nursing agency has always been very kind—”
“Let me rephrase,” Peter snapped. “Why does Norman Osborn want you dead?”
Another careful silence, and then, “Norman is a very sick man. He is often addled and easily upset—”
“And it’s all fake. Look, can we cut through the bullshit already? I’m short on time, you’re in danger, and I need some answers.”
“How pushy,” a new voice purred from out of nowhere. “Such a strong and dominant man you are.”
Peter turned towards the voice and placed himself between whoever it was and Mariah, ready for a fight. The money Norman placed on Mariah’s head was significant, and it would be unsurprising if another costumed villain took the bait. However, the person that crawled over the edge of the building was not one Peter recognized.
And it was certain that he’d recognize her anywhere.
She was dressed in all black. It covered her from the neck down, with the exception being a very eye catching amount of milky white cleavage. White fur to match her hair adorned the V in her chest, as well as her wrists and ankles. She wore a simple black domino mask to pull the whole thing together.
Peter struggled to find an appropriate place to look, more than a little annoyed with himself for blushing so hard at her outfit, even if it did leave nothing to the imagination. She crouched on the edge of the building like she was posing, fully aware of how limber she was.
“You like what you see?” She grinned in a sultry way, running the pointed tips of her claws along her chest. “I like what I see.” Her eyes looked Peter up and down and he could practically feel it. She stood up, her movement like liquid, and Peter couldn’t tear his eyes away from it.
“Wh-who are you?”
“Oh, me? I’m just a friend.” She prowled closer, the picture of feline grace.
Peter wanted to defend his reaction. As a lonely omega outcast, he’d rarely gotten the attention of women in his life. Though his preferences didn’t lean heavily in any direction, he found women much harder to navigate than men. And never in the history of his life had a woman so very blatantly flirted with him. Peter felt like a dumbfounded teenager.
“What’s your name, handsome?” she asked, voice low and smokey sounding.
Peter instantly regretted not taking Wade’s advice and naming his costumed self. Granted, he never expected to find himself spluttering like an idiot in such a situation as he was.
“How cute. Are you that star struck by me?” She giggled and Peter felt himself blush hot under his mask. He hadn’t worn the gas mask out, and he was regretting it. The closer she got, the more he could smell her. It was a distinctly beta scent, but underneath was something that just… smelled so amazing. She smelled so good. It was leaving him feeling fuzzy headed.
She was inches away from him now, and he didn’t know if he wanted her to touch or if he wanted to back away. She was just so… hot.
“Listen, cutie.” She grinned. “No hard feelings, yeah?”
Hard feelings? “Wha—” Spidey sense flared, but Peter didn’t have enough time to react. In a move that showed she was every bit as dangerous as she looked, a boot hit him square on the side of the face. And perhaps he would have been able to dodge it had Mariah not tased him in the kidney at the same time.
He went down hard, his whole body locking up in pain and shock. By the time it passed, the two women were already jumping off the rooftop and out of sight. A smoke bomb was left behind, spewing dark clouds everywhere so that he would be unable to crawl over and see where they were going.
Peter groaned and let himself collapse onto his back and take a moment to recover. He’d been completely played. And why? Because of boobs? Fuck, it was like he was fifteen again and going through puberty. What the hell?
On the upside, they had been working together, which meant that whoever the woman had been would protect Mariah from harm. On the downside, Peter wasn’t getting any useful information now. Hopefully, Wade had found something.
“Ouch, that looks bad. You need an ice pack?”
Peter grumbled something incoherently as he stripped off more of his suit. His face hurt and he could feel it swelling. He’d likely be mostly healed by morning, but it would end up a very colorful bruise.
Wade tossed an ice pack over and Peter caught it easily, annoyed but grateful as he pressed it to his face. He plopped down on the end of the bed and sighed. “Please tell me you have good news.”
“Maybe. You wanna tell me what happened to you?”
Not really, but it was a fair question, all considering. “Two gunmen showed up for Mariah, but I got her out just fine. Halfway to the safehouse, someone else found us.”
“I don’t know.” Peter gave a general description and Wade started laughing. He pulled up a picture on his phone and handed it over.
Oh, it was definitely her. In the picture, it looked like she was hoping the camera would catch her and posed at the perfect angle for it. After one run in with the woman, Peter was pretty sure that was exactly the case.
“Who is that?” Peter asked.
“Black Cat. She’s made quite the name for herself as a thief over the years, but only recently went costumed. The outfit has gone over well, to say the least. I gotta give her props for really taking the cat burglar angle and running with it.”
“Why is a thief working with a nurse?”
“They working together?”
“Yeah. When Black Cat showed up, Mariah tased me.”
“Well, you do look a little suspicious,” Wade snickered. Peter was not amused.
Walking over to grab his laptop, Wade brought it back and sat down next to Peter, pulling up information. “Turns out, Mariah Crawford cut a deal with a crime lord years before Norman tried to take over all the criminal organizations.”
Peter was suddenly very intent on the information. “Why? What did she get out of the deal?”
“I’m still trying to figure that out. Whatever it was isn’t mentioned in her file. They kept her on reserve and brought her in when everyone turned on Norman and he holed himself away in his ivory tower.”
“So she’s a spy?”
“Probably. It makes the most sense. And if she’s been in their group for that long, I imagine she’s made some friends.”
“Like Black Cat.”
“Looks like it.”
Peter frowned. “If Norman figured out she was a spy, then he’d end up pretty paranoid. That would explain the hit.”
“Well, you got her out and she’s with her crime buddies again. So, she’s fine.”
“But why is she making deals with criminals? Is there anything else in her background check? Arrest history? Family members in jail?”
“She’s all clean.” Wade shrugged. “Who knows. Coulda been anything, like paying off a debt or something.”
“There has to be more to this.” Peter reached for the laptop but Wade slid it out of the way.
“Peter… We know now why Norman ordered the hit, but that’s all his own issues, ya know? Do they have any connection to the gas?”
Peter clenched his fists. He knew what Wade was getting at. “They might.”
“Having omegas go crazy and kill alphas doesn’t help or hurt Norman. He doesn’t allow omegas anywhere near him or his company. It would hurt the crime organizations more than it would anything else. As a nurse, Mariah would be breaking her oath to kill that many people. Black Cat has no kills or direct combat recorded.”
Peter huffed and stood up in order to pace the room. “We should follow any lead we can.”
“I agree, but this doesn’t even feel like a lead. I can keep looking into it, but it feels like you’re grasping at straws because…” Wade didn’t finish, but he didn’t need to.
The truth was, Peter wanted them to be the problem, but Wade was right. Nothing pointed to them as the culprit. Everything pointed instead to the one person Peter didn’t want to accept.
Peter stopped walking and took a deep breath. “Find what you can. I’m going to work on hacking into the security system for Harry’s penthouse.”
Watching the video feed of storage, as boring as it had been, was far better than watching Harry’s personal penthouse and office. Peter discovered that Norman had installed cameras that Harry wasn’t aware of. The man was on 24/7 surveillance from not only his father but now from Peter. However, Norman likely didn’t care about what he was seeing.
Peter cared, and it bothered him a lot.
It was a front row seat to watching how much Harry overworked himself, and how constantly stressed he was. Though Peter still hadn’t come across anything useful in regards to the gas, he did get to discover how many death threats Harry received on a regular basis. He witnessed Harry puking into a trashcan from nerves as crime lords demanded ever more unreasonable things from him. Peter also watched as Harry poured out his aggression on a punching bag after every abusive conversation with his father.
It was horrible to watch and Peter wasn’t sure how much more he could handle. Thankfully, Wade would offer to take Peter’s place whenever he could. Peter would sometimes go to Avengers Tower to help with the research while Wade looked over the endless amount of video. Peter re-checked every interaction Harry had with Felicia, but the canisters, the gas, and any research into omega biology were never mentioned.
The closest they came to talking about omegas was when the news first started reporting on the serial killer. Peter watched Harry frantically text, and then listen to the conversation they’d had from Harry’s perspective. Harry had been close to hyperventilation. He’d collapsed to the floor afterwards and Felicia had comforted him, whispering soothing words as he leaned against her chest.
Peter found it all highly emotional and conflicting. He hated having to spy on Harry, and he hated seeing Harry care so much only for Peter to be so suspicious. It left Peter lashing out at others, or fighting off tears, or avoiding food because he felt too nauseous. When he asked Wade to look up whether there were any jobs to take on a football player that was recently charged with animal abuse, Wade finally spoke up.
“Ya know… You’ve been avoiding wearing clothes for a while now.”
“Why would you even complain about that?” Peter snapped. “Besides, it’s fucking hot!”
“There’s frost on the windows.”
“On the outside of the windows. You have the temperature up too high!”
“My space heater isn’t even on.”
“Then it must be you! You’re too big!”
Wade sighed. “Petey, darlin’, I think you’re in pre-heat.”
Peter froze as the truth of it slapped him in the face. Shit. He was due for a heat soon, but considering everything else that had been happening, it slipped his mind. He stormed over to the fridge and pulled out a water bottle. He was dying of thirst. Yet another sign, if he were honest.
“Whatever. I’ll take care of it when it hits.”
“Take care of it?” Wade pouted. “Why does it sound like you’re gonna do it by yourself?”
“Because I am.”
“But whyyy?” Wade whined. “What about me?”
“What about you?” Peter snapped. “I always take care of my heat on my own.”
“But heats are fun!”
“No. They’re not.”
Wade studied Peter in a way he didn’t appreciate. “Have you ever shared a heat with someone?”
“I don’t have to.”
“Isn’t that painful, though?”
Sometimes, it was inconvenient that Wade seemed to know so much about how omegas worked. Most alphas didn’t pay attention. Though that certainly had societal backlash, it meant Peter was never questioned in situations like he was in currently.
“It doesn’t matter,” Peter said. “I kill it within a day.”
“How?” Wade sounded upset about that. He had a right to be. Heats usually lasted much longer without an alpha around, and they did get progressively more upsetting without alpha smell and pheromones to breathe in and/or absorb. Peter hated how his body craved that.
“Why do you want to know?” Peter started pacing, feeling restless and antsy.
“Why am I not allowed to ask?” Wade countered.
Peter ground his teeth. It was a reasonable question. If he had just brushed it off instead of getting defensive, then it wouldn’t have been a problem. Some omegas sent their bodies into shock during a heat in order to stop it. It sent a signal that the omega wasn’t healthy enough to bear children. Peter didn’t take such drastic measures, but he understood why Wade was worried about it.
“I have a dildo with a knot and a shot full of pregnancy hormones. A few hours of effort and I can trick my system into thinking I’m knocked up. That’s the whole point of a heat, right? So it’ll stop afterwards.”
Peter disliked talking about that. It was an unconventional method to be sure, and he hated how he needed female hormones to trick his body into thinking it had accomplished the impossible in his male body. It always left him feeling very… untethered from himself.
Not to mention, people always seemed to have some kind of comment about the process. Peter didn’t want to talk about it with them and he didn’t want their opinion. He just wanted to avoid the topic and move on.
Wade sighed. “Why don’t you want to enjoy your heat?”
Peter was a little thrown that Wade had skipped over Peter’s methods and went right back to wanting to share a heat. “What’s there to enjoy?”
“Uhhh, the sex?” Wade scoffed. “C’mon, Baby Boy. Heat sex is intense.”
No, heat sex was distracting. It meant that the body was ready and willing for anything that came along. It meant being out of control. Heat was a terrifying inconvenience and that gave everyone around the omega an excuse to take whatever they wanted. Just like when he was a teenager. Just like when Doc Oc—
“Hey…” Warm hands pressed on either side of Peter’s face. Wade kept his voice soft and soothing. “Don’t make that face, Petey. You know I won’t do anything to hurt you.”
Peter closed his eyes and allowed himself to be pulled into Wade’s embrace. Wade smelled like alpha, but more than that, he smelled familiar. It was soothing, and Peter felt his body reacting to it. His muscles relaxed, and his agitation started ebbing away. The warmth along his skin took on a different context.
“I told you before that I’d chop off my dick rather than go at someone against their will. I’d do the same thing even in the middle of your heat. If you end up upset, if you want to stop, I’ll stop. You know that, right?”
The problem was, Peter did believe that. He didn’t want to. He’d spent his whole life learning one harsh lesson after another, all piling up as a case against every alpha in the world. Why did Wade have to walk in and shatter all of that?
“What if it doesn’t stop?” Peter mumbled.
“It stops when your body is satisfied.” Wade rubbed his hands up and down Peter’s back in long, languid motions. “If by some miracle, I, with my marathon stamina and fabulous skills in bed, cannot manage to satisfy you, I’ll give you the shot myself.”
“Look, you can say no. You can say no and I’ll back off. It’s just that I hate that you got this feeling that going into heat is something to be afraid of. More than that, the idea of you in pain and desperately needing alpha pheromones, my pheromones, and I’m not there to help you… It bothers me. I know I got no claim on your fine ass or anything, but… Ya know… I wanna be there. For your ass. In its time of need.”
Peter was silent for a long time, thinking about it. He knew Wade wouldn’t push if Peter truly put his foot down. If he gave a hard no and locked himself in his room, Wade wouldn’t hunt Peter down. Yet, the thought of Wade not coming for Peter was almost painful to think about.
Stupid biology. Stupid hormones. Stupid alphan attachment.
“So…” Wade prodded.
“We’re in the middle of an investigation.”
“Yeah. A boring one. We’ll keep an eye on the live feed. It’s just a waiting game right now as it is. A single night won’t make a difference.”
“Just one night? You think highly of yourself.”
“You should know.”
Peter did know. He had personal experience.
Not to mention, he was barely functioning as it was, having to deal with his pre-heat emotions in such an upsetting stake-out was rough. Peter could barely focus on what he was seeing on camera anyways. And every time he killed his heat in the past, he’d been emotionally off kilter for a few days after. Perhaps actually sharing a heat this once would be beneficial to him in the long run.
“Fine,” Peter grumbled. Wade’s arms tightened, and Peter’s body sang with the feeling of it. “But I can never exactly pinpoint when it’ll hit full force. We could still be waiting a while.”
“Oh, I can help with that.” Wade’s voice was full of dark promise. “You’ve just never helped your body along the right path. Don’t worry. I’ve got plenty of ideas.”
Peter shivered and his body reacted. It knew well how fun Wade’s ideas usually were.