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Weaver of Silk and Dreams

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Peter Parker didn't see the spider until after he had accidentally killed it, slapping at the sudden pain that burned on the back of his neck. At that point it was only a smear stuck to his hand, one with numerous, delicate legs and the faintest hint of blue mixed with red. He hardly gave the incident a second thought, too preoccupied with absorbing everything else during the field trip through Oscorp's facilities.

He was certainly puzzled the next morning when putting on his glasses made a crystal clear world blurry, instead of the other way around. That was... odd. People's eyes didn't just suddenly get better for no reason. Papers and clothing kept sticking briefly to his fingers, too, as if there was a mild adhesive there, but it wasn't particularly concerning. Yet.

He woke up groggy the second morning after the bite, having tossed and turned all night thanks to all the little noises he usually ignored suddenly jarring at his consciousness instead. He tripped over his sheet getting out of bed and landed in an ungainly heap on the floor. It took a solid minute of struggling with the fabric before he realized that it wasn't tangled around his legs or anything; it was actually glued to his feet. The moment he realized it, however, the effect ended, so he couldn't even show it to his aunt and uncle.

Puzzled and concerned, he found himself distracted all through Sunday breakfast, only realizing that Ben and May were staring at him with amazed amusement after he had polished off his third or fourth plate. “Looks like someone's going through a growth spurt,” Aunt May chuckled.

“We'd better stack some bricks on your head before you can get any taller,” Uncle Ben joked. “You'll have to start ducking under door-frames at this rate.”

Peter blushed and put the fork down. By the time lunch rolled around, though, he was ravenous all over again.

The third morning saw him back at school for the start of another week of learning, but Peter found himself unusually twitchy and distracted. Voices seemed to leap to the forefront of his attention from all directions, no matter how he struggled to focus on only the words of his teachers. He could feel the gusts of air over his skin every time a classmate walked past, the thin hairs on his arms and the nape of his neck almost painfully sensitive to the tiniest bit of movement around him. Hunger gnawed at his stomach constantly, and he found himself sneaking to the vending machines between every class. By last period he felt like a wreck, and to make matters worse, his back was aching from the constant tension in his muscles from the stress. Once he got home, Aunt May took one look at him and sent him to bed, checking his forehead and stroking his short brown locks until he fell into an exhausted sleep.

On the fourth morning, Aunt May called the school to inform them that Peter would be staying home sick. He lay curled up in bed, sweating and freezing by turns and consuming bowl after bowl of chicken soup and crackers. His wrists itched something fierce, his arms felt hot and tender, and when Uncle Ben came in to ask him how he was doing, he mumbled deliriously about there being tiny people hiding in the corners of his room and under his bed. Ben and May exchanged glances, and decided they would take him to the doctor in the morning. As it was, they had to wrap up his wrists with ointments and bandages after they started bleeding from the constant scratching.

On the fifth morning, they did not take Peter to the doctor. This was because, when they opened the door to his bedroom to see how he was feeling and bring him some breakfast, he was not in bed. He was on the ceiling, clinging impossibly to the white painted surface by his fingers and toes. They stared at him with wide eyes. He stared back at them with desperate ones. “I found a tiny person,” he said helplessly, letting go with one hand so he could point to a little dot in the corner. Moving closer and putting on his glasses, Ben peered at the dark speck. It was a spider, sitting calmly in a wispy cobweb. “Please don't kill it,” Peter said in a broken voice, and Ben's heart wrenched when he realized what his nephew was really afraid of.

“Come down, Peter,” he said gently, holding his arms open wide. The teenager made a choked sound as he dropped awkwardly to the floor and stumbled into his aunt and uncle's accepting embrace, his shoulders shaking with wracking sobs. Some mutants and mutates lost their homes and families when they changed. Peter thanked the stars above that he should be so lucky.

The rest of the day was spent ravenously eating. His wrists burned and his back ached, and even his face felt tight and hot. He broke three cups by holding them too tightly, flung a fork into the ceiling when he couldn't get it off his hand, and completely cleaned out the pantry closet while also hiding inside it. Aunt May asked him if he'd like a pillow and a blanket when she peeked in the door at him, or perhaps a light so he could see while he snacked. Peter stared at her and blinked a few times before confessing that he hadn't realized the inside of the pantry was dark until she pointed it out.

On the sixth morning, Peter thought he'd scratched his wrists open to the bone and was bleeding white instead of red. After the initial panic died down, though, he realized that the skin wasn't torn so much as parted, and that while the white material oozing out may have begun with sticky, half-liquid clumps, the more he pulled at it, the more it resolved itself into something smooth and solid. Like a long string of thread. Or a thick strand of spiderweb.

It was with an air of resignation mixed with shy hesitance that he displayed this latest development for his aunt's inspection. She held a strand of web across her hands and stared at it for an agonizingly long moment before she finally formulated a hesitant response.

Do you think... we should buy a loom? It's silk...”

Peter gaped at his aunt. Of all the reactions he was dreading or hoping she might have, this one hadn't even occurred to him. The laugh that fell from his lips was so surprising that it only made him laugh more. When Uncle Ben walked in the door shortly after, laden down with bags upon bags of groceries, it was to find the two of them collapsed on the sofa and tears streaming down their faces, still giggling. Once they finally managed to explain, he was laughing too.

Well, why not?” he said with a grin. “I haven't worked with textiles since the plant packed up and moved overseas, but I'm sure we could figure something out on a small scale. It could be a family affair.”

Peter stared at his uncle with slowly widening eyes as he realized he was serious, as he realized that such a thing could really work. That maybe this sudden upheaval wasn't something that his family would merely endure, but could actually bring them closer together. This time, as he found himself once again wrapped up in their arms, it wasn't because he was begging for their acceptance. It was because he felt like the three of them were about to embark on a nerve-wracking but exciting new journey.

The groceries only lasted until evening. Peter went to bed fretting over how much longer his appetite would run this wild, and how quickly it would drain his family's savings. “Spider silk is supposed to be really valuable, isn't it?” he asked himself, hopefully. “More so than the usual stuff?” He drew his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, absentmindedly running his thumbs over his latest new mutations. The scratches he had made on his skin were completely healed already. Fascinated, he trailed his fingers over the tender skin of his inner forearms, noticing for the first time that he could feel something like new veins or tendons underneath his skin. He twisted and flexed every muscle and joint in his arms and hands to no effect, then moved on to poking the strange new orifices, trying to coax them into releasing a thread again. It felt indescribably weird. Eventually he somehow teased some webbing to the surface, and once he did, he pulled the strands out longer and longer, focusing on the feeling, trying to map the new sensation to a muscle that he could actually control.

He wasn't positive that he was making any progress, but it did seem like the web was flowing more freely now. He tried making the strand thicker for a while, then thinner, and if he squinted and tried not to be too critical, he could almost convince himself that he was succeeding. A small pile of silk began to form over his curling toes. It was weirdly soft and pleasant. He wanted to wrap himself up in it and hide away from the world, just for a bit. Just... curl up under a blanket of the stuff and finally mute the jarring noises and the constantly shifting currents of air. Even now he could feel the vibrations of his aunt and uncle moving about and talking down below, even through the floor, his bed frame, his mattress. He climbed up the wall on his fingers and toes, finding that the vibrations were a little quieter up on the ceiling. He stared at his wrists, wondering if he could figure out how to make his web sticky enough to attach to the ceiling.

I don't suppose you have any advice?” he asked the spider in the corner. It didn't answer, of course, but it did seem to watch him curiously after that.

The web wouldn't come out under its own power, much to his annoyance. He wished he could just fire it out where he wanted it to go. Instead it always had to be pulled, which was awkward when he only had two hands and they were busy helping him defy gravity. Crouched upside down, he hesitantly let go of the ceiling, trusting his feet to hold him up alone. It worked; he didn't crash to the floor on his head. “Now,” he muttered, closing his eyes. “Think sticky.”

On the seventh morning, one week since the fateful bite, Peter's aunt and uncle walked into his room to find him sleeping suspended from the ceiling, curled up inside a very sad attempt at a hammock. He still looked exhausted even after he crawled down for his breakfast feast.

Are you alright, dear?” May asked softly when he had finished devouring the offering with little enthusiasm.

I'm tired,” he confessed, dragging his fingers over the skin of his forehead, which looked dry and patchy. “And everything hurts.”

They watched him with worried eyes as he retired back to his bedroom to get more rest. He climbed up into his messy tangle of a hammock and tried to fall back asleep, but his back ached and his skin felt electrified by the barest movement of air. He lowered down a web to his abandoned bed sheet and fished it up, but the moment he wrapped it around himself it was too heavy, too hot. He tossed it away in frustration and started yanking out reams of feather-soft web instead, wrapping it around himself in a desperate flurry. “Please, please, please, I just need to rest, I need everything to stop being so loud, so harsh, so painful, just let me rest, please!

His whispered mutterings became something of a chant as his mind zoned out and his hands kept working. The web thickened noticeably, increasing his progress a little but it was still taking too long, he wasn't safe, he wasn't hidden yet. “It's not enough, it's not enough,” he pleaded quietly, trying to fill in the gaps, but there were so many, and the space he was creating for himself was too cramped to move in easily. “Help me!

The soft vibrations of tiny feet began trickling along his hammock. The little spider from the corner was crawling over his messy work, coming to a stop where he could see her, inches from his face. Peter paused in his frantic work to stare at her. She waved a foot curiously at him, using another to pluck at a strand of his web.

Are you... trying to talk to me?” he couldn't help but ask.

If she was, she didn't try it again. Instead, she dropped down on an ever-growing line of silk and began to walk around him, trying to aid his work with her own minuscule thread. Peter sucked in a breath and swallowed down the sudden urge to cry. He resumed his web-building with less desperation and much more care so as not to jostle her off.

More spiders came as the morning stretched on, emerging from wherever they'd been hidden throughout the house. Their tiny threads added only the barest of progress to his cocoon, but he didn't mind. It was getting more substantial by the hour, and not a moment too soon. He found his movements growing slower, exhaustion stiffening his limbs until he gave in and took a break. He rested his head on his hands and stared blankly at the way the light was softened as it filtered through the tangled veil of thick and thin strands. The tiny vibrations of the ever-growing number of spiders was strangely soothing, especially since they drowned out everything else. He wondered if the spiders thought they were building a giant egg sac, since they didn't make cocoons like silkworms did. He wondered, as sleep finally took him and his thoughts grew disjointed, if he was, in fact, a giant spider egg.

He didn't wake up for a very long time.