Miles walks into the diner at a little past 3am. It's the only twenty-four hour place that serves decent coffee at a decent price and doesn't give a shit that Miles is too young to be out so late.
Sharon’s behind the counter, hunched over a dog-eared American Vogue, absently chewing on the end of a toothpick. The lights have been turned way down, just a couple of halogen bulbs that cast puddles of golden illumination.
Miles slides a copy of US Weekly on the counter--a peace offering, so Sharon won't spit in his coffee--and walks down all the way to the last booth, keeping the hoodie pulled low over his eyes, shoulders hunched, his pace slow and unhurried.
Today was a good night, mostly. A couple of gangbangers, selling firearms from the back of a pick-up truck. A mugger who tried to get handsy with his victim behind one of those rave places that give Miles a headache. They've all been webbed to the alley behind precinct 7-8. Dad'll pick 'em up, tomorrow.
He slides down the squeaky naugahyde bench, until his arm is pressed up against the tacky laminate wallpaper, dropping his temple against the ice-cold windowglass, and closes his eyes.
God, he’s so tired.
There’s a soft hiss, the burble of coffee dripping into the waiting jug, the muted vibration through the windowpane that says someone’s pumping music on full bass in the neighborhood. The smells of nicotine, sweat, stale eggs, bacon grease. Good food smells and awful people smells, the bite of winter air, ozone and electricity, fifty thousand different jarring sensations assaulting his sense every second of every day, and sometimes all Miles wants to do is curl into himself, so deep he won't see, hear, touch, feel anything again.
Footsteps towards him, the slosh of liquid into a jug, and Miles tenses. The footsteps are measured, and too heavy--the back of his neck prickles sharply. Whoever’s headed his way, it isn't Sharon.
“Coffee?” a man’s voice asks, deep and rich and quiet. It's the sort of voice that's modulated to not carry too far, and it takes practice to speak that way--Miles wishes he didn't know that.
He cracks his eyes open, tries to look bored. “You're not Sharon.”
The man smiles. He’s intimidatingly tall, as old as abuelo, and bald, in those clunky, thick-framed glasses the hipsters in Greenwich still insist are cool. There’s a scar running through one of his eyes. “Well-spotted,” he says, amiable and friendly, and the prickling on Miles’ neck feels like knives. “Glad to see the new Spider-Man's got eyes in his head.”
“What,” Miles manages out loud. Oh shit. Oh fuck, oh man, he fucked up. Somehow, he fucked up, but how--when--how.
“Cat got your tongue, son?”
“I--you--I’m not Spider-Man,” Miles snaps, and then winces. Crap, he barely believes himself.
“Yeah,” the old guy says, and then sinks down into the bench opposite Miles, and pours him a cup of coffee. “You’re gonna need to get better at that. I’ll help.”
“You’ll help--I don't need your help!” Sharon glares at him from above the US Weekly.
“He givin’ you trouble, boss?” she calls out, in her raspy, chainsmoker voice, and the ‘boss’ smiles at her, charming as a snake. “Nah. All good here, Sharon.”
Miles forces his voice down, and glares the way Gwen would. “Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Nick Fury.” Why is that familiar... “I’m here to debrief you about the situation with Mr. Fisk.”
“Debrief me? Hang on, Nick Fury! Like the SHIELD guy?”
Nick Fury grins. “Exactly like the SHIELD guy.”
Miles doesn't drop his jaw, but it's a close thing. “Naw,” Miles says, and then sticks his face right up against the rim of his coffee mug, inhaling deeply. “He’s dead.”
“The greatest trick the Devil played is making us believe he wasn't real.”
Miles giggles. This is because he’s very tired, fuck you. “Dude,” Miles mumbles and sips the coffee. Too hot. Too hot. “You jus’ called yourself the devil.”
“Nope.” Nick Fury grins. “That guy lives in Hell’s Kitchen. Real nice fella, if you don't catch him in a back alley at night.”
Miles doesn't even want to know. “Man, what do you even want with me?”
Fury folds his arms over the table, and leans in.
Miles tries to remind himself he can taser whole elephants. (Theoretically! He’s not a monster.) Also, there's a baseball bat in his right pocket. (It really does always fit.)
“Mr. Morales. Do you think you're the only superhero in the world? You’ve become part of a bigger universe—You just don't know it yet.”
“Yes I do.”
Nick fury blinks. “Huh?”
“I know I’m a part of a bigger universe.”
“Of course I do.” Miles dumps three sugar packets into his coffee and stirs with his finger. “I met all the spider people.”
Nick looks baffled. “That line usually gets a much better response, I’ll be honest.”
“I think I made Tony Stark cry with that line.”
Miles giggles. “Mean.”
“Part of the job.” Nick shrugs, except he's got that little smile that says he enjoys it a little too much. “Speaking of which. Would you like one?”
“A Tony Stark?” His brow crumples. “I don't think you can gift me whole people, Mr. Fury. There are laws.”
Fury smiles. It's the softest he’s looked in their whole conversation. It's the look grandma gets when she talks about Uncle Aaron, a little heartbroken, a little happy. Bittersweet, Mom says. “You really are Spider-Man, aren't you?” Nick murmurs.
Miles wonders if he knew Peter Parker. Miles wonders if they were friends.
“I guess I’m…” He crumples up the sugar sachets and then flattens them out again, one by one, not looking Fury in the eye at all. His heart is pounding. “I guess I’m trying to, Mr. Fury. It's what he would've wanted.”
When he looks up, Nick Fury’s smiling, like Miles wrote the right answer to a trick question on a pop quiz.
“Good answer, Mr. Morales. I think it's time we talked about why I’m here.” Finally. “What do you know about the Avengers' Initiative?