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New Amsterdam

Chapter Text

Peter hissed as he pulled yet another piece of shrapnel from his stomach. Just his luck that not only did the new bad guy in town throw bombs, but that he threw bombs designed to shred metal into their surroundings—or into one friendly neighborhood arachnid. He let the metal drop to the roof with a light clang. He sighed and took a deep breath. He had four more of these things to dig out; four more to pull before his healing factor could start to kick in. He would do it; he had to. It was nothing he hadn’t done before. Besides, the shrapnel clearly hadn’t hit anything vital on the way in.

“You could have called for help.”

Peter didn’t have to look up to know the comment came from none other than Hell’s Kitchen’s own superhero Daredevil. “Called who?” Peter asked hollowly.

Three weeks back, the different superhero factions of New Amsterdam had called Spiderman (separately, of course, although he still wondered about the timing) and had issued an ultimatum. Either Spiderman could tell them, each and every single one of them, who he really was—or he could find himself alone, without backup of any kind from any faction.

It had been a hard call. There were people in Peter’s life who were desperate, weak, and vulnerable. With the enemies Spiderman had, they would be easy prey and would die—probably slowly and over the course of several days, knowing his enemies. As for Spiderman’s hero buddies? If they had any inkling of what kind of monster Norman was—they’d attack him. They’d attack him and he would destroy them.

Because what Norman was, wasn’t illegal. In fact, there were several people who, if everything came to light, would agree that Norman was only doing this out of love, out of respect, and out of a desire to protect. If the Avengers, or any of the other heroes for that matter, moved against him—Norman would play the innocent bird, hounded by the wolves that no government could keep in check. They would be reamed by the court of public opinion, SHIELD would turn on them, and there might even be another civil war between them. All because of Peter.

“Kid,” said Daredevil, “you know us.”

Peter gripped another piece of shrapnel. They weren’t coming out of his stomach by themselves. “I know,” he hissed as he pulled it out again, “the ultimatum you—all of you gave me.” He panted when it was out and dropped it to the roof where it landed with a metallic clink on top of the other shrapnel. He gently pressed the wound to make sure none of his intestines had come out with it. He’d only made that mistake once.

“You know everything about us. You know where the Four live—”

“It’s in the phone book,” muttered Peter as he gripped another piece and sweat ran down his back. He wished he had some kind of painkiller to make this easier—but he didn’t. He couldn't, not if he wanted to make sure he got it all.

And for all the talk Daredevil was giving him about “calling for help,” the masked vigilante wasn’t offering a damn thing. Peter gripped the piece of shrapnel and started to yank it out. This one was twisted, which meant he was going to have to wiggle it out and hope that he didn’t hit anything vital while he did.

“You know the Avengers.”

Peter jerked a thumb towards the tower, a lightly glowing beacon that managed to somehow stand out among the unique buildings that called New Amsterdam City their home. “They’re not exactly subtle,” he snarled as the piece popped out. He gave a low, involuntary whine before dropping it with the rest of the pile.

“We’re not asking the world,” argued the devil.

Peter laughed breathlessly as he gripped another shard. “You,” he said as he began to pull, “have no idea what you’re asking.” Another clanged to the rooftop. Another pause to catch his breath, because these things hurt.

“Why don’t you tell us what we’re asking?”

“You want to know? You really want to know?” Anger helped Peter to yank out the last one and he pat his abdomen looking for any more of them. “You told me, you all told me that I had three choices; quit, tell all of you who I am, or keep doing this alone.” Peter kept leaning against the chimney, hoping that his body language said that he was pissed rather than weak. “There are people who will die if the world learns who Spiderman is,” Peter said. He tried not to think of the people who already had died because Spiderman wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, or smart enough. He couldn't put the few he had left in jeopardy.

“We can keep a secret kid.”

The weak laugh was strained—and not just from the multiple holes in his stomach. “Could have fooled me,” he said. “Was it last week, or the week before you were attacked by magic ninjas in your office? Your civilian office?” He used his web to cover his abdomen and keep the holes from leaking until after he could get his first aid kit. The fluid stung as it came into contact with open wounds, but he knew it wouldn't hurt him. Not more than he already was, anyway.

“Touche. But we can help you keep your people safe. We do it for each other all the time.”

They did. Peter helped. He almost, almost gave in and told Daredevil who he was, who his other side was. And then Norman’s evil, grinning face crossed his mind and he shook his head. “Who’ll protect you?” he asked bleakly. He turned and leaped off the building, riding his webs into the night and away from the inquisitive hero.

He wasn’t there to notice when Daredevil picked up the pieces of shrapnel that had been in his stomach, or he might have panicked at having left blood evidence so easily gathered. He didn’t see the costumed vigilante run his gloved hands over the shrapnel, gauging the size, shape, and weight of the shrapnel. He didn’t hear the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen mutter, “Shit.”

Chapter Text

The desk was just a normal office desk; metal and edges. Behind the desk, to the right and up against the wall, was a filing cabinet, because there were some things that just couldn't be kept on a server, not with the problems they’d had. To one side of his monitor was a cup full of pens. To the other was a small picture frame. There was no picture in the frame, but the way it was angled kept people from seeing that and gave him something to look at while people were talking to him. It gave him an interesting insight into the personalities of the people he worked with to know what kind of picture they assumed he was looking at.

The door to the small office was brutally opened and he mentally winced at the thought of applying for a new doorknob again . He had a feeling that maintenance was about to just take the door off its hinges so they wouldn't have to keep replacing the knob. He didn’t like that idea, preferred to have a door that separated him from the rest of his coworkers.

The man who came into the office was a tall, imposing figure in a form fitting bright red leather. The leather mask came over the top of the face like a hood, creating a blank expanse of red over the eyes. On either side of the top of his head were two leather nubs that looked almost like horns. “Daredevil,” said the office worker as he stood up and adjusted his tie. “I didn’t know you were coming,” he added.

The vigilante held a hand out and several sharp, jagged, irregular pieces of metal fell onto the desk with a clang. They shone in the office light, and had a faint odor of bleach. “I met Spiderman tonight,” Daredevil said brutally. “He was pulling these out of his body.”

He looked at the pile of metal pieces. “They look remarkably clean,” he commented.

“Do they?”

He looked Daredevil right where his eyes would be—if he needed eyes for his mask. “We can’t protect him if we don’t know who he is.”

You’ve mentioned that. Logically, it makes sense.” The head didn’t move as Daredevil looked at him. “My gut says there’s more than this and that the kid has a good reason for his actions.”

“If he’s staying hidden to protect his loved ones, we can help.”

I said that. Do you know what he asked me? He said, ‘Who’ll protect you?’” Daredevil was silent for a moment in the room and he wondered how much the blind hero was learning from the beat of his heart. “He thinks he’s protecting us,” Daredevil continued. “I’m not sure what he thinks he’s protecting us from, but he truly believes he’s protecting us.” The vigilante turned and walked out of the office.

He sighed and flopped back in his chair before grabbing his office phone. He pushed a button that connected him directly to his superior. “Sir,” he said as he looked at the shiny, almost impossibly clean pieces of metal on his desk, “we’ve got a problem.”

Chapter Text

Tony Stark, CEO, head, and namesake of Stark Enterprises, walked through the lab. It was nothing out of the ordinary, he walked through all the labs of Stark Tower several times a day—but seven times in the same day was a little much. It wasn’t even time to break for lunch yet.

It was all Peter could do not to flinch as Tony came to a stop behind him and looked at the experiment that Peter was working on. He felt the movement behind him as Tony nodded. “Good job,” he said absently.

“Uh, thanks, Mr. Stark?” said Peter nervously.

Tony!” The door to the lab opened and there stood a very upset personal assistant. “You have a meeting in five minutes and it’s not on this floor! Get moving!”

“Yes, Dear.” Tony moved across the lab floor and Peter let out a small, nervous breath.

Once Tony was firmly out of the room the people in the lab let out small sighs of relief. His lab partner, Chloe, smacked Peter’s arm. “Just take the damn promotion,” she growled at him. “We can’t take much more of this.”

A couple weeks back, Peter had been pulled from the lab into a meeting with none other than Tony Stark himself, the famous Iron Man. Who had been reading a paper when Peter, confused at being suddenly summoned from his work station, came in. “Ah, Parker. Take a seat.” Peter had nervously sat on the chair in the office, and wondered if he was about to get fired. “Do you know why you’re here?” Tony asked, looking at Peter with his narrowed eyes.

“N—no,” stammered Peter flushing. His eyes darted around the small office, and he wondered if this was going to be his last time working in the tower.

Tony picked up the paper. “Theoretical use of titanium microfilaments to directly connect an artificial limb to the nervous system to allow the subject to feel sensations through it,” the CEO superhero read. He tossed the paper back to the desk. “Sound familiar?” he asked.

Of course it did. It was the same paper that Peter had turned into his supervisor a few days ago, fully expecting the man to take credit for it. He didn’t care—the idea could revolutionize artificial limbs and help so many people that it didn’t matter who got credit for it—as long as it got done. “Ye—yes?” he said timidly.

“That sounds like a question.” Tony leaned his head on his folded hands over the desk as he regarded the young lab assistant. “Chambers, your supervisor, read your report and brought it straight to me. I want to give you your own lab, so that you can experiment with this idea. Solid idea. Solid concept. Why titanium?”

Peter automatically answered as his mind spun. “Titanium is the metal least likely to have a negative interaction with a patient’s immune system and has a low corrosion time.” His own lab! He could be on the forefront of technology! He could—

He could be forced to spy for Norman. Right now, as a mere lab assistant, he had next to no power (and also next to no salary). If he got his own lab, with the power that having his own lab meant—he’d be in a better position for spying. And if Norman knew that—he’d tell Peter to do it. And Peter would—to protect Harry.

Peter swallowed. “I can’t,” he whispered. He was not going to become a spy for Tony’s nemesis. If that meant he couldn't get his own lab, or even a raise, then that was what it meant. He cleared his throat and looked at the older man. “I am—very grateful, Sir, but I can’t accept a promotion.”

“Why not?”

Why not? Peter’s mind reeled. He swallowed nervously again. “Because—because there are other, far more qualified people in that lab who deserve to be promoted first,” he said firmly.

And, as a result of that meeting, Tony had been coming to the lab and poking around it several times a day. Peter couldn't understand it; Stark Industries did not hire stupid people—surely there was someone else that Tony could focus his attention on! Was the man so unused to hearing the word “no” that he automatically became obsessed with someone who said it? Like Chloe said, it was nerve racking.

He looked at Chloe, slightly panicked. “There are people more qualified!” he insisted for the millionth time. The first time he said that, his fellow lab assistants and even lab manager had been flattered. Now they looked annoyed.

It doesn’t matter,” Chloe said firmly. A glance around showed that she was speaking for all of them. “Tony wants you.”

“He shouldn't!” protested Peter panicked.

Luckily the lab manager stepped in. “All right, time for lunch. Let’s get it done before the boss comes on another round.”

Hunching protectively Peter shot off towards the break room to get his lunch from the fridge. Sure, he could have gone to the cafeteria like the others did, but that would mean paying for his food. The leftovers from his aunt were free.

Chapter Text

Deadpool, AKA Wade Wilson, AKA getting super pissed , glared at the man in front of him. He’d kill the idiot—if he didn’t know the organization the man worked for would lock him up for three years, killing him horribly at least once a day, like they did the last time he killed one of their stooges.

[You’d think they could just fine us like everyone else when we kill their people.]

{And to think, people actually think they’re the good guys!}

Deadpool nodded. “It sucks,” he agreed with his voices.

The man, who looked like an average, overweight middle-aged office drone, shifted nervously. “What?” he asked.

“It sucks,” Deadpool repeated, “that I can’t kill you because I don’t want to piss of your boss.”

The man cleared his throat. “It’s really a simple matter,” he said, the tremble in his voice evidence (as if Deadpool needed more evidence) that he was terrified.

Boo-hoo. The man was scared. Whoop-DE-freaking do. Deadpool pulled out one of his knives (a tactical knife) and began to twirl it on one finger. “You want me,” he growled, “ to tell you,” he gestured with the hand that wasn’t twirling the knife, “a masked hero’s real identity.”

There are solid reasons for the request,” the stooge pointed out. “A hero needs backup, legal help, and—” The man’s voice cut out as Deadpool’s free hand jerked out and gripped him in the throat. The knife never even wobbled.

I don’t care what you think these good reasons are,” he said darkly. “I can just see it now, oh, we know who you are and we want to protect you, by the way, if you don’t do this for us our protection of your loved ones might just slip—I know how you fucking people work!” Deadpool growled and flipped the knife in the air catching the handle with professional ease.

{Do it! Take out his eye! Slice up his brain!}

[Don’t do it. They’re watching. Besides, we’re trying not to kill people, remember?]

“Please don’t kill my associate Deadpool. He’s a good accountant and they’re hard to find.”

Deadpool turned and his eyes narrowed at the new arrival. “ Well,” he said dropping the man he was holding. “If it isn’t Mr. Too-popular-to-leave-dead himself. What brings you to this shitty part of the world?” He ignored the choking behind him as the man began to breathe again.

The new arrival was dressed much like the office drone, but there was a clear difference—where the office drone was pudgy and overweight, this man was svelte and built. He carried himself like a fighter, or an active agent. “ Now Deadpool,” he said conversationally, “you can’t go killing my coworkers. My boss doesn’t like that.”

Deadpool bit back a low growl. “I know how your boss ‘doesn’t like that’,” he spat.

The new arrival ignored him, turning instead to the office drone. “Deadpool?” he asked. “Really?”

The office drone had the grace to flush. “Well, no one else is getting anywhere!” he said defensively.

“And you’re not supposed to attempt to contact anyone over level three. Deadpool is level thirteen,” said the new arrival firmly. “Sorry about that,” he said congenially as he turned back to the masked murderer.

So, I wasn’t supposed to be contacted,” Deadpool said in a deadpan voice.

[I don’t know if we’re supposed to be flattered or insulted.]

The agent smiled warmly. “Come on ‘Pool,” he said casually, friendly. “You and I both know that the last person to give away someone's secrets would be you.”

True. Deadpool shot a glare at the office drone before turning. “Good,” he said walking away.

{You know what I think? I think we should find out this guy’s identity.}

[Have you lost your mind?!]

{Hear me out; if we know his identity, we can protect him from these idiots!}

We can do that without knowing his identity,” argued Deadpool as he left the building.

[True. Let’s go visit.]

{How will we find him?}

“Luckily,” Deadpool grunted as he walked, “I know people.”

Chapter Text

Ignoring the desk in the lobby, ignoring the guard designed to filter the people walking into the building, Peter raced inside. He was late, he knew he was late, but there was a robbery on the way over he’d had to help with. He ignored the elevator and ran up the stairs, taking them two and three at a time. Scaling the walls would have been even faster—but he didn’t want anyone, especially not anyone here, to know about his powers.

He slammed through the doors at the right floor, burst into the room—and his heart squeezed to see Harry, his best friend, collapsed on the floor. “Harry!” he cried out as he ran in. Could he call 911? No, Norman would never let them in the building; they might learn, they might find out—

Norman leaned against his desk tapping on his phone. “You’re late Peter,” he said casually. He sends the code and Harry begins to breathe easier, color returning to his cheeks.

“The subway was held up!” snarled Peter as he kept a hand on Harry’s face. His breathing was better, and he was slowly coming back from—from wherever Norman had sent him to when he didn’t send the code on time.

“Punctuality is the trait of successful people,” said Norman as though he was genuinely trying to help Peter and hadn’t almost murdered his own son. The elder Osborn picked up a glass on his desk and took a long, leisurely sip from it—while his son gasped for breath and slowly regained the vibrancy needed for life.

Peter had never hated the man more in his life than he did at that moment, watching Norman calmly sip a drink right after almost murdering his child ! If anyone could have convinced him to break his no killing rule, it would be Norman. But—the only think keeping Harry alive was the ten digit code that only Norman knew, so not only could Peter not kill him, Peter had to protect him.

“So,” drawled Harry as he got his breath back, “is being a dick and walking all over people. Apparently.”

Norman looked down on Harry, his only child, with thinly veiled contempt. “And that,” Norman said, “is why you don’t have a future. Unlike Peter here. Peter, I heard about the job offer Stark made you.”

Of course he had.

“When will you take it?”

“When you’re not holding Harry’s life over me like a twisted carrot,” Peter snapped back. He expected Norman to order him to take the job, to remind him that talking back was a bad idea—

Norman did neither of those things. He simply nodded. “I see. I won’t lie; it would have been nice to have another spy in Stark’s company.” Norman set his drink down and walked towards the two young men on the floor before gently tousling Peter’s hair. “Remember,” he said affectionately, “when you’re pushing someone, don’t push them further than they can go.” Without looking back he left the office.

Harry slumped forward. “God,” he swore, “I hate my father.”

“I hate him too.”

“At least Mary Jane isn’t here for this,” grumbled Harry.

Come to think of it… “Where is she?” asked Peter with curiosity. Both of them knew how Norman felt about his son. Both of them knew how dangerous Norman was. They both liked to think that Norman was underestimating them—but the sad truth was that Norman knew almost everything about both of them.

Harry rubbed his face as Peter helped him stand up. “She has a show coming up,” he said absently.

Peter didn’t like how his eyes were still glazed, as though part of his brain was rebooting. “Come on,” he said helping Harry limp over to one of the office couches. Norman’s office was decorated less like an office and more like a VIP hotel suite. Searching for a neutral topic of discussion he asked, “Fashion or theatre?”

Harry’s lips twisted wryly as life slowly came back to his face. “There’s a difference?” he quipped.

Peter laughed weakly and dropped to the couch next to his friend. “Who knows?” he asked wearily.

“Peter.”

“Yeah?”

“Peter, my father is insane.”

Peter remembered the cold, calculating look in Norman’s eyes when he realized how useful Peter could be to him—and how much Peter cared about Harry. “I know.”

“This isn’t—this isn’t going to end well.”

“It will.” If nothing else, Peter could keep his hope alive.

“It won’t.” Harry was giving up.

Harry , poster child for let’s find another way, was giving up. “It will. The good guys always win.”

Harry laughed weakly. “Oh, God,” he groaned. “That sounds so corny.”

When Peter left the building, he went to one of the few places nearby that were a blind spot for Iron Man’s almost omniscient AI. After a confrontation like that, it was almost a relief to put on the mask and be someone else for a few hours. At least he could pretend he was helping people.

Chapter Text

The beaten, battered face in front of Deadpool managed, despite all odds, to split into a grin. “The bitch deserved it,” he gloated.

Deadpool didn’t have to glance down to see the victim—a girl who couldn't be more than fourteen—flinch from the man’s words. He knocked the sorry sucker out with another punch.

{What’s all this holding back shit? Be lethal!}

[Killing him is the only way to make sure he’ll never hurt another person.]

Agreeing Deadpool dropped the sorry sack of meat and pulled one of his katanas. Just a single thrust and the man would never again hurt another poor, innocent—

As his arms raised over his body an expertly aimed shot of web pinned him to the alley wall beside him. He watched with a sense of resignation as the spider themed hero dropped down and began talking to the girl learning her age (fifteen), what she was doing in the alley (went out with her friends and got separated), and that the poor kid had never been to New Amsterdam before.

[And he’s going to hate us now.]

{We’ve gotten this speech before…}

Which was true, but he was trying to be good! He was trying not to kill people! Didn’t that count for something?

You are an irredeemable stain on society. I don’t know why I thought you could change.”

Well, fuck you too Colossus.

You’re nothing but a loose cannon and a liability.”

He wasn’t going to argue with the statement, but being cut off had kind of hurt. Thanks Cap.

Do you honestly believe anyone would find something of worth in you?”

Deadpool could still see the smirk on the dark beauty’s face.

He barely noticed as Spiderman webbed the injured guy to the ground and then walked over to Deadpool. He flinched, slightly, as the hero single handedly yanked the webbing off, slung an arm around Deadpool, and the two of them walked away as sirens headed towards them in the distance. He tensed, waiting for the inevitable rejection.

It never came. “You were doing good,” Spiderman said companionably as they walked away.

What?

[How could he say that?]

{We almost killed that guy.}

And then, because Spiderman couldn't hear the voices in his head, “I almost killed that guy.”

Spiderman shrugged. “You weren’t trying to,” he said calmly. “I saw—you went after him with fists first. It wasn’t until that garbage he spewed that you pulled the sword.”

Deadpool hunched over after he sheathed his sword. “Yeah, well…”

Spiderman gently clapped him on the back. Deadpool used the term “gently” because he’d seen the hero punch through solid steel and the mercenary didn’t even stagger. “Don’t stress it,” the costumed hero said firmly. “You heard a cry for help; you answered. You even answered non-violently. And honestly? If I’d been the one facing him I’m not sure I would have been able to keep from snapping his neck. Good job.”

[And this is why Spidey is our favorite hero ever.]

{I thought it was the ass? The peach shaped ass?}

Deadpool huffed a laugh. “Thanks Spidey,” he said. Thanks for seeing the intentions. Thanks for listening and paying attention. Thanks for not giving up.

Suddenly the hero tensed and whipped his head around before turning back to Deadpool. “How do you feel about helping me with a hostage situation?” he asked cheerfully.

Deadpool fluttered his non-existent lashes. “Aw, you say the sweetest things.”

Chapter Text

Nothing quite like an eventful few hours patrolling to make him feel better about things he couldn't control. Peter almost hummed to himself as he walked the rest of the way home. The streets were almost deserted.

Almost. A kid, gender indistinguishable and wearing over sized clothes that covered almost everything but the face and hands, came running up to him. “Mr. Parker!” the kid cried out, eyes wide and worried.

And nothing like something like this to remind him how powerless he really was. “Lead the way,” he ordered.

There were a lot of questions he didn’t ask. He didn’t ask who was injured (what he didn’t know, he couldn't tell). He didn’t ask where they were going (he was about to find out). He didn’t ask if it was safe (because clearly it wasn’t).

“What happened?” he asked.

“Two of the Snipers accused us of encroaching on their territory, and they decided to teach us a lesson,” his guide said. Like him, his guide wasn’t winded in the slightest.

One of New Amsterdam’s dirty little secrets were the street children. Some of them were runaways, from homes that weren’t abusive—on paper. The same that Norman was a loving father— on paper . Some of them were abandoned, some born on the street—but there were lots of them. Peter wasn’t certain how many there were—and he never asked. He couldn't tell a secret he didn’t know, after all.

He wasn’t certain why they seemed to trust him, or why they went to him when they avoided almost every other adult. He was, however, determined not to break that trust. They needed someone , after all, someone to look after them. And Peter was better than no one at all.

His guide led him to an alley and, hidden between two dumpsters, was another kid; bruised, beaten. Peter dropped and began checking for broken bones. The kid stirred. “Hey,” it slurred. “Ain’t ol’ ‘nough fer thet.”

Peter stared at the child in horror as his guide leaned around. “It’s Mr. Parker. You remember Mr. Parker?”

“I ‘member.” The child shuddered. “Hurts.”

“I know it hurts,” Peter said gently as he pulled away. “I need to see how badly it hurts. I’m going to ask some questions, and I need you to answer as best as you can, okay?”

“Mr. Parker,” said his guide worriedly.

“Don’t worry, I know better,” Peter assured both children. “Now, do you remember when you woke up today?” he asked the injured child. It didn’t appear to have broken bones.

The child whimpered. “Sun bright,” it said.

Peter frowned. He didn’t like how distant and unclear the child sounded. He reached into his medical kit (he started carrying it all the time with his other supplies) and pulled out a pen flashlight. “I’m going to hold your head up,” Peter said, “so that I can look into your eyes. I’m worried that your head might be hurt.” When the child nodded he turned on the light. “I’m going to need you to look straight ahead,” he said. The child complied and he shone the light to check the pupils. One reacted to the light, the other was severely dilated and u nresponsive.

He took a deep breath. There was only one thing he could do now, and it wasn’t something he wanted to do. He turned to his guide. “Go,” he said firmly. “Grab any of the others that are near here and go. I have to call for help.” The first time he’d had to do this, the children had argued. But now the guide simply nodded and ran off. Peter gave her a ten-second head start before he pulled out his phone and dialed.

“911, What is the nature of your emergency?”

Chapter Text

Deadpool ducked into one of the many labs on the floor, around security. There were six people in this lab, and five faces turned to him and contorted in horror. He pressed a finger to his lips to signify quiet and the sixth one, with headphones on, could be heard singing softly. The pretty boy—

{And he is a pretty boy!}

[Not like we have a chance, idiot!]

was paying no attention to what was going on around him. Suddenly an alarm blared through the building and Deadpool launched one of his swords through the speaker on the wall, silencing it. The ones who had noticed him backed away. “Sorry,” he said apologetically as the one singing looked up at the still wobbling sword. “I panicked.” Several faces went pale as they regarded him.

The pretty boy jerked off his headphones. “Hey,” he said pointing at the sword, “can I borrow this?”

“Sure?” said Deadpool, intrigued.

“All right!” The boy picked up several pieces of paper and began using the sharp edge of the blade to cut them into what appeared to be equal sized strips as Deadpool watched, fascinated.

{Hoo! That’s hot !}

[Down boy. We don’t know if he’s legal.]

{Sh! Don’t ruin our fun!}

“Parker!” said an older man firmly.

Just a minute sir,” said the boy without even looking up from his self appointed task. “Almost done.” He lined up the papers at his work station and then looked around. He saw his fellow lab mates staring at him in shock and frowned. “What?” he asked.

Deadpool just chuckled, stepped forwards, and grabbed his sword. “You,” he said, “are funny.”

The pretty boy, Parker, just grinned at him. “You’re sword’s sharp,” he said. There was a hint of teasing in the tone.

“Parker!”

“Yes Sir, sorry Sir,” said the boy, instantly reverting to submissive as he gathered the strips. “On the way.” He brushed past Deadpool on his way out of the lab and gave the costumed mercenary a saucy wink before continuing on.

[…]

{…}

[I’m not sure how to respond to that.]

“Deadpool!” snarled a voice and he turned to see old Iron Dick himself in the door of the lab.

“Hey Tin Can!” said Deadpool amiably.

{I hate him. Why can’t we kill him? He’s not in his suit now; it would be easy.}

[Because we’re trying not to kill people, dumbass.]

Tony Stark’s face suffused with rage.

{Does it count as killing him if we give him a stroke?}

[That’s—a good question, actually. Hmm. We’ll have to ask Spiderman later.]

“Deadpool,” said Tony with a deep breath, “why are you in my tower?”

“To annoy you!”

Deadpool almost heard the audible snapping of Tony’s last nerve. “Mission completed, asshole! Now get out!”

Deadpool danced out of the lab and out of the tower with a huge grin under his mask.

[We’re going to be stalking that poor boy, aren’t we?]

{But—he’s not scared of us!}

[Not yet, but nothing says, “Oh, I’m a big scary person,” quite like a scarlet and black two meter tall leather clad stalker!]

Deadpool sighed. “White,” he said ignoring the stares of the people around him, “you’re such a kill joy. And we don’t need to stalk him, just Shiny Dick.”

[Why are we doing this again?]

{He wasn’t scared of us!}

“I already told you,” said an irritated voice, “everything I know!” Deadpool rounded a corner and saw the fabulous Parker, still in lab coat, in conversation with a man in a cheap, three piece suit.

Deadpool sidled over and saw the man glaring at the boy. “This is a serious situation,” the man said.

“You think I don’t know that?” demanded Peter.

“She’s been missing for months—”

“I just found her while I was out—”

“Yeah, you just happen to find a lot of them while you’re ‘out’,” snarled the man.

“Ooo!” interrupted Deadpool as he draped himself all over the sexy scientist—who didn’t scream and try to run away. “What are we talking about?”

The man blanched and took a step back before taking a couple of deep breaths. “Last night, we received an emergency call from this guy,” he said with a point, “who had found a child beaten and left to die in an alley.”

“So he saved the child!” said Deadpool. He looked down at Parker who looked back up with wide eyes. Not frightened eyes; he knew that expression well. He wasn’t really sure what emotion was in the young man’s eyes.

[He might not even be LEGAL!]

Deadpool turned back to the officer. “It sounds like he deserves a medal,” he said and the young man in his arms let out a breathy chuckle. “It does!”

“I couldn't do anything,” Parker said. “All I could do was call for help.”

“And that’s more than most people do,” Deadpool assured him before looking at the man. “And you know that. Why are you harassing this totally bootylicious—”

“Wait, what?”

“—good Samaritan who is way too fascinated by swords—seriously kid, you freak me out just a little bit and are you even legal? Oh, you have got to be legal or I have to turn myself in for unnatural desires towards a minor!”

“I’m twenty,” the scientist said looking up at Deadpool.

[This is weird. People are normally screaming to get away at this point. Why isn’t he?]

{Because he’s awesome!}

“We’ll continue this conversation later,” the man said before turning and stalking off.

Parker sighed and relaxed. Actually relaxed, in Deadpool’s grip. The merc was shocked. No one relaxed when Deadpool was around.

[Something is off about this kid.]

{But he’s legal. You did hear that, right? LEGAL!}

The kid looked up and grinned at him. “Thanks for saving me,” he said.

Deadpool suddenly felt bashful and nervous. Being thanked for saving someone wasn’t something that usually happened. “Aw, shucks,” he said nervously releasing the kid and stepping back. “I’m no hero.”

The kid frowned. “What? Of course you are, you just saved me.”

“Aw, you only think I’m a hero because you don’t know who I am.”

“Deadpool, master mercenary,” said the kid suddenly, startling him. “You managed to complete the chimichanga challenge at Mama Maria’s Mexican restaurant last month.” At the silence he waved a nervous hand. “I part-time at a paper and covered the story. Not that anyone published the story,” he muttered.

[I remember that chimichanga. It was so huge it made our stomach burst.]

{Eh, we healed anyway. And Spidey got to eat for free, so…}

[He always eats for free when we pay.]

{But he nearly bust a gut laughing at us! It was great!}

Deadpool ignored the voices in his head and held out his hand. “Deadpool, also known as the Fantastic Wade Winston Wilson, at your service.”

The boy grinned. “Peter Parker,” he said as he shook Deadpool’s hand. “Hey, since all your names start with ‘W’, can I call you Triple?”

“Sure thing, Baby Boy,” said Deadpool teasingly. Peter laughed.

[…we are in so much trouble.]

{I thought we were in love with Spidey?}

Chapter Text

Tony tapped at the wood to the side of keyboard in irritation as he glared at the screen. On the screen was a puzzle that he couldn't solve; a puzzle he had to solve. The puzzle of the brilliant lab assistant who refused to be promoted.

He had (briefly) considered that the boy might be a spy for Norman, given his connection to Norman’s son (he knew who the other spies were, of course, but better to keep your enemies close)—but the lab he was in only dealt with mundane tasks, mainly prep for other labs. Setting up petri dishes, cutting test strips—supplies, mostly. And while it was (barely) possible that he was in place for sabotage, the sad fact of the matter was that there were so many redundancy protocols that there was no way for him to do damage to the company from his current position. Not that he had any evidence the boy had tried to sabotage him.

The boy was more than brilliant—he was intuitive. He could look at a problem, see what was wrong with the problem, and then fix it. It was amazing. He was wasted as a lab assistant.

The door to Tony’s office opened and one of his up-and-coming researchers, Gwen Stacy, came in. “You wanted to see me, Mr. Stark?” she asked politely.

He’d asked the staff to stop calling him that. They had, politely, refused. He shook his head; he’d deal with the issue again later. He tapped the hologram pulling up the picture of Peter. “Do you know who this is?” he asked.

“No,” she said with curiosity.

He nodded. Why would one of his best researchers know a lowly lab assistant? He pushed the file over the desk to her and she flipped through it, pausing to exclaim at it. “He’s a lab assistant in one of the lower labs,” Tony said as she read the file. “He wrote that.”

She looked up at him startled and adjusted her glasses. “He wrote this? Why is he still in the lower lab?”

“He won’t accept a higher position,” drawled Tony.

She sighed. “That’s a shame,” she said, truly regretful.

“Tempt him,” ordered Tony. She looked up, startled. “Show him the best the labs can be; show him what he’s missing. Tempt him to get his own lab.” Tony frowned at the documents on the table. “I was trying to do that myself, but Pepper pointed out that I was just seeding dissent in the lab he’s in right now.”

She winced. “I think you’ve broken whatever cohesion might be in the poor boy’s lab,” she said grimly.

“He should have his own lab,” said Tony without remorse.

Gwen sighed. “I wish,” she said ruefully, “that you had asked me about this before you poisoned the well.” When Tony frowned, she explained. “Things get tense every time the boss wonders around the labs. This poor boy has probably been getting flak from his coworkers.”

“Why would I make things tense?” asked Tony, honestly clueless. Every time he met Bruce the other man would sigh (honestly Tony, get out of my lab before the other guy shows and wrecks everything throwing you out).

Gwen stared at him for a moment. Suddenly she turned. “Pepper!” she called out.

Pepper opened the door and looked at Gwen. “I’m working on it,” she said.

“Did you know—”

“That Tony had developed an odd fascination with a lab assistant who happens to be childhood friends with the only child of his arch rival and seems determined to put the boy in his own lab? Yes, I knew.” Pepper turned to Tony, ginger hair sparkling in the light. “And you have a meeting.”

Tony, thrown by the sudden change in topic, floundered. “A meeting? With who?”

“The jackass who wants to increase product testing trials.”

Memory snapped into place. “Ah. That idiot.” He got out of his seat, intent on taking an enemy down. It didn’t matter that this was the enemy of the boardroom rather than the world—they’d all topple. “Very well. Let’s get this meeting started.”

Chapter Text

Peter walked into the lab like every other morning—and paused. The only person in the lab was Deadpool. He leaned out and peered around. There was no sign of the people assigned to his lab, anywhere.

Maybe they had moved to another lab without telling him. It wouldn't be the first time, not since Tony started harassing him. He remembered one occasion where he’d started preparing the test strips like he was supposed to only to have maintenance come in and inform him that, for safety reasons, the entire lab had been moved to another floor.

But this time, Deadpool was in the lab. And that meant Peter could do something he didn’t normally have time (or energy) to do—indulge himself.

He grinned at the masked mercenary. “Hey Triple,” he said conspiratorially, “wanna make some slime?”

He could see (and how Deadpool got a leather/Kevlar mix suit to be so expressive was beyond him) the other man blink. Then he grinned under the mask. “Oh, baby,” he said happily. “I’d love to make slime.”

“Great!” Grinning widely Peter walked to the supply cabinet and pulled out what he needed. “This will be fun,” he hummed happily.

“No, I thought so too.”

“Hmm?” Peter turned in the middle of preparing.

“Nothing. So, what kind of slime are we making?”

“Well, there are several different kinds.” He laid out the ingredients for them. “Mirror slime, clear slime, fluffy slime—no glitter slime, sadly, since I don’t have any glitter.” He sighed.

“Oh, I have glitter!” gloated Deadpool. Peter turned to see the masked mercenary holding a jar of rainbow glitter the size of his head. He glanced at the fanny-pack—it was way too small for the jar.

Meh. It was Deadpool; just roll with it.

Peter grinned. “Excellent,” he crooned. He swiftly mixed his concoctions. “Hey,” he asked as an idea struck him, “how do you feel about making them all with the rainbow glitter?”

“Oh, me likey,” crooned the larger man as he bent around Peter to see what the mad scientist was cooking up.

Deadpool had been getting into Spiderman’s personal space for so long that Peter thought nothing of the close contact. In fact—it was soothing. He knew, on his deepest levels, that Deadpool would never hurt him.

“So—do we get to play with this slime?” asked Deadpool as the different types took form.

Peter hummed happily. “Not yet,” he said as he mixed up the last batch. “First—we make them dance.”

“Dance?”

At the question Peter shoved himself away from the workspace, went to the speaker in the corner of the room (usually hogged by the lab supervisor), and plugged in his phone. “Nothing like the classics,” he said smugly as the music beat filled the lab.

Then the lyrics began. “Old Godzilla was hoppin’ around, Tokyo City like a big playground,” sang the artist.

The slime in the tubs began to shiver with the beat and Deadpool cooed as he leaned closer and Peter nodded in time with the music.

“This is the Ultimate Showdown—of Ultimate Destiny. Good guys bad guys and explo—sions, as far as the eye can see.”

The slime, as Peter had built it to, began to pop up and down in the dishes as the music picked up speed. The movement slowed as the beat slowed, and then it got to the fun part of the song.

“Then Gandalf the Gray and Gandalf the White and Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Black Knight—”

The slime began to vibrate faster and Peter gently grabbed Deadpool by his katana sheaths and pulled him out of the blast radius.

“—Robocop and Terminator, Captain Kirk and Darth Vader—”

The door to the lab opened—just as the slime exploded onto everything—except for Peter and Deadpool, who had gotten out of the way.

Slime mixed liberally with rainbow glitter dripped down the two unhappy scientists in the doorway. Peter laughed nervously. “Oops,” he said as he hurriedly turned off the music. “So—sorry Dr. Chambers,” he said, the horrible stutter returning as he began to try and clean the mess.

Dr. Chambers wiped some of the slime off his face as he glared at the lab assistant. “Parker,” he said evenly. “What were you doing?”

Deadpool suddenly draped himself around Peter’s body and tucked his chin over Peter’s collarbone. “We were making sliiime!” the manic man said, drawing the word into three syllables. “And not the kind I thought when he asked, but this is just as good and do you realize you have an almost perfect row of pink sparkles accenting your left eyebrow?”

Peter glanced at the lab supervisor and saw that Deadpool was right—there was an almost perfect row of pink glitter—almost like it had been done on purpose. He lowered his head so that no one could see his grin.

The female scientist with him wiped slime off her face as she looked into the lab with a similar expression to that of a cat that accidentally got doused with a bucket of water. “I think,” she said tartly, “that we all need to clean up.” She pivoted on one heel and stalked out of the lab as the supervisor shook his head at Peter before he followed her.

Which, oddly enough, triggered a question for Deadpool. He looked up into the expressive mask and asked, “What did you think I meant?”

Chapter Text

Tony’s fingers tapped at the wood beside his keyboard with irritation as he watched the hologram. How? Just how had this happened? He rewound the footage and played it again, mouth pressing into a thin line.

Pepper stepped into the room, read the mood, and quickly used her Stark pad to send orders. “Deadpool is in the building,” Tony said irritably.

“Yes, I’ve got security working to get him out now,” Pepper replied.

“Out?” demanded Tony as he looked at his assistant. Normally she almost seemed like she could read his mind. “Forget out—I want to see him here!”

Pepper, for the first time in years, looked floored at his request. “Here?” she asked.

“Yes; I want to have a conversation with the mercenary,” Tony said spitting the word. He rewound the scene again as he tried to piece together the mystery. No matter how he twisted it in his brain, he couldn’t figure it out. He’d have to talk to one of them, get more information, and there was only one he was allowed (according to Pepper) to talk to.

“Tony—I want to remind you that you are still mortal.”

Tony looked at Pepper and saw that she was regarding him with concern. “What?” he asked in confusion.

Light blue eyes firmly met his. “I mean Tony, you can die.”

“I know that!” Tony sighed and rubbed his face. He knew that better than she did. He wondered if he should tell her—no, he had a few years to figure out a solution. “Why are you bringing that up right now?”

“Because Deadpool can’t die.”

Tony stared at his assistant. Did she, did she really think that he was planning on attacking Deadpool? That didn’t work out very well with the suit. He sighed. “I just want to talk to him,” Tony told her as he rewound the footage again. “And maybe hire him,” he added under his breath as Pepper tapped out new orders.

Deadpool (surprisingly) cooperated with security to get to Tony’s office. “You know,” the masked madman said conversationally, “the last time I tried to break in here your building shunted me to the sewers? It took forever to clean my suit! Yeah, I know I ended up burning it. That’s not the point—it would have taken forever.” A pause. “Well, fuck you too.”

Tony could feel his eye starting to twitch. How? Just how? He tapped a few things and the security footage he’d been re-watching played in the air between them showing Deadpool going into a lab. Saw the mysterious lab assistant Peter go into the lab. And then, somehow, the two of them spend about twenty minutes having fun. (The clinical part of his brain noted that, if they could figure out how to keep the slime from exploding, it would be a great toy for children.)

Tony pointed and a red circle appeared around Peter on the screen. “This is Peter,” he said.

“I know. Petey-pie introduced himself.”

Tony barely managed to keep from twitching at the overly affectionate nickname. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There was information he had to get from the man, and he wasn’t going to get it if he lost his temper. “Deadpool,” he said slowly, “how do you talk to Peter?”

“I open my mouth and words come out.”

Tony’s hand twitched. If he’d been in suit Deadpool would have been hit with a plasma blast and be healing from the gaping hole as Pepper yelled at him for destroying another wall. He took another deep breath. “Peter,” he said slowly, trying not to give into the rising urge to attack the man in his office, “is a genius.”

“Yup!”

“I’ve offered him his own lab.”

“He could do a lot with that,” agreed Deadpool cheerfully. “No he wouldn't! Remember the slime?”

Tony’s eye began to twitch again. “He refused.”

“What? Why?” Deadpool looked shocked.

Tony wasn’t sure how. “I don’t know. All I get is ‘there are more qualified people’ which is, quite frankly, bullshit. There isn’t another person in that lab that could see the medical applications of titanium, and I’d love to throw some vibranium his way and see what he does with that. I want to hire you Deadpool.”

“I don’t kill people anymore,” Deadpool stated.

And he didn’t. The whole thing almost made Tony twitch again. He’d stopped killing around the same time he’d met Spiderman for the first time. He considered, just for a moment, hiring Deadpool to find out who Spiderman was—but no. No, that was his job and he hadn’t failed at it yet.

“But you talk to people,” Tony stated firmly. “You talk to Peter. Find out why he won’t take his own lab.”

“I don’t—”

“I’ll pay forty-five thousand dollars.”

“Sold!” Deadpool got up from his chair and literally danced out of the office before sticking his head back in. “You know,” he sang at Tony, “this means you can’t kick me out any-more!”

“Do you really think that was a good idea?” Pepper asked as he left.

He knew what she was asking. Did he really think the overly modest lab assistant was worth that kind of money? “Yes. You didn’t read that paper, Pep. The kid is brilliant; it’s a waste for him to be tinkering with basic supplies.”

Pepper rolled her eyes. “I mean,” she clarified, “is it a good idea to send Deadpool, the insane, unstable mercenary, after Peter?”

Tony froze. He hadn’t thought of that. “It’ll be fine.”

“Right,” said Pepper. Neither of them mentioned how much like a prayer that sounded.

Chapter Text

“You really don’t mind?” asked Peter as Wade took half the boxes. None of them were heavy (not that it would matter to Peter if they were), but they were bulky and awkward and full of important papers whose next destination was the furnace in the basement.

“Oh, Petey-Pie!” Wade gently bopped Peter’s nose with a gloved finger and his nose involuntarily twitched in response. “Eee!” squealed the man happily. “You’re like a cute little rabbit, all twitchy nose like that!”

“Stop that,” admonished Peter as a blush crawled across his cheeks and his nose twitched again.

“Right! Stopping, Sir!” Wade gave a salute as he picked up the boxes he’d dropped. “So, where are we taking these?”

“The incinerator in the basement,” Peter explained. “These papers are sensitive documents that—Wade?” He turned to see that the costumed man had fallen behind. “Triple?” he tried again, trying to get a response out of the mercenary. He stood, without moving, still holding the pile of boxes. “What’s wrong?”

There was a deep rattling sound that concerned him and then Wade bounced back up. “Just fine, yes-sirree, no trauma here.”

Peter quickly dropped the boxes (off to the side, so as not to inconvenience anyone walking through) and took the boxes Wade was holding and set them aside as well. “Hey,” he said, suddenly face to face with the guy. For the first time in a long time Peter realized how Wade was both so much bigger than Peter himself was and how much smaller he managed to be at the same time.

He suddenly realized that he didn’t know much about interacting with Deadpool when he wasn’t Spiderman. “What’s wrong?” he asked again. “You can talk to me,” he added lamely.

The whites of the mask stared at him for a moment before Deadpool suddenly deflated and collapsed on top of Peter and became Wade again. “Peeeeete,” he whined. “I can’t take it Petey.”

Peter gently rubbed Deadpool’s back. If he hadn’t been Spiderman the sheer weight of the other man’s body would have sent him to the floor, but he didn’t think Deadpool knew that. And Peter knew that the cameras wouldn't be able to tell if Deadpool was holding some of his weight back or not. “Take what?” Peter asked gently, ignoring the stares of his colleagues as they passed by. They could just learn to deal.

“You keep treating me like a person, Petey,” whined Wade. “And it’s giving me ideas.”

The first part broke Peter’s heart. He didn’t know what to do with the second, so he ignored it for the moment. “Of course I am,” Peter said gently. “You are a person.”

Wade snorted and pulled back just enough to look Peter in the face. “You’re one of only two people to say that.”

Peter’s heart began to race. Did Deadpool know? Did he figure it out? Actually, Peter didn’t care if Wade knew or not—but he didn’t want Wade blurting it out in the Tower!

“Do you mind not flirting in the middle of the hallway?” demanded a voice behind them. Peter turned, Wade’s arms still around his shoulders to see Chloe. Who pointedly looked at the piles of boxes. “Weren’t you taking those somewhere?” she hinted.

Peter cringed at her tone. Before Tony had started focusing on him, the two of them used to joke around together. Now she resented him like everyone else in the lab did. “Right,” he said as he broke away from Wade and grabbed a stack of boxes. “Be right back,” he called back to Wade.

Wade grabbed the other stack and caught up with Peter at the elevator. “You really shouldn't be doing this all by yourself,” he told the smaller man.

Peter couldn't look at him at the moment. “It’s fine,” he said nervously.

“It’s not.” A pause. “That might be a good idea,” Wade said.

“What might?” asked Peter curious again.

“Nothing,” Wade said quickly. “So, what do we do in the basement? Play basement-ball? Smile for the camera? Have a quickie before anyone wonders where we went?”

Peter chuckled, cheeks flaming red. Before he could leash his mouth he said, “I can’t imagine you ever doing a ‘quickie.’ You strike me more as the type to keep going all night long.” Then he flushed scarlet and buried his face against the box in his arms in humiliation. He did not just say that! Oh, yes he did.

“I think your ears might start burning. So, what do we do in the basement?”

Grateful for the change of topic Peter answered. “Well, we check to make sure the incinerator doesn’t have Puddles in it.”

“It rains in your incinerator?”

Peter chuckles. “Puddles is the Tower cat,” he explained. “I don’t know how he got his name, but we always make sure that he’s not in the incinerator before we load it up and turn it on. He gets into the strangest places.”

“A talent that I, and most other felines, have.” When Peter peeked around the box to look at him he (through the mask) waggled an eyebrow and said, “Meow.”

Peter chuckled again as the elevator let them off into the basement and he stepped off. Wade stayed in the elevator. “Are you okay?” Peter asked.

“Butter and better,” Wade said cheerfully as he hopped out of the elevator. “I gotta say Pete,” he said looking around, “this doesn’t look like an evil lair.”

Peter could feel his nose wrinkle again. “Evil lair?” he asked. “It’s just the basement.” He led the way through the bright, well-lit space towards the furnace/incinerator at the other end. “Although,” Peter admitted, “gossip has it that Stark has secret levels beneath the basement.”

“Ooo,” cooed Wade. “Kinky.”

Peter chuckled as he opened the metal hatch to the incinerator. A pair of startled golden eyes looked up at him and he sighed. “Puddles,” Peter gently scolded as he picked up the cat. She hissed and swiped at him as her belly—oh, God.

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Wade said as the cat had an obvious contraction, “but your Tower cat is having kittens.”

“Oh—oh—what do we do?” asked Peter.

Wade wrapped his arms around the younger man and Peter felt himself relax into the embrace. “I think she’s got it covered,” Wade said gently. The two of them watched as the cat expelled a kitten into the world and began to clean it as she purred.

Chapter Text

Deadpool watched the people watching the cat with fascination. Peter had quickly been pushed to the side by the new arrivals, but he didn’t seem to mind standing on the sidelines with Wade as the cat gave birth to a sixth kitten.

{We should have ripped that bitch’s arms off for the way she pushed Petey-Pie out of the way.}

[You are going to get Spiderman to hate us.]

“She was rude,” muttered Wade.

Peter looked up (he was in the circle of Wade’s arms again) and said, “I don’t think she’s seen kittens born before.”

{Kiss those pink lips!}

[We’re supposed to get him to confide in us, remember? That won’t happen if we’re sexually harassing him.]

{But—but—but they’re so puffy!}

“Despicable Me reference,” muttered Wade. Most people tended to get anxious and give him space when he was talking to the boxes, even if he was doing it quietly. Peter just seemed content to stay there, in his arms, and listen to the madness. He didn’t even ask questions.

[To be fair, Tony doesn’t get anxious when you talk to us.]

{He just wants to kill us! But he can’t!}

Wade winced as Yellow’s unmusical laughter danced through his head. “Are you all right?” Peter asked. Softly, so as not to attract attention.

Wade chuckled low and soft and gently chucked Peter under the chin. “Peachy-keen Petey-Pie,” he said.

Peter frowned, clearly not believing him, and opened his mouth to say something when Pepper walked into the basement holding a cardboard box. Behind her, like uncomfortable puppy, trailed the dark haired former Winter Soldier himself, Bucky Barnes.

[Good timing. The kid doesn’t need to be burdened by our insanity.]

{Didn’t you hear him earlier? He’s legal. LEGAL. L to the E to the G to the—}

[DON’T YOU DARE!]

“All right everybody,” Pepper announced firmly. “As soon as the cat is finished giving birth, we’ll put her and the kittens in this box and then the incinerator will be back in working order.”

“That cat is going to shred your arms if you go to move her,” said the blonde that had pushed Peter out of her way to watch the cat give birth.

Pepper jerked a thumb to Bucky. “That’s why he’s here.” Bucky waved his metal arm at the people around them. “Now, it is in the middle of the work day—so get back to work!” Pepper ordered. The chaos began to straighten out as people, muttering to themselves the whole time, filed out of the basement.

{See? See? We’re just like the other people!}

[We are nothing like the other people! They only have one person in their heads!]

{You don’t know that!}

Peter went to leave with the others, but Deadpool’s arms tightened around him. He looked at the boxes he’d been supposed to put in the incinerator and then bit his lip. He was clearly torn between not wanting to get Pepper’s attention and leaving without completing his job. Deadpool didn’t know what was in those files that made them need to be burned so badly, but Peter was determined to do his job properly. Of course he was.

{Petey is a sweetie!}

[Shut up you psycho. You’re going to make me barf.]

“Peter.” The boy jumped when Pepper said his name and tried to back away—but Deadpool was right behind him blocking his escape.

Peter swallowed hard. “Mi—Miss Potts,” he said softly.

Pepper sighed as she looked at the boy. “I am not going to bite your head off,” she told him pertly. “I just came to ask if you’re being bothered.”

“I’m sure Mr. Stark doesn’t mean it,” began Peter.

Wade couldn't help it. He burst out laughing and hugged the cute boy to him tighter. “She’s talking about me,” he informed the innocent child.

He could see Peter’s nose wrinkle in confusion. “Why would I be bothered by you?” he asked.

The genuine innocence of the question took Deadpool’s breath away for a moment. “Oh, you sweetie!” he exclaimed as he rubbed his cheek against Peter’s.

[…I like this kid.]

{We should keep him forever!}

Pepper’s mouth twitched as Bucky, behind her, coughed. “Yes. Deadpool is known for being—extreme. And I heard about the slime.”

Peter winced.

{KILL HER!}

[Down!]

“I’m sorry,” said Peter.

Bucky scoffed from where he stood. “Don’t worry about it. We all know Chambers has a stick up his ass. And it’s not like the slime tried to eat him,” he added.

Peter relaxed—slightly. Pepper continued talking. “And I know just what to do with the cat and her kittens,” she said with a grim smile that made Deadpool tremble slightly.

“What are you going to do?” asked Deadpool with morbid fascination. He knew, because of all the cat pics on Pepper’s Facebook page, that she would never do anything to hurt the little things—but that was an evil smile.

“I’ll put them on Tony’s desk. It’ll give him something besides Peter to focus on.”

“I don’t know why he’s focused on me!” protested Peter. Deadpool could hear the panic hiding in his desperate voice.

{Hug him close! It makes him feel better!}

[That’s—actually a good idea.]

Since all three of them agreed (and solely because they wanted to make Peter feel better and not because it felt nice having Peter in his arms and tucked in close), Wade gently tightened his hold on Peter. Who, predictably, relaxed.

[We’re going to have to figure out why that happens. It’s not normal.]

{Just LIVE it!]

Pepper sighed. “Peter,” she said wearily, “you have the unfortunate distinction of being one of four people who have told Tony ‘no’.”

“Five,” corrected Bucky.

“Excuse me?” Pepper turned to look at him and he shrugged, fearlessly.

“Five,” Bucky repeated. “Steve also said ‘no’.”

“Since,” said Pepper frostily, “neither you nor Steve actually insisted and did, in fact, end up doing it anyway, the two of you don’t count.” She turned back to Peter and Wade. She looked at Peter with something like—pity? Sympathy? Wade wasn’t sure. “The other three are Howard, Tony’s father, me, and Spiderman. So you’re in good company.”

That had Deadpool’s attention. “Webs told Tin Dick ‘no’?” he asked. “To what?” He’d always thought the two of them had gotten along remarkably (and disgustingly) well. What in the world could Iron Man ask that Spiderman wouldn't agree to?

Pepper didn’t hold anything back. “Tony asked Spiderman to tell him who he was,” she said calmly.

Too calmly. Heroes just were not supposed to do that to each other. “What?” he demanded harshly.

[Think it’s connected to the suit who wanted to hire us for the same thing?]

{No wonder Spidey said ‘no’!}

“He wanted to know Spiderman’s identity,” Pepper calmly repeated, eyes on Deadpool.

“That’s wrong,” said Deadpool with uncharacteristic seriousness. He tried to meet Pepper’s eyes with his own, but she could only see the whites of his mask. “You know it’s wrong. Spidey has a reason he hasn’t told anyone who he is.”

A single eyebrow rose gently. “Has he told you?”

“I’m not asking,” said Deadpool firmly. He didn’t notice his grip tightened on Peter. “I know Webs. If he hasn’t told anyone who he is, he has a reason, a good reason.”

“Wade?” asked Peter.

Wade realized he was squeezing tight enough to hurt and released. “Sorry baby,” he said. “Are you okay?”

{No! Don’t let him go! He fits so nicely in our arms!}

The adorable nose scrunched up again. “I’m stronger than I look,” he said.

A harsh, metallic screeching mixed with hissing brought their attention to the cats as Barnes scooped them out of the furnace and into the padded box. “Done,” he said as he handed the box with its still hissing cats to Pepper. He looked at Wade. “I happen to agree,” he said softly. “But you know how Tony is.”

Deadpool snorted. “That’s why he built a tower shaped like a giant purple dick,” he said. He grinned as Peter snorted with stifled laughter.

Chapter Text

Peter stared at the lab order. Normally he got through these orders by pretending they had mundane uses. Scratch that—they did have mundane uses. Even though Oscorp primarily sold weapons, the things that Peter most frequently invented there had lifesaving applications.

Hard to see any lifesaving applications for “organic incendiary” though. Peter ran his hands through his hair. He couldn't do this. He couldn't go through the motions to create something so detrimental to—to life…

You’re late Peter.”

Peter closed his eyes as the pale, sweat-soaked face of his best friend swam in his mind. Was—was this why Norman had pushed Harry so close to death? Was it because he knew that Peter would balk at this? Was it to give Peter a mental push, a reminder as to why he was donating time to Norman’s lab?

Maybe. Maybe Norman had planned it all out to the last, micromanaged detail. Or—maybe Norman was just a cold-blooded psychopath. There was no way to no for sure.

You’re staring at that lab order like it’s going to bite you.” The amused voice came out of nowhere and Peter jumped before turning to face the speaker.

Dr.—Dr. Octavius,” stammered Peter as he faced the frizzy haired woman.

She adjusted her bulky glasses and chuckled. “Please, Peter,” she said warmly. “Call me Liv.” She held out a hand. “Come on,” she said gently. “Take a break from the work. Let’s get something to eat.”

Peter didn’t really have time. He still had to get to the Bugle (which actually paid him—not much, but more than Norman did) and had to patrol. But—he also needed food.

Norman was a manipulative, sadistic bastard. Everyone could agree on that. Everyone agreed that Tony Stark, Norman’s closest competitor, was better in every way.

Except one. When Norman fed his employees (even those like Peter that didn’t get anything in the way of pay except his best friend continuing to live for another day) he did just that. He fed them. The food was paid for—by Norman. Stark Industries had cafeterias, and the employees had to buy their own food. The one thing that Peter would say that Oscorp was better than SI in was that: at Oscorp every employee—from the cleaning and maintenance crews on up—got free food. Sometimes, Norman would even feed the press.

Peter wasn’t sure why. Being so generous as to offer free food to every person who worked at Oscorp (no matter how unwillingly) seemed to go against everything that Peter knew about Norman. He would have thought that Norman would leech the money he gave his (paid) staff through exorbitantly priced food or simply have vending machines everywhere instead of cafeterias with real, live chefs. (The chefs were actually students who were getting working hours and experience with real food service—and were also allowed to eat for free.) It didn’t make sense.

Hey Peter,” called one of the lab techs as Dr. Octavius took him down to the cafeteria.

Hey Liv, any progress on those algorithms?”

I thought I’d run them by our little genius,” Dr. Octavius said cheerfully.

T he mood in the Oscorp labs was very different as well. The biggest difference was that no one at Oscorp ostracized Peter. The others might not know exactly what he did for the company, but they knew that Dr. Octavius approved of him, that he worked on top secret projects, and that he never tried to pull rank on anyone. After the chill of his coworkers at SI, the warm camaraderie at Oscorp was almost a balm on his soul.

He hated feeling that way about anything to do with Norman.

Now, sit!” Dr. Octavius ordered pushing Peter into a chair. “I’ll go get us food.” She readjusted her bulky glasses before heading towards the order hatch.

Another doctor (PhD) that Peter was familiar with plopped his tray on the table next to Peter. “Coming to the Dark Side?” he asked with a deep voice and a quick smile. “We get better food,” he added tantalizingly as he wiggled his tray.

Peter almost drooled at the sight of the food. Thin strips of meat, crusted on the outside with some kind of seasoning, rested on a bed of almost completely clear noodles and drizzled with a dark brown sauce that smelled amazing . Next to it was a serving of vegetables—just cooked long enough to be both soft and seasoned— and a small bowl of a light brown soup with a single mushroom floating at the top of it.

Peter quickly swallowed before he could actually start to drool and flushed as his stomach growled. “What is that?” he asked.

Dr. Conners shrugged his one arm. “Don’t know,” he said cheerfully. “This cook only knows three English words; ‘no,’ ‘water,’ and ‘weapon’.” The doctor grabbed his fork and speared some of the meat before putting it in his mouth and moaning. “Good cook though,” he mumbled through his food.

Dr. Octavius kicked his chair as she walked by with a tray in each hand. “Don’t talk with your mouth full,” she admonished him as she set a tray each in front of Peter and herself.

Peter’s tray was the same as Dr. Conners, and Dr. Octavius’s tray looked like a vegan version. “ Thank you,” Peter said politely before he took the fork and got some of the meat.

It melted on his tongue, a mix of savory, crunch and spice with just the slightest bit of heat. It was one of the best things that Peter had ever eaten. He bet if he could get Deadpool to try it, the merc would like it better than Mexican. Peter leaned over until he could see the serving hatch and the little old man standing behind it. He waved and the man nodded with a huge smile on his face as Peter settled back in his seat and went back to eating.

Told you,” Dr. Conners said with a wink.

Told him what?”

That here on the dark side we have better food.”

Dr. Octavius chuckled as she took a sip of her soup. “You shouldn't call it ‘the dark side’,” she said. “Ah, this is good,” she added with a fond look at the small cup.

Peter took a sip of his own soup—and had to agree. The soup was good. The food was good. And despite being in the lair of a man he truly hated, Peter began to slowly relax. He was eating good food and talking with people who didn’t (at least at this very minute) either want to kill him, wish him dead, want money he didn’t have, or any one of a million other things that people had been doing to him, and to his alter ego lately.

After all,” Dr. Octavius said, “Norman’s donated almost two million dollars to Runaways Unite.”

Only because Stark donated a hundred thousand,” pointed out Dr. Conners.

Peter kept his silence. He had his own problems with Runaways Unite. On the surface it seemed like a nonprofit organization designed to help with the street children, but Spiderman had had to rescue more than one child from them as they were determined to put the children back in the very situations that they ran from—with no regard to the child’s safety. Naturally, The Daily Bugle wholeheartedly approved of the organization.

So,” said Dr. Octavius turning her attention to Peter. “I hear that Stark offered you your own lab over there.”

Dr. Conners sighed and saluted Peter with his soup bowl. “We’ll miss you,” he said.

Peter glanced away. “I haven’t taken the offer,” he said softly.

Yet.

The single word hung in the air between the three of them. Because right now Norman held Harry’s life over Peter’s head—but he couldn't do it forever. They’d find a way around Norman, a way for Harry to have a normal life. And, maybe, Peter could be at Harry’s and Mary Jan’s wedding. Or not. Perhaps the two of them would end up with other people, people who weren’t traumatized by what Norman had put them all through. But—maybe.

And there was no way that Peter was going to give support to the man who regularly threatened to kill his child just to control Peter.

So,” said Dr. Octavius changing the subject again, “why were you glaring at the lab order?”

Should he? Would they understand? Well, probably not, but it couldn't hurt. “Norman wants me to develop an organic incendiary,” he said. “I don’t like something that could—well…” Peter trailed off, not sure what to say.

To his surprise, Dr. Octavius nodded and absently moved her trademark colorful scarf out of the way before it fell into her food. “You’ve got to look after the environment,” she said knowingly.

Or, maybe it wasn’t that surprising. Dr. Conners looked thoughtful. “What if if,” he said slowly, “instead of something that targeted all organic matter, it was something that could be used to target something specifically?”

Ooo,” said Dr. Octavius. “Like cancer cells. If you set it fine enough, you can target a single type of cancer and knock it out!” She grinned and adjusted her glasses. “Does that help?” she asked.

Peter’s mind began to whirl. “Yes,” he said thinking about the positive ramifications (and willfully ignoring the warlike use Norman was going to put them to). “Thank you,” he said shyly before he turned his attention back to his food.

After all, he knew better than to give good food anything less than his undivided attention.

Chapter Text

Liv gently blew on her tea as Norman paced her lab. “We’re getting somewhere.” She chuckled. “Conners was even helping—not that he meant to.”

Norman sighed and paused as he stared at the tiny circuit board that was Liv’s current attention. “How?” he asked.

Liv chuckled before she deliberately lowered her voice in an imitation of Conners. “Come to the Dark Side Peter; we have better food.” Liv cocked her head to the side as she regarded her boss. “ And we do,” she added in a more natural tone. “One might wonder why.”

Norman snorted as he turned away from the project and leaned against the lab bench. “One might—until one accounts for how much time is spent away from work by people having lunch. Deciding where to go. Actually going. Heading back. These meals have upped productivity—especially among the custodial staff—by a good twenty percent. Change the cooks to keep people from getting bored, and the investment more than pays off.” He pierced the scientist with a look. “And Peter?” he asked.

Liv sighed. She understood more than Norman thought she did. Yes, Peter was a genius, right up there with the likes of Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Yes, the kid could easily intuit answers that other minds, arguably just as intelligent, failed to reach. None of those answers were why Norman was so desperate to get Peter into Oscorp.

She also knew better than to mention it. With all of the hazardous materials that Oscorp used, it was all too easy for a scientist to disappear. “I don’t know what’s happening at Stark Industries,” she said thoughtfully as she stirred her tea, “but Peter is not happy there. He relaxed while the three of us were sitting together, and that’s never happened before.” She took a sip—still too hot. “He also unbent enough to help me with my algorithms.” She gestured to the project on the bench. “The first part of that should be up and running by Tuesday, thanks to that.”

Norman relaxed. The difference between Norman tense and Norman relaxed was minute, and indiscernible—unless someone happened to know that knowing the difference could mean the difference between life and death. “ He’s coming around?” asked Norman.

She snorted. “He’s more likely to now more than ever— what were you thinking asking him to make an ‘organic incendiary’ anyway? You know the kid feels the need to save people.”

Norman grimaced. “Impossible contract,” he explained. “They hold too much of the company to say ‘no’ and I don’t have the abilities. Peter’s the brightest star we have—if he failed I could just say we tried.”

Liv grimaced. She knew exactly who he was talking about. “Well, trying to wrap his mind around the lab order almost split him apart, so I steered him in another direction. Instead of something that can simply wipe out organic matter, he’s going to develop something that wipe out specific organic matter.”

Like dogs over cats?” hazarded Norman.

Liv chuckled. Norman was many things—but one of his main failings was his inability to think small . “Like mutated cancer cells over normal, healthy cells.”

Norman stared at her and she knew what he was wondering. “Yes, it is possible. Peter already has several ideas on how to get it done and even if none of them work you’ll still get lucrative patents out of them.” She took another sip of her tea and then a larger gulp when she realized it was finally at the perfect temperature. “On another note, how’s the other project going?”

Norman scowled again. He glared across the lab. “Poorly. You’d think that a vigilante who bleeds all over the city would be easier to get a blood sample from.”

Liv hid her smile behind the coffee cup. “It’ll be even harder now,” she commented thoughtfully. When he looked at her she added, “Deadpool is back in town.”

Norman frowned—for a moment. “Ah. Yes, I’ve heard about Deadpool. Most—protective of the little wonder.”

Liv snorted. “I doubt you’ll be able to use the same method to control Deadpool that you use to control Peter,” she told him. “First of all—you’d have to know Spiderman’s identity. Second,” she ticked the points off with her non-dominant hand, “you’d have to somehow fend off the other ‘heroes.’ The boy seems popular with them.”

Norman snorted. “I can handle the other heroes,” he said confidently.

But can you handle losing Peter?” asked Liv shrewdly. Norman was silent and tense—again, only slightly. Almost unnoticeable. “Devoid this city of its heroes and that’s exactly what you’ll do.” Norman scowled and she shrugged. “Why not go the classic route? Hire him?”

Norman snorted. “Deadpool isn’t taking jobs,” he said. “And especially not these kind of jobs.”

The man’s got to eat somehow.”

True.” Norman sighed and pushed away from the bench. “I’ll look into it.” He stalked out of the lab.

Liv shook her head. Norman may have been a genius, may have been a businessman, but he had some peculiar blind spots. She wondered, idly, what had caused them.

The cabinet door beneath the lab bench slowly inched open. “Is he gone?” asked her assistant in a hushed tone.

Liv chuckled again. “He’s gone,” she assured the timid young girl. She watched the child fondly as she climbed out. The girl was excellent as support, easily able to grasp tough topics and help with the main objectives—but she had no initiative . She’d never be anything other than support, no matter how long she worked in a lab.

Unlike Peter.

Chapter Text

Ellie lurked in the alley behind Mr. Parker’s apartment. She was—wary of the man. Yeah. Wary. That was the reason she was there, making sure he made it home in one piece.

She didn’t quite know what to make of Mr. Parker. He wasn’t like other grown-ups, or even teens who roamed the streets. He didn’t ask the same questions.

What’s your name sweetie? Where do you live?”

Mr. Parker asked, “Did you hit your head? Is anyone trying to kill you at this very moment?”

Mr. Parker—cared.

No, he didn’t. None of them did. No, Mr. Parker wanted something from the children. She just hadn’t figured out what it was yet.

He didn’t want money. She remembered when Tiny had tried to give him part of his loot as “payment” for the medical treatment Mr. Parker was giving them. She still remembered what the man had said.

This isn’t mine, it’s yours. And knock off with the stealing—you don’t want the local gangs to think you’re competition.”

Which—fair enough. They had to watch out less for the teens and their gangs now that they took up new, alternative methods of income. Again, thanks to Mr. Parker.

There are always tourists who want to by some handmade crap so they can brag to their friends back home about the big city. There are always people who need help with their groceries and other purchases. Even young as you are you can find legitimate work—and always work in pairs. The buddy system was invented for a reason.”

So, they’d set it up. Their most artistic and crafty people made cheap trinkets to sell to tourists, while the faster, nimbler ones kept watch for the cops and gangs. They still got caught, on occasion—but not as much. And Mr. Parker—didn’t want any of their money.

She’d thought he wanted sex when he offered tutoring—but no. When he said he wanted to teach them he meant, reading, writing, and basic math. Not the other thing that the other man had wanted—before she’d cut his part off.

Other adults wanted to know where the children hid. Mr. Parker asked, “Is it safe? If the city is attacked by another alien from the sky, will it hold? Can your enemies find it?” After listening to his questions the kids had scoured the city and found another, better hiding place. And Mr. Parker never asked where it was.

She’d almost think that he didn’t care—except for the way he treated the children. He always stopped for them, always made time for them (and he didn’t have much time to spare between his three jobs—how did someone actually get hired for both Stark and Oscorp at the same time, and why would they want to?), and even fed them when he could. When someone was injured so badly that he had to call for help, he always—always—gave the children time to get out of the area if they could before he did.

But he wanted something. Everyone did. She just had to figure out what that something was.

A sharp scent of ozone made her sneeze and she turned to see glowing pink light forming in the alley. She quickly ducked behind the dumpster as she watched what was happening.

Knowledge is power. It can be useful in the future even if it’s useless now.”

Ellie was a very good study.

The glowing pink light swirled with darker pink in the middle as a human—or human like figure—stepped out. As soon as the figure was through the light—vanished. As fast as when someone flipped a light switch.

The figure sighed, and pushed long hair back. “How long this time?” it mused in a distinctly feminine voice. It pushed up sleeves to reveal a pale forearm—before quickly pushing up the other sleeve. “Sixty days ?” the figure demanded. “Why? How? Ugh.” It turned and glared into the darkness of the alley. “This thing really should have come with more instructions. Ick.” The figure, having apparently stepped in something, scraped the bottom of a bare foot against the wall. “And, once again, what the Hell happened to my shoes? Seriously, can’t they build one of these this suckers that doesn’t eat footwear? Ugh.” The figure reached behind itself—

The hair on the back of Ellie’s neck rose into the air as there was a smaller, more muted glow of gold, a hint of geometric design, and then the hand—vanished. If Ellie wasn’t concentrating on not being seen she would have screamed. She swallowed as the hand returned—complete with a pair of shoes.

“Can’t believe I have to do this every time,” grumbled the figure as it put on the shoes. “This is insane. Right.” After tying the shoes the figure looked around. “I still have a job to do. Ugh. This is not going to be pleasant. Do we care? I thought not. Okay.” Suddenly two sweeping wings spread out from the figure’s back and it launched into the air. The dumpster was the only thing that protected Ellie from the wind created. Ellie peeked around the dumpster at the now empty alley. The only evidence of what had just happened was the trash that had fluttered around in the strong wind.

What had just happened?

Chapter Text

Peter, Jamison wants you in his office.”

Peter winced and clutched the handle of his bag defensively. “I’m not late!” he said desperately.

Beth rolled her eyes at him, purple eye shadow glinting in the office lights. “It doesn’t matter,” she said firmly. “He wants you in his office now.”

Peter knew better than to argue. The whole staff of the Daily Bugle knew better than to argue. He quickly made his way through the crowded halls of the Bugle to Jamison’s office and timidly knocked to introduce himself before going in. Standing at Jamison’s desk was another man, a guy with short, pitch black hair, who looked about as happy as Jamison—i.e. not at all. “I’m here, Mr. Jamison,” said Peter nervously.

Peter, meet Eddie. Eddie, this is Peter. What have you got for me today, Peter?” demanded Jamison’s harshly. Peter could hear the crunching noise as he savagely chewed through the candy he’d taken to eating when he’d stopped smoking.

Peter quickly reached into his bag and pulled out the pictures he’d taken before handing them to his boss. “He—hello,” he stammered towards Eddie. The man just glared at him and Peter tried to retreat further into himself.

He found himself wishing, as Jamison went through the photos, that Wade was with him. He had no doubt that Wade’s presence might just antagonize his coworkers at the Bugle more—but Peter found his presence reassuring. He felt warm and safe with Wade and none of that had anything to do with how Wade was determined to not only respect Spiderman’s identity, but defend him against what anyone else had to say about the subject. Nope. Not at all.

Jamison slammed one of the photos onto the desk and Peter jumped—and then stared, confused. It wasn’t one of his best works; the lines were blurred and it was difficult to see what was going on. Why would Jamison draw attention to t his one?

See that, Eddie?” growled Jamison. “This is the worst of Parker’s photos. And this,” he added as he slammed down another one—showing Iron Man and Black Widow in battle with a faceless (literally) man, “This is the quality he usually brings me. You want his job? Do it better.”

Peter first glowed at the rare (exceptionally rare) praise until he realized the other man wanted his job . Why? The Bugle didn’t even pay that much, and Peter knew for a fact that they negotiated to sell the photos to other newspapers and sites. He cringed away from the sudden death glare he was getting from the other man.

“Parker, the printer’s acting up again,” growled Jamison.

Peter didn’t have to be told twice. “Yes, Sir,” he said quickly retreating from the office. Beth looked up and smirked at him. “You knew,” he whispered, feeling betrayed.

She rolled her eyes. “Of course I knew. Just as I know that he’ll be hired anyway, because Jamison loves his turn of invective phrase. And when you’re done with the printer I need help with the website.”

Peter nodded jerkily and went to get a set of the company over-alls that they used for the printing press in the basement. The thing was old, and was always jamming. It was easy enough to fix—and messy enough that only people at the bottom of the hierarchy (Peter) were sent to do it. He cleared the old blockage and closed the lid before jumping back at the sight of Eddie staring at him.

Eddie regarded him through narrowed eyes. “How do you do it?” he demanded suspiciously.

“I—uh, I take out the old paper to clear the blockage before refilling with new paper,” said Peter warily as he moved, cautiously, towards the door. He didn’t understand why he was suddenly sharing a room with Eddie—the man looked at him like he was scum and his senses were giving a low-level, irritating buzz.

“Not that,” said Eddie. His tone was casual. His body language was anything but. “I mean the pictures.”

Peter was even more confused. “The pictures? Well, the programming does most of the work—”

The pictures you take,” growled Eddie through clenched teeth. “How do you know the best places to be?”

Oh. Oh . Peter nervously fidgeted with the safety goggles he was wearing. “I work at Stark Industries,” he said, “and they’re pretty good about assistants taking odd breaks as long as all the work gets done.”

What does that—oh.” Eddie regarded Peter with a little bit more respect. “So you use the information you get at work to know when and where to go.”

It’s not secret information,” Peter said quickly. He didn’t want anyone to think he was stealing secrets from Mr. Stark. “They announce it over the intercom. The only times I can’t go is when they’re expecting something to attack the Tower and lock it down with everyone inside.” The buzz wasn’t diminishing, and Peter swallowed. “I’ve got to—I’ve got to go,” he said quickly before fleeing.

He carefully hung the ink stained over-alls back up, grabbed his bag, and clocked out before leaving. He fled the building and then sighed as he trudged back home. He had some money from Jamison—but he was going to have to use it for the rest of his rent, some food, and some more medical supplies. His first aid kit was dangerously low, and he didn’t have anything to eat at home. The food he’d gotten at Oscorp was already wearing thin. Not for the first time, he cursed his quick metabolism.

“Petey-Pie!” called a familiar voice.

Peter whirled to see the familiar red and black figure coming towards him. “Wade!” he said happily right before he was squeezed in a hug.

Oh, Petey-Pie! It’s been forever since I hugged you!”

Peter reached around the mercenary to hug him back and felt tense muscles relaxing. “You liar,” he said fondly. “It was just four o’clock this afternoon.”

Do you know how many chapters that was Petey?” whined Wade. “I need my Peter fix!” He rubbed his masked cheek against Peter’s bare one and the stitches rasped against his face.

“Chapters?” he asked in confusion. “Are you reading a book?”

I’d tell ya, Pete,” said Wade as he held the smaller man, “but you’d think I was crazy.”

Peter chuckled and gently squeezed in a return hug. “You are crazy,” he said fondly.

Crazy enough to believe he could change.

Crazy enough to believe Spiderman had a good reason for keeping his identity secret.

Crazy enough to get close to Peter Parker.

“You say that like it’s a good thing,” Wade said.

Peter leaned back enough to where he could look into the whites of Wade’s mask. “Who says it’s a bad thing?” he challenged. “I—”

So this is how you get your information,” said voice, dripping with disgust. Peter broke way enough to see Eddie behind them. The raw disgust on his face was enough to make him take a step back, and the mere sight brought back that low-level warning buzz. “Fucking the freaks.”

“Hmm. Peter, who is this?” asked Deadpool as he tucked himself around Peter again.

This is Eddie. I think he’s my coworker?” Jamison had mentioned something about Eddie wanting his job—but why? It just didn’t pay that much, and no one like to wrangle the printer.

Oh? Hello Eddie. I’d offer to shake your hand, but I’m hugging my baby boy right now.” The arm around Peter’s waist tightened slightly, and the other crossed Peter’s torso. Peter would have relaxed into the embrace—if he hadn’t been all too aware of the fact that Deadpool had just moved his hand closer to his sword.

Eddie put both his hands in his pockets—and Peter winced. Deadpool had once sliced the arms off of a crook who did that ( I swear he was reaching for a gun, and you’re not bullet-proof Spidey! ) and Peter waited anxiously to see what would happen. Eddie simply left his hands there, and chuckled.

The sound was disturbingly similar to what Norman had uttered as Harry was recovering from nearly dying in the office.

“I just want to get an edge, that’s all,” Eddie said with a sly grin. Without looking at Peter he asked, “Peter, do you believe in the concept of fair play?”

“Um—yes?”

“Do you believe that in a competition to see who is truly the best, both people should be on equal footing?

“…yes?”

The grin widened. “Excellent. Hey, Deadpool. How about you give me a heads up, next time shit’s going down?”

Deadpool tucked his chin into the crook of Peter’s neck and there was a slight change—an almost relaxation that left him somewhere between Deadpool and Wade. “Hmm. That does sound fair.” Eddie smirked. “But, I won’t do it. You upset my little Petey-Pie, and the only reason you’re still breathing is because Spidey Senpai would be mad at me.” He rubbed his cheek against Peter’s again. “And just as Baby Boy believes in fair play, he also believes in honesty. Don’t you Baby Boy?”

“We—well, it’s always important to try to be truthful,” Peter said. He couldn't tell anyone he was Spiderman—but he didn’t deny it either. Actually, he was more careful that it didn’t come up. He wasn’t sure if that counted as lying or not.

Deadpool heaved an exaggerated sigh. “There you go. If Spidey asked Petey-Pie if I killed someone, Petey would tell the truth. So you live. Now live somewhere I’m not tempted.” He took his gloved hand away from Peter’s shoulder and made shooing motion with it. Eddie growled—but left. Peter let out a low, slow breath and relaxed as Wade cuddled him close again. “I don’t know how to say this, but you need a bodyguard.”

Peter really wouldn't put it past Eddie to ambush him in an alley on the way home. While he could fight off the other reporter—he couldn't do it without telling people he was Spiderman. “True,” he said. He looked up at Wade’s chin. “Want to come shopping with me? I got paid today.”

Chapter Text

[I have to point out, once again, how very strange it is that he is not running from us, not making an excuse to leave us, and feels safer with us than with the unarmed, clearly sane man.]

{Shut up! Petey-Pie is amazing!}

[I didn’t say I don’t like him, I said he’s strange.]

Wade hummed as Peter put groceries in his cart. When the boy had asked him to go shopping with him, he didn’t think it would be for groceries.

[And medical supplies. He could support an ambulance with what he’s got in there.]

{What does he need those for? Is working for Stark that dangerous?}

“Peter,” said Wade slowly, “I notice that you’ve got a lot of fruit.”

“Ah, well,” said Peter as he pushed up his glasses (he’d put them on before going into the store saying he had eyestrain), “fruit is good. It has vitamins and nutrients, and most fruits also have juice.”

[That’s—oddly specific.]

Wade watched as Peter put some crackers in the cart. “Do you ever—cook food, Petey?” he asked.

“I can,” Peter said defensively. “I just—don’t have a lot of time,” he admitted. Peter slouched over, as if ashamed of himself.

{You FIEND! Fix it! Fix it NOW!!!}

“All righty Petey-Pie,” said Wade decisively as he started grabbing stuff on his own. “Tonight, I’ll cook.”

An adorable flush crossed Peter’s cheeks. “I can’t ask you to do that,” he protested.

[Buy it with our money Wade. Author knows we have more than enough.]

“True. You’re not asking,” Wade assured Peter. “I’m telling. And I’m a good cook.”

{Remember that chef that taught us how to cook in exchange for not killing him?}

[We still killed him though.]

{Only because he tried to poison us.}

The flush deepened. “Th—thanks Wade,” he said.

Wade looked at him, reached and towards his face, and “Boop!” bopped his nose with a gloved finger. The nose, predictably, twitched in response.

“Stop that,’ protested Peter with no heat from the words.

“You are just too cute. I can’t wait to see you melt over dinner.”

“That sounded wrong,” Peter complained as he followed Wade to the next aisle.

“No, no!” protested Wade as he turned Peter around. “you’re going to be surprised!”

[We’re not. It’s tacos again, isn’t it?]

{Tacos have all the food groups because tomatoes are a fruit!}

“Hey, are the food groups still a pyramid, or did they change again?” asked Wade as he picked ingredients.

{Hate to break it to ya buddy, but rice doesn’t go in tacos.}

“I don’t know. I don’t really keep up with that stuff.” Wade turned to see that Peter was still looking away. He couldn't help but grin under the mask; the boy really did believe in the concept of fair play.

“Kay. Hmm. I’ll Google it later. Oh—fun fact!” Wade announced as they continued to shop. “Did you know the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel died after slipping on an orange peel?”

“Did you mention that because I have oranges in the cart?” asked Peter trailing after Wade, still not looking. Wade reached out and gently grabbed his elbow to prevent him from running into a display.

“Nah. It just popped into my head. I think the author was reading Fun Facts of the Day again.”

“Author?”

“Not important, Baby Boy,” said Wade with a dismissive wave of his hand. He looked at the contents of the cart and a thought took hold.

{I saw that! Do it! Do it!}

[An actual good idea. The second one so far.]

Wade hummed. “Okay Pete,” he said with a grin hidden (mostly, partly, okay—not at all since his mask was so emotive) behind his mask. “This next bit’s the secret to a perfect dinner, so I want you to close your eyes.”

“Close my eyes?”

Peter didn’t sound thrilled at the idea. “Don’t worry,” Wade said as reassuring as possible. “I’ll keep a hand on you and make sure you don’t run into anything.”

[Are you insane? Like he’s really going to trust a sword-wielding—he’s doing it. I can’t believe he’s doing it.]

{I want to keep him! Hold him tight and never let go!}

Peter had closed his eyes and was trustingly holding out a hand to Wade. A hand that Wade gently, reverently took. It wasn’t often anyone gave him trust.

[Or ever.]

{Spidey trusts us!}

[And how are you going to manage this next part, genius?]

Wade kept up a stream of babble that was just loud enough to cover the beeping at the checkout. He had no idea what the clerk thought—

[Probably that he doesn’t get paid enough to care.]

—but the young man didn’t say anything to ruin the deception until he gave the total. Peter’s eyes snapped open and his mouth dropped as Wade quickly paid for the food. All of the food. And the first aid supplies.

{Seriously; what does he need those for?}

“Wade!” spluttered Peter, face flushed, and staring in shock.

“Aw,” crooned Wade. “Boop.” He gently bopped Peter’s nose and, like always, it twitched like a little rabbit.

“Wade, this is serious!”

“What was that? I can’t hear you!” Wade quickly gathered the bags on and in his arms.

“Wade!”

“CAN’T HEAR YOU!” The mercenary danced out of the door.

Peter quickly caught up. “Wait—at least let me carry some of them!”

“Well—since I’m cooking,” admitted Wade. He paused and let Peter shift about half the weight of the bags to himself.

[Did you notice he took the heavy half?]

“I can carry it all,” Wade said.

“No,” said Peter firmly. His glasses began to slide down his nose. He used his forearm to push them back up again. “You paid for the groceries. You said you’d be cooking dinner. The least I can do is carry them.”

{Aw! He’s such a sweetie}

[I’m taking this moment to point out that he’s not even breathing hard.]

Wade ignored the voices in his head for the moment. “Well,” he said salaciously, “you are just going to—”

“Peter!” The two of them turned to see two beautiful redheads, one male and one female, coming up to them.

Peter’s face lit up. “Harry! MJ!” he called back as the two approached them. Wade watched them warily, not sure how to respond to the two new people. Especially not two people that Peter actually seemed happy to see.

[Doesn’t it strike you odd? All day long he’s only been happy to see three people, and we’re one of them.]

“Peter,” the young man said warily as he regarded Wade. “Who’s this?”

“Oh!” said Peter. “I’m sorry. Wade, this is Harry,” the male nodded, “and MJ,” the female waved. “They’ve been my best friends since—well, almost forever. Harry, MJ, this is Wade. He’s—um, a friend.”

“Oh.” The girl’s vibrant green eyes looked the costumed man up and down. “An ‘um friend.’ When did you get one of those? Huh?” she nudged Peter in the side with an elbow while wearing a smirk.

Peter squirmed. “MJ!” he protested.

The guy simply grinned and stuck his hands in his pockets. “So, Wade, was it? Has Peter shown you his scrapbooks yet?”

Wade hadn’t thought it was possible for Peter to get any redder. He’d been wrong. “Harry!” protested Peter in a voice that was half yelp, half yell.

MJ simply giggled before absconding with half the bags in Peter’s arms. “Let’s get your groceries put up Peter,” she said. “It’s been forever.”

[Why aren’t they screaming, running away, or telling us to leave?]

{Who cares?}

“You know,” said Harry, “I can help with—”

Both MJ and Peter whirled, identical expressions of anger on their faces. “NO!” they said firmly, in unison.

“Wow,” said Wade looking at Harry. “They agree! It must be important.”

“They’re just overprotective,” said Harry fondly. “On another note; you should really look at Peter’s scrapbooks. There’s at least one picture I know you’ll be thrilled with.” He smirked.

Wade wanted to punch him in the nose. He wasn’t sure why. “Peter doesn’t seem okay with it,” he said slowly.

Harry frowned. “That’s Dad’s fault,” he said viciously. “And the world doesn’t bow to Dad, no matter what the bastard thinks.”

{That’s a lot of anger.}

“There’s nothing wrong with scrapbooking.”

“Nothing at all,” agreed Wade. He wasn’t sure why, except that seeing Harry upset might upset Peter and he didn’t want to upset Peter.

“And Peter took all the pictures himself,” Harry added. There was an odd note of pride in his voice.

“I’ve seen his pictures in the Bugle,” Wade admitted.

[You mean, you’ve cut out pictures he’s taken of Spiderman and glued them to the wall of the bathroom.]

As the four of them made their way to Peter’s apartment, Wade noticed something. There was always someone touching Peter—MJ his arm, Harry his shoulder, or Wade just leaning against him randomly as they walked. Peter took it all in stride.

[Maybe it’s not so strange that he likes us. Maybe he’s just one of those people that needs to be touched.]

{In that case—we’re perfect for each other!}

[We are not, you idiot.]

Once they’re in the apartment all four of them help put up groceries. To Wade’s slight surprise, the redheads know where everything is supposed to go. When they were done MJ slung an arm around Peter’s shoulder. “Come on, Tiger,” she told him. “Time to get the scrapbook.”

“But—” Peter didn’t have a chance as MJ towed him towards a room.

“So,” said Harry amiably as the two of them waited on the couch. “You and Peter, huh? How did that happen?”

“I launched a sword into the alarm in his lab and his only comment was to ask if he could borrow the blade to finish cutting something.”

Harry chuckled. “Sounds like Peter,” he said fondly.

[He should sound more worried.]

“You don’t sound surprised,” Wade admitted.

Harry looked at Wade with a half smile and a raised eyebrow. “When we were five a guy in a dirty white van came up to the school. He said he’d hit a puppy and begged us to get the teacher for help.”

Sounded like a stranger danger scenario, the kind used to frighten small children. “What happened?” he asked.

“Peter climbed into the van. Turns out, there really was an injured puppy in the thing. The man had been telling the truth.” Harry was silent for a moment. “I asked Peter how he knew and he said he just did. So, if Peter feels comfortable around you, that means you’re a good person for him.”

Wade scoffed. “I’m not a good person,” he argued.

“Good,” said Harry, sounding satisfied.

Before Wade could interrogate Harry on that odd comment, MJ came out with a frantic Peter trailing behind her. “Got it,” said MJ smugly.

Peter was flushed, and looked a little panicked. “It—it’s not that great,” he said hurriedly as MJ smugly handed Wade a three-ring binder.

Wade looked at Peter. “I won’t open if it you’re not okay with that.” He noticed MJ and Harry exchange smiles, but kept his eyes on Peter.

Who slumped, defeated. “You can look,” he said. “They’re just—just not that great,” he continued lamely.

{He looks sad. We need to hug him!}

[We need to find out why this is so important.]

Wade opened the book and stared. It wasn’t a scrapbook so much as it was a photo album—and the photos were amazing. They were nothing the Bugle, borderline tabloid that it was, would ever print, but amazing nonetheless. They showed the city of New Amsterdam, and its heroes, in a way that Wade had never seen before. There was a picture of Captain America, clearly helping a cat down out of a tree, getting scratched in the face by said cat. There was a picture of a blue balloon among the pink petals of the cherry trees in the park. A group of girls in prom dresses eating pizza and laughing while one of them tried to scoop the pizza off her dress.

The one that made his breath catch, though, was the picture of him. Standing at the edge of a rooftop, katanas in each hand, a light shining on him highlighting features of the costume even as the rising sun behind him outlined the mercenary in view.

{We look amazing! That should be a poster!}

[There’s something odd about that picture…]

“These are wonderful,” said Wade in awe as he turned the page. He looked up at Peter. “Did you take all these?”

Peter flushed and shuffled his feet. “Well, yes,” he admitted.

“You should share them,” Wade said. They were way too good to be condemned to life merely in a notebook.

“No one wants them,” muttered Peter.

{LIES!!}

“Have you tried putting them up on Instagram?” asked Wade. “You know, showing people what you have?”

“I—I never really thought about it much,” admitted Peter as he pushed his glasses back into place with the heel of his hand.

“We’ll have to do that. After dinner. Or while it’s cooking.” He turned to MJ and Harry. “You want to join us?” he asked, politely. “I’m making a lot of food.”

MJ just chuckled. “The two of you are made for each other—he can eat a lot of food.”

Harry pushed himself up off the couch. “You two have fun,” he said gently. “We’ve got to go.” He walked up to Peter and tousled the smaller man’s hair. “Don’t let Dad run you ragged,” he advised.

Peter instantly looked troubled. “Harry—” he said worriedly.

“After all,” continued Harry, “he won’t always be in control.”

The worried look vanished and Peter grinned. “That’s right!” he said happily.

[What’s that about?]

{Eh, he’ll tell us when he’s ready.}

Chapter Text

Harry and MJ strolled in companionable silence for a while, hands linked with fingers interlaced. After a while Harry hummed softly. “Wade seems nice,” he said quietly.

“Certainly respectful of Peter,” agreed MJ. She chuckled. “Did you see the look between them after I handed him the scrapbook? He definitely loves Peter.”

Harry smiled. “That’s good. I think we can count on Deadpool to put Peter first.” Then, softer, in a tone not meant to carry, he added, “Someone has to.”

MJ gripped his hand tighter. “You’re doing what you can,” she told him gently, but firmly.

Harry gave a hollow laugh. “Am I?” he asked her. When they’d been children he’d resented the way his father almost seemed to glow when Peter was nearby. After—after that whole mess he’d resented Peter for the fact that he wasn’t the one in physical pain. It wasn’t until Peter had gotten hospitalized because of a prank that several of Norman’s lab assistants had played on him that Harry had realized that the emotional pain of watching someone you cared for in physical pain and being unable to do anything to help was worse. And he’d always seen that pain reflected in Peter’s eyes, he just hadn’t understood it at the time.

MJ had seen everything. She understood both of them, even as they hadn’t understood each other. She pulled him close until his forehead rested against hers. “You are,” she said firmly.

Harry hugged her close, almost desperately. Sometimes he wondered if he was holding her back. She was such a beautiful person, smart and kind, and was surely destined for great things. He’d asked her once. She’d told him to stop being stupid and kiss her.

“I hope he takes good care of Peter,” Harry said.

“I hope Peter lets him,” MJ replied.

She didn’t have to say the rest. They both knew that Deadpool, the infamous immortal mercenary, was one of the few people on the planet that Norman couldn't touch. He couldn't be killed; he couldn't be blackmailed. There was no one better for Peter, if only the two of them got along like that. If only they loved each other like that.

If only…

 ***

Tony stepped into his office—and stopped. There was a large cardboard box on his desk. There appeared to be something moving in it. He stepped closer, just close enough to see inside—and stared. “Pepper?” he called.

“Sorry Tony,” she said appearing behind him. Her voice sounded calm, not apologetic it at all. “The Tower cat had kittens, and there’s nowhere else to put them for the moment.”

“Tower cat?” Tony hadn’t been aware his tower had a cat. Or that it had been female. Or that he’d suddenly be playing host to eight cats on his desk.

If he hadn’t been so focused on the cats, he would have seen the smile on Pepper’s face. “We thought about getting rid of them,” Tony made an inarticulate protest at the thought, “but they’re good for employee morale. Bruce is working on finding a place for them—”

Bruce is?”

“—but until then they have nowhere else to stay.” Tony stared at the cats. The gray and white spotted mother cat looked up at Tony and blinked lazily as the kittens nursed. “If you really mind—”

“They’re good here.” Tony watched as the mother cat yawned before settling back down.

Pepper watched him stare at the box. His hands were on his hips and he was scowling at the living things in front of him. “Maybe this is a mistake,” she said thoughtfully.

“A mistake?”

“I’ll find someone else to take care of them. It’s just, Natalie thought they’d do better if they stayed in the Tower, but I’m sure there’s someone who’ll be thrilled to take them home—just while we get their new residence ready.”

“No.”

Pepper smiled. If Tony had been watching her, he would have shivered. As it was, all he could see was the cats on his desk. “No?” she asked.

“They’re good here. After all, the Tower is their home.”

Pepper nodded. “That’s right,” she said warmly. “The Tower is their home.” She turned and left the office, a spring in her step.

Tony didn’t notice as he stared at the side of the cardboard box. Cats. In his Tower. Good for morale.

Frowning, Tony turned and did what he always did when he didn’t understand something. Research.

Chapter Text

Peter watched in fascination as Wade mixed seasoning in with the rice before carefully pushing into the bottom of the casserole dish. (Peter hadn’t known he’d had a casserole dish. It was in with a bunch of dishes Aunt May had packed for him when he moved out.) There was something—alluring about watching hands, hands that he knew could both kill creatively and without mercy while also being capable of the best hugs Peter had ever had, making food. He was almost hypnotized by the sight.

“Careful, Baby,” said Wade as he grabbed the cheese and the cheese grater. (Peter wasn’t asking why Wade had a cheese grater in one of his pouches. Or why he’d soaked it in bleach for three minutes before washing it.) “You’ll give me ideas.”

Peter frowned. That was the second time that Wade had mentioned Peter giving him ideas. “What do you mean?” asked Peter as he leaned against the counter. Taking the new position was all about getting closer to Wade, and not about getting a better look at those hands making food. Food that wasn’t even finished yet and looked delicious. “By giving you ideas?” he clarified.

Wade stopped moving and then turned to look at Peter. It was one of the few times that the mask wasn’t emotive. “Peter,” he said in a low, serious voice that was nothing like his normal, over the top one, “I’m a guy. I’m a crazy, few-bricks-short-of-a-house guy who, under this fabulous outfit, looks like a horror movie monster reject—but I’m still a guy. And when you say things like that, or do things like that, I start getting the idea that I might be a guy. And that’s dangerous.”

Peter hopped onto the counter as he watched Wade turn back to the casserole he was making. “What kind of ideas? And why do you think you look like a horror movie monster reject?”

Wade snorted as he covered the dish with foil and put it in the oven. (That, Peter had known worked, as he’d reheated pizza in it on occasion.) “I’ve seen myself, Baby Boy,” Wade said bitterly. “I’ve seen people’s reactions to my ugly mug. Trust me, I’m a monster. And not a good monster in the oh-the-audience-wants-to-fuck-him way, either.”

Peter hopped off the counter and wrapped his arms around Wade. “You’re not a monster,” he said.

Wade hugged him back. “You don’t know that Petey,” he said wearily as he slumped against Peter. “You’ve never seen me.”

Peter looked up. “Then show me,” he challenged, suddenly reckless. “Show me what you mean.” Wade recoiled slightly, but didn’t let go of Peter. Peter reached up and gently pressed a palm to the masked face. “It’s okay,” he said.

Wade shook his head, but the movement was sad and despondent. He reached up and gently pressed against the hand on his cheek. “I know how people look at me without the mask,” he said. “And if you looked at me like that—I’d break, Peter.”

Peter’s heart was already breaking. “Wade,” he said, “I’d never—”

He was interrupted by a furious pounding on the apartment door. “Mr. Parker!” cried a desperate voice that he was all too familiar with.

In a flash Peter was by the door, holding it open for the two children—one leaning heavily on the other. The more mobile one half dragged, half carried the other one into the room, and then came to stop. The child stared at Wade, eyes wide, breathing heavily.

Oh, right. The last time the child had been in his apartment Norman had been over to visit. “He’s safe,” Peter assured the child as he helped with the badly injured one. “What happened?” he asked helping the girl to the table.

The more active child nearly danced with worry as Peter did a cursory examination. Bruises, strains, minor abrasions and lacerations. Not nearly as bad as some he’d seen. The worst were the raw, bloody strips at the child’s wrists. Peter grabbed his first aid kit and went to work.

“Juby was in the store, getting some food, when the police picked her up.” In its distress, the child didn’t even seem to realize that one of the forbidden names had been dropped. “They took her to her dad.”

Juby turned to Peter, eyes wide and glassy, but focused nonetheless. “Ellie saved me,” she said firmly.

“I couldn't leave you there with that bastard!”

“Enough,” Peter said gently as he worked. He used some alcohol to tease hair out of one of the worst wounds on the girl’s scalp, hoping he could stave off infection. “I thought you were using the buddy system,” he said with a slight frown.

“We were!” protested Ellie.

“Anna Marie’s mom is worse than my dad,” Juby said calmly, barely twitching even though Peter knew it had to hurt. He tried not to think about why a small child had such high pain tolerance. He didn’t want to know. “When I saw the cop I made her hide.”

“And then she came to get me,” said Ellie.

As Peter moved to treat the wound on the girl’s wrist, he noticed Wade gently shoo Ellie towards him. “So, tell me about Juby’s dad. I have serious questions like, where does the fucker live?”

Peter wanted to tell him not use such language in front of the children—but knew that they’d heard worse. “All right,” said Peter as he wrapped the last treated wound in gauze before grabbing an orange he’d picked up earlier. “Here you are,” he said handing the fruit to the child before grabbing another one for Ellie. Juby put a finger to the orange and small purple spark bit into the rind, making it accessible to the child.

“Just between you and me,” Wade was saying as Peter got close to give Ellie her orange, “I’m well known for jobs that take fuckers like that out of the world.”

“We can’t afford to pay you,” Ellie said suspiciously, and clearly uncomfortable with the close contact.

“No worries,” Wade assured her as Peter gently nudged him out of the girl’s personal space. “My services are all pro bono in a case like this.”

“He means,” Peter translated as he tossed Ellie the orange, “that he’ll do it for free.”

Wade scooped Peter to the side as Ellie ripped the orange in half and began to eat it, carefully saving the seeds. The children had taken to planting them—somewhere. Peter wasn’t asking where.

“Will you tell on me?” asked Wade.

Peter was conflicted. “Killing is wrong,” he said firmly. He glanced behind him, at the injured child eating on his table. “Killing is wrong,” he repeated, “but so is this.” Wade pulled him into a hug and pressed a kiss through the leather of his mask to Peter’s forehead.

“Everything will be all right Pete,” said Wade gently, repeating what Peter had said to him earlier. He pulled away and gently shooed Ellie towards the door. “Come on Ellie. Let’s go kill us a bad guy!”

“Don’t call me that!” growled the girl.

Peter noticed an odd sound behind him and turned to see Juby watching him warily. He smiled as reassuringly as possible. “The couch pulls out into a bed,” Peter said. He’d gotten it for free from a neighbor who was upgrading her own furniture. “I’ll get it ready for you, and you can sleep there tonight.”

The child eyed him suspiciously. He was used to the look by now. “And where will you sleep?” she asked curtly.

“In my bed,” Peter responded, just as curtly. “I don’t share well. I kick. And snore.” The girl dissolved into giggles and he smiled thinly at her. “And your friend should be by in the morning to take you back to where the lot of you are staying.”

The child looked at him again. “You really don’t know where it is.” It wasn’t a question.

Neither was his response. “I’m not asking,” he said firmly before pulling out the hidden bed.

Chapter Text

[That was oddly satisfying, considering the bastard isn’t dead.]

{He screamed so nice when we cut off his hands.}

I’m glad you didn’t kill him,” Ellie said with vicious satisfaction. “Now he can live in fear every day and learn how it feels.”

You, my dear girl, have a mean streak,” Wade said shaking his finger at her.

She rolled her eyes. Then she looked at him and they narrowed. “Mr. Parker really likes you,” she told him.

{I told you! I TOLD you!}

[Yes, Yellow. Thank you for stating the obvious. I’d also like to point out he likes us masked .]

Yellow, hyper-enthusiastic box that he was, said nothing.

Are you still here?” demanded a voice.

Wade focused the kid that he had, admittedly, forgotten about. “Yup. All three of us.”

The kid tensed, ready to run as she eyed him warily. He expected her to ask what he meant. She looked like she was going to.

She didn’t. “You’re the first person Mr. Parker has ever said was safe,” she told him.

[At least now we know why had so many medical supplies in the cart. He’s treating the street children.]

True. Look, I’m kind of safe, but not really safe, so try not to approach me on your own.”

{We’d never hurt a child!}

[We’re trying to teach her something you idiot!]

Ellie watched him with narrowed eyes before taking a step back from him. “There’s this man who comes to visit sometimes,” she said. “Older guy, orange hair, expensive suit.”

[Sounds like Norman Osborn.]

Mr. Parker told us to stay away while he’s there, because he’s dangerous.” The girl continued watching Wade. “There are these other two people, both with the same color hair, that visit that are his age.”

{Oh, that sounds like Harry and Mary Jane.}

He said that they wouldn't mean to put us in danger, but they would, so be careful. There’s an older woman, about the same age as the man, that visits him sometimes. “He said she’s smarter than she looks, but firmly believes in the system that spat us out, so feel free to visit, but don’t talk about circumstances.”

[Wonder who that is?]

You’re the only person he’s ever said is ‘safe.’ He didn’t even hesitate.” She shoved her hands in her pockets and hunched over, eyes scanning their surroundings.

You know a lot.”

Her eyes met his, but she didn’t lower her defensive posture. “I watch him,” she said. “I want to know what he wants.”

Wade scratched the side of his head. “What makes you think he wants something?” he asked, curiously.

She snorted. “Everyone wants something,” she said. “I just have to figure it out. Tell Mr. Parker I’ll be by in the morning to pick up Juby.” She stepped away and hid in the shadows around them.

{She’s good.}

[I think she’s had to be.]

Wade made his way back to Peter’s apartment as he mused over what he’d learned about the assistant. Peter worked as a lab assistant at Stark Industries. Peter was not afraid of Wade, and even seemed to find Wade comforting.

[Which is strange.]

{ Yes , White, as you keep saying.}

Peter also spent time at Oscorp. Wade had shadowed the building for hours while Peter was inside, but didn’t want to break in. He didn’t want the young man to think he was being stalked, after all.

{Um—have you met us? Of course we’re stalking him! He’s not scared!}

[And we don’t want him knowing that, or he will be scared! And there won’t be any Petey-Pie cuddles if he’s scared!]

He worked at the newspaper/podcast/website that regularly trashed Spiderman—but Wade couldn't hold it against his baby boy. Clearly the boy was struggling to eat.

[Obviously, he’s doing what he can to feed the street kids.]

Wade stopped. Peter, who seemed normal enough, didn’t ignore the street kids like ninety percent of New Amsterdam. He didn’t see them as plague to be wiped out, like nine percent of New Amsterdam. He saw them as children who needed help, and he was helping.

{If you’d had a Peter, would you be different?}

Wade wasn’t sure. What he was sure of, was that Peter had a big heart. And, Peter was wearing himself thin. Also—there didn’t really seem to be anyone looking after Peter .

[I’d like to point out that we are. Looking after him.]

Wade made it back to the apartment, effortlessly picked the (surprisingly, or not so surprisingly) simple lock on Peter’s door, and saw Peter standing at the counter, staring at the still bubbling taco casserole that had clearly just come out of the oven. He turned and smiled when he saw Wade.

{I like how he smiles when he sees us. Even if he’s annoyed.}

Peter took a step towards Wade—and stumbled.

[{CATCH HIM!}]

Wade dove foreword and did just that. “You okay?” he asked as he gently ran a gloved hand over Peter’s hair.

Peter nuzzled his face into the front of Wade’s suit. “’m okay,” he mumbled.

[He’s half asleep, idiot. Put him to bed.]

Wade chuckled as he picked Peter up. “You’re exhausted,” he said fondly.

Mmm.” Peter mumbled as Wade slipped the boy; lab assistant, caretaker of street children, and employee for the Daily Bugle as well as best photographer that Wade had ever seen; into the bed before covering him up with sheets.

Get some sleep, Baby Boy,” Wade said fondly. “Everything else can wait until the morning.”

Before he left he put the casserole in the fridge. Couldn’t waste good food, after all.

Chapter Text

Gwen took a deep breath. She could do this. She would do this. How hard was it to get a lab assistant to do what she wanted anyway?

A lot harder than she’d thought it would be. Getting him out of the preparation lab had been easy. She’d gone to the supervisor and said she needed an assistant immediately and he’d practically shoved Peter at her.

Peter, who now stood in the hallway, determinedly not meeting her eyes, and fidgeting with the strap of his messenger bag. “Someone else has got to be better,” he muttered softly, nervously.

Gwen, for her part, was irritated. On the surface it had seemed an easy plan; get the kid to one of the better labs, let him see how great the labs were, and then the job would be done. She didn’t expect to have to fight to get him into the lab!

She took a slow deep breath and released it. This was her assignment. She would do it. “I read your paper,” she said. She wasn’t expecting the flinch at the words—but she wasn’t surprised. Once again she both cursed Tony for meddling beneath his station and prayed the cats would do their job. Everyone would work better if he would just leave them alone.

“I’m currently,” she said firmly, “working an artificial neural network into an artificial organic matrix. I hit a stumbling block. I think, given what I read in your paper, that you can help me overcome it.” She waited, arms crossed as he took a moment to think about it. She wanted to yell, to scream, to just order him to go with her—but that would create a negative emotive impact on the very thing that she was supposed to be selling him.

She wasn’t sure if she should be grateful or pissed that her closest uncle was a used car salesman.

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully behind her glasses. If she was reading his body language correctly (and she’d spent way too many summers on that lot helping to sell cars), then he wanted to take her on her offer—and was holding himself back. Why?

She thought back to what she knew. Each and every single time that Tony had approached him, that anyone had approached him about him getting his own lab, he had mentioned that there were people more capable and qualified than he was. Was it possible the boy had an inferiority complex? That he simply couldn’t grasp the idea that he might be qualified for a higher position?

Looking at the nervous young man in front of her, Gwen reluctantly concluded that had to be the right answer. The way he stammered, the way he hunched over on himself, couldn't look her in the eye—he didn’t have the self-confidence he needed to take over his own lab. It was obvious. He’d probably been slowly building confidence, building friendships in the preparation lab.

And Tony, that idiot, had gone and wrecked the whole thing.

Okay. Okay . She could work with this. He wouldn't accept that he was the best person for the job—because he couldn't accept that he was the best person for the job. Time to try a different approach.

“Look,” she said, interrupting his self-depreciating speech. “My assistant is on maternity leave. I need an assistant; your supervisor recommended you.” She waited. He seemed to consider that statement, but she wasn’t going to let him decide to withdraw again. “Tell you what,” she said as cajoling as possible, “you come help me with my work today, and I’ll owe you a favor.”

He paused. “A favor?” he asked warily.

If he’d been anyone else, or seemed even remotely more worldly than he did, she wouldn't have offered. But this kid, with his deer-in-the-headlights expression and his apparent inferiority complex, was safe. “Any favor,” she said boldly. “No questions asked.”

He fought with himself for a little more and then sighed. “Okay,” he said softly.

She snorted. “No need to sound like you’re going to the gallows,” she said as she led him to her lab. She used her card to open the floor it was on. Her lab shared a floor with Bruce Banner. Tony had his own floor.

She hadn’t believed, at her deepest level, that Peter was worth all this effort. Twenty minutes in, after he came up with a protein solution that kept the artificial organic matrix from liquefying, she agreed that he was smart enough to be worth the effort. An hour in, after he helped her program the microbots to create channels for the neural network, she was ready to claim him as her assistant. By lunch she was ready to fight to keep him.

An hour after lunch Bruce poked his head into the lab. “I hear you’ve got a new assistant,” he said. His curly haired head turned to look where Peter was making corrections to the microbots laying the network. “Can I borrow him?”

“No!” snapped Gwen as she lunged from her chair, eyes flashing. “Get your own assistant!” Bruce snorted and withdrew, clearly amused.

“Um—” She turned to see Peter staring at her, eyes wide behind his glasses.

“You’re fine,” she assured him.

He swallowed. “Um, Dr. Stacey, I have to go,” he said softly.

“Go?” she asked. “Why?” she demanded.

He shrank on himself. “I—I have to ge—get to my o-other job,” he stammered.

She sighed. Of course he did. She knew assistants didn’t get paid enough to eat. “Go,” she said in dismissal. It was time for her to talk to Tony anyway.

Chapter Text

Peter sighed as he stopped for a moment, in front of store with a reflective window, and rubbed his face wearily. There weren’t enough hours in the day. He couldn't be a lab assistant to Dr. Stacey, work on Norman’s research, get pictures and do odd jobs for the Bugle, and patrol as Spiderman. He couldn't do it. He was going to have to cut back on one of them. He couldn't cut back on working at the Tower or the Bugle, because those were the jobs that actually paid. He couldn't cut back working for Norman, because Harry’s life was in the balance.

He stared miserably at his reflection. It didn’t matter how he turned the facts around in his head. He was going to have to quit being Spiderman for a while, and hope that nothing truly terrifying happened while he did.

He continued trudging towards his next job when a thought occurred to him; Spiderman couldn't just vanish. Deadpool would notice—and would likely take the city apart trying to find him. He could just see it now; Deadpool cornering some random thug going, “Are you sure you don’t know where Spiderman is? Let’s see if a little stabby-stabby will jog your memory.”

Peter couldn't do that to his city. All right, the people Deadpool would attack would probably deserve it (and much worse), but he still couldn't do that to his city. He had to protect it.

He slipped into one of the computer’s blind spots and changed before swinging out over the city to find Deadpool. Who was, at that moment, stopping a bank robbery. Not the way that Peter would have done, but stopping it all the same. And, most importantly, managing to stop the robbery without either killing or seriously maiming the culprits. There were some stab wounds (expected) and some bruises (also expected), but no one, during the whole thing, was in danger of dying. Except Deadpool, who was exceptionally careless with his own life (again, as expected) .

Deadpool was booted out of the crime scene and he left, muttering to himself as Peter slowly climbed down the side of the building to get close the mercenary. “ Stupid—no, you did! Of course we couldn't—shut up!” he growled to himself. “I know we fucked up!”

I thought you did really well,” Peter called as he hung upside-down on the fire escape.

Deadpool whirled and gave a comic stare. “Spidey! You—you were watching?”

Yup.” Peter let go of the fire escape and tumbled to where he was standing in front of Deadpool. He ticked off what he’d seen on the fingers of his hand. “You got the attention of the robbers away from the hostages, you restrained yourself to non-lethal means of incapicitation, and you didn’t even maim anyone. You did really well,” he reiterated firmly.

A thought struck his mind. It was a horrible, evil thought. The heroes of New Amsterdam would freak out. The Avengers would hate him.

The Avengers could kiss his ass.

And this is good news,” Peter said firmly.

He sounds happy. You sound happy.”

I am. And I am incredibly proud of you.”

Deadpool didn’t seem to know what to make of that, but he nodded and followed Peter up to a roof. “It feels like I’m about to get news I don’t want to hear,” the mercenary said.

Probably,” said Peter thoughtfully. When they were out of range of bystanders he turned to Deadpool. “I can’t go into details,” because Deadpool would figure out who he was, “but my civilian life just became—complicated. It’s going to take a while to fix.” He heaved a sigh. “I won’t be able to watch the city while I’m fixing them,” he admitted.

The admission cost more than he thought it would. It felt like he was admitting he wasn’t good enough, wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t enough—

And he wasn’t. But he was, as had been forcibly shown to him, only human. He couldn't keep doing all he was doing without breaking.

He moved on with his speech. “ So, since you’ve been doing so well, I thought I’d leave you in charge of the city.”

Deadpool blinked at him several times. Peter began to get nervous; what if he didn’t want to? What if he thought Spiderman was ditching him?

You—trust me?” asked Deadpool sounding shocked and nervous at the same time. “With your city?”

Our city,” Peter said firmly. He reached out and put a hand on Deadpool’s shoulder. “You’ve been looking after it too.” Deadpool stared at the hand on his shoulder and Peter wished, for just a moment, he knew what was going through the other man’s head.

What about the other heroes?” asked Deadpool finally. “The Avengers, the Four, good old Double D?”

Peter shrugged. “What about them?” he asked curiously. What did they have to do with anything?

Well—they’re not going to be happy about me watching the city for you.”

Ah. Peter leaned against the edge of the building. “Tell me something; how many of them did you see while you were helping with that bank robbery?”

I didn’t—none?”

Peter nodded. “Exactly. The Avengers move when the planet is threatened. That’s kind of their thing. The Four only mobilize for Dr. Doom. And Daredevil doesn’t poke his nose out of Hell’s Kitchen. What I do, what you’ve been doing is much, much smaller. The muggers, the carjackers, the rapists, the bank robbers—they’re all outside of everyone else’s notice. You and I are the only ones looking after the streets of the city.”

Our city,” breathed Deadpool.

Peter nodded in encouragement. “That’s right. Our city. If they don’t like it, they can move their asses to help take care of it!”

Deadpool leaped to his feet, suddenly energized. “That’s right!” he shouted. “This is our city bitches! Bad guys beware!”

Peter grinned under his mask. “Exactly,” he said with satisfaction. “ Want to do one more patrol before I have to focus on civilian life?”

I thought you’d never ask!” As they headed towards the edge of the roof, he asked, “Am I—am I the only one who knows?”

Peter thought quickly and then told a half-truth. “Peter knows,” he said to the mercenary. “I saw him before I saw you,” he said, thinking of that reflective window. “Sometimes I think the only reason he eats is the pictures he sells of me,” he added with absolute confidence.

Aw! You’re such a softy Spidey!” chirped Wade happily before they dove off the side of the roof, Peter catching Wade before swinging them up to another one.

Chapter Text

Deadpool perched on the edge of a roof as he surveyed the landscape of the city that he shared with his favorite wall-crawling hero. A random gust of wind hit him and caused him to start slipping off and he had to dig his knife into the side of the wall to keep from falling off. “And I looked so good, too!” he complained as he swung himself towards the fire escape—and missed by three inches making him plummet to the ground.

[You are a sad sack of shit. Do you even know how long you’re going to be stuck like this?]

{Not even an hour in and you’re lying down on the job!}

Deadpool looked at the soggy bags of leather and Kevlar that made up the bottom of his suit and sighed. “We’re going to be stuck here for a while,” he announced to the air.

{Why? Why would the author do this? Isn’t the plot supposed to be moving along?}

It is,” sighed Deadpool. “And you know what that means.”

[No.]

{No!}

It’s time for a flashback.”

***

Deadpool crouched in the dark alley, drawing in the—mud? We’ll call it mud—on top of the pavement with a stick as he muttered to himself. “ I saw them here and here , but that doesn’t mean jack shit.”

[True. For a faceless evil group in uniform, they can sure get around unnoticed.]

{So? Go to all the places you’ve seen ‘em, blow ‘em sky-high, bada-boom! And we’re done.}

Deadpool frowned. “No,” he muttered. “Can’t do that.”

[That’s right. There could be hostages. There could be guinea pigs. There could be children.]

{There could be children who are guinea pigs!}

Fuck.” Deadpool ran his hands over his head.

He was in the unwelcome position of being just sane enough to know how crazy he was. He could be tracking down a real, legitimate, coming-to-kill-him foe—or he could be terrorizing innocent people going about their normal, sane lives. He couldn’t tell.

“Need help? Whoa!” the figure that had spoken to Deadpool leaped back out of the sword’s range, narrowly missing getting cut in half.

[Oh, he needs help, all right.]

{But we’re all he has!}

Deadpool blinked around Yellow’s painful laughter. And blinked again. It looked like the figure had—stuck to the wall? Was that even possible? No, of course not. “Dammit,” he growled as he used the stick to wipe out what he’d written. “Hallucinating again.”

“What?” the hallucination asked. “Oh! No, I really am sticking to the walls. It’s like what I do.” Deadpool turned back and watched as the figure (was it really just a hallucination?) walked towards him. “I’m going to touch your shoulder. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever.” Hallucinations weren’t real. They couldn't touch.

Which was why, a few moments later, when a hand placed itself on his shoulder again, Deadpool launched himself into the air and whirled, staring at the figure.

“Whoops, sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” said the guy. He was wearing skin tight spandex, red and blue with white patterns on it that looked like a web complete with a black spider in the middle of his chest. “Are you okay?”

Deadpool stared. “Who are you?”

“I’m—I’m Spiderman,” said the guy. Boy, it had to be a boy. Men did not have voices that high pitched naturally. Girl, maybe? No—probably guy—identified as male. “Who are you?”

“Deadpool.” The introduction was curt and to the point.

[Why is this guy talking to us?]

“Good question, why are you talking to me?” asked Deadpool as he stared at the figure.

“You sounded upset,” Spiderman said. “I wanted to make sure you’re all right.”

“Peachy. Fine. Awesome. Go away.” Deadpool picked up his stick and began drawing in the mud (calling it mud) again.

“What are you drawing?”

{Aw! He sounds desperate!}

[He could be working for them!]

“Stuff,” he mumbled. “In my head.”

Spiderman crouched by Deadpool. “Tell me about it,” he said gently.

Deadpool opened his mouth and the word vomit spewed. “So, like, I think I’ve been seeing these guys around the city, guys dressed like bad guys—super bad no one cares if I kill them bad guys—but they always seem to disappear and I can’t tell if I’m actually seeing them or if it’s all in my head.” He stabbed the wooden stick against the ground and the bottom of it began to splinter from the force. “It wouldn't matter—I’m used to seeing shit no one else can see or even react to—but I think I saw them grab a kid and I’ve been trying to find them but I’m not even sure if they’re real.”

There was a moment of silence as Spiderman regarded him.

[This is the part where he tells you to get your shit together.]

{I don’t think that’s possible!}

“Well,” said Spiderman in a reasonable tone, “where do you think you saw the kid get taken?”

“What?” Deadpool turned to look at the costumed man. (If he was a man, he was a really young one.

“I can go and do surveillance, see if there was a kid taken, while you make a map.”

“A map?” Deadpool felt strange—like there was cotton in his ears.

“A map,” replied Spiderman firmly. “You can mark down all the places you think you’ve seen these people, and if they’re real I’ll help you root them out. If they’re not real, we can find out together.”

Deadpool stared at the ground and tried to think of the last time anyone had willingly spoken to him for this long.

[Colossus. Before you pissed him off.]

“Together?” he asked hesitantly.

“Together,” replied Spiderman firmly.

“But—they might not be real,” he said again, wondering if the masked man had missed that information the first go around. Deadpool certainly missed information all the time. “They might be something my brain made up.”

“Maybe. But with two of us looking, we’ll find out faster than you would on your own.”

“That—that’s actually smart,” admitted Deadpool.

The figure—Spiderman—snorts. “Trust me. The spandex only makes me look stupid.”

“Why spandex, anyway?”

Spiderman shrugged. “Better than sweats. You ready?”

Deadpool looked into the eye whites of the mask in front of him. “Why?” he asked. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because if there is a child out there who needs help—I need to help.” Spiderman put a gentle hand on his shoulder again. “And you sounded like you needed help.”

They did, eventually find the missing child. They broke a child smuggling ring that looked nothing like the men that Deadpool thought he was looking for (his mind simply put a familiar outfit on a new villain). And to Deadpool, it didn’t matter that Colossus apologized, or that he was offered a room in the X-manor until he was booted out again. What mattered was that someone had listened. Someone had cared. Someone had worked with him for no other reason than he had sounded like he needed help.

***

“And that’s the end of the tooth-rotting sweetness of that flashback,” growled Deadpool as he jerked one of his healing legs into a new position. The other one was already fully healed, but he was waiting until he could stand on the other before moving. “There’s nothing that could make this chapter even sweeter.”

“Wade?”

[Spoke too soon.]

{Petey-Pie!}

“Peter!” cried Wade as the boy ran into the alley, a camera dangling around his neck.

“Wade, are you all right? What happened?” His sweet, precious boy helped him to stand up, balancing on his one good leg.

“Oh, nothing much Pete,” said Wade cheerfully. He hugged Peter close and leaned on him. There was nothing quite like the feel of having the other man tucked in close. And Peter didn’t hate it! “You won’t believe what happened with Spiderman tonight!” he said cheerfully.

[I’m going to gag.]

{Tacos? I want tacos! Lets’ go to that truck on Fifth and Main!}

“Want some tacos Baby Boy? I could really go for some tacos.”

“Shouldn’t we wait for your other leg to heal?” asked Peter, sounding worried.

Worried for Deadpool. Wade grinned at the boy. “Nah, I’m good. I always heal.”

Chapter Text

One of the security guards, Peter thought it was Happy, stopped him on the way into work. “You need a new ID,” the man said as he gestured Peter into the office.

There was nothing new about this. People were randomly assigned new ID’s all the time; it was a little surprising he’d been tapped though, because he’d just gotten a new one the month prior. Still, it wasn’t unusual.

In the security office he gave them his information (again), had his picture taken (with glasses this time), and got his new ID—that he stared at. As a lowly lab assistant his ID had a light green border around it. Except—his new ID had an orange border, and the letters SLA as his designation. “Hey,” he said as he firmly pushed out of the security office, “What’s SLA?”

The door closed behind him and he stared at it for a moment. Well, he knew, no matter what designation was on his ID, that he was due in Dr. Stacey’s lab. So he went up there. He didn’t quite expect his ID to work; he didn’t have the clearance, but—it did. He was able to get to the floor. He walked through the hall dividing Dr. Stacey’s lab from Dr. Banner’s lab keeping an eye on it, in case this was some kind of sophisticated prank.

His Spidey senses weren’t going off. The floor wasn’t coated in oil, or anything else that would be unpleasant later. His new ID opened the door to the lab, and he stared inside for a moment.

“What’s wrong?” asked Dr. Stacey from her bench. “Didn’t you get your new ID?”

“Well, yes,” admitted Peter nervously, “but I’ve never heard of an SLA.” He stepped into the lab, reassured that he was supposed to be there.

“Pepper wrote it up. It’s a new position that basically means that I’ll have to share you with Bruce over there.” She gestured to the glass doors. Peter followed the gesture, met the bemused brown eyes of the scientist over there, who then waved at him.

After waving back Peter admitted, “I don’t really understand.”

Dr. Stacey sighed and rubbed her eyes under her glasses. Peter tensed; that body language used to come right before a reprimand—or being fired. “I know,” she said wearily. She turned away from the bench and gestured to one of the lab stools. “Take a seat Peter. I’m not going to bite you.” Nervously, he obeyed. “Look, you are a talented scientist. I know I’m not the first one to mention it.”

Peter’s hands twisted on the strap to his bag as he stared at her, wide-eyed. How much did she know? Oh, God, had they figured out about Norman? About Oscorp?

Dr. Stacey sighed again. “God. I was right.” Before Peter could ask what she was right about, she continued. “Now, I know that, for whatever reason—and I’m not accepting ‘I’m not good enough’ as a reason,” she added sharply with a fierce glare, “You don’t want your own lab. Fine. That works. We’re not going to force you to get one. Tony wants you to play around in the big labs, see what you’re missing so you want one, and we’ve got him distracted.”

Peter blinked. “You do?” he asked in confusion. “How?”

Dr. Stacey smiled grimly. “It was Pepper’s idea. She put a box of cats on his desk, and now his office looks like a shrine to the Feline God. He’s got at least six cat scratchers in there, and you should hear him whine about how the kittens must not like them because they’re not using them.”

Peter, realizing that the cat and kittens in question had to be Puddles and her kittens, blinked. “They’re four days old,” he said.

The grin widened. “I know,” she said smugly. “Now we can actually get some work done. You’re to trade off working in my lab and in Bruce’s lab, and you’re to have time to work on your own projects. You know how to record everything?” He nodded. “Good. Don’t forget. Time to get to work.”

Peter nodded, put his bag on the hook by the door and got a lab coat, before heading back to work on the organic matrix. After a while he began to hum as he worked, fingers flying over the keys. He had an idea on how to get that neural network inlaid…

Life was actually, for the moment, really good. Deadpool was doing a great job patrolling the city—so good that the crime rate had gone down fifty percent. He wasn’t running into Eddie at the Bugle—because there was no Spiderman to compete for pictures of. And then there was his time with Deadpool. With Wade.

It was more than time for Peter to admit that he enjoyed spending time with Wade. Well, more than enjoyed it. He was actually crushing really hard on the older merc, but wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it. He couldn't actually engage in a real relationship with Wade unless he explained about Spiderman—but he was afraid that Wade would hate him. That Wade would look at the interactions of Peter and Spiderman together—and hate that Peter hadn’t told him. Hadn’t come clean the first time. Leave and cut both Peter and Spiderman out of his life forever.

Peter wasn’t sure if he’d be able to handle that. He’d continue doing what he had to—of course—but beyond that…he might be dead. Dead inside, where it mattered no matter what the outside was doing. And he wasn’t sure he could handle that. If he could survive it.

“You look grim. What are you thinking?”

“That we’re going to have mold the matrix before putting the network in it. The problem isn’t with the bots.”

“Do it.”

Peter found a mold to create both more of the matrix and used the solution he’d developed to keep it from breaking down. Upside—the solution worked. Downside—the matrix had to be submerged in it, constantly, in order to retain its shape. He’d have to rework the program for the microbots for the new mold as well.

There was a light knocking at the door that Peter ignored as his hands flew over the keys. Almost there. No, not quite. That bit wouldn't account for the new bends in the mold. Need to backtrack and redo it.

“Oh My God!”

The panicked wail had Peter (why didn’t his senses alert him to danger?) whirl to see—Wade, in full Deadpool regalia and holding a huge, grease-stained bag in one hand. “Petey-Pie,” he called, voice slightly muffled by the thick glass, “can you join me for lunch?”

Peter felt his face split into a smile.

Chapter Text

“And we have tacos, nachos, enchiladas, tamales, and lasagna,” said Wade as he laid out the food on the roof.

“Lasagna?” asked Peter. His adorable little nose wrinkled again.

“In case you were getting sick of Mexican.”

The two of them were on the roof, in the garden under Stark’s patent pending Green Dome; a small garden under a dome designed to maintain a temperature of seventy-five, no matter the weather or time of year.

[And the fact that the pearly, opalescent dome happens to be nestled between the round, purple walls, means absolutely nothing.]

{Shut the fuck up! We’re spending time with Petey!}

Peter smiled and Wade’s heart almost melted. Almost, because it had melted once—but this was the good kind of melt. “Tired of Mexican?” he asked in a teasing voice. “Heresy!”

Wade laughed as he watched Peter dig into the food. Part of him couldn't help but remember Spidey’s comment, that the only reason the kid could eat was the pictures he took, and Spidey—Spidey was gone. Ghost. Vanished.

{We should have slipped a tracker on him.}

[We would have lost his trust.]

“Wade? Aren’t you going to eat?” asked Peter.

Oh, right. There was that. “Nah, I’m good,” he said firmly.

Peter’s face softened. “Wade,” he said gently.

Nope. Nuh-uh. Wade knew where he was going and Wade wasn’t going there. “It’s all good,” he said firmly, trying to derail Peter.

Peter, who had all the stubbornness of dog trying to get a piece of meat just out of reach. “Wade,” the younger man said firmly, “it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.”

“But would you want to?”

Peter looked down at the taco he was holding. After a moment he sighed and looked back up again as he adjusted his glasses with the heel of his hand. “Wade, if you don’t want me to look, I won’t try to force you,” he said gently. “I just hope that, maybe, with some time…”

Time they wouldn't have. Sure, Peter wanted to spend time with him now, but he wouldn't later.

{He’d run for the hills as soon as he saw your fucked up skin.}

[I think you’re giving this kid’s sanity too much credit. He likes us. He relaxes around us.]

{But he’s never seen our skin!}

Peter looked down again and Wade heard him mumble, “I just hate eating alone.”

{He’s depressed! Hug him!}

[Just eat a fucking taco and make his week.]

But Wade hesitated. He didn’t want to inflict the sight of any of his skin on his friend. But—Peter hated eating alone, and he didn’t want to do anything that Peter didn’t like. Remembering Spidey, he offered a compromise. “What if—we ate back to back. Would that work?”

Peter’s face lit up in a smile. “Sure,” he said happily and turned his back on the mad mercenary.

Wade felt nervous, but pressed his back against the younger man’s before taking a taco and rolling his mask up to his nose. “Is this good?” he asked nervously.

“Good,” agreed Peter. From the sounds of it he’d already stuffed more food in his mouth.

The single word was comforting, like Spidey during a patrol night when they ate out on a roof, waiting for the next crime before heading off in different directions.

[Is it?]

Before Wade could respond, Peter spoke, distracting him. “How are patrols going?” he asked.

A pause. How did Peter know about the patrols?

[You told him, you idiot. When you slipped off the roof and were healing your legs.]

{We were so excited! Spiderman trusts us!}

“I’m not sure,” Wade admitted. “I’m trying to do good, to do what Spidey would do—but it doesn’t seem to be helping.”

“What?” demanded Peter. “You’re doing a great job!”

Ah, Peter. Of course he was supportive. Wade picked at the edge of one of his katana straps. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just think—I think Spidey would do it better.”

There was a moment of silence behind him before Peter said, “Wade, I’m going to turn around now.”

{What? No, our face is still exposed!}

[He warned us so we could cover. Idiot.]

Wade quickly pulled the mask down. He didn’t want to risk Peter seeing his face. No matter how kind the younger man was now, he knew it would evaporate if the guy saw his skin. “What—what is it?” he asked nervously.

Peter suddenly enveloped the mercenary in a hug. It was—strange to be hugged by Peter instead of the one hugging Peter, but it felt—nice. Comforting. Warm.

[Don’t get too attached. No matter how careful we are, he’ll learn about our skin one day.]

{No! I couldn't stand it if Peter left!}

“I want you to listen to me, very carefully,” Peter said. His voice was soft and grim at the same time. “You are strong. You do a lot for this city. You are doing better than Spiderman ever did.” The arms tightened slightly. “Trust me,” he whispered. “I know.”

Wade was silent for a moment as he thought. “How did you meet Spidey, Pete?”

Peter sighed and Wade felt pressure on his head as if Peter was resting his head there. “I’m not going to answer that,” Peter said firmly. “Because—if I answer that, I’m going to have to lie. I don’t want to lie to you Wade.”

Wade turned to look up at him. “Peter,” he said softly.

An explosion occurred on the horizon. Both of them turned to see smoke spiraling into the sky. Wade felt his heart clench. He didn’t want to leave. He’d just started spending time with Peter. He’d been patrolling so much that the two of them hadn’t had a lot of time to meet.

Peter pulled away. “Go,” he said gently. “Go save lives, Hero.”

Wade stood up, still looking at the smoke. “I’m not a hero,” he protested. He’d done things; horrible things. Too many to count, too awful to speak of. No hero could ever have done them.

Peter grabbed one of the katana straps, spun Wade around, and smiled into his face. “You’re my hero,” he said softly, warmly. “You ever think of that?”

Wade hugged Peter close and tight for a moment. “I’ll be back,” he vowed.

Peter hugged him back. “I’ll be waiting,” he responded. Wade reluctantly let the younger go, turned, and took out his grappling hook to make his way to the fire as quickly as possible.

Chapter Text

Tony looked at his two helpers. Right now all he had were Natasha and Clint, but they’d be all he needed. And Pepper was out doing something else, so she wasn’t going to barge in with her “logic.”

Natasha poked a small, perfectly manicured finger towards the cat basket on Tony’s desk. Puddles (what a stupid name for a cat; could he change the name? Of course he could change the name; he was Tony Stark, all he had to do was figure out a better name) lazily batted at the finger with a paw. The kittens were, once again, nursing.

Clint looked around at the transformed office. There were scratching posts in all the corners, tucked up against the desk, and one with a basket right under the window. There was a small, working fountain that was just at the right height for an adult cat, with a slightly wider (though shallower) pool under it at the right height for a wandering kitten. The cats themselves were situated in a huge, plush doggie bed.

Clint let out a low whistle. “Damn, Tony. You’ve gone crazy cat lady on us.”

“Pepper should be proud,” muttered Natasha before turning to Tony.

Who was, once again, reminded that their first loyalty was to SHIELD, their second was to Pepper, and he came third. Which was fine. He had no problem with that; SHIELD had taken in the two of them and Pepper was amazing. “I didn’t call you here about the cats.”

Natasha merely quirked a small smile, pulled out her phone (one of his Starkphones, he was pleased to note), and pulled up a text that read, see me about naming kittens.

Tony rolled his eyes. “It was a cover,” he explained.

Clint glances around the room again. “You sure?” he asked.

One of the kittens rolled to the flat portion of the bed and Tony caught it with a massive hand (compared to the kitten) before gently rolling it back to its mother, who groomed it like nothing had happened. “I’m sure,” he said grimly. “When’s the last time either of you saw Spiderman?”

Natasha shrugged. “Couple days ago. He was last seen working with Deadpool.”

Deadpool—who had taken over patrolling the city for the human spider. Deadpool—who was single-handedly reducing the crime rate of the city. Deadpool—who was an insane murderer to everyone who wasn’t Spiderman…or Peter. For some reason the merc was obsessed with the lab assistant.

“Right.” Tony tapped the top of his desk, the computer part, to bring up a hologram of a building. On the side of the building was what looked like a giant spider egg sack. “This popped up about an hour ago.”

“You think that’s him.” The comment was flat. An observation, nothing else.

“Okay, Spiderman spins webs,” said Clint, “but we’ve got no evidence that he spins—whatever the Hell that is.”

Natasha’s eyes snapped from the image to Tony. “You think he’s hurt and spun the cocoon to protect himself.”

Tony snorted. “I think Deadpool is unpredictable.”

Clint leaned against the wall as he looked at the image. “Did you try running back the tape, or whatever you call it, on your computer thing to see what made it?”

“Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” demanded Tony. He sighed. “Computer thing” indeed. Sometimes he wondered if the reason he liked Spiderman so much was that the vigilante had a way with technology that rivaled his own. “The camera that image came from is a special time-lapse camera set up to take pictures of the sky against the city over the course of a day.”

“Why?” asked Clint.

“Not important. The important part is that it takes one picture every two hours, so according to this camera one moment the side of the building was clear, and the next this was there.” Tony gestured to the hologram.

“Okay.” Natasha looked at the image again before focusing on Tony. “What’s the plan?”

“The plan is to get him out of the cocoon and see how badly hurt he is.”

“Uh—I’m no expert,” Clint said looking at Tony, “but if he is badly hurt—won’t forcing him out of the cocoon hurt him more?”

“Nothing Bruce can’t cure,” Tony said firmly. He was certain of it; he’d run all the algorithms to predict every possible scenario.

“And why are we here?” demanded Natasha grimly. “It sounds like you have everything figured out. Why don’t you just suit up, go down there, and break into the cocoon?”

“Three reasons. One; it’s broad daylight and there’s a clear sky. The moment I show myself all suited up, Paparazzi will surround me wherever I go, and if Spiderman is that badly hurt, I don’t want to risk his identity becoming public knowledge. Two; you may not believe it, but there are actually things that need to be done to keep a company like this running.”

“I believe it,” offered Clint. “I just thought Pepper was doing it.”

Natasha wouldn't be distracted. “And three?” she asked.

“Three; the gray kitten keeps rolling out of the basket and someone needs to be here to catch it. Pepper’s busy and I have been forbidden,” a twist of his mouth showed how he felt about that, “to call any of the assistants or people below the ranks of Bruce and Gwen, and they have their own shit to do.” Before Clint could accuse him of being a crazy cat lady again (rude) he quickly pulled up another image. Deadpool, on the roof of the tower, having what appeared to be a cozy lunch with Peter, the lab assistant. “I also,” he added firmly, “don’t like the thought of leaving my Tower undefended while that maniac is taking lunch on the top of it.”

“Could have led with that,” muttered Clint.

Natasha’s eyes tracked to the moving image (it was being shown in real-time, unlike the picture), and Tony had no doubt that she was memorizing every detail of the scene just in case it might be relevant later. “Why do you let Deadpool into your Tower?” she asked.

Tony snorted. “Have you ever tried to keep him out of someplace? Guy takes ‘Go away’ like an engraved invitation.” Which sounded better than admitting to the two of them that he’d basically hired Deadpool to stalk one of his staff.

Natasha was still taking in the scene while Clint laughed. “He seems awfully cozy with that kid.”

Tony’s gut twisted. Peter was still a kid. A kid who had been inflicted with Deadpool for days now. Sure he seemed fine, and Pepper had assured him that the kid actually enjoyed Deadpool’s company (seriously—how?), but still—he was a kid. He should be playing video games, making insane inventions in the company’s big labs—not having to play host to mad mercenary. And that was Tony’s fault. He’d fix it—somehow. He just had to figure out how.

Which wasn’t helped by the fact that Tony hoped Deadpool would find out why Peter didn’t want to get his own lab.

Tony focused on the two in front of him and spread his arms. “There you have it. Will the two of you go investigate, since I’m stuck here for the time being.”

Clint grinned at Tony. “Sure—cat-mom,” he said sweetly.

“We’ll find your spider for you,” Natasha agreed before walking out, Clint close behind.

Tony waited until the two of them, the only two people SHIELD had in the Tower, were long gone before he pulled up his computer program JARVIS. “What did you find out?” he asked the computer.

“Sir, there is no recorded information as to why SHIELD wants Spiderman’s identity,” the program replied. “However, I could only go so deep without alerting them to the intrusion. Should I dig further?”

“No,” said Tony firmly. “I don’t want SHIELD knowing even a hint of what you’re capable of. Anything else on Spiderman?”

“No, sir,” JARVIS replied. “It would appear that the vigilante knows all of my blind spots. He disappears into them, but always at times when it is impossible to check the people around to see who appears. Should I continue to keep an eye out?”

“Please,” said Tony. There was the electronic beep of the program disengaging the communication mode. He didn’t really believe Spiderman was in the cocoon—but it made a good excuse to get the two SHIELD agents out of his Tower so that he could interrogate JARVIS.

Tony had been hired to find out who Spiderman was. He would do it—there was no question of whether or not he would find out the identity, but when. However he was—curious, so to speak about how desperate SHIELD was to have the information. There had to be a reason.

He was going to find out what it was.

Chapter Text

“So,” Clint asked as he fiddled with his retractable bow (a Stark special; being the agent in charge of Tony Stark had its perks), “you really think Spiderman is in that thing?”

Natasha moved through the crowd like a knife cutting through butter. “I think,” she said grimly, “that there is an organic, unidentified mass in the middle of one of the most populated cities on this planet.”

Clint sighed. He’d really been trying to get away from the active duty, away from fighting monsters and evil organizations. That was one of the reasons he’d jumped when the job to shadow Stark, also known to the world was Iron Man, came up. Iron Man was basically armor. He could hold his own in a fight, unlike the last asshole that Clint had shadowed resulting in the scar on his shoulder and, more importantly, in him sleeping on the couch for three months. He didn’t want to do that again.

He wasn’t certain why Natasha was there. Sure, Stark wasn’t exactly the first person to get two shadows, but an assassin? Even a former one? He was surprised that Stark wasn’t more suspicious. Or maybe he was, and just hid it well. Who knew with the billionaire?

“I hope it doesn’t have sharp teeth,” muttered Clint as they neared the area. “Or claws,” he added remembering the scar. “Claws suck.”

“Quiet.”

Clint looked up. He wasn’t certain where the camera the computer had gotten the picture had come from, but there were a few details omitted. Or maybe he hadn’t been able to see them very well. Or maybe he just hadn’t recognized them. He was getting old. Well, old for an active agent, anyway. SHIELD had a very low number of retired active agents for a reason.

The thing was on the building, about five floors up, neatly attached to the wall under two windows and above two more. It was tucked away from the main street in a space between buildings that was too narrow to be called an alley. It was roughly six feet long by four feet wide, and there was an odd, almost papery look to the dark yellow thing. It didn’t exactly look like a cocoon though. It looked more like—

“A nest,” swore Natasha.

“Should I call backup?” asked Clint. He wanted to call for backup—he wanted to get far away from that—that thing. There was something about it that screamed it wasn’t from this world, and he didn’t want anything to do with it.

Natasha’s lips pressed into a thin line. “Not yet,” she said firmly. She walked into the space between the buildings and began to swarm up the wall.

Clint blinked. She could climb almost as well as Spiderman. He hadn’t known that—but presumably SHIELD did. He stood on the ground, bow out and arrow (armed with a light tranq dart) ready at the string. Natasha glanced down to make sure he was in position and then leaned over to slice open the cocoon.

Clint wasn’t entirely certain what he was expecting. Some kind of eggs; mutant insect, something. Certainly not what came out of the cocoon.

The figure of a girl, a teenage girl, tumbled out. Two wings spread from her back, hit the sides of the buildings, and he could hear the sound of bones snapping. Except—it didn’t sound quite right for it to be bones. He frowned.

“Ow! What?” She looked up. “Oh, come on!” The voice was dripping with scorn. “What did I do to you?” The wings stretched out. Clint blinked as she flew up—with two perfect wings. “Do you have any idea how hard this is when they’re ripped?” she muttered as she hovered and began to pluck the cocoon off the wall.

What? What was he looking at? This didn’t make sense. Still muttering the figure flew up to the roof. Clint and Nat quickly followed.

“Can’t believe,” muttered the girl when they reached her. It looked like she was—rolling the cocoon up. Suddenly she whirled and glared at the two of them, sunlight glinting off amber eyes. “Can I help you?” she demanded coldly.

Now that she was standing in sunlight, Clint got a good look at her. She was thin, had prominent cheekbones, was wearing a pink leotard that shimmered oddly in the light, had shoulder-length light brown hair, and was wearing shoes with no socks. That was odd; even the street children wore socks. True, the socks didn’t always fit, and sometimes sagged over the edge of the shoes, but everyone in New Amsterdam wore socks. Oh, and she had two large, white feathered wings that were easily ten feet wide each.

“You can tell us your name,” Nat says in her grim voice. Clint winces. He recognizes the tone; she’s no longer Natasha—she’s Black Widow and aimed to kill.

The girl looks off to the side and taps her chin thoughtfully. “You know what—I think I won’t.”

“You need to tell us who you are.”

You need to learn to knock.” The girl tossed the compacted cocoon over her shoulder—and it bounced right off the edge of the roof. “Don’t worry,” she said looking at him. “It went into the dumpster at the bottom. I don’t believe in littering.”

“Who are you?” Clint had thought that SHIELD had records on every mutant and mutate in the country. Clearly, he had been wrong; the girl featured nowhere in them.

She rolled her large, amber eyes. “You really need to get past that,” she told him pertly. “Damn it.” She looked at the horizon for a moment. Blinked. Rubbed her eyes. “Is that—is that a purple dick?”

“It’s Stark Tower.”

“Damn.” She stared at it for a moment, wings rustling absently. Finally she shook herself. “I hope he hired an interior decorator.”

Clint, who had made much the same comment when he first saw the monstrosity, snickered. The girl looked pleased with herself. Natasha made a vague noise of disgust. “We should go. Spiderman isn’t here.”

“Spiderman?” The girl looked interested—but didn’t get any closer.

“You know him?” asked Clint.

“Maybe? Probably not? I’m not sure.” The girl stared vacantly into the distance.

Clearly the teen was a few bricks short of a house. Clint turned to Natasha. “She’ll be no help.”

“Stark’s on it,” Natasha said curtly, eyes never leaving the girl.

Clint didn’t think she was a threat. She seemed more likely to hurl insults than attacks. He snorted. “Do you honestly think Stark can figure out who the kid is when no one else can? Especially now that he’s gone missing?”

“Wait,” the girl said. She brushed an errant hair out of her face before looking at them. “You guys—are trying to figure out Spiderman’s identity? And he’s gone missing?”

“I’m sorry,” said Natasha as she turned to the girl, folding arms over her chest and staring in a manner that Clint had seen shake raw recruits. “Who invited you to this conversation?”

The girl was made of sterner stuff than SHIELD recruits. “You did,” she snarked back, not afraid in the slightest. “When you attacked me.”

“New Amsterdam has laws about people sleeping on the streets,” Clint said, hoping to defuse Nat before she could attack the girl. He liked her. She had spunk.

She raised a thin brown eyebrow as she looked at him. “Get a lot of foot traffic five floors up?” she asked.

Clint opened his mouth to respond—when an explosion went off. The three turned to see smoke billowing into the sky.

Chapter Text

Matt paused. There was a certain—scent in the air. Vaguely familiar; as if he’d smelled it before. It tickled at his memory. What was it?

The stairs of the building seemed empty—and he paused. They shouldn't be empty—he should be heading to meet a client about a possible suit against her landlord. He still remembered the woman in his office.

The old woman, smelling of dry parchment and peppermint had, in a voice roughened by decades of smoking, explained that her landlord was purposefully refusing to repair things in her apartment that were covered by her rental agreement; things like the heating/air unit, access to hot water, plumbing that actually worked. Her heartbeat had been on the fast side, but that was normal for some older people.

He turned his head trying to get a sense of—of anyone. The building seemed deserted. There weren’t even rats—and there were always rats; this was New Amsterdam.

A high pitched giggle made the hairs on the back of his neck rise. “Figured it out yet?” taunted a voice.

For a moment he was surrounded by that smell, he could hear cloth rustling, hear a heartbeat in a chest—

And then nothing. As though he was utterly alone in the building again. He frowned. That—shouldn’t be possible. “Hello?” he called out, as though he were slightly timid, playing the part of the dutiful lawyer to the hilt.

The smell, rustling, and heartbeat returned. “Oh,” said a cheery voice, “no need to play that with me, no need at all. I know who you are—Devil.”

Perhaps Spiderman had a point about the whole secret identity thing. The only person who didn’t seem to know that Matt was also Daredevil was the other person in his tiny law firm. “Do I know you?” he asked warily as he picked up his cane. More than a distraction and prop for blindness, the wood was perfectly balanced to also serve as a weapon.

More giggling. “Not yet,” whispered a promise. “But you will. Soon you all will.”

It vanished again—but Matt was ready this time. All buildings made sound. The timbers creaked. The pipes rattled. The electricity hummed. All Matt had to do was listen for where the sounds weren’t. For the silence. He swung the stick around and both felt and heard the satisfying crunch as it connected with its target.

“Oh, I’ll remember this,” the voice said. A hum sounded under the voice.

With a start Matt realized he was listening to a voice distorter. Why would someone bother using one of those on him? He couldn't see.

Maybe that was exactly why his unknown enemy was using one. So Matt would have no way of knowing who was if they crossed paths in the street. After all, he knew who Matt was. “Why are you attacking me?” he asked curiously.

Again with that high pitched giggling. “Nothing personal,” the voice said. “I just needed bait!”

Then Matt remembered where he’d smelled the scent before. He’d come across Spiderman on a roof, pulling pieces of shrapnel out of his body. Pieces that had smelled like blood—and something else. Something that was suddenly all around Matt.

He vaulted over the side of the stairs and down a level, expertly landing with just the slightest bend of the knee for cushion before sprinting down the stairs. The voice followed on something that hummed laughing maniacally as he tried to get out of the building and onto the street, leaving the pretense of the handicapped lawyer behind him as he tried to put on speed. He flinched as he heard a distinctive click and the sound of something igniting.

He heard the sound of wind against glass and threw himself through it, trying to outrun the blast. For one, terrifying moment, he was falling with the explosion pushing him further out from the building and knew, just knew there was no way he could get out of this intact and might not even survive—

Then he heard the thundering sound of wing beats and two small hands caught him around the arms, just a little way from his pits. “Got ya,” said a satisfied voice as wind from the wings rushed around him.

“Little more warning next time!” snarled a voice low on the ground.

“Next time you can walk!” the person holding Matt snarled back. The voice was distinctly feminine and young. Teenager. “Come on,” she said gently to Matt as they landed, wind brushing against the pavement before them. “I wonder if fire’s supposed to be that color here,” she muttered.

Her heartbeat was quick, but steady and strong, like it was supposed to be rapid. She smelled of almonds and ocean water, an odd combination, and he could feel the wings cupping around both of them, like she was trying to protect them. He could also hear an odd sound, like thick liquid running through a large tube.

“Dora wants to meet you,” the girl said. “Is that okay?”

“Dora?” asked Matt curiously. He could hear several other people heading towards the building that was now engulfed in flames.

“Yeah, ‘cause she’s a—dora—ble,” the girl said. “She’s also a slime. She’s not in danger of exploding,” the girl added quickly.

“That’s good to know,” said Matt forcing a smile, slipping into his lawyer persona. There was no reason to believe this girl knew who he was, and it would be best if the general public was not aware of his other identity. He held out a hand and delightful cool engulfed it, currents running between his fingers.

“Just the surface Dora,” warned the girl suddenly.

“Ponyo!” a high-pitched voice said as the gel around his hand quivered in time with the sound.

“You ruined it!” snarled another high pitched—this time artificially high pitched—voice. Matt could hear the hum as it circled the two of them in the air. “You stole my bait!”

“Bait?” the girl sounded puzzled.

“Now Spiderman will never come!”

“Dora,” the girl said softly, almost under her voice—but perfectly audible to Matt. “Shield.”

“Ponyo!” The cool gel withdrew from Matt’s hand and suddenly there was something almost solid, muffling the outside noises.

“Remember,” muttered the girl to herself, “hold back and aim between the vitals. Okay.”

I always aim between the vitals. A different voice. A different time. Same odd choice of words.

You can’t help here!” the voice from earlier snarled at the girl.

Excuse me,” the girl said, “I am more than capable of kicking both your asses.”

Matt heard the absolute truth in that statement, delivered with more than a hint of irritation. “Dora,” Matt said softly, “can you tell me who your friend is?”

The wall around him vibrated. “Ponyo?”

Chapter Text

Wade landed beside what looked to be a clear pink dome with two small blue eyes on one side that tracked him. “Freaky,” he said.

“Ponyo?”

[It talks!]

{Should we kill it? Can we kill it?}

“And what do you want with Spiderman?” demanded a voice Wade vaguely recognized. He turned to see the archer dude from the Avengers on the ground, bow out, arrow loaded and pointed towards—Wade blinked.

[Is that costume as ridiculous as I think it is?]

{Is—is that a hover-jet? Why don’t we have one? I want one!}

[For what?]

{We could take Sweetie Petey on a carpet ride!}

[You’re hopeless.]

“Hey Green and Gold,” said Deadpool with a wave. “You a Packers fan?”

The grotesquely formed face turned and looked at him. “You,” breathed the man.

{Do we know him?}

[Well, he obviously knows us.]

“Deadpool,” said a grim voice, “what are you doing here?”

“Gasp! It’s the other spider-babe!” Deadpool sidled over to her and didn’t even flinch when a small dagger pierced the side closest to her. “I’ve been asked to protect the city.”

The archer shot him an incredulous look, not even wavering his arrow from the target in the air. “By who?” he demanded.

Wade flung his chest out, propped his hands on his hips, and proclaimed, “Spiderman!”

He was interrupted by laughter. Honest, joyful laughter that wasn’t aimed at him.

[We have a lot of experience with laughter aimed at us.]

There, not two meters away, was a girl. She was holding her sides and laughing. “Oh, my, God!” she gasped. “Your faces!” Another glance at the archer and Black Widow and she burst into fresh peals of laughter.

{Someone’s happy.}

[There’s something about her that seems familiar.]

“Stop ignoring me!” snarled the person on the hover-jet petulantly. He threw something that looked like a small pumpkin at the laughing girl.

A wing came up, showing that they weren’t ornamental, blocked the pumpkin—

Only for it to explode in a burst of feathers, flesh and blood. She flipped the wing behind her—

[Anyone else notice that wing is whole now?]

—and turned a glare at the green guy. “Rude much?” she demanded pertly.

“What are you child?” asked the guy as he flew around the girl in circles.

She snorted. “None of your business. And you wouldn't know me anyway,” the girl replied. “I’m not from here.”

Wade stared at the girl. Accent placed her in upper East Side New Amsterdam. How could she say she wasn’t from there?

[There’s something strange here.]

{You say that all the time.}

“And why is everyone looking for Spiderman anyway? Wasn’t he just swinging about on the streets a couple nights ago?” The girl seemed—puzzled. Like she didn’t know.

{Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s really not from around here.}

The green guy laughed and the tinny laughter echoed oddly. “Spiderman,” he said, “doesn’t take breaks or days off.”

“Then he’s long overdue.” The girl looked around at the stunned faces and snorted. “Seriously—even if the guy enjoys being Spiderman—”

{Of course he does!}

“—he needs to take a break and think about something else for a while. Everyone needs a break from everything, no matter how much they love that thing. Mental health 101, people.” She looked around with wide amber eyes, sighed, and stretched out a hand towards the pink dome. “Dora,” she called affectionately.

“Ponyo!” The blue eyes closed, the pink retracted into a small blob that settled on the palm of the girl’s hand, and revealed a very familiar looking blind lawyer.

[Not that there are that many blind lawyers in New Amsterdam.]

“Later,” the girl said with a wave before taking off into the sky.

{She can FLY!}

[What did you think she had wings for?]

“Spiderman asked you to look after us?” asked the archer warily as he regarded Wade.

Wade wasn’t surprised. Most Avengers, Hell, most heroes , looked at Wade like he was a bomb that could explode at any moment. Which—fair. Even he knew he wasn’t the most stable, but—but Spidey had faith in him. And he was Peter’s hero. The thought warmed him even in the face of icy detachment.

“Deadpool,” the lawyer said, “would you mind helping me back to my office? I don’t want anyone to know how capable I am.”

“Sure thing!” Helping people was what Spidey did, after all. So, while Spidey was fixing whatever he needed to fix in his civvie life, Deadpool would do what Spidey would do.

{We should make wristbands! WWSD! What Would Spidey Do?}

[No one would wear them, dumbass.]

One of the first things that Spidey had gone over with him when they started patrolling together was how to properly help someone. No matter how tempting it was, unless the person in question was in immediate, life-threatening danger, they were not to be picked up and lugged to their destination like a sack of luggage. And no, putting them in life-threatening danger was not allowed.

Wade held out an arm and Matt, after a moment of hesitation, put his hand on it. The two of them started walking. “Do you know where my office is?” asked Matt.

[Is he serious?]

“Double D, everyone knows where your office is. And your apartment. And your friends. And you, my man, have no life.”

There was a brief tightening of Matt’s fingers on Deadpool’s wrist, but he ignored the comment for the moment. “You’re very good at this,” Matt observed as Wade led them through the streets.

Wade snorted. “First night we patrolled together, Webs took me aside and gave me a lecture on the best way to help someone cross the road. I figure this is the same thing, but longer.”

“You really respect Spiderman a lot, don’t you?” asked Matt.

“Oh, yeah! Webs is the best!”

[What about Peter?]

“And so is Peter.”

Chapter Text

Ellie swore softly as her eyes roamed the square. A small packet of land, tucked out of sight, away from the streets, that people used as a garden. Good for nothing but tourists, or so they’d learned. Especially today, with all the uniformed officers filling the corners. Looking for the street kids.

And where the officers weren’t, there were people she recognized as being from Runaways Unite. There were people who believed all that bull they spewed about only wanting the best for the children and wanting to get the children off the streets—Ellie wasn’t one of them. Yes, Runaways Unite took kids off the street—but where did they go? They were never seen, or heard from again. And since they were street kids, no one cared.

Shit, shit, shit!” swore Ellie when she realized they were zooming in on her. Panic bubbled up inside her. What was she going to do? She had to get away, she had to escape—but how?

Jenny!” a happy voice called before arms wrapped around her. Ellie froze and that same voice whispered in her ear, “Play along. You’re surrounded.”

Suzy!” said “Jenny” happily as she looked up into the face of her maybe savior. The smiling, gentle face above her wasn’t with Runaways Unite, and was far too young to be an officer.

You didn’t get lost, did you?” asked “Suzy” as both of them kept an eye on the people zooming in, suddenly interested in greenery.

I’m here!” Ellie whined. If it was more fear than petulance, no one had to know.

The older girl laughed. “Good,” she said smugly as she took Ellie’s hand. “Come on,” she added, “I want to show you around.” They went over the different performing groups, getting snacks and drinks.

After they lost the adults Ellie took a deep breath and looked at the older girl again. Her wide amber eyes both looked innocent and mischievous. The wings tucked against her back looked artificial—unless someone, like Ellie, looked close enough to see the individual feathers twitching as various parts of the wings moved under them, like a restless bird getting ready to fly.

What are you doing here?” asked Ellie warily. She was well aware that if she’d been someone else, or anything else, she would have started the conversation by asking who the older girl was—but that was a forbidden question among the street children.

I’m looking for someone. Someone bad, who probably doesn’t want to be found.” She stared into space and a fist clenched on the bench. Ellie heard the groan of stressed wood. “And I don’t want them to find me first, or know I’m here before I’m ready to take them to their judgment.”

Ellie didn’t know why she was drawn to the older girl. Maybe it was the assist with no expectations. Maybe Ellie was just in a good mood. Maybe it was the free food. “Do you have a base of operations?” she asked.

The older girl sighed. “I thought I did—but it attracted too much attention.”

That was a problem Ellie, and the other street children, were well acquainted with. No matter how safe, or central, a base was, if it attracted too much attention it would be found out. Then the people would be rooted out.

As she was mulling this information over the older girl asked, “Who are the people with the red scarves as belts?”

No. A quick glance that didn’t look anything like a glance showed Ellie that her fears were true. “Snipers,” she whispered. There was no way out. “What do I do?” she asked worriedly.

Well,” suggested the older girl for a moment, “you could ask the big sister next to you for help.” When Ellie turned wide eyes at her she shrugged. “I need context though.”

Ellie leaned closer, like she was feeling sleepy. She felt anything but. “The Snipers are a gang that don’t like us in their territory.” The other gangs didn’t really like the street children either—but didn’t interfere. After all, the children weren’t running drugs, weapons, or stolen tech and could be recruited after a certain age. In most of the gang territories the children weren’t encouraged—but tolerated, and tolerated could mean the difference between life and death.

Ellie wasn’t certain what the Snipers had against the children. She’d seen them cross several turfs just to surround and beat a child up, leaving said child almost breathing. No one other than Mr. Parker helped the children, and there seemed to be some kind of code that allowed the Snipers to cross territories without getting pounced on—as long as they were in pursuit of a street kid.

Do you mind being touched?” asked the older girl with honest curiosity.

That was an odd question. “Not—not really?” she said softly.

Good.” Suddenly the older girl picked Ellie up in her arms and then spread her wings before launching towards the sky. Ellie went silent as part of her gibbered in terror at being so far away from the ground, but soon the girl landed—in a different part of New Amsterdam, far away from the Snipers. “Can you get home from here?” the older girl asked.

Ellie stared at the girl. She was a mutant— but she wasn’t one of the ones that would bundle people off and take them to who-knows-where. Clearly, she meant to release Ellie—as soon as she was sure the girl could take care of herself.

And she hadn’t asked for any information that would let her track Ellie down.

I can,” Ellie said as resolve hardened in her. “Would you—” The words stuck in her throat. She hadn’t said anything like them before. “Would you like to come too?”

The older girl, instead of immediately accepting the offer, frowned. “Are you sure that’s wise?” she asked. “I’m a stranger.”

Ellie shrugged and slammed her hands in her pockets. “You’re not a bad stranger. You don’t ask the bad questions. My name’s Ellie,” she offered. Names, real names, were rare coin among the street kids. You never knew who was asking about you or who had hired them. She’d heard stories…

The older girl frowned even deeper. “I can’t tell you my name,” she said anxiously. “It’s—I’m too distinctive. Put my name with the sudden appearance of someone with wings and the person I’m chasing will rabbit right out of the city—and I can’t stray too far.”

What if—what if I gave you a name? Just while you’re here,” added Ellie. She wasn’t entirely certain why she was trying so hard to get this older girl—but something was telling her to. She always listened to her instincts. After all, the last time they’d prodded her this hard they’d led her to Mr. Parker.

The face cleared up. “All right,” agreed the older girl amiably. “You give me a name, and I’ll whisper mine to you, to make sure no one else hears it.”

Agreed.” Ellie squinted at the older girl as she tried to figure out a good name. “Angel,” she said suddenly.

Thin brown eyebrows raised. “Because of the wings? Not bad.” True to her word she leaned down, put her head next to Ellie’s ear, and whispered.

Ellie blinked. “That’s a weird name.”

The older girl shrugged. “What can I say? Distinctive.”

Chapter Text

Norman swiped the lab bench clear in a fit of rage. He had been close. So! Close! He knew, just knew, that if he’d had the lawyer—Spiderman’s dear friend Daredevil—the masked vigilante would have appeared, ready and willing to do anything to save his friend.

Anything, including giving up some of his blood. And that—that girl, and her assertion that Spiderman needed a holiday—who did she think she was?

Better question—who was she? He had files on every single one of those little bastards that ran the streets like they owned them, he had files on every single one of Xavier’s “pet projects,” and had files on everything that Runaways Unite had every caught sight of—but she was nowhere in the files. Like she’d just suddenly appeared.

And she’d mocked him!

We should kill her.”

Norman frowned at the whispered voice, rationality beginning to surface again. No, he couldn't kill her. Not yet; that wasn’t how Norman Osborn created his empire. He didn’t kill his enemies; he tore them apart piece by piece. He destroyed their reputations, their hopes and dreams, and then, when what was left of them limped away, if they died, well—no one cared. So far he’d only met two adversaries he couldn't use those tactics on.

Get the mercenary.”

No. Approaching Deadpool at anything less than full, overwhelming strength was suicide. More importantly, should news of what he was doing get out, stocks would go down. Just look at what was happening over at Stark Industries, where the madman was dancing through the halls almost every day. Their stocks still hadn’t recovered, and Stark was a national hero.

There was a tentative knock on his office door and the young man assigned to be his assistant called through the wood, “Mr. Osborn? It’s time for your two o’clock.”

That assistant had been a rare find; competent, incurious, and terrified of Norman. Norman wasn’t entirely certain why the assistant was frightened of him—and he didn’t care. That fear kept the young man out of the office, out of Norman’s private lab, and out of the way.

He quickly shed his armor, straightened his suit (a few wrinkles gave the impression he’d been working hard and quickly), and went to his two o’clock meeting.

The man he was meeting looked innocuous. Older, starting to bald, in a three piece suit and tie, just like Norman. However, the carefully trained eye could see the whipcord muscle under the suit, the perfect balance with every movement, and could sense danger hidden, like a dagger in a sheath. The man looked up from a lunch spread from one of the current cooks, and smiled. “I must say,” the man said pleasantly, “that you certainly feed your staff better than my boss.”

“Workers that are well fed work better, harder, and tend to be happier and more productive,” Norman explained as he took a seat in front of the man. He smiled thinly. One of the first things he’d learned as a child was that a full, content stomach made for a poor bargainer.

“I can certainly believe that.” The man was silent for a moment as he ate a little more of the food, chewing and swallowing deliberately before speaking again. “My boss would like to know how your project is going.”

“None of my scientists can develop what your boss wants,” Norman said bluntly. “But,” he added quickly, “they’re in the process of working on something that could be better, for your purposes.”

The man nodded and swallowed another bite of food. “Good to know,” he said cheerfully. “But I was really talking about your other project.”

Ah, yes. That one. “I have time.”

“I hear,” the man said slowly as he twirled some clear noodles onto a fork, “that your primary target has vanished. Do you think he’s gone?”

Norman snorted. “Or has a cold. It’s only been two days.”

“True.” The man quietly ate the noodles and smiled. “Excellent food. I’ll have to give my boss your report.” The man smiled.

“Here at Oscorp, we try to make our customers happy,” said Norman pleasantly as both he and the man stood up. It did not escape Norman’s notice that most of the food was still on the platter.

“Good to hear,” the other man said just as pleasantly before leaving.

Chapter Text

Peter, Jamison wants you in his office,” Beth announced as Peter arrived at the Bugle.

Peter paused. The last time Jamison wanted him in the office he introduced Peter to the guy who (for who-knows- what -reason) wanted Peter’s job. “Did he say why?” he asked timidly.

Beth rolled her eyes behind her brightly painted eyelids. “ I don’t know.”

Peter ducked his head, face burning. Talking to Beth was hard . “ O—okay,” he stammered.

She rolled her eyes as he made his way to Jamison’s office. He knocked to announce himself before opening the door, his spider sense tingling at a low level. When he opens the door and sees Eddie there, he understands. “Y—you wa—wanted to s—see me?” asked Peter nervously. His glasses began to slide down so he pushed them up with the heel of his hand.

Parker, get in here. don’t make me stress myself. And close that door; this is a private conversation.” Timidly, Peter did as he was told and the other man turned to glare at him as he stood near the desk. “Eddie,” said Jamison as he crunched the candy, “seems to be under the impression that we’re a competition.”

Peter mastered the urge to snort derisively. He didn’t need Eddie hating him more than the other man already did. He wondered what he’d ever done to Eddie to warrant the animosity. He tried not to make enemies as Peter Parker; he made more than enough as Spiderman.

So, I thought; let’s have a competition. There are gangs all over this city; bring something on one of them that I can sell.”

On one of the gangs? That would put a target on his back, on the backs of everyone in his life—not that there were many, and Harry and MJ had all the protection that money could buy—but not everyone did. He opened his mouth to protest.

Jamison, who probably knew more about his employees than most of his staff guessed, waved the objection away. “It will be anonymous,” he said firmly. “Your identities will be protected by the paper.”

Eddie sneered. “I need no ‘protection’,” he said before turning to leave.

Peter turned back to Jamison. “Um,” he said nervously.

Jamison shrugged. “He has no friends or family to put in danger, and he’s an MMA champion,” the older man said. Then he snorted. “ And he assumes he’ll win. Since the masked menace is off the street, I expect you to devote your energy to this, Parker.”

Ye—yes sir.”

And Parker?”

The printer’s clogged again,” Peter supplied wearily before leaving the office.

Beth looked up. “Are you okay?” she asked, concerned. “Eddie just strut through here saying that he’ll have your job.”

Peter laughed nervously. “It—it’s too soon to tell,” he said before heading back to fix the printer.

Getting information on the gangs of New Amsterdam was a risky business. Even Spiderman would have trouble—and Spiderman was, for the moment, on hiatus. First and foremost, he didn’t want any of them tracking him home. A lot harder to do when he couldn't web himself across the city.

Then again—he could focus on the Snipers. The police didn’t see them as one of the more threatening gangs in the city (if the street children weren’t counted they had a low kill count outside of territory disputes), but Peter knew better. He knew the gang was borderline cult, and— on top of all of that—they hunted the street kids. If he could get something on them, something Jamison would print—he might be able to get the police interested in the gang. At least enough to take the pressure off the street kids.

T he thoughts occupied his mind until Wade swept him up in a hug. “Petey-Pie!”

Peter grinned. “Wade!” he said happily. He started to snuggle back—until he realized he was still wearing the over-alls. “I’ll stain your suit!”

Wouldn’t be the first time!”

What?”

Wade made a dismissive gesture. “ Not important. Don’t let stains come between cuddles! Cuddle time is important!”

Peter chuckled and rubbed his face in Wade’s chest. “You’re so strange,” he said fondly.

Coming from you, that doesn’t sound like an insult.” Peter looked up to see Wade staring at him, smiling through the mask (how did he make the mask so emotive?).

It’s a compliment,” Peter said firmly. “How was patrol?”

Wade squealed with excitement. “Oh, Petey-Pie, you won’t believe what happened!” A pause. “Of course he will; we’re the ones telling him. No he wouldn't! No, you are!”

Peter let the soothing noise wash over him before he pulled away. “Let me change back into my clothes,” he suggested, “and on the way home you can tell me about it. And I’m making dinner tonight,” he added firmly. He’d gotten a foolproof recipe from a foodie blog in preparation.

We’re going home together?” asked Wade.

Peter flushed. He hadn’t thought—he’d just assumed. “I—if you wa—want to,” he stammered shyly.

Oh, Baby Boy, of course I want to!” gushed Wade stemming Peter’s insecurity. “And, while we’re waiting, what did you do today?”

I fixed the printer again,” Peter offered softly. He quickly ducked into a corner and pulled off the cover-alls before putting his pants on. “Before that Jamison said that Eddie and I are competing? He wants me to get a story about gangs.”

Oh, Petey-Pie, that’s a dangerous road to walk.”

Despite the fact that Wade was merely voicing Peter’s earlier fears, Peter felt his resolve harden. “ I can handle it,” he said firmly as he went back out to see Wade.

You’re cute when you’re annoyed.” Wade’s gloved finger tapped his nose. “Boop!”

Wade!” Peter felt his nose wrinkle at the tiny assault, but smiled anyway. “I just need to clock out.”

Oh, cuddles!” Wade grabbed Peter and tucked him in close. “Can you walk like this?”

Um, yes?”

Then onward, Intrepid Reporter!”

I’m just a photographer Wade,” complained Peter as they made their way into the office.

Wade snorted. “You’re not ‘just’ anything,” said firmly. One of his swords dinged a hanging light as they made their way across. “Those things are dangerous,” he announced.

Then maybe,” said Beth tartly from her post, eyes flashing, “you should put them away.” Wade turned to look at Beth, body very still. Beth glared back at him, unconcerned.

Beth had dealt with police who tried to badger the paper into giving up its sources, armed thugs who tried to force the paper to print what they wanted, terrorists who planned to blow up the Bugle and all its content, and people who wanted the Bugle to pay “protection” fees. She wasn’t frightened of a random man in a mask—particularly not one currently plastered to the back of the office nerd.

Who had never , as either Spiderman or Peter Parker, asked Deadpool to take off the swords.

I like you,” Wade suddenly decided. “You have sass girlfriend!”

Beth’s only comment was to snort. “I’d better,” she said cryptically. “And Peter?”

Yes?” asked Peter nervously.

You’d better kick Eddie’s ass.”

I—I’ll try.”

As they were walking to Peter’s apartment building, he was stopped by one of the street kids. “Mr. Parker, are the two of you dating?” asked the kid.

Maybe?” asked Peter. What actually constituted “dating”? Going out—well, they did that a lot (especially as Spiderman and Deadpool), and had for a long time. They ate together all the time. Peter was even planning on cooking that night. They liked spending time with each other in and out of the masks—even if Wade still didn’t know that Peter was Spiderman and would probably freak out (and maybe hate him) about it. Peter looked up at Wade. “Are we dating?”

Wade froze. He was absolutely still—Peter couldn't even hear him breathing. Suddenly his breath rushed out. “Do you—want to be?” he asked hesitantly.

Peter smiled at him. “I—I’d like to,” he said softly.

Ugh. Get a room.” The street kid rolled its eyes at them—but was still grinning as it slipped into an alley.

Chapter Text

[This is stupid.]

{It’s a great plan!}

[And we just ate!]

{But—we need to know!}

[We already know!]

Quiet idiots!” muttered Wade as he laid out the takeout bag on the edge of the roof. He opened and closed a few times to get the mouth-watering smell to circulate. “She won’t come if you’re loud.”

[ She can’t hear us. Idiot.]

Be nice, White,” said a voice behind him. Deadpool whirled and saw the strange girl with wings standing behind him, sniffing the air delicately. “Is that—are those chimichangas?” she asked. Her wings rustled as she leaned forward, but she didn’t step away from her spot.

Wade grinned. His plan was working! “They are,” he agreed.

She edged a little closer, eyeing him and not the bag. “Is this bait?” she asked. She didn’t sound upset—merely curios.

Yup,” admitted Wade shamelessly. “I wanted to talk to you again.”

Kay.” She effortlessly sat on the edge of the building, opened the bag, and grabbed a paper wrapped snack. “What do you want to talk about?” she asked as she unwrapped it and took a small bite. “Oh, these are so good!”

Aren’t they? Maria makes the best chimichangas in the city!”

Mmm,” agreed the girl shoveling in another bite of the hot food. She chewed and swallowed before fishing another one out of the bag and handing it towards him. “You eating?” she asked.

Ah—no. Don’t want to put you off your appetite,” Wade said gently.

The girl sighed, reached behind her with a surprisingly limber arm, and pulled something out of the bag with her hand. Still eating she pulled the sketchbook out, flipped it open with one hand, and then showed him a picture. “Like that, right?” she asked as she chewed.

The sketch showed him, in all his scarred glory, eating pancakes. It was shocking—it was impossible—

it verified his theory. “No,” he said absently as he took the book and stared at the pictures. “I got those for you.”

Thanks.”

{Holy shit! She made us look good!}

Thanks Yellow.”

Wade paused. Then turned to look at her. “You can—hear the boxes?” he asked hesitantly.

She swallowed her current bite. “No, but you twitch different depending on which one’s speaking and if they’re being assholes,” she said. She unwrapped the second and began to eat it.

I was thinking,” Wade said as he went back to the book. “Thinking about what you said about not being from around here, with your accent. And I thought to myself, Wade, there’s a whole multiverse out there, and I bet she came from one of them.”

She snorted. “I love how that’s not actually a question. The answer’s yes, by the by.” She took another bite.

Wade turned the page and stared at picture of Peter. Not his Petey-Pie—but just similar and just different enough that he found it a little creepy. He closed the book and looked at the girl sitting on the edge of the roof, swinging her feet as she ate her food. “What are you doing here?” he asked curiously.

She looked up, her hands clenched on the food making its innards squish all over them and she snarled, “I’m on the RPG quest from Hel!” She looked down at her hands and sighed. “Man,” she moaned as she licked the food off them. “I was trying to stay clean.”

Ponyo!” A pink slime thing popped out from the bag on her back and glooped down to her lap.

That’s slightly freaky,” Wade announced as he watched the thing eating the bits of grease on the pink leotard.

Yeah, don’t get too close. Dora exhales cyanide gas—in low amounts, but too close will make you pass out.” One hand drifted towards the slime which reached out a tentacle to wrap around the finger.

So—Dora is like your personal cleaning squad?” asked Wade, puzzled.

And friend. And ESA. And proof of identity.” The girl snorted. “I could stand in a field of people like me and Dora would always know which one was me.”

That come up often?”

Surprisingly no.” The girl continued eating.

[Why surprisingly?]

{I can’t believe you’re hung up on that when she knows when we’re talking !}

Nice to see you too, Yellow,” said the girl calmly.

{See? How does she know?}

Wade frowned. “Good question; how do you know?”

She took the sketchbook back and shoved it into her bag. “You raised me,” she said after swallowing. “You and Peter.”

[Impossible.]

{How did she not die ?}

[It would have to be mostly Peter.]

How?”

She swallowed the last chimichanga, neatly put the wrappers back in the bag before crumpling it and expertly tossing it into the dumpster in the alley below them. “I was made in a lab,” she explained.

Wade gripped the side of the roof.

She nodded. “Just as bad as you’re thinking. And, before you ask, you killed the bitch.” She smiled.

{I don’t want to know how bad it was.}

[We already do.]

We got rescued, and I was put into your and Peter’s custody.”

We’re MARRIED?!” They had just agreed to start dating right before dinner!

She merely nodded. “Oh, yeah,” she said firmly. “And you wouldn't believe in how different dimensions? Multiverses? Worlds? One of those. Anyway, the two of you are together in a lot of them.” She licked grease off her fingers.

And—we—raised you?”

Oh, yeah.” Suddenly she snickered. “You should have heard Tony yelling the first time you took me to Sister Margaret’s. I could hear down the hall and in the cafeteria.”

[Told you it was mostly Peter.]

And you’re the first person to guess where I’m from.” She calmly set her hands in her lap and the slime slid over them. “Maybe that’s due to the—alternate view? Wall breaking? I forget how you explained it.” The slime slid up her chest and back into the bag on her back as she watched its path of travel fondly.

[Why were you put into our care?]

Wade thought that was a good question, so he repeated it.

She hefted the wing that the bad guy earlier had blown up. “In case you haven’t noticed,” she said dryly, “I have a pretty good healing factor. Not come back from the dead good,” she quickly added, “but I’ve learned how to protect my core so that I’m not in danger of actually dying.” She quickly leaped up, standing on the ledge of the roof. “Anything else?”

{Ask her how long we were married!}

Do you have a place to stay?” he asked.

I have a—safe place to rest,” she said. “But I can’t do that too long. I’ve got to find the person I’m looking for, and I’m on a timer to do it.”

Wade heard an echo in her voice, an echo of Spiderman’s determination. He’d seen Webs go after a criminal with a broken leg. Spidey’s broken leg, that is. “Don’t forget you still need to rest,” Wade warned. “No matter how fast you heal, you’re going to need time to rest and recover.” He expected her to get mad, to tell him that he had no idea what she needed to do and that he needed to stay out of her way. It’s what he would have said, in her place.

She grinned. “I told you I found a safe place, didn’t I?” she asked cheekily before jumping off the roof.

[I can definitely see where we contributed.]

{You think she’s got boxes too?}

[Shut up, Yellow.]

Chapter Text

Peter put the slime in a clear acrylic box before piping music into it. Maybe, if he adjusted the formula just a little bit, it could reconstitute after exploding. Maybe it could be made into some kind of new, flashy speaker. Something like a lava lamp, but better.

He needed to do something to take his mind off his conversation with Wade the night before. They were dating?! And Peter was the one who asked if they could! He couldn't believe he’d been so bold—but Wade had said yes.

And Peter had utterly destroyed the dinner he’d set out to cook, so they’d had to order food. He hadn’t even known that meatballs could explode. At least Wade was entertained. The other man had laughed so hard he’d almost retched into his mask. So—a maybe win?

“Peter, what is that?” asked Dr. Stacey as she peered over his shoulder.

“Slime. It always explodes when the beat gets too fast, so I’m trying to make it pull itself back together.”

“Huh.” They watched as it vibrated quickly. “Is that what got me the other day?”

Peter ducked his head nervously. “It’s easy to clean.”

The slime in the box exploded, dripping down the ceiling and the sides. “Why don’t you try making it so that it doesn’t explode in the first place?” she asked thoughtfully.

“Because then it wouldn't be water soluble,” Peter explained.

“Huh.” He turned to see Dr. Stacey staring at the cube. “By the way, security let me know that you have visitors.”

“Wade?” Peter was confused. Usually Wade arrived at the entrance to the lab with security behind looking confused. He’d never known Wade to actually wait—anywhere, come to think of it.

“As long as he’s not getting blood in my lab, I don’t care.”

That sounded—really specific, and wasn’t a story Peter had heard before. Should he ask? Was it socially acceptable to ask? Was it better to pretend he hadn’t heard the comment?

“And your visitor is still waiting.” She sounded slightly upset.

“Right! Thanks, Dr. Stacey!” Peter hung his lab coat up and went to flee the lab.

“They’re in the first floor cafeteria!” Dr. Stacey called to him as he left.

He nodded briefly before heading to the elevator. He kept expecting his new ID not to work, or for the alarm to sound trumpeting that he was an intruder, or something like that. He was still surprised every time his ID worked.

The first floor cafeteria was where the general public could waltz in, gawk at the Tower, get something to eat, and then waltz back out again. It didn’t make sense for Wade, who always burst in on Peter while he was working, to politely inform security to ask for Peter. Not the least because, although he was usually manic and over-the-top with a Devil-may-care attitude, Wade was not fond of being in with the general public.

At no point during his conversation with Dr. Stacey did it occur to him that it might not be Wade waiting for him. Despite the fact that she’d said visitors and mentioned “them,” he thought he knew who would be there, in the cafeteria. He was surprised.

Pleasantly, though. He couldn't imagine what had brought them to the Tower, but he was always happy to see his friends. “Harry! MJ!” Peter called as he made his way over to the table they were sitting at. He wasn’t surprised that the table was getting covert glances from other employees. After all, Harry was the heir apparent to Oscorp. They smiled back at him while he took a seat at the table—which was laden with food from the cafeteria.

“Peter!” greeted Harry. He was paler than normal, and stayed in his seat. He was clearly having a bad day.

MJ jumped up and hugged him. “Hey,” she said fondly before ruffling his hair like the little brother she’d always seen him as.

“Hey,” said Peter shyly. He looked at Harry. “What brings the two of you here?”

“We heard about your semi-promotion,” Harry said. “Thought we’d come, congratulate you, and feed you lunch while we’re here.”

“So, have you made anything exciting?” asked MJ as she pushed some of the food towards Peter.

Peter absently ate as he explained about the slime. He didn’t talk about Dr. Stacey’s project, because he was pretty sure that was confidential information, but his slime was no such thing. He didn’t get into the technical terms of what he was doing, but explained the general broad strokes.

By the time he was finished the curiosity had worn off and their table was no longer under scrutiny. “What brings you two here?” he asked quietly.

Harry smiled. “You think we can’t just want to help you celebrate your promotion?” he teased. At Peter’s pointed look he sighed. “You’re right. We have news.” He reached over the table to grab MJ’s hand. “We’re going to be going to Paris.” He smiled at her before meeting Peter’s eyes with determination. “Permanently,” he added.

Permanently? Permanently meant— “Harry,” Peter started.

MJ reached over and grabbed one of Peter’s hands, getting his attention. “Peter,” she said softly, “I’m pregnant.”

For one bright, shining moment, Peter was thrilled. She was pregnant? His two friends in love were going to have a baby? That was awesome! Excellent! Exciting!

And then ice water flooded his veins as he stared at them numbly. If Norman knew—if he found out—

They nodded. “We wanted you to be the first to know,” Harry said.

“I—I—there are no words,” Peter admitted to his friends. They got up from the table, hugged him, and then they left and Peter stumbled off. There was a place in the stairwell that was isolated from the rest of it. Peter thought that maybe it had started out as being an entrance to a floor, but the idea was scrapped for some reason.

If Harry was going to Paris, he wouldn't be in range of his father’s phone. He wouldn't be able to receive the ten digit code that was keeping him alive. He would die. Harry would die.

Harry would die, so that his child would have a chance to live in peace without Norman breathing down its neck.

“Peter? What’s wrong?” Peter looked up and saw Wade, in full Deadpool costume, standing in front of him. He quickly sat down next to Peter and reached out to touch the smaller man’s back. “You okay?” he asked.

No. Nothing was okay. Peter wasn’t certain if anything would be okay again. He flung himself into Wade’s chest and just sobbed. All the tears he’d held back for years. Wade simply wrapped his arms around Peter, and let him cry.

When the sobs finally trailed off he found himself mostly in Wade’s lap, and not minding a bit. “What happened?” asked Wade. “Who do I need to kill?”

“It’s not something that can be fixed by killing someone,” Peter said softly, his voice scratchy from crying so hard.

“You don’t know that.”

“My best friend is going to die.” The statement came out flat, unemotional, almost like Peter didn’t care—but he did care. He only had two friends; Harry and MJ, and Harry was going to die. “And he’s going to die because his father’s a lying, manipulative, son-of-a-bitch who should have been drowned at birth!” snarled Peter.

“Okay. How?”

For the first time, since the beginning, Peter began to tell the story. “Harry was born with a weak heart,” Peter said softly. “We all knew it was a matter of time. Then, then Norman—Norman said he had an idea. It was experimental, and it might not work, but it was a product that his company was producing. So he put Harry under anesthesia and operated to give him this shiny new, experimental heart. That’s what he told us, after the fact.”

“So, he got a doctor to work on his kid?” hazarded Wade.

Peter chuckled darkly. “I don’t think there was a real doctor with him,” he said grimly. “See, the fake heart has a fatal flaw—if Norman doesn’t send the right ten-digit code after a certain amount of time—it stops working. Harry starts to die. It’s almost happened a few times,” Peter admitted thinking of the last time, of watching Norman casually pour himself a drink as his son gasped in pain after his heart almost stopped.

“Whoa.” Wade was silent for a moment as his hand made soothing circles on Peter’s back. “That’s why you didn’t want your own lab?” he hazarded.

Peter was slightly surprised that Wade knew about it. He didn’t think that would be the kind of thing that Deadpool would be interested in. “If Norman ordered me to use my position to sabotage something, I’d do it,” Peter said firmly, “to protect Harry.”

Wade was silent for a moment. “Okay,” he said after a moment. “I’m not normally an advocate of this sort of thing, but why didn’t you tell someone?”

“What good would that do?” asked Peter wearily.

“Well you—might be able to get help?” Wade sounded uncertain, unsure.

“There are only four people who know what happened to Harry. That would be Norman, Harry, MJ, and me. MJ is an actress with a budding fashion line. She has absolutely no scientific background, the lowest scores in science that was possible while still managing to graduate high school, and is known for being a little bit of drama queen. If she says anything, everyone will assume she’s making it up for attention.”

Peter paused, debating how to phrase the next part. “Then, there’s Harry. And Harry—isn’t much better. The only reason he passed high school at all was because I was tutoring him. Again, no scientific background and I seriously doubt there’s proof.

“Then there’s me. I have a scientific background, I have enough medical knowledge that I can prove what I know—but I work for Stark, Norman’s biggest competitor. If I say anything, Norman will just play the wounded bird, claim that I’ve been brainwashed by Stark, and do everything in his power to make Stark look like a rampaging egomaniac who desperately needs to have someone controlling him so that he doesn’t destroy the world.” Peter spread his hands. “There’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing any of us can do. And Harry’s about to go overseas, to go and live in a country that Norman has no intention of ever visiting while he waits to die.”

Wade hugged him closer as more tears leaked down his face. “Don’t you worry Petey-Pie, I know someone to talk to.” Peter looked at him in disbelief, and Wade chuckled. “Don’t worry; it’s not Stark.”

Chapter Text

So, Stark, two questions,” Wade said as he peered into Tony’s lab. Whatever the man was working on suddenly fell to the ground.

Damn it!” swore Stark. “I almost had that reverse propulsion working.” He turned to Wade. “What two questions?” he asked warily.

[ Is that thing supposed to be floating now?]

{Who cares? Petey needs us!}

Wade tore his eyes away from the thing climbing back into the air to look at Stark again. “So—about that thing you hired me for. If I find out why, but you can’t fix and would, we all agree, make it worse, but I know someone who might be able to fix it, do I still get paid?”

Tony closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.

{Oh! Oh! Hangover or just headache?}

[Who gives a shit?]

Can this be fixed so the kid accepts his own lab?” asked Tony.

Wade was silent for a moment. “Maybe?”

Tony released his nose, picked up a tool, and said, “If it results in Peter accepting his own lab here, then yes. You still get paid, even if I didn’t do it.”

Great!”

Pepper stepped into the lab. “Tony, you’ve got to do something about this supply list. According to the experiments our scientists are doing, we shouldn't be losing some of this—oof!” she grunted as Wade picked her up. “Deadpool, put me down!” she growled angrily as she smacked his back (between his katanas) and kicked her pointed heels in the air.

Justborrowingyouforaquickmoment seeyaStark, bye!”

THAT WASN’T A QUESTION DEADPOOL!” roared Stark.

Hey, easy now!” Wade said warily as he dodged a shot to his head. Not that it would hurt him for too long—but he might drop her and she certainly wouldn't be willing to help him if he hurt her!

[Do you honestly think she’s going to help now , Dumbass?]

{I thought we already learned that kidnapping is not the way to start a relationship?}

[We don’t want a relationship with the Iron Dick’s love interest!]

{Of course not! All our affection is for Sweetie Petey!}

I’m not kidnapping her!” Wade protested.

Sure looks like it to me!” snarled Pepper.

No!” Wade set her down (gently). “I just wanted to talk to you in a place Stark couldn’t hear us!”

She stared at him for a moment. “JARVIS,” she said quietly, “initialize protocol NE2.” The lights in the room they were in went down leaving them bathed in the dark red of emergency lights. “You have fifteen minutes before Tony notices this section of the Tower went dark,” Pepper said firmly. “Go.”

Norman Osborn is an evil jackass.”

She rolled her eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Peter’s story tumbled out of Wade’s mouth as he remembered the way the poor guy’s face had just—just crumpled before he threw himself into Wade’s arms.

[Don’t you find that just a little strange? That he’s comfortable enough to cry on us?]

{Shut up, we’re dating now!}

Wade’s attention was caught by Pepper nervously biting her index finger. “He’s not wrong,” she admitted. “It’s a political nightmare. I’m glad you didn’t want to talk to Tony about this,” she added. “He’d try to barge in, guns blazing, and we’d all end up arrested and Stark Industries would be cut to the ground.”

Is there anything you can do?” asked Wade anxiously. He really wanted to help Peter—but this wasn’t a problem he could solve.

Pepper’s teeth worried at the scarred skin of her knuckle for a moment. “Maybe,” she said thoughtfully. “I’ll have to talk to several people and find out just what Osborn did.”

So—you’ll look into it?” asked Wade anxiously.

Yes. And not a word to Tony.”

Not a one.” The lights came back up in the room just as something hit Wade in the back, sending him flying.

{That jackass! He broke our spine again !}

Tony, I’m fine. Deadpool just had a personal problem, and doesn’t know how to ask like an adult.”

Rude—but sort of true. It wasn’t Wade’s problem; it was Peter’s.

[And we are immature.]

{Let’s go bother Weasel! We haven’t seen him for ages!}

True,” muttered Wade, “but we need to talk to Peter first.”

{Let’s take Peter with us!}

[No.]

Peter shouldn't be anywhere near that hellhole,” Wade muttered.

Right. Out you go.” Stark picked him up and tossed him out a window.

Rude!” yelled Wade as he tumbled down.

He stood on a hill crested with flowers as the beautiful skeleton looked at him bemusedly. “You need to be more careful,” she told him.

Ah, Sweet Lady Death,” said Wade as he got to one knee in front of her. “How could you say that?”

She merely chuckled. “The people around you aren’t as invincible as you are,” she warned. “And they shouldn't see me before their time.”

The world around him began to darken and haze as he pouted. “You’re talking about people other than me!” he protested.

And you’ll be glad of it.”

Wade opened his eyes as his legs and spine were twisting back into normal shape. “Ow,” he said after some consideration.

[Iron Man is such a dick . He didn’t have to throw us out the window!]

{We should figure out where he keeps his boots and fill them with dog shit!}

[Jerk.]

{Jackass!}

Tacos,” grunted Wade as he pushed himself up.

Wade?” He looked up to see his favorite person ever.

[What about Spiderman?]

One of his two favorite people ever. “Petey-Pie!” Wade said as Peter rushed over to him.

What happened?” demanded Peter as he braced up Wade’s side.

Nothing much. Tin Dick threw me out a window.”

Mr. Stark did what?”

[He sounds so appalled. I love this kid.]

Wade waved dismissively. “It’s nothing that hasn’t happened before, Baby Boy,” he said cheerfully. “I heal, you know.”

That doesn’t make it okay!” shouted Peter.

It is okay!” Wade protested. He wasn’t sure why they were shouting. “I heal!”

It still hurts, doesn’t it?” demanded Peter.

Of fucking course it hurts!” Wade snarled back, not sure why he was angry.

That means its not okay!”

[…I think he’s mad we were hurt.]

{Why? No one cares if we’re hurt.}

And I’m going to make sure he knows it!”

What? Oh, sweet baby, no! Wade reached out and grabbed Peter before he stalked off. “You can’t do that!” he protested.

Oh?” demanded Peter hotly (in more ways than one. “I can’t go tell my boss that he can’t throw my boyfriend out a window?”

[Down, Little Wade!]

Wade focused on several not-hot things that he’d never want to see. “He’s your boss!” Wade protested.

Peter simply raised an eyebrow at him. “He’s not scarier than Norman.”

[He has a point.]

{Did the erection go away yet?}

Chapter Text

Tony looked at the lab assistant in front of him. The boy’s eyes were narrowed behind his huge glasses, his arms were crossed over his chest, and he was glaring at Tony. Vaguely Tony wondered what happened to the stammering, meek kid who couldn't believe he deserved a lab of his own. This confident, angry young man was nothing like him.

All right,” Tony said leaning against his desk, arms crossed and trying not to sound defensive, “why can’t I throw Deadpool out of a window?”

Because it’s wrong,” Peter said sternly.

Tony is no stranger to confrontation. He’s fought aliens, terrorist organizations, and evil corporate backstabbers. There should , in theory, be nothing about the kid to rival those. Logically, Tony knows this.

Emotionally, he wants to stammer that he was wrong, apologize, and then run to hide in his lab until the kid stopped hating him. He wasn’t sure why. “Listen Kid,” Tony said firmly, “Deadpool can heal.”

That,” growled Peter through clenched teeth, “is not! The! Point!”

Actually, Tony rather thought that was the point. Deadpool was like the ultimate unkillable cockroach—people were stuck with him until they died. (Not until Deadpool died, obviously.) Everyone killed him occasionally. Hell, he’d even bet that Spiderman , paragon of virtue and justice that he tried to be, had killed Deadpool at least once. It was impossible to care; he always bounced back.

Peter looked even more enraged and Tony wondered what the boy saw on his face. His hands clenched on the fabric covering his arms as he glared. “He can still feel pain , Mr. Stark. I know you know that. Deliberately causing people pain is wrong .”

But it’s just Deadpool!” protested Tony desperately. Part of him felt like he needed to run, to hide, to get his suit—but he didn’t know why. Seriously, Peter was maybe ninety-seven pounds soaking wet. “Nobody cares about Deadpool!”

I care about him!” yelled the assistant.

Actually yelling at him. Yelling at Tony Stark, genius inventor with a multi-billion dollar international company. That he worked at. “Why?” asked Tony, morbidly curious. It couldn't just be that the kid was a good Samaritan, could it?

Peter’s face darkened in a flush. “He’s my boyfriend, and I think I’ve got a right to ask my boss not to toss my boyfriend out the window!”

Both of them ignored the cackling from the air duct above their heads. “Wait,” said Tony holding up a hand as he tried to process this new information. “You’re dating Deadpool?”

Yes.” Absolutely no hesitation in the kid’s voice, stance, or gaze. “And his name is Wade,” Peter added.

He’s not threatening you to date him, is he?” demanded Tony. A sound caught his attention. “Are your clothes ripping?”

They’re old and threadbare,” Peter replied flatly. “It doesn’t take much.”

Mr. Parker,” Pepper said getting Peter’s attention, “Tony doesn’t have any longer for you to yell at him. Peter turned his attention to the assistant and Tony felt like he was escaping—what? What possible danger could this assistant be?

I am taking this moment to inform you, because I feel almost certain that Dr. Stacey will fail to do so, that her organic matrix is finished. Starting tomorrow, as I know you have to leave soon to get to your other job, you will be working with Dr. Banner.”

I—yes, Ms. Potts,” Peter said humbly, reverting back to the behavior Tony expected from the young man. “Th—thank you for telling me.”

Pepper, to Tony’s shock, smiled. “Not a problem,” she said warmly. “Now, go, kick ass at your other job.” The assistant nodded and left the office. Tony sighed in relief.

I don’t know why,” he admitted to her, “but I feel like hiding in my lab.”

Pepper snorted. “It’s called a guilty conscience,” she told him pertly.

What?”

Pepper turned to look at him and took a stance eerily similar to the one Peter had had. “You,” she said darkly, “treat Deadpool like a disposable tissue. All the Avengers do, and Peter is right. You need to be nicer to him, you all need to be nicer to him.”

We’re talking Deadpool, right? Bouncy, manic guy. Dresses in red and has way too much fun killing people. Kidnapped you a few hours ago?” demanded Tony. “Have you spoken to the guy?”

Yes. Have you?” demanded Pepper. “Honestly, the way you and the other Avengers treat Deadpool is abusive.”

Tony didn’t like the way the new information was making him feel. “I thought you said the yelling at me had to stop,” he said plaintively.

No. I said Peter had to stop yelling at you. He’s due at his second job time any minute now, and I wish him luck getting there on time from here. I will be with you all day.”

Tony stared at his personal assistant. Whose only response was to smile sweetly back at him.

Chapter Text

Ellie ran as fast as she could, but she knew she wasn’t going to be fast enough. How had the Snipers even noticed her? She hadn’t been panhandling, selling the tourist crap, or hitting up tourists as a guide. She’d just been walking—walking from the library to one of the entrances of their home. She hadn’t even been in Sniper territory! Everyone knew that section of the city belonged to Daredevil and that he didn’t allow gangs to work there!

She tried to make a hard turn into an alley, but stepped wrong on her foot twisting her ankle and sending her into the brick wall. That she was picked up from and slammed against again. Then she was forced around to face her attackers. One of them was tall, almost too tall to see clearly (although that could have been her head spinning). He was wearing a dingy gray shirt and black pants with that damned red sash. The other wasn’t much taller than her, and was grinning at her with a wild, almost feral expression.

The taller one chuckled. “Looks like we found another sacrifice.”

The shorter one pinned Ellie with a hand to her throat. “Hear that?” he gloated. “Your pathetic excuse for a life will have an excuse.” His grip tightened. “As soon as you die.”

Hold on, you know the rules,” the taller one chided and the hand loosened allowing Ellie to cough and pull air into her lungs. “He has to call for help.”

The short one rolled his eyes. “Does that really matter?” he asked. “No one ever comes.”

It’s the rule.”

The short one shook Ellie, making her teeth rattle. “Call for help.” She blinked blearily, trying to focus. “Call.” Shake. “For.” Shake. “Help.”

You could ask the big sister next to you for help.”

She wet her lips and tried to speak. Spit foamed on her lip as she tried to push the words out. She took a deep, halting breath, and tried to scream, but a whisper sounded out. “Angel,” she whispered.

What was that?” demanded the short one as he pulled Ellie off her feet.

Panic gave the girl the strength she needed. “Angel, please help me!”

Angel, please help me,” mocked the taller of the two in a lilting tone. The shorter one cracked up.

The shorter one grinned at the girl. “No one’s coming,” he told her. He drew his arm back for the first of the punches. Ellie grimaced and closed her eyes, not wanting to watch the first one land.

It never did. “And just what,” asked a mild voice, “are you trying to do to my little sister?”

Ellie’s eyes popped open and focused on the brunette behind the boy, holding his arm in a firm grip. “Angel!” she cried in relief.

Angel smiled and waved at Ellie with her free hand. “I heard you calling,” she said. The short one dropped Ellie and then whirled to punch Angel with all his might and Angel—

simply twisted the arm she was holding a little bit and he dropped to his knees, beads of sweat flowing down his face as his skin paled in the dim light. Ellie blinked. She wasn’t sure what had happened. It still looked like Angel was merely holding the guy’s wrist.

You bitch!” swore the guy on the ground as he struggled. Ellie ran to Angel’s side, to get as far away from the Snipers as possible.

Oh,” said Angel gently, “you don’t want to do that. Trust me; I learned from an expert. Too much stress and your shoulder just pops right out of joint.”

The tall one took a step back and looked at Angel, eyes raking down her body from her head, to her wings, to her feet. “Who are you?” asked the tall one. “Devin, shut up,” he ordered.

Well,” said Angel, “I can’t tell you my real name—reasons, you know—but around here I’m called ‘Angel.’ And,” she added darkly, “I would like to know why you’re threatening my little sister.”

The tall one spread his hands in gesture of peace—or at least not threat. Ellie didn’t trust the guy any further than she could throw him, and, judging from the way that Angel covered her with a wing, Angel didn’t either. “We all know the truth of these streets. There is a demon roaming the city.”

That was ridiculous! Demons didn’t exist! Ellie looked up and stopped to stare at the intent look on Angel’s face. “Oh?” asked the older girl. “And how do you know?”

The Great One showed us its so,” said the guy, eyes glittering dangerously. Ellie unconsciously leaned closer to Angel who pressed her wing around the child. “And the only way to stop the demon is for the sacrifices to seal the city. They must obey the Rules.”

And what are these rules?” demanded Angel.

They must be of the street and not missed. They must be caught. They must call for help. No help must come. And they must die alone.

Help came,” said Angel shortly. She released the shorter boy who threw himself back.

The taller one nodded. “It did. You should keep your sister off the streets or there might be another—mistake.”

Angel leaned forward. “The streets,” she said firmly, “are for everyone.”

Don’t blame us when something bad happens.” The two Snipers walked away.

Angel?” asked Ellie looking up into the uncharacteristically somber face of the older girl.

That rhetoric,” said Angel softly, eyes grim as she stared after the two, “is disturbingly familiar.” She turned her attention to the girl next to her. “Tell everyone,” she said, “that if they need help to call Angel. If I can, I’ll come.”

Ellie nodded. It was more than they’d had .

Chapter Text

Peter shifted nervously in his seat and froze at the distinctive sound of cracking knuckles. How? How did this happen? He had the freaking Spidey Sense for crying out loud!

His eyes darted around the strangely mundane office. Of course he could get out, with no issue—if he wasn’t afraid of revealing his other identity. He was going to have to do something ; he didn’t think they’d just let him off with a warning.

He’d been lurking in an alley, camera around his neck, hunting for something to use against the Snipers. He’d trailed the three he’d come across in silence, so completely focused on them that he hadn’t noticed someone was behind him until his sense screeched at him mere seconds before a hand landed on his shoulder. He’d been grabbed by two nameless goons who’d bundled him up into an empty van before driving him halfway across the city to haul him out behind a building (in a surprisingly good part of town) before wrestling his camera away and leading him to this office. They’d plopped him in the chair, and here he sat—waiting.

Peter would have to be an idiot not to know where he was. There was only one person who would have goons in that territory who lived in this neighborhood. He was sitting in the home of one Wilson Fisk, also known as Kingpin.

The door to the small room opened and Peter jumped in surprise as the large man entered with unusual (at least until someone considered his past boxing career) grace. “Mr. Parker,” the man said calmly as he walked to the desk. Peter’s eyes were drawn to the large hand holding his camera—and making it look like nothing more than a large candy.

Peter swallowed. Fisk knew his name. He certainly couldn't use any Spiderman stunts now—at least as long as he wasn’t in immediate risk of dying. “Sir,” he said respectfully.

Kingpin nodded. He set the camera on his desk, but Peter knew better than to believe that it was safe yet. “Tell me,” said the man, “what you were doing.”

It was an order. An order that could easily get him in trouble—but there was no reason not to answer it. He was in trouble either way. “I was following the Snipers,” he confessed. The large, heavy-set man in front of him snapped his gaze up, focused on Peter. Who swallowed hard. “Sir,” he added.

Why?”

I want to get the police interested in them.”

One thick, sausage like finger, tapped the desk next to the camera. Peter tried not to wince every time it came down—if he tapped the camera like that he’d destroy the thing and Peter didn’t have enough money to buy a new one. “The area you were caught in,” Kingpin said, eyeing Peter with his ice blue eyes, “ happens to be one that my—associates were paid to protect. So they brought you here.” The finger stilled. “Do you know why you’re still alive?” he asked darkly.

No,” squeaked Peter nervously.

You are still alive for two reasons. One; there is not one single shot of one of my people on this camera.”

Of course not. Peter hadn’t been looking for Kingpin , after all.

And two, I personally feel that the Snipers are religious fanatics. I don’t approve of their vendetta against New Amsterdam’s street children.”

Sometimes,” a husky voice behind Peter confided, “the Boss will give us plates of food to leave out.”

I look at those children and look at my son…” Fisk shook his head. “There is a third reason.” When Peter didn’t respond, not sure of what to make of these revelations. Wilson Fisk, feared crime lord—had a soft spot for the street children? “My anniversary is coming up and I want to do something—special. Something not everyone does. And I want you to take pictures of it.”

Peter stared, eyes going wide behind his glasses. “Me?” he asked, incredulous. Why him?

I’ve seen the pictures you take of Spiderman. The Bugle aside,” added the large man with a slight frown, “the pictures are well done. Why do you sell them to the Bugle?”

Peter risked shoving his glasses up with his wrist. “They pay me,” he said shortly.

There was an odd, crackling noise coming from the large man in front of him. After a moment of stunned silence Peter realized he was laughing. “That,” said the large man, physically composing himself, “is priceless. And true; the Bugle does pay.” Peter nodded nervously.

Those piercing eyes focused on Peter once again. “Now,” he said firmly, “I can’t let you go stalking the Snipers. They’re paying me for protection and it would be bad business. However,” he said holding up his sausage-like finger, “ I can offer something else. How would you feel if I told you where to find proof of Runaways Unite’s dark secrets?”

Peter had known, from the first day they’d shown up in New Amsterdam, that Runaways Unite was up to no good. He’d done his best to protect the street children from them, even as the citizens of the city proclaimed the non-profit as a heroes for “taking care of the children.” To be able to prove , beyond a shadow of a doubt—something that could show just how horrible they were—priceless.

The Kingpin nodded. “Ah. I thought you might prefer that, given your association with the street children.”

The door to the room opened again and a woman, tall (but shorter) than Kingpin, with silver streaked black hair walked in. She looked around the room and frowned before turning to Wilson. “You promised you weren’t going to bring work home,” she told him tightly.

This isn’t work, Vanessa,” protested the large man.

Peter quickly stood up and held out his hand. “He—hello,” he stammered. “I—I’m Pe—Peter Parker.”

She looked at him. “Sing,” she ordered. When he blinked in confusion she continued, “It is physically impossible to sing and stammer at the same time. Sing.”

A little nervously, Peter complied. “Your husband is hiring me to take pictures,” he sang. It worked! He was going to have to remember that and weigh the benefits of being thought insane over being thought a loser.

Pictures?”

Kingpin shifted nervously in his seat. “Our anniversary is coming up,” he reminded her.

Her face softened and she went over to him to kiss him on the cheek. “You big softy,” she said sweetly.

Yes. Parker, I’ll contact you with the details,” Fisk said firmly glaring at the boy. Peter nodded, scooped his camera off the desk, and fled.

Chapter Text

Runaways Unite?” asked Wade as Peter fixed them both coffee. The boy may have had trouble cooking, but no one brewed a better pot of coffee. “What about those nut-jobs?” Wade asked warily as Peter sat next to him on the couch, handing him a cup.

T he two of them were in Peter’s apartment (Wade’s was not fit for company by any stretch of the imagination). Wade had caught up with Peter as he was headed home—from an odd direction that was n ot from the Bugle, Stark Industries, or Oscorp. Peter had begun by telling him about telling off his boss—

{Which is hot.}

[ Not the point! He could have gotten fired !]

{…Stark’s paying us an insane amount to make sure Petey accepts his own lab. Why would he fire him just for having a backbone?}

[…My God. You have a point.]

then his tracking of a couple of Snipers—

[We’ve got to make sure he knows that’s not okay. Those people are dangerous.]

{Maybe we should follow him? Make sure he’s safe anyway?}

and his meeting with Kingpin.

[Definitely dangerous—but the man is a businessman first.]

{Who hired Peter!}

Peter curled up next to Wade, pressing their sides together. With his eyes heavy like this, curled like this, he reminded Wade of a satisfied cat. “Kingpin says he knows something I can use to take them down,” Peter said with satisfaction.

Wade sat silently, blowing on his coffee to cool it down for a moment. The room was dim, out of deference to Wade’s own preferences, and was only lit by a single small lamp—that was on the other side of the room. The two of them were sitting in shadow.

{Perfect for making out in.}

[Uh—no. We don’t want him feeling our skin and running away at the strange texture.]

Why do you want to take them down so badly?” asked Wade, curiously.

Peter sighed as he set his cup down on the coffee table in front of them. “Because of the street kids they’re taking,” he said as he curled back up next to Wade and rested his head on the broader man’s shoulder.

Cautiously, ready to pull back if Peter made any move to indicate the touch wasn’t welcome, Wade put an arm around him. “What about them?” he asked, keeping most of his weight to himself, barely resting it on Peter. Sure they were dating. Sure Peter seemed extra cuddly tonight—but that didn’t necessarily mean it would be okay. He had to go slow.

{Coward!}

[Seriously. You drape yourself all over him in public—why are you nervous about putting your arm around him now?]

Because in public he still had a mask to hide behind. Here, behind closed doors, in the comforting shadows where it was just the two of them, he felt as though he were unmasked—which, agreed, was a stupid feeling since he was still covered head to toe in his leather/Kevlar suit.

[It really is stupid.]

No one knows where they go,” Peter said answering the question. “They’re not put into the system, they don’t get taken back home, Runaways Unite has nothing like an orphanage—so where do they go?” Peter sighed and pressed harder against Wade’s side. “Plus,” he added wearily, “Norman donated almost a million dollars to them.”

Stark donated a hundred thousand,” Wade felt obligated to point out.

Peter sighed. “Tony Stark,” he said firmly, “has a computer program that donates one hundred thousand dollars to every non-profit in the county.” Peter began lightly drawing on Wade’s suit with his finger. Despite him not pressing hard, Wade could feel every stroke. “I could hack into the program and make it stop donating to Runaways Unite—but that would mean admitting I know about the program and I’m capable.”

[Earth to Idiot. Peter is flirting.]

{Let’s kiss him!}

[Sure. Let’s kiss our super hot boyfriend who likes us enough to confront his boss and let him feel the horrorscape that is our face so he can run away from us. Brilliant idea.]

{What do we do?}

[We make excuses like the cowards we are and run home hoping he still wants to talk to us in the morning.]

Wade did not. He stayed perfectly still. Peter? Flirting? It didn’t seem possible. Wade gently wiggled his shoulder to get Peter’s attention. “Want to watch a movie?” he asked.

[You idiot . You’re going to regret this in the morning.]

Peter gave him a lazy smile. “Sure,” he said amiable before rising from the couch and ambling over to a pile of DVDs on the floor beneath the TV. (Not a great TV; Peter’s apartment could use a few more—touches.)

{ Peter could use a few more touches.}

[He does have a cute ass.]

He does indeed.”

I do what?” asked Peter absently.

Wade froze. Had he ever told Peter about the boxes? He—he couldn't remember. If he hadn’t—would Peter run? But—but Peter was waiting for an answer, half-turned and watching with those half-lidded eyes. Wade swallowed hard. “The boxes in my head,” he said softly. “They—they think you’re cute.”

Peter stood straight and turned completely to face Wade. “Your boxes think I’m cute?” he asked. He sounded flattered.

Oh, Baby Boy, you are the cutest thing ever! Hasn’t anyone told you?”

Peter made a habitual movement to push the glasses he wasn’t currently wearing up with his wrist. “No,” he said, his voice an odd mixture of emotions.

Wade set his coffee down and opened his arms. “Come here,” he said. Peter obediently climbed onto Wade’s lap.

{Can we let Little Wade out to play?}

[This is not the time!]

You listen to me,” Wade said firmly. “You are the most wonderful, adorable, and cute thing that I have ever met.”

Peter snorted. “You’re the only one who would say that,” he said.

{I think we need to find out who made him think so bad of himself and unalive those fuckers.}

[I agree.]

Then they’re blind,” said Wade firmly. His hand came up. “Boop.” He gently bopped Peter’s nose. Which twitched.

Wade,” protested Peter. He leaned forward and rested his head against Wade’s chest. The two of them sat there for a moment, just listening to each other’s breathing.

At least until Wade noticed that Peter’s breathing was getting deep and regular. “ Peter?” he asked.

Hmm?”

Peter, you need to go to bed.”

Um-hmm.” It was clear that he was too tired to even move his lips to talk. “Hmm um um.”

Wade smiled. How could the younger man not realize he was adorable? “Up you go,” he said as he heaved himself up to his feet and went down the hall to the bedroom.

Um hmm hmm,” Peter complained.

I have no idea what you just said,” Wade admitted as he opened the bedroom door and slipped Peter into the bed.

Peter opened two soft, brown eyes blearily. “I love you,” he said sleepily.

Wade’s heart constricted. It felt good and painful at the same time. “I love you too,” he said softly as he pressed a masked kiss to Peter’s cheek.

Chapter Text

So, is my husband actually paying you, or did he threaten you into this?” Mrs. Fisk asked as Wilson ducked into one of the shops to grab something for her.

Peter smiled at her. Over the course of the night he’d gotten to like the woman a lot, and it was clear that the two of them were very much in love. “I really am getting paid,” he reassured her.

With money?”

Peter thought about the good it would do to get Runaways Unite off the streets. “With something better,” he assured her. She looked skeptical, but Wilson darted out of the shop to wrap a fuzzy dark purple blanket with sparkles on it around her and Peter gets a picture of the shot. It is, like most of the pictures he’s gotten, adorable.

A t the end of the night he hands the card (provided by Wilson) to the man and the man hands him a slip of paper, with an address. “One look at that,” Wilson said grimly, “will give you all you need.”

Thanks,” Peter said as he accepted it. “And Happy Anniversary!” Wilson nodded.

Thank you Peter,” said his wife with a sparkling smile as she snuggled up against her husband and Peter walked off into the night.

He stopped under a street light and looked at the address. It wasn’t in one of the best neighborhoods, which didn’t bother him, but was right in the middle of Sniper territory—which was odd. Why would Runaways Unite plop themselves in the middle of the territory of the one gang that seemed determined to kill the street children? Unless—they didn’t care if the children died.

What were they doing? Would it be enough to destroy them? Peter hoped so.

Petey-pie!” called a cheerful voice.

Peter couldn't stop the grin that cracked his face as he turned. “Wade,” he said as he was squished into the other’s chest.

You know, I was out doing patrol when my Petey senses started tingling,” Wade said.

Petey senses?” asked Peter as he scrunched up his nose.

Oh, you’re adorable. Boop.” Wade gently bopped the nose with a gloved finger before hugging Peter even tighter. “Where was I? Oh, yeah, my Petey senses. Like was saying I was patrolling and my Petey senses acted up. They said, ‘Peter is about to do something dangerous.’ Or maybe it was White saying that. I get them mixed up sometimes.”

What does Yellow say?” asked Peter, curious.

That we forget about everything on our minds and go home to cuddle on the couch.”

Peter’s face flamed as he remembered the last time they’d cuddled on the couch. He’d kind of hoped they might take their relationship up a level—but at the same time he was kind of relieved that all that happened was that he fell asleep and Wade went home. As he’d never been in a relationship this deep before, he wasn’t entirely certain what the next step would actually be .

Sorry to disappoint, Yellow,” Peter said gently, “but I have something dangerous that I need to do.” He showed Wade the address and explained the situation to him.

You sure you need to do this, Baby Boy?” asked Wade.

I’m sure,” said Peter firmly.

Right. Let’s go.”

What?” asked Peter, shocked. Actually—he wasn’t sure why he was shocked. Wade made no secret of the fact that he enjoyed spending time with Peter, and even Wade needed a break from patrol…

Let’s go! No way am I letting you into that dangerous neighborhood alone!” said Wade cheerfully.

Peter smiled again. “All right,” he said amiably as he followed his boyfriend. “Let’s go.” He caught up and playfully bumped against Wade’s shoulder. “You can protect me, Hero,” he teased gently.

Wade gasped loudly and clutched a hand to his chest as he slumped over. “Petey, don’t do that to me!” he protested. “My heart almost stopped !”

Peter reached over to kiss the masked cheek. “You’ll have to get used to it Triple, or your heart really will pop .”

Wait, does that mean—?”

Wade, come on! There’s only so much of the night left!”

Neither of them noticed they were being watched by a solemn pair of yellow eyes.

Chapter Text

Have you found them?” The voice on the other end was desperate—but then he had reason to be.

She sighed and rolled her eyes, grateful that he couldn't see her. “I’ve got a general area for them, but nothing specific yet,” she warned him. He had a good reason for being desperate—but she had an equally good one for not telling him more. “Look on the bright side; they’re safe,” she said as she watched a small group of four street children (they’d taken to wandering in groups of four instead two) warily pass under her position. “These tykes really look after each other,” she said affectionately.

A sigh ruffled the line. “They shouldn't have to,” said the frustrated man.

No. But it’s better to be in a group than alone.” Especially on these streets. Especially now; with all the different people after them. They seemed to be adjusting well to the danger. For one, they started going out in groups of four instead of two. For another, after a certain time of night they just—vanished. No one knew where they went or where they came from, but between the hours of eleven at night to six in the morning there wasn’t a single child of the street on the street.

I just want them to be safe.”

And they are.” She was certain of it. She may not know what caused the differences in behavior she was seeing, but she knew the new behavior was safer than the old.

If anything happens—”

I’ll let you know,” she promised before hanging up.

Well,” said a voice behind her, “that isn’t ominous at all.”

She squeaked, jumped, rolled, and stopped with a sai in each hand as she faced her opponent. She paused. Her opponent—was a child? Not as young as the children she’d been shadowing, not nearly, but—also clearly not an adult. Still, she knew better than to assume the opponent was harmless. After all, this not-child not-adult was clearly skilled enough to conceal their presence from her . “What are you?”

A smile quirked the thin lips. “Most people ask who I am—but you see more than most, don’t you?” The two of them began a slow, wary dance.

Well, she was wary. The not-adult not-child appeared to be amused and relaxed—but wasn’t open. There was no move that she could make to kill her opponent, and she could see it. “What do you want?” she asked again.

To protect,” said the opponent flatly.

She paused. To protect? She’d heard many claims. This one was odd—and truth. “Protect what?” she asked.

The opponent smiled, a real smile this time. “For now,” the not-adult not-child said, “I’m protecting the street children. I’m their big sister.”

Oh?”

Oh.” The opponent took a step forwards and suddenly she was encased in a pressure that made her want to flee—but she’d long since had practice standing her ground. “All of the street children, and there are more than you think, are under my protection. Including the two you’ve been stalking.” The opponent smirked. “Did you think they wouldn't notice? Not much gets by these kids.”

You’re not one of them.” The statement was flat—but true. There was a certain—air, so to speak, around the street kids, and this—person, didn’t have it.

What rule says I have to be?” The opponent stopped moving, stopped—and studied her. “I hear there’s a demon walking the streets.”

She scoffed. “Only the one ?” she asked derisively.

Oh, this is a special demon. One that can infect others. And the children are long gone now.” A quick turn (keeping an eye on the opponent) showed that the other was right—the children were long gone, vanished into whatever hole they sprang from.

They have a father.”

Most do.” A shrug. “That being said—not all fathers are created equal.”

He only wants to protect them.” She knew it as well as she knew her name, her identity, her blades.

Doesn’t mean he knows the best way to do it. Have you even asked what they’re running from?”

She paused. There was something in the other’s voice, an emotion she didn’t—quite—recognize. “Do you know?”

I do. And right now, for right now, they’re safer where they are than anything else.”

She stepped back, slowly put her sais back in their sheaths, and then stepped away—keeping an eye on the other. “I won’t be able to convince him of that.”

Not if he’s a good father,” agreed the other. She began to leave. “And Elektra?” She paused, heart racing that this Unknown knew her name. When on a mission she didn’t even think it. “Watch out for spiders. Especially spiders that used to be human.” With that cryptic remark—the other was gone. Vanished. As if the encounter had never taken place.

She frowned and checked the jewel on her wrist. It wa s designed to show if she’d been tampered with by mind powers—but the jewel was fine. Just as pristine as it had been when she’d gotten ready earlier.

Had it been a vision? She had them sometimes, to warn her of things that were coming—but this didn’t seem like those. There was something more solid to it, like it had actually happened instead of the blurred vibrancy that usually accompanied her visions. She might need to consult with someone about this.

First she had to explain everything to the father.

Chapter Text

“Sorry!” Peter said to Beth as he rushed to the back office. “I know I’m late—I’m sorry!” he said as he danced around the new guy in the office and slipped into the office panting. The exertion wasn’t enough to make him out of breath, but it should have been. “Sorry I’m late Mr. Jamison!”

For one solid minute the only sound in the office was that of crunching candy. “Parker. Your submission.”

Peter winced. It was never good when Jamison used short sentences. He quickly pulled the folder out of his bag, ignoring Eddie’s raised brow at the glossy cartoon on it, and handed it over. Jamison slowly opened it—and his thick bushy brows flew up so fast they practically melted into his hair.

“No! Really?” he looked at Peter, candy crunching at a furious pace.

Peter nodded grimly. “The proof is under it.”

Jamison reached out, pulled some more of the large, round spheres from his candy jar before popping them in his mouth and then began sorting through the information in the folder. The candy crunching furiously was the only sound in the room.

Peter had felt both horror at his discoveries and a small sense of vicious satisfaction. Maybe this would be enough to get the street children some real help. Probably not, but he could hope.

“Robbie!” screamed Jamison. Peter ducked aside as the door slammed open to admit the new guy. He waved in what he hoped was a friendly manner, and the man smiled and nodded at him before turning to Jamison. Jamison took the papers that had already been on his desk (probably Eddie’s submission) and handed both them and the folder to Robbie. “This one,” he said tapping Eddie’s Paper, “Front page second article. This one,” he said tapping the folder, “front page main article.” Robbie nodded and left.

Eddie looked enraged. “Hey!” he demanded.

The candy crunched as Jamison spoke. “Parker got information that Runaways Unite is using their access to street children for trafficking purposes,” he explained.

Peter was just glad that he’d been with Deadpool when they’d found it. He’d been able to get the information on past “sales” off the servers, and Wade had said that he knew a guy who could use it track down and rescue all the children. More importantly, Wade had argued, the guy would be invested in finding them—whatever that meant.

Wade had also been firm about escorting Peter straight to his apartment after their discoveries and making him promise that he wouldn't leave until morning. Peter had retaliated, making him promise not to kill everyone involved. It had been a battle.

Peter glanced up at Eddie—and cringed away at the raw hatred in the man’s eyes. “And how did Peter,” demanded the larger man, “learn about this?”

“Don’t know,” said Jamison, candy crunching with each bite. “Don’t care. Parker.”

“I—I’ve got to get to SI,” Peter stammered before fleeing. He didn’t just want to escape the Bugle—he also wanted to see what was going on with Dr. Banner’s work. For the first time in far too long, his steps felt light as he ran.

“Mr. Parker!”

And the good feeling crashed. He swerved mid-step and ran into the alley the kid was calling him into. “What happened?” he asked warily.

The kid looked up at him with wide, tear-filled eyes. “They took Ellie!” it whispered.

“Who?” demanded Peter. He was going to have to save the child; he needed to know where.

“The—the big ones,” the child said, clearly frightened. “The ones with—” The kid looked around quickly and then allowed a tiny spark to shoot from a finger.

The X-Men. The X-Men had taken Ellie off the streets and to their home. “All right. I’ll do what I can,” he said grimly before running off. Thanks to Wade buying him so much food, he actually had a little money stored away. He had been planning to keep it for emergencies (or maybe a Christmas gift for Aunt May), but this was an emergency. And it was just enough to rent a car (because Peter Parker couldn’t exactly swing into the Manor and demand they release the clearly abandoned child they probably believed they had rescued.

And they might have. Peter wasn’t certain that he was doing the right thing; Ellie was probably safer at the Manor than on the streets (especially with the Snipers still at large). Still—he had to try and get her back. He knew that while she may have lived on the streets she’d made a home . She was family with the other children. And he knew what having family ripped away felt like.

He firmly kept that in mind as he drove up the long, winding drive to the Manor. He kept it in mind as he parked the car (insured, because not insuring a rental car in New Amsterdam was financial suicide), and walked up the tall, carved stone steps of the manor.

The first noise that greeted Peter when he opened the doors was that of children laughing. Footsteps running down the halls. He danced out of the way as a small herd (some in animal form) of healthy, happy children stampeded past him.

Did he have the right to take Ellie away from here, when he knew she was just going to end up on the streets again? Wouldn’t it be better for her if she just—got used to living here? If she spent the rest of her childhood here?

Unbidden in his mind voices rose up.

He’ll do better in the city.”

He’s better off in the country.”

Doesn’t it seem like he belongs here?”

No. He would talk to Ellie, ask what she wanted, but he would not make that decision for the child. Ellie had a right to decide where to live.

He took a step in and was stopped by a beautiful redheaded woman. She looked similar, but was different in a very clear way from MJ. Although they were about the same height, MJ had a more open feel to her, more friendly. This woman was clearly separating herself from him an authoritative and dignified air. “Professor Xavier would like to see you,” she told him firmly.

Of course he would. Professor Xavier was the most powerful telepath in the world ; he’d probably heard Peter’s frantically churning thoughts before he even hit the property line. Peter winced; he hoped he hadn’t accidentally given the man a headache— he wouldn't like to have to eavesdrop on his own chaotic thoughts. “Th—thank you,” he said as apologetically as possible.

Her dark green eyes were unreadable. “This way,” she ordered. He meekly followed her through the ostentatious halls and took great comfort in the hand drawn murals that graced the bottom half of most of the walls. There were scratches on the doors, height markers on walls, and every few feet were toys discarded on the floor.

In short; the Manor looked exactly like what it was; an ostentatious manor built by Old Money that became a school and home for children. Looking around Peter could see that the children were well cared for. Even the few adults he saw (his guide aside) seemed relatively happy. She led him to a scarred wooden door. He wasn’t an expert, by any stretch of the imagination—but those looked like sword marks in the wood.

“Good eye,” called a voice from inside as his guide opened the door. Inside the office was a desk that Xavier was (of course) sitting at, and standing next to it was a tall man with brown hair and goggles that covered his eyes from edge to edge. “Thank you Jean. I believe the children in the basketball court are considering blowing it up again.”

“That is not a basketball court!” growled Jean as she turned and stalked off.

“Please, have a seat, Mr. Parker,” Xavier said as he gestured to the chairs.

Never start a negotiation on lesser footing.”

Words from back when Peter actually liked Norman, and looked up to the man. “Thank you, but I’ll stand,” he said softly.

The man leaning against the wall snorted. “If you insist.”

“Scott,” Xavier said with warning before he turned to look at Peter again. “You came for Ellie.”

There was no reason to deny it. “I did, yes.”

“Are you here to take her?” The words were mild; the eyes watching him were not. Peter got the impression those dark eyes didn’t miss much, and not nearly as much of what they saw was as due to the telepathy as people thought.

“I’m here to see if she wants to leave,” said Peter firmly.

Scott, not moving from his position, scoffed again. “She was living on the streets,” the other man said.

“A lot of children are,” Peter said firmly. He viewed the man warily. “A lot of them call the streets ‘home.’ Do you have the right to take a child away from home, against its will?”

“It? Mr. Parker.” Peter’s attention shifted back to Xavier and waited for the man to finish. To his surprise, the man abandoned the previous protest. “The streets are dangerous, Mr. Parker.”

“Yes.”

“Children die on them every day.”

“They do.” Peter had seen them. Seen them broken, bloody—having gotten there too late to help.

“And it seems that they have been going missing, as well.”

Of course they were. He felt certain that Runaways Unite was responsible for a huge number of them. But they were about to get exposed.

“So, she really would be safer here.”

Peter met the man’s gaze firmly. “And does she believe this?” he asked.

“What does that matter?” demanded Scott. The voice of all those who believed children shouldn't be heard.

“It matters,” Peter said angrily, “because that child is a person.” He glared at the man.

The one who loses his cool first during a negotiation loses.”

Another lesson. Another time. Still valid. He took a slow, deep breath before he began again. “There are a lot of children who live on the streets.”

“We know that,” said Scott dismissively.

“And most of those children have powers.”

Now he had the other man’s attention. “ You will never find all of them if they associate you with other children disappearing.”

“So you think we should just put her on the streets?” demanded Scott.

Xavier raised a hand and Scott subsided into murmurs. “The fact of the matter is that Ellie must be trained,” he said simply. “She needs to learn how to control her powers, before SHIELD finds out about them.”

Peter nodded. He had his own issues with SHIELD, after all. “She could be a day student,” he said, “or stay here during the week and leave on the weekends—if,” and Peter stressed the word firmly, “she wants to.”

The door opened. “I got her. Damn it Chuck, this talking in my head thing is really freaky.” The short, hairy man came in with a shrieking bundle under one arm and unceremoniously dropped her to the floor.

“Logan,” sighed Xavier.

The child jumped up, then saw Peter. Her face crumpled. “Mr. Parker!” she cried as she flung herself into his arms—much as he’d done to Wade before. He held her gently as she sobbed.

“It’s okay,” he soothed as he gently rubbed her back. “It’s okay.”

“I—I wa—want to go ho—home!” she sobbed.

“All right.” Peter picked her up.

“And Mr. Parker?” said Xavier as Peter headed towards the door. “Thank you.”

He knows . A second after that realization, he will never tell. Charles Xavier had just as many reasons to be wary as Peter Parker did—more, if the school was included. Peter nodded and stepped away.

Only to run into a hairy arm. “Parker?” asked the short, hairy man. “As in ‘Peter Parker’?” he asked.

Peter blinked. “Yes,” he said hesitantly.

“Are you really dating Deadpool?”

Chapter Text

Ellie had prowled the Manor—but they were well used to newcomers trying to escape. Of course the newcomers would escape if they were all just snatched like she’d been! She had to get back—she had to protect the others—didn’t she?

After all, Angel was there. And with the few changes Angel had made to their routines, they’d been even safer. No one had even needed to call for Angel, because the Snipers couldn't get them alone anymore. Of course they still had to watch out for the police, and Runaways Unite—but life was better.

But—Angel’s presence was merely temporary, a fact that was proven when Ellie watched part of what looked like a tattoo of tally marks vanish from Angel’s arm. Ellie had asked, and Angel had simply responded that the marks weren’t tattoos, and when they vanished the portal would open again and she’d go through it. So, while they had Angel now, they weren’t going to have her for very long—and they were going to need Ellie again.

First she had to get out. She thought the weakest point would be the kitchen. So many people went through (everyone was allowed into the kitchen to get food at any time; a necessity given how much food some of the children needed) that she was sure she could find a way out. Since everyone had access to the kitchen at any point in time—then that meant there had to be a way to leave from the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” a curious, chipper voice asked as she looked under a cabinet. None of these cabinets were locked—not that a lock would do them much good. Angel had been teaching them how to pick locks of various kinds. Ellie in particular had taken to the new information. Knowing how to pick locks was a good way of making sure that she was never trapped.

“Looking for a way out,” Ellie answered absently. She was going to have to ask Angel for some more lessons.

“Why?”

Ellie turned—and stared. In front of her was a beautiful girl, just a little shorter (but probably older; Ellie’d been on short rations for a while now) girl with pink hair. “Hi,” Ellie said distantly as the almond shaped eyes crinkled in amusement.

“Hi.” The girl held out a hand. “I’m Yukio.”

Names were rare currency among the street kids—but a name deserved a name in return. Besides, it wasn’t as though the rest of these people didn’t already know her name. “Ellie.” Shy and uncertain Ellie reached out and the other girl took her hand (warm, soft) and shook it.

Yukio tilted her head in an adorable way as she looked at Ellie. “Why do you need to leave?” she asked.

Right. Leave. For a moment, Ellie had forgotten. “There are people out there I have to protect,” Ellie explained. “I can’t do that from here!”

“Right. Who’s the new kid?” Before Ellie could properly register what was happening she was picked up and tucked under an arm, football style.

“Put me down!” ordered Ellie as she struggled, flailing with her feet (her arms were pinned).

“Nope. Chuck says someone's here for you.”

Ellie shrieked and struggled more. She couldn't think of anyone who would come for her—at least not anyone she wanted to see. She tried to brace her feet against the walls to stop the progress—but they were too slick and her shoes just slid down them.

She was abruptly set down, whirled—and saw Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker, who always made time for them. Mr. Parker, who didn’t assume he knew what was best. Mr. Parker—who had come. For Ellie. She burst into tears and flung herself towards him as she sobbed. “I—I wa—want to go ho—home!” Any other time she would have been embarrassed—but he’d come. He’d come for her.

“All right,” Mr. Parker said as he gently picked her up, gently rubbing her back. “Let’s go home.”

She looked up as he stopped, terrified that they were going to be prevented from leaving. “Parker?” asked the man who’d carried her to the room. “As in, ‘Peter Parker’?”

“Yes.” Ellie was no expert, but Mr. Parker sounded wary.

“Are you really dating Deadpool?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Parker. He had a slight smile on his face, the one she was familiar with when he was with Wade.

“Deadpool?” asked Ellie.

“Wade,” Peter translated.

Ellie connected the name to the costumed man who’d hurt Juby’s dad. “Oh—the safe one?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Mr. Parker as they were suddenly surrounded by coughing fits. He turned to the hairy man. “Excuse me,” he said politely before he turned to leave.

On their way out, they passed Yukio. “Hi, Ellie,” Yukio chirped. “Aren’t you glad your dad came?”

Peter reached out and gently ruffled the bright pink hair. “We’re going home, but you’ll probably meet again later.”

Yukio grinned happily. “I’d like that,” she said before wandering off.

Mr. Parker took her outside and to a small blue car. “I didn’t know you had a car,” she said as he saw her safely buckled in a gesture she found—odd. Nice, but odd—like most of what Mr. Parker did.

“It’s a rental,” Mr. Parker explained.

Ellie clutched her seat belt. She wasn’t an idiot; she knew how little money Mr. Parker had. She also knew, from the way tourists complained, how expensive rental cars were. And he’d spent the money he didn’t have because Ellie , random street kid he barely knew and probably hadn’t even been certain of the gender of, had needed help.

She didn’t understand why . True, Angel was looking after them too, but—but Angel was almost one of them, and the kids always stood by each other. They had to.

But adults were different. They always wanted something. They always expected something. The only thing that Mr. Parker had gotten from them was trouble. They took his time, they took his money—and it seemed to be okay. He didn’t seem to hate them for it, like everyone else did.

Sometime down the road, Mr. Parker pulled over and leaned his head against the steering wheel taking slow, deep breaths. “I wasn’t sure that would work,” he confessed. He laughed weakly before restarting the car. “To tell you the truth,” Mr. Parker confessed as he pulled back out onto the road, “that man scares the Hell out of me.”

He had faced someone he was scared of—for Ellie.

Why?!

Chapter Text

Wade’s eyes stared dreamily at the wall of liquor behind Weasel. He hadn’t even protested when the bartender slipped him a non-alcoholic drink. “And he has the most beautiful eyes,” Wade sighed. “Like chocolate.”

“Uh-huh.” Weasel did not seem to be impressed.

{Don’t forget his smile.}

“And the sweetest smile,” Wade added. “And he smiles a lot. At me!” Wade was still touched and surprised. People didn’t smile at him. Well, not genuine smiles, not like Peter gave him.

“Wilson, you still babbling on about your fake boyfriend?” asked a merc Wade was vaguely familiar with as he came up to the bar.

“He’s not fake,” Wade protested to the other’s obvious amusement.

The man rolled his eyes visibly. “Sure he’s not. That’s why none of us have ever seen him.”

[None of you jackasses have ever seen him because you’re not fit to walk on the same side of the street as our Peter.]

{Why are we here? We could be with him right now!}

Wade needed to brag about his new relationship (Petey-pie had said “I love you!”), and this was the only real place he knew people. Well, since he was kicked out of the Manor again. While they couldn't kill him, it would take too much time for his body to regenerate and he had patrols to do—and Peter to date.

{We should take him to a museum! He likes that kind of stuff!}

[We’d get kicked out before we even made it through the door.]

Wade chuckled. “You can’t kill my mood,” he said with a soppy grin. “I’m too much in love.”

The merc rolled his eyes as Weasel pinched his nose. “Love, right,” said Weasel. “Question—does he know the two of you are dating?”

“It was his suggestion!” Wade happily announced.

The merc to his side snorted. “And how bad did you have to threaten him for that to happen?”

{How rude!}

[He’s baiting you.]

Wade shook his finger at the other merc. “You’re trying to make me mad,” he said, half singing. “But it’s not going to work,” he added. He belted down another shot. “I love my Baby Boy too much.”

“Right. Weasel, this freak’s freaking me out.”

“Here.” Weasel handed over a gold card only for Wade’s hand to reach out and grab the wrist as he stared at the embossed name on the card.

“Who put out this hit?” asked Wade darkly as he stared at the name.

Weasel froze. “You know I can’t give you that information,” he said. Sweat beaded at the man’s hairline as he stared at the suddenly serious, suddenly dangerous mercenary in front of him.

[We can make him give it to us.]

{But—Spidey and Pete will be disappointed.}

Wade couldn't bear to disappoint either of them. “Right. Weasel, hold on to that card while I go murder the fucker that wants my baby boy dead.” He grimly got up from his seat.

“You’re dating a reporter?” asked Weasel in a high-pitched voice.

[I knew he knows more about those cards than he claims!]

{We’ve got to get Peter somewhere safe.}

[At least he gave us a place to start looking.]

{We can’t let anything happen to Peter!}

[The hit’s probably related to that article he wrote, about that non-profit.]

{We’ve got to protect him!}

[And how do you suppose we do that? You know Peter, the moment we tell him someone's trying to kill him he’s going to run to figure out who with no regards to his own safety.]

He would, too. Wade was all too familiar with that recklessness. No wonder the kid was mostly a photographer; as a regular reporter he would have died four times over. No, there was only one way to keep him safe.

[What was that?]

{Oh! Good idea! Good idea!}

[No, it’s a terrible idea. I thought we established this isn’t how to start a relationship?]

“Our relationship’s already started!”

[This is not the way to keep a relationship! Wade!]

Wade ignored White. There wasn’t going to be a relationship if Peter got killed—which, given that he was a name on one of Weasel’s cards, was significantly likely. The people in that bar, their failures to kill him aside, were the best at what they did. Peter wouldn't even know he was in danger, and Spidey was still out of town. Still, he knew exactly what to do.

[This is a bad idea.]

Chapter Text

Fortunately, Ellie had been understanding of the deal that Peter had had to make on her behalf to get her out of there. And she mentioned that if she learned how to control her own powers (and she didn’t tell him what those were and he didn’t ask) she could teach the others how to control theirs. A good goal. One worth striving for. Peter heartily supported it.

Dr. Banner had been less understanding about everything. The older man frowned at him, silver glinting through his brown hair. “Peter, I can’t care less about what happens in your private life. If you are working in my lab, you will be here promptly on time.”

“Yes Sir,” said Peter, dejected.

“Good. Now then, for the last hour and a half,” the tense tone betrayed the anger the man was feeling and Peter winced again, “that I have you, let me catch you up on what I’m doing so that you help me tomorrow.”

“Yes, Sir,” agreed Peter obediently. Dr. Banner pulled up the files on the chemical equations he was using. Unlike Dr. Stacey’s lab, his had a holographic overlay screen, similar to the one in Tony’s office. Halfway through the presentation, Peter paused it. “Dr. Banner, it looks like you’re attempting to create an inorganic compound designed to pass through the blood-brain barrier.”

Dr. Banner pushed his own glasses up, with the wrist of his hand, like Peter did. “Why yes. I’m in charge of the medical treatment of most of the Avengers, and the with the healing factors most of them have painkillers simply will not work unless I can get them through the barrier swiftly, and even then don’t work for very long.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to swap this chemical out?” Peter tentatively touched the screen, flipping the chemical Bruce had up for the one he had thought of. “It would make the molecule smaller, more likely pass through,” Peter explained, “and if you add this one here,” again, showing on the model, “you can create a minor healing block for the factor, allowing it to work longer. In theory.”

“Yes,” said Dr. Banner intrigued. “In theory. Luckily, we have rats.”

The two of them were so engaged in their work that it wasn’t until Dr. Stacey tapped on the glass outside the lab that Peter noticed it was almost time to go. She poked her head into the lab. “If I don’t get to keep him over,” she said firmly, “neither do you.”

“Dr. Stacey has a point,” said Dr. Banner irritably. “Peter, you may go. Please try to be on time tomorrow.”

“Yes sir,” said Peter softly.

“Hey, if you’re not willing to have him in your lab, he’s always welcome back in mine. I’m doing some fantastic things with the organic matrix.” She grinned showing teeth in an almost predatory smile. “I might even make a brain. We’ll see.”

Peter chuckled nervously. He had to get to Oscorp. He had just finished that product Norman wanted, and he wanted to check in on Harry. Make sure his friend was okay. Try to help him leave surreptitiously. Remind them to call him and let him know when the baby arrived. He nodded stiffly to both Dr. Banner and Dr. Stacey and then hung up his coat before leaving.

Peter paused on his way to Oscorp when he saw the newspaper in one of the boxes. The headline screamed at him and he couldn't suppress his bitter smile. It looked like Jamison had, for the moment, found someone else to focus his wrath on—and when it wasn’t focused on his alter ego, he found he had a much greater appreciation for it.

 

RUNAWAYS UNITE UNMASKED

EVIL DEEDS COME TO LIGHT

 

It probably wouldn't be enough. He knew that. He knew that the majority of what they did would get slid under the rug—for a nonprofit they had big backers. Norman wasn’t even the tip of that iceberg.

Still—they now had attention from people who had never really looked at them before. Even the public that hated the fact that the alleys swarmed with the children of the street would be mortified by what he’d uncovered—and then there was Wade. He had no doubt, none at all, that even if Wade hadn’t decided to hunt down every last surviving member of Runaways Unite, he had passed the information on to someone who would. Their days were numbered and he felt a vicious satisfaction.

All of the pictures he’d taken had been turned over (well, copies of all the pictures he’d taken had been turned over—Wade had the originals) to Jamison who would hand it over (keeping his name out of it) to the police when they came to investigate. The police would, of course, demand to know who had gotten the information and Jamison would, of course, reply that he had to protect his sources. Peter didn’t get credit for the article (he could see the credited name as Robbie Robertson), but he got paid, and that was the important thing. The anonymity was also important—he didn’t want anyone connecting photographer Peter Parker to the reporter who outed a trafficking ring. Too much could go wrong.

Pictures. He still had that album he’d made (in secret, of course) of Harry and MJ. He’d planned to give it as a wedding gift but if things went according to plan—Harry wouldn't live long enough to have a wedding. Before the full weight of that decision could settle on Peter again he shook his head and tried to force the feeling away. After all, he still needed to function, and Wade was nowhere to be seen—probably off saving some part of the city or terrifying criminals onto the path of the straight and narrow.

He turned and went back to his apartment. The album was hidden in the one place that MJ would never think to look—the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper. He wouldn't have any trouble getting in and getting it. And he thought they might like it. They liked the albums he never intended to see the light of day, and he didn’t put nearly as much effort into those.

On the way into the building he was blocked by the manager. The small man managed to look down his nose at Peter, who shrank a little into himself at the fierce gaze. He’d like the woman who’d owned the building before, the one he’d actually signed a rental contract with—but her son seemed determined to hate Peter for some reason.

“Rent is due on the first,” the man said grimly, with a similar satisfaction in his voice to what Peter had felt reading the headline of the paper.

Peter’s heart stuttered. “The first? But, it’s always been due on the fifteenth!” he protested. He’d paid it on time! He always paid it on time (although granted, sometimes he paid it at eleven fifty-nine at night, but he paid it on the day it was due).

“It has changed,” the man informed him tartly. “If you do not pay your rent on the new date,” he added viciously, “I will be forced to evict you.” He smiled before leaving.

Peter stared after him despondently. He’d just started getting his life back together—and now this? There was no way he was going to be able to make it on time; the first was just two days away! What was he going to do?

He staggered back into the street, seeing nothing as plans turned violently in his head. He couldn't get an advance on pay from SI, the money from the article he’d submitted for the Bugle wasn’t enough to cover it, what was he going to do? He didn’t want to lose his apartment. If he did he’d have to go back to live with his aunt, at least for a while—and it was too dangerous for Aunt May for him to live under the same roof as he continued to be Spiderman.

Despite Deadpool doing a better job of watching the city than Spiderman ever did, Peter just couldn't bring himself to fully cut off that part of himself. He felt a need to get out there and help, and plain old Peter Parker just couldn't. Besides, there were people who depended on Spiderman—weren’t there?

He was too caught up in his thoughts to notice his surroundings, and never saw the pair of hands that grabbed him.

Chapter Text

[Have you lost your mind ?!]

Wade winced as White screamed in his mind while he hauled Peter’s unconscious body to his lair. “We have to protect him!” he protested.

{We can’t let anything bad happen to Petey-pie!}

[Peter is never going to speak to us again! Damn it Wade; I thought we were past this whole kidnapping shit!]

{How else are we going to keep him from getting hurt?}

[Maybe talk to him like an ADULT?!]

Wade winced again as he opened the door and gently took Peter inside. The apartment was a good ten floors up, was in a place that somehow managed to not have a fire escape, and he was the only one with the keys. Well, if Spidey was back, then he could get Peter out.

[If? IF? You mean when , Wade. And good luck explaining this to Spiderman! He’s going to run us out of the city!]

{He’s protective of Peter too!}

[And how is Peter going to feel when he realizes his boyfriend just kidnapped him?]

Neither Wade nor Yellow had an answer for that. Wade felt his heart sink; he knew, just knew that this would be the thing that broke them up, make Peter not want to see him again—but he had to do it. He had to know that Peter was safe, and this was the only way.

As Wade set Peter down gently on the sofa (a new, clean one that Wade had bought just earlier that week), his eyes blinked blearily open and he stared vacantly at Wade. “What happened?” he asked as he brought up a wrist to push his glasses back into place. His other hand came up and pulled the glasses off completely as he blinked rapidly. He looked around. “Did you—did you kidnap me?” he asked.

His voice was a mixture of confusion and disbelief—but not rage.

[Not yet.]

Wade crouched in front of Peter. “Hey,” he said nervously. “You know how I used to be a super bad-ass mercenary who killed for the highest bidder?”

More blinks. Peter still looked out of it. “You don’t do that anymore,” he said, sounding confused. “Do you?” he asked, eyes wide.

No!” shouted Wade. He cleared his throat and continued at a lower voice. “No, Baby Boy, I don’t kill people anymore. But, see, I still go to the bar just to touch base and brag about my pretty boyfriend and—and your name was on a card,” he explained.

A card—what?” asked Peter. He still sounded confused.

[He sounds concussed. You hit too hard.]

Knowing he shouldn't, but unable to help himself, Wade reached up and took one of Peter’s hands in his gloved one. “They give out cards with the names of marks on them,” he repeated gently. “Your name is on a card Peter.”

Why?” asked Peter. He sounded scared, confused and vulnerable.

[Yeah—that’s not going to last long. He’s going to never speak to us again .]

{We had to!}

That was the bitch of it. They had to protect Peter—even if it meant that he’d never (rightfully) speak them again. “I don’t know,” Wade said gently. He wanted to reach out and hug Peter close to him—but he didn’t have that right anymore. He couldn't do anything unless Peter said it was okay. “I’m going to find out,” he promised grimly. He didn’t add that the fucker would die—Petey-pie shared the same moralistic sense of justice as Spiderman and would ask him not to kill. “I just need you to stay here,” he continued.

To no one’s surprise, Peter’s eyes widened and he began to freak out. “My rent’s due in two days!” he yelled. “If I’m not there first thing in the morning, Dr. Banner will have me fired!” he added. He began to shake as he continued. “The Bugle will cut me back to freelance again!” Suddenly his eyes went even wider and he shook as he darted forwards, grabbing the straps to Wade’s katana sheaths. “Norman!” he cried. Tears began to leak out. “Harry,” he whimpered.

Wade carefully, loosely (in case Peter changed his mind and wanted to get out) hugged the younger man. “It will be okay,” he assured Peter. “Hey,” he said gently as he smoothed Peter’s hair out of his face. “Look at me.” Peter looked up, tears streaking down his face.

{That hurts.}

[This was your idea!]

Do you trust me?” Wade asked.

[He shouldn't. He should be planning to run for the hills.]

Peter looked up into the mask for a moment before burying his face in Wade’s chest again. “Yes,” Peter mumbled into the suit, vibrations stinging Wade’s skin for a moment.

{Holy Shit. He trusts us .}

[Clearly he needs professional help.]

Trust me,” Wade said, ignoring the boxes. “Everything will be all right. I’m a big, bad mercenary. No one will expect you to get away from me; I’ll go and explain everything to them.”

Peter was silent for a moment before he spoke again; Wade rubbing soothing circles on his back. “Norman’s insane, Wade. Not the good kind, not like you.”

That felt—warming. Wade wasn’t certain why. He didn’t examine the feeling. “ It’s okay,” he said again. “I know how to deal with insane people.”

{Kill them all!}

[If we do that , Peter’s best friend dies! Honestly, don’t you listen to anything?]

And Hulking Banner won’t fire you,” Wade said gently, changing the subject. “I’ll talk to Tony.”

Tony?”

Wade smiled at the mix of disgust and worry in the single name. “All right,” he agreed. “I’ll talk to Pepper instead.” He began to gently stroke Peter’s hair. “And the Bugle will understand.” At Peter’s snort he said, “Well, maybe not. But they’ll keep you on the payroll anyway, just to keep me from blowing up the building.”

Wade!”

Don’t worry,” soothed Wade gently. “I won’t actually blow it up. I’ll only threaten to.” He was quiet for a moment, listening to Peter’s breathing.

[You are so lucky he’s not trying to kill you or jump out the window right now.]

And you won’t get evicted,” Wade said firmly. “I’ll talk to your landlord, and make sure he understands what’s going on.”

He’s not an understanding person,” grumbled Peter.

{Then we kill him .}

[No. If the apartment goes through probate, chances are Peter will be evicted. But we can maim him.]

Don’t worry,” said Wade, keeping his voice soft. “I’ve got it covered.” At the unbelieving snort he said, “I do. All I need,” he said firmly, “is for you to stay here and safe. Just for a little while.”

Peter heaved a sigh. “Wade,” he began.

Wade wasn’t about to let him finish. A gloved hand came up to cup Peter’s cheek and the younger man leaned into it like a touch-starved cat.

{He doesn’t hate us!}

[He’s probably still out of it.]

I can do it, Petey,” he said gently. “Just—just get some rest, okay?”

Peter’s eyes were already closing.

[Isn’t it a bad idea to sleep with a concussion?]

{He’s not concussed!}

Mm-kay,” he sighed before melting back into the couch.

Good. Now, I’m going to go make sure that everything goes all right while you’re gone, and tomorrow we’re going to see if we can figure out who wants you dead.”

Peter’s somber eyes met the whites of the mask like he could see Wade’s eyes behind them. “Are you sure?” he asked softly.

Wade reached out and smoothed some hair out of Peter’s face. “I’m sure,” he said firmly.

Chapter Text

Peter supposed he should be panicking; after all he’d been kidnapped by the infamous Deadpool, was in an apartment that might as well be Rapunzel’s tower, and someone wanted him dead. But—but he was Spiderman, and it seemed like someone new wanted him dead every Tuesday. Granted, it was more than a little concerning that someone wanted Peter Parker dead instead of Spiderman, but still an everyday occurrence.

A quick look around after Wade left showed that while he might have tried to lock Peter in a tower, his boyfriend had no idea that he was also Spiderman . Which was good—and meant that Peter could, in reality, leave at any time. He just had to climb down the wall outside the building to the street, and he could. Easy. Easier than actually climbing down a ladder.

Even back when Wade had been exclusively Deadpool, he hadn’t been in the business of hurting people he’d thought were innocent. The two of them had met because Deadpool had wanted to save children. Granted, he hadn’t been sure if the children were real— but that hadn’t stopped him from trying. Given that Wade wanted to protect Peter, well, Peter knew he was safe.

I t was kind of nice, being the one protected for a change. He was usually the one protecting other people; as many as he could from Norman, people from muggers as Spiderman, the street children as Peter…anyone he could protect (or at least try to protect), he did. So being protected—was new. Nice.

Besides; it wasn’t the first time that Deadpool had kidnapped him.

 

Peter had been swinging around New Amsterdam as Spiderman—when he’d blacked out. Still not entirely certain what had happened, he’d woken up on a couch with a game controller on his lap, and the mask still on. It was the first thing he’d checked for.

I wouldn't de-mask you Spidey,” a voice said cheerfully. “That’s against the super-bro code!”

Peter blinked and looked up to see—Deadpool messing with a TV? “What are you doing?” he asked before looking back down at the controller in his lap.

Well, we can’t play video games if the thing isn’t hooked up. Man, I remember when these fuckers only had three cords; one for the TV and two for the controllers.”

What? Peter felt like he was missing part of the conversation. How had he gone from swinging between buildings, waiting for crime to interfere with, to sitting on a couch as Deadpool hooked up a gaming console? “Red cord to red outlet,” he said vaguely as he tried to figure out what happened.

A pause as the mercenary completely froze. “You sure?” he asked.

Peter rubbed the back of his stinging skull. “Yeah; that’s why they’re color coded. Make them easier to hook up.” He leaned forwards and stared blankly at the controller (not yet plugged in) in his lap. No matter how he tried to piece his fractured memory together, he still couldn't figure out how he went from web-slinging to waiting to play video games. Not on a Friday night, when crime was usually high.

Oh, fuck yeah!” said Deadpool excitedly. “That makes everything easier!” He stepped away from the console and turned to Peter with a grin. Peter wasn’t certain how he could see a grin through the mask, but he could see a grin. “Ready?” he asked before plugging in the controllers. “I’ve got Mario Cart, Resident Evil, some weird shit with Barbie on it.” Wade stared at the pink case for a moment. “Actually, Barbie kind of looks fun. What do you want to play?”

And suddenly the dots connected. “Deadpool, how did I get here?” Just in case he was wrong. Just in case he had a concussion had missed a huge chunk of time (it had happened before).

I kidnapped you,” admitted Deadpool casually.

Peter closed his eyes. He really, really hoped he wasn’t going to have to fight the unkillable merc. “Why?” asked Peter.

So we could play video games, duh,” said Deadpool cheerfully.

Wait. What? Deadpool kidnapped him—to play video games? Peter rubbed his face through the mask. “Why didn’t you just ask?” he asked, confused.

Because you would have said no,” said Deadpool casually as he loaded a game disk into the console.

Peter frowned. “Why,” he asked slowly as some kind of pop music began to play, “do you think that?”

Everyone says no,” Deadpool admitted as he slammed down on the couch next to Peter with a bounce. Oh! Two character story mode! I didn’t know they did that!” He selected what looked like a blond Barbie, leaving character two with the options of brunette Barbie, raven Barbie, or redhead Barbie. Aside from the hair color, they all looked the same.

Why do people say no?” he asked, not choosing a character.

Everyone hates me,” said Deadpool cheerfully.

Peter swung his head to look at the mercenary. He seemed so happy, so casual—it was hard to believe. “Why do—Deadpool, do you think I hate you?” he asked.

Deadpool shrugged. “Of course. Everyone does.”

Deadpool was so convinced that people hated him, that he’d kidnapped someone just to play video games. Peter sighed, stood up, and turned off the console before turning around to face Deadpool. “I do not hate you,” he said firmly.

Somehow, the man looked confused through the fabric of his mask. “What? Of course you do.”

No. Now,” Peter continued, “we’re going to set up a few ground rules. No kidnapping.”

But—no one will play with me!” protested Deadpool, waving the controller so wildly the cord tugged the console off the shelf. Peter automatically caught it and carefully disconnected the wire so the console wasn’t in danger of being damaged.

Kidnapping,” Peter continued, “is not the way to start a relationship.” He crossed his arms. “Especially,” he added, “if you want to play again.” Deadpool looked down at the floor, body language dejected as Peter continued. “Now, if you can keep from killing people,” he hadn’t been able to when rescuing the children, but Peter really couldn’t blame him there, “you can come along with me on patrol. And if it’s a quiet night and there’s not much crime, we can come back here to play video games.” He paused for a moment, considering. “Anything but Barbie,” he added. He walked towards the window. Paused.

Deadpool was still on the couch. He hadn’t so much as twitched as Peter walked back up to him. “What are you doing?” he asked.

If I don’t move, don’t speak, you won’t hate me,” Deadpool said.

An uncomfortable feeling twisted in Peter’s chest. “Hey,” he said resting a gentle hand on Deadpool’s shoulder, “I’m not going to hate you because you move. And you’ve spoken to me before,” he pointed out. “You talking didn’t make me hate you.”

Deadpool looked up and somehow, even through the mask, Peter could see that he looked hopeful. “Really?” he asked. “You don’t hate me?”

I don’t hate you,” Peter confirmed firmly. “And you can’t patrol with me if you’re curled up on your couch. Come on,” he said offering a hand. Deadpool looked at the hand for a long, silent moment moment before he tentatively took it.

A few incidents later Peter took the masked mercenary aside. “All right, good job not killing people,” he said, because he believed in positive reinforcement. “Now, let’s take a moment and talk about the maiming…”

Chapter Text

I just don’t understand it,” Ellie muttered. Behind her she could hear the tinkling bells of the thing strange, almost human thing that Angel had set up.

Gently,” Angel said kindly.

This is so hard!” protested Juby as the girl frowned at the thing.

It was about five and a half feet tall, the height of an average adult woman. It had two padded sticks for arms, a padded roll for a torso, and two poles for legs. The thing had been carefully dressed in old, threadbare clothes, and there were nine bells on the thing. The thing was wearing a watch, bracelet, had a phone case in one pocket, a wallet in another, and two purple squares of cloth in pockets on its chest.

It’s impossible!” protested Juby.

Ellie noticed the sparks dancing at the ends of Juby’s fingers. “Juby, turn away now!” she ordered. The girl whirled and brought up her hands—just as something that looked oddly like fireworks burst from them to hit the wall behind them. No one knew what the walls around them were made of, but they didn’t even scratch.

The walls were white and curved inward until they came to distinct point, almost like the inside of giant Hershey’s kiss. They were smooth, almost slick to the touch. They also seemed to be indestructible. Angel had refused to test it. She told them that her level of destructive power could not be measured, and that their new base had clearly survived the worst that New Amsterdam could throw at it.

Ellie tried not to be too smug about that. She was the one who’d found it. She’d argued and bullied the others until they’d gone to see it after Mr. Parker’s questions—and they all loved it. And, most importantly, it was safe .

It also seemed to be growing. She could have sworn that it was smaller when she first discovered it, but it seemed to get bigger the more people needed shelter in it. She tried not to think about that too hard.

I can show you it’s possible,” Angel offered.

Ellie frowned. She just noticed that Angel never said words like, “let me show you how,” or “you’re doing it wrong.” Angel offered to show things, and if one of the children declined, she never pressed. Angel was just like them—and was nothing like them, at the same time. It was confusing.

Please,” said Juby looking up with adoration filled eyes. Ellie would have interfered, would have reminded the girl that hero worship was wrong—but she felt something similar towards Angel. There was something about the older girl that was like Mr. Parker; they could trust her.

They shouldn't . She was a stranger; an adult. She should be making all of them feel wary, guarded—but she didn’t.

Angel sauntered over to the thing, lifted her hand to brush her half-braid back, took another step and turned to show off the watch, phone case, and purple square. Not a single bell had so much as trembled . “It just takes practice,” she assured the child. “You should have seen me when I first started.” She smiled ruefully. “I ended up learning something completely different first.” She put the items back and then walked over to sit next Ellie as Juby approach the thing with determination once again. “You don’t understand what?” she asked softly.

Ellie looked at the ground, made of the same material as the walls. Slowly, hesitantly, she told Angel about what happened with the X-Men. “And I—I just don’t understand why he did it,” she explained.

That’s because most of the adults in your life are shit.” Ellie’s head whipped up, stunned, at the words coming from Angel’s mouth. The older girl almost never cussed, and never used that tone of voice with the children.

What do you mean?” asked Juby looking at Angel curiously.

Angel sighed and gestured for Juby to come closer as she turned in her seat to be facing the two of them. Her wings, usually held tight against her back, loosened and one wing wrapped around each child. “Adults,” Angel said firmly, “have a responsibility towards the young of their species. The young are to protected, taught, and allowed to grow.”

Ellie stared at Angel. It was clear the older girl believed what she was saying, but… “But adults don’t get anything out of that,” she said with confusion. Everyone wanted something; it was a basic way of life. Except—except that Angel and Mr. Parker were different, and she didn’t know why.

And they do, but it’s not something physical,” Angel. “It’s a—a feeling, kind of like warm satisfaction, that they’re doing the best that they can.”

Ellie ran a finger over the fluffy feathers in front of her. They were smooth, silky to the touch. “So, Mr. Parker gets a happy feeling when he helps?” she hazarded.

Angel sighed. “I rather expect,” she said sadly, “that his heart breaks because every time he helps one of you he thinks of how many more there are that he can’t help.”

Ellie pierced Angel with a fierce stare. “You sound like you know ,” she said. It was impossible, of course; Ellie knew every movement that Angel had made in the city, and the paths of Angel and Mr. Parker had never crossed.

And yet—yet there were times when Angel just seemed to know things, impossible things. When Ellie first brought her to the hide out, Angel had seemed to recognize the material it was made from. When Ellie had hesitantly said she thought it might be growing, Angel had said, “Of course it is.” Angel knew things that she couldn't possibly know.

Angel shifted, looking uncomfortable. “I—”

Angel!” cried a voice. “Ellie!” Jono ran up to them and stopped, gasping.

Angel stood up and reached out to steady the child. Her wings, still wrapped around Ellie and Juby, didn’t move. “How big are your wings?” wondered Ellie.

Angel ignored her. “Breathe,” she ordered gently, one hand on Jono’s back. The boy obeyed, taking slow, deep breaths. “Now. What?”

We heard them again,” Jono said. He pointed behind him. “They’re getting closer.”

Ellie’s skin began to crawl. She knew exactly what he was talking about. “It’s almost like they’re looking for us,” she said warily.

They probably are,” said Angel with a frown. “What did you do?”

Brought the tunnel down,” Jono said. “Made it look like an accident.”

You didn’t catch any of them, did you?” asked Angel worriedly.

Jono shook his head. “I was careful.”

Good.”

I don’t understand,” complained Juby. Ellie, already having had this conversation, did.

They’re still people,” Angel explained. “They’re just—controlled at the moment.”

Ellie snorted. She had seen them. They weren’t “just” controlled.

Angel shot the girl a wry smile. “All right,” she agreed. “They’re also controlled. And the controlled part can be fixed.”

What about the rest of it?” asked Juby.

Angel shook her head. “I don’t think so,” she said sadly. She turned to Jono. “How are the twins?” she asked.

Jono sighed. “Still in shock,” he said.

Ellie grimaced. She was, they all were, familiar with adults who were monsters. In the case of the twins though, their mother hadn’t started out that way.

Angel sighed and stretched her wings before tucking them back into place. “Right,” she said looking around. She started walking towards one of the entrances.

Ellie got up and followed as they made their way through the children and through the crops that were growing. (One of them could glow with something enough like sunlight it made the plants thrive. All of them were eating better now, because of him.) “I don’t see you sleeping much,” Ellie commented.

I’m not.”

Ellie frowned. “That’s not good,” she said. “Everyone needs sleep.”

Angel shrugged. “I sleep when I crash,” she explained.

That doesn’t work very well for Mr. Parker,” Ellie said tartly.

Angel laughed and gently rubbed Ellie’s head through her hat. “I’m off. Keep an eye out for—things.”

Ellie looked around. “I think it might be hiding us,” she confessed.

Angel nodded. “Entirely possible.” The older girl left and Ellie went to see if she could help the twins. After all, in here they were family.

Chapter Text

Pepper sighed as she looked at Deadpool. “What now ?” she asked irritably. Her wanting Tony to treat the reformed mercenary better did not mean she liked him and wanted to spend time with him.

Um, well,” said the man, uncharacteristically nervous.

Deadpool,” she said warningly.

I kidnapped Peter,” Deadpool blurted out.

Pepper stared at him in shock. Surely she could not have heard what she thought she heard. “You what ?” she asked as the door to the office opened and Tony came in. For once, that mere action did not get her attention; it was all focused on the masked madman in front of her.

I kidnapped Peter,” Deadpool repeated.

Tony sighed, startling Pepper into noticing his presence. “Why did you kidnap him?” he asked wearily. He was drinking a cup of coffee and he stared at the masked man with sleep-blurred eyes.

Someone wants him dead, and I’m keeping him safe.”

Pepper blinked. She felt like she had lost the entire conversation. “You wanted to keep him safe—so you kidnapped him?” she asked, confused.

Deadpool nodded. “I’m going around telling everybody,” he said. “I just started here, because he’s afraid Dr. Smashy is going to fire him.”

Bruce?” asked Tony as he took another sip of the coffee. Pepper eyed the cup, wondering if someone had slipped tranquilizers in the drink. It wouldn't be first time coworkers decided to drug him for their peace of mind. Tony smiled. “Bruce,” he said firmly, “doesn’t have the authority to fire Peter.”

Really?” asked Deadpool. “Awesome! And you’re not going to fire him either, are you?”

Tony was still smiling. Pepper was starting to get feel creeped out. “ I don’t have the authority to fire him either,” Tony said cheerfully. Too cheerfully. “Pepper?”

We’ll consider Peter on an official leave of absence until it is safe for him to return,” Pepper said stiffly. She wondered who she was going to have to yell at this time. She understood, none better, the desire to drug Tony, but it was still wrong.

Good,” said Tony pleasantly. “Pepper’s not going to fire him. Bruce isn’t going to fire him. I’m not going to fire him. Now, get out of my Tower before I break my promise to your boyfriend and punt you out the window again.”

Deadpool looked at Tony with shock. Pepper wasn’t entirely certain how he emoted through the mask. “ You—know?” he asked, clearly confused. “How? I didn’t tell you.”

Laughter sprang from ducts as one of the panels was removed and a man who looked far too large to fit in them (not that it stopped him) dropped out into the room landing lightly on his feet. He grinned at Deadpool. “You should have seen it,” he said happily.

Pepper leveled a glare at Clint. She’d spoken to him about wandering the ducts. She’d pointed out the way that it created a security breach. The man did not seem to care. She would have to talk to Natasha about the best way to deal with him.

The arms went wide and Tony simply sipped more of his coffee as he watched the man describe how the lab assistant less than half Tony’s size had verbally torn into the man over the way they treated Deadpool. “It was great,” he finished.

Deadpool seemed—shocked. Pleased, but shocked all the same. “Really?” he asked.

The word seemed so childlike and lost that Pepper smiled at him. “Really,” she affirmed. “Peter likes you very much.”

Deadpool scuffed the floor with a boot. “Maybe he did ,” he muttered.

Um-hmm,” said Tony as he took another sip of the coffee. “Have you talked to his aunt yet?” he asked cheerfully.

No,” said Deadpool. He still seemed distracted.

I suggest you do that next,” Tony said mildly. Deadpool saluted and then left.

Isn’t Peter’s aunt the broad who broke your arm with a lamp?” asked Clint.

Tony smiled and saluted them with his coffee cup. “Oh, yeah,” he said cheerfully. He turned and headed back to his office.

Pepper whirled on Clint. “Are you the one who spiked his coffee this time?” she demanded.

Not me,” Clint said cheerfully. “But I can enjoy it.”

Pepper shook her head as she gathered up papers. “It is not okay to randomly drug people,” she muttered as she worked.

Chapter Text

Dealing with Stark had been—surprisingly easy.

[Yeah; you’d think he’d kill the person keeping Peter from a lab, given that he’s paying us an obscene amount to get him in one. ]

{He didn’t even throw us out the window!}

Dealing with Jamison, from the Bugle, was also surprisingly easy. The elderly man furiously crunched candy as he glared at the red figure who had burst into his office in the middle of the workday. There were flecks of red candy decorating the silver and black mustache on his lip.

Beth had followed them in. “I’m sorry Mr. Jamison,” she said frantically. “I tried to stop him.”

I can see that. Go. Do whatever you do. Close the door; this isn’t a public place!”

[So he’s willing to be shut up in a room with a known insane murderer?]

We haven’t killed anyone lately!” protested Wade.

The old man sighed. “Why are you here?” he asked. Wade enjoyed watching the man’s face turn into one of shock and astonishment as he explained.

And since Weasel knew that Petey-pie was a reporter,” Wade finished, “I’m thinking the reason for the hit was that article he did on Runaways Unite.”

Jamison sighed and leaned back in his chair before running a hand through his hair. “It’s more than that,” he said. “Peter didn’t get credit for that article.” When Wade opened his mouth the man continued, “Oh, he got paid for it, don’t get me wrong. But Peter wanted anonymity, because he didn’t want anything to happen to his aunt.” The man shuddered. “Monster of a woman,” he muttered. “I’m sure she’d be fine. Anyway,” he said stabbing the desk with a finger , “the point is average Joe Schmo doesn’t know Peter wrote the article. If Runaways Unite is the reason he’s being targeted, how did they know?”

[He’s right.]

At no point during the time that he and Peter had been in the building had Peter been spotted. Deadpool had—but that would mean they were targeting Deadpool, not Peter. But—what had Peter done? He didn’t think anyone was going to put a hit out on him for his pictures of Spidey, especially since Spidey hadn’t been around for a while to take pictures of .

You seem—protective of Peter,” the man said thoughtfully. Wade nodded and the man got up and sauntered to a window. “Look here.” Wade, still trying to figure out who wanted his baby dead, got up and walked to the window with the man. There, on the sidewalk across from the office, lounged a group of five or six older teens.

{Are they wearing scarves as belts? That’s impractical!}

[Not just scarves. Red scarves. I think that’s important.]

They come to the office whenever Peter’s supposed to be here and try to bully their way in if he’s in the building for more than twenty minutes. I have him fix the printing press of its latest paper jam until they leave.”

They were following his Petey-pie. “I think I need to have a chat with them,” Wade said as he turned.

Jamison snorted. “Don’t do it in front of the office. With Parker out of commission, we don’t have another photographer skilled enough to get pictures.”

Noted.” He wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed that the teens weren’t there when he got out.

[Doesn’t matter. We can track them down again later. Now we have to see Norman.]

Oscorp was, surprisingly, easy to get into. He showed up and instead of panicking the receptionist simply gave him a key to the elevator and explained that he’d need it to go all the way up to the penthouse. She gave him a piece of paper with a four digit code on it and told him it was the pin to actually get back off the elevator once it got to the penthouse floor.

[This isn’t surprisingly easy. This is suspiciously easy.]

{Look! The carpet’s red!}

The carpet was indeed red. With gold trim. Wade wasn’t sure how he felt about this VIP treatment. On the one hand, he could easily remember each time someone treated him well, and on the other—this was the man blackmailing Peter with his best friend’s life.

[They were kind enough to give us directions. Let’s follow them.]

{And then can we kill Norman?}

[No, because then Harry will die and Peter will be sad.]

Wade nodded. “And we don’t want Peter to be sad,” he said to the voices.

The e levator stopped and opened to let Wade into what looked like a swanky hotel room.

{Wow! We’ve killed people in rooms like this!}

[Not recently.]

White sounded disappointed, despite the fact that he’d been arguing against killing Norman. Wade shook his head; his boxes just couldn't make up their minds. He understood. He wanted to kill Norman—and knew he couldn't . He couldn't imagine how his baby boy had felt all this time.

Deadpool,” said Norman pleasantly. “Did you come about the contract?”

Norman did not look like an insane power-hungry megalomaniac. He looked like an average man, if a little on the thin side. Receding hairline, prominent cheekbones, three-piece suit. Actually, the suit didn’t even look like it fit properly, like it was made for a slightly larger man.

{What contract?}

Wade thought it was a good question, so he repeated it. Norman’s thin eyebrows shot up into his hairline. “Why, I want to hire you. I’m having—competition problems, and I’m willing to pay you for your trouble.”

{The fucker!}

Wade merely grinned. “Oh, I don’t take those jobs anymore.”

The smile quickly dropped. “Then why are you here?” asked Norman coldly.

Someone decided to put a job like that out on Petey-pie,” Wade said casually, “and I can’t let anyone hurt my boyfriend!”

Boyfriend?” Norman’s eyes narrowed on Wade. “You’re dating Peter?”

[I don’t like that tone.]

Yup,” said Wade happily. “Anyway, I’ve got him put away somewhere safe, but he’s worried about missing family stuff.”

Family?” Norman had an odd look on his face. Almost like he was—touched? That didn’t make sense. “He called it family stuff?”

Yup.” Wade watched the man warily.

Norman was grinning like a loon as he leaned against his desk. “Well, tell Peter that we understand, and hope he’s able to rejoin us soon.”

Wade gave him a salute. “Will do!” he said cheerfully. He turned to leave.

Deadpool?” When the masked man turned to face Norman again he was met by a cold, calculating stare. “Any leads on who wants him dead?”

Not yet,” said Wade, “but I’ll get there. I thought I’d let people know first, that he’s not going to be available for a while.”

Norman nodded. “Don’t forget to talk to his aunt,” he said. “And Deadpool?”

Halfway to the elevator Wade paused. “Yeah?” he asked.

You may wish to wear a cup.”

Chapter Text

Liv smiled dreamily as the clawed arm moved to grab the tomato on the counter. Reacting to a mental command it picked up the tomato, took it over to a cutting board, and held it in place so gently the skin didn’t even dent. Beautiful.

“Hello Norman,” she said conversationally as the other arm picked up the carving knife. Responding to another silent command, it began to slice the tomato.

Norman walked up behind her. “Liv,” he said politely as he watched the arms attached to her back slice the tomato. The slices were not uniform, but the fact that they followed the order of a thought was significant progress.

“What brings you to my lab?” she asked as the arms began to prepare a lettuce, tomato, and mustard sandwich. She didn’t see any reason they couldn't be fixing her lunch as part of their test; the new cook didn’t understand the word “vegan.”

“I have a mission for you. It will—take you outside the company,” Norman said slowly.

Live pushed up her glasses before she turned to look at him. “Oh?” she asked curiously as she looked at Norman. This wouldn't be the first time that he sent her on a mission; she could come across as harmless eccentric right up until the scalpel cut. Still, she usually got those missions later in the day, when people were heading home.

The man grimaced. “ Someone wants Peter dead.”

“What?” Liv stared at him in shock. She barely noticed that the arms were reacting to her by waving erratically and she quickly took the contraption off. “Who? Why? How do you know?”

At that last question Norman chuckled. “Apparently,” he explained, “someone approached Deadpool and tried to hire him to kill Peter, not knowing about his new ethics.”

For a moment Liv’s heart squeezed thinking that Peter might be dead—but no. Norman said someone wanted Peter dead, not that someone had gotten Peter killed. “What happened?” she asked instead.

Deadpool,” Norman said as he leaned against her workbench, “came to tell me that he has kidnapped Peter.”

Liv stared. If Norman had been anyone else, she would have been certain that it was just a bad joke. But—Norman didn’t know how to joke. “He what?” she asked. “Why?”

Norman smiled. It was his calculating smile. “ To protect him. It would seem that he and Peter are dating .”

Live frowned. Peter was dating—Deadpool? The man was insane, and impossible to kill. “That’s—” She stopped. She realized why Norman was gloating. “I see.” The shadows around his eyes made him look positively demonic. “Ah. I don’t think you can use Peter.”

Not if he’s dead,” said Norman peevishly. “That’s why I want you,” he said gesturing to her, “to handle the situation.”

He wanted her to find out who wanted Peter dead and kill that person. She was more than willing to oblige. Peter was one of the few people that she actually liked , and she didn’t want him to die yet. “I see. Same terms as usual?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” She nodded and put up her project. “What are you going to do now?” she asked him.

“First,” Norman said firmly, “I’m going to have a chat with our little Quentin.”

She nodded. She would expect nothing less.

Chapter Text

Wade wasn’t certain what he’d been expecting. After all, he’d been warned about Peter’s aunt by Stark and Norman. He’d been prepared for screaming. Shouting. Getting attacked. These were normal attitudes when someone discovered their practically son was kidnapped—weren’t they?

The woman, beaded fringe on her jean jacket clacking as she shook, was doubled over—with laughter. Every time she glanced at him, she started again.

[Rude. She’s laughing at us.]

{She’s not scared!}

Yellow was right. She wasn’t scared—and she knew exactly who Wade was. Wade had arrived at the front door of the house (bearing flowers, because that’s what someone took to see a lady, especially the one who raised the love interest), and rung the doorbell of the tiny, two-story townhouse. He heard someone moving around inside, but the door didn’t open. He frowned and rang again.

“The front door doesn’t work.” Wade had turned to see a woman, mid to late forties, standing behind him with her arms crossed. Her silver streaked brown hair (a shade lighter than Peter’s) tumbled down her back and she was wearing a paint smeared jean jacket with braided fringe. Her dark brown eyes assessed him carefully.

Wade was standing in full suit, not a single inch of him uncovered, and he still felt uncomfortably naked under that stare. “ Are you—May Parker?” A thin eyebrow arched at him. “Peter Parker’s aunt?”

“He’s not here,” she told him flatly.

[That’s obvious.]

{We’ve got him locked up in our tower!}

“I—uh, I know,” said Wade weakly. He held out the flowers. “I brought you flowers.”

She looked him up and down again. “You must be Wade,” she said flatly. “Peter’s told me about you.” She reached out for the flowers and he numbly handed them to her.

“He has?” Wade asked as she took the bouquet.

She raised her eyebrow at him again. “Do you honestly think,” she asked, “that my Peter would date someone and not let his dear aunt know?” She snorted. “ He said that he was waiting for you to be more comfortable before the two of you came to see me. Well, come in. The front door may be blocked, but the back door works just fine.” She turned and began to walk around the house.

Wade followed. When they were inside he was able to peer through the short hallway to the front door—and he blinked. It was blocked by what looked like a huge metal—squid? “What is that?” he asked in fascination.

“My latest piece,” May said flatly as she put the flowers in a vase. “I don’t like it very much, but the commission was generous enough.”

“You’re an artist?” asked Wade. He didn’t know that much about Peter’s aunt.

[We know she taught him first aid.]

I’m a nurse who dabbles in art,” said the woman. She gestured Wade to a seat and brought him a glass of lemonade. She sat down in a chair across from him with her own glass. “There is nothing more cathartic than banging iron into shape after you’ve spent the night with a self-entitled man child who thinks his contact dermatitis is more important than the heavily pregnant woman who got hit with a baseball bat.” Her face fell for a moment. “Especially since we lost both of them,” she said sadly.

[Say something!]

“I’m sorry,” Wade offered.

She waved a hand at him. “First thing you learn in a job like this is that you can’t save everybody. For some poor souls, it is just their time.” She took a sip of her lemonade before she pinned him with a frown. “I honestly expected to see Peter here with you,” she said. “He said he was going to introduce the two of us.”

[She’s never going to speak to us again.]

{She’s terrifying!}

Wade cleared his throat. “Well,” he said warily, “it’s like this.” He explained about the card and the kidnapping.

May’s eyes went wide. She set her drink on the table as she stared at him. When he mentioned his conclusion that he had to kidnap Peter, the corners of her lips began to twitch. “Let me see if I understand this,” she said, eyes sparkling.

{I don’t like where this is going.}

“You kidnapped Peter to—to protect him.” When Wade nodded she burst into laughter. She hugged her sides and nearly collapsed in half as laughs bellowed out of her thin body.

{How long is she going to keep laughing?}

[I think she’s almost done.]

May gasped as she collected herself, sitting up and brushing tears from her eyes. “Oh, I needed that. Trust me; one day in the future you’ll think back to this and you’ll laugh too,” she assured him. She took another sip of her lemonade and smiled at him. “I must say, I like you much better than Tony and Norman.”

[Why?]

Wade thought that was a good question, so he repeated it.

She snorted. “Tony,” she said darkly, “woke me up in the middle of the night to inform me the entire personnel for the first four floors of the Tower had been kidnapped to an alternate dimension, but don’t worry Mrs. Parker, everything will be fine. My team and I are working to find out what dimension they’re in.” She snorted. “Man didn’t know the first thing about my boy, and then told me not to worry. Does he still have the use of his right arm?”

{What?}

“Yeah,” said Wade thinking back to the last time he saw Tony.

“Pity. I could have done better, but that bodyguard of his stopped me. Then there was Norman.” She took another sip of her lemonade as frown battled for coverage on her face. “I knew what kind of scum he was back when Peter and Harry first started being friends, and he was the reason I didn’t want Peter to get too close to Harry—but you can’t fight friendship. And I thought, when he married Deanna, that he’d calm down.”

“He didn’t?” hazarded Wade.

He might have,” she admitted, “if the marriage had lasted. It didn’t. And don’t think I didn’t know exactly what he was about as he slunk around here talking about how a growing boy needed a man in his life to turn out right when Ben died.” She snorted. “He sung soprano for a week.”

{That explains why Norman warned us to wear a cup.}

[Doesn’t explain why he warned us at all.]

I never would have let him near Peter if the two boys hadn’t been friends,” seethed the woman as she held her lemonade. “I know exactly why he kept his eye on the boy—and I warned Mary back when it happened, but she thought I was overreacting!”

{…Are we supposed to know what’s going?}

[I don’t think so. I think she’s just venting.]

The woman took a deep breath and then a gulp of lemonade. “You’re not here to talk about that,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

“It’s fascinating though,” Wade informed her.

She chuckled. “Is it now?” she asked. She shook her head and looked at the man. “Now, back to pertinent subjects—how stocked is wherever you have Peter for food? I have to warn you, he can’t cook.” She grimaced. “The boy can make a slime that rolls through the house under its own power, but he can’t heat a can of soup. How long have you left him alone?”

{Oh, shit!}

“I’m sorry, gotta go!” said Wade as he tumbled out of the house, the sound of laughter following him.

It didn’t occur to him until much later to realize that she made no comment about his costume.

Chapter Text

“Hey! Kid!” Ellie warily turned. She was only slightly less wary at the identity of the person calling for her.

“Hey Wade,” she said cautiously as the costumed man bounded up towards her like an overgrown puppy.

Her first official day as a student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters had begun with the renowned Jean Grey telling her all the reasons why Wade was dangerous; most of which Ellie had already known. He was insane—check. Sane people didn’t talk to the voices in their heads. He was violent—check. Ellie had seen that violence first hand as he severed one hand off of Juby’s father and carefully, meticulously broken every single bone in the other one before smashing everything with the heavy hilt of his gun.

But—Wade was “safe.” He was the only person that Mr. Parker had said that about. And honestly? Juby’s dad had deserved it.

“Aw, isn’t that cute? All spikes and growls like a baby hedgehog!”

And there was that. Ellie rolled her eyes at him. “What do you want?” she demanded.

He brightened. How the Hell he did that in a mask, she had no clue. “Thanks for asking! Well, first—and also last—I want Petey-Pie to love me forever and ever!”

“Ugh! I don’t need to hear about your love life!”

“You asked!”

“Why are you talking to me? Instead of, you know, sucking face with your ‘Petey-Pie’?” she asked making finger quotations around the gross name.

“Ah! You’re so cute! Yeah, just wanted to let you know that Peter’s not going to be available for a while. I’ve kidnapped him.”

Ellie stared at the man, black eyes surrounding expressive whites in his red and black suit. “Kidnapped him,” she repeated.

“Why does everybody repeat that part?” groused Wade.

Ellie stuck her hands in her pockets so as not to give into the temptation to smack him. No matter how “safe” he was, she didn’t think he’d hold back if she did anything that seemed like attacking him. “Why did you kidnap your boyfriend Wade? Wouldn’t flowers have worked better?”

“Ooo! Kinky! No, I did it to protect him. Someone with lots of money wants him dead.”

Once again Ellie stared at him, this time in shock. “Who would want to kill Mr. Parker?” she asked, confused. Sure, there were a lot of people that didn’t like the man (mostly because of his kindness towards the street kids), but she couldn't think of anyone that wanted to kill him.

“Don’t know.” Suddenly the man in front of her was very much dangerous and predator. She fought the urge to run. Predators, especially the human kind, chased the ones that ran first. The man slightly relaxed and Ellie could breathe again. “But I will find out. Just wanted to let you know that he’s not going to be available for your school thing.”

Ellie relaxed—slightly. She was always wary on the street, especially these streets. The Snipers were roaming farther and farther from their stomping grounds. “S’okay,” she said casually. “They don’t actually expect to interact with him, at least not yet. And Wolverine said you’re lucky to have a boyfriend who doesn’t even hesitate to admit when asked about your relationship.”

“Aw! Squee! Petey-Pie told Wolvie we were dating? My heart might explode into a volcano of glitter!”

“Ew,” said Ellie as she mentally pictured it. She shook her head. “Go pour some of that glitter on your boyfriend dumbass, and leave us alone.”

“Ugh! Rude! I shall take myself elsewhere.” Wade threw out a hip dramatically and sashayed away.

Ellie stared after him for just a little too long. Her arm was grabbed and she whirled—to see a uniformed officer. “Ellen Phimister?” asked the officer, kindness on her face. “We’re here to take you home.”

Home. To—that. Ellie panicked and tried to break away—but the officer’s grip was like steel. “No, no no!” cried Ellie in blind terror as she was hauled, slowly but surely, towards the car. Where she’d be taken to the station. Where she’d be held. Where she’d be turned over—

“Angel!” she screamed in panic as she tried to break free. “Angel, help me!”

The thundering wings were like a godsend as Angel dropped to the ground in front of them, wings swooping out away from her body before being tucked in neatly against her back. Angel propped her fists on her waist and looked at the scene with pursed lips. “Well, this is a conundrum.”

The officer released Ellie to grab her weapon and Ellie bolted. “What are you?” demanded the officer as she pointed the gun at Angel.

Angel shrugged. “Helpful. Friendly. Pointing out your prey has run away.”

Ellie, from her hiding spot, saw the officer glance to confirm Angel’s statement. “Ellen is a lost child whose family is looking for her,” the woman said.

Ellie bit deep into her wrist to keep from screaming. Family? They were nothing like family.

Angel snorted. “Okay. Hold up. You have a child whose reaction to being told you’re taking her home is bone deep terror, and that doesn’t throw up any warning flags at all for you?” When the officer said nothing Angel sighed. “And I thought your reputation was bad,” the older girl muttered. “Do you even have a child welfare department?”

“Of course we do!” bristled the officer.

“And they’re the ones that cleared her home, are they?” drawled Angel.

Ellie couldn't bear to hear any more. What if the officer managed to change Angel’s mind, and Angel decided that Ellie needed to go back? No, Ellie need to go. Her place. A safe place.

Her place, wedged between two buildings trapped in a constant state of renovation, may have been safe, but it wasn’t secret. Ellie didn’t know how long she’d huddled there, shivering in fear, before she heard the distinctive footsteps behind her. “Are you okay Ellie?” asked Angel, softly, gently. “Can I approach?”

Do you mind being touched?”

Ellie remembered every time the older girl had asked, how she always moved slowly, so Ellie could avoid her if she wanted even though Ellie knew she could move much, much quicker. “You know,” she gasped in horror. She curled in on herself. She didn’t want anyone to know.

Angel quietly dropped until she was level with Ellie. “I guessed,” she said softly. “Ellie,” she said, using the name for the first time since she learned it, “it wasn’t your fault.”

Ellie gasped and choked on a sob. “You don’t know that!” she hissed viciously.

I do.” Ellie looked up through the tears streaming down her face at Angel. The older girl looked both ancient and impossibly young at the same time. “I always know. These days.” She held out a hand, reaching for—but not touching—Ellie.

Ellie was torn. She wanted to hide, to be safe. But—but she also wanted to be comforted as a dim, almost forgotten memory insisted she had once been. A sob wrenched from her throat as she threw herself into Angel’s arms and began to cry.

There you are,” Angel said as she hugged the child back and wrapped both of them in her wings. “Let it all out. You’ll feel better.”

Even as she cried Ellie noticed that Angel didn’t say things like, “It’s okay,” or “you’re safe now.” Angel knew better. It wasn’t okay, it had never been okay, and it was possible that Ellie wouldn't live long enough for it to be okay. And while Ellie was safe right now (she’d seen Angel heal herself almost instantly after getting shot with a bullet), Angel wouldn't be around forever. Her existence in New Amsterdam was on a timer; Ellie had seen it with her own eyes.

When Ellie got hold of herself she was mortified. Mortified that she’d broken down. Mortified that someone had witnessed her breakdown. Mortified that she’d hogged all of Angel’s attention when it was possible that there were others out there who were being hunted by Snipers. And, most of all, she was mortified that Angel was right.

She did feel better.

Chapter Text

Peter wasn’t entirely certain how long Wade had been gone. He’d explored the apartment, which probably took up about half the floor. The re were odd gaps, as though Wade had inexpertly knocked out walls. Of course, knowing Wade, he probably had , but over all the apartment looked good. There was trash in the corners, but less than the last time that Wade and Spiderman had met for video games.

The kitchen was huge. Given the size and how the shiny counter tops didn’t quite fit the cabinets (too big in some places and too small in others), Peter had the feeling that they were new. And probably put in by Wade, since he only seemed to have a relative grasp on measuring things. And the cupboards were slightly crooked—barely, not enough to send everything in them tumbling down onto the floor, but visible. The fridge was the only straight surface in the kitchen—and was packed full of fresh food.

Well, Peter had known that Wade could cook. The man was magic in the kitchen; taking random ingredients and creating masterpieces that made Peter’s heart and stomach sing. Maybe he could cook something? He pushed the thought to the back of his head as he continued to explore.

There were seven doors and one of them was clearly the door out, that was clocked and probably, knowing Wade, booby trapped. Peter didn’t feel like testing it; Wade didn’t exactly have a good handle on how much force an ordinary person could survive. Peter absently rubbed the back of his head. It was a good thing he’d gotten a healing factor to go with his spider powers.

The first of the other six doors was, surprisingly—a laundry room. A top dryer and bottom washer unit designed to fit into a closet—and there were small piles of dust in the corners that indicated someone had tried to clean it up. Well, Peter was an expert at doing laundry. He could probably help Wade with some of his while he was there.

Peter closed the door and went to open the next one. It was locked. He stared at it. Why would Wade lock this door? There was probably something behind it, something he didn’t want Peter to see. Peter should respect his privacy.

He moved on to the next door and quickly slammed it shut as a mountain of weapons threatened to fall on him in an avalanche. He wasn’t able to prevent all of the weapons from escaping. On the floor in front of him were a few grenades (one painted pink, one accented with purple glitter, and one that had a Hello Kitty sticker on it), a random gun magazine that looked like someone had torn it open in with their bare hands, and what looked like a bouncy ball. Peter was afraid to touch it, so he left it in the middle of the floor before moving on.

***

The next room sent him to his knees. To be fair, it was more of a closet than a room, with a single chair in the middle and reinforced steel walls. There was blood, old blood, everywhere. The blood was almost like a coat of paint. After a moment spent panting and trying not to puke all over everything Peter took a deep breath and investigated a little more. There was dust on the chair. All of the blood was old, and had changed color. Whatever Wade had used this room for, he hadn’t done it in a long time. Peter closed the door.

***

Wait. If that door wasn’t locked—what was behind the locked door? Fortunately, after years of being locked in lockers, supply closets, and anywhere else Flash and his bullies decided to shove him, Peter had gotten pretty good at picking locks. He wasn’t an expert , not by any stretch of the imagination, but he was more than good enough to get through the door, to see what was on the other side.

It was a bathroom with an odd wallpaper, and surprisingly (given the rest of what Peter had seen) clean. Peter couldn’t figure out why Wade would lock this door—until he took a closer look at the wall paper. It wasn’t wall paper at all; Wade had literally covered the walls with pictures. Mostly newspaper pictures of Spiderman, including a few blurry ones from rival newspapers. As he walked closer to the tub/toilet area the quality of the pictures got better—and the newest ones weren’t even of Spiderman. They had clearly been taken from CCTV, and the glossy prints shone over the most intimate parts of the bathroom—with several having been stuck on the mirror, obscuring it.

The pictures were of Peter. Peter in the lab, cutting test strips with Deadpool’s insanely sharp sword. Peter huddled in a corner, eating lunch. Peter looking like a mad scientist villain as he created the dancing slime for Wade in the middle of an empty lab. The picture of the sheepish look on his face when Dr. Chambers and Dr. Stacey walked in. Wade seemed particularly fond of that last one; there were four copies of it.

Peter didn’t know what to feel as he looked around the bathroom. (Since it was large enough that one actually had to walk to the tub area, it was huge compared to Peter’s own.) Part of him was flattered that Wade had made what was, essentially, a 3-D scrapbook of Spiderman and Peter. Part of him was horrified that he’d made it in the bathroom. Another part of him was just curious. Why did Wade paper his bathroom with pictures?

He decided he didn’t want Wade to know he’d seen the contents of the room, so he locked it back as he left. He’d have to figure out a way to talk to Wade about it later, maybe find out why. Maybe get Wade to explain it. Time enough for that later.

His stomach rumbled. He should eat. He should probably fix something for Wade too, but what? The repertoire of food that Peter could reliably make was disgustingly limited. He could make a grilled cheese sandwich, but that wasn’t a meal by itself.

Soup. There were cans of soup in the cupboards. Even he couldn't screw up soup.

Chapter Text

Daredevil stood broodingly on the roof, like a living gargoyle protecting his small corner of the city from those who would prey on it. Head bowed slightly to allow his ears to hear even the slightest of wrong-doing in the city beneath him.

Yoo-hoo! Double D!” called Wade as he tumbled into place on the roof next to the masked vigilante. “How are you—urk!”

One of Daredevil’s hands closed around Wade’s throat. “Deadpool,” he said stoically.

Deadpool pushed him away and he allowed it to happen. “Man,” said Wade. “What’s with the grabby-grabby?”

{Rude. We should shoot him.}

[We’re not going to shoot him. We came for his help, remember?]

{If you’d just let us kill the bastard—}

Daredevil sighed. “What do you want?” he demanded tersely.

Oh. I see. Brooding and morose. Well, I didn’t come—heh heh—to talk to the masked Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, I came to talk to the Badass Blind Lawyer.”

A lawyer.” Wade was certain that if Daredevil’s mask was emotive—or had, you know, eyes—the man would be rolling them. “Why do you need a lawyer?”

It’s not for me!” protested Wade. “It’s for my boyfriend! Well, I think he’s still my boyfriend? He hasn’t broken up with me yet, and he needs a lawyer.” Wade paused. “And, uh, I’d appreciate it if you could pretend to be taking the case pro bono. I’ll pay you,” Wade added quickly, “but he gets a little—finicky about that sort of thing.”

You—have a boyfriend.”

Aw, and he’s the sweetest thing!”

[He might not still be your boyfriend. You did kidnap him.]

I had to! He would die otherwise!”

Is that what you need a lawyer for?” asked Daredevil.

{ Please. As if we’d need help with that.}

[Given that your plan was to kidnap the hot boyfriend who loved us, yeah. We need help.]

I can hear your curiosity,” taunted Wade in a sing-song voice. “But no. We’ve got it covered.”

[We do not , you costumed ass!]

So what do you—your boyfriend, need a lawyer for?”

I think his landlord is pulling some shady, and I mean super shady, Shady Pines, shit with his lease.”

That’s—surprisingly appropriate,” said Daredevil slowly. “I’ll look into it tomorrow.”

Thanks, mi amigo!”

Now go away. I have things to take care of.”

Things? What things? Maybe I can help?”

[Maybe you can make it worse.]

You don’t know that! Neither of us know what’s going on yet!”

Daredevil sighed. “ This gang is having a meeting with a new player. I need to see,” the vigilante continued over Deadpool’s giggles, “if it’s something I’m going to have to interfere with.”

Well, give me the down-lo on the low-down, and maybe I can help.”

Can you shut up?” demanded Daredevil. He took a deep, slow breath.

{Wonder if that helps him calm down?}

Deadpool,” said Daredevil slowly, carefully. “I need to go in stealthy. I do not want them knowing I’m there.”

No problem,” Wade drawled. “Let’s go.” Daredevil glared at him, but turned to lead the way.

[He’s probably realized that fighting you over this will be loud enough to alert the people he’s trying not to alert.]

{Be vewy vewy quiet. We’ah hunting Dahdevil.}

[Shut up!]

Shut up!” hissed Daredevil, alerting Wade to the fact that he was humming the Ride of the Valkyries under his breath.

Sorry,” hissed Wade as they snuck into the abandoned theatre. Well, abandoned by the officials, anyway. Judging from the clutter below, it seemed that squatters had moved in. Judging from the tagging on the walls, these were gangs.

[Odd. Why isn’t the outside of the building marked?]

That—was a good question. Wade watched carefully. There were several gang members lounging on what used to be a stage while even more hid in the shadows on either side of the stage.

{Look! They’re wearing the red scarves as belts!}

They were. Wade silently swung around Daredevil to get a better look. The one in the center of the stage was clearly the leader and even though he was lounging in an oversized beanbag chair, Wade could tell he was tense. They all were. Whoever this “other player” was, they were on edge.

Footsteps alerted Wade to the new arrival and he turned as a teen walked confidently towards the stage, huge wings tucked close to her back.

{Isn’t that the girl we raised in another reality?}

[You mean, ‘Isn’t that the girl Peter raised in another reality.’ I seriously doubt she’d still be alive if we raised her.]

The teen on the chair began a slow clap as she approached and she stopped just before the stage, still mostly shrouded in shadows. “If it isn’t our very own interferer,” the teen said as he heaved himself out of his chair. His hands shot into his pockets and Wade could see the handles of guns in them.

[She’ll be fine. Remember, she heals faster than we do.]

Interferer?” drawled the girl. “That’s rich, considering what you’ve been doing.”

What was she talking about?

[If you shut up and listen, we might find out.]

Not something we’ve been able to do. And we didn’t attack your little sister again.”

{She has a little sister?}

The girl spread her arms wide. “They’re all my little brothers and sisters,” she said before settling her hands over her hips.

Wade was many things. He was flaky, he was insane, he didn’t have a good grasp (or any grasp, really) on social norms. But he knew a perfectly balanced fighting stance when he saw it.

[Maybe we did raise her.]

Oh, they are? Then where were you when we started?”

Not here; that’s for sure. You never would have gotten as far as you did.”

Do you even know what we’re doing?”

Do you?”

The banter was light, almost playful. The looks and body language were anything but. Wade stared, fascinated by the scene in front of him. The boy had the high ground (literally), but it was clear the girl was in charge. How had Daredevil put it? The girl was a player.

But—when had that happened? As far as he knew, she’d been in town for less than two weeks. How had she gotten mixed up in this mess, whatever it was?

I know about the demon,” said the boy as he leaned forwards. Wade shifted. He recognized that tone of voice; it was the same one those religious freaks who’d tortured mutant kids had used. “I saw it with my own eyes.”

And it was tall, had eight legs, six eyes, and huge fangs,” replied the girl. She sounded—bored, of all things. “And you saw it transform right in front of your eyes, from a normal person you never would have looked twice at if you passed them in the street.”

[That was specific.]

The boy faltered and the girl nodded. “ Yeah; I’ve seen it all before. You’re not the first to be roped into this, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure you are the last.” Even from the catwalks Wade could see the amber eyes glitter. “I have my own problems with that one .”

Oh? And what about the seal?”

The girl scoffed and rolled her eyes. “There is no seal,” she told him firmly. “There never was a seal. You’re being used to create a horde of monstrous minions.”

Better to walk at the Devil’s side than be in his way,” said the boy, recovering remarkably.

The girl sighed. “I adore how naive you are,” she told him. “I really do.” She paced a step forward. “Those things have been changed. Those things are being controlled by a power-hungry psychopath. Despite all of this—they still need to eat. What do you think they eat?” Another step forwards. “What do you think they’ll eat when that one no longer needs you?”

The boy’s eyes narrowed. “You’re playing with fire ,” he told her, voice shaking. She’d clearly said something that hit him hard—but he wasn’t willing to back down.

Oh, are you referring to the ten armed people you have waiting in the wings? Yeah,” she continued as he broke out into a sweat, “I hate to break it to you, but you’re toddlers attacking a tank. It doesn’t matter how many of you there are, I’m a tank. You can’t hurt me.”

The boy, despite being on the stage and using the height to tower over the girl, took a step back. There was something in that flat tone of voice, something with that subtle hint of exasperation, that showed she was telling nothing but the truth.

We can try,” the boy said as he pulled out a gun. He shot her.

Daredevil tensed and leaned for a jump down, but Wade stuck out a hand to stop him. He knew the girl would be all right. She had to be—even if she’d grown up in another version of his world, she was raised by him and she wouldn't have survived if a mere bullet could kill her.

The bullet hit the pink leotard, sank inwards—and then bounced back as the girl rounded back out to normal dimensions around where the bullet had been. “This is armor you idiot,” she said as she reached out and caught the bullet. She lined it up on the palm of one hand before flicking it with the other. The bullet grazed the cheek of the boy in front of her—exactly as it would have if she’d shot it from a gun. Impressive, considering it was flattened out of all recognition from the impact with her chest.

Just to warn you,” the girl said, “I have perfect aim. I didn’t want to kill you.” She gently rubbed at her chest through the material of her leotard and grimaced. “That is changing quickly,” she muttered.

Wade drew himself up to his full height. “You can’t kill these kids!” he announced in his deep, Superhero TM voice before dropping down in full Superhero landing style.

That,” commented the girl dryly as he stood up, “is so bad for your knees.”

I know, right?” said Wade. “But everyone does it!”

To be fair, most superheroes don’t live long enough for the repeated damage to be an issue,” the girl responded.

Eek! Dark humor; me likey!” He gave the girl a high five before clearing his throat and donning the voice again. “Spiderman will be pissed if you kill these children.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes and chanted the next part in time with him. “Because with great power comes great responsibility.” She dipped her head for a moment and then looked at Wade again. “ Yeah,” she said. “Heard that one a lot.”

He smirked. “I bet you have.” He turned to the boys who were staring at him. They all knew who Deadpool was, and they were hesitating to engage.

Remember Deadpool,” the girl said impishly, “Spiderman will be pissed if you kill these children.”

[Forget the children. Spiderman’s going to be pissed about Peter.]

{But Peter isn’t pissed!]

Stay with witnesses,” the girl said grimly. “Hopefully, the army isn’t too big yet.” She turned, gently bumped her fist against Wade’s shoulder and started to walk out. She paused. “I didn’t make a mess in your turf Daredevil,” she said firmly with a wave to the vigilante before continuing out.

Daredevil?” asked the boy.

The vigilante dropped behind the boy, landing almost silently on the stage. “Yes,” he hissed.

Chapter Text

Tony smiled gently as his hand stroked against the soft fur of the kitten while the mother looked up with adoring eyes. The kitten clumsily arched into his touches, tiny claws kneading away at the soft cover on the desk. The other kittens were sleeping, and T ony let his mind drift.

He supposed he should feel guilty for the fact that Peter had been kidnapped by the mercenary that he’d hired to snoop on him—but he couldn't. Tony had just enough in the way of underground contacts (mostly via Natasha) to discover that Deadpool had been telling nothing but the truth; there was a price on Peter’s head. A moderately high one too. As much as Tony hated to admit it, Peter was probably better off with Deadpool who had the necessary connections to find out who had placed the hit than he’d be commuting between his own shabby apartment, the Tower, the Bugle, and Oscorp.

He’d been interested in Peter before the paper came across his desk, but it was different. Instead of wanting to elevate a keen mind, he’d been more interested in a ‘will-he-mind-if-I-date-his-aunt’ kind of way. Peter’s aunt was—intriguing. He’d never met anyone before who broke his arm. Well, not anyone who wasn’t actively trying to kill him.

The door to the office opened and Tony looked up to see someone he really didn’t want to see. “Stark,” growled the one-eyed, imposing man in his office.

Fury,” Tony said calmly. “Come in. Sit down. Pet a cat—it helps with stress. Especially this one,” he added with a gesture to the kitten claiming pets from Tony.

Fury ignored him. “ Where are you on your mission?” he demanded.

Tony continued to smile. “Haven’t you heard? Spiderman isn’t around anymore.” He held out both hands and the kitten paced towards the visitor, mewing for affection. Tony reached out and saved it from falling off the edge of the desk. “Seems he’s decided to hang up his mantle,” Tony continued as he began petting the kitten again.

Spiderman does not have the personality to quit,” Fury said darkly.

A single hand gestured to the city outside the window. “And yet.” The kitten yawned and Tony gently shooed it into the basket where its mother rolled over so it could nurse before joining its siblings in slumber.

Whether he has or whether he hasn’t,” Fury continued, “there’s a new player on the field.” He dropped a folder on Tony’s desk and Tony looked through it with curiosity. There were several blurry pictures of what seemed to be a young girl with wings on her back.

Tony closed the folder and slid it over the desk back towards Fury. “And why do I care?” he asked curiously.

You care,” growled Fury, “because you owe us.”

Tony held up a finger. “I owed you once . You’ve already collected. You want to know more about this girl?” He nodded towards the folder. “You have your own people to investigate her.” He leaned back in his chair and yawned. “Is that it?” he asked. “Or do you want to talk contracts again?”

The side door to the office opened and Pepper stepped in. “Director Fury,” Pepper said calmly. “You’re not due until next week.”

I needed a status update,” growled Fury without looking away from Tony.

Tony snorted. “Get this Pep,” he said, as if he was confiding in her. He could see the vein in Fury’s head begin to throb from where he was sitting. He always took a gleeful pleasure out of baiting the director. “He wants me to investigate a random teenager.”

Pepper frowned. “Does he now.” She turned the full force of her glare on the director and stalked towards him. “Does he know that there’s a company to run? That there are threats against your very life?” Fury began to back away. “That we discovered his little ‘pet’ planted so many bugs in the Tower that we almost called an exterminator?”

You don’t want to get on my bad side,” Fury warned the woman.

Pepper glared up at him with no fear—not that she ever really showed any. “Funny,” she said dryly, “I was going to say the same thing. Good day to you, Director. Do not come here without an invitation or scheduled appointment again, or we will file a restraining order.”

You think you can file an order against SHIELD?”

I think we can,” she took a step forward and he backed away, “we will,” another step, “and enjoy the right to use lethal force if you violate said restraining order.” Tony couldn't see it from his angle, but he was more than familiar enough with Pepper to realize that she was smiling sweetly at the Director. “I wonder,” she purred, “what the general public will think to learn that Iron Man had to file a restraining order on the most popular global agency?”

We’ll talk again Stark,” promised Fury as he left.

Tony,” said Pepper as she turned, “is there a reason we’re antagonizing one of the most powerful agencies on the globe?”

There is,” Tony agreed mildly. He swiped his desk to bring up a classified file that Jarvis had pulled from SHIELD and sent it to her Starkpad with another swipe. He had the unique satisfaction of seeing both rage and shock battle for supremacy on her face while being secure in the knowledge that he wasn’t the target—this time. “Our dear Director Fury is lying to us Pepper,” he said calmly as she quickly leafed through the document.

Oh, my God,” she said in horror. She looked at Tony as she clutched the tablet to her chest. “What—what are we going to do?”

Right now? Nothing. This isn’t a battle Pep,” Tony said firmly as he stood up and went to the window to survey the city. His city. Not their city, no matter what they wanted. “This is a war,” he told her as he watched people hurrying out of the building to get to whatever lives they had outside of work. He turned back to his personal assistant. “And I,” he proclaimed grimly, “am going to win.”

Chapter Text

The leader of the Snipers limped into the tunnels, ignoring the skittering around him as he made his way towards the designated point. Daredevil did not think he was worth killing. He was determined to make sure that was a mistake.

Shadows bloomed and shrunk as he passed, the noises continuing. The skittering turned into light scratching and there odd murmuring noises, almost like warped human speech. He ignored them all; he’d heard them before. They were no threat to him. He was protected. He knew it.

He limped into the round space, tunnels on either side of him, where the Great One was. The Great One sat on a cushioned crate and watched as he approached. There were shadows on either side of her, almost like the wings of a throne.

As always, he dropped to a kneel in front of the Great One. This overwhelming desire to submit had been his first clue that she spoke the truth. It was not his last.

The Great One watched from the shadowed depths of the throne silently. Looked over the injuries. Saw the blood. The skittering from the shadows—stopped. Almost as though someone had turned off a sound system. “Speak,” the Great One ordered.

He spoke. He told her about trying to get the girl to back off, to stop protecting the street children. He told her about Daredevil. About his ultimatum.

You will stop these sick activities of yours and leave—or you won’t live long enough to regret it.”

The Great One stood and stepped towards him. “You have been loyal,” she said.

He bowed his head. Of course he was loyal. Even if that girl was right, even if what she’d said about the Great One creating the demon he’d seen was true—that was even more reason to be loyal. More reason to be loyal. He didn’t want to be one of those demons, after all.

Her hand gently caressed the back of his head and he resisted the urge to preen, sigh, or lean into the approving touch. “What is the name of this girl?” she asked.

He faltered. What was the girl’s name? After thinking back he replied, “The street children call her Angel.”

“I suppose it’s possible one of them has the power to summon an angel like figure,” mused the Great One. “It wouldn't be the first time.” The hand gently gripped, lightly caressing the back of his neck. “You have been such a loyal human for me,” the Great One purred.

“It has been my honor.”

“Such a pity I don’t like humans.” A quick twist of the wrist and the now dead corpse fell to the ground.

 

***

 

Adriana stepped back and viewed the rapidly cooling corpse as she retired to her throne to think. Her creatures surged forwards as her power released them—all but one. She turned her head to look at the solitary spider, a wickedly beautiful thing with black and red skin and elegant almond shaped eyes. Each eye sparkled like a jewel, and this one was her favorite so far.

Too bad it also had to be the most stubborn of her creatures. She took a careful step towards it, sashaying in her heels. “Still fighting me?” she asked amused. “Or—are you fighting yourself now?” The thing keened, venom pooling from its fangs as it looked at the piece of meat the others were already devouring—but it didn’t move. It didn’t go towards the corpse as its instincts demanded. Adriana took another step towards it.

The lovely creature actually managed to force itself to back up. She was impressed; after being turned they all craved her touch, affection, and love. Yet, despite that, this one tried to stay away, almost as though it knew what a monster it was.

Which was ridiculous. Once turned, her creatures had almost no will, no desire, no understanding. It was why they were pure, perfect, as opposed to the truly vile things they used to be. No, the only thing she could figure was that there were two warring sets of instincts in the creature.

She never should have taken a mother with children.

Chapter Text

Peter read the directions for the soup, condensed tomato soup (because nothing went better with grilled cheese sandwiches than tomato soup). Dump in pot. Add one can water. Heat over medium-low until boiling. Remove from heat. Well, that sounded simple enough. After some rummaging Peter found the pots and followed the directions. While the soup was heating on a back burner, he pulled out a block of cheese (there were four different kinds of cheese, including two wheels, but Peter stuck with what he knew), some butter, and some bread. After a bit of hunting he found a knife.

He stared at the knife for a moment and frowned as he remembered Wade washing the cheese grater at his apartment. He wasn’t sure why Wade had done that—but just to be safe, he washed the knife as well. And the frying pan. And the spatula. He used a bleach solution (Wade had a lot of bleach bottles under his sink) on the spatula.

He grabbed the butter and tried to spread it on a bread slice. The bread tore around the butter instead of spreading. He tried again with the same result. Setting the bread slice aside (because he wasn’t one to throw away food), Peter turned to go see if there was any margarine in the fridge.

He had just enough time to realize that soup isn’t supposed to form a dome while cooking before it popped—spraying tomato soup everywhere . He was covered in it, the stove was covered in it, the ingredients on the counter were covered in it. He stared at the mess in utter disbelief for a moment.

Of course, that was the exact moment the front door opened bringing in Wade and, of course, a guest. In a flash Wade abandoned his guest and ran towards Peter. “Baby Boy, are you all right?” he demanded worriedly as he fussed over the soup covered young man.

Peter blinked. His eyes were only tearing up because of the acidity of the soup. “The soup’s not even warm ,” he complained. He leveled a glare at the traitorous pot. It had to be the pot’s fault. Peter had followed the directions.

Wade quickly turned off the burners as he tucked Peter into his side with a single arm. “Petey-Pie, it’s okay. We’ll clean it up together.”

For a brief moment Peter was reminded of that one room, the one that was more of a closet, but then he forced his mind away. “I opened your ammo door,” he confessed. “I was afraid to touch the ball.”

The what?” Wade leaned over and peered into the living room, spying the ball on the floor among the grenades that Peter also hadn’t touched. “Oh, good thing. That thing will explode if it’s not handled carefully.”

Really?” asked Peter, color leaching from his face as he imagined the destruction he could have caused by sheer accident.

Pfft. No,” said Wade as he chuckled. “If it was going to explode, I’d have set it off already. I’m not the most gentle person.”

Peter gently smacked Wade’s arm and then pulled him close, delivering a kiss to his masked cheek. “You are ,” he insisted firmly.

They were interrupted by the clearing of a throat from the doorway. “If you’re just going to flirt,” said the man.

Right, right,” said Wade as he quickly ushered Peter—still covered in tomato soup, towards the door. “Petey, this is Matt Murdock. He’s a lawyer. I think. Hey, you are a real lawyer, right?”

Peter watched as a muscle twitched in the man’s jaw. “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Murdock,” he said politely, ignoring the fact that his civilian persona was meeting with Daredevil’s civilian persona at the same time . Maybe it was a good thing that he was covered in soup. He looked at his boyfriend. “Wade, why did you bring a lawyer home?” he asked carefully.

Wade has informed me of your situation with your landlord,” Matt said, “and I agree with his assessment.”

And what assessment was that?” asked Peter warily as he stared at his suddenly fidgeting boyfriend. He didn’t like the way that Wade was suddenly nervous.

Aw, Baby Boy—your landlord is into some seriously shady shit. I mean,” the man continued hastily as Peter turned towards him with folded arms, “I went over to pay your rent and the guy tried to refuse when I explained what had happened and that he was planning to evict you which was why he had changed rent date and he did accept the rent, I even got a receipt to prove it, and I was telling Matty-kun here about it and help me out here!” Wade said nervously.

Deadpool helped me home after I was almost caught in an explosion,” Matt said. “I wasn’t hurt, but I lost my cane. When he told me about your landlord, I had to agree that the man is pulling, as he puts it, ‘some shady shit’.” The blind lawyer smiled gently.

P eter gently leaned back and pressed a chaste kiss to Wade’s masked cheek. “I told you you’re a hero,” he murmured. Before Matt could think that he’d been forgotten, he turned back to the lawyer. “I’m not sure,” he said slowly, ‘that pursuing legal action is—is a good idea,” he admitted.

Matt leaned against his cane and gave a low, thoughtful hum. “Tell me this; are you the only tenant in the building?”

No, of course not,” Peter said puzzled.

Then what is stopping your landlord from, say, pulling the same stunts on your neighbors?”

Peter’s mouth went dry as he thought about his neighbors. Most of them were geriatric and on fixed incomes that were only slightly better than what Peter himself had. “I—I don’t know,” he said as he tried to imagine the landlord sneering down at the little old lady across the hall who thought that Peter was an elf and kept leaving out bowls of milk for him (to the delight of the cats in the building).

Don’t you believe they deserve protection as well?” asked the lawyer. He smiled. “That’s the kind of work my firm specializes in,” he added. “Now, let’s all sit down and tell me all about everything that happened with your landlord.”

And I will order takeout. Matty, you good with Mexican?” Wade pulled a phone from one of his pouches. A phone that didn’t look like it was the right dimensions to even fit in said pouch—but it was Wade.

Let me wash the tomato soup off first,” Peter said. He glared once more at the traitorous pot on the stove before heading to the bedroom (which had its own bathroom/shower area).

Chapter Text

Matt felt slightly ill at the description of the stuff Peter had put up with (you don’t understand, I signed with his mother and his mother was the sweetest, most wonderful person you could ever meet ) from his landlord. Things like his utilities suddenly being separate from his rent, when they were all included before. Things like calling for someone to fix his heater, being told if he wasn’t there to let the maintenance guy in it wouldn't get fixed, and then not sending the maintenance guy for three days—when it was negative ten degrees Fahrenheit outside. Things like the electricity in his apartment being “randomly” cut off—shortly before it was time for him to pay his rent. Then this latest stunt—changing the date of rent collection with two day’s notice.

He was also surprised at Peter’s attitude about it. As far as he could tell, the young man thought the shitty behavior he was experiencing was just stuff that happened to him, and Matt would desperately like to know why he thought that way. He was also shocked that Peter—Peter actually seemed to like and trust Deadpool. And Deadpool showed a side around Peter that Matt suspected no one else got to see; he was gentle and loving. And teasing, Matt recalled about the ball.

It was—odd, to say the least. Deadpool was explosion, noise and chaos. He was still those things around Peter but—they were softer, muted somehow. And Matt could not for the life of him figure out how the unassuming young man in front of him had possibly gotten that reaction out of Deadpool.

Matt could also tell that the feelings were mutual. Peter’s heartbeat slowed and his breathing evened out when Deadpool touched him. Even when he was scolding Deadpool his heartbeat had that slow, loving pattern. He relaxed around the murderous mercenary—and had even, at one point, called the man a hero. Which Deadpool, with a modesty that Matt couldn't quite credit even though he’d heard it with his own ears, had denied.

There was also something disturbingly familiar about the young man that Matt couldn't place, like a nostalgic taste on his tongue he couldn't quite recognize. He tried to set the sensation aside as he concentrated on the conversation and made mental notes even as he (with Peter’s permission) recorded it to go over it again later (with his law partner this time). He would bring the full force of the law down on the man—and if that didn’t work, if he managed to squeak away through a legal loophole somehow, well—Daredevil could pay him a visit.

At the end of the conversation, Matt turned off the recording device (an old cassette player—not as convenient as digital, but harder to hack and, more importantly, had grooves on the different buttons in shapes designed to tell what those buttons were for) and put it in his bag. “Thank you, Mr. Parker,” Matt said, having learned the young man’s full name over the course of the gentle interrogation—and over the dinner where Wade flirted shamelessly with his boyfriend and his boyfriend clumsily flirted back.

The fact that Deadpool, the same manic man that had literally blown himself up to take out a drug cartel dabbling in human trafficking, had a boyfriend that loved him was just a little mind-blowing. And a little thought provoking. One of the things that had happened when they were eating was Wade and Peter sitting, back to back, on the couch. After a moment Matt realized why—Wade didn’t want to show his skin (even Matt knew that the merc was sensitive about it)—and Peter respected that. They were an oddly good match. An oddly endearing match.

Matt hoped to Hell that they managed to find and stop whomever put the hit out on Peter, because if anything happened to that young man Deadpool would raze the city to the ground.

After dinner Deadpool gave Peter a quick hug and and cuddle and said he was going to walk Matt home; make sure he got home safely. Matt almost said something—until he realized that Deadpool was simply reinforcing the helpless persona that Matt wore as his civilian disguise. He didn’t believe that Deadpool was really going to walk him home—and was surprised when the guy stopped at a taco truck and ordered a huge amount of food.

“Did you not get enough to eat?” asked Matt.

“Of course I did,” Deadpool said as he went to pay the vendor—who waved it off.

“No payments from you, Senor Pool,” the man said with a heavy accent. “If not for you, who knows what happen to my sister, eh?”

“Just a masked madman doing my duty to protect the city!” Deadpool replied in the same voice he’d used before jumping off the catwalk above the gang.

They walked a little ways away, the smell of the food hanging around them before Matt made himself ask, “What is the food for?”

“A summoning spell,” said Deadpool.

Matt stopped walking. He could tell, from the tone of voice and steady heartbeat, that Deadpool was absolutely serious. “This I have got to see,” he said firmly. Deadpool started laughing and Matt half-heartedly smacked the merc with his cane. “Come on,” he said as he ducked into an alley and climbed up the side of the building—only to be overtaken by Wade who used a retractable grappling hook to get to the top. “All right,” said Matt when they were at the roof. “What are you doing?”

“I told you,” said Deadpool as the paper bag around the Mexican food crinkled several times. “I’m summoning!”

“You could try calling,” a dry voice announced behind them. Matt whirled, dropping into defensive stance. There were only two people that could come upon him unannounced like that—and both of them had tried to kill him. “Cute,” said the voice.

The feminine voice. The young, familiar feminine voice. Matt slowly pulled himself out of his stance as he listened for something from the girl’s direction. Then, realization dawned. “How’s Dora?” he asked as he (partially) relaxed.

“Ponyo!”

“Dora says ‘hi’,” the girl responded.

“I didn’t call, because you never gave me your name.”

“I didn’t?” A pause. “I didn’t. Well, I can’t, but I’m going by Angel for now.” Matt heard the rustle of wings. “What did you want me for, Deadpool?” There was the crinkling sound of the bag being opened and the familiar sounds of mastication as the girl began to eat.

“Can you cook?”

“Yeah, Dad and Papa made sure I could.” The sound of fingers being licked as something moved along the girl’s chest with an odd sound—like it was rasping over metal? “I can do pancakes, most Mexican and Italian—don’t ask me to do tamales, they never come out right for some reason, but yeah. I can cook.” More chewing noises.

“Great! I want you to watch over Peter!”

“That might be a good idea,” Matt admitted. “The young man made soup explode.”

A pause. “Really?” the girl asked. She sounded a cross between impressed and horrified.

“Really,” confirmed Deadpool.

“Huh.” More chewing. A swallow. Then, “I can do it, but it won’t be free.”

“I figured that. Whatcha need, Baby Girl?”

Matt, expecting a cash amount, was mildly surprised when the girl said, “A new sketchbook and colored pencils.”

“Right. One drawing pad and crayons.”

“Pencils.”

“What’s wrong with crayons?”

A rustle of feathers in what Matt assumed was the winged girl’s version of a shrug. “Nothing’s wrong with crayons. I use pencils.”

“Deal.”

“Deal. So, what brings you out to this negotiation? Are you here to draw up an official contract?” The girl sounded curious, as opposed to offended.

Matt felt a slight chill. The girl knew he was a lawyer. How? He hadn’t told her what he did, he hadn’t had much of a conversation with her before at all. She was also, he knew from the theater incident, aware of Daredevil to the point that she even knew his turf of protection. He knew better than to ask, however. “Deadpool’s boyfriend has a landlord that is pulling some illegal stunts, and he’s hired me to fix it—legally,” he added as he calmly explained.

He sensed the girl nod. “Do you want me to read the contract to you?” she asked. “I speak legalese, one of my uncles made sure I could.”

“Why would your uncle make sure you could?” asked Matt with curiosity.

Both the girl and Deadpool burst out laughing. After a full, solid minute of laughter the girl gasped and sighed. “Oh! Tell you what,” and Matt could tell from the tone that she was grinning, “if you can guess who I am, I’ll tell you everything I know.” Deadpool, amazingly, managed to laugh harder and Matt heard his body hit the roof as he doubled over with mirth.

The girl simply took another bite of food, and began to chew.

Chapter Text

Peter stared at the window. Sure, as someone from New Amsterdam (which was attacked by large monsters on such a regular basis that there was a civilian evacuation plan in effect), he had seen a lot of things. As Spiderman, he’d seen even more. Still, it wasn’t every day that a winged teenage girl hovered outside the window gently tapping on the glass.

After far too long staring at the person (who was asking politely for him to open the window, after all) he went over and opened the window. She latched onto it and swung her legs into the apartment. “Seriously? There are code inspectors all over the city writing citations for technicalities—how does this building not have a fire escape?

Peter smiled timidly at her. “Um, they were bribed?” he asked.

She snorted. “No shit,” she said before climbing into room. “Hey, I’m Angel, you’re Peter, Wade wants me here to keep you safe.” She looked at the tomato mess in the kitchen. “What happened here?” she asked with clear curiosity as she looked over the mess, one hand lightly on her hip. Peter stared as a pink— something— popped its head out of the small bag nestled between her wings and made its crawly way up to her shoulder.

“Ponyo?” it asked in a thin, high pitched voice that made Peter recoil.

“Yeah, sure, knock yourself out. Just not us—you need to emit, you go to the window.”

“Ponyo!” It squeaked, bounced into the air—and then sped across the floor to the mess. The floor it passed over was insanely clean.

She turned in time to see Peter heading to the window. “Uh, yeah. Don’t close that yet. Trust me.”

“Wade sent you?”

“Yeah, he thinks you need protecting,” the girl said absently. “What happened in the kitchen?” she asked as the—the whatever it was created a clear, almost shiny path on the linoleum of the floor.

Peter stared at her as the words sunk in. “He thinks you need protecting.” Not, “You need to be protected,” or any variation. This girl, whoever she was, knew . No, she couldn't possibly know.

Mind reeling Peter replied, “I blew up a can of soup.” He shrunk back as she turned to look at him. Her amber eyes pinned him where he was. He could feel the weight of responsibility in her gaze. Or, as Aunt May would put it, she had an old soul hiding behind those eyes.

She didn’t laugh. She didn’t look at him like he was crazy. She didn’t say that was impossible. Instead she simply tilted her head to the side as she looked at him, as though she was trying to see him from another angle. “What do you think cooking is?” she asked finally, the only emotion in her voice curiosity.

“What?” asked Peter, taken aback by her attitude.

When you define ‘cooking’,” she said slowly, “to yourself, how do you define it?”

Peter was puzzled, but answered anyway even as he stared at the mostly clean kitchen. (It was cleaner than when he’d gotten to the apartment in the first place.) “Like magic.”

“Wrong.”

“What?” Peter’s attention was dragged back to the girl as the—the thing suddenly rolled to the window, hung itself using two tendrils, and farted before rolling back inside and back to the (now small) mess in the kitchen.

“Cooking,” the girl said firmly as she looked at Peter, “is organic chemistry you can eat.”

“What?” Peter asked again.

“Organic chemistry you can eat. Recipes are formulas, and the food that results are the predictable products.” She nodded. “Come on,” she said turning towards the kitchen. “You’ll cook with me as you keep that in mind. You’ll be amazed at how much easier cooking will feel.”

I already ate?” Peter said. He eyed the window as her creature hung itself outside to fart again.

“That a question or an answer?” asked the girl. Peter turned to look at her as he pushed his glasses back up. She sighed. “Look, Wade wants you to still be here when he gets back and you and I both know that if the two of us seriously decided to throw down—”

Peter waited for her to make the expected remark that she could take him.

“—we’d destroy this entire apartment building and neither of us wants these tenants—who think that living in a building with no fire escape is a good idea and might actually be failing the Darwin Test—to be homeless and out on the street. It’s a mess out there.”

He stared at her. “You know,” he said flatly.

She rolled her eyes. “Of course I know. Look, let’s fix something to eat, sit down, and I’ll tell you all about it.”

I’m not hungry,” Peter protested.

“I know, but you’re going to want something to do with your hands.”

Chapter Text

Clint sighed as Fury paced the small room. He was leaning back in his chair, two legs off the ground, as the man glared at them with his one good eye. “Look,” Clint finally said when the man ran down, “I get that you’re worried about this new girl; I am. But all she’s done since she got here is protect street kids that, quite frankly, no one else cares about. I say if she wants to waste time like that, let her.”

“Well, she also picked your pocket,” Natasha added slyly. Fury’s mouth tightened, but before he could start speaking again she continued.

“Wait.” The man, standing almost invisibly next to the wall, spoke up. “She picked your pocket, Clint?”

“And why,” demanded Fury, “is that important?”

The man never looked away from the younger man. “Clint here,” he reminded his boss, “was trained in the art of picking pockets. He’s also been given all the conventional training one of our operatives gets, plus more training with the rest of the Avengers. Tell me Clint; how did she pick your pocket?”

Clint flushed red. “I didn’t…” he trailed off and cleared his throat. “She gave us a lift towards a building that had exploded.”

“She didn’t pick my pocket,” Natasha added as she fidgeted with a pencil on the table. All three men found their eyes locked on that pencil. They’d once seen her castrate someone with one.

“There’s nothing in your pockets!”

“There’s weapons. She didn’t even try. I don’t think she picked your pocket until after you grabbed her ass.”

The man looked at Clint. “You groped her?” he demanded.

Clint snorted. “I was trying,” he emphasized, “to get a handle on that outfit she’s wearing. It’s metal, but it’s not anything I’ve ever seen before.”

“What do you mean?” Fury’s cold voice exploded in the small room.

“It’s not iron. It’s not vibranium. It’s not like chain mail—more like the metal was actually woven somehow to imitate fabric. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“That’s not all,” Natasha said as she continued to fiddle with the pencil.

“What did you notice?” the man asked her curiously.

“She’s strong.”

“Strong,” snorted Clint. “We know strong,” he added, lightly mocking.

“Not like her.” Natasha’s eyes pierced him as she thought. “She picked both of us up, one in each arm. Now, I don’t know about Clint and how many hot dogs he’s been eating,” she added slyly, “but I’m about the same size. If she didn’t have those wings we’d probably weigh the same—and like me, it’s all muscle.” She nodded towards Clint, who, while not being a huge man, was easily larger than she was. “She picked us up and took off straight into the air with a single beat of her wings, taking us up into the air half a mile, easy.”

The man gave a low, appreciative whistle. “That’s strong,” admitted Fury.

Natasha nodded as Clint gave a disbelieving snort. “That’s not all. She’s got a good healing factor too—that new guy, the one who throws bombs, threw one at her. She blocked it with a wing, the explosion carved a dent into it, and by the time she tucked it back behind her the wing was whole again.”

“I didn’t see that,” admitted Clint.

“You were a little busy,” she replied.

“Hmm. Yeah. And you can’t forget the slime.”

“Yes. Did you notice how she emphasized that the slime doesn’t explode? And the bomb didn’t even make her flinch. We recoiled,” she said gesturing to herself and Clint. She frowned. “She also commented, as that masked madman was ranting, that she could kick all of our asses. I don’t think she was kidding, or exaggerating.”

“And you don’t think she’s a threat?” demanded Fury.

“Nope,” said Clint calmly.

“Not at all. She could have done much worse. She could have gone on a destruction streak through the city—she didn’t. In fact, when we found her, she was just minding her own business.”

“Until you sliced open her nest,” Clint prodded.

“Yes,” Natasha admitted calmly.

“Nest?” asked the man carefully.

“She’d made a nest of some kind of webbing,” Clint explained. “Tony sent us to investigate it, since we hadn’t seen Spiderman in a couple days.”

“I see,” Fury said.

“Our reports don’t say she’s using any kind of webbing now,” the man said thoughtfully.

Clint shrugged, clearly uninterested. “Maybe Spiderman made it for her before he vanished,” he suggested.

“Well. Thank you for your time, agents. We’ll keep you posted,” the man said as the two got up and left. He turned to Fury. “What do you think?”

The man scowled. “You know what I think. I think she’s from Experiment 23.”

“Not hostile though,” said the man thoughtfully.

“Not yet,” muttered Fury darkly.

Chapter Text

“All right Tony,” grumbled Bucky as they stopped in a nook. The place had been designed for people who had gotten food from one of the ubiquitous food trucks to rest and eat. The level of turnover and the level of noise insured their conversation would be private—as private as it was possible to be in New Amsterdam. “What is this about?”

Tony handed the file to him. Telling Steve and Bucky about it had been Pepper’s idea. Or, to quote the formidable woman, “If you’re going to start a war with SHIELD, you need two of the strongest soldiers in our era on your side.” She had a point.

Bucky stared at the file without comprehension and leaned over so that Steve could view it to. He saw the blond man frown as he flipped through the pages. “Tony, what are we looking at?”

Tony sipped his coffee. His Irish coffee—at least there were some people who knew what coffee should taste like. “Codename Project 23. You see children—”

“Tony,” growled Bucky. Steve quieted him with a gentle hand on his arm and nodded for Tony to continue.

Tony nodded. “Children. That was the aim of Project 23,” he explained. “Way back when, before the second world war which both tore this world apart and created the awesomely amazing place we live in today, people figured out that traits are inherited. Good going, good work, and a shit ton of peas. Seriously; no wonder pea soup is so popular over there.”

“Tony,” Bucky growled again.

Steve, also known as Captain America and way smarter than people generally believed, went pale. Well, paler. The man was always on the pale side, no matter how much time he spent in the sun. “Oh, no,” he whispered.

Tony saluted Steve with his coffee before taking a sip and enjoying the harsh, alcoholic burn as it went down. “Ten points,” he said. “For the slow kid in the class, Project 23 experimented with genetics. Given the lack of advanced technology, lack of true understanding, and the general crude methods they crudely worked.” He took another sip of coffee. It wasn’t enough to clean his mouth of the bad taste from what he’d discovered.

Finally, finally understanding dawned on Bucky who stared at the folder in horror. “We—we have children?” he asked.

Tony could only imagine what was going on in that poor man’s head. “No,” he said stomping the idea into the ground as forcefully as possible. “In the initial phase of Project 23, everything was crude, as I said. Basically they took random bits of material—hair, blood, bone matter, and in one case a full finger—ran it through a blender with a saline solution and injected into unborn babies that were close to term, surprising no one except the idiots who came up with this ‘brilliant’ idea when said unborn infants were still born and, in the case of the finger, the mother passed away too.”

Steve watched Tony. The two of them had fought side by side and against each other. They knew each other in a way that mere friends, comrades, or even lovers simply couldn't. “You didn’t call us out here, where we weren’t likely to be overheard, because of a failed experiment from decades ago,” he said bluntly.

“No,” admitted Tony as he took another sip, draining his poor little coffee mug. He sighed and looked at the empty porcelain in mourning. Would it have killed them to make this coffee just a little bigger?

The next leap of logic was Bucky’s. Surprisingly, it was also the correct one. “HYDRA took over Project 23,” Bucky said.

Tony sighed. “Yes, they did. They were, unfortunately for all of us, much smarter than Hitler’s Merry Men. They took the project and just—sat on it, until the human genome project was completed.”

Bucky went completely still as Steve stared in shock. “I thought you said we don’t have kids,” Steve accused.

You don’t.” Tony set his unfortunately empty cup aside. “SHIELD does.” He let that information sink in. “I want to get them out.”

He didn’t ask if they wanted to help. He didn’t ask if they understood what it meant to go against the greatest policing agency in the entire globe. From the looks on their faces, he knew they would. And so would Tony. So would Pepper. And, possibly, if Tony could find the man, so would Daredevil.

He wasn’t a religious man, but he prayed that Spiderman never learned of this, that they hadn’t been able to get a sample from him.

“What do you need from us?” asked Steve, staring at the billionaire with a steely gaze.

Chapter Text

Peter watched as Angel repeatedly pulled the thick wad of dough until she had thin strips of noodles. “This is the easy part,” she told him as she methodically worked. “Just grab and pull. Grab and pull. Kind of meditative if you let it be.”

Peter looked hesitantly at the ball of dough in front of him before reaching for it.

“Flour your hands first; otherwise the dough will stick.”

“Right.” Copying her earlier movements he stuck his hands in the bowl of flour on the counter before picking up the ball.

“Ponyo?”

“You already ate,” Angel gently scolded the pink thing with huge blue eyes.

Peter pulled at the dough. It snapped. He glared at it.

Angel calmly looked over, dusted her hands with flour again, and rolled the dough ball a few times before pressing on it repeatedly before handing it back. “Try again,” she advised. He did; it pulled into a lumpy, rough mess. He looked over at the silky smooth ribbons she was producing and sighed.

“You’re really good at this,” Peter commented as he tried to follow the directions. He was just pulling dough into noodles—how hard could it be?

“I’ve had practice,” Angel replied. “A few—months, I think? Maybe a year? It’s hard to tell. Anyway, there was this time I was trapped in a hut with a blind old woman who thought I was a bear.” She saw the look on Peter’s face and said, “Seriously. Trust me, if you’d been there it would have made sense. You have no idea how hard that one was,” she grumbled. “Anyway, the two of us were snowed in, almost starving, and all there was to eat was flour, water from the melted snow, and six pounds of lard—don’t ask,” she advised. “I only made that mistake once.”

“What happened?” Peter tried to copy her movements, but the dough kept breaking so he’d push it together and roll it like he’d seen her do.

“Roll, then knead,” she advised. “She talked me through making the noodles and then made weird, uncomfortable comments about eating a bear—right before a bear burst through one of the walls. She killed the bear with her cane, talked me through butchering it, and we made soup with the bones and noodles. I told myself it tasted like chicken.”

“You must have been starving,” Peter admitted.

She shrugged and one of the wings flicked back behind her. “It was a long week, I have a high metabolism, and cold saps energy,” she said explained. There was something weary in her tone—the same weariness Peter frequently heard from the street kids.

Peter’s hands stopped moving as something occurred to him. “Wait—you ate a bear and she thought you were a bear…”

“You do not want to finish that thought,” Angel advised him firmly. “Not if you want to eat again in the next three days,” she added.

Peter’s mind whirled. There were a lot of people who accused him of being overly naive, but he could tell when someone was lying. It was a skill he’d picked up out of necessity when dealing with Norman—and this girl wasn’t lying. “How did that happen?” he asked.

“You want the broad strokes or the fine detail?”

Peter, watching her craft a truly insane number of noodles, wasn’t sure he could handle the fine details. “Broad strokes, please.”

She snorted. “Stuff happens and life sucks.”

“Sums up everything,” Peter admitted as he glared at his noodles. They didn’t look like noodles at all; they looked like funky bread sticks. “A little more detail, please,” he asked.

Suddenly the girl grinned at him. “You look just like Papa with that look on your face,” she told him. She pulled a knife from the block and with a quick cut her noodles lost their connections before she began to lay the noodles out on a cookie sheet.

“You use a knife really well,” Peter commented as she grabbed his noodles and did the same thing.

She snorted. “Of course I do,” she said with wry amusement. “These are pretty good,” she said pointing to his noodles. “You should have seen my first try. All right, let’s go sit down and I’ll explain as best as I can.” The creature that had arrived with the girl raced up to her and she laughed. “All right, Dora,” she said affectionately. “Time for cuddles.”

“Ponyo!” squeaked the happy thing.

“What is it?” asked Peter as he stared at the thing while washing his hands. He noticed that it seemed to be eating the flour off of the girl’s suit and he wondered if she noticed.

“Dora. She’s a slime. She used to be highly volatile with a half-ton blast.” Peter stared at the pink blob in the girl’s lap. “Not anymore,” she rushes to assure him. “Papa and one of my uncles fixed it.” She lovingly ran a hand over the top of the slime as it clung and released the skin with a muffled gloop.

“Pon-yo!” the slime chirped, and Angel laughed.

“Ponyo,” Peter said weakly.

The two clear blue eyes turned on him, wavering slightly as the entire pink thing jiggled before it jumped into the air and raced across the floor towards him. “Ponyo?” it asked as it bounced on the floor.

“She wants to know if she can get in your lap.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure.” The slime squealed, jumped, and plopped down on his lap.

“She likes it when a palm is rubbed over her top,” Angel advised.

Well, Angel would know. Peter gently rubbed his palm over the top of the slime—which wasn’t slimy, exactly. Felt more like a thick mixture of cornstarch and water. The sensation as it shivered under his touch was odd, to say the least, and as he moved his hand it became sort of soft and silky. Strange. Nice, but strange. No wonder Angel had been petting it so much.

“Where to start,” mused Angel as she lounged on Wade’s recliner, wings lazily hanging over the back in a way that looked uncomfortable to Peter, but she seemed fine with it. “All right, there are three starting points, and none of them seem connected, so bear with me.” Fingers tapped against the arm of the chair as she looked at Peter. “First of all, there are multiple worlds. You’re going to have to trust me on that. They’re—”

“Like Stephen Hawking’s last paper?” asked Peter excitedly.

Angel paused. “Yup,” she said after a moment. “Totally. Now, I’m from one of those worlds, and in that world, Loki—”

“The god of mischief and destruction?” asked Peter aghast.

She sighed. “This will go a lot faster,” she admonished gently, “if you stop interrupting me. Yes, Loki, God of Mischief.” She paused and glared, but he didn’t interrupt again so she continued. “In my world he has several children, but the one you need to know about is his daughter, Hel.”

“Now, Hel has her own realm, and yes,” she said anticipating Peter’s question, “it’s different from a parallel world. One of Hel’s jobs is to—to protect balance, I guess would be the best way to put it.”

“What do you mean?” asked Peter He leaned forward and the slime in his lap made a noise like a sleepy giggle.

“Souls are made up of a mix of light and darkness; most of them have a relatively even mixture, changing as they grow and react to their environments. Some souls are almost pure darkness and some souls are almost pure light. In order to prevent the universe from descending into chaos when there’s too much light a dark soul is sent in the middle and when there’s too much darkness a light soul is sent.”

“Why would too much light be a bad thing?” asked Peter, confused. If he was understanding her correctly, “light” was the same as “good” and “dark” was “bad.”

He expected a blasé answer about the general importance of balance. Instead her somber amber eyes met his. “How do people grow?” she asked instead. “How do they learn, mature?”

“I—I don’t know,” admitted Peter.

“They face challenges. They overcome those challenges. When there is too much light,” her arms spread around her, “there are no challenges. The souls stagnate, become weak. Souls that are too weak are—well, I’m not sure,” she said with a frown. “Hel said that they get subsumed by the stronger souls in reincarnation, and that throws the balance between the living and the dead off. I’m not sure why. But I do know that souls that grow in too much darkness have the same problem, and since Hel is in charge of sending reincarnating souls, it is a problem she has deal with. To balance.”

“O—okay,” said Peter. He had no idea where Angel was going with this.

“Now I’m going to have to skip a bit. There were two competing programs in the city. Both of them had the same goal, to create new and more powerful mutants, but they went about these goals in very different ways. One of them kidnapped people and performed horrible, often disfiguring experiments to force recessed mutations to the surface.”

Peter felt the blood drain from his face. He wasn’t an idiot; he knew Deadpool’s file. “That sounds like—”

“Yeah.” Angel sighed and then continued. “I wasn’t there, but I hear it was just as brutal. The took kids instead of adults, on the theory they’d be easier to break. Now the second program had a very different approach. What they did was they took samples from known mutants, broke them down into genetic components, and then proceeded to inject those components into a growing fetus.”

The second method made questions swirl through Peter’s brain. “How did they get the samples?” he asked with vague horror.

“From blood. The heroes, anti-heroes, and superpowered villains of the city bled all over it and they had people everywhere to collect the blood and take it back to the lab.”

“But that would mean—”

“Contamination,” agreed Angel. “Until the mutations began to develop, it was impossible to tell what blood was even there. There was even,” she continued with an odd, wry smile, “a child who’d gotten the mutations of two powerful mutants.” Her face fell. “There were failures, of course. And some that were just deemed failures.”

The slime in Peter’s lap squeaked and raced across the floor towards Angel, bouncing in her lap repeatedly until the girl smiled and began to pet it. “Where did the fetuses come from?” Peter asked.

“They put out ads for ‘surrogate mothers’ that strongly implied they didn’t care if the woman in question was already pregnant. The women came, got free health care as long as they didn’t leave, and if they didn’t bond with the infants they took the money and left the infants behind.”

“And what about those that did bond?” asked Peter as one of Angel’s wings came up and cupped around herself and the slime in a gesture that was obviously reassuring to the girl.

“They took the infants and left. They all signed NDA’s before they even set foot in the facility, but the fastest way to get the attention of the heroes in a city full of them is for dead bodies to start showing up out of nowhere, so they avoided that.” She chuckled in wry amusement. “Actually, it wouldn't have been discovered at all if they hadn’t decided to kidnap Spiderman.”

“They—what?”

She gave a small, sad smile as she stroked the slime in her lap who cooed at the attention. “They wanted a clean sample of blood. Before they could take it, Deadpool showed up.”

Peter gave a small smile of his own, thinking of his boyfriend. “Of course he did,” he said fondly.

“Yeah, it was bloody, the kids were rescued. Blah, blah, blah,” she said glossing over it. “Not important. What is important is that I came from that program, and I have super healing abilities. Keep that in mind. Now, there was another child, from the other program, that I’ll call BB. No real names, because I can’t risk being found before I can find BB. BB had a—a very unique ability. BB could turn humans into spider/human hybrids that could then be controlled—by BB. Very specific there; killed some people who tried to control them in—horrific ways.” The girl paled and the slime stretched until it could just touch the underside of her chin. “Anyway,” the girl interrupted herself as she ran her hand up and down the slime’s body, “she couldn't do it to very many people. She didn’t have the power. Then, three things happened. One, Tony, the insane inventor who I secretly think is trying to actually destroy everything, developed a purely mechanical portal that can travel between worlds. I don’t know why. Two, BB found out about the light souls—but not the dark ones. I have no idea how that came about, but the long story short is that BB discovered how to harvest souls and steal their power to increase BB’s own. Three, the Time Stone was shattered and a piece of it lodged in BB, keeping the mutant ageless. And no,” Angel adds quickly, “I don’t know how that happened either. I kinda wasn’t around at the time—not important. What is important is that BB was throwing the universe, multiverse, expanded parallels, whatever into chaos and Hel, Loki’s daughter and in charge of the balance, demanded that Tony either figure out a way to fix it or she would fix him, in the way that the pound fixes stray cats. And since the source of this problem, the Time Stone, was technically his charge in the first place—actually I think he has a method of putting the Stone back together again but needs all the shards to do that—Dr. Strange created a timed portal with his mystic arts that could connect to the shard buried in BB to make sure whomever used it would end up in the same general area as BB. Still following?”

“Yes,” Peter said as he nodded. Actually, the information was sinking into his brain to be turned over and examined at a later time, but he would understand it.

“Now, it was hypothesized that the ‘jumping’—my term, not theirs—could be corrosive and generally bad to anyone actually doing it, so whomever left had to have one heck of a healing factor, and both Wolverine and Saber-tooth said no, we’re not doing that, while Wade couldn't because, well.” She shifted in her seat, clearly embarrassed. “Anyhow, I was the last choice, but the only one and you know what? This whole multiverse thing is just plain weird. You wouldn't believe some of the things I’ve seen. I’ve been drawing them to share when I get home.”

“So, you came here to look for BB?” clarified Peter.

“When I get BB, the next time the portal opens it will take me home,” Angel explained. “In the past,” she added, “BB has gotten tipped off about me too early and decided to run, which is why I’m being extra careful this time. This time, instead of chasing BB down, I’ve focused on finding the soul she’s looking for.”

“Have you found the soul yet?”

Amber eyes once again met Peter’s own. “Oh, yes,” said the girl firmly, with satisfaction.

Before Peter could reply to that the door to the apartment opened and Wade walked in. “Honey, I’m hooome!” he trilled. He proudly presented the girl with a notebook and a box of colored pencils. “Your payment,” he said dramatically.

She grinned and grabbed them, moving faster than she had at any point during the visit. “Thank you,” she said brightly before leaving.

Wade chuckled as he closed the door behind her turned to face Peter. “We need to talk,” Peter said firmly.

Chapter Text

[You did it now.]

{What? What did we do? Why is he mad?}

“Are you mad?” asked Wade.

“No,” said Peter. “Well,” the younger man admitted, “not yet.” Ignoring the way those words made Wade’s heart freeze Peter patted the couch beside him. “Please, come sit.”

Warily, ready to bolt if Peter made any move that said he wasn’t okay with Wade’s presence, the mercenary obeyed, gently sinking into the cushion next to Peter. Peter took one of Wade’s arms and gently began to rub his hands along it. “Wade,” he said slowly, “I don’t know how to tell you this—but I’m stronger than I look.”

“Uh—”

“I understand,” Peter said gently, “that you’re trying to protect me. I really do. And it’s sweet.” Peter leaned into Wade’s side and, at the initiated contact, Wade turned and wrapped the younger man in a hug that Peter snuggled into. Peter let go of Wade’s hand to lean up and gently put his hands to the bigger man’s cheeks. “I am not a wilting rose, Wade,” he said firmly making eye contact through the mask.

[Where is he going with this?]

“I want you to tell me everything about how cards are made and we’ll see if we can figure out who put a hit on me. Together,” Peter said firmly.

{We can’t tell him! He’ll hate us!}

Wade took a deep, shuddering breath. “I don’t want you to hate me,” he said. He tried to say it firmly, but it came out like a plea.

Peter’s face softened and he shifted until he was halfway in Wade’s lap. “Hey,” he said gently, keeping his hands on Wade’s masked face. “Listen to me. I don’t hate you.”

I don’t hate you.”

Same words. Another time. Another person. Just as shocking. Wade’s grip tightened on Peter and he rested his head, Peter’s hands moving with him, on Peter’s. “Now,” he whispered.

Peter’s hands moved from his face to his neck as the smaller man hugged him back with surprising strength. “I know who you are,” Peter said softly. He chuckled, softly.

{He doesn’t sound mad.}

You’re the guy who panics at alarms and launches swords into the speakers,” Peter said. “Swords that are really sharp by the way. You’re the guy who carries around massive jars of rainbow glitter and has no problem giving one of them up to make slime. Who went to the incinerator with me despite not liking incinerators. Who treats street children like real people. Who does his best, every day, to make this city a better place.” Peter tucked his head under Wade’s and nestled into the crook of the larger man’s neck. “I know who you are Wade,” he said firmly. “And I don’t hate you.”

Wade’s grip tightened as his throat did. Peter couldn’t know what those words, those mere words whether or not he meant them, meant for Wade. No one liked him. No one had liked him. The best he’d been able to hope for from his fellow humans was mere tolerance. And for a long time, that had been okay. After all, it was a lot easier to kill people if he hated them as much as they hated him. No problem.

The problem came in the form of a hero. A hero who didn’t accept that Deadpool was someone to be hated and feared. A hero that had no problems with taking a masked, known murderer out on patrol—very visible patrol—with him around New Amsterdam.

Then, there was Peter. A person who also had no trouble being seen with Deadpool, with going out with Deadpool, and had even asked if they could date! And Wade was learning that, just maybe, the world didn’t hate him as much as he’d thought it did. Maybe, just maybe, there were people in it that he could agree with and be cordial to. Sure the world was full of scum. But there were people like Peter in it too—and Peter’s aunt May. That woman was terrifying—and right about the soup. But—and more importantly—Peter’s aunt May, despite knowing that Wade had kidnapped her nephew—didn’t seem to hate Wade. She didn’t even seem to really dislike him and had, in fact, said that he was better than both Norman and Tony.

Perhaps—perhaps Peter wouldn't hate him, after knowing all the things he’d done.

[Perhaps we’d better gloss over those bits.]

{Yeah, uh, he’s not asking what we’ve done. Just how the cards work.}

So, Wade told Peter about the cards. How each card represented the name of a person who was to be killed, the color of the card indicating how much the reward was, and how Weasel decided who got what card.

Tell me about Weasel,” Peter said, not moving from his position on Wade’s lap.

That Wade was all too ready to do. “He’s a bartender, weapons dealer, and—”

That’s what he does,” Peter interrupted gently. “Tell me about him.”

Oh, he’s a paranoid fuck who tries not to get involved with his customers while still running everything like a wannabe mob boss,” Wade said cheerful now that they weren’t potentially talking about things that would make Peter hate Wade.

Even through the suit, Wade could feel Peter’s lips curl into a smile. “Paranoid, huh? Does he do a lot with computers?”

Wade suppressed a shiver. He wasn’t sure what would happen to their relationship if Little Wade decided to rise to the occasion.

{Good one!}

[No, that sucked.]

What are you thinking, Baby Boy?” he asked.

I’m thinking I might have a plan.”

Chapter Text

Yuri frowned and tapped the desk to the side of her antiquated keyboard as she scowled at the slowly loading document on the screen in front of her. All of the precinct’s computers were so far out of date it was laughable. The heavy monitor alone could probably be used as a blunt weapon—and, given the dents in it, might have been. She wouldn't put it past the penny-pinchers in accounting to give them computers and computer parts that had been taken from criminals no matter what kind of security breach that might cause.

What are you doing?” Smitt, one of Yuri’s coworkers, asked as he sipped his coffee behind her.

Something someone said got to me,” Yuri explained.

You have a child whose reaction to being told you’re taking her home is bone deep terror, and that doesn’t throw up any warning flags at all for you?”

Smitt shook his head at her. “You know you shouldn't listen to what the criminals say. They’ll say anything.”

“Yeah,” said Yuri absently. Was the winged girl a criminal though? It wasn’t illegal to be a mutant, and all the girl had done was talk. True, she had helped the girl that Yuri had been about to bring in get away, but she’d been very careful not to be threatening at all to Yuri herself.

The file loaded and Yuri stared at it before going through it. “No way,” she breathed as she looked at the long list of injuries the kid had had. Broken wrists, a fractured femur, cracked pelvis—why was this kid still with her family? Why wasn’t she in foster care?

Another thought filled Yuri with ice cold dread. How many of the street children were like this? “This is horrible,” Yuri whispered.

Smitt leaned down and looked at the screen and gave a low whistle. “Man,” he said callously, “I’d sure hate to be that kid.”

“Why hasn’t she been put into foster care?” asked Yuri with a frown.

Smitt snorted. “How much room do you think is in foster care?” he demanded. “She’s still getting food, she’s still going to school, she’s still getting clothes—she’s fine. Or, at least she was.” Smitt frowned and shook his head. “We really need to get her off the streets.”

Yuri stared at her coworker with shock and horror. If anyone had asked what she’d thought of her coworker and sometime partner, she would have said he was a weary cop but still a decent person. She was rapidly revising that opinion.

Smitt, staring at her, could see the thoughts flash across her face, and he snorted. “You’ll understand what I mean when you’ve been in the department long enough for the shine of your new to wear off,” he said confidently before he wandered off.

Yuri’s heart seized for a moment at the implication. None of the other officers did anything—because they didn’t think there was anything to be done. They felt it was just the way the world, no—New Amsterdam—worked.

Resolve settled into Yuri’s gut and she turned back to her computer sending the document to the printer before searching for one of the other known street kids. She didn’t know what she was going to do with the information yet, but she was going to do something. She did know one thing for sure.

She hadn’t become a cop to ignore people who needed help.

Chapter Text

Chloe sighed as she trudged home. Sure, she wasn’t supposed to walk home alone—especially not at night. Stark had informed all of his employees that he was hiring a security company who’s sole duty was to make sure those who stayed after dark had escorts home. He told them he wanted to make sure that they all made it home safely and he was paying the new company more than enough to not only escort them all the way home, but also make sure they got back to work in the morning.

Chloe didn’t like the new security company. The looked less like the security she was used to and more like professional soldiers. She didn’t trust any of them to know where she lived, and wanted nothing to do with them.

Oh, she was tired. All of the labs had been working overtime, using up supplies at an unheard of pace, and none of the supply labs were keeping up very well with demand. She’d overhead Dr. Chambers saying that if the larger labs kept using up supplies at this rate they were going to have to outsource for supplies. His supervisor hadn’t been happy to hear that.

What were the big labs even doing? Part of Chloe wished she knew and the rest of her just wished they’d take a break. Like, what could be so life or death important that they had to throw the entire company into chaos to research?

She ignored the skittering she heard in the shadows as she cut through the alley to get to her building. There were rats all over New Amsterdam; they were nothing new. Nothing important.

Chloe stopped as the shadow suddenly loomed up in front of her and she stared, eyes wide in terror, at the thing that looked like a cross between a human and a spider. She swallowed hard and tried to back away, turned—and saw that another one was blocking her exit. The blank, unreadable faces stared at her as the things crept closer.

“S—stay away!” she cried out, stammering like Peter sometimes did. What were these things? Why were they cornering her? It couldn't be for anything good.

She stared in horrified fascination as two thick fangs separated from the thing’s face, dripping clear fluid onto the pavement. She wanted to scream. She wanted to run. She stared in petrified horror.

There was a flash of red and suddenly the face in front of her split in half as the monster dropped to the ground. She whirled to try and follow to see a woman with long, flowing hair that looked black in the dim light wearing a bright red suit standing over the corpse of the other monster.

“No time to relax,” the woman said turning to Chloe. She reached out and grabbed the lab assistant’s wrist. “More are coming.”

The skittering was getting louder. Chloe nodded and tried, desperately, to keep up as the woman dragged her out of the alley and back into the main streets. She did her best to keep her trembling from interfering as she ran.

What were those things? Were—were they why the main labs were so busy? Why work had suddenly increased?

Was that the reason Stark had hired a new security team to make sure his employees got home and back in one piece?

Chapter Text

Weasel stared at the boy (no way was the kid old enough to be in the bar) that Wade had brought in. Warning bells rang in Weasel’s head at the way Wade reacted to the kid. The way he protectively stood by him. The way he tenderly kept a hand on the boy at all times. The way the boy allowed the behavior without so much as a squeak.

Weasel’s eyes closed as he fought off the mental pain. With the way Wade was acting there was only one person the kid could be. The mysterious boyfriend that, apparently, really was real. He took a deep breath and then glared at the two as the kid settled at the counter. “Do you even know where you are?” he hissed as quietly as possible, so as not to gain the attention of the people around them. The last thing he needed was for everyone to realize that a card had just walked in on his own two legs. True, that card was being guarded by Deadpool, but that wouldn't stop the crazy ones.

The kid met his eyes with two calm—way too calm—brown ones. “I’m in the place where mercenaries get cards with target names on them,” he said, just as calmly.

Weasel’s glare moved from the kid—clearly too stupid to be afraid—to Wade. “Are you insane?” he hissed. “You just—just waltz in here with a card?”

Weasel could see the smile on Wade’s face through the mask as he shrugged. “Baby Boy insisted,” he said with glee.

Weasel turned his attention back to the kid. The kid who clearly had one of the most dangerous (and impossible to kill) people in the world wrapped around his little finger. The kid, who as of now, was calmly inspecting the bowl of salted nuts that Weasel kept on the counter for customers. “Why?” he asked.

“Wade’s having trouble finding the guy who put out the hit,” Peter confessed as he sorted through the different types of nuts.

Weasel wanted to bang his head on the counter. “I can’t tell you that,” he told them firmly.

“No,” said the kid thoughtfully. “You didn’t finish that sentence. You can’t tell me that for free.” Still freakishly calm.

Weasel eyed the kid’s attire. If it hadn’t come from a thrift store he’d eat Deadpool’s socks. “I don’t think you can afford my prices.”

The kid looked up and offered a slow, almost dreamy smile. “I was thinking,” he said, keeping his voice just as soft as Weasel had been, “of more of an exchange of services. According to Wade you’re a ‘paranoid fuck.’ I happen to have a little bit of—computer expertise.”

This demanded a reassessment. The kid wasn’t just here for some odd reason, something suicidal. The kid had a plan. An offer to barter. Normally Weasel would have just tossed him out anyway—but he was a little afraid that Wade would decide to wreck his bar if he did. “When you say that—”

“I mean I can hook you into the TOR network and build your system a self-contained VPN,” the kid said bluntly. He calmly popped a nut into his mouth and began to chew.

Weasel stared at the boy. Was it possible? No, no way a mere kid could know how to do that. “I’m going to need some references,” he said gruffly as he began to polish one of the glasses.

“I’ve hacked into Stark Tower.” The glass Weasel was holding crashed to the floor, shattering as he stared. The boy grinned. “And,” he added impishly, “Stark doesn’t even know I was there.”

No. No way could the kid be telling the truth. But—maybe. Just maybe he had the skills he was boasting. Maybe.

“I see it working first,” he said.

The kid grinned. “Works for me,” he said.

Wade leaned around the kid eagerly. “Oh! I can—”

You can tend the bar,” the kid interrupted. At Wade’s crestfallen face he pecked a kiss on a masked cheek, oblivious to the way it made Weasel’s skin crawl to see someone so—affectionate with the dangerous man. He knew better than anyone just how dangerous Wade could be.

Wade whined. He honest-to-God whined like a dog. “But Petey-Pie,” he protested.

“Petey-Pie” just chuckled and warmly asked, “Weren’t you the one going on about how you could so do that Coyote Ugly scene better?”

Wade brightened. “Fuck yeah!” he said excitedly. “Watch me tend this bitch!”

Peter pressed another kiss to the masked cheek before lightly hopping over the bar to stand next to Weasel, who, full of reservations, led the kid to the security room.

Chapter Text

Wade picked up a glass. How hard could tending a bar be? Weasel did it all the time, and most of the time he just rubbed a glass with a towel. Wade could do that.

[I think the towel is supposed to clean the glass.]

Eh, who cared about a few streaks in a glass? Wade was sure the alcohol would kill anything that might hurt anyone.

{Does it count as murder if germs do the killing?}

[I hate you.]

“What the fuck did you threaten that twink with?” demanded one of the guys as he swaggered up to the bar.

Another patron at the bar snorted. “Must be big. Kid acts like he likes him.”

{Did we ever threaten Petey?}

[You mean aside from kidnapping him? No, we haven’t. And we’ve seen him try to lie—the guy sucks. No way he’s acting.]

Odd for White to be reassuring, but Wade would roll with it. He grinned at the patrons and enjoyed the way they looked freaked out.

[You’re acting pleasant and not singing children’s songs. Of course they’re freaked.]

Wade remembered the movie he and Pete had been watching. “What can I get for you?” he asked.

They stared at him for a moment before the second one gave a low whistle. “Damn Wilson,” he said in awe. “You’ve been whipped.”

Wade batted his eyes at them. “Only in the best ways,” he assured them.

{Not yet.}

[No, because that would mean removing the mask.]

“So, what’ll it be?” asked Wade as he struck a pose. The glass he was holding hit the bar and broke. Eh, Weasel had plenty of glasses. He wouldn't notice one less. Wade threw the glass into the garbage and then grinned at the two idiots at the bar.

{Don’t make a scene! Petey’s counting on us!}

Seeing the almost homicidal look on Wade’s face the first man quickly said, “Bottle of Beer. Sealed,” he added. “I can open it myself.”

Wade rummaged around under the bar finding the screens for the security systems, the shotgun, the shotgun shells labeled rock salt, lead, and vibranium. He paused. Why did Weasel have vibranium for his shotgun? That didn’t make sense. Ah, this was a little fridge. He opened it and found—beer. Bottles of beer in every color from pale pink to dark brown. “You got a color preference?” asked Wade as he stared at the bottles. Just what was the point of all these different colors? Did they change the taste of the brew in them.

“Nah, I ain’t picky.”

“Hey Wilson, get me one too,” called the second one.

“Sure!” Wade said happily as he grabbed a pale pink bottle and a dark blue blue bottle before standing up and closing the fridge door. Couldn’t waste electricity!

“What the fuck is this shit?” demanded the first merc as he stared at the pale pink bottle on the bar in front of him.

“I’ve never even seen this color before,” the other one said in wonder as he held the blue bottle up to the light.

“There’s a whole rainbow in this fridge,” Wade said as he leaned against the bar. He waited while the two warily cracked open their beers and took a sip. “And…?”

They spit out at the same time. “The fuck?” exclaimed the one with the pink bottle. “This shit is rose flavored!”

“Ooo,” cooed one of the ever-present hookers as she snagged the bottle. “Mine.”

The second one, seeing what had happened to the first, turned to the assembled ladies and held up his bottle. “I’ll trade a blueberry flavored beer for a kiss,” he called out.

First one snorted. “Only kiss you’ll ever get.”

“Hey! Not like I’m him!” A thumb jerked towards Wade. “I don’t have to pay some pretty-boy twink to pretend to like me!”

[Did he just call Peter a prostitute?]

{KILL HIM!}

Wade leaped over the bar, wrapping his hands around the merc’s throat as the other people in the bar began chanting and cheering. The man tried to buck him off so that he could breathe—but breathing wasn’t in the list of plans that Wade had for the man. “Say that again, I dare you,” he taunted as he squeezed the throat under his hands.

“Wade, what the fuck?” screamed Weasel, adding his voice as a counterpoint to the people chanting for him to do it, do it, just kill the fucker already.

“Wade?” A gentle hand with far more weight to it than it should have landed on Wade’s shoulder and he looked up into Peter’s concerned face.

“Oh, uh,” Wade said as he released the throat under him. “We were just having a manly discussion,” he said to his boyfriend—who crossed his arms in disbelief. Wade rounded on the man under him, still holding his throat and gasping for air. “Weren’t we?” he demanded darkly. The man quickly nodded as fast as his bruised throat would allow.

Peter sighed and reached out, pulling Wade off the merc.

[Did we know he was this strong?]

{Oh, my God! He still likes us!}

“Come on Triple,” Peter urged gently as he tucked himself against Wade’s side. “Let’s go home,” he urged.

“Freak,” muttered the merc on the ground. Wade didn’t hear him. And he certainly didn’t see Petey-pie step back and kick the guy—ahem, accidentally hit the guy in the ribs with the back of his foot before gently guiding Wade out of the bar.

Chapter Text

Liv calmly pushed up her glasses as she read the document in front of her, ignoring the choking sounds coming from her left. “Oh, you have been a naughty girl,” she gently scolded. “Kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking?” Liv shook her head. “What horrible things you’ve done.” She turned her head to look at the trembling woman, held by one of the thin, mechanical tentacles at her neck just far enough into the air that she had to stand on the tips of her toes to keep breathing.

Another tentacle was plugged into the woman’s computer, quickly downloading all relevant information from the files. Imperative, since the place was about to be torched. A third tentacle (she really was going to need to thank Peter for helping her with those algorithms) searched the bookshelves behind the desk she was on while the fourth lay against the floor, stabilizing her precarious perch.

The woman being held was none other than Whitney Frost, the face and leader of Runaways Unite. “My boss,” Liv continued as her third tentacle deposited a veritable hoard of mini microphones, tiny cameras, and other bugging devices on the desk before searching for more as Liv calmly set about breaking each and every one of them. “My boss,” she continued, “is, despite his image, a very simple man. Very goal oriented; he will do everything in his power to reach his goals—even if it means stepping over his own flesh and blood.” Her eyebrow raised as she noticed her third tentacle deposit another small mountain of bugging devices. Someone was trying to keep a close eye on this woman—but not close enough.

The woman tried to speak and Liv graciously lowered her to the ground so that she could. The woman swallowed a couple of times and desperately said, “I can get him children; all the children he wants.”

The third tentacle destroyed the newest pile as the first pulled the woman up too far to speak again. “Do you honestly,” Liv asked with disbelief, “think that I’m here because of a few paltry little street children the city can’t be bothered to clean up?” She snorted at the stunned look on the woman’s face. “Seriously?” she asked the world at large. “Why am I always stuck with the idiots?”

Her tentacle slammed the woman against the wall while her third tentacle reported the lack of any more surveillance devices and the second tentacle disengaged from the computer. “Norman,” she said, confident in dropping his name now that there was no way anyone could hear it, “does not care about the children. He barely cares about his own children. No,” Liv continued as she adjusted her glasses and regarded her prisoner thoughtfully, “he only cares about his goals. And you, foolish idiot that you are, decided to threaten them.”

Liv shook her head in mock regret as she tsked at the woman in front of her. “You never should have put that hit out on Peter Parker.” The woman’s face suffused with rage, but Liv didn’t care. “You see,” she continued conversationally, “that boy is important. His life is worth the sacrifice of a few, or even a dozen. Yours, however,” she added pinning the woman with a stare, “is not.”

Liv tapped her cheek thoughtfully as a tentacle wrapped up the woman’s arms and another got her legs while the first never released the hold on her throat. “You know,” she said thoughtfully, “I hear that when the Kingpin still did his own dirty work, he liked to rip his victims in half.” Her eyes fell on the now clearly terrified woman in front of her. “I wonder how much force that actually takes and if my lovelies,” she added with a caress to the metal, “are up for the stress. Which will give out first; my tentacles or your body?”

The answer was, unsurprisingly, the human body in front of her. Liv let the destroyed corpse fall to the floor as she set about creating an electrical fire that would incinerate the body—or at least burn it out of all recognition. She didn’t care which.

Chapter Text

Wade ran across a roof, leaped into the air, and tried to hook another roof with his grappling hook in order to swing like Spiderman did. The hook landed wrong and fell off the building, fortunately catching on the fire escape instead making the merc attached land, face-first, into the brick of the building. Wade pushed himself away from the brick and, after a quick glance to see that no one could see him, lifted his mask to spit blood out of his mouth. “That could’ve gone better,” he grunted.

[I’m beginning to think the author hates us.]

{No! Oh, look! Something plot related.}

[This was a stupid way for us to find it.]

“No argument there,” muttered Wade as he lurched over to the jackass trying to mug a woman.

“Stop!” screeched the woman as she tried to yank her purse away from the skinny-clearly-a-junkie man.

Wade calmly walked up and rapped the man’s scull with the hilt of a knife sending him dropping to the ground. “Okay,” he said cheerfully. “At some point someone's gotta say, ‘nah, that shortcut down a dark, secluded alley that just screams it’s riddled with people who want to hurt me isn’t worth it’.”

“I wasn’t taking a shortcut, jackass,” snarled the woman as she rifled through her purse. Actually, it wasn’t a purse. It was one of those briefcase things that looked like a purse. “Good,” she said firmly. “My research is still here.”

Wade knew he shouldn't ask. He couldn't stop himself. “If it’s not a shortcut,” he asked, “why did you go down the dark alley?”

“I was being chased.” The woman slung the bag over her shoulder, crossing her chest to make it harder to grab. “Fucking Oscorp,” she muttered.

“Oh, a potty mouth!” said Deadpool cheerfully. “How about this; I’ll walk you home, and keep you safe from any more people trying to jump you.”

She paused and looked at him. “All right. Thank you, Deadpool.” As they walked through the alley she asked, “How’s Peter?”

“Much better. We got a line on the fucker that wants him dead,” Deadpool answered cheerfully. “I’ll be seeing her happy ass in the morning.”

“Huh.” The woman adjusted her glasses, in the same strange way that Peter did. “Well, I hope he comes back to work soon. I want to show him the results on that matrix solution he whipped up.”

{I think this is going to be boring.}

[I think it’s going to be important.]

“What are they?” asked Wade as they turned down a street. A man, an office worker clearly trying to look like a homeless person, started to approach, but changed his mind as he saw who was walking with the woman.

“I’m using the artificial organic matrix to recreate organs,” said the woman excitedly. “Pepper requested that I start with trying to replicate the heart—do you have any idea how complicated the human heart is?” Rather than sounding offended or weary, the woman just sounded excited.

Impossible not to like her. She was too much like Peter. “You can do it!” he cheered.

“There’ll be failures,” said the woman eyes glinting with new light as they walked up to an apartment building, “but we’ll make it work!”

“Yes! Take no prisoners! Never accept ‘no’ as an answer!”

“Exactly!” The woman grinned and turned. “Thanks for walking me home, Deadpool.”

Wade posed. “Just doing my civic duty!” he said in his SuperheroTM voice. She rolled her eyes and went into the building as he turned and started jogging down the street.

{I think we’re actually in good shape.}

[Doesn’t matter. Healing factor won’t let us degenerate.]

Wade wasn’t paying attention. He heard something at the top of a building and climbed to see what was going on. There was a woman there, standing on the ledge opposite the side he’d climbed. “Oh, hey there!” he called.

She was silent long enough that he thought she didn’t hear him. “Hey,” she finally said.

“I love looking at the night sky, especially with my bestest buddy, Spidey,” Wade said as he slowly, carefully made his way towards her. The last thing he wanted to do was startle her into falling off the roof.

“Oh.” The voice seemed oddly—emotionless. As though there was nothing left. Not anger, not sadness—nothing.

Wade couldn't help the shiver that ran through him at the small word. “So,” he asked drawing out the word, “do you wanna talk about it?”

“They’re going to take the city,” she said flatly.

[Who is?]

Wade thought that was a good question, so he repeated it. She turned to look at him and he could see that she was clutching her left arm tightly, expression haunted. He could see black in her skin, under the hand. “The monsters.”

{I think she’s more crackers than we are.}

[That—that does not look good. Maybe her arm is infected?]

“Hey, you know there’s a hospital that can look at that arm,” Wade offered. “I can take you there, if you like.”

The woman let out a low broken laugh that made the hair rise on the back of his neck—if he still had hair.

[She sounds like—we did.]

Wade didn’t follow the thought. He remembered being on the edge of sanity, and didn’t want to go there again. “Hey, why don’t you come down from there and tell me about the monsters?” he asked. He was trying to get her away from that ledge. Normal people did not heal like he did.

“There’s going to be only two types in this city,” the woman said. “Those who have turned into monsters, and those who are eaten by them.”

“I’m sure there will be people who hunt the monsters,” said Wade desperately, trying to get her off that ledge. He hadn’t stopped moving towards her.

“I can hear it, you know?” the woman said calmly. “The voice. Telling me what to do. I can ignore it now, because I’m still human, but I won’t be much longer.”

“I’m sure it’ll be okay,” Wade said.

“You don’t understand!” hissed the woman. She turned towards him, eyes wide and bright, no longer sane. “You don’t know what it wants! What it’s saying! I won’t do it—I won’t be one of them!” She turned and shouted into the night. “You hear me?! I won’t be one of them!” She jumped.

Wade rushed that last distance to the ledge, reached out to grab her, to stop her from falling—but didn’t quite make it.

Chapter Text

Norman paced his office in silent fury as he contemplated what he’d learned.

You never should have allowed the boy this much freedom.

Perhaps. He hadn’t wanted to push Harry too far—too far and the boy would give up. No, his purposes were suited much better when he was fighting. When he saw Norman as the enemy.

And look where that plan got you.

Norman’s lips tightened. Yes, indeed. It had worked—for a while. It would still be working now if it wasn’t for the new variable in the equation!

Should have killed that little bitch when she first showed up .

Yes, well, too late now. At least for another t wo years. Then he could reevaluate the situation and decide if she needed to die. Right now—right now that was impossible.

There was a timid knock on his door as he heard Harry call out, “Father? You wanted to see me?” The voice was timid and a little frightened.

That’s a good sign. It means he respects us.

Come in,” ordered Norman. The door opened and his son walked in. Norman stared at the boy. He looked like a younger version of Norman himself; there was no doubt who his father was to the casual eye.

Norman walked over to his desk and turned to look at his son, arms crossed over his chest as he regarded the boy. After a few moments of the silent staring Harry began shifting nervously in place, as Norman knew he would. “Did you honestly think,” Norman demanded with cold fury, “you could do this?”

H arry didn’t answer right away. He stared at his father and something more entered the slightly frightened expression. Something Norman had never seen on the boy’s face before.

Something Norman felt every day.

I know you hate me,” Harry said. “I may have never figured out why, but I know you hate me.”

Norman sighed. This new variable had pushed Harry too far, past the point of no return. The boy was useless to him now. He could just cut the tie and let the idiot find out—but no. No, he would not let that bitch win!

She deserved her death.

She deserved more than that. Still, that was in the past. Her body would never be found.

I think,” Norman said coldly, “that you are operating under a misunderstanding.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket. He knew they had no idea just how delicate the system was, or how much control he had over it. “I do not hate you,” he told his offspring just before inputting the command that made the boy double over in pain as his artificial heart sent out a calculated half a milliliter of glutamate into his system. Norman wanted to teach the boy a lesson, not cripple him. Cripples were no use to anyone.

I,” Norman told the gasping boy now writhing in pain on the floor, “own you. I decide when you live, when you die, and when your body is in too much pain to move. And,” he added as he bent down and grabbed Harry’s face to force his son to look at him, “you are not getting on a plane. Not again. Now,” he continued as he dropped the boy to the floor, “I’m off to find your whore.”

Chapter Text

Mary Jane paused when she saw the men in suits. She recognized them as Oscorp, and didn’t trust them any more than she trusted their boss. She took a step back and turned to run, to leave as fast as she could without suspicion.

She didn’t succeed. Soon they were chasing her through the streets of New Amsterdam, and her childhood at following Peter came in handy. She let the happy memories flood her mind as she dove into another alley, trying to escape the men chasing her. She knew they were up to no good.

She could almost see little Peter, gap where his front teeth had been, grinning up at her and beckoning her down another alley, this one almost too thin for her to get down. If it was almost too thin for her, it would definitely be too thin for the men chasing her, and she scooted down. She had to drop her bag—but she didn’t stop. She couldn’t afford to let them catch her. Who knew what Norman wanted with her.

With her child.

Tiny hands reached out and grabbed one of her wrists pulling her through when she almost got stuck. Mary Jane coughed as she fell to the ground, supported by one of the ubiquitous street children that almost always seemed to be around Peter. The child (she couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl) gently rubbed her hand, huge red hat almost obscuring the child’s face as another child reached up to the gap and put a hand to it. Mary Jane heard a sound, like the popping of small fireworks before there were yells on the other side.

The child rubbing Mary Jane’s hand said, soothingly, “It’s all right. You’re safe now.”

Another child, taller than the first two, came out of nowhere and glared at them. “Say what now?” the tall one demanded. Like the one rubbing her hands, this one wore a hat; but it was small and striped where it sat on the tall child’s greasy hair.

She needs a safe place to stay,” the child holding Mary Jane’s hand announced.

No. Hell no. She’s an adult; she can go where the adults go.”

The child by the small alley turned and looked at the tall child. “She’s with child,” the child announced.

Chill ran over Mary Jane. How did the child know? She wasn’t far enough along for it to be easily spotted, or she never would have fit through that crack.

All children,” the child continued, oblivious to Mary Jane’s inner turmoil, “are welcome at the Safe Place.”

The tall one seemed to have nothing to say to that. Hands ran through the greasy hair as the child looked between the other two and then at Mary Jane’s pale face. “What about Angel?”

The eyes of the child standing next to Mary Jane rolled. “Angel’s older than all of us,” the child responded tartly.

A fourth child, about the same size as the one holding Mary Jane’s hand and wearing a matching red hat, suddenly appeared. “They have orders to capture, not kill or injure,” the fourth child announced.

The tall one groaned. “All right!” the child said throwing arms into the air dramatically. “We take her to the Safe Place.” The other three cheered and urged Mary Jane onto her feet before herding the confused woman down the alley. “Ellie is going to kill us,” the tall child muttered.

Chapter Text

Wade slammed open the door to his apartment.

[Way to go jackass. Some hero you are.]

{Couldn’t even help one poor woman!}

[Spiderman could have caught her.]

{Nothing more than poor imitation.}

Wade ripped his mask off and stared at the crimson, black, and white thing in his hands. Equal parts leather and Kevlar, it weighed more than Spidey’s entire outfit probably did. The weight of the dead. Of the grave. Of failure.

{It’s all your fault!}

It was. If he’d been more approachable, if he’d been more toned down, if he’d been more like Spidey—she wouldn’t have jumped. She would have been fine; he would have gotten her to the hospital and gotten that horrible wound on her arm looked at and treated, and everybody would have been happy. But no. No, he was a failure! Wade hurled the mask across the room, barely listening as it hit something as he collapsed against the closed door behind him.

Wade?” asked a voice. “Are you okay?”

Fuck. He’d forgotten he wasn’t alone. “It—it’s nothing,” he grit out.

Don’t lie to me, Wade.” Peter calmly and unerringly made his way through the dark towards Wade. “Tell me what happened,” he suggested calmly.

[Don’t.]

{He’ll just hate you.}

Wade?” Peter’s warmth, his comforting weight, settled into Wade’s lap. Wade looked up and abruptly wished that a light had been left on. If this was going to be his last conversation with Peter, he wanted to be able to see more than just a silhouette. “Talk to me,” Peter urged quietly.

[Sure. Tell him how you failed to save someone when your hero asked you to watch his city.]

Wade bit back a sob and Peter pulled him into a hug. “I failed, Petey,” he said as he buried his nose into the crook of his boyfriend’s neck.

Peter simply rubbed soothing circles into Wade’s back, “At what, Wade?” he asked softly, gently.

Wade had no right to such gentleness, but he couldn't pull away. “ There was a woman tonight,” he said, fully prepared for Pete to hate him.

[Liar.]

Peter said nothing, just kept up with that soothing rubbing. “She was—on the ledge. Of a roof,” he clarified, even though he knew it wasn’t necessary. “She—she jumped, Peter, and I couldn't—I couldn't save her.”

Peter stopped rubbing the soothing circles and tightened his grip on Wade into a fierce hug. “It’s not your fault,” he said.

The words felt like both benediction and horrible mutilation. Wade’s own arms tightened around Peter’s body. “You don’t know that,” he said miserably.

Yes, I do,” Peter said firmly.

Wade drew in another shuddering breath as he closed his eyes and hugged Peter. “Spidey could have saved her,” he mumbled.

Oh, Wade, no. Honey, no. You don’t know that. He might have failed too. He might have made it worse.”

Wade couldn't let anyone, not even Petey, trash talk his hero like that. “Oh, no,” Wade said firmly. “Webs is like—the best hero in the world. The universe.”

There was a moment of silence from Peter before the younger man laughed. “I love you, Wade,” Peter said, voice choked with emotion.

{I don’t understand. Shouldn't he be jealous?}

You couldn't,” Wade whimpered. He wasn’t worth loving. He shouldn't get that privilege—but he couldn't let go. If anything, he clung tighter.

Peter didn’t squirm or demand to be released. Instead, he chuckled. “ You know Wade,” he said calmly, softly amused, “the best things in life come in threes.” Wade listened, because it was Peter talking, but he made a sound of disagreement. “No, listen. Those cherries on the top of One Cone’s sundae cones. Chocolate. You.”

Me?”

You. Wade Winston Wilson,” Peter clarified. Peter gave a squeeze of his arms, almost knocking the breath out of Wade. “You’re the best one ever.” Wade let out a breathless laugh and felt Peter grin. “You are,” he said fondly.

Peter loved him. Peter loved him. Peter believed in him.

[Say it back, asshole!]

I love you too,” Wade whispered. “You,” Wade’s voice broke as his throat closed. “I love you,” he whispered. He didn’t know how convey how much loved, adored, and marveled at this young man, holding him. Comforting him.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, just enjoying the warmth of his boyfriend’s presence. He did know that he fell asleep. He must have fallen asleep, because he woke up. Woke up to feather light touches on his face. His face that didn’t have a mask on it.

{Where’s the mask?!}

[Idiot threw it across the room, remember?]

And Wade did. At the time, it had been dark, but now the sun had risen. Now there was light in the apartment. Hesitantly, not wanting to see the disgust on Peter’s face but knowing he’d have to face it sooner or later, Wade opened his eyes.

Peter’s own eyes were searching Wade’s face. The feather light touches were Peter, gently tracing the patterns between the scars. The expression on his face wasn’t disgust, disdain, or revulsion (Wade was intimately familiar with all of them). It appeared to be mild confusion. “I don’t see it,” Peter said quietly, hand still tracing the skin.

[What?]

{What?}

See what?” Wade’s voice was hoarse, almost like that time he’d gargled gravel just to see what would happen.

Peter’s soft brown eyes met his without hesitation. “You keep calling yourself a monster,” Peter said. “ I don’t see a monster when I look at you.”

[Lies!]

Wade hesitated. It would be easy to call it a lie—but he was looking into the face right now. And there was no horror, no fear, no recoil. “What do you see?” he asked instead.

Strength,” Peter responded simply. Then he elaborated, “I see a man who’s gone through Hell and gotten back up and still has the humanity to care about other people.” A smooth, soft hand came rest against Wade’s face as Peter cupped his cheek. “You’re stronger than you think you are, Wade Wilson.”

Wade leaned into the touch. He always did. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out, Peter sitting right there. Calmly. Sweetly. “Pete,” he said firmly, “as sweet as this is, facing you without my mask is kind of freaking me out right now.”

Peter smiled. “Coward,” he teased gently as he pulled the mask over Wade’s head.

[We threw the mask to the other side of the apartment. How did he get it?]

Before he finished pulling the mask over Wade’s face he leaned in and, quickly, pressed a gentle kiss to Wade’s lips before pulling away and tugging the mask fully into place. His face was red as a tomato. Before Wade could say anything Peter had lurched to his feet. “Come on,” he urged gently. “I’ll make breakfast.”

{Excuse you, did he just say he was going to cook?}

Wade scrambled to his own feet. “Wait for me!” he called.

[No, seriously guys. How?]

Chapter Text

Tony had never gotten along with Professor X. Probably had something to do with their competing egos that X denied they had, but come on. They plastered his team’s uniforms with his personal logo. Tony plastered his building with his name. They both had the ego.

More importantly, Professor X had something Tony didn’t, at this point in time. Information. Advice. All of which, if his personal plan was going to go down, he needed. Actually, no. What he needed was the ability to do some serious, hardcore research into the subject without warning certain people about what was going to happen to them in the future.

X sat in his wheelchair and propped his elbows on the chair arms as he regarded Tony in front of him. “I don’ t know what you think I can help you with,” the professor said calmly as one of his students handed Tony a teacup. With tea in it. Real tea. “We don’t keep your kind of drinks on campus; most of our students are underage,” the bald man added calmly.

Not to mention that we have no idea what inebriation will do to most mutations,” muttered the student before leaving the office.

Tony sighed, leaned forward, and carefully deposited the steaming teacup on the dark mahogany desk in front of him. “ I need to build a home,” he told the man.

I don’t see why you’re consulting me,” X said calmly. “Surely you have architects for that sort of thing.”

Tony heard muffled laughter from the other side of the door and ignored it. “This is for a different kind of building,” he said firmly.

A home,” X reminded him.

For children,” Tony replied firmly. “Children who have been traumatized, possibly brainwashed, and definitely powerful.” Tony winced as his mind reminded him of who these children had as parents. “Definitely powerful, with powers that may or may not be under control yet.”

Are you making a home for the street children?” X asked calmly.

No, but that’s not a half bad idea. Think they’d want to live there too? Socialization is important for children,” he added not really believing it, but it was a common theme among the parent blogs he’d been reading. Well, he’d grown up without much more interaction than a negligent nanny and some bots, and he was fine.

X winced. Tony wasn’t sure what he winced at. “Tony,” the man said wearily as he rubbed his head, “where do you think these children are going to come from?”

SHIELD,” Tony replied.

The bald man looked up and met Tony’s eyes for a moment. “I—see. Tony, this is not normally a question I would ask because the idea of actually touching your mind sickens me to an extent, but may I take a moment to read it? I believe this conversation will go much faster.”

Well, Tony was nothing if not a fan of expediency. Especially when he was on a time crunch. “Go ahead,” he said calmly. He calmly sat through the oddest sensation of hands rifling through his skull while the man in front of him paled and gripped the sides of his wheelchair.

Good God,” swore X. “How—how did none of us realize this?” he asked, clearly shaken.

It was hidden. Deep,” Tony replied. Honestly, the only reason that Tony knew was because SHIELD had no idea about JARVIS. He intended to keep it that way. “I’m not going to let them stay there any longer than I have to, but I need somewhere for them to go when I get them out.”

X nodded. “You will also need teachers,” the other man said firmly. “Caretakers. People who understand mutations and trauma like no one else.”

Got any recommendations?” Tony asked.

X smiled. “A few. Have you decided where this will be yet?”

Well, there’s a similar manor house to this one not that far away…”

Chapter Text

May sat at her table and stared at the amber filled glass in front of her. It had been five thousand, five hundred and sixty-five days since her last drink. Since the last time she felt the harsh burn of the amber liquid slide down her throat.

For the most part, she didn’t miss it. After Peter had come into their lives, become a permanent part of it, she had felt—fulfilled, in a way that she hadn’t before. Happy. Complete.

The last time she found herself at this table, staring at the amber liquid, had been shortly after Ben had died. Peter was a teenager, she’d reasoned to herself. He didn’t need her anymore, she didn’t have to be present all the time. She could let the amber liquid lull her into the sleep she’d needed. But, at that time, Peter had shown up in the hall. Weary. Eyes blackened by the sleep he wasn’t getting either. She’d had to be there—for Peter. She couldn't collapse.

Peter was older now. He even had a boyfriend. She chuckled as she imagined what his reaction would be when he discovered Peter’s secret. There was no doubt in her mind that he’d love her boy anyway. When she thought of how he spent his free time (and not so free time) going around and saving the city pride rose in her chest and she could only imagine—

A sharp pain made her inhale sharply, the scent of the liquor in the glass burning her nose. Her vision wavered as she remembered those who would be most proud. Ben. Richard. Mary.

She might have warned Mary away, all those years ago, but she couldn't argue that someone perfect, wonderful, and sweet had come from it. Probably would have been two of them—but that was a ship that had sailed a long time ago. There was no going back now, no matter how much any of them wanted to.

She picked up the glass and stared at it. The amber liquid caught the light and sparkled like a living thing, cool drops of water sweating from the side of the glass. She pressed it to her aching forehead.

She wanted to rail at Norman, to blame him. But—but she’d been there, at the funeral. She’d seen how heartbroken he was at losing his two best friends, his tethers on sanity. Not that she’d realized just how thin his grip on sanity was at the time, of course.

She remembered the shock she’d felt when little Peter, no more than six years-old, had come home with his new best friend—none other than Harry Osborn. Norman’s son. A child with almost as many secrets as Peter and just as oblivious to them all.

She’d been torn at the time. Torn between wanting to protect both children from all the bad in the world and wanting to grab Peter and move out of the fucking country altogether. She knew, better than any of them, what kind of a monster Norman was. She knew what the man’s father had done. And she knew that once Norman saw Peter, once he realized who Peter was, that the man would never let go. Even if that meant becoming the same kind of monster his father had been.

May took a low, shuddering breath as she put the glass back down on the table. Was there something that she could have done better? Something to prevent whatever was going on now? She wasn’t an idiot—she could see the pain in Peter’s eyes when he talked about Harry, the pain in MJ’s eyes when she was with both of them. Norman had done something. And, like his father before him, he’d done something unforgivable.

She abruptly got up, rushed to the sink and dumped the glass. Running the tap at full force, both temperatures open wide, she rinsed the glass of every last trace of amber liquid and then used the sprayer to chase it all down the sink. Only when she was satisfied that not even the smell remained did she turn the water off.

She couldn't afford to go down that road again. She’d failed, all those years ago. She’d failed Richard and Mary, she’d failed Harry—she’d even failed Norman. She looked up and met her determined gaze in the reflection of the glass. She wasn’t going to fail again.

Chapter Text

Peter wanted to go back out. After all, they knew who was behind the hit, the person could easily be turned in to the police, and Peter could go back home. He could get back to his hectic, chaotic life where he was barely sleeping and eating whenever he managed to scrape up the money for food—or whenever Wade fed him, which was a lot these days.

Wade needed him. Wade hadn’t managed to articulate why the woman committing suicide was bothering him so much (Peter had once seen him cut the hand off someone and make a joke about it), but it was clear that Wade was bothered. He wasn’t his usual self; he had an odd waver in his voice. He also wasn’t his usual bouncy self; he moved almost like he was on autopilot. Even the bickering with his boxes was muted.

The city would be fine for one more day. He needed to stay with his boyfriend, make sure that Wade was alright, and explain that he really could make grilled cheese sandwiches without supervision. Honest. He made them all the time.

He couldn't tell if Wade was unconvinced or just needed the company. He stayed in Peter’s vicinity—but didn’t reach out to touch Peter unless Peter initiated. Peter wasn’t entirely certain what was going through his boyfriend’s mind, but he was well acquainted with guilt. With feeling that no matter how hard you tried you just wouldn't be enough. He was well aware that the worst thing to happen at this point would be to leave Wade alone with those feelings.

“Hey,” Peter suggested, “why don’t we watch a movie?”

“K.” The sound was more of a grunt than a word, but Peter accepted it and took the food to the living room before putting on a movie. Something happy.

Halfway through the movie Wade let out a small sob and Peter reached over and pulled his boyfriend into his lap, rubbing Wade’s back as the larger man cried in a much needed release. Unbidden memories of Uncle Ben holding Aunt May in just this same way after a bad shift at the hospital sprung into his mind, and he softly began to sing the same song that Uncle Ben used to sing to comfort his aunt.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” Peter sang softly and, unfortunately, off key. “You make me happy, when skies are gray.” Wade’s sobbing began to slow down and he continued. “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you, so please don’t take my sunshine away.”

“’M no sunshine,” Wade mumbled from his position, voice muffled by Peter’s shirt.

“Wrong,” Peter corrected gently. “You’re my sunshine.” He pressed a gentle kiss to the back of Wade’s head and the other man gave a low shudder at the contact—muffled as it was through the suit.

Wade sat up, still holding Peter, and tucked his head into the crook of Peter’s neck. “She was like me, Petey.” Peter simply sat there, rubbing his back as the movie played in the background. “She was all wild and broken and I couldn't save her.”

Peter could have told him that it was impossible to save everyone. It was a fact. A cold, hard fact that did nothing to comfort the crippling guilt left behind by failure. He knew that better than he knew his own name. “I know,” Peter said as he held Wade, “that you don’t believe it, but you did your best. You did all that you could do. No one can do any more than that.”

Peter could hear the echoes of all the people who had given him that same advice. Aunt May. Mary Jane. And even, once, Wade himself.

A shudder passed through Wade as he gasped. “It doesn’t—feel like I did everything,” he said.

Peter laid his head down on top of Wade’s. “I know,” he said calmly.

“It—it hurts,” sobbed Wade. “It hurts, Petey.”

“I know,” Peter said as soothingly as possible, holding his boyfriend.

“I keep—I keep seeing her face.”

“I know,” Peter said softly. How many times had he laid awake at night, seeing faces in the darkness? The faces of those he couldn't save?

“I—I don’t.” Wade gasped and then looked up at Peter. “Does it—does it get better?” he asked.

If Peter had been anyone else, he would have told Wade that it did. But other people didn’t live the lives they did, didn’t see the ones they’d failed to save. “Not really, no,” he admitted.

Wade let out a noise that has half sob and half laugh. “You won’t lie to me,” he said.

“No Wade. I won’t lie to you,” Peter promised softly.

Chapter Text

Harry managed to make it to the stairs. If he took the elevator he’d be caught, the employees would take him back to the office. Back to his father.

He paused on the top step breathing, as he’d been taught, through the pain. Slow, deep breath in. Slow, deep breath out. It didn’t make the pain any less, but it did make it—manageable. Mary Jane had insisted he learn alternate methods of pain management.

Mary Jane.

He forced his eyes open and, carefully leaning on the stair rail to keep from falling as the pain rose and ebbed, began to make his way down the staircase. There were no cameras on the stairs; he didn’t know why. This was also the back staircase, so it wasn’t used by regular employees. No one who would stop him. Cart him back up to the office.

He stopped, gasping and sweating, as another wave of pain rolled over him. For a moment it felt as if every nerve ending in his body was screaming—and then it passed. He began to move, determined to get as far as he could before the next wave hit.

Just what had Norman done to him? He’d done—something—on that cell of his, the same one that he input the code keeping Harry alive on. And then—this pain.

What had Norman said? “I own you.” And, “I decide when you live or die or are in too much pain to move.” What the Hell had Norman done?

It didn’t matter. He didn’t have far to go to get out of the building. Once he was out, he could find help. He wouldn’t have tried this if it had been just his life on the line—but it wasn’t. It was also Mary Jane’s life. It was also the life of their unborn child. He had to protect them from his insane father.

He managed to get out the door, walk a few steps down the street—and then another wave sent him plummeting to his knees as he gasped for breath. It hurt to breathe. It hurt not to breathe. He couldn't move.

“Hey, are you all right?” Harry turned his head in the direction of the person talking to him. His eyes, blurry with tears from the pain, couldn't see anything.

“He—help,” he gasped, sweat pouring down.

“Holy shit,” swore the person. “You’re Harry Osborn. And that’s Oscorp…”

“No!” protested Harry. He tried to grip the clothes of the person he was talking to, but his hand slid on—something metal? He couldn’t see, and he couldn't blink to clear his vision.

“Okay. Okay, Oscorp bad. Yup, seen that before. Don’t worry,” the voice said as two thin arms picked him up. “I know just where to take you.” He shuddered as the pain spiked again. “Oh! Sorry. This is faster though—hold on!” The air punched out of his lungs and he tried—and failed—to breathe. Just as he was about to pass out he was able to pull in a greedy gulp of air—only to trigger more pain. “Careful, breathe,” cautioned the person holding him. He was put down to where his feet were touching the ground, but not released enough to fall. “Hey, you!” There was a yelp nearby and his vision cleared enough to see the deep blue of the floor beneath him and the edge of an almost white curve that he thought was a shoe. “Get me someone from medical, now!”

“What’s going on?”

Harry almost fainted in relief. Probably would have if everything didn’t hurt so much. He recognized that voice. It belonged to the bane of his father’s existence, the sole reason why Stark Industries was still alive. Pepper Potts.

“He needs medical attention.”

“This is not a hospital.”

“It’s better. Especially the medical bay on the twelfth floor that no one is supposed to know about.”

There was a moment of silence before he heard Pepper ask, “And how do you know about it?”

“Because it’s always on the twelfth floor.”

Another moment of silence before Pepper called out, “Get a gurney!”

“You’re going to be fine,” Harry’s rescuer said firmly.

Harry whimpered a mix of physical and emotional pain. Sure he would be fine—but what about MJ? “MJ,” he whispered. Another surge of pain took away his ability to breathe.

“I’ll look for her. And when I find her, I’ll do what I can to keep her safe,” the voice of his rescuer promised.

Harry would have asked for more details but another wave of pain knocked the breath out of him. He barely felt it when he was placed on the rolling bed. He hoped they’d be able to help. That MJ would be all right.

A nagging question kept him from plunging into unconsciousness. Who was his rescuer, and how had she known to take him to Stark Industries?

Chapter Text

Ellie ducked into an empty room and waited for the new man to pass by. Sure, the teachers trusted him. Sure they even seemed to like him a little bit. Not her. Ellie didn’t trust Stark as far as she could throw him.

“What are you doing?” Ellie turned to look at the bright girl from earlier.

“I don’t want Stark to see me,” Ellie whispered. She knew his hearing wasn’t that good—by itself. He was a master of technology and she wouldn't put it past him to wear an aid of some kind.

“Does he know you?” asked the girl. Yukio, Ellie remembered.

He’d better not,” growled Ellie. Nothing good happened when people like that took interest in normal people.

Nothing? the quiet little voice in the back of her mind asked. She remembered how she’d met Mr. Parker, and how he’d helped. Time and time again, he’d helped. Even when it had been inconvenient, detrimental, or taken him out of his way he’d helped.

But Tony Stark was not like Peter Parker. Tony Stark didn’t walk the streets of New Amsterdam. He didn’t talk to the people in those streets. His eyes never searched for the hurt, the hidden, the unnoticeable . Tony Stark was not someone Ellie would trust. Ever. She’d stab herself first.

“Why do you hate him so much?” asked the voice behind her. Ellie turned to face Yukio.

Ellie wasn’t entirely certain what to make of Yukio. The girl was an outsider, a danger. But—at the same time, she wasn’t. “I don’t hate him,” Ellie tried to explain. Yukio, for all her happiness, for all her sunshine, had a coldness to her. A coldness that was similar to that of the street children. Ellie didn’t think the adults had noticed it.

Yukio snorted and rolled her eyes and Ellie protested. “I don’t! I just don’t want anything to do with him.” Ellie crossed her arms defensively over her chest.

All of the street kids had known that Runaways Unite was bad news. None of them had understood just how bad until the article (that Mr. Parker had written) had come to light. Even normal people, people who actually loved their kids were upset by the news of what Runaways Unite had done.

Even though no one had been able to explain to Ellie’s satisfaction why the general populace was horrified by the revelation when the general populace didn’t give two craps about the street children. Seriously, the same people who praised Runaways Unite for taking the “dangerous” children off the street were the same ones now calling for the organization’s head. Or what was left of it, after the woman had been brutally murdered and her home set on fire.

E llie was even more confused over the outrage about that . The woman had clearly been doing something so vile that even the street children looked good in comparison—and people were outraged that she was murdered? Why? People were murdered all the time without the horror and outrage that this death was getting.

And Ellie had been silent for too long, but Yukio just patiently waited for her to speak. Ellie shoved her hands deep in her pockets and looked away from the far too sharp, penetrating stare of the other girl. “’S dangerous, ya know,” she mumbled. “When someone like that pays attention.”

One of the teachers would have demanded that she explain herself. Yukio merely nodded. “ Sometimes,” the cheerful girl offered, “it’s better to be invisible.”

Ellie gave a quick smile. Someone understood. Yukio beamed at her and then grabbed Ellie’s hand. “It’s almost time for dinner, and Scott is cooking!” she said happily.

Ellie wanted to pull away from the cheerful girl, to stammer that she didn’t need dinner, that she had to get back. She didn’t. To her surprise, she found her grip tightening as they went into the kitchen. The teacher known as Scott stood at the stove stirring a huge pot that Ellie gaped at. She didn’t know that pots could be that big. It was big enough that she could fit inside—and she took a wary step back.

“You don’t need to be scared!” trilled Yukio. “Scott is a great cook!”

Another teacher, a woman with copper hair like the one who hung out at Mr. Parker’s place, came into the kitchen. “And when Scott cooks,” she drawled dryly, “we don’t have to worry about fishing cigar butts out of the soup.”

“Stew,” Scott complained. “It’s stew, you uncultured heathen.” The female teacher laughed.

Ellie stared. She’d never seen them act like this before. It was—strange. Almost panic inducing.

The copper haired woman sighed. “Come on, Ellie,” she said wearily, “I’ll drive you home.”

“No.” The simple word from Yukio cut through the kitchen like a knife as the girl tugged Ellie towards her. “Ellie needs to stay and eat dinner,” she said firmly.

“Yukio?” asked Ellie, feeling frightened at the change in her friend.

“Don’t worry,” Yukio said cryptically. “It will be safe to go home later.”

Chapter Text

Matt sighed at the sound of crunching glass and took off his glasses to rub at his eyes. “Elektra,” he said identifying her particular scent of ozone, gun oil, and leather, “I am working.

Foggy, asleep on the other side of the table, managed to snort anyway.

“There are monsters roaming the streets,” Elektra said bluntly as she leaned against the table, making it shake.

Matt carefully grabbed the edge of the table with one hand and the paperwork in the other. Whatever idiot had translated this contract to braille for him had refrained from putting page numbers in the corners and he was not going through all of this again! “Go tell the Avengers,” he said absently as he followed the contract. Hmm. Mr. Landlord was going to have a lot to answer for—but he finally knew why all of this had landed on his client. Parker was the only tenant in the building with fixed rent, and the values for that plot of land had gone up.

“Your law partner is drooling,” Elektra informed him.

“Happens when he falls asleep with his mouth open,” Matt replied absently as he continued going through the contract.

“The Avengers won’t listen to me. According to their fancy computers, I’m dead.”

Matt paused and frowned. That—was a problem. Elektra had died. Legally, she’d been dead three times, in actuality it was only two. Then again, it was the Avengers. Matt snorted. “It’s not like they don’t have experience with people coming back from the dead,” he told her.

Foggy hummed and smacked his lips before his breathing evened out again.

“Are you sure he’s asleep?” Elektra asked. He heard the sound of flesh moving.

“Elektra, stop poking my associate. Why are you here?”

“There are monsters roaming the streets.”

Matt sighed. “Allow me to rephrase. Why are you here , at my office, during the day when I have work? Legal work,” he added.

He heard her sigh as the table shifted under her weight when she leaned on it. “I got hired by this guy who was panicking. He’d done the paperwork and paid for a woman—said it was his girlfriend, sister-in-law, or something—and two kids to come to the States.”

“People disappear in foreign countries all the time,” Matt said absently as he sorted the paperwork. He was going to leave work early. He knew it. He didn’t have to have the powers of one of Xavier’s people to be able to tell, to feel the tides as they washed away at him.

“They didn’t disappear in the other country. They didn’t disappear on the way over. In fact, they made it to the NA Airstrip whole, healthy, and with a shit ton of baggage, according to the tapes.”

Matt stopped what he was doing and turned his head to her as his nostrils flared, trying to get the scent of this case. “Oh?” he asked calmly.

“Then, the airport was attacked. Spiderman and the Avengers showed, beat the bad guys, SHIELD took custody of the mutants, blah blah blah,” Elektra summarized. “Point is, the three went missing during the confusion.”

Matt turned to her warily. “What were you paid to do?” he asked curiously.

She snorted. “Find the kids. He doesn’t care much one way or the other about the woman, but he wants to make sure the kids are safe. He’s got someone sitting on him so I don’t have to worry about him endangering anyone or anything.”

“And the children?” Matt prompted.

“Are with the rest of the street children, wherever they are,” Elektra said. “I’ve been assured they’re safe,” she added.

Matt could hear a mixture of respect and worry in her voice. “Assured by whom?” he asked.

“I don’t know. She didn’t introduce herself and Matt—this girl is good. I didn’t even know she was there until she spoke.”

Matt frowned as Foggy let out another snort and mutter. Elektra had been trained by the best. Matt knew this, because they’d helped train him too. Like Matt, it was almost impossible to sneak up on her. Almost. He knew of two people who could do it, and neither of them warranted the description “girl.”

Elektra, having given him a moment to mull that over, spoke again. “She told me to beware of spiders who used to be human. I thought she was talking about Spiderman.”

Not an unreasonable assumption, especially since no one had seen or heard from the vigilante in a while.

“She wasn’t. I saw one of the people change with my own eyes. I’m guessing that’s what happened to the woman the kids were with.”

“And you’re hunting monsters,” Matt finished.

“If those children are afraid of the monster that used to be their caretaker, then killing her is the best way to make them feel safe.”

Matt sighed. “Let me finish this,” he told the woman. “I’ll be out to help you later.” He felt the shift in the table as she stopped leaning against it and heard her almost silent (silent to anyone without his hearing) footsteps as she left the office. Through the door this time; he heard it open and close.

“Does she really think I slept through all of that?” Foggy asked. The chair creaked under him as he sat up.

“Who knows?” asked Matt, already mentally wondering about the situation Elektra mentioned.

Chapter Text

Norman ignored the alert on his phone. He was in a meeting with a very important, and (hopefully) satisfied client. The same balding man as before looked over the goods, and the associated information while Norman waited.

He waited patiently. There were things one could not rush, after all.

This man will be a danger later. We should kill him now.

Norman ignored the voice in his head. While he might decide to kill the man later—it wouldn't be until after Norman had his money. The company had to prosper, after all.

These are bold claims,” the man said as he looked through the paperwork.

Norman smirked at the man. “Full refund,” he said with confidence, “if it doesn’t work as advertised.”

A single eyebrow flew up to the man’s head. “Bold claims,” he repeated, but with a smile.

Norman wasn’t fooled into thinking that the smile meant he agreed, was impressed, or any other positive reaction. The man in front of him used expressions as weapons, and Norman was well aware of that. Then again—he was the same way.

T he man picked up the product, gave Norman a salute, and then left.

Good. Now Norman could focus on other problems, such as the notification he got during the meeting. He pulled out the phone and checked—only to stare. Harry had gotten out of the building?

You should have made the dosage higher.

Norman frowned. Perhaps. But the fact remained that if the dosage was too high, it would destroy the boy. He wanted Harry controlled, not dead or insane. But he’d left the device on a timer, to release a little more of the chemical periodically, to prevent him from moving.

Someone must have helped him.

Norman’s lips tightened in a frown. He would find the person that had helped Harry out of the building and then he would destroy that person. He went to his desk and pulled up the security footage—only to see Harry force himself to his feet and take himself down the hall, one painful step at a time before vanishing down the back staircase. A staircase that had no security cameras. He tried in vain to check the footage from outside of the building, but there was nothing, because that entrance/exit had no cameras . It was necessary.

And Harry had, somehow, learned that.

He was just lucky.

Perhaps. Or, perhaps Peter, brilliant scientist and programmer that he was, had figured out the blind spot. If Peter knew, he would have told Harry—just in case.

He’s smart. And the other is strong.

But were they enough ? Norman didn’t know. Still, at the moment, there was nothing he could do about either Harry or Peter.

Chapter Text

Yuri was careful not to crush the flimsy coffee cup in her hands as she glanced nervously out of the corner of her eyes around the small, secluded shop. She kept her dark hat low over her head, and to all outward appearances she was just another caffeine addict willing the fumes to work while the drink cooled enough to be safely ingested. No one looked twice at her.

She knew; she was watching everyone. Anyone could be someone waiting for her, listening to the conversation—anyone could be a mole. Still, this was a public place well known for first meetings, specifically among those on dating apps. She thought—hoped—that if anyone saw her nervousness they’d just assume she was waiting for the person on the other end of an app to show—or not.

Maybe this hadn’t been the best idea, but she hadn’t known what else to do. No one, literally no one at the precinct had any kind of sympathy for the street children at all. What her coworker said was what they all believed; as long as a child was getting clothes, food, and going to school the child was well. It didn’t matter what kind of personal Hell the child was in as long as those three boxes were ticked. The worst part was that, from everything she could figure, the other precincts thought the same way. Something had to be done, and she was running short on ideas.

Hey,” a voice said, startling her. Yuri lurched to her feet reaching, automatically, for the gun she wasn’t currently carrying. The young man behind her threw his hands into the air. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said softly. She glanced wildly around the small shop, wondering if she’d gotten some unnecessary attention. “Come on,” he said with a gesture towards the door. “Why don’t we go to the park?”

T he park was better. She hadn’t already made a scene there . She nodded and followed him out of the cafe.

There was a little known spot on the top of a shallow bluff, hidden between two trees. Someone knew about it, since there was a bench there. No one had been there in quite some time, as evidenced by the layer of debris on the stone bench. She quickly brushed it off before sitting. The young man sat next to her. “Why did you want to see me?” he asked.

She took a deep breath. In all honesty, he wasn’t her first choice. Her first choice had been the reporter responsible for the piece on Runaways Unite—but that person obviously wasn’t the man working the desk in the Bugle and she hadn’t been able to find out more information about him. However, the kind young woman at the front desk had pointed her towards this reporter. Eddie Brock.

She reached into her bag and pulled out the file she’d compiled before handing it to him. She was silent for a moment, wishing she hadn’t left her coffee behind, while he skimmed the information. She heard him gasp. “I know,” she said. She swallowed. “I—I tried,” she stammered out, “to handle it inside. No one cares. Not children’s services, not Internal Affairs—no one.”

Eddie was silent for a moment. She could hear the pages turning in the folder. She wanted to look up, to gauge his expression—but she was afraid. She didn’t think he’d gotten a good look at her yet, and she didn’t want him to be able to find her again. “I can see why you wanted to do this privately,” Eddie commented. His voice was calm, almost clinical. “It’s a long way from investigating your coworkers to contacting a reporter.”

This is wrong,” Yuri insisted softly, careful that her voice didn’t carry. She wasn’t an idiot; she knew what would happen to her if news of this got out. Especially if it got to her coworkers.

Why me?”

That—was an unexpected question. “I read the piece,” Yuri said softly. “About Runaways Unite. I spoke to the girl at the desk, said I had more information about the street children. She sent me to you.”

Alright.” Startled by the tone of voice, she looked up and saw the vicious, smug satisfaction on the young man’s face as he stared at the folder in front of him. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “This will be everywhere.” He strode off, taking the folder with him, whistling a merry tune.

Yuri waited. She didn’t want to risk anyone connecting her to him. Also—she was worried. His attitude said he didn’t care, wasn’t concerned for the children at all. He just wanted a fat, juicy story to shock his readers with. That wasn’t the kind of person who’d written the Runaways Unite article; reading that one she had felt the sense of shock and horror that the author had felt in discovery.

Perhaps—perhaps this was for the best. Perhaps what Eddie was going to write would create a public outcry that would lead to change. Or, perhaps it would just rip the city apart as people chose sides and created factions that warred with one another despite all attempts to unify it.

Dear God,” she prayed out loud, “Did I do the right thing?”

Well,” a voice above her said, “it’s too late for regrets now.” Yuri jumped up and looked up—to stare at the winged young woman in the tree, lazily kicking one foot as the dappled sunlight glinted off her pink leotard. The young woman looked—thoughtful. She jumped down and looked up at Yuri—who realized with a sense of shock that the girl was shorter. “I’m glad to see you’ve got brains and a spine,” she commented.

Yuri stared at the slightly ethereal girl. “Are you—are you a messenger from God?” she asked, a little in awe.

The girl laughed. “Me? Oh, no. I’m no messenger. A hunter, perhaps, but no messenger.” The girl scowled. “And not a very good hunter, either,” she muttered. “Hey, you wouldn't happen to have seen a red-headed girl about yea high, would you?” she asked holding a hand out slightly above her head. “Pretty in a next-door-neighbor kind of way, panicked?” Yuri shook her head and the girl let out a low hum. “What about a girl about yea high,” she measured a height about her own, “pale, black hair, snobby, haughty attitude?” Again Yuri shook her head. “Pity. Well, keep your gun handy. Things are about to get interesting and that usually means blood. Rubber bullets mind,” the girl added firmly. “Well, upward and onward.” She pushed off the ground, spread her wings, and took the air.

Yuri stared in shock and awe. The girl, despite acting like a girl, seemed almost—unreal somehow. Yuri didn’t think it was just the wings, there were mutants with wings, after all. She turned and headed back towards her apartment to arm up.

After all, she didn’t really believe it was a coincidence that she was talking to God and the girl responded.

Chapter Text

Ellie knew that something was off as soon as she set foot in their place. The air was tense and no one was meeting her eyes. “What’s going on?” she asked. The kid she asked mutely pointed and she turned—to see an adult.

Her first reaction was fury. The purpose of the safe place was to be away from adults! Especially adults that might call the authorities on them.

Then she noticed something. The twins, who hadn’t really opened up to anyone other than Juby, really seemed to like this woman. The boy was sitting on her lap, drowsing and sucking a thumb periodically as the girl sat on the floor leaning against the woman’s legs. And the woman—the woman looked familiar.

Ellie reached out and grabbed the arm of a passing kid. “Why is there an adult here?” she demanded softly. She didn’t want to risk disturbing the twins. They were far more relaxed than Ellie had seen them since they’d been rescued from their monster.

The kid winced. “Remy told them you wouldn’t like it,” the kid said, just as softly.

Ellie pivoted towards Remy. He leaned against one of the trees, watching the adult and two children while fidgeting with a card deck. She made her way over to him, careful not to be intimidating. The children here wouldn't respond well to intimidation, and she knew it very well.

Mamie used to use cards,” Remy said softly when she got near him, “to tell futures. She was good. Not good enough,” he added thoughtfully, “but well enough. She said I’d know something bad was coming from the shivering in my bones.” He looked at Ellie, moving his line of sight from the woman and the children. “My bones are shivering Ellie. Something bad is coming.”

Ellie just rolled her eyes. She had too much to do dealing with the stuff she already knew about to just deal with the words. “Remy,” she said grimly, “things are already bad.”

Not like this,” Remy said firmly. His gaze lowered to the three and he frowned. “The Snipers, well, we did our best there, and they were human,” he said softly.

Ellie nodded. They had done their best. They’d done better with advice from Mr. Parker and even better with later advice from Angel, but they’d done their best and had been surviving well. Not thriving, not quite yet, but on their way.

And the monsters,” mused Remy watching them. “Here, the city has monsters everywhere. Coming up from the sewers. Falling from the sky. Opening portals in the middle of streets.”

Again, all true. The city of New Amsterdam was constantly being invaded. That was one of the reasons she’d done her best to herd all of the children into the safe place. It was better than the abandoned building they had been using.

But this—this is different.” Remy turned to look at her again. “We were walking and suddenly the twins were engaged. The girl said we had to help. She sent an image into the woman’s mind to lead her to us, and Juby? Juby attacked the people chasing.”

Ellie frowned. Juby was afraid of her own powers. She never attacked. Except—she had. Ellie knew better than to think that Remy would lie.

Then the boy just vanished and came back and told us we needed to get her safe; that they had orders to capture, not kill.”

Ellie shuddered. She knew very well what orders like those meant. They all did.

Yeah. So—we brought her here. Blindfolded her first,” he added. Remy turned his gaze back towards the three.

She recognized that look. “Most of us have powers,” she told him, still keeping her voice down. She didn’t want to alert the other children.

Yeah,” said Remy. He still looked troubled. “Just—this isn’t the first time we’ve passed someone in trouble, the four of us. This is New Amsterdam, you know? And suddenly they’re moved to help? It doesn’t make sense.”

No. It didn’t. “We all do things that don’t make sense,” Ellie said as she turned towards the group. “Maybe there’s something about her that reminds the twins of their mom,” she suggested.

Doesn’t explain Juby.”

No.” Ellie walked over to the group of three.

Before she could address the three of them, Juby ran over. “Ellie!” she said. She pointed. “This is MJ. We saved her!”

I heard.” Ellie turned to look at the woman, who seemed to shrink under her gaze. “I know you,” she said. “You’re one of Mr. Parker’s friends.”

The woman blinked. “You know Peter?” she asked.

A commotion from the entrance cut off any response that Ellie would have made and Angel ducked into the space with a kid under each arm, one on her back, and one on her front. “All right,” Angel said soothingly. “We’re here.” The wide-eyed, terrified children looked around and carefully detached themselves from her.

This looked more important from an adult who didn’t even know where she was. “What happened?” Ellie called out.

Angel made her way to the group as the children separated to their friends. “ Group got cornered by the monsters,” she said in a low tone, to avoid waking the twins. “Saved ‘em though,” she added.

One of the kids turned with wide eyes. “She shoved it!” the kid said pointing to Angel. “She just—she shoved it! And it went !”

I told you I was strong,” Angel said. A glance showed Ellie that the older girl wasn’t boasting. If anything, she seemed puzzled at the reaction.

It was still attached to the street!” screeched the kid. The twins around the woman shifted and began to look around for the source of the noise.

Angel looked to them—and saw the woman. “Ah, you must be MJ,” she said. “Mary Jane?”

Yes?” asked the woman hesitantly.

Ha!” Angel was clearly pleased.

You sound happy,” Ellie observed.

Angel shrugged, flipping her wings at the same time. “I wasn’t sure which one I was looking for, you see.”

That doesn’t make any sense.”

Well, no, not from your perspective. From mine, yes. Anyway!” Angel turned to the woman. “Harry’s safe, he wants you to be safe, and monsters are starting to roam the open streets.”

Remy summed up all their feelings. “Again?” he demanded in irritation.

Before they could respond another kid ran up to them. “Angel!” the kid breathed with wide eyes. “The cat laid eggs!”

The cat did what now?”

Chapter Text

Peter stood at the door with his bag and looked up at Wade. The larger man seemed to be a lot better, and Peter needed to get back to work (particularly before Jamison decided to fire him), but—Peter didn’t want to leave. He was still worried. “Are you sure?” he asked Wade.

He could see the smile behind the mask. Despite the fact that Peter had seen his face, despite the fact that Peter hadn’t had a negative reaction, Wade was still wearing it. “ I’m sure,” Wade said firmly. “Besides, the only reason you were hiding here is because someone was trying to kill you, and that bitch is dead.”

Peter frowned at the memory of the article. “Yeah,” he said uneasily. He didn’t think Wade had killed the woman (his style ran more to bullets and knives than literally ripping people apart), but he didn’t think that Kingpin had done it either, no matter what the reporters were speculating.

I didn’t kill her,” Wade hastily reassured him.

Peter smiled, reached, and grabbed one of Wade’s hands. “I know,” he said gently. “You wouldn't,” he added with a light squeeze.

Eek!” squealed Wade. “You’re touching me!” He reached out and hugged Peter fiercely as Peter hugged him back.

I happen to like touching you,” Peter said as he pulled back enough to meet the eyes of the mask above him.

Wade buried his head into the crook of Peter’s neck as one of his hands came up to push the mask up—just enough to reveal his mouth—before pressing rugged lips into the skin of Peter’s neck making him shiver. Then he blew a raspberry against the skin, making Peter break out into a squealing laugh.

Wade!” he complained with a grin before pulling Wade up and pressing a firm kiss to those exposed lips.

Wade grinned against the kiss before gently pushing Peter away and slipping the mask back down. “You need to get going,” he told his boyfriend. “I know you like staying at Casa Deadpool, but you have a life.”

I like staying with you,” Peter corrected.

Oh! Samesies! Really!” Wade gently bopped Peter on the nose. “Boop!” he said.

Peter’s nose wrinkled. “Wade!” he protested.

Seriously Peter, you need to go back to work. You’re going stir crazy here.”

Peter relented. “Well, maybe a little,” he admitted. He suddenly grinned up at Wade. “And after work, we can go have dinner with my aunt!” he said excitedly.

Your aunt,” said Wade flatly.

Peter’s face fell. “Don’t you want to meet my family?” he asked.

Oh, Baby Boy, yes I do!” Wade said. He scuffed a shoe against the (still suspiciously clean) floor. “But, I—uh—I’ve already met your aunt. I had to let her know,” Wade added quickly, “that you were going to be okay.”

Peter stared at his boyfriend. “What happened?” he asked.

She, uh, she laughed.”

Peter smiled. Of course Aunt May had laughed. She’d known that Peter was Spiderman for years, and the thought that Wade had kidnapped Spiderman to protect him from a random killer was kind of funny. “She likes you,” he teased, still holding Wade’s hand.

I don’t know how,” Wade said, sounding honestly puzzled.

Peter pulled the hand he was holding to his face and pressed it against his cheek. “Because you’re a wonderful person,” he assured his boyfriend.

For a brief moment the fingers curled around his cheek as Wade smiled at him. Then both hands firmly turned him towards the door. “Nice try,” he said. “But you’ve still got to go to work.”

Peter didn’t let go of the hand and used it to reel Wade towards him. “Only if we go out tonight,” he pressed.

All right,” Wade relented. “Tonight.” Peter smiled and, slowly letting the hand he was holding go, walked out of the apartment.

Chapter Text

[Can someone remind me why we’re not walking our boyfriend to work this morning?]

{Because we need to talk to Weasel. That was a professional hit.}

It was. Weasel may not have been the only broker of those kinds of jobs in the city, but he knew his entire competition and he’d know if it had been a paid hit. If someone hadn’t put a hit out on the woman—that meant it was personal. More investigation was needed before he knew if this posed a new danger to Peter.

{That—would be bad.}

[Even if Weasel does know, what’s to make him tell us?]

{Well, we will, of course.}

Why wouldn't Weasel tell us?” Wade asked reasonably as they made their way towards the bar. “Client’s dead; corpses can’t pay, and good luck getting any kind of a settlement from the estate. There’s no reason to protect privacy at this point.”

{Besides, Weasel really liked the techno babble whatsit that Peter did.}

[Do we understand what Peter did?]

{No.}

Not really.”

A car door rolling across the street (minus car and cutting across traffic) interrupted Wade’s thoughts and he turned to see his favorite blind lawyer and someone else getting their asses kicked by what looked like a bizarre cross between a spider and a human.

{That looks like fun!}

[That’s not Spiderman, is it?]

Wade skipped across the street, ignoring the honking of the cars trying to go about their day as he zeroed in on the action in the alley. “Oh, a threesome!” he cried happily. “Can I play?”

One of the broken blades off a Japanese sai narrowly missed hitting him. “Covered,” grunted Daredevil as he tried to dodge a flailing leg—and failed. The leg hit the top of his suit over his abdomen and ripped the suit under it.

D eadpool simply snorted before leaning against the wall. He wasn’t going to interfere while two supers clearly didn’t want his help. “I should’ve brought popcorn,” he commented.

Wait!” called a thin, desperate voice. He looked around for the source. Despite knowing a number of people who could fly, it didn’t even occur to him to look up until the winged form dropped, easily fending off blows from the monster and two heroes as she placed herself between them. “Stop!” she cried as she tried not to hurt any of the three.

This one wanted help. Wade waded (ha, puns) into the fray and grabbed the back of Daredevil’s suit to yank him out of the way. The woman bounced along the ground, weapons out despite that one of the weapons was broken. “Did you know that a mosquito’s proboscis has six needles in it?” Wade asked excitedly.

Amber eyes blinked at him for a moment before Angel grinned. “Two of those needles have teeth,” she responded easily.

{It’s like we raised her!}

[According to her, we did.]

What does that have to do with anything here?” demanded the woman.

It was a person,” Angel said, easily switching tracks as she pointed to the monster behind her.

And what does that change?” demanded the woman.

The person is still in there!” Angel whirled, turning her back on the two heroes.

{That’s not smart. They could attack her.}

[She has a massive healing ability. And strength. I think she could take them.]

You’re Pietro’s and Wanda’s mother, aren’t you?” asked Angel.

{Are we supposed to know who those are?}

[Shut up! This is important.]

The monster keened, the expression—turning pained. Angel spoke again. “You’re fighting her. You have no idea how impressive that is. But you can’t fight her forever.”

The monster wove from side to side on its six legs, the two arms on the human torso rubbing against each other as it made odd, clicking noises.

Noises that Angel seemed to understand. “They are safe. Where they are—there aren’t many places safer. Not here. Not with what’s roaming around. You know.” Angel took a step towards it and it scurried back a little. “You know what you’re hearing; what you’re being told to do,” Angel said firmly.

I can hear it, you know?” the woman said calmly. “The voice. Telling me what to do.”

It’s better if you don’t know where they are,” Angel said firmly. “They’re safer that way.”

I can ignore it now, because I’m still human, but I won’t be much longer.”

[…maybe she wasn’t as crazy as we thought.]

“They’re safe?” demanded the woman in a cold, clipped tone as the monster turned and made its way away from them—before abruptly vanishing from sight.

{That’s a cool trick1}

“They are.” Angel sighed and turned to the two vigilante heroes. “Isn’t it a work day?” she asked pointedly.

Daredevil was still panting slightly. “Can’t let monsters take over,” he grunted.

“Good luck with that,” said Angel. Suddenly her head twisted in another direction and her whole body tensed. “I thought those idiots were gone!” she snarled before leaping into the air.

{What idiots?}

[We should find out.]

Wade saluted Daredevil and his lady friend before running after the flying girl.

{She probably would have given us a ride.}

Chapter Text

Natasha’s steps were absolutely silent as she made her way into Stark’s office. One of the nice things about having the kittens in there was that everyone was encouraged to stop by occasionally in order to keep the kittens social. She wasn’t certain why that was important, but Pepper had assured everyone that it was and so now there was a relatively steady stream of people coming in to coo at the kittens.

She was certain the woman had forgotten that Natasha was a spy. She wasn’t about to remind them, and she carefully, silently rifled through the desk until she found what she was looking for. She quickly tucked it into her bag, gave the mother cat and each of her kittens a quick pet, and then left the office to find a private space to go over what she’d uncovered.

There was a small stair that looked like it had originally been built as a shortcut between two floors, but was never completely finished, and she took the file there before opening it. She frowned at the title pate of the document. “Experiment 23?” she muttered as she went through the file.

The pages were, oddly, marked with SHIELD watermarks, and she made a mental note to tell her handler about it. She didn’t know how Stark had gotten copies of SHIELD related documents, but he shouldn't have had access to them. SHIELD needed to know.

She stared in horror at the information. Children? There was a child with her DNA, her child. A child she had never seen, never borne. A child that had been artificially created.

A child that SHIELD had never thought to tell her about, even though they clearly knew.

Stark knew. And if Stark knew, then Pepper knew—but Natasha understood why they didn’t trust her. She was a spy from SHIELD and even though they sometimes forgot, they remembered enough to know that they didn’t fully trust her. They had no reason to.

Further exploration of the file provided more information. Stark Industries was laying the groundwork for an orphanage outside the city. They were negotiating with the Xavier Institute for teachers, custodial staff, and a psychologist. Everyone knew that the Xavier Institute was where mutants went for training—so Stark was planning on staffing his new orphanage with mutants—because most of the children in the file were mutants, or at least had mutant parents. Some merely had exceptional parents, like the one with her DNA.

She didn’t know whether to be humored or horrified that Clint didn’t have a child in the project. Granted, the man already had a family, a wife and children of his own. Something he didn’t go out of his way to hide—but didn’t go out of his way to remind people of, either.

Others in the list. Captain Barnes. Steve Rogers. Bruce Banner. Tony Stark. Matt Murdock. Sue Storm, her brother Jonny, her husband Reed. They all had children in the project. And from what she could tell—Stark was preparing to take the children out, to make them as safe and as happy as possible, so that they could have a normal life. So they wouldn't find themselves raised as soldiers, even though the training had probably already begun.

Natasha took the folder to Pepper. She didn’t even bother to hide it. Pepper looked up, saw the file in the spy’s hand, and calmly said, “Ah, I was hoping you’d find that. Will you help?”

Natasha met the piercing blue eyes with her own. “Yes,” she said firmly, her allegiance to SHIELD shattered beyond repair.

Chapter Text

The child in Tony’s grasp writhed and bit, uselessly, at the arms of the suit. “Kid, calm down,” he ordered desperately. The kid did not calm down.

How did people talk to these creatures? They must. He saw people talking to them. How did they do it?

“I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” a voice behind him said. He turned to see the mysterious girl with wings standing in the alley behind him.

“Angel!” the child shrieked. Tony released his grip on the kid and they ran to the girl, ducking behind her and putting her between themselves and Tony. He gave the kid a glare.

“Why are you randomly grabbing people?” the girl, Angel, asked with curiosity. Her wings rustled as one wrapped around the child, obviously comforting the kid.

Tony stared as the child peeked out around the girl, glaring at him. “I need to talk to a child,” he said.

“I’m sure there are children all over the city that would be more than happy to talk to you,” Angel firmly replied. “You don’t need to grab one off the street.”

How much? How much could Tony tell her. The girl was a complete unknown. As far as he could tell she just appeared one day. How could he trust her?

Then again, the girl was a complete unknown. Obviously, she could keep a secret. “I need to talk to one of the street children,” Tony protested.

She cocked her head to the side and watched him through narrowed eyes. The movement reminded him of—of something, but he couldn't quite remember what it was. “Why don’t you talk to Professor Xavier?” she asked.

“Oh, because he’s a mind reader?” demanded Tony in irritation.

The girl blinked slowly. “No,” she said carefully enunciating her words, “because one of the street children is a student of his school. You could talk to her instead of terrorizing random kids.”

A small group of three children appeared behind Angel and reached for the girl in her wing. The wing uncurled around the child and all four vanished down the street. “Why do you need to talk to them, anyway?” asked Angel. The girl seemed puzzled.

Tony was a hair’s breadth away from bubbling hysterics. “Because of Experiment 23,” he grumbled.

There was no reaction, other than curiosity. “What’s that?” she asked.

Tony paused. Was there a reason to tell her? Yes, because she could get the street children on his side and X had convinced him that needed to happen. Could she keep a secret? Obviously, because not even SHIELD had any idea who she was or where she was from. He told her.

Her eyes went cold and her posture rigid. For one, tense moment she was perfectly still and his heart raced wondering if she was going to attack him. If there was anything he could do if she did. He knew she was fast, and strong. He wasn’t sure if Clint and Natasha realized how strong she had to be to lift straight into the air holding both of them—but Tony had run the calculations.

The girl let out a low, soft breath before regarding him with her amber eyes. “And what are you planning to do about it?” she demanded. As if she had a stake in the proceedings.

“I want to make them a home,” Tony said simply.

She let out a sigh and slightly drooped. “Listen,” she told him, “you’re not going to get anywhere by randomly grabbing them off the streets. They’ve had enough of that already and will only fear and distrust you more.” She shook her head. “They thought the Snipers had recruited you,” she muttered.

Tony wasn’t used to feeling helpless. “What do you suggest?” he asked, ignoring her comment about the gang. Perhaps he hadn’t gone about things quite the right way.

Her gaze was uncompromising. “I suggest you talk to someone who’s already spent time with them and has a decent chance of predicting what will make them feel safe and at home. Not me though,” she added firmly as she took a step back.

“Why not you?” demanded Tony with curiosity.

“Because I won’t be here long enough to make a difference,” she informed him tartly before taking off into the air.

“She keeps saying that, but I’m not sure what it really means.” Tony turned to see—Deadpool. The merc shrugged. “We won’t know until it’s important. And, hey, Peter’s at work today.”

Chapter Text

Peter stared at his ID in horror as a loud alarm suddenly sounded through the building resulting in him getting mobbed by security guards who tackled him to the ground. His glasses went flying off and one of the guards stepped on them; he could see the incident with his all too good vision, and he winced. Getting another pair wasn’t going to be easy, not with his budget.

Aside from that; what was going on? Why had the mere act of scanning his ID caused him to be attacked? Where did all of these security people come from? He didn’t recognize most of them.

He blinked at the sudden cessation of the alarm and wondered, for one moment, if he’d actually gone deaf before he heard Pepper speak. “All right, let him up. It’s the real Peter.”

“Are there fake Peters walking around?” asked Peter warily. They’d had a problem with one of the “experiments” on the floor that Peter was currently working on walking around taking the images of different employees. He hadn’t been working for SI at the time, but everyone still talked about it. One of the guards handed him his broken glasses and he stared mournfully at them.

“No, Tony’s just being a dick to Deadpool again,” Pepper explained as she tapped something on her tablet. The same security guard that handed him his glasses helped him stand up.

“I thought that’s why he has cats on his desk,” Peter complained as he looked up at Pepper, his vision sharpening to see every line of her makeup and the rims of her contacts.

“Speaking of cats,” a voice behind him asked, “how long do the eggs incubate?”

Peter froze. He couldn't have heard what he thought he did. He turned to see—Angel. With his sight unhindered by the glasses he could see that what he’d originally thought was fabric was intricately woven metal with an oddly luminous sheen to it. “What?” he asked. There were rainbows in the metal—if it could really be called a rainbow when it was completely pink.

“Cats. How long do cat eggs incubate?” Angel looked at him, as he tried to keep from reeling as his suddenly exposed vision messed with his senses. He’d gotten too used to wearing the glasses to curb that—but Wade thought they were cute.

She wasn’t messing with him. She really wanted to know. “Um—cats don’t lay eggs?” he offered.

Her brows furrowed in thought. “You sure?” she asked. He nodded. He’d watched kittens being born, after all. From the corner of his eyes he could see Pepper nodding. He could also see security, staring open mouthed at the girl with huge wings that had managed to come into the building unnoticed. “Huh. All right,” said Angel accepting this information into her worldview, “what looks like a cat but isn’t a cat?”

Peter lurched to his feet. “Why are you asking?” he asked.

“Oh, the cat the street kids adopted laid eggs. A lot of eggs—I think they actually have more mass than the cat.” She shrugged and a ripple moved through her wings, making the feathers shake even though the wings themselves didn’t actually move. He’d never seen that before. “I didn’t weigh the eggs to make sure; I didn’t want to rouse any protective instincts.”

“Good idea,” Peter said weakly.

“I see you know Peter,” Pepper said slowly, methodically, and in the same tone she used when she wasn’t yelling at a lab for a safety violation that blew something up again.

“She’s one of Wade’s friends,” Peter said.

“Yours too,” Angel informed him, and he blinked at the new information again.

“Right. Why are you here, friend of Deadpool?” demanded Pepper.

“Oh, I came to tell the heart problem guy that I found his pregnant girlfriend and she’s both fine and safe. A little frightened, considering his daddy’s goons tried to grab her off the street in full daylight, but fine all the same.” Angel calmly stood in the lobby, guns from the guards trained on her, as Pepper and Peter worked that information out.

“Harry’s here?” asked Peter in shock.

“Yeah, I found him collapsed outside of Oscorp and he said he didn’t want to be there so I brought him here.” He watched as the muscles of her wings trembled under the feathers while she shrugged.

Harry. Harry was here, in Stark Industries, one of the leading inventors in the medical field. And Pepper, the reigning force to be reckoned with in the company, knew it.

How had Angel known? “Um,” he asked looking at her.

The very edges of the corners of her eyes twitched. If he’d been wearing his glasses, he never would have noticed the movement. She shrugged again. “Oscorp and Stark Industries are rivals. If one wants to screw you over, the other is usually your best friend.”

“Explains nothing,” Pepper said firmly.

Angel’s face lit up in a sly grin. “Of course not,” she said happily. She gave Peter a salute, waved at Pepper and the guards, and then left the lobby.

“One of Deadpool’s friends,” Pepper said hollowly.

“Yup,” answered Peter. He wondered how many eggs were probably “more mass than the cat.” He hadn’t had a chance to ask. He looked at Pepper. “Harry’s here?” he asked timidly.

“Yes. Deadpool informed me of the—circumstances,” Pepper responded with a glance at the massive amount of public staring at the two of them. “And we’ll replace your glasses. He’s on the twelfth floor.”

The twelfth floor. The one that housed the unofficial medical lab that serviced the Avengers when they were injured on missions. It was the best medical care in the world and Peter felt a knot of worry loosen in his chest. He hadn’t realized how painful it had been until it was gone.

“Give me your glasses,” Pepper ordered as she held out a hand. Peter silently complied. “We’ll get you a replacement in a couple hours. Now, go visit your friend, pass along the message, and go help Dr. Stacey. She’s having trouble making the matrix stable enough to stand on its own.”

Of course. They were going to use the organic matrix to make Harry a new heart. One that worked, which was better than the original one. So, the matrix would have to be able to hold its shape, not just on its own, but beating and pumping fluid through it. His mind churned wildly with ideas as he staggered over to the elevator.

The elevator activated itself to take him to the twelfth floor. “Thank you, JARVIS,” he said softly.

“You are very welcome, Mr. Parker,” the computer replied, just as softly. “I have already uploaded the prescription strength of your uncle’s glasses into Ms. Potts tablet. Please remember to run into things.”

Peter smiled. He’d told people that he’d hacked into the system—which was true. What he hadn’t mentioned was that he’d made friends with the personality of it while he was there. “Yes, thank you,” he said politely, and softly. He knew that JARVIS had turned off the recording devices in the elevator, but he also knew that the shaft was littered with more.

The smile vanished as he realized something. Mr. Stark wasn’t in the building, or he would have been in the lobby. He wasn’t in a meeting, or Pepper would have been with him. He wasn’t on an Avengers mission, or Peter would have heard about it. Where was he?

Chapter Text

There. This room was private enough. True, there was a body in the containment unit in preservation fluid, but the body was not reactive. It would would not hear the conversation and could thus be discarded.

“Not that I don’t love your ideas for dates,” Clint drawled as he perched on the lid of the containment unit and carefully used a permanent marker to give the body inside a long, curly mustache, “but is there any reason we’re here.”

Clint came across as an amiable buffoon. Natasha knew better. She’d seen him working, joking, killing, and utterly silent and invisible when it came time to collect intel. He reminded her a little bit of Deadpool—if Deadpool had the ability to die and a family to look after.

“Can you read?” she asked him.

The question was more valid than most would assume. Stark Tower had pressure points to it that rejected intruders with blindingly bright, fast flashes of light. Clint was well known to poking in places he didn’t belong and had gotten injured before.

“Since second grade when Mrs. Mac convinced me my desk would explode if I didn’t read the instructions for bomb defusment correctly,” Clint answered cheerfully as he finished off the second half of the mustache with a flourish before looking at his fellow spy. As the one who’d recruited her from her—original company, he knew she didn’t ask pointless questions.

She blinked. “You don’t ‘defuse’ bombs,” she said.

He snorted. “Find me a seven year-old who knows that,” he countered.

Normally she would have made a joke. But—that might actually be possible. She handed the file to him. After careful consideration she’d asked Pepper to see if another search could made of the SHIELD database. This file was the result.

“I need to brief you,” she said.

Clint turned to her with a frown, marker still uncapped. “This isn’t SHIELD.”

“This is personal.” She gave him the file. “Shield took over a HYDRA project, Project 23. It was designed to create superpowered soldier children.”

“That’s—horrible.” She could see the moment he realized why she was invested. He looked up.

“Keep reading,” she advised. She casually leaned against the inward opening door, just in case anyone tried to enter the room.

His eyes widened as he went through the papers. “This is—” he said as he stared at it.

She had read the file before handing it over and knew what it contained. “Yes,” she said softly.

“And this is—how? Why?” he stared at the papers.

Natasha didn’t know if he was freaking out over the detailed analysis of all the social interactions his children had at school, the meticulous details of each and every single bit of schoolwork, or their medical records. She was not entirely certain why, in this modern age, Clint had felt the need to vaccinate all of his children for smallpox, a purportedly eradicated disease, but that information should not be available outside his doctors and family.

She gave him a moment more to blindly leaf through the papers. Bringing Clint in was her decision; Pepper hadn’t been sure. Natasha was. She knew that there was nothing more important to Clint than his family. Nothing was more important to him than their health and safety—which SHIELD, by this project, was jeopardizing.

“They don’t need your DNA to make children,” she said softly, “because you’ve already done that on your own.”

“They’ve been studying my children.” Clint’s voice was hollow and she could sense the rage that was filling him.

Clint did not rage the way normal people, people like Tony raged. Clint did not scream, yell, or break things. Clint was more like Natasha.

Clint went cold. He went analytical. He went from mildly annoyed to vengeful in less than a heartbeat. His ice blue eyes met her calmly. “What’s the plan?”

Natasha nodded. His loyalty to SHIELD had shattered, just like hers. “We get the kids out. Get them safe. Tony has a plan.” Clint grimaced. She understood. “Pepper thinks it’s a good plan,” she offered.

Clint ran a hand through his hair. “That’s going to be a lot of kids,” he said. “Kids who are traumatized, have been injured.”

“Stark talked to Xavier about teachers,” Natasha offered.

Clint frowned. “He’s going to need more than that,” he muttered, wheels of a plan already turning in his head.

Chapter Text

Peter ignored Dr. Stacey’s grumbles about how this project was nowhere near ready for human testing as he threw himself into getting everything as ready as possible. It hadn’t occurred to him, back when he first started helping her with the organic matrix, that it could potentially be used to replace actual organs. If this was viable, if it worked—it would revolutionize the medical industry. It could save Harry.

First though, they had to make it work. It had to be stable enough to hold its form, even when the structure itself was moving. It had to be able to move—there was no use in making a heart that couldn't beat. Then they had to figure out how to do all of that and make it work outside of the solution that they’d made and in the artificial plasma solution, to mimic blood.

“Peter, can I borrow you for a moment?” Peter looked up from his formulaic calculations to see Dr. Banner in the entryway to the lab.

Dr. Stacey glared at him. “He’s my assistant today!” she growled.

Dr. Banner held up both hands. “I’m not tying to steal your assistant,” he said as placating as possible, “I just need to show him something.”

“All right.”

Peter carefully marked his spot in the equations and made his way to Dr. Banner’s lab across the hall. “What is it?” he asked nervously.

Dr. Banner tapped his tablet and a display appeared on his screen. It was—Harry’s artificial heart? “I was examining your young friend, and yes—Pepper did explain the situation to me, when I found something interesting.”

“What is it?” asked Peter.

“The heart is perfectly functional. It doesn’t need a code to keep working,” Dr. Banner said calmly. He highlighted several tiny—protuberances? What were those for? A normal heart didn’t have those. “These,” Dr. Banner said in a vaguely grim voice, “are ports. They release neuroreceptors. Specifically, they release glutamate.”

Peter was no slouch when it came to his anatomical studies. “Isn’t that?” he asked.

“A chemical related to pain, yes. It would appear that what Osborn has been doing isn’t restarting a failing device, but rather shutting off those ports.” Dr. Banner shook his head. “I would just recommend blocking the ports, but that would be an exercise in futility. The device is manufacturing the chemical with each beat of the heart, and blocking the ports may very well cause a clog that could destroy the integrity of the device.” He sighed and pushed up his glasses. Much like Peter, he used his wrist to do so. “I’ll have to talk to Tony about it,” he said. “Mechanics are not my area of expertise.”

Peter nodded. “Thank you, Dr. Banner,” he said sincerely.

The doctor looked up with a soft smile. His curls were sticking up everywhere. “Do you know,” he asked, “how many people know about my work with gamma radiation?” At Peter’s confused look he continued, “Not very many. Not even Tony is entirely certain what I do or what that means. And yet, the first time I met you as part of the supportive lab assistant group, you asked me a question about that very research.”

Peter shifted as he remembered the incident in question. Dr. Banner had gone to the supply lab for—something, Peter couldn't remember what—and Dr. Chambers had introduced him, which prompted the question. Then, after Dr. Banner had left, Dr. Chambers spent the next fifteen minutes explaining that assistants were not supposed to talk when high names were in the lab. He’d threatened to dock the already minuscule pay and Peter had never forgotten.

“Do not worry Peter,” Dr. Banner said with gentle firmness as he turned back to his tablet. “We’ll do everything we can to save your friend.”

“Thank you,” Peter said again—and then fled, back to Dr. Stacey’s lab. Dr. Stacey didn’t drop any indication that she remembered her first meeting with Peter with surprising fondness. She probably didn’t, considering that the first time they’d met she’d gotten covered in glitter slime that exploded.

Time flew as the two of them worked, trying theory after theory, solution after solution, and nothing was working. When Peter had to call it a day and leave (he didn’t want Norman to guess that he knew where Harry was or that he was no longer under the older man’s control) the organic matrix was still breaking down under movement.

“We’ll figure it out,” Dr. Stacey said grimly as he left. Peter could do nothing but nod.

He looked up at the sky as he started walking and realized that he needed to become Spiderman. The city might not need him, not with Deadpool looking after it, but he needed the city. More importantly, he needed to do something that felt productive. He ducked into one of the blind spots of Stark Industries’s artificial intelligence and swiftly changed.

Chapter Text

“I give up,” muttered Wade.

[For a girl almost two meters tall with insanely huge wings, she can disappear.]

{People say the same thing about us. She did say we helped raise her after all.}

[I thought we agreed that if we had raised her she’d be dead—]

“There you are.” Wade turned at the thud behind him and looked at Angel. She tucked her wings against her back as she looked at him. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

{But—we’ve been looking for her.}

“You have?” he asked.

“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you,” she said. “I even stopped by Stark Industries, just in case you were shadowing Peter to work, but you weren’t there. I had to tell bad heart boy that his girlfriend is safe anyway, and I learned something interesting.” She calmly perched on the edge of the roof and stretched her wings out, feathers rustling slightly in the breeze.

“What did you learn?” asked Wade as he leaned against the door to the rest of the building.

“Cats don’t lay eggs.”

{Didn’t expect that.}

[Do cats lay eggs where she’s from?]

Wade thought that was a good question, so he repeated it. She shrugged. “I don’t know, really,” she said. “Pretty much all the animals I’ve interacted with where I’m from are pigeons, rats, slimes, and this bizarre pink fuzzy thing that keeps escaping its home dimension to follow Dr. Strange like a puppy. It’s about two stories tall, covered in eye-smarting pink fur, has three eyes, and fangs. Oh, and it sucks blood.”

“What blood?” asked Wade.

“Whatever happens to be trying to piss of Dr. Strange. It’s attacked Tony several times, but the fangs can’t get through the suit.” She curled her wings back to her body, but held them loosely against her. Her half braid dangled in the wind.

“Why did you think cats laid eggs?” Wade asked. He knew they didn’t. He’d been in Stark’s basement (not as creepy and gory as he’d hoped) and watched the cat give birth in the incinerator.

“Oh, the cat—or, well, the thing that looks like a cat—the street kids adopted laid eggs,” she commented calmly. “Oh, and one of the kittens? On Stark’s desk? It went giant and green and nearly took off the hand of one of the people in the office that Pepper was pissed at. It was great.” The girl grinned.

Wade blinked. “What?” he asked, feeling like he’d missed part of the conversation.

“I might have stayed to spy a little. In my defense; I had no idea where you were,” the girl continued.

[And we’re back to the starting point. Why does she want to talk to us?]

Good question. Wade repeated it. She sighed. “Something is happening I don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t know if this is a good thing, a bad thing, or an anomaly that I’m putting too much thought into. I need someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of.”

{Wait—and she came to us?}

Wade shared Yellow’s incredulity. “Why me?”

“Because you understand how I’m not from around here. Your mind doesn’t work like other people’s,” Angel explained.

Well—that was all true. Wade knew that Angel was Not From Around Here in a way that other people didn’t, or couldn't understand even if she explained it to them. And even then, most of the people in New Amsterdam would just think that she was a crazy mutant and might even try to restrain her for her own good.

[I don’t think that would turn out well.]

“All right,” said Wade as he plopped to a sitting position, back still against the door. “Ask me!”

She slid to a sitting position, her back against the roof ledge, as she responded. “First,” she said grimly, “I have to give you some context. Do you remember me telling you how I came here on the RPG quest from Hel?” He nodded. “All right. I sort of found the person I’m looking for, but there’s something strange going on.”

Wade was basically the definition of strange. “Alrighty then,” he said as he slapped his knees. “Give me deets! Roll the gossip! What’s the down low?”

“Really low,” Angel said as she leaned forwards. “All the way from Hel, herself.”

Wade perked up. “Herself?” he asked.

Angel explained. She explained that, in her world, one of Loki’s children was his daughter Hel, and that she ruled her own underworld realm and seemed, from Angel’s descriptions, to babysit souls between reincarnation.

{Ask if Hel dressed like Bo Peep!}

[Do not. She has a serious problem here.]

Angel explained that the person she was looking for—that she now referred to as “BB” for some reason—

{I wonder what it stands for?}

And about the insane power boosts that “BB” got from stealing souls. “You’re right,” he said. “It’s like a shitty RPG; complete with evil boss to kill.”

“Not kill.” Angel scowled and, for just a moment, looked just like Peter. “I have to take her back—whole, healthy, and in possession of the souls she’s stolen or Hel can’t get them back and might not be able to fix balance again.”

That—actually made an absurd amount of sense. “So—what’s your question?” he asked.

“Why does she seem weaker in this world?” Angel asked.

{Um—what?}

Wade repeated the very good question. Angel explained. “The more of the souls she harvests, the stronger she is. The more complete her control over the people she’s turned is. At this point she should be able to control people who are mere susceptible to being changed, whether or not they already have.”

“Makes sense,” Wade allowed.

Angel got up and began to pace, scowling, wings partially unfurling and then furling back into place as she moved. “Exactly!” she said triumphantly. “Except—she can’t. She can’t even completely control the ones she has changed.”

“Um—what?”

Angel sighed. “BB,” she said slowly, “does this—thing. This thing turns humans into these bizarre human/spider hybrids which are then—or have been up until now—in her complete control.” She sighed, and drooped a little, the wings hanging low.

[Fascinating. They seem to be an accurate representation of her mood.]

{Like a mood stone without the color!}

“I met one,” Angel said. “Daredevil and his—partner? Friend? Rival? Ninja assassin Elektra,” the girl continued, “were fighting it.” She paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Although, they weren’t fighting it very well. Is it possible you could, like, help him with that before she uses her monsters to take over the city?”

[She has a lot of faith in us.]

{I thought Daredevil pinned us to a wall with our own sword last time we spoke to him?}

“Don’t think that’s feasible,” Wade said.

She shook her head. “I hope they don’t die. Anyway, the one they were trying—and failing—to kill wasn’t being controlled. It wasn’t even trying to hurt them; just move them out of the way.”

“Why?”

Angel met his gaze firmly. “Because they were standing between it and where it thought the children it had back when it was human are. Actually,” she added thoughtfully, “I’m standing between it and the children. And maybe Tony. Point is—it wasn’t under orders. It was working on its own. It’s fighting her control, and it shouldn't be able to.”

“Because BB is now supercharged?” Wade hazarded.

{Why isn’t she talking to Peter? We’re barely following the conversation!}

[I’m following it just fine. The super villain's power is nerfed and she doesn’t know the reason why.]

“Have you ever been to a dimension that had a BB of its own?” asked Wade.

“Well—once, but only when this nonsense had just begun. And they almost killed each other,” Angel admitted.

“What stopped them?” Wade asked with curiosity.

“I did. I need to take BB back home alive and in one piece.”

That—actually made sense. “Maybe,” he said slowly, “She doesn’t have the power she should, because it’s being shared. Maybe there’s another her, already here.”

Angel scoffed. “But that’s—” She stopped. Froze in place, like Spidey sometimes did during patrol when he realized something. “Oh, no,” she breathed as her eyes went wide at whatever revelation was spinning across her head. “I’ve got to go!” she said as she whirled and dove over the edge of the building taking off—towards Stark Tower.

Wade was about to go after her when he heard shouting and leaned over to see a situation at the bank across the street. Well, he assumed it was a situation. Normal days at the bank didn’t end with the building circled by police and Feds—and did he spot SHIELD in the crowd? Why would SHIELD be there?

{Seems a little beneath them.}

[We need to check this out.]

Chapter Text

“God-dammit!” Clint expertly dodged the hurled coffee cup as Natasha watched in fascination. She hadn’t known he could move that quickly. She hadn’t known the woman could throw that well. The brunette gave another piercing scream and threw another cup in exactly the same place.

Perhaps they should have waited to tell her until after she’d finished doing dishes. Still, it was Clint’s decision. After all, she was his wife.

Natasha wasn’t entirely certain why they were at his house. It was, no mistake, a lovely little place in the country and part of an active farm that seemed to be both good cover and good exercise for the children…but it seem like quite the right time.

Clint disagreed. Since it was his family, Natasha allowed him to overrule her. She was beginning to wonder if he knew his family as well as she’d thought he did.

“Those bastards!” the woman railed viciously. She glared up at her husband. “I want to kill them,” she growled.

Clint took his life and his wife’s hands into his own. “Honey, I understand that,” he said softly, gently. “But Natasha and Steve and Bucky have first dibs.” The woman’s eyes cut to Natasha’s.

Natasha, groomed to be a fearless spy, took a step back. There were some missions that could not be salvaged. Missions where the only feasible course of action was to label them a lost cause and move on. Perhaps this was that time.

No. They had nowhere to move on to. Besides, the stakes were far too high.

Clint gently brought his wife’s attention back to him. “No, Honey,” he said firmly. “There’s something else. Something important that only you can do.”

“And just what is that?” demanded the outraged woman coldly.

“There are a lot of children in this project,” Clint said. His voice was still soft, still soothing.

Once, Natasha had watched as Clint talked down a domestic terrorist. Somehow, over the course of the conversation, the person had transformed from a terrorist to a frightened young adult who ended up sobbing on Clint’s shoulder. She was beginning to see where he’d learned the skill.

“And?” demanded the woman when Clint didn’t continue.

“And Stark is trying to build a home for them, a place for them to actually grow up as normal as possible,” Clint continued. “He’s been talking to Xavier about caregivers,” he added.

The woman stared at him with incredulity. “Xavier,” she repeated. Both Clint and Natasha nodded. “He’s talking to Xavier.” Another nod. Her fury rose once more. “What the ever-loving fuck does Xavier, mister ‘forgive and forget’ himself, know about traumatized children?”

“To be fair,” Natasha interjected, “he does seem to be raising some.”

The woman made a disagreeable noise, eyes never leaving her husband. “And how many of them have grown up to try and destroy or rule the world?” she demanded. “The man knows nothing of how to deal with trauma!”

That—was altogether too true. Natasha remembered far too well the incident with one of Xavier’s prize students. The boy who had, before he’d even graduated, decided to make a place for himself in the world by taking over the minds of several highly ranked politicians in the city. He’d been stopped, of course, but he’d also only been one. Natasha hadn’t been surprised that SHIELD wanted to shut down the man’s school; it seemed like one out of every twenty of his graduates wanted to break the world.

Perhaps the world needed breaking. Perhaps Xavier was doing it on purpose, the kind old man act just that—an act.

Something to look into later.

Clint’s wife stepped away from her husband and stalked past Natasha into the recesses of the house. Clint grinned at the spy. “That went well,” he said amiably.

Natasha sighed. “And how are we going to explain this to Tony?” she asked.

Clint shrugged as he leaned against the counter, the definition of casual. “We’re not,” he said cheerfully. “We’re going to explain it to Pepper and she’s going to tackle Tony.”

***

Adriana gripped the sides of her throne, staring into the darkness as she thought about what she’d heard. What she’d learned. What it meant.

She’d known she was weaker in this world. That, by itself, meant nothing. Her power grew and shrank between worlds much like the waxing and waning of the moon. It was natural. It meant nothing.

Until now. She hadn’t realized how much stronger she should be—or that this weakening of powers was something her pursuer didn’t experience. That was—bad. The pursuer was strong; too strong for Adriana to face when at full power—never mind the shadow of her power she had at the moment.

Then again, she had learned something interesting. Several things, actually. Her pursuer didn’t know the nuances of her power. Her pursuer knew that she could turn some people into glorious creatures, but didn’t know that she could eavesdrop through spiders. Didn’t seem to know why some people turned and why some did not.

No, it was best not to put too much stock in that. Best not to think about it too hard. After all, the pursuer was not above playing bait. Adriana had learned that the hard way and had almost gotten caught.

Her eyes narrowed and she cursed silently as her creatures rustled nervously around her, giving action to her uneasiness and irritation. The dim light, soothing to her sensitive eyes, only illuminated each creature for a fraction of a moment creating the delightful mirage of a seething army.

If only she didn’t know how weak that army truly was. How ruthless her pursuer could be. Except—they hadn’t been.

Adriana thought back. When they’d first begun this merry chase between the worlds, her pursuer had been cheerfully violent, slaughtering all of Adriana’s creatures without pause, restraint, or pity. The last few worlds though—that had changed. Her pursuer no longer hunted down Adriana’s creatures to exterminate them.

In fact—her pursuer was actively protecting them now. Why? What had changed?

Why couldn't she use something more useful to eavesdrop on her pursuer? She had to flit from spider to spider and there was just no way of knowing when her pursuer was going to pop up. And even when she was able to get just the right spider to eavesdrop—her pursuer never really spoke about what was going on.

Adriana rolled her eyes as she wondered where the typical evil villain plotting monologue went. It would have made dealing with the pursuer so much easier.

Especially since her pursuer had wings.

Chapter Text

Peter crawled up the side of the wall. The back wall, of course, that no one was watching. Despite television, movies, and even crappy Saturday Morning Cartoons pointing this weak spot out for authorities, nothing was done about it. No one noticed Spiderman silently climbing a wall.

No one, except for Deadpool. Peter didn’t even flinch when the grappling hook shot beside him to hook over the roof only to retract for Deadpool to pull level with Peter as he crawled. “Spidey!” called the merc happily.

Peter grinned behind the mask. Even before they’d started dating, he’d enjoyed his interactions with Deadpool. Well, after the first few times, at least. “Hey, Deadpool,” he called back.

Deadpool gasped. “Spidey knows my name!” he squealed—softly, so as not to alert the people in the bank.

“Of course I know your name,” Peter said, glad the mask was hiding how he flushed. Deadpool had no idea how well Spiderman knew him.

A little niggling of a thought warned him that it would be better to tell the merc sooner than later. But—Deadpool had always looked up to Spiderman, ever since the first time they’d met. How would he handle knowing that Spiderman and dorky little Peter were the same person?

“What’s the sitch?” demanded Deadpool in a Serious ToneTM.

Peter simply looked at the merc with a smile, not that Deadpool could see it. “How long have you been waiting to pull that one out?” he asked.

“Early 2000’s? I think?” replied Deadpool.

Peter chuckled. “All right,” he said with a wry smile that, once again, Deadpool could not see. “The sitch is three armed criminals, fifteen hostages with one of them being a baby with colic.” Peter cocked his head as he listened, through the building and focused on the robbers as Daredevil had taught him to do. “The baby is starting to get on the nerves of the criminals.”

“Not hard to imagine. You ever hear a colic baby? Stupid question, of course you have. They are not fun to listen to.”

“What’s the plan?” Peter asked.

Deadpool gaped at him, completely silent.

Peter gently shook Deadpool’s shoulder. “You’ve been looking after the city while I was gone,” he said calmly. “You know it well. What do you think we should do?”

“I—don’t really plan much,” Deadpool muttered.

“All right,” Peter said calmly. “If this was just you, how would you save them?”

Peter watched calmly as Deadpool stared at him. “No,” he said faintly, “I don’t think that will work.”

“Well,” pressed Peter, “what will work?” He had a rough idea of the best way to defuse the situation, of course, but he wanted Deadpool to come up with a working plan that made the best use of both of their abilities. After all, Deadpool had been watching the city for him for a while now. Surely, during that time, he’d come up with a better plan than waltz through the front door, drawing fire from both criminals and police, to use his inability to die as a way to keep the hostages alive.

“Okay!” Deadpool said manically. “It’s like this: you are going to sneak in and slowly, carefully get the hostages out unharmed.”

“Okay,” agreed Peter. “And what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to dance De La Peters through the front door until everybody runs out of bullets.”

Or not. Peter let out a low sigh and hung his head. “Deadpool,” he began.

“Look.” Peter looked up as the antihero dropped to a crouch next to him. “Most important thing of a hostage situation?”

“Minimize casualties,” Peter automatically responded. He and Deadpool had had this conversation before.

“Exactly.” Deadpool nodded. “So, first—make sure they aren’t looking at the hostages. They notice their get-out-of-jail free cards leaving—”

“And the first thing they’ll do is start killing them,” Peter finished. He knew that; he’d seen it before. So had Deadpool. He sighed again before standing up and rubbing his hands together. “All right, let’s put your plan into action. Give me a few minutes to get into place before starting your distraction.”

“Yes, Sir!” chirped Deadpool cheerfully. His hand came halfway down, finger out to bop Peter’s nose, and Peter stared, frozen. Did Deadpool know? Had he figured it out?

Peter felt no fear at the idea. Instead—there was a bit of relief. If Deadpool had figured it out, then he knew that Peter was Spiderman and didn’t hate him for it.

The hand stopped halfway and Deadpool awkwardly hid it behind his back. “Er. Yeah. Let’s get this done!” he said nervously before running off the roof.

He didn’t know. It was clear to Peter that Wade still believed that Spiderman and Peter Parker were two different people. The way Deadpool was worried about showing too much physical affection towards Spiderman while dating Peter should have been sweet, shouldn't have left a pinching, hollow feeling in his gut.

He quickly, silently broke into the bank. He had a job to do; hostages to rescue. Then he could change back into Peter and get his hug.

Chapter Text

[What were you thinking Dumbass?]

{You know we almost never think.}

[You can’t just go touching Spidey while we’re dating Peter!]

“Guys!” Wade hissed. “Can we focus? It didn’t happen.” He made his way towards the opening of the alley so that he could be ready to distract. Mercifully, the voices were silent for a moment, allowing Wade to count down towards when he needed to be the distraction.

“This is a bad place for this.”

Wade turned and saw two people in disturbingly familiar suits in the middle of the alley.

[How have they not seen us yet?]

{Plot convenience!}

Wade silently ambled over to the two of them as they scowled at the brickwork. “The buildings would cut of dispersal,” one of the suits said.

“That would be okay,” the second reassured. “After all, this is only supposed to be a test to see if the product works as advertised.”

“God.” The first agent rubbed his face. “What happens if we raise objections?”

“In New Amsterdam? Well, people have been complaining the river level’s low…”

The two wandered off and Wade stared after them, eyes narrowed. That didn’t sound good. What could they be planning?

[Speaking of plans, Spiderman is probably waiting on us and wondering why we haven’t made an entrance yet.]

Wade, distracted, pivoted back towards the bank and grinned. “Let’s put on a show,” he said brightly.

[No.]

{Yes!}

“Oh, yeah,” agreed Wade, grinning madly.

[No!]

“You can’t stop an avalanche,” Wade burbled as he danced out in front of the bank, between the officers and the bank.

[NO!]

“As it races down the hill!” continued Wade as he spun towards the doors. “You can try to stop the seasons girl,” he caroled as he kicked them in, “but you know you never will!” Bullets riddled his body. Strangely, they were only coming from one direction.

[You deserve this.]

{Don’t be grumpy! It’s a great song! And you can try to stop my dancing feet!}

“But I just cannot stand still!” warbled Wade as he began to twirl.

One of the criminals poked both hands—empty--into the air before slowly following them with his head. “If we surrender,” he said, “will you stop singing?”

“Well, that’s rude,” commented a familiar voice as a strand of webbing came out of nowhere and hauled the criminal to the ceiling. “What have you got against Hairspray?” Spidey demanded before webbing up the other criminals.

“It’s all about the importance of being yourself!” Wade added as he knocked out another criminal. He peered into the bank. They were alone. The hostages were gone. Spidey had saved them all.

“What the fuck happened to you?” demanded the first criminal as he stared at Wade.

That was when Wade realized that the bullets had destroyed the majority of his suit. His skin was exposed to the open air, to the gazes of the people around him. Everybody could see how horribly mutilated the skin was.

“Deadpool,” called Spiderman. A hand touched Wade’s shoulder. Wade’s half bare shoulder. “What do you need?” the hero demanded.

“Cover,” whimpered Wade as he tried to curl on himself.

Spiderman nodded and suddenly Wade was in a slowly hardening cocoon of some kind.

{...so are we about to be eaten?}

[What?]

{Well, spiders cocoon their prey in webbing, right? And right now we’re cocooned in webbing. So, are we about to be eaten?}

[This is the problem with singing musicals. You just encourage this nonsense to spout.]

A light scratching alerted Wade to the fact that there was still a world outside the cocoon. “Are you all right?” called Spidey, voice muffled.

“Not—not really,” Wade admitted. It had taken months of partnering with the wall crawler before he’d been comfortable admitting when he wasn’t all right. Most people didn’t ask.

{Bet Peter would ask.}

[Really? You’re going to go there? After asking if Spiderman was going to eat us?]

“Could—could you take me to apartment?” Wade asked.

“Sure thing.” The cocoon rocked as Wade imagined it was lifted and he heard air whistling quickly by. The cocoon was well made; he couldn't feel the air rushing by. He heard the squeak as his window was forced open before the cocoon was very carefully put inside the apartment.

{Think this is how Daredevil feels?}

[For the love of the last shreds of our sanity SHUT UP!]

“Need me to rip a hole for you?” Spidey asked anxiously. “I’m not sure how long before this web dissolves; it’s a new formula.”

“I’m good Spidey,” Wade said firmly. “You go, uh, go finish patrol?”

A few gentle taps sounded on the top of the cocoon. “See you later, ‘Pool,” Spidey said with affection.

{Aw. Spidey cares.}

[If this is like our last interaction with Spiderman, then right about now we should be hearing—]

{You think Peter will be coming over?!}

[I think if he does we should tell him to go away again.]

{But—we like Peter. And he likes us. Why would we do that?}

[Because our skin is exposed and our skin is a toxic waste dump that will make every single human who sees it flinch and gag at the sight of it.]

There was a moment of silence in Wade’s head before Yellow spoke up in a soft, almost silent voice.

{Peter didn’t.}

That was true. Peter didn’t flinch away at the sight of Wade’s skin. He’d even touched it! Had initiated a kiss!

I see a man who’s gone through Hell and gotten back up and still has the humanity to care about other people.”

That’s what Peter had said.

Peter—didn’t hate him. Wasn’t repulsed by the skin. Didn’t avoid him.

“Wade?”

Peter was in his apartment.

[It’s in the middle of a work day. Shouldn't he be doing something important?]

“Hey, Petey-Pie!” Wade chirped from the cocoon. He poked a finger at the soft, surprisingly strong webbing.

“Hold on!” Peter called. “I’ll get something to cut you out.”

[He’ll see our skin.]

{He’s already seen our skin!}

Wade heard violent hacking at the outside of the the cocoon. “Baby, please tell me that’s not my best hunting knife you’re mangling on this web.”

A pause. “Um—what’s the hunting knife look like?”

Wade sighed. It was. “Just grab one of my swords and pierce. They’ll cut through anything.”

[Not vibranium.]

“Almost anything,” Wade amended. Shortly after that statement a sword was thrust in—but not deep enough to hit Wade.

[Almost like he knows where we are in this thing.]

“I heard you singing earlier,” Peter said.

[When?]

Good question. Wade repeated it.

“At the bank.”

Wade’s heart seized at the thought that Peter, his Peter, had been one of the hostages. No—he was a photographer. Surely he’d only been there to take pictures. “Were you—in the bank?” asked Wade carefully.

The sword swept up making a cut. It looked like Peter was trying to cut a small hole in the cocoon. “Yeah,” the younger man admitted.

Peter had been in the bank. Peter had been in danger. And, like an idiot, he hadn’t checked, hadn’t looked, hadn’t seen.

{He could have been killed.}

Once again oblivious to Wade’s inner turmoil, Peter continued to speak. “I didn’t hear much of it, but I liked it. What’s the name of it?”

“You Can’t Stop the Beat,” Wade said weakly. “It’s from a musical.” The sword finished its circle. “From Hairspray,” he added lamely as the the circle is lifted away and a beam of pure light enters the cocoon.

{There’s a metaphor in there somewhere…}

[Hello lampshade.]

Peter’s face blocked the light. “Wade?” he asked. “I’m going to cut down to try and get you out.”

“Ah, um, uh—yeah. Before you do that—would you please get me a mask? I have spares in my dresser.”

A hand reached in and gently caressed Wade’s slightly exposed cheek. “If you want,” agreed Peter before pulling away.

Wade leaned forward, resting his head on his knees. He wanted to tell Peter how grateful he was that the other didn’t insist on Wade baring his skin. He knew Peter liked seeing it, yes. But—Peter was understanding enough to understand that Wade couldn't give up his mask—not just yet. He wasn’t quite ready for Peter to see his face.

“Wade? Why do you have fifty-seven masks in your drawer?”

Chapter Text

“And Dr. Banner’s been avoiding the organisms,” the random scientist said.

Tony stared at the man as he gently pet the kitten in his lap, feeling vaguely like a cartoon villain staring down a nameless henchmen. Of course the man had a name, but Stark Industries hired so many scientists that it was normal Stark didn’t recognize this one. “Of course Bruce is avoiding them,” Tony said. “They make him agitated and we don’t want Bruce agitated.” He looked down at the little kitten, fondly named Hulk2, whom they also didn’t want to agitate.

The scientist in front of him sniffed derisively. “They make everyone nervous.”

Tony sighed and rubbed his head with one hand. “You’re new, aren’t you?” he asked wearily. At the man’s hesitant nod he sighed again.

Tap tap tap.

Go ask one of your predecessors why we don’t get Bruce agitated,” he ordered. The scientist was not looking at him, but staring, mouth gaped, out the window. Tony swiveled his chair around to see—the same strange bird girl that he saw earlier, when he was trying to talk to the street child. Hovering outside his window. She tapped on it again.

Wha—what?” stammered the scientist.

Tony rolled his eyes. How, just how did he have people working for him who got freaked out by the most mundane of things? He gently deposited Hulk2 on the desk before getting up and opening the window. “Birds don’t hover,” he said as the girl dropped most of her body through the window, leaving the majority of her wings outside it.

She shrugged as the scientist plastered himself against a wall, gaping at her. “I’m not a bird.” Her head tilted slightly as her eyes narrowed. The scientist quickly ducked out of the room, almost knocking Pepper over as she came in.

What is wrong with him?” demanded Pepper as she stepped into the room. She paused for a moment, eyes narrowed at Tony’s latest visitor. Tony knew she was going through a checklist of clothing in place, age, and distance between the girl and Tony. Which—Tony couldn't say he didn’t deserve. “And who are you?” demanded Pepper crisply.

The girl wasn’t phased in the slightest. “I go by Angel these days.”

One of Pepper’s eyebrows arched up. “Not your real name?” she asked. Tony, enjoying the confrontation, sat back down and picked the kitten up again.

The girl shrugged again. “Names have power,” she replied calmly.

Really?” drawled Pepper dryly.

Okay, why are you here?” Tony said, interrupting. The company could survive a cranky Tony, but stocks would plummet if Pepper was upset.

I came to talk to you about that project you were working on earlier.” The girl’s eyes were narrowed as she watched Pepper. “The one in the alley.”

Pepper turned and locked the door before typing a code on her Starkpad to seal the room from sound—from the inside. Sound could still escape from the open window, but Tony wasn’t about to invite the girl even further in. He didn’t quite trust her.

The girl gave a low whistle of appreciation and he stared at her. She couldn't possibly know what they’d done. Could she? “Now, that is impressive,” the girl said. “You’ve neatly cut off all sound from this—why is there an invisible kitten on your desk?”

Tony blinked as the girl’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

The girl stood up and came into the room, tucking the huge wings behind her as she stalked towards the desk. “I can hear it,” she said with a slight frown as she circled the thing. “I can smell it. But I don’t see it.”

You can smell if there’s a kitten on the desk? How do you know you’re not smelling the one on Tony’s lap?” demanded Pepper.

Same way I know you had a peppermint in addition to peppermint chocolate latte with six shots of espresso,” the girl shot back. Her hand darted over the desk and dropped, coming to a stop a few inches above the surface.

The desk began to purr.

Tony stared. There was no kitten there. He could see no kitten there. But there was, undoubtedly, a kitten purr coming from thin air. The air rippled, like a heat haze, and a tabby kitten appeared, leaning into the girl’s fingers as she pet it before releasing a high pitched mew and trotting over to its mother. “Huh,” the girl said looking after the kitten. “Is that normal?” she asked. “Do cats normally have powers?”

Tony stared at her. She—wasn’t kidding. She was oddly earnest about it. “Don’t you know?” he asked.

She rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding?” she demanded. “I’m still trying to figure out what laid eggs in the sewers!”

Chapter Text

Wade stared at the small townhouse with trepidation. He could still hear echoes of laughter from his last visit and vaguely remembered that the woman had said that she liked him better than Tony. Of course, she had broken Tony’s arm, and was disappointed that Tony had full use of said arm.

{She also likes us better than Norman!}

[I don’t think that’s hard. She probably likes the sewer rats better than Norman.]

Wade shuddered at the image.

Peter absently pat his arm, so as not to disturb the cake that Wade was holding. “It’ll be fine,” he said reassuringly. “Oh, the turtle’s in the window.” Wade’s eyes tracked to the window closest to the front door and saw that there was, indeed a stuffed turtle in it. The turtle was green with a yellow shell and looked fuzzy.

“What’s important about the turtle?” asked Wade as Peter put a gentle hand on his arm and guided him towards the back of the house.

“Means the front door’s blocked. She does metal art sculptures with recycled materials,” Peter explained as they walked through the tiny yard.

[Would have been good to know earlier.]

{Well, it’s not like we told him we were going to visit his aunt.}

[What?]

{He couldn't have told us about the turtle earlier, because we didn’t tell him we were going to see his aunt.}

[You are so strange.]

The back door opened to reveal the smiling face of the woman he’d seen earlier. “Peter!” she called holding open her arms. “It’s good to see you!” she said as she hugged her nephew.

“It’s good to see you too,” Peter said warmly. He pulled away and put his hand back on Wade’s arm. “Aunt May, this is my boyfriend, Wade.”

“It’s nice to see you again Wade,” the woman said, still holding the smile.

[I can’t tell if she’s lying, to spare Peter, or if she’s serious.]

“Nice to see you again,” Wade echoed. He held out the baked good in his hands. “We brought cake. Glazed lemon pound cake,” he added.

Her entire face twitched. “That is—so sweet,” she said in a strained voice.

{What did we do? Is she allergic to lemons? Oh, God, did we almost murder Peter’s mother?}

Peter sighed. “I didn’t have anything to do with cooking it, Aunt May,” he reassured the woman.

Who sagged with relief. “Thank God. I still remember the horror that was chicken noodle soup.”

“I was ten!”

“You put six heads of garlic in it!”

“Garlic is good for you!”

“The soup came from a can, Peter. A. Can. Trust me, it had all the garlic it needed.”

“You ate it,” said Peter petulantly as Aunt May reached for the cake. “And I never made that mistake again,” he added quickly.

[I wonder what other mistakes he’s made.]

{If he’s made that many mistakes, then his cooking should have improved, right? Why hasn’t it?}

[Do NOT ask him that!]

Wade surrendered it and then curled up around Peter. “Yes, and I was sick for an extra two weeks,” agreed the woman as she turned and entered the house.

Peter sighed and hung his head. “We can still go,” he said as he looked up at Wade.

Wade curled around him again. “But then I’ll miss on your embarrassing stories!” he whined.

Peter chuckled and the two of them followed Aunt May into the house. “Can’t have that,” he teased.

{I love him!}

[We all love him. You’re not special.]

Once inside Peter and Wade sat on the couch while Wade peered over at the front door to see the metal thing blocking the door. It looked like there were now colored bits of metal all over. Peter looked to see what he was looking at and grinned. “So, what pot did you ruin to make the bismuth crystals?” he called out to his aunt, who was in the kitchen cutting the cake so that they could all have some.

“Same one as last time,” Aunt May called back as she came into the living room with three plates. Each plate had a fork and, oddly, a strawberry.

“Thank you,” said Wade remembering manners he had learned somewhere. Peter gently nudged him with a shoulder and grinned. Wade grinned as he nudged back.

Aunt May looked on with a satisfied smile. She neatly cut a bite of the cake with her fork and ate it, not looking away from the two on her couch. “How’s work, Peter?” she asked.

Peter brightened and began chattering away about matrices and stability and a bunch of other things that flew right over Wade’s head.

[I wonder if she actually understands what he’s saying or if she’s just letting him ramble.]

{He’s so cute! Look at how enthusiastic he is!}

“How did you and Deadpool meet?” Aunt May asked.

Peter frowned. “Wade, Aunt May. His name is Wade. You literally just used his name!”

Aunt May smiled. “I didn’t ask how you met Wade ,” she continued patiently. “I asked how you met Deadpool.” Peter glared at her as he pushed his glasses up with his wrist.

{What’s happening?}

[I’m as confused as you are.]

Aunt May turned to Wade, breaking the staring match. “I have some lemonade that will go well with the cake,” she said calmly, as though she hadn’t just been staring Peter down about—something. “Would you like a glass?”

Wade glanced at his untouched cake. It was untouched because he didn’t want to push the mask up. “I’m okay,” he told her firmly.

Peter, understanding the problem, leaned into Wade’s side. Aunt May simply nodded. “Peter, she said firmly, “come help me with dishes.” She picked up her plate and Peter grabbed his own before heading into the kitchen with her.

[She doesn’t want us to hear what she’s going to say to him.]

{We should eavesdrop! That way—what’s that?}

Wade went to the window and peered out at the neighborhood before giving a mental groan. There, on the house across the street, with a perfect visual scope of the one he was in, was a figure lying on the tiles of the roof.

[Can you still call it camouflage when it’s a different color than the roof it’s on?]

{Brown! Brown on black tiles! I swear, standards for snipers are so low.}

So, who was the sniper working for? They weren’t from HYDRA, because those fuckers knew how to camouflage themselves—otherwise they wouldn't have been able to hide within SHIELD for so long. Ah—must be SHIELD. Only SHIELD could be so bad at camouflage and still be in operation.

Wade pulled out his phone and made a call. When it was picked up he growled, “Pull your sniper out of the neighborhood.”

“There’s a sniper in the neighborhood?” Wade turned to see Peter.

Wade shifted. He didn’t want to get Peter involved in this, but he already was. It was his aunt’s house that was being targeted after all. He nodded.

Peter’s expression darkened. “What house?” he demanded. Wade pointed and then Peter gestured towards Wade’s phone. “May I?” he asked. Fascinated, Wade handed the phone over. “You have five minutes,” Peter said grimly, “to get your sniper out of my neighborhood or I’m calling Mrs. Salinzky and telling her I see her cat on the roof before going out to take pictures of the old woman yelling at your sniper for killing her cat. Then I will submit the encounter to every news, from paper to television to independent blogger, asking why you felt the need to harass an elderly woman with dementia.”

[Oh. My. God. Peter’s a force to be reckoned with!]

{That’s so hot! Think he’ll be up for some cuddling later?}

“Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Parker,” the tinny voice came over the phone. The sniper across the street flung back his cover and began packing up. “May I come and make a formal apology?”

“Might be a good idea,” Peter admitted darkly. “Front door’s blocked.” He calmly hung up and handed the phone back to Wade. “What could they want?” he muttered as he leaned against Wade’s side.

Wade tucked his phone back into his pocket and hugged his boyfriend. “I don’t know,” he answered with complete honesty.

There was a knock at the back door and Aunt May allowed the individual there to come in. Wade stiffened as he glared at the balding man in his distinctive three-piece suit. “Coulson,” he spat darkly.

“Wilson,” said the man amiably. He looked at Peter. “Sorry to bother you Mr. Parker. We were—concerned about Deadpool’s activities.” The man smiled. “Just want to keep the neighborhood safe.”

“It’s always important to keep the neighborhood safe,” Aunt May agreed. “Please, take a seat.” Coulson sat and, not to be outdone, Wade did too, Peter following. “Would you like some lemonade?” asked the woman pleasantly.

“If you would be so kind,” Coulson said with a smile. Aunt May smiled and bustled off while Coulson turned his attention to Peter.

[I don’t like the way he’s looking at him.]

{Petey is ours.}

“Well, Peter,” Coulson said slowly as Deadpool tucked himself around his boyfriend, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Unfazed Peter used his wrist to shove the glasses back into place on his face. “Have you?” he asked. “Agent Coulson.”

“And how did you know that?” asked Coulson with an easy smile.

Peter did not smile back. In fact, he bristled and Deadpool could feel it. “Wade called you by name,” he said.

Wade. That was right; he was Wade. Peter’s boyfriend. He shook himself and Peter leaned back into his embrace.

Coulson, the bastard, watched the whole thing. “Wade,” he said emphasizing the name and not title, “didn’t call me ‘agent’.”

Peter sighed. “You are not wearing a uniform. I know all of the detectives in this section of the city, since one of them lives down the street and has been regularly throwing barbecues for his fellow officers and detectives since before I lived here. So you are not a detective, or I would already know you. That leaves ‘agent.’ I don’t yet have enough information to realize if you are FBI, CIA, or SHIELD, but you are definitely an agent.”

The man nodded. “That’s a good deduction,” he admitted.

Peter gave a low snort. “Trust me,” he said, “I only look stupid.”

The spandex only makes me look stupid.”

Almost the exact same phrase. One was Peter. One was Spidey. Except—

{They’re the same! Oh, thank the good heavens, Petey-Pie and Spidey are the same!}

Wade’s mind quickly sifted through all of his interactions with Peter. The way, when they were first eating back to back, that he’d been reminded of Spiderman. The way that Spiderman and Peter were never in the same place at the same time. The way that if Spiderman left Wade in an uncomfortable situation Peter would show up to help (and maybe tease him about the insane number of masks in the drawer, but Wade still had issues about his skin). They were the same person.

[Do you even know what this means?]

{Of course I do! It means we can cuddle Spidey any time we want and not feel bad about it!}

[It means he’ll hate us.]

Both Wade and Yellow paused in their internal excitement as they felt the first tendrils of dread. What did White mean? Why would Peter hate them?

[He spent so much energy hiding his identity and then we, the most unstable person he knows, figures it out? He’ll never forgive us.]

{But—but what can we do?}

[Pretend we don’t know and wait. He’ll either tell us eventually, or not.]

Wade wasn’t sure he could do it.

Chapter Text

Peter glared at the man, at Agent Coulson , who was sitting in his aunt’s chair by the couch. He knew the man from SHIELD’S attempts to recruit Spiderman, which was something Peter wouldn't have known. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that it was a coincidence that the man had showed up here, now, at the home of someone he cared about.

“I’m not sure you’re aware of this,” Agent Coulson said, “but your—friend here has a long list of offenses.”

Peter glared as Wade stiffened, reading the threat for what it was. “Boyfriend,” Peter corrected firmly. The new glasses, being slightly too large in frame, slid down again and he pushed them up in irritation. At the surprised look on the older man’s face Peter repeated, “Wade is my boyfriend, Agent Coulson.”

“Boyfriend,” the agent allowed to stand. “Although I’m sure your—boyfriend has other things he needs to talk about? Things he doesn’t want you to hear?”

It wasn’t about Spiderman. Coulson being here, in Peter’s aunt’s house as Peter was visiting, really was a coincidence. He didn’t want anything to do with Spiderman, at this point in time. He wanted Wade.

Peter was furious . He thought he’d been upset when Coulson had hinted that Spiderman needed the support of SHIELD to continue operating in New Amsterdam. He thought he’d been upset when he discovered that, somehow, SHIELD had hooks in almost every other hero of the city—but that was nothing compared to the realization that Coulson had come—here, to Peter’s childhood home— to badger Peter’s boyfriend.

Wade stood up.

“Sit down, Wade,” Peter ordered. Wade sat. Peter waited a beat for Coulson to realize that the supposedly unpredictable murderer was taking orders from Peter. A second beat for Coulson to realize that Peter was perfectly aware of his position.

Norman may have been a greedy psychopath, but there was a reason he was the head of one of the largest global corporations in the world. Peter may not have liked the lesson’s he’d learned from the man, but he had learned them.

Coulson met Peter’s eyes, recognizing the young man as the power in the room. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” Coulson warned.

“I,” said Peter grimly, “am protecting my boyfriend, that you are trying to take from this house, in a neighborhood you previously had a sniper in, with no reasonable interest.” Peter met Coulson’s gaze firmly, squarely, and fearlessly. “You will not come in here, casually threaten my boyfriend, and then have him leave with you.”

Wade, even before Peter knew him by name, had saved both Peter and Spiderman on more than one occasion. No one knew better than Peter how much the scarred man cared. No one knew better than Spiderman the demons that he’d faced.

And, if Peter had anything to say about it, no one was going to hurt Wade any more.

“I do believe you have outstayed your welcome here, Agent Coulson,” Aunt May said calmly as she handed him a cup. Peter recognized it was one of the to-go cups that she’d gotten when her favorite Indie coffee shop went out of business. “Here’s your lemonade,” she added graciously.

“Thank you, Ms. May,” Agent Coulson said as he took a sip of the drink. He smiled. “Your lemonade is as divine as always,” he assured the woman.

Peter didn’t even want to know how he knew what Aunt May’s lemonade tasted like.

Aunt May hummed thoughtfully. “You drive careful now,” she said firmly as she walked the man towards the back door.

When she was out of the room Peter rounded angrily on Wade. “Don’t do that,” he said firmly, lips pressed together between words. “Don’t you ever do that again!”

Wade, even through the mask, looked confused. “Do what?” he asked.

“Don’t you ever put yourself in danger to save me,” Peter replied. Quick as a thought Peter sat up and straddled Wade’s lap, glaring into the mask. With a thigh on each side of Wade’s lap and his arms braced on the back of the couch around the other man, he effectively pinned his boyfriend.

Unexpectedly, Wade’s expression softened. “Baby Boy,” he said softly, “I will heal.”

“No,” he said firmly. “No, that excuse will not fly with me. I don’t care!” Peter wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and leaned his face into the crook of Wade’s neck. “I don’t want you getting hurt,” he said plaintively.

It was true; he didn’t want to see Wade hurt. He saw enough people hurt. He saw the pain in Harry’s eyes, whenever Norman felt like jerking the two of them around. He saw the pain in MJ’s face, when she couldn't either stop or help. And he saw the pain the street children were in almost every single day. He didn’t know what he’d do if he saw Wade in pain too.

“I don’t care if you’re having sex with your boyfriend,” Aunt May suddenly said, “but not on my couch. You have a perfectly good bed upstairs still.”

Peter leaned back and glared at his aunt. “Aunt May!” he protested, cheeks heating up.

“Don’t you ‘Aunt May’ me,” his aunt mocked. “I’m not the one straddling my boyfriend on the couch.”

Grumbling under his breath Peter got back down to the couch cushions—but kept his side plastered against Wade’s. He didn’t want the other to forget about their conversation. “How much laxative did you put in the lemonade?” Peter asked.

Aunt May snorted. “Peter,” she scolded. “Do you really think I would put a laxative in his drink? I don’t know what medications he’s taking!” She turned and looked towards the back door before turning back to her nephew. “On a completely unrelated note,” she said with a sly grin, “do you have any idea how much powdered fiber can be dissolved in a glass of lemonade without changing the texture or taste?”

Wade burst out laughing as he cuddled Peter close. “I love you people,” he admitted.

Peter turned and smacked a kiss to his masked cheek. “We love you too,” he reassured his boyfriend.

Chapter Text

Clint groaned as the scent of the sewers pierced his nose. It was disgusting. The sewers always were. Why did he have to follow wing-girl into the sewers?

Because Natasha had the hard job of explaining to Pepper exactly what his wife was doing. Clint had expected Laura to call her old friends, all experts in various levels of trauma, to tell them what Tony was doing. He’d (only once) referred to her friends as a gossip circle, and information fairly flew down the chain. It was expected.

What was not expected was the response. Laura currently stood at the head of a group of no less than seventy childhood trauma specialists and had several more, who dealt with specific types of trauma, on call in case they were needed. Apparently there were a lot more people who felt the same way about Xavier’s method of “teaching” that his wife did than he had ever guessed.

He supposed he could have tried reigning her in—but that would only allow her own rage, at learning SHIELD had been keeping close tabs on their children, to fester. Bad things happened when Laura’s rage festered. Usually those things involved triple letter agencies.

“Why wings?” Clint grunted as he watched her pick her wings up so the feathers weren’t trailing the floor.

She heard him. “In my defense,” she said, “I didn’t know they’d take root.”

Wait. What? “Take root?” he asked.

“I thought they were costume wings and my fairy wings had just broken. I think I was six at the time.” She walked confidently through the sewers, as though she knew she was the strongest predator there was.

Clint had known agents with walks like that. Hell, Natasha still walked like that. It proved one thing to him—the girl was trained. He didn’t know who had trained her, but she’d been trained. “You don’t remember how old you were?” he asked.

The muscles in her back bunched as she shrugged. “I’m not entirely certain how old I am,” she admitted. “I was made in a lab.”

The calm, casual way she said that made his heart freeze for a moment. He’d met children made in labs; he’d helped SHIELD save them. At least, he’d thought they were being saved. Now he wasn’t so sure.

Before he could figure out what to say she turned a corner. “Huh!” came the surprised exclamation. “There’s even more now.”

Clint rounded the corner himself—and stared. There were eggs, roughly the size of chicken eggs, suspended in some kind of clear goop all over the place. Hanging from the ceiling. Piled against the walls. The only place free of the eggs was a thin walkway. In the middle of said walkway was a ginger tabby cat with white around its mouth. It’s ears perked and it looked up, stretching and yawning.

The winged girl crouched and held out a hand for the cat to sniff. “Are you done?” she asked. The cat meowed and licked her hand before rubbing against it with a low purr.

“What is this?” asked Clint as he stared around at the piles of eggs.

“Honey. She’s the not-a-cat the kids adopted.”

Clint looked at the cat. It looked like a normal cat to him. Long thin, fuzzy tail. Fuzzy cheeks surrounding pointy teeth. Fuzzy paws that appeared to have retractable claws. “Are you sure it’s not a cat?” asked Clint.

“Well—no,” admitted the winged girl. “But everybody says that cats don’t lay eggs, and these eggs definitely came from this animal, so—not a cat.” She shrugged again.

Clint frowned. “You seem to be taking this well,” he commented slowly.

“It is what it is.”

“Hey.” Clint turned to see a girl, couldn't have been more than twelve, staring at him with the absolutely most suspicious look on her face before she turned to the winged girl. “You wanted a meeting?”

The winged girl turned and grinned. “Yes.” She jerked a thumb towards Clint. “He has something to say to all of you, and I am not taking him to the Safe Place.”

The younger girl snorted. “At least someone’s got sense,” she said as she turned.

“You know you love them,” teased the winged girl.

“Are you coming or not?” demanded the younger before she walked off.

The winged girl gave the not-cat another pet. “You have no idea what you’re in for,” she said, “but don’t worry. I’ll make sure you make it to the surface in one piece.”

Chapter Text

Wade’s arm draped around Peter’s body as the smaller man curled up against his side while Aunt May talked. Aunt May sat in her chair, calmly stirring some sugar into a cup of hot tea, and said softly, “Phil and I have met before.”

How?” asked Peter, clearly fascinated.

{I love how we can feel that question. Petey-Pie! You can rest your little head on our pecs forever!}

When I first graduated nursing school,” Aunt May said slowly, “I joined a group called Help All.”

Wade winced. He’d heard far too much about that group. How they used the good natures of the young adults they tricked into working for them to drum up funds for expeditions that were little more than human trafficking research groups. Francis had gotten some of his subjects from them.

Aunt May nodded at Wade. “ You know,” she said.

Peter looked up at him. Wade swallowed; he didn’t want to tell his boyfriend that his aunt had, however inadvertently, worked for a human trafficking group. “It was—uh, bad. They used legitimate people as a front for human trafficking,” he said curtly.

[Yes. Let’s spare him the gory details.]

They pulled naive and stupid college kids who wanted to make the world a better place to act as the front of their operation as they scoped people out. The lucky ones were sold. The unlucky ones were chopped into spare parts to have their bodies sold on the black market.”

{Does she want to give him nightmares?}

Don’t look at me like that Wade,” Aunt May advised. “I do not hide the darkness of the world from my family.”

Hiding and not telling everything are different,” Wade argued.

She snorted and Peter gently burrowed into Wade’s side, sighing softly as Wade’s arm came around him. “What happened?” Peter asked. “How did you find out?”

Aunt May took another sip of her tea before she put the cup down on the table. “Oddly enough,” she said, “it was SHIELD. Well, technically, it was Phil, but he was working for SHIELD. They had asked our group to come to a region in another country, which I will not name except to say that it no longer exists. See, there were some serious natural disasters in the country, and there were a bunch of orphans. Smart little cusses that they were, the orphans banded together and hid on, and under the streets instead of allowing themselves to be hauled up in orphanages—where their very own government was prostituting them out.” She shook her head. “It was disgusting.”

Sounded eerily similar to what was happening with the street children of New Amsterdam, except that New Amsterdam’s children weren’t orphans, for the most part.

SHIELD helped?” Peter asked.

{Aw! He sounds confused!}

[But why does he sound confused? All of that “SHIELDing humanity for the good of all” crap should mean that he trusts them.]

{But—his aunt clearly doesn’t trust them. Maybe she taught him better?}

Aunt May sighed. “Yes,” she said wearily. “See, they were the ones that took us to the country. They provided food, shelter, medical tools, Everything we needed to help these orphaned children get healthy. Strong.” The woman gave a low, bitter laugh. “They played us like the fools we were. Led the authorities right to them. And then? When we asked SHIELD for help? They sent us home. No explanations, no help, just deposited us on US soil with a note to remember we’d signed non-disclosure agreements.”

Wade could almost feel it when something clicked in Peter’s brain. “Is that how you met Uncle Ben?” he asked.

Aunt May’s lips quirked in a smile. “Not quite. See, one of the kids I’d gotten attached to had been taken for—bad purposes.” Her lips pressed in a thin line. “I won’t go over the details; they still piss me off and I don’t have room to vent until the you-know-what that commissioned that squid over there comes to collect it. So they took the kid.”

And you went hunting,” prompted Peter, voice full of awe.

Hunting?” asked Wade, startled.

Aunt May grinned. “Oh, yes,” she said firmly. “I went hunting. I hunted down the illegal side of Help All, did everything in my power to take them down—legally, I might add—while I tracked down that one kid. I’d gotten him traced to a barge in New Amsterdam when I met Ben—he was working his own case trying to figure out where all the children his team was rescuing from unsavory situations were coming from.”

And you teamed up?” asked Wade as he snuggled down with Peter, who yawned.

Her lips twitched again and her eyes sparkled. “Hardly,” she said. “ He thought that I was a loose cannon. I thought he had a stick up his ass.”

Peter buried his face into Wade’s side and Wade could feel the smaller man shaking in laughter. He stared, fascinated. Aunt May—the woman who had raised Spiderman— had been a vigilante? Maybe it was in Peter’s DNA.

{Maybe he’ll share that DNA with us.}

[That was a terrible joke.]

What happened?” asked Wade.

I wasn’t as careful as I thought I was. I got caught, Ben managed to rescue both me and the children, and promptly yelled at me about procedure and the importance of backup at which point I shoved him over the side of the barge. Luckily, he could swim.” May grinned. “Now, Peter, you have something to do.”

Wade could feel Peter grimace before he pulled away. “Yes,” he admitted.

Good boy,” said Aunt May with clear pride as he shoved away from the couch and left the room. “Now, Wade,” said the woman turning that piercing gaze onto the mercenary. “You’ve figured it out.”

No need to ask what. The only thing that he could have figured out, the only thing that would have given her that look, was that Peter was Spiderman. Clearly, she knew as well.

Man didn’t know the first thing about my boy, and then told me not to worry.”

Tony didn’t know that Peter and Spiderman were the same person, and he’d dared to tell Aunt May, who clearly knew, that Peter was going to be fine when he was in a life threatening situation.

[No wonder she hates him.]

{Why does she hate Norman then? I mean, I know why we hate him, and why Petey does, but why does she?}

“I have,” Wade admitted.

Her lips twitched. “Do you see the joke now?” she asked.

He’d kidnapped Spiderman to keep him safe. Wade’s own lips twitched. “I do,” he admitted.

“Good.” Aunt May grabbed her tea and took another drink. “Look after my boy,” she ordered.

“As best as I can,” Wade promised.

Chapter Text

Tony stared into the angry faces in front of him. He wasn’t entirely certain why they were angry. He knew why the board was angry with him—again. He usually knew why Pepper was angry with him—almost constantly. But he was pretty sure that he’d never met any of these people before.

“Can I—help you?” asked Tony. The kitten in his lap arched its back and hissed and Tony quickly tried to calm it down. No reason to let Hulk2 loose on this crowd.

“Mr. Stark,” one of the women in the group said, still glaring at him, “we are here to help you.”

Tony stared at them, speechless. This—was not a situation he’d ever encountered before. What could they possibly want to help him with? Should he call Pepper for help? No, she was fielding a board meeting for him at the moment. “Ah,” he said intelligently. “Help me with what?”

The leader pursed her lips angrily before speaking in a carefully modulated tone. “With the children.”

“Ah.” Enlightenment struck Tony with all the force of a hammer. Somehow these people had learned about the home he was trying to make for the street kids and the children he was going to rescue from the facility. “Tell me how,” he ordered.

“These traumatized children will need psychological help,” said the leader.

“No shit,” replied Tony. He almost missed the lack of a laugh from the vents indicating Barton’s amusement. Almost. “They also need a home. They need parents. They will need, more than anything, stability.” Tony normally wasn’t that blunt with people—but if they wanted to help they would need to know what they were signing up for. “They need more than a couch visit twice a week,” Tony added firmly. “They need someone willing to be there, at all times, for them.”

“You’re talking to Xavier!” accused one of the people.

Tony glared at the man. “Xavier,” he said slowly, “has people willing to live with the children. People who understand budding powers, which these children most likely have. People who are able to fully and completely commit.” He looked around the room, meeting the eyes of every person in there. “I won’t accept anything less,” he added firmly.

Hulk2 gave a high pitched mew and leaped onto the desk before delivering a lecture to the people assembled before Tony. At least, Tony supposed it was a lecture, based on the tone of the mews, even if he couldn't actually understand what the kitten was saying. After a moment the kitten stopped and tried to clumsily groom its chest.

It wasn’t the leader who understood what Tony was saying. “So you’ll allow us to help,” a woman in the corner said. The black woman watched Tony with narrowed eyes, braided hair pulled tightly against her head.

Tony met the gaze firmly. “I need all the help I can get,” he said. “But someone coming in half-hearted, trying to feel good about what they do without actually doing anything—they don’t need to be part of this conversation.”

“You’re speaking from personal experience.”

Tony’s gaze didn’t waver as images crossed his mental eyes. Images of people who’d said they could help after the kidnapping, claimed they wanted to help—when all they wanted was a piece of the Stark Empire. No, he’d had far too many of those. He might not have rescued the children yet, but they deserved better than that.

The woman gave a curt nod as the leader spoke up again. “There are more things at stake,” the leader informed him grimly. “The children will need to learn how to deal with regular people, proper socialization.”

“They’ll have each other,” Tony said, confused.

The leader was not impressed. She glared down at Tony. “Proper socialization,” she said firmly, “means that eventually they will be able to integrate into society. They won’t, for lack of a better term, be forced with the horrible shock of coming out of their cocoons into the real world.”

“These are children,” Tony argued, “who already know the harshest parts of the real world. What they need is love, respect, and affection.”

“You—”

Tony never learned what the man was going to say, because suddenly he yelped as a small fire danced up his trousers. The fire spread as a kitten shaped ball of fire streaked through the room before coming to a stop on Tony’s desk. The kitten gave a pitiful mew, the flames damped out, and then the mother cat trotted over to grab her errant offspring and haul it back to the nest.

Tony turned his mournful attention to the charred surfaces on his desk. “Is that—is that what you’re doing now?” demanded one of the people.

Before Tony could speak the door to the office opened and Pepper came in, cutting a gaze at all of the people gathered in it. “You do not have the authority to be on this level,” Pepper said evenly.

“This is insane!” shouted one of the people, not either of the leaders. “He’s developing mutant kittens!”

“I assure you,” Pepper said firmly, “the kittens came from their mother that way. And all of you have outstayed your welcome at Stark Tower. You can leave on your own, or I can get security to throw you out.” She smiled. They left.

Pepper sighed and made her way to the desk as she carefully stomped on the little fires that were still smoldering around the room. “You might need to add some heat resistant materials to this office, if the kittens are going to stay here.”

Tony looked at the bed the cat and her kittens were on. “What are we going to do when they’re cats?” he asked.

“Be grateful that we’ll never have to worry about rodent damage again,” Pepper said firmly.

Chapter Text

Quentin sighed—internally. He, more than anyone, knew how unstable Norman was. If he’d had anywhere else to go—but he burned his bridges. For better or worse, he was on his own. “Mr. Osborn,” he tried.

Norman nodded. “Yes?” he asked.

How to tell your probably psychopathic boss who might be in the middle of psychotic break that his idea was stupid, dangerous, and might get almost everybody involved killed? “Mr. Osborn, there are a few—problems with your plan.”

“Oh?” asked Norman, his voice dangerously mild.

Quentin held back a full body shudder from sheer force of will. Norman was like a dangerous animal—any sudden movement could incite an attack. “First of all,” Quentin said with a calm he didn’t in the least feel, “Deadpool is insane.”

Norman makes a disbelieving noise as he turns to face the young man. This did not help Quentin’s state of mind at all. Having Norman talk while staring out the window was one thing. Elucidating his points to the full attention of the man was something else entirely. “Do tell,” Norman said casually as he leaned against his desk, eyes on Quentin.

Quentin severely hoped he wasn’t beginning to sweat. He couldn't afford to show weakness to this man. “The man simply doesn’t have the capacity for normal thought. No one can read Deadpool’s mind. Not even Professor Xavier.”

“Xavier is not as powerful as you are,” Norman pointed out.

No, but the man was much smarter. After all, he wasn’t here, in this room, with this man. “Xavier,” he said firmly, “ has much more experience than I do. Over the course of his career he has dealt with clinically insane people,” much like Norman, “and did so calmly. Deadpool’s mind makes him puke. I’ve seen it happen. The other thing,” Quentin added quickly, while Norman was still listening to him, “is his personal history.”

“His history?” asked Norman quizzically. He didn’t sound upset.

Quentin knew better than to trust that.

“There are certain habits that people recognize in each other when they’re dating. It’s called a ‘love language,’ and I don’t speak the one between Peter and Wade.”

“And?” asked Norman curiously.

“And,” stressed Quentin, “assuming I can get into his head to do what you want me to, his previous history means that he’s liable to leap on any discrepancy.” He took a breath and tried to sum everything up in a single sentence that would make the man listen. “If I do this wrong, there’s a good chance he’ll try to kill Peter.”

Norman was silent. Quentin hoped it meant the man was thinking over what he’d said, but he was afraid to peek. He knew his professor had first-hand experience in dealing with the mentally ill, but that didn’t mean he wanted to risk it. There was always a risk, peeking into someone's head, of getting caught with no way out again. The less stable the person was, the more likely that was. He didn’t want to risk getting trapped in Norman’s head.

He knew, all too well, what Norman had been doing to his son.

“Hmm.” Norman appeared to be thinking. “Let me try putting this another way,” he said. “If Deadpool, in his vast love for Peter, ever figures out exactly what we’ve been doing with his research the man will leave nothing in this building standing—not equipment, not the building itself, and the employees will be nothing more than various red smears in the halls.” Norman sighed. “I would like to think,” he said with a touch of bitterness to his voice, “that Peter would never even think about complaining about his work here to his boyfriend. Loyalties to Harry aside, the boy has a strong need to protect the people around him. He gets it from his mother’s side of the family.”

Odd comment. “You’re saying—”

“I’m saying that it’s change Deadpool’s mind or die, Quentin.” The man stood up, clasped Quentin on the shoulder for a moment, and then walked away. “Good luck,” he called before leaving.

Quentin leaned forward, pink streaked hair falling into his face, as he focused on not panicking. Norman clearly already had a plan in motion to get Deadpool to the building. That meant, barring yet another alien invasion (oh, please let there be another alien invasion) Deadpool was going to find himself locked up in a lab.

Quentin barely kept himself from falling into hysterics. He knew the fate of the last lab that held Deadpool. And the one before that. And the one before that. And one of those labs, ha ha, had even done what Norman wanted Quentin to do: lock him in a happy world of his own devising.

Clearly Norman wasn’t caught up to the craters those labs had once been.

Chapter Text

Ellie glared at the man standing by Angel. She’d seen him around the city, of course, but she didn’t trust. Neither did Angel. If Angel had trusted him she wouldn't have thought twice about taking him to the Safe Space.

Or would she? Angel seemed to have a unique set of boundaries that she wouldn't cross. Ellie wasn’t entirely certain what the pattern was to those boundaries, and it was possible that bringing someone to another person’s home was one of them. Or, it was possible she didn’t trust the man. Ellie couldn't say.

There was a lot about Angel that Ellie didn’t understand. She didn’t understand why the older girl took the time to protect the younger kids when she clearly didn’t need that protection herself. (Ellie hadn’t been sure of that one until she watched Angel effortlessly pick up a huge concrete block with one hand.) She didn’t understand that odd way that Angel would sometimes speak, as though she was talking around something, the way that adults tended to do about sex stuff. Only—the things Angel talked around didn’t seem connected.

She talked around the Avengers, never calling them by name or even by the hero nicknames that everyone knew.

She talked around Stark Industries and Oscorp.

She talked around Central Park, never calling it by name. It was always, “the park.”

She talked around the authorities trying to grab the kids, never naming them by name.

She talked around the Kingpin. All of the street children knew about him (his men would feed them sometimes), but she never mentioned him or talked about him, but would talk all around his operations.

None of those things seemed to be connected. Of course, the kids had things they wouldn't talk about. Juby’s dad. Anna Marie’s mom. Remy’s aunt and uncle. But those things were all connected, all similar. There were reasons they talked around those people that all of the other children knew. Understood.

Maybe Yukio could explain it. She seemed to have a much better understanding of people than Ellie did. And she was nice to talk to. Didn’t insist on this “share your feelings” shit the adults were so fond of.

Ellie turned her attention back to the man perching on a box next to Angel. Angel was, as always, relaxed as she lounged in her spot. The man tried to look relaxed, but living on the streets and frequently running for her life had made Ellie too good at reading body language to be fooled. He was nervous. The question was why? Why was he nervous about talking to a bunch of children that were no threat to him?

Ellie looked around the abandoned subway platform. There was an odd sense of satisfaction in having this meeting in their old home, while their new one was safe from prying eyes and visitors. “Everyone here?” she asked.

“The twins are watching Copper,” Remy said.

Well, they were attached to the young woman they’d rescued, even if Ellie wasn’t entirely certain why. “Good enough,” she admitted as she turned to the man, still sitting next to Angel. “Talk,” she ordered shortly. The man looked startled; Angel just grinned.

The man spoke. “O—kay then,” he said, clearly slightly nervous. The children watched him silently. “Stark’s building a house in the middle of nowhere for children he’s going to rescue from labs and wants you guys to start living there first so it’s not sterile when we get them out.” The man took a breath. “Stark is—”

“We know who Stark is,” Ellie said coldly. Her eyes shifted to Angel. “What do you think about this?”

“I think,” said Angel, “that I’m not going to give my opinion.”

There were surprised murmurs behind and around Ellie—but Ellie wasn’t surprised. “Because you’re not going to be here,” Ellie stated.

“Bingo!” cheered Angel, looking smug. “I’m not going to give an opinion, because I won’t be here to catch the fallout if everything goes sideways.” The older girl chuckled and leaned on a hand.

Some might think that she was amused by their predicaments. Some might yell at her for her callous behavior. Ellie noticed that the people who would do this were the same ones who thought sending her back to that “home” was a good idea.

“What do you recommend?” asked Ellie.

“Learn,” said Angel. She gestured to the man. “He’s right here, and I’ll know if he lies. Ask questions. Think. What are the benefits of moving to a new place? What are the benefits of staying here? Which is better for you?”

The man made a choked sound that both girls ignored. Ellie crossed her arms over her chest as she glared at Angel before sighed. “Fine,” she said grimly before turning to the man. “Well? What are the benefits to living in Stark’s new home for street children?”

“And lab children,” interjected the man. He laughed nervously, eyes a little wide at the solemn stares he was getting from the silent children around him. “Okay, it’s like this. Stark wants to make this not just a house, but a home; so there are going to be people—adults—to act as parents. But there’s also going to be teachers, because education is important, and shrinks, because hot damn, we adults need some fucking therapy after the shit we’ve been through.” A pause and the man coughed. “And the kids too, of course,” he added lamely.

“You also won’t know the lay of the land there like you do the streets,” Angel spoke up. “It will be a new place, a new environment with people you don’t know. Whether or not anyone acknowledges it,” the older girl added as she looked around the group, “you know the adults of the city. You know who can be trusted, who needs avoided, and have escape routes everywhere. These are things you’d have to build in the place Stark,” her lips twitched oddly at the name, “is building.”

Ellie could see all of that. Angel spoke nothing more than the truth. “And?” she demanded. “What are the benefits to staying here?”

Angel’s grin widened, clearly pleased with the younger girl. “Here,” she said, “you know the lay of the land. You have escape routes, you have plans in place in case there’s another alien invasion,” both of them ignored the choking sounds from the man, “and your safe place is almost self-sustaining. But,” Angel added holding up a cautionary finger, “it isn’t yet. And while it’s a good place to hide if things are crashing down from the sky, it’s not monster proof.”

Remy scoffed. “Monsters ain’t found it,” he said confidently.

“Monsters aren’t looking,” Angel countered. “The one controlling them doesn’t see you as a threat. As long as none of them actually follow one of you to it, it’s not going to be found.”

“You seem to know a lot about this,” the man said, suspicion in his voice.

“Shush,” Angel said playfully. “This isn’t about me.” She turned her attention back to the children. “The downsides of this,” she added, “are that it isn’t self-sustaining yet. You still have to venture outside to get food. And food is something that the house being built will most definitely have.”

“Really?” asked a pitifully hopeful voice.

Ellie winced. Of course they were hungry. The fruits and vegetables that were growing in the safe place haven’t actually started producing yet. And food, as Ellie knew, was a powerful motivation.

The man standing by Angel didn’t look surprised at the question. Most adults would have been and Ellie felt a tiny prick of something that could almost be called respect for the adult who didn’t immediately gush at why such a question was necessary. “Not only will there be food,” the man added, “but it will always be available to anyone who is hungry.”

“I see.” Ellie stepped forward, blocking the man from saying anything more. “We’ll discuss it,” the girl told him firmly.

“What are you—”

“I said we’ll discuss it.” Ellie’s eyes narrowed and the man took a step back, not wanting to press her. She nodded and turned to gesture the children out of the room. The man moved to follow him, but one of Angel’s arms grabbed him and held him in place while the children left. Ellie, seeing the movement, nodded at the older girl, who winked back.

Angel wasn’t going to make their decision for them. But, she was fair. She had worked to lay out both the good and the bad of both decisions.

Ellie followed the children out and back to the safe space. They had a decision to make.

Chapter Text

Peter felt a mixture of joy and worry as he swung through the city. Wind rushed by as he kept an ear out for trouble. Ears that still burned from his flush after what Aunt May had said.

Because I need to talk to him alone, and I know you can hear everything from anywhere in the house or yard, Peter.”

Peter hoped that Aunt May wasn’t giving Wade a shovel talk. He wasn’t sure how his boyfriend would handle it. He knew that Wade might come off as a loud, blusterous guy, but he was sensitive. He also seemed to have some esteem issues. Peter wasn’t sure what to do to help, or even if he could help, beyond being—

Help!” screamed someone in terror.

Without conscious thought, Peter changed directions in midair to see—a car racing through the streets? Pounding was coming from the inside, from both the front and rear seats. The car was headed right for a busy intersection.

Peter dropped on the car and peered inside to see the terrified visage of Mrs. Fisk and young boy who could only be the Kingpin’s son. Another glance showed that this was one of the new, fully automatic self-driving cars. Oscorp design, by the logo on the dash.

Thinking quickly Peter reached over and yanked off the two doors from the passenger’s side. “All aboard!” he ordered quickly. Both woman and child reached for him and he gathered them up before launching himself away from the car shooting webs to slow their velocity until they could stand.

There was a screech as oncoming traffic tried to brake to avoid the runaway car—and several metallic crunches as it failed, miserably. “Woo, that was close!” Peter said with a low whistle. The two he’d rescued from, going by what he could see from his vantage point, certain death were still shaking. Not unexpected. “Are the two of you all right?” he asked them gently

The woman’s eyes were open and kind of glazed over. “I—I don’t—know what ha—happened,” she stuttered, still pale and kind of waxy looking. The kid wasn’t in much better shape.

Peter hesitated. Normally he would take the two the hospital to get checked out, or wait with them until the police arrived. He would this time except—except that these were the wife and child of Kingpin, notorious leader of New Amsterdam’s criminal market. If he took them to the hospital, or waited for the police to come get them—they’d have targets on their backs. Chances were they wouldn't make it home again.

And, given the “work” that Kingpin did, Peter felt certain that the former wrestler was more than capable of getting them some “unofficial” medical care. “Come on,” Peter said shooing them in the right direction. The kid was too focused on what had almost happened to think much of it.

The same was not true of his mother. “Where are you taking us?” she demanded.

To your home,” Peter said gently. They’d both just had a major shock, after all. “It’s not safe for the two of you here.”

She grabbed the kid and held him close, eyes wide with fear. “You know,” she whispered.

I do. And it doesn’t matter,” Peter said firmly. “Not right now. I just want to make sure that the two of you are safe, and your husband’s the best person to do that. Come on.” He gently shooed them.

I know you,” the boy said suddenly. “You’re Spiderman.”

I am indeed,” Peter told him as they walked towards the Kingpin’s house. He wasn’t sure he was glad of how close the accident had happened by their home. On the one hand, he was escorting them for less time; on the other the accident seemed a bit less accidental.

They talk about you in school!” the boy said excitedly.

Yeah?” asked Peter, intrigued. “What do they say?”

That you’re a hero everybody hates,” the boy said. “I don’t understand why,” he added.

Peter tried to give the what the boy was saying due consideration. “Well,” Peter said, trying to be absolutely fair to everyone, “one thing that tends to happen in fights between two superpowered people is collateral damage. Do you know what that is?”

No.”

Peter smiled at the blunt reply. “Collateral damage is the damage that occurs around the fight. Let’s say I was fighting the Rhino and he pushed me through a brick wall.” Peter’s ribs ached at the memory. “The wall—which was destroyed—was collateral damage. Now, the Rhino is in prison currently paying for the wall.” And Peter hoped the man could feel the price of every brick that had to be relaid because of the incident. “But, people think that I should be paying for the wall too, and that’s why a lot of people hate me.”

But—you kept the Rhino from doing more damage,” the boy said, clearly struggling with the comment.

I like to think I did,” said Peter wistfully.

Oh. Is Daddy like you?” asked the boy.

Hey.” Peter stopped and dropped to the boy’s level. “Your father and I might not get along,” an understatement for how he felt the Kingpin wanted to kill him, “but I promise you that there is nothing more important to your father than you and your mother. Okay?”

The boy looked unconvinced, but said, “Okay.”

Fisk’s wife stared at Peter like he was an alien creature. Peter knew that look very well; after all, aliens had a tendency to invade New Amsterdam on a regular basis. “Come on,” he said shooing them with his hands. “Time for the two of you to get home.”

Thank you,” Fisk’s wife said softly as they walked. She still seemed puzzled, but less afraid. Peter could work with puzzled.

Not a problem,” Peter said cheerfully as they made their way to the house. Peter held back as they entered—only to be surrounded by a bunch of Fisk’s guards. “Gee, guys,” he said petulantly. “It’s late. Can’t we play tomorrow.”

The door to the house opened and Fisk loomed in the doorway, glaring down at him. “Spiderman,” he spat.

Daddy, no!” said the boy as he ran up to embrace his father. “Spiderman saved us!”

Fisk looked towards his wife, who nodded, and then looked back at Peter. The look on his face was priceless and Peter gave a small wave. “Just doing what your friendly neighborhood arachnid does,” he said lightly before turning away.

He found his exit route blocked by another gunman. “Perhaps,” Fisk drawled, “our friendly neighborhood arachnid would like to come in for tea.”

The guard in front of Peter pointed the weapon in his hands, cleverly hidden by Peter’s body from the view of the boy and his mother, at Peter. “Well,” said Peter as he turned to head into the house, “since you put it that way…” He walked up to the door.

He walked in.

Chapter Text

[It’s about time the plot wound back to us.]

{I don’t understand.}

Wade didn’t understand either and he stared at Aunt May, still calmly drinking her tea. How did this woman send her nephew—whom she loved—to go out patrolling just so that she could talk with Wade? And then sit there calmly drinking tea?

The woman smiled softly. “Wade, you are overthinking this. Peter has been Spiderman since he was fifteen. He’s fought bullies, robbers, and alien invaders. There’s not much that he can’t handle in the city of New Amsterdam. I saw to that.”

But you—”

[What does she mean, she saw to that?]

That—was a good question. Wade repeated it.

Just what I said. After leaving Help All, I went underground. I still have contacts, something that J.J. better not forget.”

{Wait—is she talking about Peter’s boss ? The newspaper guy?}

Jamison?” squeaked Wade staring at the apparently formidable woman in front of him.

Aunt May snorted. “ Did you honestly think the head of a newspaper office would take the time to listen to a scrawny kid who said he could get pictures of the new vigilante swinging around the city? Of course I made a phone call.”

Which meant—Aunt May knew what the bastards at the paper said about Spiderman. About Peter . And said—nothing.

[Well, this explains why Jonah called her a monster. No wonder he’s so protective of Peter.]

{What do you mean?}

[Would you want that pissed off at you? Imagine what she could do…]

Wade began to fidget. “Shouldn’t he be back by now?” he asked.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.” Aunt May’s eyes narrowed as she looked at him. “Are you anxious?”

Of fucking course I’m anxious!” Wade roared.

[We do not want this woman pissed at us.]

Aunt May settled back into her chair with a smirk. “Good,” she purred. “Go,” she added.

Wade didn’t need to be told twice. He bolted from the c ouch and ran out of the house—slamming into the giant squid metal thing because he forgot the front door was blocked.

That door’s blocked,” sang Aunt May mischievously.

Thanks,” grunted Wade as he shifted direction, already healing to head outside.

[Have you really thought about this? I mean, what if Peter gets back and we’re not there?]

{Yeah! How are we going to explain that?}

Let’s just find him first,” grunted Wade. He looked down the streets. The problem with following someone who swung around the city with webs was that he could have gone in literally any direction.

{Stop dithering and just pick one!}

[Weren’t you the one just asking how we were going to explain to Peter why weren’t calmly waiting on Aunt May’s couch for him?]

{Hey, can we buy her a new couch? It wasn’t very comfortable.}

[Can you focus ? For five minutes?]

Wade picked a direction at random and jogged down the street swiftly moving from townhouses to huge apartment buildings. What if Peter—Spidey—was in trouble? He needed to find his boyfriend.

A hunched over figure let out a fragile cry and went down to one leg. Wade, new hero mode activated, jogged over to the figure. “Are you all right?” he asked.

I just felt weak,” the figure said weakly.

Shit. This person probably needed an ambulance. Wade dropped down by the person. “What happened?” he asked. “Do you need medical attention?”

He barely registered the prick as the needle slipped easily through the woven Kevlar of his costume and into his thigh. He did notice the rush of unknown fluid being injected into him, and jumped back. Little colored bubbles began to pop at the edges of his vision as the figure straightened up.

Thanks, Deadpool,” the figure said. Were those—extra arms? Coming out of the back? What? “I’m feeling much better now.”

Wade coughed and felt moisture hit the mask he was wearing as his legs folded up under him.

[Bitch poisoned us!]

Don’t worry,” the voice said smugly. “It’s not permanent. But then, nothing is with you, is it?”

{Got…to…find…}

Chapter Text

Once again Peter found himself in Kingpin’s office, this time he was being offered refreshments. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, and he wasn’t sure that Kingpin’s wife knew about the ongoing feud between the two men. He certainly wasn’t going to risk unmasking, even if it was just enough to eat, in this house where the man probably had people just waiting to pounce on any little hint of Spiderman’s identity. But the thought was nice.

“You saved my family.” The man’s tone was tense, eyes narrowed. His body was ready to pounce, making the spider sense ping lightly.

Peter sighed. “Listen Kingpin,” the man flinched and Peter changed tactic. “Fisk. Whatever problems are between us,” and there were heaps of problems between them, “they’re between us. Your family is innocent.”

The man glowered at him and once Peter would have mocked him. Made some snarky comment before leaping to the ceiling and crawling out of the house while the bodyguards tried to shoot him down. After all, this was the man who had no trouble selling guns to young teens, of trafficking drugs that made addicts go insane, who did innumerable horrific things.

But this was also the same man who ordered his men to take trays of food out to the street kids. The man who loved his wife so much he plotted a day of the most cliché dates he could think of. The man who truly doted on his son, and had given Peter the tools he’d needed to destroy Runaways Unite. Peter could not hate this man.

“Let me tell you something,” Peter said, earnestly. The hulking brute of a man in front of him watched him with suspicion, but said nothing. “The car going crazy as it did—I don’t think it was an accident or a fault of the programming.”

Fisk took a deep breath. “Go on,” he ordered.

“Those automated cars have almost a thousand safeguards against hitting anything,” Peter said. He should know; he’d helped Oscorp design the parameters for the things. “When they sense impending collision with anything larger than an empty fast food bag,” and that had been an absolute nightmare to program, “they’re designed to slow, or come to a stop. It shouldn't be possible for the thing to speed up, not unless—”

“It was tampered with,” Kingpin breathed.

Peter nodded grimly. “I hate to say this,” he said slowly, “but your family needs a bodyguard.”

“You?” rumbled Kingpin.

Peter. A bodyguard. With all the people who routinely got kidnapped around him. “No!” said Peter panicked. “I’d be a horrible bodyguard!” The two bodyguards by Kingpin coughed lightly and Peter could tell they were trying not to laugh. A thought crossed his mind. “I might know one though,” he said, thoughtfully. “I don’t know if he’d do it, but I’ll ask.” After all, who was better to guard someone than a bodyguard that literally couldn't die?

“Thank you Spiderman,” Kingpin said heavily. “You don’t know—”

“I know what it’s like to to want to protect your family,” Peter said softly. “There’s a reason I wear the mask,” he added in a more lighthearted tone.

“Will you have something to eat with us?” Mrs. Fisk asked as she walked into the room.

“Thank you for offering,” Peter said, because he’d been raised to be polite, “but I have to get going.” He turned towards Fisk. “I’ll let you know if he agrees to it.”

“I could contact him myself,” Fisk grunted.

Peter mentally played through what would happen if Fisk approached Wade about being a bodyguard and grimaced. “Ah, yeah, maybe not the best idea. I’ll let you know.” He nodded, politely, to the Mrs. before leaving. He wanted to get back home, cuddle on the couch with his boyfriend, and maybe listen to some more stories about Aunt May’s early days. He’d never known the woman had once been a vigilante herself—but given her lack of reaction when she learned what Peter was doing as Spiderman it made sense.

What would Wade say? Would he be happy to learn that his boyfriend was really the wall-crawling hero he admired? Or would he feel hurt that Peter hadn’t told him sooner? He didn’t know.

He was shocked to find that Wade was gone when he got back to Aunt May’s. “What happened?” he asked.

Aunt May roller her eyes. “You were taking so long to get the eggs that he got worried and went out to find you.”

He turned to stare at his aunt. Back before he’d confessed his powers (to find that she’d already figured them out) he’d had a series of incidents where she’d send him to the store and he’d get side-tracked by crime fighting only to forget the items he’d been sent out for in the first place. He didn’t appreciate her bringing it up now. “Why didn’t you stop him?” he asked softly.

Aunt May snorted. “Stop him?” she demanded as she looked at him, one eyebrow quirked questioningly. “When all he wants is to make sure my darling nephew is safe and sound and remembers the eggs? Never.”

Peter rolled his eyes and left before, once again, donning his Spiderman suit. Where would Wade go to look for him? Sure, Aunt May might have told him that Peter had gone to go get eggs, but only someone who was naive would believe that Wade’s mind worked linearly and would go straight to the nearest store to look for Peter.

Peter loved his boyfriend, loved all his little quirks, but he knew better. Wade could just as easily be looking in the subway as he could be in a convenience store to see if they had eggs. He needed help. He sighed. “What I need,” he muttered, “is an angel.”

“You called?”

Chapter Text

“So the kids said they’d think about it,” Clint reported. Tony watched as the man rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s a good thing that Angel girl doesn’t hate us,” he added.

Oh?” asked Tony, suddenly attentive. He knew better than to dismiss Clint’s views and thoughts. He put Hulk2 back in the cat bed and leaned forward, the better to give his attention to the archer.

“She said all of three words to one of the street children, and they all turned out to meet with me,” Clint said. He paused and reconsidered. “Well, almost all of them. Apparently two of them are watching a third, named Copper.”

Tony grimaced. They wouldn't have had a choice, of course. Those kids didn’t dare trust adults, and the little he’d learned about Runaways Unite led Tony to believe that they were right. For the most part, adults couldn't be trusted. That meant that if a child was injured or sick, it was the other children who had to help.

Logically, it made sense. Emotionally, he just wanted to make sure they were all safe. His heart hurt at the thought that there was a boy out there, a boy who’d been created with Tony’s DNA (which may or may not have been from sperm; his pre-Iron Man days had been wild ) who was, potentially, just as alone as these children were. Maybe even more; the street children had each other and he didn’t know if the children from the facility did.

“And?” asked Tony, knowing there was more to Clint’s report than he’d given.

And—” Uncharacteristically, Clint hesitated. He stopped and sighed. “She knows things. Things she shouldn't know. Things she couldn't know, but she knows them anyway. If she wanted to, Tony, this girl could utterly destroy all of us and not break a sweat.”

Tony blinked as he considered this. “ What makes you say that?” he asked.

“She has a map of the entire city, everything from skyscrapers and streets to sewage and subway lines—even the stuff that’s been locked down. You know, when they build a new line and it totally cuts off a station? It gets bricked up and paved over and no one remembers it’s there? She knows. It’s all in her head. I’m also relatively certain that she’s keeping a running tally on everyone’s strengths and weaknesses too.”

Tony thought for a moment. True, all of that knowledge gave her an almost unprecedented level of power—but Tony knew that, despite most evidence to the contrary, there were smart people that actually weren’t egocentric assholes, and no—he did not consider himself to be in that group. “What does she think about the plan?” he asked Clint.

Clint gave another grimace. “Hard to say. She gave no opinion one way or the other. Told the kids to gather their own intel about both sides and when one said how she pointed to me and said I’m the intel from you.”

Tony blinked. “That was—fair,” he allowed, surprise.

“Yeah, and one of the kids said something weird. Said that she wasn’t going to offer an opinion because she wasn’t going to be around long enough to matter and she looked smug at that.”

Smug?”

Clint reconsidered. “Proud, maybe? It was kind of a cross between that look Banner throws your way when he’s right and what Laura uses when one of the kids remembers ‘talk not punch’ at school.”

Right. Laura. “Clint, would you know anything about a horde of psychiatrists that tried to corner me earlier?”

Clint winced. “Uh, yeah—Laura has a very low opinion of Prof. X. And, uh, may have decided you needed more—professional help?”

Tony sighed. Clint was no more in charge of his wife than Tony was in charge of Pepper. “They brought up good points and Pepper almost punted them out of the building.”

“As long as she didn’t,” Clint replied mildly.

Puddles, the mother cat, gave a huge yawn before looking at the silly humans in the office and turning to wash her offspring. “On another note,” Tony continued since Clint hadn’t been there, and would probably hear the reports from his wife later, “one of the kittens can catch fire.”

It can what?” Clint stared at Tony like he’d never seen the man before in his life.

Tony simply nodded. “It may have singed some of the shrinks a bit,” he added.

Clint just stared down at the basket. Mother and kittens looked so normal, so cute, so helpless—

“SHIELD never learns about them,” Clint decided.

“Agreed.”

Chapter Text

Peter whirled to face the speaker. The girl, Angel, stood on the side of the building, wind rustling through the feathers on her wings as she looked at him with curiosity. “How?” he asked, first question to run through his head.

She shrugged. “I have super hearing,” she explained, “and I’m always—attuned? Is that the right word?—to the sound of your voice. And Wade’s voice,” she added.

“Ah.” Peter fidgeted. He both wanted to ask for her help and scream at her to go home. She was way too young for this hero business—but then, he had been too. “Did you figure out what laid eggs in the sewers?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Nah. They’re just going to hatch. I don’t think they’re a threat—well, not to anything other than sewer rats.”

Peter shuddered. He knew way too much about the city’s sewer rats. “Have you seen Wade?” he asked.

“Not today,” Angel answered breezily. She tilted her head to the side, watching him through narrowed eyes. “Why?”

Peter explained what his aunt had done. “And now I need to find him,” he said.

Angel nodded. “This is going to sound strange,” she said cautiously, “but why do you need to find him so badly? He thinks you went out for eggs, right?”

“Right,” said Peter thoughtfully.

“Right.” Angel’s wings flipped lazily for a moment as she considered. She looked back at Peter. “What’s the nearest store that sells both eggs and poblano peppers?” she asked.

Peter blinked. “What?” he asked.

“Wade’s favorite food is Mexican,” Angel explained. Peter nodded; he knew that. “Poblano peppers are one of the most commonly used ingredients in Mexican food. I don’t think he even sees stores that don’t sell them.”

That made a lot of sense, actually. He didn’t want to think too hard about why Angel knew that, but it made sense. “Timon’s,” he said firmly before swinging away. He heard the thundering of wings behind him as she shot through the air following him.

Timon was a second-generation immigrant whose family had, quite literally, built the store from scratch—using debris from buildings around the area because aliens invading New Amsterdam was not a new phenomenon. The store was small. The store was sturdily built. And Timon had contacts that got him the freshest everything and everybody loved his store.

Timon also knew Peter. Back when he was a kid, every time he went into the store the man would give him a cookie filled with pineapple. When Peter became Spiderman, he’d stopped several huge pieces of debris from falling on the cherished store. He liked to think the man would understand what Peter was about to ask him, but he wasn’t sure.

Peter ducked into the small store and the bell above the door rang to announce his presence. “Coming!” Timon’s heavily accented voice called. (The man could speak with the same accent any New Amsterdamer could, but chose to cultivate the accent.)

“Hey, Timon!” Peter said nervously, not sure of the reaction he was going to get.

Timon’s dark face lit up. “Spiderman!” he said, all traces of his foreign accent gone. “Welcome! How can I help you?”

Wow. That was—a surprisingly positive reaction. Encouraged Peter said, “I’m looking for a friend of mine. Huge, red, swords on his back?”

“Deadpool!” Timon said, just as excitedly. “Oh, he saved my baby girl last week!”

“Is she all right?” asked Peter, worried.

“Eh, nothing that won’t heal,” Timon said dismissively. “Much better than it could have been. He stopped by earlier—is your friend sick?” Not noticing the shock on Peter’s face (thank goodness for the mask) he continued, “He collapsed and someone had to help him on his way.”

Before Peter could say anything, Angel spoke up. “Do you have cameras?” she asked. “Could we see? If we know who helped him, we’ll know where to look.”

“Of course, of course,” Timon said. “Come with me!” he led them to the office in the back of the little store that the security equipment hooked up.

As Timon was pulling up the video Peter realized that Angel had never said that Wade wasn’t being helped. She’d never said that he was the kind of person who simply didn’t collapse. She’d left Timon with the impression that that they were looking for him because he was ill.

Angel, Peter was coming to realize, was scary.

Peter put his thoughts aside as he watched Wade bend down by a hunched figure on the sidewalk. Watched as something happened to Wade and he began to collapse. Watched as suspiciously familiar multi-jointed metal arms sprang from the figure’s back to wrap up Wade and carry him like a small child.

No. It couldn't be.

But it was. He’d recognize those arms anywhere; he’d helped Dr. Octavius with the algorithms to make them work. And they’d been used to kidnap his boyfriend.

“Thanks, Timon,” Angel said. “We know where to go now.”

“Ah, no problem,” Timon said. “We gotta stick together, eh? I hope your buddy feels better soon.”

“He will,” Angel promised as she gently guided a stunned Peter out of the store.

Dr. Octavius had kidnapped Wade. That meant that Oscorp wanted him for—something. Peter wasn’t aware of any projects the company was working on that would require kidnapping Deadpool. Then again, Peter wasn’t privy to all aspects of the company; there were several bits that were under the direct supervision of Norman. Which meant—kidnapping Wade was a Norman level decision.

He was going to have to hack into the company’s system and find out why. He didn’t want to; he was terrified of what would happen if Norman figured out he did it; but he had to know why and where Wade was taken. He pulled out his phone and made a quick call.

“How can I help you, Mr. Parker?”

As usual, the AI’s voice made Peter grin. “Hey, you remember how you said that you were still looking for a way into the Oscorp mainframe? There’s about to be a breach.”

A moment of silence on the other end of the call. “Mr. Parker, I do not want you to commit a crime for this,” JARVIS told him firmly.

“They took Wade,” Peter said flatly.

Another moment of silence.

“Sir has several new, untraceable rockets in his arsenal. Would you like me to bomb them to the ground?”

Angel’s face turned bright red and she collapsed to the ground, shaking. Peter had the odd idea she was trying not to interrupt his call. “I, uh, don’t actually think there’s a need for that,” Peter hedged.

“Not to worry, Mr. Parker,” JARVIS drawled cheerfully. “I will endeavor to ensure there are no warm bodies in the building first.” Click.

Angel burst out laughing, tears streaming down her face. “I love him!” she squeaked.

Peter gave a weak smile. “Are you busy?” he asked. “Can you help?”

“Hmm. Well, the street children are holed up in their safe place deciding their future and the army gathering under the streets won’t be ready to try and take over New Amsterdam for at least two more days—so, yeah. I can help.”

Peter stared at her for a moment. “Shouldn’t you be trying to do something about that army?” he asked, curiously.

“You would think, but no. Trust me,” Angel said completely serious, “the best way to minimize loss of life here is to let the army commit itself and then chop off the head. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”

“Of course,” Peter echoed weakly. He’d have to assume she knew what she was talking about; he needed to rescue Wade. “Let’s go,” he said.

Chapter Text

The hill was basked in moonlight even though there was no moon. It was quiet. It was peaceful. Wade felt happier than at almost any other moment.

The cowled figure stood over him as he lay on the soft, sweet-smelling grass and he grinned up at the skull beneath it. “Lady Death!” he exclaimed. He clasped his hands over his heart. “Sweet mistress of my heart! It has been too long!”

Lady Death chuckled, the laughter booming oddly through the skull. “Always too long. And yet, never long enough,” she said as she looked gently over him. Her voice softened, and if she’d had flesh Wade imagined it would pull back in a smile. “You do not belong here anymore. Your heart has been tethered elsewhere.”

Wade opened his mouth to protest that no, it hadn’t—and blackness surrounded him. He opened his eyes to see—

He was sitting on a couch. On his couch, in his apartment. He looked around in confusion—how had that happen ed ? It didn’t seem possible.

A soft sigh alerted him to the figure beside, on the couch. He looked over to see—Peter, curled up against his side. And now that he recognized the younger man, he noticed the warmth of the man curled against him. “Something wrong?” the younger man asked, blinking his eyes lazily, like a cat.

Something was wrong. Something was very wrong, but Wade couldn't figure out quite what it was. He knew it needed dealt with quickly. “I don’t know,” he said softly, voice quavering. What? What was it?

He looked back at the young man beside him as Peter chuckled. He looked up at Wade, glasses falling adorably down his nose, and pushed them back up with a single finger.

He didn’t even have time to react before Wade’s hands were around his neck, squeezing the life out of the clone.

Wade’s eyes opened for just a moment to see—the clean, sterile environment of a lab.

[What?]

{How?}

He was standing at the stove, flipping pancakes. Warmth filled his chest as he thought of how the two of them had finally moved in together. It had even been Peter’s idea. He calmly moved the now done pancakes (dick shaped, because of course) to a plate before pouring more pancake batter into the pan.

Two thin, familiar arms wrapped around Wade’s waist and a face pressed itself in his back. “Mmm,” Peter mulled sleepily, “smells good.”

Wade chuckled warmly as the warmth in his chest heat a little more. “I told you, I’m the pancake king!”

“Mmm,” agreed Peter. “Will His Majesty grace me with a good morning kiss?” he asked.

Wade chuckled, flipped the pancakes, and turned. He leaned down to kiss Peter and stopped halfway bopping his nose lightly with a finger. “Boop,” he said teasingly. Peter smiled.

His nose didn’t twitch.

Wade was even faster this time.

[Stop!]

{How?}

Wade was standing in a lab watching Peter work. Not one of the labs he’d seen Peter in, but a lab nonetheless. “So how do you like having your own lab?” he asked Peter.

Peter turned and grinned. “It’s pretty great,” he said leaning against the counter. The liquid in the beaker behind him, precariously balanced over a burner, began to boil. “This was a good idea.”

“Hmm,” agreed Wade seeing, once again, how sexy his boyfriend looked in the lab coat. “You sure you don’t want to play doctor?” he asked as he tried to waggle an eyebrow suggestively. He never knew if he succeeded or not, when he was wearing the suit.

Peter raised an eyebrow of his own in return. “Not in front of the cameras,” he said firmly with a crooked grin. “I don’t want everybody and Stark seeing us.”

“Oh, that could be kinky.”

Peter laughed, turned, and pulled the beaker off the burner before pouring the liquid into another, larger beaker on a tray with three others that had mysterious liquid in them. “There,” he said with satisfaction. “These just need to set overnight. How do you feel about going out to dinner tonight?”

“Mexican?”

“Of course,” Peter answered.

“Of course!” Wade replied. He held out an arm. There was something odd about it—about the color—

Peter tucked his own arm into the crook of Wade’s and the thought flew away. “Where do you think we should go?” he asked as they walked down the corridor to the elevator.

“Oh, I know a taco truck,” Wade said breezily. Peter gave an odd little snort-chuckle and Wade continued, “It’s good! Trust me! And not only does it taste good,” he added as they made their way to the street—

Since when did Peter work so close to the street?

“You’re zoning,” Peter said calmly, breaking the thought.

Wade gave himself a shake. “I guess I am,” he said thoughtfully. “Anyway—where was I?”

“If this taco truck gives you such a bad memory, I’m not sure we should eat there,” teased Peter.

“Oh, no!” gasped Wade as they walked. “It’s a crime against nature!” They passed by an alley mouth with a street child in it.

Peter didn’t even glance in the child’s direction.

Wade was just as fast this time and opened his eyes into the sterile, stainless steel lab to see a young man sitting across from him, wearily rubbing his eyes. The young man, Asian-looking with a dyed pink streak in his hair and piercings marching up one ear, sighed.

{Who the fuck is this bastard?}

[Why do we keep getting shoved to the back of your mind? We don’t like it there!]

“Deadpool, Deadpool, Deadpool,” the young man said. “Oh, Deadpool.” He flung his head back, letting it drape over the chair he was in before looking at Wade again. “This would be a lot easier if you stop fighting me,” he commented.

“Who the fuck are you?” growled Wade.

“Don’t let it bother you. Either this works, and you become a paid employee of Oscorp—and the benefits are great if you don’t mind working for a stone cold psychopath—or it fails and you kill us all.” The young man sighed and leaned forward again. “I need a break. Want anything? Some water, juice, beer? Something to eat? We’ve got an Irish cook this week and her shepherd’s pie is almost to die for.”

“I’d rather have tacos,” grunted Wade.

The young man sighed. “You’re just a few months too late for tacos, Deadpool, and I’m not allowed to leave until the situation with you has been handled. Anything else?”

“Beer would be good.”

“Right.” The young man stood up and walked out of the lab, whistling a low tune.

[What the fuck happened? How did we get here?]

{Where are we?}

Wade wasn’t certain, but he was pretty sure that he was in Oscorp. His brain thrust the image of the woman he’d tried to help, the one that had stabbed him in the leg and injected him with something.

{Doesn’t that guy know we don’t kill people anymore?}

Chapter Text

Adriana stood outside of the facility. Very clever they were, disguising it as a maximum security juvenile prison. No one would listen to the children if one of them broke programming. No one would believe them if they were told the child had done nothing wrong to get put in this facility, had in fact been born in this facility, and were being trained to be perfect human soldiers.

How Adriana hated humans. They were disgusting creatures, willing to use anything they wanted to get ahead. No, the only way to succeed would be to populate the world with her lovely creatures. They had the instincts that humanity had forced down, denied, and were the next wave of sentience in the world.

One of her lovely creatures moved up behind her as she eyed the facility. The chain-linked fence would provide no obstacle for her army. Same for the curled barbed wire at the top. Her creatures were not susceptible to the same things that would leave terrible wounds on humans. Not that she intended for them to go over, oh no.

She intended to make a statement. She was going to destroy them. Hopefully when she was done with this place people would think twice about what they were doing before trying something like this again.

They would try it again, of course. Humans always did.

There was no outward reaction from the facility as she approached it. Of course there wasn’t; she knew what she looked like. She was thin, petite, and pale from all the time she spent underground. She looked weak, maybe even sickly to their untrained eyes. She did not look like a threat.

She stopped a mere two feet away from the fence and glared at the yard inside. In one corner she could see the charred remains of play equipment and her lip curled as she looked at the gray brick facade of the building in front of her.

They were just like the people her parents had sent her to, to “cure” her of her powers. Well, they would meet the same fate; she would see to that. A single twist of her will and one of her creatures, a gorgeous mottled brown, reached around her, gripped two links of the fence, and pulled.

The previously silent building began to wail with sirens as the first fence was breached. Her lovely, wonderful creatures streamed into the gap and easily (with more ease now that she wasn’t in the way) breached the second fence. She calmly strode through. Her creatures knew what to do.

Sweet, delicious screams reached her ears as those fools tried to kill her darlings with bullets—but she’d learned. Their exoskeletons were now tough, almost impenetrable. Her babies were safe enough with the mere humans in charge of this place.

Soon the first of them returned, carrying a struggling human in its grip. She tilted her head as she considered the sacrifice in front of her. Was it worthy? Would the venom take? She smiled as two fangs slid out of the nearly invisible sheaths in her gums and began slowly releasing the venom she used to create her creatures. The human, clad in a white coat, began to struggle and scream as it took in the site of her fangs.

Did the human know what was about to happen to it? Or was it just reacting with the fear all mammals instinctively had for five-inch long fangs? She’d find out soon enough.

Her creature forced the human to the ground and, carefully gripping the head with one hand and the shoulder with the other, forced the human to bare its neck as she stepped forwards. Her fangs sank into the skin and muscle of the neck with a satisfying feeling and she felt some of her venom, pent up from lack of use recently, being injected into the human. She stopped releasing the venom and pulled her fangs out when the human began to go limp. Her creature dropped the human and, following the silent command, went back into the facility.

The moon had risen and was bathing the facility in a forgiving silver light when her creatures finished with the adults in the facility. The first of the humans was already turning, gaining the lovely colors that would grace its new form. To her left, guarded by a ring of her creatures, were those who were lacking. Those who were unacceptable. Those who would, before the night was over, die.

“What do you want with us?” demanded one with a white coat.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” growled another in a dark blue uniform.

Adriana ignored the humans. They were not worth her time—but someone else was. She waited, patiently, for her last creature to return with its burden.

There! She shifted forwards eagerly as her creature, carrying the wide-eyed child, came towards her. Yes, this was the one. The one she’d meant to find. The yellow eyes stared at her in fear.

“Oh, no,” said Adriana gently as she walked towards the child. “You don’t have to be scared,” she added as she got closer.

“You—you’re like me,” whispered the child, the little girl.

Adriana smiled. “I am,” she told the girl confidently. “And you’re like me.”

The girl looked around. “You—made them?” she asked.

“I did. Look there.” Adriana pointed towards the humans that were changing. “Soon they will be wonderful beauties as well.”

“What about them?” asked the girl as she pointed to the group of humans in a ring.

Adriana hummed thoughtfully. “They don’t have the—ability to become better,” she told the child. She reached over and gently ran her fingers through the sweat-soaked, matted hair. They’d have to fix that later. “What do you think should happen to them?” she asked the child.

The child’s gaze hardened with hatred. “I think they should die,” she snarled. “Horribly.”

Adriana smiled and turned back to the group. “Then that,” she said with satisfaction, “is exactly what will happen.”

Neither Adriana nor the child looked away as the creatures surrounding the humans darted into the circle and began eating them alive.

Chapter Text

Peter reeled and clutched the wall, his sticky grip the only thing keeping him standing as waves of warning washed over him. For a brief moment he was blinded before the mysterious “Spidey-sense” dialed back enough for him to function again. He gasped before a distinctive sound hit his ears.

Angel was puking.

Peter looked at her shaking, pale form as she emptied her stomach against the wall. Her wings flapped listlessly against the floor as her stomach heaved. “You felt that,” he said, awed. She’d sensed the same thing he had. Only stronger. Which was strange, because no one did.

There was even,” she continued with an odd, wry smile, “a child who’d gotten the mutations of two powerful mutants.”

Two powerful mutants. He already knew she had a healing factor which meant—Deadpool and Spiderman. No wonder she hadn’t underestimated him.

“Y—yeah,” she gasped as she held a hand against her stomach and leaned against the wall with the other, careful not to fall into the vomit. She was still shaking.

Peter wasn’t much better. “What—what was that?” he asked fighting his own nausea. He didn’t want to risk leaving any DNA in Oscorp as Spiderman.

Angel wiped her mouth the back of a shaking hand. “I—I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’ve never,” she swallowed, “felt anything like that before.”

Peter hadn’t either. He started to look around hoping to find something that could have triggered the reaction, only to notice the green, watery liquid running down the wall to pool on the floor. “Angel,” he said looking at the small puddle of bile, “when’s the last time you ate?”

The girl cringed. “I have a fast metabolism,” she muttered defensively.

Peter remembered his own defenses. He had a fast metabolism. Aunt May needed to eat more than he did. He wasn’t starving—just a growing boy. He would eat—but he didn’t have time. He knew where she was coming from.

“Listen,” Peter said firmly, “next time someone with means asks you to do something, you charge them for food for it.”

Angel frowned as she wiped her mouth, looking at him. “Isn’t that unethical?” she asked.

He looked into the pale, thin (how had he missed how thin she was) face that showed confusion. “If you don’t have the means to support yourself, and the people asking you for help have the ability, it’s not unethical; it’s necessary.”

“But—”

“You told me that you were once so hungry you ate a bear,” Peter said flatly. “Can you tell me that you’re not that hungry now?”

Silence.

Peter sighed. “I’m not going to tell you how to live your life,” he said. “But I want you to know—it’s okay to need to eat. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you human.”

She was silent, and looked thoughtful. Peter didn’t want to press her; he knew how well that had worked for him back when he’d first started being Spiderman. The last thing she needed was to give in to some teenage rebellion making her decide that he was full of crap and of course she was fine the way she was.

Angel moved so quickly that Peter was startled and barely had enough time to whirl as she pinned someone against the wall opposite the one she’d been leaning on. “Eavesdropping isn’t very nice,” she drawled.

Peter frowned. He hadn’t sensed this guy moving towards them—and he should have. They were in Oscorp and Peter knew that everyone (now that Harry was out of the building) was a threat in Oscorp. His sense should have warned him.

The man, about Peter’s age, had dark circles around his eyes. He looked exhausted, almost haunted. Peter wondered if he worked with Norman, but couldn’t ask in the suit. “Who says I’m eavesdropping?” he demanded haughtily. “Maybe I just wanted to sneak past you to the kitchen for some shepherd’s pie.”

“Maybe,” Angel said, her voice teasing and showing no sign of the weakness that had made her puke earlier, “you could tell us where our friend is. Deadpool?”

“Maybe,” the man said, mimicking her tone, “you should let me go before I read your minds to know who you are.”

Peter recoiled.

Angel laughed. “You—you want to read—my mind?” she gasped between laughs. She grinned, wickedly. “Go ahead,” she dared slyly.

The man grinned back in the exact same manner—and then his face crumpled. Went pale. Angel, still holding him, yanked him forward and pointed him towards the other wall just as vomit spewed out of the man, liberally coating the wall in front of him. The man gasped and Angel allowed him to sink to his knees as he shook.

Peter looked at Angel, who shrugged. “Side effect of dimension hopping,” she explained. He pointedly looked at the puddle of vomit which had neatly covered her own bile and back at her. She shrugged again. “Why make things easy for them?” she asked.

Well—Peter had to admit she had a point. After all, if he had been Norman, and two clearly superpowered people broke into his building and one of them puked he’d be thrilled for the chance to extract some DNA. And now, said potential DNA was compromised. “Fair enough,” Peter responded. He looked at the man. “We still need to find Deadpool though,” he said pointedly.

The man lifted one shaky arm and pointed down the hall. “Seven doors down,” he said weakly.

Chapter Text

{Just what the Hell did they use to strap us down?}

Wade didn’t know. He just knew that his arms were bent to where his elbows were by his temples and he seemed to be sitting—although he couldn't feel a seat or straps keeping him up.

[Whatever this shit is, it’s strong.]

{We got to get out of here!}

Wade threw himself to the side—or, at least, he tried to. His body didn’t move, barely twitched. The only change he could make was adding sweat.

[How did they do this to us?]

{Petey! What’re they going to do to Petey? We’ve gotta get OUT!}

[Your whining and yelling aren’t making this any easier—]

The door in front of Wade opened and he stared—at Spidey?

{Are we hallucinating?}

Behind Spiderman Angel popped up and gave a slow wave. “Hey, Deadpool,” she said cheerfully. “I see you’re hangin’ around.” Spiderman heaved a huge sigh and elbowed her. It looked oddly like one of the first interactions that Wade had had with the arachnid, when they’d first started patrolling together. The girl shrugged, clearly nonplussed by dismissal.

“What is this mess they’ve got you in, ‘Pool?” asked Spiderman as he came over.

Wade grunted as the young man—

{Not that young! Did you forget he’s legal?}

[Not now!]

—climbed him to get to the bindings. “It’s vibranium,” Spiderman growled. “I can’t break it.”

“Well, you can, but probably not without also breaking Deadpool,” Angel said. She crouched in front of Wade. “Don’t worry,” she told him. “We’re going to get you out.”

But were they real? Were they really there? Was this another hallucination, another dream in his mind planted by the Asian guy?

[I don’t think so. When he was in your mind we were just sort of—pushed back, like he couldn't handle us or something. And we’re here.]

{Or maybe that was what he wanted us to think and the whole “I’m going to get food” thing was a sham!}

There was a click and Wade dropped, rolled, and came up in a fighting stance. Spiderman was clearly surprised. Angel looked curious and amused, but not alarmed.

“How do I know it’s really you?” demanded Wade.

{Yeah! Tell us something only Spidey would know!}

[He can’t hear us, you moron!]

Spiderman dropped to a crouch (which seemed to be a comfortable position for him) and looked up at Wade. “Well,” he said after a moment, “I heard how you didn’t kill Peter’s coworker. I’d rather it was more because you didn’t want to than because you were worried that Peter would tattle to me, but it was still good you didn’t kill him.”

{That’s—something Peter would know.}

{And Peter and Spidey are the same person.]

“Webs!” cried Wade as he flung himself around the costumed form of his boyfriend. He began to shake wondering if it was real, if he was really holding Peter—

“I think I’m gonna go thump that guy a few more times.”

[She sounds pissed.]

“Angel!” hissed Peter—Spiderman.

[Yes, don’t accidentally call him by name while he’s in the suit. We don’t want him knowing we know, remember?]

“I’m not gonna kill him!” Angel protested firmly. “But if I thump him in the right place, he’ll never use those powers again.”

“Angel,” Peter said, warning evident in the tone of his voice. She sighed and rolled her eyes.

{They sound just like a parent scolding a child!}

[Well, he did raise her.]

Wade looked at her. “Can you prove who you are?” he asked warily, still not certain that he wasn’t in some kind of dream.

Angel looked at him thoughtfully for a moment before tilting her head to the side and narrowing her eyes. “No,” she said finally. “But I can scream the lyrics to Moonlight Shadow until you’re willing to agree to just about anything just to make me shut up.”

[Now I believe we helped raise her.]

Wade gave a shaky grin. “Thanks,” he said softly. He reached out a hand and then stopped as he stared at his suit. Instead of the normal darkish blood red that he normally wore, it was now a bright neon red, almost pink. That explained why it looked so strange in the dream world; the guy probably didn’t know what the suit was supposed to look like. “What happened to my suit?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” Peter said with a gentle tug. “Let’s get out of here. I know for a fact that you have spares that don’t look quite so—unsettling.”

Wade gave a fake gasp. “But I was thinking of re-branding!” he said.

[Don’t.]

{Please don’t.}

Peter chuckled warmly. “Come on ‘Pool,” he said as he helped Wade cross the room. “Let’s get out of here before the cavalry arrives.”

Angel made a disbelieving noise. “Please,” she said. “As if I can’t handle anything in this building.”

“That’s not the point,” Peter scolded gently as they made their way through the hall. Wade stared at the young man that had been putting scenarios in his mind as they reached a vomit filled part of the hall.

“I had to,” the man said softly, almost brokenly. “I know that Norman’s crazy, but I have nowhere else to go.”

Angel dropped to crouch next to the man and laid a gentle hand on his back. “Dude,” Angel said firmly, “remember this; ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ With the kind of person Norman is, friends can’t be that hard to find.” Angel stood up again and walked with Peter and Deadpool as a low hum began to fill the building. “You know,” Angel said conversationally, “I don’t think we should try the elevator.” She walked to a window that looked over the city and casually punched it out, cuts on her hand perfectly healed by the time she pulled it back.

Peter aimed a wrist at the sky line in front of them. “Funny,” he quipped. “I was thinking the same thing.”

Wade was feeling too off balance to squeal as they dropped from the window. Angel opened her wings and fluttered the way down as Peter shot off some web to accomplish the same thing. Once they landed Peter gently set Wade down and said, “I’ve got to go. Peter’s been worried sick about you.” The whites of the Spidey mask met Wade’s own before he bolted.

“Take care,” said Angel with a quick wave. Then, quietly as Spiderman vanished from sight, “You already know, don’t you?”

“Yup.” Wade assessed the girl beside him. “You knew,” he said marveling at how she’d never even given him a hint of Spiderman’s identity back when he’d asked her to look after Peter.

“Yup.” Her wings rustled as she grinned at him. “Of course.”

“You never even gave a hint of it,” said Wade with wonder.

Angel shrugged. “His identity’s a secret where I’m from too, so I’m used to keeping it that.”

“Must be hard.” How far had Peter gone?

He was distracted when Angel snorted. “Only when the Avengers get hit with sex pollen and I have to explain to my class why Papa isn’t pissed that Dad snuck into an alley to bone Spiderman.”

Wade tried to imagine the situation and his brain began to short circuit. “That happen often?” he asked in a strangled voice as he imagined having free reign to run his hands over Spidey after a mission when they both needed to release some stress…

[You stop that right now. The last thing Peter needs to see is us with a boner when we’re talking to a girl.]

Angel sighed. “You would be surprised,” she told him as Peter came running around the corner—in regular Joe clothes that were loosely put together, as if he’d hastily gotten dressed—almost tripping over his untied shoelaces as he threw himself against Wade.

“You’re all right!” Peter said. It sounded like a prayer.

“Aw, of course I’m all right,” Wade assured the young man. Then, just in case he was still trapped in an even more sophisticated hallucination, he gently bopped the younger man’s nose. “Boop!”

The nose twitched adorably. “Wade!” complained Peter, who promptly got the breath knocked out of him as Wade enveloped him in a tight hug.

“And I’m off,” said Angel firmly. “I’m going to go see if I can find what made me sick earlier.” She gave them both an ironic salute and then shot off into the sky.

“Can we go home?” Peter asked Wade.

Wade gripped Peter’s hand firmly, feeling like it was his only tether to reality. “I’d like to eat first,” he admitted. “I’m in the mood for tacos!”

Peter chuckled and leaned in close to Wade once more. “You always want tacos,” he said fondly as they went to find a food truck.

Chapter Text

“Sir, I have new information you must hear.” JARVIS’s voice rang quietly through Tony’s earpiece.

Tony tapped the button the side of the earpiece to turn on the blue light and make it look like he was on a call. “Yeah?” he asked as he flipped through his plans for the house he’d bought.

“The facility housing Project 23 was broken into,” JARVIS said calmly in Tony’s ear.

A lot more calm than Tony felt. “What?” he demanded as he grabbed the wristbands that hooked into one of his suits.

“All of the adults of the facility are currently missing and there is an alarmingly large smear of blood in one corner.”

Oh no. Tony felt his heart constrict, despite the fact that he didn’t have one anymore. “And the children?” he asked as he raced down the hall to the elevator.

“The children are, for the moment, unharmed. They are currently locked in individual rooms with no outside access.”

Meaning that if they didn’t get to the children soon, they would die. Or be retaken by SHIELD and moved to another facility. “Shit!” he swore as the elevator opened.

“Ms. Potts has already informed the team. They are on their way with the jet.”

They were heading out to rescue the children. Tony changed direction and headed towards a window he knew opened fully—because he’d designed it that way just in case of something like this. He jumped out of the window and simultaneously called for his suit which enveloped him as he fell before thrusting off in the direction of the facility.

“JARVIS, open a line to the manor,” Tony said.

“Mr. Stark, what in the world are you doing?” asked the cultured voice of the professor.

“Change of plans,” Tony said grimly. The world flew by him as he slowly (relatively speaking, of course) converged on the jet. “Something’s happened at the facility the children are in, and we need to get them now.”

“I’ve seen your plans, Mr. Stark,” the professor said firmly. “There isn’t anywhere for them to stay yet.”

The suit automatically swerved to one side to avoid running into a flying eagle that screeched at him. “Rude bird,” Tony muttered.

“Mr. Stark?”

“I was hoping I could impose on you while we’re putting the finishing touches on our own mansion.” Such as making sure the roof didn’t leak and finding out whatever was causing the red stains on the walls. “I’ll pay, of course.”

“I’m offended you’d ask. But I feel certain your scholarship foundation will find some likely young mutants to sponsor to our school.”

Tony grinned. “I’m certain you already have them picked out,” he said calmly. “Thanks Baldy; we’ll be there soon.”

The courtyard of the facility was a mess. There was a double chain-link fence topped with generous spirals of barbed wire, a mass of charred toys and playground equipment to one side, and a mess of blood, bits of skin, and tiny shreds of (mercifully) unidentified meat was in the other.

He was joined by Clint. “Something inhuman broke in here,” the spy/tracker said as he looked around the yard.

Natasha agreed. “There was a human here. Stood here for almost the whole thing. Maybe took three steps. Small feet,” she said pointing to indentations in the bare earth of the ground.

“Whatever took the guards had smaller feet, and were larger,” Clint added as he pointed.

“Looks like the humans were separated into two groups.” Natasha gestured towards a smooth area with her gun, an area that was free of blood. There were odd scratches and gouges in the dirt. “Not sure what happened there.”

Tony frowned. “All right,” he said firmly. “First order of business: secure the kids. I think we can all agree we need to get them out of here.”

“Where are they going to go?” asked Steve as he stepped into the courtyard. Bucky was right behind him, lips pressed into a thin line, eyes hard at what he was seeing.

There was a little bit of a static buzz as Pepper tapped into the coms. “We’ve got word from Professor Xavier that he’s ready to take care of these kids until we get our own mansion up and running,” she said.

“Right. Second order of business: grab everything that looks like it might hold any kind of information on it; I don’t care how trivial it looks. Think of this as a data dump Ladies and Gentlemen and rest assured that I won’t be asking any of you to pour over it. Ready?”

“No.” The cold voice came from someone between Bucky and the Winter Soldier. The eyes pierced Tony’s through the suit. He felt ice in his chest at the thought that the man might backslide. He hadn’t even considered that a possibility! “When we’re done—we level the place.”

“Fair enough,” Tony said with a nod before turning back towards the facility.

Natasha gestured him towards the building. “After you,” she said wryly.

“Thank you,” Tony said as he reached forwards, grabbed the door with one armored glove, and yanked it off the hinges. “Don’t mind if I do,” he said as he stepped inside.

The place was eerily quiet. The floors were tile that cracked under the armor and looked as though they may have been white at one time, but there was now an almost pinkish look to them. And to the walls. Tony didn’t want to think too hard about what happened.

The halls weren’t just quiet—they were almost silent. The only noises that Tony heard were the ever present humming of the electricity through the lines and the sounds his team made as they went further and further in. Images of reaching the children only to find them already dead, nothing more than their own bloody smears began to race through Tony’s head. He wanted to ask JARVIS for reassurance, for proof that the children were still alive and he wasn’t walking into a murder scene—but no. No, he still did not have complete trust in Natasha, Clint, Steve, and Bucky. They couldn't know about JARVIS, so he had to do this the hard way.

The facility was broken up into sections that were divided by more chain-link fence—that had been ripped through. Fearing the worst Tony maneuvered the suit through the wreckage towards where he last heard the children were. He wasn’t sure what he expected.

It certainly wasn’t rows of children in coffin sized cells made of Plexiglas with huge lights above them. It certainly wasn’t seeing those same children stand, at perfect attention, at the front of the cells in front of the doors. The broken door didn’t even register as he looked at all these children in perfect military stances.

Suddenly he was glad that Clint’s wife had gotten a battalion of therapists on standby. These children were going to need more therapy than he’d thought. There was no way his people, or the professor’s people, were prepared to deal with this.

There was a slight hiss as Steve followed him into the corridor, eyes switching between a lithe blond and bulky brunette. Tony wished he couldn't hear his friend’s heart breaking as he took in the absurdly accurate military stances the children were in. Or how the children barely seemed to be breathing.

“We got enough room in the jet for,” Tony did a rough count and, oh God, did he ever get around to telling Daredevil about this? “For about twenty children.”

“If you fly separate and take one of the others with you, we do. It’ll be tight, but we’ll make it.” Tony nodded grimly as he looked around the hall. He didn’t know what to do.

Steve did. “At ease,” he ordered. As one unit the children braced their feet and tucked their hands behind them. “Fall out,” Steve ordered.

The difference was startling. The children broke their ranks and walked up to the doors of their cells, looking out with curious eyes. Some of them looked fearful. Others wary. But most, particularly one child that looked too much like Tony for his comfort, were curious.

“Hi,” Tony said, waving.

“Hello,” the boy said politely. “Are you Iron Man?”

“I am.”

“I’m supposed to be you when I grow up,” the boy said calmly.

The realization that this boy was being raised not just as a soldier, but as a replacement floored Tony. It made sense, of course. What better way to get into Stark technology than by using someone who was already a Stark? Someone who had been trained from a young age to obey and not to think too much about things like consequences—or people.

“Well, maybe,” Tony said as the possibilities reeled inside his head like a death march. “If you want to, one day,” he said.

The boy looked confused. “If I want to?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah.” Tony slid the face plate open so that the boy could see his face. “Being Iron Man is a choice, you know.”

“It is?” The boy looked—uncomfortable with the thought.

“Oh, yeah. But don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to decide if you want to be Iron Man. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be someone greater.”

Chapter Text

“Dammit Chuck, this talking in my head shit’s getting old,” grumbled Logan as he walked into the office.

Charles chuckled and wheeled his chair around to face the mutant. “And yet,” he pointed out calmly, amused, “you don’t do anything to block it.”

Logan shrugged. “Ain’t like there’s anything you haven’t seen,” he said with irrefutable logic. “Jean’s got the kids turning the place upside-down making room for new kids.”

“Does she?” asked Charles calmly.

“Scott’s got some of the older kids with all the future seeing kids. They’re still shaking.”

“Poor things.”

“You’re doing it again,” Logan said wearily.

A thin, almost invisible eyebrow raised on the bald man’s face. “Am I?” he asked maddeningly.

Logan sighed. “Why am I here Chuck?” he demanded.

“We’re about to be inundated with children and I need someone to sit on Erik.” Charles watched as Logan twitched. The, quieter, “He’s worried about his children.”

Logan stood, thoughtfully for a moment. Charles wasn’t worried. He knew the strong, immortal mutant would do what was necessary. Finally Logan sighed and crossed the room before opening the cabinet and inputting a code that Charles would have sworn the man didn’t know in order to open the hidden liquor cabinet.

“I do try not to allow too much alcohol in the presence of impressionable children,” Charles said wryly as he watched Logan unerringly grab the finest bottle of scotch in the cabinet.

Logan snorted. “Whatever you want Chuck,” he said. “But the best way to keep Magneto out of trouble is to get him too drunk to cause it.” Logan grabbed a cheap bottle of brandy, the only kind that Logan himself would drink, and snorted. “Good thing your pal’s a lightweight,” he said as he left the room.

Scott, pale under his goggles, came in after him, not even stopping to whisper an insult to Logan like normal. “It’s bad Xavier,” he said grimly. “I’ve finally gotten the kids calmed down, but they saw something real bad.”

A pink haired Asian girl peeked in around him. “We need more beds,” she said firmly. “Lots more.”

Charles regarded the young girl curiously. Her precognitive powers were erratic, but more reliable than those of the others her age. “What did you see?” he asked.

She frowned as she looked for the words to answer. English was not her first language and at times like this she had trouble speaking. “Waves. Bad air, lots of bad air. Fighting. Monsters. Ellie is coming.” Yukio nodded and left.

“She’s the calmest of them,” Scott remarked as the child left.

“She’s had more practice being calm,” Charles remarked, the closest he would ever come to divulging the child’s background. He still remembered her mother, begging him to take the girl away from her father before she lost her humanity. “Well, it might be well to tell Jean to prepare for two hundred children to come.”

Scott frowned. “I thought Tony said it would be about twenty.”

Charles smiled. “And Yukio told us to prepare more beds.”

***

“But what if it’s a trap?” asked Juby nervously. “Like what Runaways Unite were doing, but, you know, bigger?”

Ellie thought about it. Not for the first time, she cursed her ability to only tell what danger was going to happen while she was sleeping. But—if it was a trap, would Angel have introduced the man?

Then again, she’d made sure that he didn’t go anywhere near their safe place. That he didn’t know what paths most of them liked to take. Had said nothing when the twins weren’t there.

At the same time, she’d let him speak his piece. Hadn’t interrupted him. Hadn’t directed their questions. Hadn’t intervened.

Would she? If she knew it was a trap? Would she tell them what they were heading for, or would she let them figure it out for themselves? They didn’t really know a lot about Angel. They assumed she was a protector because she’d protected them from the Snipers—but what did that really mean? What did Angel really want?

“Oof,” said a voice near the front of the safe place. Angel was trying to get through the door carrying what looked like a double armload of red clothes. “These are awkward,” she said cheerfully as she dropped the items on the floor next to the door and looked at the pile with a small smile on her face. “That was a job well done,” she said with a stretch as she looked around. “What’s up?”

“How do we know it’s not a trap?” asked Ellie.

There was no need for Angel to ask what. She took a moment to think it over. “You don’t,” she said finally. “You simply don’t have all the information you need to determine if it is a trap or not.” Ellie glared at her as Juby and several of the smaller kids crumpled. “Calm down,” Angel said softly. “Listen to me. You don’t have enough information, but you can get it.”

“How?” demanded Ellie. If there was a way to find out—to know for sure—

Angel crossed her arms as she looked at Ellie, amusement on her face. “Stop.” Angel advised, as she had before. “Think. What do you need?”

“Information.” This was simple.

Angel nodded. “How do you get information?”

This was a little harder and Ellie frowned. “Ask someone who knows,” she said slowly, piecing it together.

“And who knows? No, not me,” Angel said as Ellie looked at her. “Who knows?”

The image of the bald man, the one that had been smart enough to let her be a day student, the one that even Mr. Parker was freaked out by, came to her mind. “Professor X,” she said.

Angel grinned again. “Good thought. If you want,” Angel offered, “I can get you there tonight so you can ask.”

Ellie watched the older girl for a moment. She was being—unusually proactive. “All right,” Ellie agreed walking over to her. “I’ll be back,” she told the others. As she walked past the pile of red she stopped, turned, and stared at it. “Angel,” she said quietly.

“Yes?” Angel asked, false innocence written all over her face.

Ellie picked up one pieces. “Angel, these are Wade’s suits.”

“Yes,” said Angel. The older girl looked pleased, and not as though she was courting certain death. “Yes they are.”

Ellie rubbed her head feeling as though she was the older one for a moment. “Angel, why are Wade’s suits here?” she asked.

“I’m playing Cupid!” Angel said excitedly. Then she chuckled, calming down more to her normal levels. “Seriously, I just want their relationship to kick up a notch before I leave. I don’t have much time left.”

There were so many questions Ellie wanted to ask. Why was Angel invested in their relationship? Why was it so important to her that the two of them “kick it up a notch”? Did she even know how dangerous Wade was?

“Wade’s going to kill you,” Ellie said flatly.

Angel’s grin reminded her of a shark she’d seen once on TV. “He can try,” she said smugly.

Chapter Text

Wade stared at the back of his closet, mortified. The only thing in it was an old, threadbare hoodie that he almost never wore anymore but hadn’t gotten around to throwing it out, and a pair of jeans hanging on a hanger (he never hung his pants). He reached out and grabbed the pair of jeans to see that there was a paper taped to them.

The picture, in startling realism, depicted an amused Angel, who was winking.

[That bitch stole our suits!]

{Why? I thought she liked us?}

[Peter’s here! We can’t just waltz out wearing this when Peter’s here!]

“Wade?” called Peter as he walked into the room.

Wade’s heart sunk. He couldn't, couldn't undress in front of Peter. Sure the younger man hadn’t flinched away from Wade’s scars—

[That we know of. We were asleep when he first saw them, remember?]

—but that didn’t mean he was ready to see the extent of the devastation that was Wade’s body.

“Wade? What’s wrong?” asked Peter as he walked up. He laid a gentle hand on Wade’s arm.

Wade’s very horribly colored arm. He couldn't stay in this suit, not now that he’d realized it was the wrong color. It itched at his psyche, worse than his skin itched on a hot day in the suit.

“Oh.” The small sound informed Wade that Peter saw the picture.

“Yeah.” Wade didn’t look up. He didn’t dare look up. He was afraid.

“Angel—stole your clothes?” Peter said, sounding confused.

“Just my suits,” Wade mourned.

“Your suits? Why would she…oh, Angel,” Peter said softly. Wade didn’t look up until two hands firmly gripped his head and gently forced him to look at Peter. “It’s okay Wade,” Peter said firmly. “It’s okay.”

Wade could feel the tears dampening the mask he was wearing. He felt naked and raw in front of Peter’s gaze.

[We’re still safe. We’re still in a suit.]

Peter pulled Wade towards him with surprising (not surprising) strength. “I love you Wade,” Peter said softly as he rubbed his head against the side of Wade’s mask.

Slowly, Wade felt himself relax. He wasn’t with some random squeamish person who would scream, run, or throw up at the sight of his face. This was Peter.

You keep calling yourself a monster,” Peter said. “I don’t see a monster when I look at you.”

What do you see?” Wade asked.

I see a man who’s gone through Hell and gotten back up and still has the humanity to care about other people.” A smooth, soft hand came rest against Wade’s face as Peter cupped his cheek. “You’re stronger than you think you are, Wade Wilson.”

Before he could second-guess himself anymore, Wade ripped the mask off, facing Peter.

Peter, who did not scream.

Peter, who did not run away.

Peter, who did not throw up.

Peter, who smiled warmly and said, “There you are,” before gently cupping the side of Wade’s face once again. Wade took a deep, shuddering breath and gently pressed his face into the crook of his boyfriend’s neck. “See? It’s all right.”

Wade wrapped his arms around Peter. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Always,” Peter promised. He turned his head and Wade felt the tiny kisses pepper the side of his face. “Always for you,” Peter said again.

With a groan Wade pulled away. “I have to—I have to change,” he said. He didn’t want to leave Peter’s side.

{No! Hug Petey-Pie!}

Peter lifted his hand to Wade’s face again, a smile in his eyes. “Really?” he asked. He leaned in and gave Wade a chaste kiss on the lips. “I like you just the way you are.”

[Lies!]

{Not from Petey-Pie!}

“My clothes,” Wade said with a smile of his own as he gently rapped Peter’s shoulder. “I have to change my clothes.”

Peter smiled in clear understanding. “Do you want me to leave?” he asked.

[Yes.]

{Never!}

“You don’t have to,” Wade said, surprising himself.

Peter’s hand gently traced the folds of his neck, down his arm, and gently—so, so gently—to the edges of his fingers before letting go and leaning against the wall. “If I don’t have to,” Peter said softly, “then I won’t.”

Wade’s fingers trembled as he began to take off the suit. How? How had he gotten such a wonderful boyfriend?

[You launched a sword through a speaker.]

{And the way he cut paper against it was so hot!}

[At least we know why he wasn’t startled, or frightened. How many times have we thrown our sword around Spiderman?]

Wade focused on what the boxes were saying to keep from freaking out about how he was exposing his skin to the person behind him. He could feel the prickle of Peter’s gaze, but it didn’t feel like most gazes that Wade felt. It wasn’t disgusted, horrified, or full of pity. If Peter was anyone else he’d throw himself out the window, find Angel, and demand his suits back.

But this was Peter.

And Spidey.

His two favorite people in the world. The two people he trusted, more than he trusted himself. He could do this. He changed quickly, grateful for the amount of skin that the hoodie and pants covered. The only part he couldn't completely cover was his face.

Despite everything, he hesitated in turning around. He knew that he wouldn't see revulsion or hatred on Peter’s face—but there was that tiny part of him that wasn’t sure. He turned.

Peter looked up with a smile and reached for him again. “Hey handsome,” he said warmly as Wade tentatively took his hand. “What do you want to do now?” he asked.

“Video games?” Wade asked hesitantly. He wanted to do something together, and video games seemed like a good idea. Spidey loved the games, after all.

Peter’s face twisted into a grimace. “Not Barbie!” he said firmly.

“Mario Kart?” Peter grinned and the two of them headed into the living room. Wade was slightly surprised when Peter took his controller and slipped into Wade’s lap, pressing his back against Wade’s body.

[Not sure why. This is how the two of you played before he moved back to his place.]

{After we kidnapped him?}

As the screen was loading Peter turned and gave Wade another kiss. “I’m glad you’re all right,” he said softly.

Wade hugged the younger man without dropping the controller. “Me too,” he said.

Chapter Text

“I don’t see why you’re having Scott prepare so many—”

Charles lifted a hand, cutting Jean off mid-sentence as he focused. There was—Ellie? Coming towards the manor? Quickly, far too quickly for a car. Was she flying? How?

“Jean,” Charles said as he tried to track the child without actually reading her mind—a skill far more difficult than one would believe, “we have a guest arriving with haste. Let us prepare to see what she wants. His mind slipped into hers for a brief moment and he added, “Please take some blankets with you. I believe there are some coming out of the dryer now.” He calmly began to roll his chair towards the door, determined to make it there with his own hands.

Two hairy hands that were almost paws gripped the handles of the chair. “Chuck,” said Logan wearily, “we’ve been over this.”

“We have,” agreed Charles amiably as he rested his hands on the sides of the chair while Logan pushed. “I can do things for myself you know.”

Logan snorted as the scenery rolled by. “Sure you can.”

“I am not weak—”

“Course not.”

Charles sighed. It was an argument he wouldn't win. He wasn’t certain that he wanted to. “Tell me,” he said instead, “how Erik is doing?”

“Passed out drunk,” Logan said cheerfully. Of course, he was usually only cheerful when drinking or killing. Or watching other people do those things. He and Jean had frequent arguments about what was appropriate for children to hear.

Charles gave a thoughtful hum as he was wheeled to the door. They reached it at the same time as Jean with the heated blankets. “I do hope he has pleasant dreams,” he said thoughtfully. Logan snorted once more as the door was open to reveal two people.

One of them Charles knew. The young girl, about Yukio’s age, stood on the steps. She was shivering in her oversized clothes, pale, and looking exceptionally angry. Then again, Ellie was almost always angry.

The other was new. Charles’s attention zoomed in on her, not because of the obvious mutation of her wings, or the odd sparkling full body leotard she was wearing, but because he couldn't sense her. He could see her. He could hear her talking. He could feel a slight breeze as her wings moved. But as far as his mind was concerned she didn’t exist.

Jean quickly threw a warmed blanket over the girl and she began to shiver. “H—h—how are—are you no—not freezing?” Ellie demanded.

“I’ve been flying since I was six,” the older girl said, slightly amused and clearly very worried. Her hands rubbed the cooling blanket around Ellie, as though trying to keep some of the heat in. “I don’t notice the temperature change anymore.” Ellie muttered something that Charles didn’t catch but made the older girl grin. “Of course not,” said the girl, a playful note in her voice.

Something about her was naggingly familiar, and yet Charles would swear that he’d never seen the child before.

“Come on Ellie,” Jean said kindly. “Let’s get you warm.”

“You’re a menace!” Ellie snapped at the older girl.

The older girl chuckled. “You’ve been reading too much Daily Bugle,” she called out as Ellie was led away, still muttering. “Ah, what a cute kid,” the older girl said with a fond smile before looking at Charles.

The amber eyes felt like they were looking into Charles’s soul. “I can’t sense you,” he said in wonder.

The girl snorted, sounding remarkably like Logan for a moment. “I would hope not. I have good shields.” She met his gaze again and gave an odd, lopsided grin. “I was trained by the best,” she said.

“And who’s that?” growled Logan. Charles could feel the mutant bristling behind him.

Odd. Usually Logan was only irritated towards either Deadpool or his brother, both of whom had extensive healing capabilities. Charles regarded the young girl once again. “Do you have a healing factor?” he asked her.

She nodded, looking surprised. “A pretty darned good one,” she confirmed. “How did you—ah.” She nodded again, looking thoughtful. “It’s possible,” she said slowly, “that I’ve been getting cold damage and just healing it quick enough not to notice it, but that doesn’t really make much sense,” she added with a frown. “Because I’ve been cold. I mean cold cold, like bone-chilled cold.” The girl shivered, obviously lost in thought for a moment. “Terrifying,” she muttered. Her wings flipped and she seemed to set the matter aside. “Lots of activity going on in there,” she noted.

Charles couldn't help but give a small smile. Like many, she was curious. She was also not going to ask. “We are about to get guests,” Charles informed her. She looked confused. “Mr. Stark—”

She was quicker than he’d thought she’d be. “This is about those children from Project 23?” she asked.

“Yes, he was thinking he could bring them here—”

Color drained from the girl’s face. “Sweet merciful Jesus,” she swore softly. “He doesn’t know what he’s walking into!” She whirled.

Logan was slightly faster, despite having to maneuver around the chair. “We’ll take the jet. It’s faster.”

The girl looked at him and a smile quirked at the edge of her lips. “It’s cute that you think so,” she said before launching herself into the air and speeding away. Her form vanished over the horizon in a few seconds.

“What is she worried about?” asked Logan. He was a mixture of anger, worry, and hurt pride.

Charles nearly basked in the emotions after the odd blank space that had been the girl. “It might,” Charles said as he turned his chair around, “be prudent for you and Scott to get the jet. Just in case,” he added.

Chapter Text

Clint flinched out of the way just before one of the children stabbed him (and where did the little fucker get a knife?). “Come on, Kid,” he said pleadingly.

It was like talking to a doll. The kid had no expression on his face, eyes were blank and almost looked dead, and he attacked mechanically. Clint slipped, the kid raised the knife, and—

Suddenly a pink suited figure was between them, neatly catching the child’s hand. “That’s enough of that,” the winged girl said firmly as she disarmed the child.

Clint was worried, from the way the child yelped, that she’d hurt the kid somehow—but his worries were unfounded. He looked around the narrow hallway. He hadn’t even heard her enter the place, never mind come up on him. “How’d you even get here?” he asked.

She rolled her eyes. “I flew, duh,” she said before turning back to the kid. “You’re not doing that,” she told him firmly.

The kid looked at her, eyes narrowed. “Who’re you?” he demanded.

“14-S,” the girl said.

Clint paused. That—wasn’t a name. From the shock on the kid’s face, he wasn’t expecting that either. “They stopped working on S,” he said warily.

“Is that what they told you?” asked the girl, wry amusement coloring her voice. “The people who put you in cages? Starve you as much as they dare? Who lie?”

Clint filed these words away for the moment. He was going to need Laura’s insight later into this girl. She might actually be a threat that they would need to take down. This child was dangerous, whether or not she was a threat.

And where had she come from, anyway?

The boy watched her for a moment. Another child, this one with dirty blond hair and piercing blue eyes rose up behind him. “What’s it to you?” he demanded hotly. Clint couldn't help but notice the static way the blond boy’s eyes faced ahead, no matter what his face was doing. Was the kid blind?

“Does it matter?”

Watching the way the blond boy’s head moved when the girl spoke Clint had to assume he was.

The winged girl was watching the boy. “I don’t know you,” she said after a moment. “Who are you?”

Who , she said. Not, what . She knew that these children were people and that—that was important if he could get Laura to translate it for him.

27-D,” the blond boy stated.

D. Daredevil. The boy was like a small copy of the red devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Clint stared at the child with a small amount of horror, insanely glad that breaking news of the man’s fatherhood didn’t fall to him .

Well, 27-D,” the girl said calmly, “Gather your little soldiers and go to the training ground. I’m about to be your new alpha.” The two children scamper off. “They really do have potential,” she said confidentially to Clint.

To be charming little psychopaths?” asked Clint with a wry smile.

She rolled her eyes. “To be children ,” she told him.

Clint looked at the young children, not a one of them could be more than ten years old, swarming towards them. “What are they now?” he asked her.

Her lips tightened and her eyes became shadowed before she spoke. “Soldiers.” She moved with the children towards the courtyard.

No. It wasn’t a courtyard. Not to these children. It was a training ground.

Natasha appeared next to Clint. “What’s going on?” she asked him.

A dominance battle?” asked Clint as he followed the group. When he got there the older girl was surrounded by the children. They were in what he immediately recognized as attack stances. She was not. In fact, she seemed faintly amused.

The first one attacked. She dodged, easily twisting out of the way. Her feet didn’t move. Same with the next three attacks. Two of the children nodded at each other and each attacked from a different direction. She twisted, rolling one of the children along a wing. The child turned and grabbed into the wing, taking a few feathers from it when what looked like a gentle flip of the wing sent him tumbling.

Don’t do that,” she said firmly.

Why?” demanded the kid, still holding a double handful of feathers.

She sighed. “Look,” she said reasonably, “a swan can break a grown man’s arm with its wings. I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” she added dryly, “but I’m a lot bigger than a swan .” She looked around. “And none of you know what a ‘swan’ is , I forgot.”

She forgot. She also fought like a trained professional. The kids did too, but she was in another league. It was like watching Natasha fighting with SHIELD rookies.

It was eerily like watching Natasha fight. Their stances, moves, and body shifts could have come from the same body—except for the wings. “She’s good,” Natasha noted beside him, voice soft.

I’d better be,” the girl drawled as she flipped another child with her wing. “I learned from one of the best.”

Clint raised an eyebrow. How had she heard that? Natasha hadn’t been speaking loudly, just enough for him to hear. Him, and apparently this girl. “Who taught you?” he asked, under his breath, just to see if she could hear it.

She whirled (still not moving her feet) to face him, a kid in each hand and one tangled in a wing as she stared at him for a moment before she snorted. “Seriously?” she asked, clearly incredulous. “You have to ask?” She rolled her eyes. “If you have to ask,” she said, a mocking note in her voice, “then you’ll never know.” She went back to her battle with the kids, gently tossing a boy (who looked suspiciously like Tony) towards the two former SHIELD agents.

The boy wiped sweat from his brow as he glared at the girl. “She’s tough,” he muttered.

Tougher than you think,” Clint said. When the kid looked at him with hard eyes he added, “Look at her feet.” When the boy did Clint said, “She hasn’t moved them from that spot since she started sparring with you lot.”

The boy gave a low growl. “We can’t use our powers without permission ,” he said.

Wait. What? These children had powers? That they needed permission to use? All of them? Since they had been made from the genetic material of the heroes of the world, some of them would definitely have powers—but the boy insinuated that they all did.

The boy stood up and called out, “Enough!” He pointed at the winged girl, shaking with either rage or exhaustion, Clint couldn't tell which. “You’re not even taking this seriously!” he accused.

She blew a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. “Well, duh,” she said. “If I take this ‘seriously’ you would all be dead.” She looked around, taking a moment to meet the eyes of each child. “I don’t want to kill you.”

You’re not hurting us either,” a pale girl, covered in dirt from the battle, piped up.

Do I need to?” The older girl looked around meeting the eyes in front of her quickly, firmly.

The children slumped. “No,” said the boy wearily. “Alpha.”

That was another thing. What were they talking about? What was all of this about “alpha”?

Good. I have two orders,” she told the children. The children—soldiers—immediately snapped to attention where they stood. “One, listen to these people.” She jerked a thumb towards Natasha and Clint where they were standing. “Unlike the people you have been dealing with, they actually want to help you.”

And two?” asked the boy.

She looked at him for a moment. “You’re allowed to use your powers,” she told him. Only a slight widening of the eyes around her showed the children’s surprise—and only the slightest cringe showed the team why.

Clint noticed Natasha looking back at the bloody smear on the other side of the training ground. He could feel her satisfaction that something terrible had happened to the adults of this place. Clint shared—but was also wary. Why did something terrible happen to the adults of this place?

More importantly: why did whatever was responsible for the terrible thing that happened to the adults leave the children behind untouched?

So we can attack you with our powers?” demanded the boy.

The girl tossed her hair over her shoulder and tilted her head to one side, eyes narrowed. “Do you think it would make a difference?” she asked.

The boy slumped in place. “No.”

The girl smiled at him. Suddenly she sniffed and straightened. “I can’t believe they thought that would be faster than me .” She looked at Clint. “I don’t know whether to be impressed or feel insulted.”

What?” He turned as he began to hear the familiar whine of a jet engine and turned to see a startlingly familiar silver jet. “Is that—the X Men?”

They’re late,” the girl said scathingly. Clint turned just in time to see her flip her wings as she glared at the swiftly oncoming jet. “All right, you lot remember my orders?”

Yes, Alpha!”

Good.” The girl nodded once more and then took to the sky.

I don’t understand,” Clint said to Natasha.

We’ll work on that,” Natasha replied.

Chapter Text

Ellie waited as the bald man—Professor X, she had to get used to the way these people threw their names around so casually—gently tapped the tips of his fingers together as he watched her. The bald man finally spoke. “ No,” the man said thoughtfully, “Mr. Stark is not developing a sophisticated trap for you street children. He really does want you around to help the children he is rescuing adjust to a less—clinical environment.”

He means practical isolation, short rations, extreme discipline, and torture,” a voice calmly states behind Ellie. She whirls to see Yukio who grins and waves. “Hi, Ellie!” she said brightly.

Hi, Yukio,” said Ellie, relaxing. While she wasn’t entirely certain about the adults in this place, she knew she could count on Yukio. She didn’t even protest when the other girl grabbed her in a fierce hug before looking at the professor again.

Professor X had a small smile on his face as he watched the two of them. “Yukio is essentially correct,” he said mildly. “If slightly frightening about it,” he said with an odd waggle of his thin, almost invisible eyebrow. Yukio giggled. “While Mr. Stark means you and the other children no harm,” the professor continued, “the truth of the matter is that these children have had an entirely alien upbringing than yours, and while Mr. Stark may mean you no harm and, in fact, merely wants all the best for you, there’s no telling what the new children , many of whom have verified powers in their own rights, will want. It may be dangerous for the two groups to stay together.”

Before Ellie met Angel she would have snarled about the professor had no idea how dangerous the life of a street child was . Now—she stopped. Took a moment to think. What would it be like?

True, life was dangerous for them now , but they had an escape. They had a safe place, somewhere no adults (except Angel, who didn’t really count, and Copper, who didn’t know exactly where it was) knew of. If the worst happened—they could leave.

If they were living in a new place, where they didn’t know the lay of the land (although the other children would have the same disadvantage) they wouldn't have that. They wouldn't be able to leave if things got bad; they’d be stuck.

But—most of the street kids could fight back. And they were more than capable of teaming up, providing a united front. So—they could defend themselves, make the place a little more their own.

Of course, there was the fact that the adults running this place actually wanted the other children—the street children were an afterthought. A bonus. It was possible, more than possible, that any altercation would automatically be settled in the favor of the other children. And that—would be difficult.

That was also assuming that the children would divide; us vs. them. That they wouldn't all band together like the street children had. Of course, the street children hadn’t had anyone else to look after them.

Or, they hadn’t— until Mr. Parker came along.

Ellie whirled and wrapped her arms around Yukio, who was still holding her. “Do you know what I’m thinking?” she asked.

Yukio’s arms tightened around her. “I do,” she said.

Is it a good idea?”

I think so.”

Reassured, Ellie turned back to the professor. “ Is it possible,” she asked slowly, “for us to be here at the same time? On neutral ground? Just to see?”

The professor’s smile widened slightly. “It most certainly is. In fact, those children are on their way here now.”

Ellie nodded as a light tapping began on the window behind the professor. She looked up to see Angel hovering at the window, walked over, and opened it. “Well!” said Angel cheerfully as she rested her arms on the window, stopped moving her wings, and held her entire weight with her forearms. “That’s sorted!”

How strong are you?” demanded Ellie looking at the arms. They didn’t even seem to be straining, like she could hold that pose for hours—maybe days, if she had to.

That depends on what kind of strength you’re talking about,” said Angel. At Ellie’s confused look she elaborated, “There are different kinds. Social strength, emotional strength, physical—”

Ellie’d had enough. “Can you take me back to the others? We have something to discuss.”

Angel sighed as she looked at Ellie. “Is that a good idea?” she asked. “You got really cold last time.”

I’m sure we can find something warmer for Ellie to wear,” Professor X said.

Yukio gave a loud squeal and grabbed Ellie’s hand. “Come on!” she said, clearly excited. “I have the perfect outfit for you!”

Chapter Text

G wen held her breath as the organic matrix in front of her shivered. Would it hold? Would it break apart? Could she possibly have—

The matrix gave one last shudder and turned to sludge and she glared at the goop as she reached under her glasses to rub her eyes. That last iteration should have worked. It had almost worked. Now she had to figure out which variable was the one that held it together as long as it had…

Gwen glanced at the screen she’d been logging her information on and the figures blurred and swam as she got light headed. She quickly grabbed a chair and sat down as her vision darkened and then brightened again. She needed more sleep.

She groaned and rubbed her face, trying to wake up. Damn her roommates anyway! What the Hell was wrong with those two?

We’re concerned because Deadpool walked you to the building.”

Gwen’s memory painted the sentence with a whine that, unfortunately, hadn’t been present at the time. Making it sound like the woman had been whining made her feel better about what had happened.

We can’t risk something happening to us.”

Yeah, they couldn’t “risk” something happening to them , but had no problem throwing Gwen out on her ass! It was oh! So! Dangerous for a known killer (who hasn’t , by the way, actually been killing) to walk Gwen to the apartment building. So dangerous, that it must have been a miracle that Gwen survived—to find housing somewhere else, with forty-eight hours notice.

Gwen strongly believed they wouldn't even have allowed her that much time to pack if it hadn’t been in the leasing agreement. Or if they hadn’t known that she was intimately familiar with every last detail of the leasing agreement.

Bitches.

Gwen took a deep breath. Slowly inhale. Hold. Slowly exhale. There was nothing she could do to the vicious, petty, vindictive little shrews that she used to live with. She needed to move on.

And she clearly wasn’t getting work done right now, so she could move on to other, also necessary work. She needed to find a new place to live. Someone, sooner or later, was going to notice that she was literally living in the lab, and she needed somewhere to go before that happened.

P roblem was, New Amsterdam seemed to be in the middle of a housing shortage. The only places that Gwen could find were in neighborhoods that did not have nearly enough security—especially considering that she was getting followed by goons from another company. She couldn't count on being rescued every time.

She was so wrapped up in trying to find a new place that she didn’t hear the doors to the lab open, or the footsteps as someone walked in behind her. She was frowning at the computer monitor when her intruder spoke.

Working hard, Dr. Stacey?”

Gwen yelped, jumped, and whirled—to come face to face with Pepper. “Pepper,” she said nervously. It was late. It was super late; Pepper shouldn't have been in the building. “What are—you doing…here?”

Pepper looked over the rumpled scientist and Gwen wildly wondered if she’d left something—anything—out that would give away the fact that she was living in the lab. “Perhaps,” Pepper said mildly, “I should ask you the same question. Are you planning on sleeping in your lab again, Dr. Stacey?”

Gwen slumped. She’d been caught. There were no ways around it now. “How long have you known?” she asked wearily.

That you were sleeping in your lab? I just assumed you were so focused on your project that you didn’t leave. It happens frequently enough to Tony, after all.”

The use of past tense didn’t get past Gwen. “Hehe,” she laughed weakly.

Pepper pulled up a chair. “Want to tell me why you’re sleeping in the lab?” she asked kindly.

Aside from Peter, the lab assistant, it was the first kindness Gwen had experienced since she’d gotten kicked out of her apartment. She found the entire story bubbling from her lips; the creepy guy following her, ducking into an alley to avoid him, Deadpool saving her from a mugger and walking her home, and her (former) roommates throwing her out of the apartment.

Pepper listened to it all calmly. Her expression didn’t change, she nodded at all the right parts—and this was it. Gwen was going to get fired for abusing company property. They all knew that living in the labs wasn’t allowed; that there was a mandatory limit for how long they could stay. That Pepper had waited this long was nothing but a kindness.

At the end of Gwen’s story, Pepper pursed her lips. “Do you have any idea who your attacker was?” she asked. “Did he say who he was working for?”

Gwen grimaced. “No,” she said wearily. Now that she’d gotten her emotional spew out of the way she just felt drained.

Well, Dr. Stacey,” Pepper said slowly, “in light of what you just told me—”

Gwen closed her eyes. She didn’t want to hear it. She knew she was going to be evicted for the second time—this time from her own lab.

“—we’re going to have to move you to one of the upper floors,” Pepper continued.

What? Gwen opened her eyes in shock to see Pepper tapping on her ever-present Starkpad. “What?” she asked.

Pepper frowned. “I’m not going to penalize you for being an attractive target,” she said. “We should have done a better job protecting you. Are you aware that Tony hired mercenaries to walk people home?”

So the rumor about the new “guards” being mercenaries was confirmed. Not that Gwen would ever tell anyone. “They were busy,” Gwen admitted.

Hmm. Well, fewer potential security breaches this way. Grab your things.” Gwen obeyed meekly. “Good.” Pepper led the way to the elevator. “I’ll get you your own card in the morning,” Pepper said calmly as she swiped her own in the elevator, “you’ll need an access card to get to the floors.”

The elevator goes all the way up to the roof,” Gwen felt obliged to point out.

Yes, but it won’t stop on the private floors without the card swipe,” Pepper said in explanation. “I’m putting you in the empty room next to Bucky and Steve. Don’t worry; the rooms are soundproof.” The elevator stopped and opened and Gwen, carrying her sleeping bag and the tote with a change of clothes in it, followed Pepper to the room. “Here you are.” Pepper tapped something on the wall and a square lit up. “Put your hand here.” Gwen obeyed and light went red, then blue, and a click before the door in front of her opened. “Good, it’s now registered as your room. No more sleeping in your lab.” Pepper left.

Gwen walked into the large room, mostly decorated in blue, and stared. There was a bathroom to one side, a huge closet, and a small kitchen. The bed was huge, easily a king size, and the mattress was softer than the one she’d had at her old apartment.

A smile broke across her face as she thought about how she was now living with the Avengers.

If only her former roommates could see her now.

Chapter Text

Ellie supervised the children as they packed from the safe place. One of them stopped to talk to Angel. “It will still be here, won’t it?” asked the child, tears pricking the corners of the eyes and making them shimmer.

Angel simply rubbed a hand over the kid’s hair and gently said, “I don’t foresee this moving anywhere anytime soon. And if it does move, it won’t move far.”

Hold up. “It can move?” Ellie asked as she narrowed her eyes at the older girl.

Angel nodded. “It can move, but it will only move if it feels threatened.”

What?”

Angel continued, “ And right now I think I’m the only thing in the city that can threaten it, and I’m not.” She reached out and gently rubbed the wall. “I’m no threat to you,” she said fondly.

This wasn’t the first time that Angel had implied that the safe place was alive, but it was the first time that Ellie believed she was serious. After all, adults (and some of the children for that matter) talked about cars, houses, bicycles, scooters, and the sewer tunnels being alive, and none of them were. Ellie just thought that Angel was doing the same with the safe place.

Except—this meant she wasn’t. She was talking about the safe place like it was alive, because it was alive . Ellie didn’t know how to feel about that.

Remy sidled up to Ellie, his stuff in his arms (none of the children had much in the way of stuff; nothing more than they could carry). “You really think this is a good idea?” he asked as he watched the others grabbing their stuff.

Ellie felt her lips purse together. “We aren’t going to be able to live here forever,” she told him. “And—and we all need an education.” Going to school had opened Ellie’s eyes to how much the adult world valued education—education that the street children didn’t have.

Girl Twin came up to Ellie, eyes wide. “What about Copper?” she asked. (The twins didn’t like hiding their genders. Ellie allowed it; the city was safer for them without the Snipers and Runaways Unite.)

Ellie paused. It was a good question; what about Copper? She wasn’t a child, so she couldn't go with them to the manor. They couldn't just put her back out on the street, because there were still people hunting for her. They couldn't just leave her in the safe place, because she had no idea where the safe place was, and no idea how to get anywhere. Besides, Angel was right—the safe place wasn’t self-sustaining yet, and Copper was going to need to eat. Actually, Copper probably needed eat more than she was getting, but there wasn’t a lot of food to go around.

Ellie looked up at Angel. She might help—or she might not. Ellie wasn’t certain where Angel drew her lines between helping and letting things happen as they would. “Do you have an idea?” she asked the older girl.

I might,” Angel said thoughtfully as she turned her attention toward