Peter is more than aware of the fact that there’s a niche group of New Yorkers who create memes around the vigilante community of the city. He’s seen them. He’s laughed at them. Hell, he even follows a couple of the accounts that post them. The biggest travesty about the memes is that Matt can’t see them, and therefore he couldn’t be subjected to the truly incredible ones that came after the driving incident.
Peter still sends Daredevil memes to Karen and Foggy on occasion because he figures they’ll get a kick out of them even if Matt can’t; they’re young enough adults that memes don’t go straight over their heads (at least, that’s what Peter hopes). He and Wade have even started trading memes on a regular basis since they followed each other on Instagram.
All in all, he is aware of the fact that Spider-Memes exist. MJ and Ned tease him mercilessly with them, so it’s not too big of a shock when MJ sits down across from Peter in the cafeteria and wordlessly slides her phone across the table to him.
It’s open to a petition that reads ‘No Cops at Pride, Just Spider-Man’. It’s based on a meme that Peter treasures more than anything, and he smiles at it.
“You know I love that one,” he says and MJ smiles back.
“So do the people.”
She pulls her phone back and scrolls down just slightly so that Peter can read something further down the page.
2,341 signed of 5,000 goal
“Oh,” Peter says, looking at the number. That’s a lot more than he’d expected.
“Yeah,” MJ replies before taking her phone back and returning to scrolling.
A week later, Peter’s sitting on the couch with the TV playing some home decoration show in the background while he half-heartedly works on an assignment for English class. Even with Matt’s assistance on how to write papers, he still doesn’t enjoy it. There’s more than a week until it’s due, and in the end it only has to be two thousand words. He can totally do that.
While he’s struggling his way through a paragraph about the importance of all the flowery language in Fahrenheit 451, he feels the couch dip as Aunt May sits down beside him. He’s desperate for any excuse to take a break from the paper, so he halfway closes his laptop and looks over at May.
“What’s up?” he asks after noticing the smile on her face.
“One of my patients today was a little loopy on some painkillers, and he mentioned something interesting to me,” she says, and Peter perks up at that.
Work stories from Aunt May are almost always worth listening to.
“What was it?”
“Well at first he was talking about how much he loves that Queens has its own hero and that Manhattan isn’t the only borough that has them, but then he showed me this and told me I should sign it.” May tilts her phone screen towards Peter, and he leans in to look at it.
It’s the same petition that MJ showed him last week, but when he scrolls the number reads much differently.
7,578 signed of 10,000 goal
“I just thought that was the sweetest thing,” she says with a smile, pulling Peter a little closer to kiss the top of his head. “Alright, you can get back to work now. I’m going to the grocery store; text me if you want anything.”
Three days later at decathlon practice, Peter finds himself with an elbow being gently shoved into his side. He throws a confused look over at Ned who simply tilts his head down toward the floor.
Peter looks down and sees Ned holding out his phone with a title that’s getting to be incredibly familiar on the screen.
14,239 signed of 25,000 goal
“Mr. Leeds, Mr. Parker,” their coach’s voice calls out from where he’s sitting at one of the chairs nearby. “Care to share what’s so interesting that neither of you buzzed in for the Pokémon question with the rest of us?”
“Oh uh,” Peter says awkwardly, floundering for his words.
“I was just showing him this petition so he could show it to Spider-Man,” Ned blurts out.
Ned shows his phone to the others as well as their coach. Most of their teammates murmur something about ‘having seen that one’ while Flash just scoffs. Their poor coach looks so confused.
“Peter, you know Spider-Man?” he asks.
“Yeah!” Peter says, his voice a little bit shrill from nerves. He clears his throat and tries to sound a bit more normal. “Yeah, uh Mr. Stark introduced us.”
Everyone still remembers Peter being dragged out of class by the Tony Stark one morning earlier in the semester, so their coach accepts it gracefully.
“Well as nice as that sentiment is, let’s keep our phones off for the rest of practice. I’m sure the petition will still be there in forty-five minutes.”
MJ looks at them all with a raised eyebrow and reads off the next (unfortunately non-Pokémon related) question once Ned slides his phone back into his pocket.
Two nights later, Peter has just gotten home from patrol and is about to hop into the shower when a notification on his lock screen catches his eye.
backinaflash tagged you in a post.
Peter very hesitantly swipes on the notification and readies himself for whatever it is.
The picture is a screenshot of the petition, and the caption reads ‘hey penis, if you really know him then get him to go to pride’. More interesting, however, is the number on signatures.
27,335 signed of 50,000 goal
Honestly, Peter’s not even sure why he follows Flash’s finsta to begin with, but he’s glad that he sees the post. Maybe Spider-Man should go to pride.
By Saturday, the petition has shattered even the 50,000 signature goal, and Peter says fuck it. Spider-Man is going to pride, and he’s dragging whoever will come along with him.
By now, Peter knows the best way to get Matt to do something is through peer pressure, so three days before he knows he’s going to next see him, Peter sends the petition to Karen and Foggy along with a message that reads ‘do you think Daredevil would join him?’
Foggy Nelson: uh he frickin better
Karen Page: you bet your ass he’s gonna
Foggy Nelson: Karen don’t say bad words in front of the child
Karen Page: fuck
By the time Peter finds himself on a rooftop with Matt overlooking a drug deal, he barely has to open his mouth before he gets a response to the invitation.
“So I was wondering if—”
“Yes, I’ll go to Pride with you,” Matt says gruffly, not even pretending to look at Peter like he usually does. “Now can we get back to the task at hand?”
“Oh—right,” Peter says, clearing his throat as he turns back to the drug deal and checks his web slingers. “Let’s do this.”
When the dealers are moaning on the ground and/or webbed up, and the two heroes are back on a rooftop waiting for New York’s finest to respond to the call they put in from a nearby payphone, Matt finally circles back around to their previous conversation topic.
“You know, you didn’t have to send those two in to do your dirty work. I would’ve come anyway,” he says. “Cops aren’t there to protect us, they’re there to stop it from turning back into the riot it should be.”
A little dramatic (especially when said in the Daredevil voice), but Peter still appreciates the sentiment even as the red and blue flashing lights come into sight
The next person Peter asks is Wade.
While Spider-Man and Deadpool do work together on occasion, he and Wade don’t have any plans to team up in the near future, so Peter just drops by his apartment the next time he finds himself in the area. He could probably text the guy, but honestly Wade’s use of emojis is so extensive that sometimes texting him physically pains Peter.
He can hear vague voices behind the door, but as soon as he knocks they go quiet.
“Wade? It’s me,” he calls.
A second later he hears footsteps and the door opens just enough to reveal Wade standing there in normal people clothes that, to be fair, he might’ve picked up off the floor this morning.
“What brings you here, child?” he asks a little suspiciously, scanning the hallway behind Peter.
Peter doesn’t feel the spidey-sense freaking out, but he turns to look at the hallway as well just in case.
There’s nothing there.
“Um, well there’s this petition online and it’s gotten pretty popular,” Peter explains, fumbling his phone out of his pocket to show the site to Wade.
79,662 signed of 100,000 goal
“And I decided that I’m gonna do it. Daredevil’s coming with me, so I thought I’d invite you along with us.”
It’s a little strange that Wade doesn’t immediately snap off some innuendo about Daredevil coming (he’d even braced himself for one). He looks a little unsure honestly.
“Please?” Peter asks, dialing up the puppy eyes. He’d learned just how well those work on Wade during the whole ‘one of Mr. Stark’s exes wants me dead’ fiasco.
“Ugh, fine,” Wade finally concedes. “I’ll go, just stop… looking at me like that.”
“Thanks, Wade!” Peter chirps with a smile before turning to leave so Wade can get back to whatever it was he was acting to sketchy about.
The furious whispering resumes the second the door shuts, but the only voice Peter hears is Wade’s.
Later that night when Peter gets home from patrolling he finds a non-emoji laden text from Wade.
Wade W. Wilson: mind if I bring a couple more super-queeroes with me to the thing?
Peter responds with a resounding yes, as well as a reminder not to bring guns.
Peter’s sitting at a workbench in Mr. Stark’s lab when the man, the myth, the legend himself sets his phone down in front of Peter.
“You seen this?” he asks, and Peter looks at the screen to find a familiar sight.
136,949 signed of 200,000 goal
“Oh, uh yeah,” Peter says awkwardly, because he’s suddenly struck by the fear that if Mr. Stark knows he’s actually going. It might lead to some sort of weird ‘I’m trying to be fatherly but I have more daddy issues than I do zeroes at the end of my bank balance’ talk about his sexuality. He’s (almost) sixteen; he doesn’t need to get that all figured out just yet. “I didn’t realize it got so popular though.” He tacks a laugh on at the end for good measure.
“People keep tweeting it at me and telling me to show it to Spider-Man since he doesn’t have any official social media,” Tony replies, taking his phone back. “I thought it was kinda funny.”
“Yeah, it’s um, based off a meme? It got kinda popular, but I didn’t expect it to get petitioned like that. I guess it makes sense though. Cops aren’t that great…”
“You’re starting to sound like Daredevil,” Tony says, and Peter bristles at the tone.
It isn’t worth arguing about it though.
In the elevator on the way down to the ground floor later that afternoon, it stops on a floor it usually doesn’t. Peter looks up from his phone to see who enters and is more than a little surprised by who he sees.
“Oh, hi Mr. Sergeant Barnes,” Peter says, fumbling with his words slightly.
“Hey Peter,” Sergeant Barnes replies, smiling just a little bit. “I heard through the grapevine that you might be planning on going somewhere with some people later this month.”
“Uhh,” Peter says.
“Mind if I join your entourage?”
Now that’s the one thing Peter wasn’t expecting to hear. He hasn’t had much interaction with James Barnes, dead but not really American war hero, so he doesn’t know much about the guy. But he does know that the time he’s from wasn’t exactly cool with gay people.
“No? I mean—uh not at all! I just didn’t think you were, y’know…” Peter fades off awkwardly as he sees Sergeant Barnes’ eyebrows raise higher and higher in amusement.
“It’s alright, kid,” he says with a smile. “I’ll see you there.”
It’s timed so perfectly that Sergeant Barnes can immediately turn and walk out of the opening elevator doors and into the lobby of Avengers Tower. Peter finds himself wondering just how long the man has known (and how) and if he’d done a run-through of that beforehand
With so many people already coming along with him, the door to door invitations are starting to seem inefficient, so Peter, being a child of the twenty-first century, does the twenty-first century thing and sends the invitation to the others via group chat. Jessica gives a resounding yes, Luke says he’ll come, and Danny is, unfortunately, out of the country, so he has to say no. Matt’s already given his answer to Peter, so the only one in the group who hasn’t either confirmed or denied is Mr. Castle.
That leads to Peter standing in the hallway of an apartment building he’s never been in, in front of a door that Matt assured him belongs to Frank. There’s nothing about it that sets it apart as belonging to one of the most dangerous people in the city—it even has a little welcome mat in front of the door. Granted, it looks like it belongs in a workshop rather than on a front step, but still, it adds a bit of unexpected hospitality.
It takes him a minute to work up the nerve to knock, and when he does knock he also loudly announces himself. No way is he going to risk getting shot.
“Hey, uh, it’s Peter,” he says.
There’s the sound of heavy footfalls followed by the door opening, still chained shut. Mr. Castle looks him over for just a second before shutting the door and reopening it fully once the chain is disengaged.
“Kid,” Frank greets him calmly.
“Hi, Mr. C,” Peter replies. “Sorry to drop in on you, but I had a question and I was in the area and you never answered my text the other day so—” Peter cuts himself up abruptly when he sees the awkward look on Frank’s face.
“Kid, I can’t be seen at something like that,” he says and oh.
“Oh,” Peter says.
He could’ve sworn that Mr. Castle wouldn’t be uptight about that sort of thing—especially since he and Matt had apparently done something at one point in time. But internalized homophobia is a thing and he’d been vehement that it was just one time. The look on his face must give away exactly what he’s thinking because suddenly Frank’s waving both his hands.
“No—no it’s not like that,” he says. “It’s just….” He heaves out a sigh and gestures for Peter to come in.
The apartment is furnished a bit sparsely, and there’s nowhere near as much general clutter as there is at Wade’s apartment. It feels less like a home, and more like a safehouse. The door shuts behind him, and he turns to Mr. Castle to hear the rest of his explanation.
“You know who I am,” Frank says, and Peter nods.
“You’re the Punisher.”
“Exactly. You know how high up I am on the ‘most wanted’ list? If I’m seen in public, there’s already a preapproved number of casualties that’ll be acceptable as collateral damage when the cops start shooting. I ain’t puttin’ all those people in danger. The cops aren’t gonna shoot at you, hell, they’ve even eased up on Daredevil again for the most part, but I’m another story. Nobody else who’s innocent is gonna die because of me.”
Suddenly, Peter feels stupid and childish. How could he forget that the cops—the general population—don’t like all of the vigilantes as much as they like him. He’s cultivated a fun and friendly image, partially due to his involvement with the Avengers and partially due to his general personality. Spider-Man is a friend of the people; the Punisher is their fear. Hell, Daredevil’s never even technically killed anyone, and people still fear him. It stings a little bit to be honest—that the police don’t seem to take him as seriously as they do his adult counterparts even though they don’t know he’s a minor. He doesn’t say that out loud though.
Instead he says, “Oh. Um, that makes a lot of sense. Sorry to uh… bother you.”
Frank shrugs. “It’s alright, kid. Have fun. Make sure nobody gets hurt.”
Peter leaves the apartment with a bit of residual awkwardness and an even higher opinion of Mr. Castle than he’d had before.
The morning of Pride, the petition has just over five hundred thousand signatures to its name, and the numbers are still climbing almost exponentially.
When Peter arrives, the streets are already crawling with people decked out in everything from full body leather to rainbow crop tops. They all seem to be happy, smiling and joking with their friends and strangers. From his fairly well-hidden perch on a fire escape, he’s watching one girl go around offering rainbow heart stickers to anyone who wants one when the spidey-sense gives him a full body jolt.
There, making his way through all the leather clad civilians, is a leather clad non civilian. The black leather boots, black tac pants, black leather shirt and honestly striking number of harnesses would make the wearer look like any of the other people in the crowd he’s walking through if not for the shirt missing the left sleeve in favor of showing off a shiny metal arm.
People are staring and whispering (honestly, who wouldn’t be?), but Peter’s surprised that for the most part people seem to accept his presence there. He watches the girl with the heart stickers approach Sergeant Barnes shyly and smiles when he nods at her and allows her to put a sticker on his arm in place of where the red star used to be.
He shoots a look up at Peter’s hiding spot and smiles which is nearly enough to make Peter fall off the damn building. How had he seen him?
Peter is so distracted with the heart attack that Barnes just gave him that he doesn’t even notice the others until he hears, “Hey, Spidey!” being shouted from the street below.
Matt is pretty much dragging Wade who is in turn being followed by two late teens/early twenties girls towards Peter. Matt looks pissed off, and Peter’s guessing it has something to do with the fact that Wade’s wearing a pair of high heels that make Matt look even shorter than he normally does next to Wade. One most notably has black lipstick and the other has pink hair. The one with black lipstick looks reasonably embarrassed by Wade’s hollering, and Peter can’t blame her. You have to have next to no shame to not be embarrassed by most of the shit Wade does.
Sergeant Barnes starts gravitating towards the quartet, and Peter’s reeling a little over how much more normal the superhero suits look here compared to everyday life. Okay, yeah, they still stand out, but Wade, Matt, and Barnes all respectively look like they could be with one of the kinkier dressed groups of people. The girl with pink hair and the girl with black lipstick both look like any number of the other young adults at the parade.
The majority of the super-crew is here (as far as he knows only Luke and Jessica have yet to show), so there’s really no reason for Peter to try and stay hidden any longer.
He steps forward onto the railing of the fire escape and takes another look at the crowd, many of whom are starting to notice him.
“Do a superhero landing!” Wade yells up at him, and Matt shoves Wade in turn.
Peter doesn’t do a superhero landing; instead, he gracefully swings down on a web to land in front of the group.
“Hey guys,” he says. “And uh, ladies.”
“Hi Spider-Man!” the girl with the pink hair says.
“Spidey, these are the aforementioned superqueeroes,” Wade announces with a dramatic flourish towards the two who had come with him. “Yukio, Ellie, this is Spidey. Spidey, these are Yukio and Ellie.”
“Hi Yukio, hi Ellie,” Peter says with a smile and a slight wave.
The other pride-goers seem to have realized that the group standing in their midst isn’t just a superhero themed leather fetish group, so there are more than a few cameras turned towards them to snap quick pictures and shoot boomerangs for their Instagram stories.
Sergeant Barnes finally makes his way to their group and looks over the newcomers appraisingly.
“Daredevil,” he greets with a nod.
“Barnes,” Matt replies curtly.
“You know each other?” Peter asks.
Sergeant Barnes gives him a look not unlike the amused one he’d had plastered on his face in the elevator.
“No,” Peter gasps.
“Wait—you two didn’t—” the second Wade starts to make an obscene gesture, Matt stands up straighter.
“I can smell Jessica. Wait here; I’ll bring her back,” he says before running up the side of the nearest building to grab the fire escape and hoist himself up. Within ten seconds he’s completely out of sight.
Ellie turns to look at Wade. “Did he just say he smelled someone?”
Wade’s too busy continuing to make obscene gestures at Sergeant Barnes (whose right eyebrow keeps getting higher and higher up on his forehead the longer and lewder the gestures get) to answer, so she turns to Peter instead.
“Err… yeah. He’s got a uh… a thing,” Peter says completely unhelpfully.
“Riiight,” she replies, tossing a look over at Wade and groaning. “Cut it out, Douchepool, he’s a national hero.”
“Exactly! I need to know if my dick really is only one degree of separation away from a national hero!” Wade says.
There’s a choking sound from behind them.
“Can someone please tell me that I didn’t just hear what I thought I heard?” Jessica asks, sounding more tired than usual.
She’s standing beside Luke with Matt to her left who’s starting to look just about as red as the suit is.
“Drop it before you have to grow a new head,” Matt growls.
“His body grows back from the head if you sever it completely,” Ellie says. “But if you put the head close enough to the body it’ll just reattach itself.”
“That’s fascinating and horrifying,” Peter replies. “Wait, how do you even know that?”
“I lived with him for like… six months. He went through a few of his, y’know, phases.”
Peter does not know what phase she’s referring to, and at this point he’s much too afraid to ask about it. Thankfully a distraction comes in the form of a group of teenagers who have seemingly worked up the nerve to come and talk to the group of heroes.
“Um, Spider-Man?” a boy with blue hair says.
“Yeah?” Peter replies, because he’s still not quite used to dealing with… spider-fans?
One of the boy’s friends is very unsubtly recording the conversation, probably for their Snapchat story, but Peter isn’t really too bothered by it. Matt seems to turn his face down and away a bit though.
“I was just uh, wondering why you and your friends decided to come?” he asks, and he’s blushing all the way up to his forehead.
“Well, I saw the petition online and figured even if I can’t guarantee no cops, I could still come,” Peter answers after a moment.
The blush is almost immediately replaced with a wide grin. “Awesome! I mean I was um, I was wondering if you could sign this for me,” he says, offering Peter a sharpie and a print out of the petition.
Peter’s signed plenty of notes that he’s stuck on criminals and left for the police, but he’s never once signed an autograph as Spider-man. It’s hard not to choke up under the mask, and he nods just on the off chance that something could come across in his voice as he takes the paper and the sharpie from the boy.
There aren’t exactly an abundance of flat surfaces, so Peter glances around for a moment before his eyes land on Matt.
“Hey Daredevil, would you mind being a uh… human table?” he asks.
Matt gives him a very flat look, but after a shove from Wade and a dramatic sigh he turns his back to Peter and bends over slightly to give Peter a relatively flat space to write on.
Peter smiles and signs the petition before handing the paper and marker back over to the boy.
“Thanks, man!” he says excitedly before being absorbed back into the midst of his group of friends who are all oohing and aahing over the autograph.
And that’s how Pride goes. There aren’t any major threats, and there are still police at the event, but the ones actually interacting with the people and helping them with their small problems are the heroes. Peter signs autographs and takes selfies, as do Wade, Sergeant Barnes, Jessica, and Luke (Matt shies away from cameras as well as he can and outright refuses to sign anything, not that Peter can blame him for either of those).
Maybe it was naïve of him to go along with a joking petition off the internet, maybe it wasn’t a smart move, but Peter is without a doubt that it was the right one. He didn’t take down a supervillain or a corrupt organization, but he let the people who need help know that he’s there for them, that other heroes are too, and that Spider-Man is a symbol for everyone.