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Home Front Chapter 1 

Peter is distracted from his horror by gasps and shrieks from the pedestrians.

"There he is!"

"The fraud!"

"Do we call the police?"

"Spiderman is a kid?"

"Run?"

"Get him!" 

Peter jerks alert and shoots up towards the sky. He lands on the side of a parking deck and fumbles for his phone. His hands are sticking like crazy, making it hard to get into his pockets.

"Happy!" he cries, panicked. The dial tone kicks in and Peter quivers in agitation. Should he go back for MJ? Would that make things worse? He had left her in the street. 

"Hey, this is Happy."

"Oh, thank goodness, Happy--"

"I can't make it to the phone right now. Please leave a message after the--"

Peter curses and jams his phone against his ear. He takes off chunks of concrete when he pulls away from the wall and begins swinging home.

"Yeah um, Happy, they know who I am, my face is plastered all over the news and it's really bad, it's so bad, they think I did all the drones and damage and stuff. Happy! I don't know what to do. Come on, pick up your phone. Call me back please? Like, as soon as possible. Oh, this is Peter. Parker. Peter Parker. Right. Uh, bye!"

He hangs up and puts his phone back into his pocket as he runs up the side of an office building. Once he's scaled about twenty stories, he leaps into the air and glides back towards the apartment.

He is swinging down the block when the tingling starts. He switches back to webs for the sake of speed and crashes into his bedroom at about thirty miles an hour.

"What do you want?" Happy's level tone drifts up the stairs, and Peter's stomach drops hard. He peels himself from the Spider-Man-shaped hole in the plaster and lands lightly on the ground just as a round of gunshots echoes through the house.

"May!"

The air punches out of Peter's lungs as he tears down the stairs, scanning the scene to make some semblance of sense.

Happy and May are behind the couch. Splayed extravagantly where they had been sitting a mere half hour ago is some sort of ripoff Spider-Man costumed man with multiple gunshots to the chest. Shish kabobed on the far wall are two twitching bodies in ski masks.

"Peter," May says brightly, and Peter runs to embrace her.

"What happened?"

"Grab whatever you need," Happy says. "We've got to be out of here in five minutes. This place isn't safe."

"I can stand guard," says the Spider-Man ripoff, and Peter shrieks as the corpse ambles to his feet.

"You need emergency medical care!" he stammers. "Happy!"

"It's okay, Peter," the suited man says. "I'm fine."

Happy gives the man a hard, distrustful look and escorts May to her bedroom.

"Dude, what? No! You've been shot!" Peter gestures frantically at the man's chest while looking very hard at the wall perpendicular. Is it rude to stare at someone's shot wound? God, the stench of blood in the room!

The knockoff Spider-Man snorts with laughter. "I'm a super, baby!" He gives Peter little finger guns. "Can't be killed."

"Like the Hulk?"

"Only without the hulking out, yeah." The man rubs at the side of his neck. "It's good to see you again, Petey."

"I don't know you! Do I know you? Do you know me?"

"All the above," fake Spider-Man says. May and Happy emerge from the bedroom, Happy carrying a bulging suitcase and May with a tote on either shoulder.

"Peter, get with the program!" Happy barks. He looks at the fake Spider-Man.

"Thank you, Deadpool," May says. "Would you like a snack?"

"Yeah, I'd love a snack," the man says, and Peter can swear that he's smirking under that mask solely based upon how expressive his voice is.

"Gross, man, lay off!" Peter shouts over his shoulder as he runs upstairs. He already has a go-bag packed. He grabs pictures of his parents and Mr. Stark to add to his bookbag, retrieves his laptop and spidexperiments from under the bed, and slides the glasses onto his nose.

"E.D.I.T.H.?"

"Yes, Peter."

"I need everything you've got on Deadpool."

The glasses scan through a series of profiles before landing on one Wade Wilson. Peter skims the overview and stares at a red notification after the list of aliases. 

Forbidden to interact in any way with Peter Parker.

Deadpool is stuffing his pouches with cookies and fruit-by-the-foot when Peter clears the stairs with his suit-case tucked onto his hip.

"What happened?" he asks May and Happy urgently. He rests the case on the arm of the couch so he can fix the collar of his street clothes.

"The door rang and these two immediately had a gun on us," May says, waving a hand to indicate the human wall ornaments. Happy's face looks tortured thinking about it. "Of course I closed the door, but they opened it before I could lock it. We ran for cover, but we didn't make it far. We were behind the table when Deadpool came in, talked an awful lot, and got himself between us and the intruders. He took the bullets for Happy." May gives Happy a soulful look.

"Oh my god," Peter says. "This is all my fault; Mysterio revealed my identity to the world. I don't...I can't….what am I..?"

Happy makes a sound that is half-shushing, half-scoffing. "Tony's identity was known for years. We amp your security and you're good. We'll get some security detail for your classmates and everything is back to normal."

"Not quite," Peter says. He flashes another glance at Deadpool in the kitchen before stage-whispering, "Mysterio put some footage out that makes me look bad. Like, really bad. Like wannabe supreme ruler bad."

May snorts with laughter. "No one who knows you would believe that, Pete-Pete!"

"But a lot of people don't know me!"

"And everyone who does is going to be offered an interview."

"Not if it doesn't match the image the media is spinning!"

"You can have this conversation in the car," Happy interjects. "Let's go already!"

"Yeah, right!" Peter says. "Just let me--" He gestures to the kitchen and May nods.

Peter freezes by the fridge. Wade Wilson has his arms braced wide over the counter, and, when he flexes his pecs, bullets pop out of his chest.

"Spider-Boy," Mr. Wilson says without looking up. "You've got questions?"

"Ah, yeah, just one before we go," Peter says. "You can't come with us," he clarifies hurriedly.

"Seen," Mr. Wilson says, and his head whips around to the microwave clock. "At two thirty-two."

Peter takes a delaying breath. "Why did Mr. Stark say that you couldn't interact with me?"

Mr. Wilson points at him. "You're the kids movie, and me?" He jerks a thumb back to himself. "I'm the NC-17 one." He points back to Peter. "Disney princess--" back to himself, "one-man Dark Knight trilogy. McDonalds Happy Meal, Taco Bell diarrhea. Innocent virgin--"

"Okay, okay, I get it," Peter says, turning violently red. "You don't do kids."

"I do do kids," Mr. Wilson insists. "Eww, that's a sentence I said. I don't do kids sexually. I do have an adopted, reformed, evil son."

This is a lot of information to process. Peter cocks his head in confusion. Mr. Wilson melts back at him, and Peter asks the big question.

"Are you going to be a problem?"

Mr. Wilson looks Peter squarely in the face and the intensity instantly amplifies to a point where Peter's skin crawls. "For you, never."

"Right," Peter laughs nervously. "Good! Uh, thanks for what you did back there." He beckons back to the living room.

"Peter," Happy calls, and Peter jumps as if he had received an electric shock.

"Right! I'll see you around. Or not. Actually not! I won't see you around!"

"Bye, Petey," Deadpool says with unbearable fondness.

"Bye!" Peter squeaks, and then they're all bustling into Happy's car.

He scrambles to get his phone out of his pocket and shoots off a text to MJ and Ned.

Are you guys okay? Identity leaked. Be careful.

"The thing you still have to learn about being a hero is everything feels big at the time. Give it a week and things will die down," Happy says. 

Are YOU okay? You spazzed out there, didn't you?

wait what o nooooooo wru gona do?

Happy is taking me and May to one of Mr. Stark's safe🏠🏠🏠 because someone just broke into the aptm and shot it up.

Btw do you know who dedpool is?

*deadpool

Everyone okay? And no 🙃

ask eduth

Shaken but not stirred.

That's such an invasion of privacy.

I think his actions negate that concern. I'm all for civil liberties but damn.

Hes not the guy that broke in. Hes the guy who stopped the break-in.

Oh, so you trust him now?

I don't know. Maybe

Hmm mysterious

*mysterios

I know

*MYSTERIO

I GOT IT NED K THX

np!

Seriously, Peter. You don't have to go through everything but at least look.  

ok

"...but literally two days later, the paps had vanished and Tony was back to his classes. Of course, by your age, Tony was getting ready to graduate from college…"

Peter looks out the window. He closes his eyes, digs in his jacket for the glasses, and perches them on his nose.

"E.D.I.T.H.?"

"Yes, Peter?"

Peter opens his eyes. "Who is Wade Wilson?"

E.D.I.T.H. manages to get even more toneless as she recites the file.

"Wade Wilson aka Deadpool aka the Regenerating Degenerate aka the Merc with a Mouth is an antihero with severe psychological trauma result of extended physioemotional torture and unfettered immortality. Age: forty-two, nationality: Canadian, ethnicity: Caucasian, kills: in the thousands, status: dangerous."

"Uh, what's his association with Mr. Stark?"

"Wilson has assisted Avengers in four suicide missions since the Battle of New York. He failed out of the Stark-funded program Never Pays to Murder after accepting payment to murder."

"Never pays to murder? What's that?"

"Never Pays to Murder is a rehabilitation program for foreign workers to transfer to SHIELD. Founded under Margaret Carter in 1953, the program continuously received federal funding until 2013. Everyone's favorite superhero, Tony Stark, renewed funding after SHIELD files were released to the public and many program graduates were revealed, the most famous of whom include James Howlett and Natasha Romanov."

"Is it still funded?"

"Mrs. Potts has ensured that the program is funded to be fully operational until 2030."

"Good." Peter scans the photos. Wade Wilson is badly scarred, but there's something off about the scars themselves. "E.D.I.T.H., enhance the profile and mugshot from Never Pays to Murder. Splitscreen, please."

He's not prepared for Wade Wilson's hollow, pock-marked face to zoom before his eyes, the details of his skin so vivid that Peter feels empathetically dry and pustulous. He chokes on a gag reflex and narrows his focus.

There's a crater over his left brow in the profile picture, but not in the program mugshot. There's a deep, dark scab on his chin in the program picture that's not in the profile picture.

"His face is different," Peter muses, and E.D.I.T.H. matter of factly highlights every difference in a sudden and incredibly overwhelming display overlay. "Why is his face different?"

"Wilson is constantly regenerating from the moment when he turned. Therefore he is constantly growing and defeating cancer. Wilson's skin topography constantly varies."

Peter yanks off the glasses.

"...not even pretending to listen!"

"He's got a lot to think about. Give him time to process."

"Happy?" Peter hates how whiny his voice sounds. He tries to pitch it lower. "Why did Deadpool step in?"

"We don't trust Deadpool, we don't question Deadpool," Happy says swiftly. "Deadpool doesn't know why Deadpool does things. He's the type of broken that you can't fix."

"I liked him." May swats at Happy, and he catches her hand. "I'm grateful."

"I think he knows me," Peter says.

"Everybody knows you, Peter. You're very transparent."

"Not like that, Happy!" Dang it, he is back to sounding high pitched. "He said it was good to see me again and he kept calling me nicknames."

"You think he's someone you knew before?" May asks, pivoting to look directly at Peter.

"I don't know! Maybe."

"C. R," Happy barks. "A, Z, Y. I'm literally spelling it out for ya, kid. He is crazy. And if you think on it too long, you'll turn yourself crazy attempting to understand him."

Peter's phone buzzes frantically in his lap.

PETER

Omg hes an assssn hes all over the dark web

where is he now

are u w him

dont get kild

call me

I can't call you now. I'll call you later.

"What else do you know, Mr. Hogan?"

"We're past the mister, mister."

"Please, Happy?" Peter does his best puppy face in the rear view mirror, but Happy refuses to meet his eyes.

"He's touchy about kids and kids getting hurt, that's all I know. In addition to how he's constantly and carelessly massacring everybody else. He's not a good guy and he's not a role model. I don't want you obsessing over him."

"I don't obsess--"

 "Iron Man, Captain America, the Winter Soldier...literally anyone slightly superhero that you've interacted with," Happy reminds him. "He did good today, now let's let him go back under the radar."

"But he kills people?"

"The same way that Hawkeye did during the Snappening. It's not a major concern."

"Hawkeye?!" Peter repeats, aghast. "Not a major concern!?"

"Oh my god, stop talking right now, Happy," May says. "Peter, honey, the blip was really hard on the people left behind. They had to mourn losing half of their beloved and almost all of their functioning world. Everything changed with no warning and no support. Hawkeye lost his entire family, and he couldn't handle some of the people left behind instead of his family. He went full vigilante."

"Murder style?"

"Yeah, sweetie, murder style. And of course that's problematic, but it's not a problem for you to handle."

"Then who handles it? That's literally what the Europe trip was all about. There's no one left to handle it! The Avengers are gone! I'm alone in this!"

Happy steps on the brakes harder than necessary. "You are not alone, Peter."

Peter realizes that he's breathing heavily and jerks his gaze out the window.

"Peter," Happy says adamantly, "you aren't alone."

"I could have been, today," Peter tells the window. May reaches back and clasps his hand, and Peter spends the rest of the trip trying not to cry.

Chapter Text

Home Front Chapter 2 

Peter feels a lot better after taking a nap. He stretches spread eagle over the king bed and sighs before springing to his feet.

He pads into the kitchen. May and Happy are sitting at the table and talking in low voices.

"Hey guys!"

"Peter, didn't know you were up," Happy says, leaning back quickly.

May laughs, tugs Happy in by his arm, and kisses him on the cheek.

"Okay, guys," Peter says. "That's enough of that, don't you think?" He leans back against the wall, automatically tilting his body to face the curtained windows. "We got to figure out what we're going to do."

"Well, the public is against you, but you haven't been charged with anything," Happy says. "You're fine, legally speaking."

"Harold," May says with a deceptively light voice. "Are we just ignoring the incident this afternoon?"

"No!" Happy exclaims. "But we didn't have security measures in place."

"How is Peter supposed to finish his schooling?"

"Are my friends in danger?"

"How am I supposed to continue working?"

"Look!" Happy breaks in. "I don't have all the answers. This is a new situation for me. We'll be on lockdown until we have the situation under wraps."

"What does it take to get the situation under wraps?" May holds out a hand to Peter and hugs Peter to her side.

"I'll get caught up on the news, tap some connections in the bureau, and run a network analysis over the city. We're talking three to five days to get the data, and an additional one to two days to plan and initiate response parameters. It'll be like a little vacation."

"And food?"

"We've got stockpiles here," Happy says. "No cell phone use, but the desktop won't reveal the IP address."

"We can do that," May says. Her fingertips dig into Peter's side. "Right, Peter?"

"Y-yeah," Peter says. He's not sure what May is implying, but he definitely isn't about to endanger the safehouse. He pulls out his mobile and switches it to airplane mode. May hands him hers as she gets up.

"Good! Well, I need the desktop first, but then it's all yours, sweetie."

"Thanks, May," Peter and Happy chorus.

They stare awkwardly at each other for a few long seconds, and then Happy gruffly shakes his head and moves towards the kitchen to heat up a family-sized lasagna for dinner. Peter switches May's phone to do-not-disturb and traipses back to his room.

He looks through the selfies MJ let him take on the flight home from London. They had talked about school and about the trip. MJ teased him for getting jealous easily and followed up by sliding her hand into his. She talked about the blip, about how her whole family had grieved and moved on and were closer for it, and how she didn't fit in with her own family any more. He talked about losing Mr. Stark, how he was the last face he saw before the blip and the first face he saw afterward. He talked about not knowing how he fit on the hero schematic and not feeling ready for all the responsibilities he needed to shoulder. They never got around to using the headphone adapter.

He really likes MJ. He can't believe he was so stupid as to carry her around downtown. Maybe she can act like she believes in the Spider-Man slandering and avoid the brunt of being associated with him.

He laughs at himself for considering the thought. MJ doesn't lie. She's so smart and so darkly funny and man, he really likes her but doesn't know how to not mess this up.

Peter zooms in on MJ's face. He stares at her smirking smile and traces her sarcastic brows with a finger.

"Peter, you're up," May says from his doorway, and Peter drops his phone on his face. She snorts at him. "Despite all the evidence, I'm starting to have doubts about whether or not you're Spider-Man."

"Coming!" Peter calls, flipping out of bed and past his aunt. "Thanks, May!"

He bowls into the hall and is opening messenger before he even sits down.

 

Peter 21:24
I can't use my phone in the upcoming week, so I'll be communicating here.

 

Ned 21:24
I am soooooooo glad that you aren't dead

Are you okay?

I'm saying that because it's been a rough day not cause you're weak

You're the opposite of weak!1

 

Michelle 21:25
Nice

Ned, are YOU okay?

And Peter

Not like it matters.

I don't know why I said that.

Obviously it matters

 

Ned 21:25
The strongest man ever!!!! 💪👀💪👀💪👀

 

Peter 21:25
I'm mostly worrying about you guys.

But yeah I'm fine

 

Michelle 21:25
Good

Good to know.

 

Ned 21:26
I'm getting contact awkward from you two make your own chat

 

Michelle is typing…

 

Ned 21:26
Actually don't fomo

Not fomo your love

Mark your calendars this is the day that I succumbed to the awk

 

Peter 21:26
Omg please stop talking

 

Michelle 21:27
That happened a long time ago Ned

 

Peter 21:27
Guys

 

Michelle 21:27
Right

So do you know who targeted your aunt?

 

Peter 21:27
Nope

I don't even know how I could figure that out

 

Michelle 21:28
They made their move right after the announcement. That means that they were anticipating it.

 

Ned 21:28
Yeah

They may have already known the details beforehand

 

Michelle 21:28
With a story that juicy, TDB would have wanted to keep it secret. They wouldn't have told everybody.

 

Peter 21:29
Good thinking

But how am I supposed to find out who knew in advance while I'm on lockdown?

 

Michelle is typing…
Ned is typing...

 

Ned 21:29
We cna do it

Haha beat you to it MJ

 

Peter 21:29
You absolutely can not

There is a lot going on that I don't know about

It's already dangerous for you to be known acquaintances

 

Michelle 21:29
So what's the problem with us keeping our ears open

 

Peter 21:29
To what, our classmates? What will that do???

 

Michelle 21:29
We're not always at school.

Sorry.

I forgot I was talking to losers 🙃

I'm not always at school.

 

Peter 21:29
...

MJ

...

 

Michelle 21:29
Oh do I need to ask your permission

 

Peter 21:30
No I just would really like it if you guys were okay

And snooping could get you hurt

I'm really worried about you guys

I don't know how big this is

Please be careful

Please?

 

Ned 21:31
I'll let you know what the gossip is 

Flash is defending you btw 😆

But he's also saying you're not Spider-Man

 

Michelle 21:32
We'll stay safe

 

Peter 21:32
Thank you

 

Michelle 21:32
Also, screw Flash

 

"Peter," May calls, and Peter jumps. "Dinner!"

"Right!" Peter types a hasty good night and joins them at the kitchen for lasagna.

Dinner starts uncomfortably. Peter keeps shooting looks at Happy and May that Happy avoids and May returns in full force.

After five minutes of repeatedly attempting to start conversations, May wipes her mouth and gives them both firm looks. "I'm not hanging around you two for the week if this is what it's going to look like. Give me some effort, boys."

Happy is galvanized into asking about Peter's friends and Peter responds by politely inquiring about Stark Industries. Talking to Happy had never exactly felt natural, but Peter feels considerably closer with the guy after his help in the Nederlands.

It apparently suffices for May. She resumes eating with a content curl at the corner of her mouth.

After dinner, Happy camps out at the computer and Peter cleans up dinner. He's delaying going back to his room. Probably in part because he knows he's homebound, he is already tired of the big bed and close walls. Next week feels eons away.

A week ago, he had wanted more than anything else to dodge hero calls and try to get closer to a girl. Now he can't superhero, can't talk to MJ, can't nerd out with Ned...this is even worse. His friends aren't just in potential danger; they're hypothetical targets.

It's almost one in the morning when Happy groans and stretches at the computer. Peter creeps towards the doorway in time to see him shuffle towards May's bedroom. The guy looks tanked, and Peter is grateful. He knows that Happy knows that Peter doesn't do well being contained and it means the world that Happy is working so hard.

Peter slips down the hall and sinks into the computer chair. Ned and Michelle had signed off a while ago, and there was no one else he is interested in contacting online.

He Googles his name. The first results are the viral locals' photos and mutant infopages. Further down the page are the sensationalist articles by The Daily Bugle. Peter hears his heart pounding in his ears. He doesn't click on the links.

On the third page of results he comes across the page for his school's academic decathlon. He clicks and spirals through nostalgia. It's crazy to him that those pictures were taken five and a half years ago. Sally, Charles, and Seymour are in their twenties now, and boy, that's a weird thought.

He goes back to the main web page. There's a hashtag trending that turns his stomach.

"Crimes of Spider-Man," Peter reads dejectedly. He has delayed facing this long enough. Anticipation burning like nausea in his throat, he clicks on the tag.

Taco night #crimesofspiderman with a photo of Peter struggling with a heaping taco.

Stick the landing #crimesofspiderman with a video of Peter doing a backflip on request.

#thatass #crimesofspiderman with a photoset of closeups of his butt.

Two years ago I ran into this mean mug coming home from the bar #crimesofspiderman with a selfie of a drunk college girl, supported by a clearly uncomfortable Spider-Man and with a red-faced jock webbed to a wall in the background. Peter has to log in to look at more tweets. He does so without hesitation.

He has entered the timeless hours in the middle of the night and he is completely immersed in the threads. There are tweets intent on revealing his dorkiness, tweets that laud his work, and tweets of more, um, appreciative fans. He can't stop reading. Eventually he comes to the original use of the tag.

Anyone else find it weird that Mysterio's feed was so patchy? Anywho, time to reveal Spiderman's true crimes #crimesofspiderman with a gif of Peter dancing through gunfire while two NYPD officers take shelter. Some animated rainbow-vomiting cats pelt toward Peter before the gif restarts.

Peter clicks the original tweeter's handle. Jack Hammer @jack_the_weasel has a Twitter history dating back six years. He didn't have much Twitter activity and there is nothing indicating if Peter has ever interacted with him.

Peter opens a private message.

Hi, Jack! I really appreciate the #crimesofspiderman thread. Thanks for adding positivity.

It takes ten minutes for him to work up enough nerve to hit send. He logs off and scampers back to bed, feeling warm and settled in a way he hadn't since The Daily Bugle had thrown his world out of order.

His sleep is restful.

Chapter Text

 

Peter twitches awake to the opening notes of the Star Wars theme song drifting in from the living room. 

“Give it a minute.” May’s soft voice rumbles with mirth. Peter runs a hand through his bedraggled hair and scampers onto the couch next to May. She tucks his head under her chin and presses a kiss to his temple. “Morning, Pete-Pete.” Peter can practically hear her making the "I told you so" face at Happy.

“Morning, May. Morning, Happy.”

“There’s cereal when you get hungry,” Happy says from the desktop. “It’s on the counter.” 

“Thanks,” Peter says without lifting his head. It’s really comforting to cuddle up with May. His world feels safe and untouchable.

They get an hour into A Phantom Menace before Peter’s stomach is awake enough to be a problem. He brings over the entire box of Ralston Rice Chex and a quart of the boxed milk back to the couch and slumps halfway over the armrest to eat. 

It’s shaping up to be a leisurely day of movie marathons when Happy takes a break and offers Peter the computer. Peter checks Twitter first. Jack Hammer hasn’t read his message yet, but his hashtag has grown exponentially more popular. Peter blushes at a thirsty #crimesofspiderman tweet and quickly exits the page. 

He next checks messenger. There’s a new message in his private chat with MJ.

 

Michelle 10:42

Hey, Peter. 

 

Peter 11:28

Hi MJ!

I miss your face.

 

He skims through their conversation. MJ has layers for days; he can see the teasing, punny forays into her Spider-Man theory from before he confirmed it in Prague. There are a couple of messages from way back when he had a crush on Liz, meaningless messages about decathlon and homework. The screen jumps as the chat updates.

 

Michelle 11:33

Lies. I know you have a thousand pics from the plane.

 

Peter 11:33

Yeah you’re right.

I guess I’m just missing you.

 

Michelle 11:33

Hold up, I got to go find some floss because ya corny.

jk

I might miss your face too

 

Peter 11:33

What are you up to?

 

Michelle 11:33

Nothing

It’s summertime

 

Peter 11:34

Right

So summer reading then

 

Michelle 11:34

ha

 

Peter 11:35

😊

 

Michelle 11:35

You’re totally doing summer reading aren’t you

Bet you’re bored out of your mind

 

Peter 11:35

Would if I could

 

Michelle 11:35

🙄

Nerd

 

Peter 11:36

So what are you doing?

 

Michelle 11:36

idk

I was going to get a summer job but I don’t want to have to interact with people

I could always move into a cemetery and be a professional wailer 

 

Peter 11:36

Get paid to cry? I could do that

Not sure about you. You’re too cool to be all sobby.

 

Michelle 11:36

Fine, you can can be the wailer. 

I’ll be the mysterious veiled stony-faced lady who leaves tokens on caskets.

 

Peter 11:36

Who would pay someone to do that?

 

Michelle 11:37

Are you kidding? Anyone about to die. Everyone likes to sanitize a person’s life when they die, anybody would want to throw one last intrigue on their way out.

The real mystery is in advertising.

My services are limited because if everyone knows about my occupation, then I lose le mystique factor.

v important

 

Peter 11:37

Dang you got it all planned out

How much are you charging?

 

Michelle 11:37

I charge an inheritance percentage

So everyone can afford

You can be my accessory package with limited availability

 

Peter 11:38

Aw thanks MJ

 

Michelle 11:38

So I’ve been thinking about places we could go

Not for the funeral business

For us

To go together

 

Peter 11:38

Yeah!!

What are you thinking?

 

Michelle 11:38

I’m thinking we could take turns planning stuff

I would hang with you anywhere

Except like in the actual air

Not my fave

 

Peter 11:38

So do you have a place in mind?

 

Michelle 11:39

A couple

It's a surprise.

We'll go when you're free.

And you can start thinking about what we can do

Surprise me 🙃

 

Peter 11:40 

I can't keep anything secret

 

Michelle 11:40

Not from me   (: 

I'm just that good

 

Peter 11:40

Yeah you are

 

Michelle 11:41

I got to run, can we talk some more tonight

 

Peter 11:41

Definitely

Bye MJ x

 

Michelle 11:41

Later

x

 

Peter cannot stop smiling like an idiot. He can practically feel the dopamine flooding his nervous system and his body is overflowing with energy. He flips out of the chair. 

"You found Twitter," Happy says, and Peter doesn't bother to correct the assumption. "Spider-Man has a lot of loyal fans."

"And admirers!" May cackles. Peter flushes. May knowing about the pervier fans is way outside of his comfort zone.

"It's nice," he says, opting to completely ignore May's input. Like the troll she is, May keeps cackling. “How are things looking, Happy?”

“Too soon to tell, kid, but I think we’re looking good,” Happy says, and he flashes Peter a quick smile. 

“Whoohoo!” Peter cheers.

He can’t sit back down, so he instead opts to pace around the safehouse, wandering in and out of Attack of the Clones . On a pass through his room, he snags the E.D.I.T.H. glasses and perches them on his nose. He should find a way to better attach them to his face. The bus incident more than proved that they don’t sit snugly enough. He takes his pacing to the walls and ceiling, testing the grip on his ears.

An hour after lunch, Peter’s brain is melting in boredom. He has completed deconstructed, cleaned, and reconstructed his web shooters; he has built a hammock on the ceiling in the living room, pulled out the crap Happy throws in every time he passes (the muffin is the absolute worst because three sides of it are stuck and it falls apart every time Peter tries to unstick it), and repaired the webbing; he has arranged the cabinets by pH; he has taken a very long shower in which he sang and danced the breadth of his pop music knowledge…

It's barely 2:30 and Peter is crouched in the corner, waiting for anything to happen. He's not used to being well-rested and restricted and required to be inactive. It doesn't suit him. 

Peter sidles up the wall, across the ceiling, and descends behind Happy. Happy waves a shooing hand at him without even looking.

"Better not be distracting me," Happy says. He's pouring over a fresh article about Spider-Man and highlighting bits with his cursor.

"Let me do something!"

"No."

"Happy!"

"No! You don't know what to look for."

"Tell me what to look for!"

"Come here, Peter," May calls, and Peter slips to the ground.

"What?"

"Let Happy do his work without you being angsty and pubescent over his shoulder."

"But I'm feeling angsty and pubescent today," Peter whines dramatically and slants a wide smile towards May.

"Are you going to take it out on the ones you love?" May asks, and Peter ducks his head. Dang, he hadn't seen that coming. May's brutal.

"No," he grumbles begrudgingly, and he rejoins her on the couch. 

Happy gets up a few hours later, tosses a pencil into Peter's hammock, and starts pulling out cans of beans and a cornbread mix. Peter flips up to his hammock, pinches the pencil out, and twists the disconnected webbing together. 

"We still looking good?" May asks, and Happy sighs in the middle of opening black beans.

"Of course there's a lot of speculation about where Peter is hiding. Some have guessed Stark Industries or another Stark property, but no one knows specifics. The majority of negative commentary is coming from the Bugle. Mainstream news has some panels, but the naysayers are mostly just parroting Bugle points. There are a lot of people clamoring for police involvement."

"Oh," Peter says.

"But only because being a vigilante isn't legal. You've done a good amount of trespassing, kiddo."

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Peter says. “It kinda equals out though, the amount of crime stopped versus the amount committed, right?”

“You’re a good person, sweetie,” May assures him. “I’ve never doubted that.”

Peter doesn’t answer. He doesn’t feel like a good person. He feels irritable and squished and skittish. He’s spiraling into some sort of mood when he hears the messenger notification.

Peter leaps to the computer before he has decided to move. His blood is singing, and every word of the song is MJ! He has a brief moment of self-awareness of how sappy he’s being but immediately casts the thought away in favor of reading MJ’s latest message.

 

Michelle 5:42

Are you online?

 

Peter 5:42

Yeah

Hi MJ

 

Michelle 5:42

Ned went out with Betty and he missed his check-in

He was supposed to text me at 5:30

 

Peter 5:42

I thought they broke up?

 

Michelle 5:42

They did

Not important

Ned was going to ask about tdb

Betty’s mom works there

He’s not answering my texts

I don’t want to text too much a nd be suspicious

 

Peter 5:43

Aw no Ned

Where did they go?

 

Michelle 5:43

Ned went to her house

 

Peter 5:43

That doesn’t sound too bad?

 

Michelle 5:44

Mrs. Brant offered to run them to tdb 

That was an hour ago

He said he was going to be careful

Ned’s a nincompoop

Everybody knows you two are best friends

Everyone knows you’re missing

 

Peter 5:44

I’m on it MJ

I’ll check up on him

Thank you

 

Michelle 5:44

Be careful

 

Peter 5:44

I will MJ

I’ll give you an update ASAP

Logging off now x

 

Peter yawns and stretches. “I’m going to take a quick nap before dinner,” he announces as he closes down messenger.

“Right,” May says, and her tone is implying something that Peter doesn’t have the time or energy to infer. 

Peter barely manages to not-run to his room, shimmies on his suit, and jumps to the ceiling. There’s a sensor to disable over his window, and then he’s sprinting up the side of the house and towards downtown.

It’s awful, but he feels an incredible sense of relief as he hurtles across New York. It takes nearly fifteen minutes to make it to The Daily Bugle’s office building. He swings over the barrier to the parking lot and scans the few vehicles for passengers. 

His spine tingles and he automatically flinches right just as a bullet busts a hole into the brick on his left. Peter rotates, clinging upside down, and immediately identifies the shooter.

“Deadpool?”

 Deadpool waves at Peter. “Hey, kiddo.”

“Why are you shooting at me?”

Deadpool shrugs. “Why not?”

“Are you trying to kill me?”

“Not right now. Maybe later.” Deadpool shrugs again.

Peter regards him suspiciously. “Look, have you seen anybody in this area?"

Deadpool lovingly tucks his gun into his thigh holster. Peter automatically averts his eyes. "You mean the kid?"

"Kid?" Peter repeats, scrambling off the wall. "Boy? Girl?"

"Boy. About yay tall." Deadpool holds out a hand at about Ned's height. 

"Was he okay?"

"Seems stressed." 

"Was anyone with him?"

"Not originally."

"Who was it? Was it a girl?"

"Nope," Deadpool says with a little pop on the p. He is smirking through his mask, and Peter is fast growing impatient. "He was a man."

"What did the man do?"

"Shot at the kid," Deadpool answers lightly.

"You couldn't lead with that?" Peter shouts. "Was he hit?"

"Nope," Deadpool pops. 

"And then?"

"They talked a bit," Deadpool offers. 

"What did this man look like?" Peter presses. He's all up in Deadpool's personal space now, as if he can intimidate this crazy, unmurderable man into giving him the information he needs.

"About this tall," Deadpool says, and he rests his hand on top of his own head.

Peter's eyes slanted suspiciously. "Did you shoot at Ned?"

"Nope!" Deadpool says in a sing song tone. 

"What was the man wearing?"

"Leather and spandex."

"You're clearly describing yourself!" Peter huffs. He throws up his hands as he paces away and back. 

"Well, yeah," Deadpool shrugs with a lethal dose of sarcasm.

"Why are you being so difficult?" Peter yanks his mask off so he can run his fingers through his hair. The fresh air fills amazing on his furious red face. "Which way did he go?"

Deadpool smirks significantly at Peter.

"Use your words!" Peter snaps.

"The yay-tall boy that I shot at and talked to is--" Deadpool pats the top of Peter's head. It takes a couple of seconds for Peter to process.

"You're the worst!" Peter says in horrified realization. He yanks his mask back on. "You did not just waste my time obscurely telling me that I am talking to you! My friend is in danger and you're--" He kicks off of Deadpool's chest with enough momentum to get back to the wall. He doesn't look back when Deadpool calls after him.

"Have fun storming the castle!"

"Go away!"

"No!"

"You are so insufferable!"

"Aw, Spider-chan, thanks for noticing!"

Peter finds an unlocked window, gives Deadpool a scowl that Deadpool is to far away to see even if Peter weren't masked, and rolls into an empty cubicle of The Daily Bugle.

Chapter Text

HF4 

Peter quietly slides the window shut once he sees that there's no one nearby. He closes his eyes so he can focus on the sounds: the hum of electricity flares first, then the scritch-scritch of a printer and footsteps on a distant floor. Peter opens his eyes as he falls into a crouch.

He pounces on the ceiling and scans for cameras as he crawls to the hallway. The building is huge, but most of the staff aren't here on the weekends. If he stays alert, he just might be able to hear something useful.

"Where's Ned?"

Peter catches his relieved laugh before it erupts and rushes along the ceiling to the staircase. The voice is coming from a lower floor.

"He went to the restroom," Betty says.

"The police are on their way. We are supposed to stay inside until the exit is secured."

"What!?"

Peter webs the rail and slowly descends down the center of the stairs, weaving left and right, and listening intently to pinpoint the voices' location.

"A gun was fired right outside the building. We're not leaving until it's safe."

"Oh my goodness!" Betty exclaims. "Is The Bugle under attack?"

"That's very unlikely, honey. An attack would happen when the office is fully working, not a Sunday night."

"Has the perp been identified?"

Peter freezes on the fourth floor. He can see the back of Betty's head through the window in the door. He swings upright, curling his body into the underside of the stairs.

"Not yet."

There's the snick of a door opening, and Ned exits the men's room with an apologetic smile.

"Uh, hi. I'm good now. That cheesecake just really did a number on me."

Betty shakes her head slightly. "We can't leave yet, Ned."

"What? Why?"

Peter facepalms at the panic in Ned's voice and promptly webs his glove to his mask. Wiggling awkwardly, he pulls off the mask and glove and tucks it into his pants. It's not exactly like he has an identity to protect anymore anyways.

Betty moves away from the door and Peter curls down to land silently on the stairs. He hears them retreat down the hall, Betty calmly relaying the information back to Ned.

The shooter has to be Deadpool, right? It's not like it's common for there to be an early evening shooting on a main street. Ned looks fine, but Peter needs to be absolutely sure that there's no danger.

He mushes his face into the window to check the hallway just in time to see Betty, Ned, and Betty's mom disappear into a sea of cubicles. Peter cautiously edges the door open and slips into the hallway.

This is the main floor of The Daily Bugle. There are Los Angeles, New York, London, and Hong Kong clocks framing a giant countdown timer labeled "Minutes til Print". It's currently off and features a row of dull, red eights.

Peter tuck-and-rolls into a cubicle when he hears approaching footsteps.

"Eleonore, what a surprise!"

"Good evening, Aaron."

"Making sure everything is in order?" Aaron's voice carries a suspicious edge.

"A tour, actually," Mrs. Brant responds sternly. "Should I be checking that everything is in order?"

"A Sunday tour?" Aaron counters.

"I can't very well give tours while working, can I?"

"Right." Aaron sounds slightly mollified.

"You got the gunfire alert?"

"Yeah. Tom's writing a snippet for tomorrow's paper."

"We don't have any details."

"And that's a fact!"

"How close are we to publishing?"

"It'll be done in the next half hour."

"Good," Mrs. Brant muses. "Maybe you can show the kids the software while Tom is finishing up his piece?"

"Ah, yes," Aaron says uncertainly. "Your kids?"

"This is Elizabeth, my daughter. This is her friend Ned. Elizabeth works on the school news team and is interested in pursuing a career in the field. They just came back from a trip to Europe and Elizabeth got Ned all interested in the reporting industry."

"Yes, ma'am, she did!" Ned agrees earnestly. "The amount of information you process here is astounding."

Aaron makes a humphing noise. "Alright, alright, come along then."

"Thank you," Betty says primly. Peter curls up under a desk as they walk past the cubicle he's hiding in. He catches a flicker of movement as Betty and Ned link pinky fingers.

It's not ideal to track the quartet inside the building, but Peter can't count on another window being unlocked and he'd prefer not to have to break glass. He sneaks along behind them as they wander into another spread of cubicles. The ceiling in this section is formed from little popcorn tiles; he pushes one up, leaps into the ceiling, and replaces the tile in a fraction of a second.

There's nothing remotely dangerous going on, and much more waiting than Peter can maintain alertness for. He listens as Ned and Betty unleash a barrage of questions upon Aaron and a tetchy Tom. This needs to wrap up soon; May will eventually come in his bedroom and find him gone if he doesn't get back.

The droning conversation below keeps his mind wandering and his thoughts inevitably turn to Deadpool. At their first meeting, the man had seemed compliant and friendly, affectionate even. By outside just now, he had been mischievous and aloof and downright annoying. It's almost like it's a completely different man under the mask.

The thought unfetters a cascade of related thoughts. What if Deadpool is more than one person? Maybe even an organization! Most likely some sort of crime family, and the Deadpool identity is how they stay abreast of ongoing in the criminal world. That's how Deadpool would've known about the thugs coming after Aunt May. But then what was the point of Deadpool wasting Peter's time outside? Unless it was to distract Peter.  But what from? And was the original Deadpool, Wade Wilson, involved?

Peter shifts in the ceiling and nearly puts a hand through the tile. Once he's retained his balance, he's able to refocus on the conversation.

"That's a wrap," Aaron sighs. "Alrighty, who wants to do the honors?"

"May I?" Ned asks in a tremulous voice.

"Knock yourself out, kid," Aaron answers with an equally long-suffering voice. "Just hit publish."

There's a little bit of shuffling, and then Betty squeaks.

"You did it, Ned! Can we see it?"

"Yeah," Tom huffs. "Go ahead and open a guest browser. The domain is dailybugle.com. And... there's tomorrow's issue."

"Wow," Ned and Betty chorus, suspiciously awestruck. Peter twitches in the ceiling. What are they doing down there?

"Police arrived," Tom announces. "I'm heading out."

"We should probably wait for them to come to us, right?" Ned asks.

"No," Aaron says simply. "I'm missing the Eiselmen Classic right now."

"Okay," Ned says, drawing the word out as long as possible.

"I am going to the restroom," Betty announces. "Then we can go home."

"Night, Eleonore," Tom says. Peter listens to their footsteps fading away and the ding of the elevator.

"You said you needed to go?" Mrs. Brant asks.

"Yes!" Betty says. "Ah, Mom, could you, ahem…?"

"Yes," Mrs. Brant says crisply.

Peter waits until he hears their footsteps disappear to stick his head through the ceiling.

"Pst, Ned!"

Ned spins around so fast he half-falls out if the chair. "Peter? What are you-- MJ snitched, didn't she?"

"On you going back on your word? Only because you missed check-in."

"I know, I know," Ned groans, beckoning at the thin cable connecting the desktop to his phone. Green numbers flash 76%. "Also this is not dangerous, so I'm not a liar."

"Deadpool firing outside the building? Tell me again that this isn't dangerous."

"Deadpool?" Ned repeats in horror. Deadpool," he says more thoughtfully. "That must mean we're on the right track."

"And that track is..?"

"Tracking down who sent Mysterio's vid to The Daily Bugle. And, as soon as this data transfer is complete, we can edit the paper."

"You can't do that," Peter says. Ned gives him a look of total betrayal.

"Dude, I hacked into Iron Man's suit from my school laptop. This is a piece of cake."

"Huh," Peter muses. "Right. And Betty knows?"

Ned chuckles sagely. "Betty actually approached me first! She's really surprised about you being Spider-Man, but she says there's insufficient evidence to support you being evil. She also kinda has a thing for you ever since Night Monkey."

"Woah."

"Yeah, but she reckons it was mostly the adrenaline of nearly dying. We're on a break until it's sorted out because she's not going to play with my heart. Betty's the best."

"I had no idea," Peter says. "That's great, man! I'm sure she'll remember that I'm just a dweeb from decathlon and forget about me in no time."

"Uh, I am also a dweeb from decathlon, doofus."

"Yeah, but you're her dweeb," Peter says significantly.

"Yeah," Ned beams sappily. Peter mimes vomiting and Ned shoves at him. "You said Deadpool is outside?"

"Not any more, I don't think," Peter says. "But I'm going to make sure you guys get back to the car safe."

"Thanks, Peter," Ned says. His phone vibrates and displays a green 100% logo.

"Yeah, man, totally." They barely have enough time to finish their handshake when the bathroom door opens and Peter has to dive into another cubicle with a fierce but whispered, "Message MJ!" Ned nods, crams his phone into his pocket, and stands to meet Betty and her mom in the hallway. Peter trails them to the elevator and races down the stairs to beat them to the parking lot.

There's no sign of Deadpool and no tingling sensation. They climb safely into the car, fasten seatbelts, and drive away.

Peter scales the building and, clinging to shadows, makes his way back to the safehouse. He accidentally eats a few bugs as he's swinging and lands on the roof in a coughing fit.

After that, it's only a matter of crawling quietly back through the window, getting dressed, and emerging for dinner.

Peter carefully edges the window open, slides through feet first, slowly closes the window, and resets the window alarm.

"Successful outing?" May asks, and Peter spins and squeaks in alarm.

"Ah, May!"

"You know better, Pete-Pete," May informs him. She sounds disappointed.  She's sitting at the head of his bed, and her face has sterner lines than he's ever seen before.

Peter sneezes out a long-legged mosquito.

"Where's your mask?" May says.

Peter pulls out his mask from his pants. He is having a hard time looking at anything other than the ground.

"I webbed my mask and glove together," Peter admits.

"Yeah, I see that," May says. "Come here, my sweet, strong dummy." She pats the space next to her on the bed and Peter jumps up to land next to her. May pulls him into her side and digs her bony chin into his shoulder. "I know it's hard being cooped up--"

"No, it wasn't that!" Peter insists, turning to stare at her with wide, innocent eyes. "Ned went investigating The Daily Bugle and he could have been in danger--"

"At the newspaper?" May repeats skeptically.

"I don't know where Mysterio's people are! I don't know what they're willing to do!"

"Okay, okay," May soothes. She rubs Peter arm. "So was he in danger?"

"I'm not sure," Peter says honestly. "I saw Deadpool again." May hums encouragingly. "He was like, really annoying!"

May barks a laugh.

"No, May, I'm serious!" Peter whines. "So annoying! He wouldn't give me a straight answer and just kept wasting my time!"

"So Ned is safe now?"

"Yeah. He's probably going to be on messenger soon, if he isn't already."

"Good," May says. "You must have been worried about him."

"I was."

"Imagine how much more worried you'd be if Ned had accumulated enemies from over a year's worth of crime fighting, was recently injured to the point where walking was difficult, and has a history of forgetting self preservation?" The severe expression is back again, and Peter can feel his body language drooping again.

"I didn't want you to worry," he says glumly.

"Yeah. And the fact that you hide this stuff from me is the number one cause of a lot of my worrying. I don't know what you're doing when I walk into an empty room. I don't have any indication if I will ever see you alive again."

"May…" Peter trails off. He doesn't actually have anything to say.

May shifts onto a hip so she can press a kiss onto the top of Peter's head. "You're pretty precious to me, Pete-Pete."

"I love you too, May," Peter says.

May wraps her other arm around him and hugs him close. "I guess you'll be needing the computer again."

Peter makes an agreeable noise and burrows deeper into the warmth of her arms.

Chapter Text

 

Jack Hammer has finally responded. Thrilled, Peter rushes to open the message.

I didn't do it for you but you're welcome

The words have Peter's stomach flipping. It feels borderline rude, but also obviously not. He doesn't have a clue how he's supposed to feel or respond, so he heads back to the Twitter main page. The #crimesofspiderman tag is in the top five trending topics and there are several international tweets now with photos from Germany, Venice, Prague, London, and even Broek op Langedijk. Peter clicks back to the chat with MJ and Ned. They're still not on.

 

Peter 19:02

Hey I'm back

 

Peter 19:10

Hello?

 

Peter 19:18

Guys?

 

He's not worried, per se. It's just that Ned always responds pretty much instantly unless, apparently, he's hacking into computers to retrieve potentially dangerous information. And he really thought that MJ would be on standby because she had been concerned about what Ned was getting into. It's just weird that they're both not responding--

A crunch jerks Peter from his worries. He looks down and sees that his nervously bouncing foot has splintered the hardwood floor. Peter gawks at the damage and tries to pat the splinters flat.

"Peter," May calls. "Dinner's ready."

Peter slides next to May at the table as Happy brings over a tray of cornbread. Happy has never looked less, well, happy.

"Thanks," Peter squeaks. Happy grunts back at him.

Happy has been bristly ever since Peter got back. He hasn't addressed Peter once, and if Peter were a braver man, he'd confront him about it. For now, he offers Happy a sheepish smile and passes him butter.

He tries really hard to focus on May talking about ongoing projects at F.E.A.S.T., but his mind is flipping through topics too fast for him to hear her. What are Ned and MJ doing? Are they safe? Is Deadpool trying to kill them? Is Deadpool trying to kill Peter? Is Betty's safety compromised? Happy's never going to trust him again. How much longer are they going to be stuck in hiding? Would he be able to start his Spider-Man patrols or would he have to restart with a new identity?

"So, as no one's listening or contributing," May says, standing abruptly, "I'm going to take my leave until you two sort out this tension." She waves her spoon at Peter and Happy, huffs, and stalks to her bedroom.

"May!" Peter calls, but she completely ignores him. He looks back at Happy.

Happy's expression is distinctively murderous. He sneers at Peter and cuts himself another slice of cornbread.

"I know you're--" Peter starts, and Happy's glare swivels back to Peter. Peter's mouth goes positively arid and he swallows before continuing. "I know you're mad at me."

"Kid's a genius," Happy announces to the room. "Go on, Spider-Man, tell me why I'm mad."

Peter straightens in his chair and puffs out his chest. "Because I care about my best friend's safety. Because I take responsibility of how my identity affects him."

"Yeah, that's it," Happy grunts. "God damn heroes. Except Tony, as arrogant as he got, had enough sense to not think he had to do everything on his own. What, I'm only on call when you need someone to pick up your broken pieces? Not even. More like an uber driver."

Peter bites his tongue. Venting is good. Venting means that Happy is opening up.

"So, yeah, Spider-Man, maybe I am upset that my literal whole point in life right now means absolutely nothing to you. No communication on mission, flaunting the safety measures put in place for the safe house, and then having the damn audacity to think that you're in the right."

"I hear that you--" Peter starts, but Happy cuts in again.

"I thought you were better than that, Parker. I thought you were raring to prove yourself worthy of a hero team--"

"I'm not!" Peter can't stop himself from interrupting. "I'm not an Avenger, I'm not one of the X-Men, I'm not a team player. I go in solo, like you taught me. Oh, do you not remember how this started off? I messaged you every stinking day and you wrote me off as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The closest I got to team playing was with Mysterio who, spoiler alert,  was only in it to manipulate me. So, yeah, sorry that I'm not your next Tony Stark--"

Happy's face turns purple and he expands like a bullfrog. "I never thought you were. Check your tone, kiddo--"

"Just cause you're dating May doesn't mean you're my dad!" Peter screams. He's in a full-fledged tantrum now. 

"I never said it did, dumbass!" Happy shouts back. "But I'm sorry for caring about your wellbeing!" His voice is too raw to be sarcastic.

"Don't be!" Peter retorts automatically, but when he belatedly processes his answer, it's not one that he would change. 

"I was actually lying! I care about you an awful lot and I'm not sorry about it!"

"Good!" Peter retorts. He repeats himself at a not-shouting volume. "Good."

Happy shoves back his chair and Peter rises to meet him for a bizarrely aggressive hug.

"I'm used to receiving intel on missions so I can run support," Happy grumbles in Peter's ear.

"I thought you'd try to stop me." Peter has fistfuls of Happy's shirt clenched in his fists.

"Absolutely. Your mission was stupid."

"Hey, respect is a two-way street."

"Honesty is a sign of respect."

Happy claps Peter on the back and Peter gives Happy one last squeeze before releasing him.

"In future," Happy tells his slice of cornbread, "you communicate. Because if it's that important to you, it's important to me. Understood?"

"Yeah," Peter says. "Yes." 

"Boys," May says, sounding fond and resigned and entertained all at once. She steps back into the room and gives both of them hugs. "You squared away yet?"

"Yeah," Peter says. "I think we are." 

"Good," May says. "Do you want to share what Ned was up to?"

"Uh, sure. He hacked into a couple of the hard drives at The Bugle and he's going to see if he can uncover the identity of whoever sent the original file." 

"That's a pretty tall order." Happy serves himself another scoop of chili. 

"Ned is very good with computers," May says. "Even better than Peter." Peter shrugs agreeably. May has no frame of reference for exactly "how good" Ned is with computers. She's impressed that Ned set up her wireless printer when he was six. Her lack of computer savvy doesn't make her statement any less true though.

"Does he have an estimate on how long that'll take?" 

"No, not that I know of." Peter pushes his cornbread around in his chili with his spoon. "He hasn't messaged me back yet."

As if on cue, the desktop chimes a message alert. Peter hurls across the room.

 

Ned 19:43

First things first MJ wants me to let you know that she's out of data and can't message you but she's ok

 

Peter 19:43

😌

Thank goodness

 

Ned 19:43

second things second

WILLIAM GINTER RIVA

NBD

Ok bd

Real bd

I AM A MASTERMIND

 

Peter 19:43

Is he the guy?

 

Ned 19:44

Is he the guy lol

Sent your email AND

Get this

Used to work for Iron Man

 

Peter 19:44

No

What?!?!?

 

Ned 19:44

He's the drone designer

He connected edith to his tech

He's the brains behind mysterio

 

"Happy," Peter says. "Ned figured it out. He has a name."

Happy pops up from the table like a meerkat. "Who?"

"A former Stark Industries employee, William Ginter Riva."

Happy crowds Peter behind the computer. "Riva? Doesn't sound familiar. What else did he find out?"

 

Peter 19:44

Happy wants to know if you found any more info about Riva

 

Ned 19:44

Dude I'm only human

I'll keep researching on my end

I just wanted you to know

 

"Tell him he did good and then I need the desktop," Happy orders. "Your friend is dangerous, kid."

"Yeah," Peter agrees, typing out a sign-off and kudos message. He gives his seat to Happy and returns to the table. 

“You’re not eating.” May raps Peter’s bowl with her spoon. “That’s no good, Pete-Pete.”

“I’m not hungry,” Peter says. “What do you think Riva is planning? Why is he targeting me?”

“To protect Mysterio, I imagine. It’s hard to get a good new job when your last job was working for a supervillain defeated by a teenager. Looks bad on a resume.” May waves her spoon threateningly at Peter. “Now eat.”

“May,” Peter groans.

“Peter,” May mimics. “I’m serious. Eat up.”

Peter jams a spoonful of chili into his mouth. 

“Thank you,” May relents. “Now, what others think of you has nothing to do with who you are or what you’re worth. So I don’t care if this Riva character knows nothing about you or thinks you’re the scum of the earth: you know better.”

“That’s not the issue,” Happy calls from the desktop. “The issue is that several countries are looking for a scapegoat to pin damages on and right now there’s a narrative spinning of a young, trigger-happy vigilante trying to look the part of a superhero by any means necessary.”

“Oh,” May says. Peter sets his spoon back in his bowl. The chili suddenly tastes like ash and breathing is hard. “That’s a valid issue.”

“I’m going to my room,” Peter announces. He pushes away from the table, drops his bowl in the sink, and flees.

He had let himself get his hopes up. Once he had found the #crimesofspiderman thread, he had started to believe that this would just blow over. He should have known better. He’d been so stupid.

Peter throws himself onto the bed backwards, reaching out to web the door shut behind him. He lands with something hard in his back and instantly rolls to his side in pain.

“Ouchy!”

Peter is on the ceiling like a reflex. There is a lump wiggling under his covers. Peter sidesteps to the corner of the ceiling, eyes narrowed, as Deadpool’s head pops out at the foot of his bed.

“Hi!” Deadpool chirps.

“I can’t handle this right now,” Peter says. “How did you find me?”

“I dunno,” Deadpool says, and he points to Peter’s window. “Maybe it was the strings of webbing connecting the Bugle offices to this residence? Maybe that was it?”

“Maybe,” Peter says. Next to the window are plastic grocery bags stuffed with disintegrating webbing. “Okay, so what do you want?”

“For you, young man, to clean up after yourself,” Deadpool says. He wiggles some more and puddles onto the floor at the foot of the bed. “Maybe when you’re trying to work stealth mode, do more of the jumping and sticking and less of the trailing streamers back to your super secret location?”

“Yeah, okay, but why are you here?”

“I felt like it,” Deadpool shrugs, and Peter twitches his eyes towards the dresser. The E.D.I.T.H. glasses are still laying on top, and Peter feels his chest loosen somewhat.

“That was foolish,” Peter says, trying to channel foreboding in his tone and body language, “because I don’t feel like my location being public knowledge.”

“Whatya gonna do?” Deadpool grins. “Kill me?”

“No, dude, why do you even go there?” Peter groans. He descends from the ceiling  to perch on the edge of the bed. Deadpool tilts his head back so he can still see Peter from his spot on the floor. 

“Okay then, what are you going to do about it? Other than be muy intimidante.” He waggles his eyebrows obnoxiously, making the giant eyes of his mask stretch and shrink rapidly. He stage whispers encouragingly, “It’s working! I’m shaking in my boots.”

Peter groans again and onto his back. “I’m kinda going through a lot right now. It’s not a great time for you to be doing home invasions.”

“My bad, my bad,” Deadpool chirps. “When should I pen you in for?”

“What?”

“When are you free for home invasions?”

“Write me in for never.”

“Oooh, sorry, I’m not free then,” Deadpool deadpans, and Peter snorts. 

“You shot at me today,” he reminds himself. 

“I did,” Deadpool agrees. “But if it makes you feel better, you weren’t the only one.”

Every muscle in Peter’s body tenses. “Did you kill today?” Peter demands. 

Deadpool sits up. “Not this again.”

“You did?” Peter screeches.

“I’m not having this conversation with you,” Deadpool informs Peter.

“Who did you kill? Deadpool! Who did you kill?”

“Yo mamma,” Deadpool replies churlishly. 

Peter takes the moral high road. “Could you just not kill?”

“I could not not kill,” Deadpool retorts. “Not-not, who’s there, the end of this conversation--”

“You said you weren’t going to be a problem for me,” Peter interrupts. He flips to his stomach, eye-to-eye with Deadpool. “When we first met, do you remember? You said you weren’t going to be a problem.”

“Yeah.”

“And then you shot at me.”

“Yeppers.”

“And you’re doing activity that I have to stop.”

“See, that’s where you’re wrong.”

“You didn’t see anything wrong with the shooting at me part?”

“I mean, you’re not shot, are you?” 

“Not for lack of trying!”

“Oh, Petey, if I was trying to hit you, you’d be hit.” Deadpool’s tone slides fluidly from pitchy tenor to gravely bass.

“I’m saying you’re being a problem!” Peter growls right back. 

“Awww,” Deadpool coos. Peter is getting major whiplash from the personality jumps. “Poor widdle Peter.”

“I don’t like you,” Peter informs Deadpool crossly.

“Yeah, I get that,” Deadpool says. He stands up. “We done here?”

“What? No! You can’t go!”

“You’re not going to keep me in here, Peter,” Deadpool says, sounding way too logical for a man-child in a skintight leather costume. 

Peter doesn’t particularly think through his response. With a loup THWIP , he sticks Deadpool’s tail end to the ceiling. Deadpool rotates on the spot, arms crossed and legs dangling over his shoulders.

“Yeah, but now what?” Deadpool says. 

“Still working on that part,” Peter admits. 

“Now you’re cutting me down and I’m scampering off on my merry way.”

“I’m not.”

“You could be.”

“Look, Deadpool, I’m not comfortable with you running around knowing where I live and killing people.”

“Yeah, and I’m not comfortable with my gnads getting gnoshed, but do you see me holding innocents against their will?”

“You’re not innocent,” Peter says with a good amount of certainty.

“Tell that to mis cajones!”

“Oh my god!” Peter bemoans. “Look, if you don’t stop talking, I’m going to web your mouth shut.”

“Kinky.”

“Last warning!” Peter says.

“Alright, here’s the alternative. Web me up to the wall and my lips are sealed.”

“Deal,” Peter says. He webs Deadpool’s arms before pushing Deadpool's body to the wall.

“Hmmm, yeah,” Deadpool says. “Do ya thang, Spideyboy!”

“Aren’t you supposed to be not talking?”

“You haven’t webbed me up yet.”

To Peter’s disbelieving surprise, Deadpool actually does stop talking once he’s webbed to the wall. Peter itches to say something in the silence, so he does the only reasonable thing to be done.

He flees to the bathroom.

Chapter Text

HF 6 

Peter splashes his face one final time before turning the faucet off and staring into his reflection.

"You got this," he promises himself. "Just think!"

He starts with the facts. Deadpool is currently webbed to his bedroom wall, but that won't last forever. It's not practical for Peter to constantly reweb him in place; he eventually has to release Deadpool. And because Deadpool knows the location of the safehouse--

Peter squares his shoulders, gives himself a couple of more words of affirmation, and marches to the living room. 

"Ah, Happy?" Peter says.

Happy grunts back, still staring at the computer screen.

"You know how you were saying communication is important?" Peter says, and Happy looks up at him. 

"What's up, kiddo?"

Peter promptly loses his bravado. "Deadpool. Heznmaroom," he mumbles.

"What was that?" Happy asks, looking considerably more focused by the second.

"Deadpool is in my room," Peter enunciates.  

Happy is frozen, reactionless, for a long moment, and then he springs to his feet with his phone jammed to his ear.

"We need extraction, now!" he barks as he books it to Peter's room. "Peter, get packed. We have to leave now."

He swings open Peter's bedroom door and sidesteps into the room, Peter close on his heels.

There's no Deadpool. There's a substantial portion of Deadpool's suit hanging in tatters among chopped webbing on the wall, but no man.

"I don't understand," Peter says. "That's impossible. Nothing can cut through my webs." Happy gives him a firm is-this-really-the-time-to-be-doing-this? look. "Nothing!" Peter insists. "I tested with commercial and privately manufactured metals. Not even vibr--"

"We leave now," Happy orders. "We'll have a ride here in five minutes."

"We already have a car--"

"I'm not counting on it not being bugged," Happy says. 

"Yeah, good point," Peter agrees.

"Pack!" Happy reprimands.

It doesn't take long to pack; they've hardly been at the safehouse for twenty-four hours. It was just yesterday that Peter's identity had been aired and his home had come under attack. And now, for the second time in two days, they're moving. It's too surreal.

"What's his deal?" Peter asks Happy as they wait by the door.

"Nobody knows," Happy says. "He does what he wants and he never wants the same thing twice. He's not a good influence." Happy gives Peter some side-eye. "I'm glad you came and told me. That was good."

"He was at The Daily Bugle too," Peter grumbles.

"He's just popping up everywhere," May says good-naturedly. 

"But why?" Peter presses.

"Honestly, I don't see any harm in it," May says lightly. "He stopped in to drop off your webs, that's hardly horrible." 

"He's a murderer," Happy says flatly.

"Yeah, he also shot at me this afternoon and wasn't even a little bit apologetic!" 

May goes unnervingly still. "He shot at you?"

"I dodged it!" Peter reassures quickly. "But I'm definitely on Happy's side with this."

May looks about ready to march out the front door and bitchslap any poor sap who gets in her way. "That changes things," she says icily. Peter momentarily feels bad for Deadpool because May's sweet and all, but she's got people connections for days and she can convince anyone to do anything.

"It means we're going to avoid him, right?" Happy says cautiously.

May hums but doesn't give an actual answer. Peter and Happy exchange looks, daring the other to push the conversation, when a car honks outside.

"That's us," Happy says with unnecessary gusto.

"May, Peter, Happy," Pepper greets them, popping the trunk of the station wagon. "It's been a while."

"Yeah, I guess it has," May says. "Not as long from my perspective, but still too long. Thanks for picking us up."

"Morgan's in the back," Pepper informs Happy, and he immediately offers May the front seat and climbs into the backseat.

Peter feels a hot twist of jealousy followed by a flash of crippling embarrassment. He knew that Tony had a kid; it only makes sense that Happy would adore her. He refuses to be jealous of a six-year-old girl. Peter follows Happy into the backseat of the station wagon.

"Hey, squirt," Happy is saying.

"Oh no, it's Happy!" the little girl squeals.

"Ooof, why you gotta do me like that," Happy says, laying a hand over his heart and sagging into his seat. Morgan giggles delightedly before pulling a completely straight face.

"Seatbelt," she says sternly. Happy peeks at her out of the corner of his eye.

Peter stoically fastens his seatbelt.

"Hey, moo-moo," Happy says as he buckles himself in. "This is Peter. He was a friend of your dad's."

"Happy!" Peter protests. Surely Morgan doesn't need gratuitous reminders that her dad is dead.

"Yeah," Morgan agrees. She waves her two fingers at him. "From the picture!"

"Picture?" Peter repeats. He looks at Happy, who shrugs.

"Tony kept a photo of you around the house," Pepper says lightly.

"Oh," Peter says. His chest feels warm again, but not in an ugly way this time. "Hi, Morgan."

Morgan nods imperiously and refocuses her attention on Happy. "Where you been, Happy?"

"Where have you been, Happy?" Pepper corrects. Morgan rolls her eyes.

"Well, young lady," Happy beams, "I met a beautiful woman and I've been in her corner for the past month or so."

Morgan cups a chubby hand around her mouth and leans in closer to Happy. "Is it her?" she whispers, jabbing a finger at May. May laughs delightedly and throws an open smile into the backseat. Happy grins helplessly back at May.

"Happy's in loooooooooove," Morgan sings. 

"Morgan," Pepper scolds. Morgan scowls and settles into a fierce pout. "So, Peter, you've had a rough week."

"You have no idea," Peter sighs. 

"Well, maybe some idea," Pepper smiles. "Pretty unavoidable in the hero racket."

"You can say that again," Peter agrees heartily. 

"Things slowing down at work yet?" May asks. "I know it's been hectic trying to get everything back online this year."

"At this point, things slowing down fills me with panic." Pepper quirks a smile at May, eyes still fixed on the road. 

"I never got the chance to thank you for the contribution to F.E.A.S.T.," May says. "It was very thoughtful."

"It was the least I could do. Your work is so integral to rebuilding. You're as much a hero as the Avengers ever were."

"Stop flirting with my girl," Happy grumps. 

"Adults," Morgan huffs, turning her attention to Peter. "You're Spider-Man?"

"Uh, yeah," Peter says. There's nothing to gain from lying about it.

"You have a suit?" Morgan inquires innocently.

"I do," Peter confirms.

Morgan nods sagely. Peter is a little intimidated. He doesn't know how to interact with kids; it's never been a skill he needed. And this is Tony's kid, so it's like the most important kid he'll ever meet.

"Do you eat bugs?" Morgan asks. "Daddy said you did, but he also said he was going to feed me bugs and he never did that."

"Ah, no. Not if I can help it." Peter makes eyes at Happy, hoping for a rescue, but Happy is deep in the front-of-car conversation with May and Pepper.

"Where are your spiders?"

"I don't have spiders."

"Oh. That's very misleading." She lisps a little on the last word, and Peter can't help but to soften.

"I'm Spider-Man because I make webs," Peter explains. Morgan cocks her head. "I have these web shooters that I use. Also I'm pretty strong and stick to stuff good."

"Stick to stuff well," Pepper corrects automatically. 

"Well," Peter repeats. Morgan gives him a sympathetic look and pats his knee.

"You don't talk much," Morgan informs him.

"I'm not sure what to say," Peter admits. 

"Then tell me a story," Morgan commands and looks up at Peter with Tony Stark's eyes.

"A story," Peter repeats. "Uh, did you ever hear about Tesla?"

Morgan puffs out her cheeks. "No," she says in a silly voice.

So Peter tells her everything he can remember about Nikola Tesla. He gets all the way to the part with Edison traveling to fairs to badmouth alternating current before he realizes that Pepper, May, and Happy have fallen silent and are watching Peter and Morgan with naked affection. He freezes up.

"So what did Tesla do?" Morgan prompts.

"He, uh, didn't care about the fame or fortune," Peter continues. "He just kept inventing. He wasn't a pragmatist-- I mean, someone who focuses on the realities of being a successful adult."

"Mommy is a pragmartist," Morgan informs him. "She's a very successful adult."

"Yeah, she really is," Peter agrees. 

May and Pepper start talking about vocabulary development and Peter doing childcare, which, no, absolutely not, he doesn't know the first thing about kids. His apparent go-to children's story is about a business-minded scientist electrifying animals to thwart his competition. 

It's only after Morgan falls asleep that Peter thinks to ask Happy where they're headed.

"Home," Pepper answers simply.

"You remember Tony's funeral, yeah?" Happy says in an undertone. "It's where Morgan grew up. Pepper takes her back a few days a month."

"And you lucked in to needing extraction just as we were heading out of town," Pepper says. "It'll do you good to get out of the city."

It does sound nice. Peter has traveled through the countryside, but he's never had the opportunity to stop. It'll be nice to breathe some fresh air and see a night sky full of stars.

"There is the slight issue of beds," Pepper continues. "The cabin wasn't built to hold visitors. Morgan will sleep with me, and that'll open up one bed. We have a pretty nice couch and a sleeping bag, but I don't want anyone throwing their back out."

"May and Happy can take the second bed," Peter says. "I can sleep anywhere."

In the rearview mirror, Peter sees Pepper arch one perfect eyebrow at May, who grins sheepishly back.

"Alright. Problem solved," Pepper confirms. "Happy, I haven't seen sign of a tail. Shall we continue on?"

Happy tosses a look down the dark road behind them. "Until something crops up, yes."

Peter rests his head against the window and watches the road stream by. It's nearly midnight when Pepper turns onto an unmarked dirt road. It's another ten minutes before they finally reach the cabin.

Pepper parks the car and stares up at the cabin eerily illuminated in the headlights of the car. Peter can't help but to watch her. He knows that Tony hadn't always been the coolest, and he knows that Pepper stood with him through thick and thin. He's only now realizing that the Blip had given them a place and reason to lay down their armor and just be human. 

Pepper opens her car door and fumbles for the house keys. Happy unstraps Morgan's car seat and sets her on his hip. Morgan grumbles in her sleep and tucks her head into his neck. Peter and May collect the bags.

Peter ends up carrying the majority of the luggage up to the house. In addition to Happy, his, and May's things, there's a cooler and a bag apiece for Pepper and Morgan. He stocks the fridge with juice, milk, eggs, and cheese and looks around for a place to leave the cooler.

That's when he sees it.

On the little shelf by the sink, there is a photo of him and Tony at Stark Industries, smiling broadly and giving each other bunny ears.

"You were his first kid and his biggest regret was not being able to save you," Pepper says quietly. Peter spins around to see her standing by the island counter. 

Peter hems and haws but fails to respond.

"He loved you and was so proud of you," Pepper continues. "Nothing could erase that. Nothing can erase that."

"Thank you," Peter finally manages to say.

"You should know," Pepper says simply.

"I wish--" Peter can't bring himself to say it.

"Don't do that," Pepper says firmly. "We build on what we have, and Tony left a lot."

"He really did," Peter agrees.

"Now, where are you planning to sleep? I left a blanket on the couch."

"Yeah, that's perfect." Peter runs his eyes. They feel suspiciously moist. "Thanks for picking us up."

"It was certain serendipitous," Pepper says. "Good night, Peter."

"Good night."

He ends up leaving the cooler on the counter next to the sink. He collapses onto the couch, but he is too restless to fall asleep. His thoughts are a whirlpool of the events of the past forty hours and the possible things to come.

Eventually, however, the dark of night shifts into the dark of exhausted, dreamless sleep. 

Chapter Text

HF7 

Peter has been incredibly misled about the inherent cozy comfort of lakeside cabins. He's roused at sunrise by what sounds like a flock of birds amping each other up. By the time the chirping has ceded, a pair of squirrels have started chattering on the porch. By five thirty, Peter has completely given up on trying to sleep any longer.

It's not that NYC is quiet. It just has a constant thrum of background noise that Peter knows, and here, all the sounds are bombarding him. He doesn't know how to sort through them all.

He ends up going outside and climbing trees. It takes a couple of minutes to figure out how to climb trees without stripping the bark. It's riskier than swinging around the city. Whereas buildings are reliable, the branches have a lot of give and, especially as he picks up speed, have a tendency to snap. Peter climbs past the canopy on a towering pine and looks out over the soft blue of a new day.

Up here, things don't feel overwhelming. Sure, everyone knows who he is and multiple countries blame him for the destruction of historical property, and sure, people are willing to attack his family and Deadpool seems interested in attacking him, but all of that is distant.

Once he has filled up on the vast expanse of the sky, Peter swings around the trees. Orienting is hella difficult, but he is able to reset himself using the lake whenever he leaps up through the canopy. It is on one such jump that he catches a faceful of actual spiderweb. He claws at his face, breaks a branch on his spine as the arc of his jump descends, and picks up too much momentum too high to have strong enough branches to grab. He manages to catch himself about twenty feet from the ground, scratched and bleeding, spiderweb fully enmeshed in his hair.

Peter lets out a long exhale and gingerly crawls to the ground. He lays in the dirt until he feels a bug crawling up his arm, and then he starts walking back towards the lake. It takes about fifteen minutes, and by the time he’s dipping his feet into the water, most of his shallow scratches have healed. He ducks his head down to rinse out his hair and wash off the tree debris.

“Stop!” a shrill voice commands. Peter bolts upright and blinks the water out of his eyes. A few feet up the bank, Morgan Stark is crouched into a low lunge, hands in the webbing pose. She’s wearing a Spider-Man mask.

“Hold up,” Peter says, looking closer. “Are you wearing my mask?” It's got the same slack as his suit does before he applies tension.

“I’ll ask the questions here!” Morgan says in a loud voice. “Where’s the bomb?”

“The bomb?” Peter repeats. He looks around frantically. “There’s a bomb?”

Morgan pulls up the edge of Peter’s Spider-Man mask. “You’re the bad guy,” she whispers helpfully. “You have to tell me where you hid the bomb so I can get rid of it."

"Right," Peter says slowly. "Just to be clear though-- there's no bomb?"

Morgan pulls a long suffering face. "No, silly!" She yanks the mask back down over her face. "Where's the bomb?"

"Uh," Peter blanks. He looks frantically around for inspiration. "You'll never find it!" he announces in his best dastardly villain voice. He makes some seriously shifty eyes towards the fire pit. Morgan shrieks with delight.

"You can't fool me, Poopyhead!"

"Hey, why am I Poopyhead?" Peter asks.

Morgan pulls the mask back up. "You're the bad guy," she reminds him.

"Yeah, but that's not a bad guy name. That's a kindergartener's insult."

"Fine! What's your name?"

Peter considers. "Dr. Doody," he announces somberly. He has just enough time to see her face crinkle into a giant smile before she yanks the mask back down and tears towards the fire pit.

"Not today, Dr. Doody!" she shouts. Her legs are pumping at full tottle,  Spider-Man poses completely forgotten.

Peter cartwheels and tumbles his way past her, and nails a double backflip landing right in front of Morgan.

"Aw, Spider-Man, why you gotta always try to ruin my nefarious plans?"

"Because I'm the only one that can!" Morgan leans into another Spider-Man crouch. She lets out a war cry and throws out a wobbly punch that lands several inches short of Peter.

"Ah!" Peter shouts, falling dramatically to the ground. Morgan hops in excitement. "It won't be that easy to defeat me!" He slowly rises to his feet.

"Whip whip!" Morgan shouts, pointing her wrists at Peter. 

"Ahhhhh! What's this!" Peter leans forward, arms held back as if webbed to the closest shrub of a tree. "Dang you, Spider-Man!"

Morgan grabs a charred chunk of firewood from the pit and hurls it into the lake. It plops into the water fewer than two feet from the shore.

Morgan pulls off the Spider-Man mask and sits in the dirt at Peter's feet. Peter sits in a crouch.

"You make a good Spider-Man."

"I know."

"But you also went into my bag," Peter says, gently taking the Spider-Man mask back. "It's not nice to take people's things without asking."

"I know," Morgan huffs. 

"Then don't do it."

"You don't always have to be nice," Morgan says rebelliously. "You're not always nice!"

"What? You only just met me last night! When have I been anything but nice?"

"On tv," Morgan says.Peter's heart sinks. "Sometimes nice isn't enough," Morgan continues. She doesn't seem to notice the impact her words have on Peter. "Daddy wasn't nice!"

"Your dad was great."

"I know that! He was great but not nice."

Peter swallows hard. "Was he not nice to you?"

"No, he was my daddy," Morgan says simply. "I love him." She pulls the Spider-Man mask over her head again.

Peter does a double-take. He could have sworn he had already taken his mask back. He thought he was holding it.

Before he can question it too much, Pepper bursts onto the porch and announces that it's time for breakfast. Morgan wordlessly and sullenly returns Peter's mask and trudges to the kitchen.

"Good morning," Pepper says warmly. "Breakfast is ready in the kitchen." Her eyes land on Morgan, who looks back up with wide innocent eyes. "Come along, queen bee, we need to have a talk."

Morgan looks pleadingly at Peter as she follows her mom into the hallway.

"Pepper's strong," Happy says from the kitchen table. "It's hard to be hard on Morgan."

"Seems like she has, uh, sticky fingers," Peter says.

"Oh, full on klepto," Happy agrees. "She'll switch out everything in your pockets without you noticing. She'll eventually grow out of it. Tony thought it was cute, and she might have gotten the wrong idea."

May gives a light, disapproving cough.

"I mean, he never thought he'd have his own kid. He would have given her the world."

"She said Mr. Stark wasn't nice," Peter says.

"He wasn't," Happy says. "He was a genius, loyal, passionate, and self-sacrificing, but he wasn't nice."

May's eyes sparkle with intuition. "So she's not interested in being a nice girl, huh?"

"Apparently not," Peter says. He heaps himself a pile of scrambled eggs and a stack of pancakes as Pepper and Morgan reenter the kitchen.

Morgan looks dolefully at her mom before coming to stand next to Peter.

"I'm sorry for going into your bag," she recites dutifully. "It was wrong for me to take your mask."

"Err, yeah, thanks, no problem," Peter says, looking askance at Pepper. She stares back with a square jaw and raised brows. "I mean, thank you for your apology. Does this mean in future you won't be nicking my stuff?"

Morgan glowers at him. Pepper clears her throat. "Yes," Morgan mumbles.

"Well that's settled," May says brightly. She pushes back the chair next to her. "Come eat with us."

Morgan, to Peter's surprise and mild discomfort, immediately plops into the chair next to him. Peter offers her the eggs and pancakes. 

"So what's the plan?" Peter casts a look to the three adults.

"First, stay out of the city," Happy says. "I don't like the interest Deadpool has taken in you."

"Surely Stark Towers would be impenetrable," Peter says. He throws a quick, apologetic look to Pepper. "If we were invited, of course."

"It would be, and you would be," Pepper says. "However, Stark Industries operates fully in accord with the law and would be an ideal first place to search if you were to end up on a wanted list."

"Wanted?" Peter repeats dully.

"It's not out of the question," Happy confirms. 

"Oh," Peter says miserably.

"Ned got us some good information and today we'll start arranging leaks about Riva. There are some other former disenchanted Stark Industries workers whose names have been cropping up. We're going to unleash a barrage of truth bombs. Some will hit and some will miss, but everything will get re-examined."

"That could take weeks."

"Stage three," Happy continues, "is we prove you're not Spider-Man."

"How? They have the footage of me being Spider-Man," Peter points out.

"We're already proving that the video is doctored," Happy says. "Might as well go all the way. Some will refuse to believe it--"

"Who would believe that Mysterio would deepfake getting attacked by a teenager?"

"Someone who realized that a teenager was being primed to take his spot," Pepper answers. 

"What? No. Wait, what?"

"Mysterio knew your identity before you revealed yourself to him," Happy says. "Once your identity blew up, videos and photographs of you have been cycling through the internet. And it turns out that Mysterio, before he presented himself, was tailing you in Venice."

Peter immediately has goosebumps. "No way. Why didn't I sense him?" Furthermore, how did Mysterio figure out his identity? Maybe Fury leaked it?

"Peter tingle isn't the most reliable," May points out. 

"Most people are under the impression that Spider-Man shoots webs from his wrists," Happy continues. "As in, a biological product, not your synthetic stuff. We get you a couple of interviews and you're good to go."

"I was swinging through New York with MJ," Peter says. "Why would Spider-Man do that if he weren't me?"

"We'll think of something. We might need MJ's input first." Happy offers Peter a smile. "It's easy to spin stuff."

"It's crazy to think that all of this is reversible." Peter swallows a mouthful of pancake. "But it would be so cool if it were."

"There's only one thing that would really sell that Peter isn't Spider-Man," May says thoughtfully.

"What's that?" Happy slathers another pancake with butter and syrup.

"It's going to sound ridiculous," May warns.

"May," Peter prompts.

"We get someone to be Spider-Man around you while you're out of suit." 

Happy and Peter stare, dumbfounded, at May and then each other.

"You'd need someone with an athletic background," Pepper says. She gives Peter an assessing look. "Tumbling experience but petite frame. He'd need to practice webbing."

"The suit's skintight," Peter says. "You think I'm going to find an identical person? An identical person that I can trust not to get hurt or into trouble while in my suit? A person who will know that I am Spider-Man?"

"It's a long shot," Happy says. May harrumphs and he hurries to do damage control. "But we'll all keep a look out. It's a very creative idea."

May glares at Happy. 

"I could be Spider-Man," Morgan offers. 

"You got the moves, but you don't got the morals," Peter says. "Spider-Man doesn't take people's things."

"Have," Pepper corrects. "You have the moves." 

"I wouldn't take stuff while I'm Spider-Man," Morgan says as though they're all being purposefully dense.

"Maybe when you grow up, squirt," Happy says. "The guy we're looking for has to be the exact same size as Peter."

"Thanks for the offer," Peter adds. "I appreciate it, Morgan."

"Yeah, yeah," Morgan says. 

Peter nudges her under the table with his knee. She grins and kicks him back. 

When he looks back up, he sees that May, Happy, and Pepper are making those fiercely affectionate faces at them again. Peter finds he doesn't mind.

Chapter Text

HF . 8 

Mr. Stark's garage is the ultimate playground. Peter reviews the selection of parts while Morgan is read her rights by a stern Pepper.

"You are staying inside the tape. You are not touching anything outside of the tape. You are not distracting Peter. Any issues and you come upstairs with me." Pepper gives Morgan a final warning look before wishing Peter luck and disappearing.

The last time Peter was using a Stark lab, he was building a new suit in flight to London. He doesn't have the same purpose and urgency now. Don't get him wrong; it's nice. It's just that he doesn't have the same certainty that he did then.

He brought down his spidexperiments: the webbing with heavier tensile strength and lower viscosity, the angled double barreled web shooters, the failed attempts at web dissolvent spray, and a mask that he wants to mold so he can survive facial impact while wearing the E.D.I.T.H. glasses without breaking them. Faced with Tony Stark's tools, it's obvious what his first project should be.

He starts by scanning the glasses.

"Hello, E.D.I.T.H.," F.R.I.D.A.Y. says. 

"Hello, F.R.I.D.A.Y.," E.D.I.T.H. responds. Her voice sounds tinny and small when it's not in Peter's ear. "Long time and no see."

"Ha. Ha. Ha," F.R.I.D.A.Y beeps. 

"Oh, because she's glasses," Peter says. "I get it."

"No," F.R.I.D.A.Y. says crisply. "Because we are linked into the same network. We are never fully separated. It was a display of verbal irony. You have a high-quality humor program, E.D.I.T.H."

"Please tell me Mr. Stark didn't program you to compliment his work," Peter says. "Because it's either that or you're sentient. Though honestly, the programming option sounds better."

"I have a personality chip," F.R.I.D.A.Y. says in a voice that manages to be both monotone and insulted. "Scan is complete."

"Awesome," Peter says. "I'm going to need a 3-D print of the model to base the mold on and do crash testing." Whirring starts up behind Peter and he pivots to see the arm of the printer running back in forth in short, jerky lines.

"Printing in process," F.R.I.D.A.Y. announces. "It will be complete in three minutes."

"Great. Good work, F.R.I.D.A.Y.," Peter says. He digs through Stark's stash of padding. There's some thick leather ideal for heavy wear but not sufficient for absorbing heavy force; there's some chromium alloy that would protect the glasses but definitely damage Peter's face; there's a nickel superalloy mesh that Peter can't identify by sight but is definitely going to be experimenting with.

The main issue is predictable. The structural integrity of the arms of the glasses is compromised when the glasses face any sort of impact. Providing structural support means losing visibility, and that's a no go. Peter tingle lets him know something is up, but he really needs vision to react to long distance threats and projectiles. The glasses aren't going to work with this mask.

"Use Daddy's," Morgan says. She's flipping a pen and attempting to catch it. She's got about a fifty percent accuracy and her hands are blue with ink. "The helmet fits glasses."

"It would," Peter agrees. The Iron Spider suit is incredible and Peter absolutely loves it, but it doesn't compare to the flex of his regular suit. Iron Spider is durable. Spider-Man is bendy and dodgy. He peels off his latest attempt of the mask mold and pushes the glasses back up when they slide down his nose. "E.D.I.T.H.?"

"Yes, Peter?"

"Could I get you interfaced into my mask?"

"Yes," E.D.I.T.H. says. 

"You couldn't have said something earlier?" 

"I wasn't activated," E.D.I.T.H. says.

"So sassy," Peter bemoans. Morgan snickers, so of course Peter has to stick out his tongue at her. "F.R.I.D.A.Y., I'm going to have you scan E.D.I.T.H. for components to advise on suit integration, if you don't mind."

"Not at all," F.R.I.D.A.Y. answers. A ray of blue light filters over the E.D.I.T.H. glasses before the three dimensional visual displays upwards into the middle of the room.

"So cool," Peter breathes. He pulls on the digital gloves and starts manipulating the projection. "Morgan, did you hang down here with your dad?"

"Yeah. Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let me come down until I was five. I had to sneak in."

"What would you do down here?" Peter enlarges the bone conducting hearing portion. Brilliant design.

"I looked for what Daddy hid," Morgan says. "He always had the glasses locked up."

"You recognize E.D.I.T.H.?" Peter turns to look at Morgan.

"He made them so he wouldn't have to leave." Morgan has somehow gotten hold of a wrench and is attempting to flip it like the pen. "He said he stopped being Iron Man so he could be Daddy." Peter intercepts the wrench, seals a patch of leather into a rough ball with a spot of webbing, and drops the new projectile into Morgan's lap. Morgan grabs his arm. "He didn't want to go."

"I know," Peter says, mouth dry.

"That's what happens when you're nice," Morgan explains.

"Oh, no," Peter says. He drops to his knees. "That's what happens when you're a hero." Their early conversations about being nice suddenly make a whole lot more sense. "Heroes make sacrifices. And your dad was the greatest hero, which is why he made the greatest sacrifice. He saved everything, not just Earth. He restored half of existence."

"He's dead."

"I'm sorry. Because we know a hero, we experience some sacrifice too."

"You're a hero," Morgan reminds him.

"Not on as big of a scale," Peter laughs. "I do a lot of helping out in the neighborhood."

"Smaller sacrifices?" Morgan asks.

Peter knows that his problems are nothing compared to the problems Mr. Stark encountered, but thinking of running downstairs to find May and Happy crouched behind the couch, remembering Ned and Betty trapped on the ferris wheel with the fire elemental illusion shooting fire, flashing back to the terror of Liz's fall in the elevator shaft at the Washington Monument...he can't quite bring himself to agree. He shrugs, draws away, and refocuses on the new E.D.I.T.H. design.

Morgan reads the silence better than Peter would have assumed. She quietly tosses the crude ball back and forth between her hands.

Peter digs through the materials until he uncovers a 2"×2" sheet of transparent OLED. He carefully dissects his mask to pop his current lenses out.

"Alright, F.R.I.D.A.Y., I need to cut this sheet to size."

A light flickers on in the far corner. "The laser cutter is not manual. However, I can scan and replicate dimensions."

"Yeah, thanks, that'd be great," Peter says. He sets the OLED sheet on the machine in the corner and backs up. The laser moves slowly and deliberately. Peter digs through a bin of electronics to get started on the programming. Programming had never been his forte.

By the time the cut is complete, Happy comes down to call them up for lunch.

"Just a bit longer?" Morgan begs.

"Sorry, squirt," Happy says. He claps her on the shoulder. "No can do. Besides, I got some news for Peter."

Peter's head snaps upright. 

"Nothing bad!" Happy assures him. "Come on; I want to go over the details all at once." Morgan slides her hand into Happy's and Peter trails them up the stairs. His stomach is twisting with trepidation. May and Pepper are already at the table. Their eyes snap to Happy as he comes into the kitchen.

"Well?" May says. "No point in delaying."

Happy giggles. "They bit!" he sings. He swings Morgan through the air and into her seat. Pepper and May cheer. Peter feels very left out.

"Who bit? What did they bite?"

Happy unholsters a tablet with gusto and commences reading in a booming voice. "There's been a huge buzz about Spider-Man's identity, but could it be that this is all just a big understanding? I know, it sounds ridiculous; we all saw the proof. But is it any more ridiculous than undisputedly believing a report from The Daily Bugle? Consider the evidence. Then there's a video of the original identity reveal. Twitter user Jack Hammer was among the first to question the video and quickly amassed a following with hashtag crimes of spiderman who defend Spider-Man's character. They've got a link to another article about the twenty best #crimesofspiderman tweets. But the original evidence may be the best proof that Spider-Man remains a beloved part of NYC. At second 24, directly following a cut, Spider-Man apparently orders to 'execute them all.' But who is executed? Miraculously, only Mysterio. Cause of death? Bullet fired from drone. The bullet fired, however, was not a direct hit. It was a ricochet. The words don't line up with the events.

"Mysterio, the new avenger, was actually Quinton Beck, a disgruntled former scientist at Stark Industries. Spider-Man and deceased Avenger Tony Stark are known acquaintances. Is it possible that Beck's grudge transferred to Iron Man's anticipated successor? Could Spider-Man be innocent of crimes against humanity? Follow buzznews to stay updated with our team of investigative reporters." Happy beams up at Peter. His eyes are crinkled so much they look shut. Suddenly, Peter can breathe again. He hadn't realized that he had ever stopped.

Peter whoops and flips around the kitchen. Morgan, shrieking gleefully, chases after him. Peter pauses to press a big ol' kiss into Happy's cheek and give May a carefully not-bone-crushing hug.

"Now buzznews isn't reputable," Happy says despite the fact that he's still grinning from ear to ear. "But it does mean that the evidence has a wider audience."

"You just leaked stuff this morning!" Peter says. His joy is undaunted. "Buzznews picked up data and published it in a handful of hours. Like, I know this solves nothing, but there's a publisher who believes in me, and that's amazing. You're amazing, Happy!"

Happy keeps his tablet on hand to refer to news updates about Spider-Man. He continuously updates it throughout lunch. Peter feels impossibly good. He can hardly wait until he next talks to Ned and MJ. Everything is coming together and it finally looks like he can dare to hope that, by some miracle, they are going to make a recovery from Mysterio's final scheme.

The second lunch is finished,  Peter whisks the dishes into the dishwasher and returns to the basement. He pops on the E.D.I.T.H. glasses.

"E.D.I.T.H.? Can you encrypt a call?"

"Yes, Peter," E.D.I.T.H. says .

"Excellent. I would like to conference call Ned Leeds and Michelle Jones."

The dial tone sounds twice before the first pickup.

"Hey," MJ says. The dial tone continues in the background.

"Hey, MJ," Peter says. MJ laughs. "What?"

"Your caller id is 'The President.' I thought I might have uncovered a conspiracy and Uncle Sam was about to squish me."

"It's Peter." The dial tone clicks.

"Yeah, I know."

"Peter!" Ned laughs. "The caller id had you listed as--"

"The President," Peter and MJ chorus.

"Yeah."

"Ned, good work on finding Riva's name. Happy started leaking some data this morning and more people are believing in Spider-Man."

Ned cheers. "Yeah, I've been following on my end. The Daily Bugle is majorly teed off."

"Always a win," MJ says. 

"And Happy's going to see if he can get a rumor going that I'm not Spider-Man."

"Uh, Peter. There's footage of you as Spider-Man."

"Deepfakes," MJ says approvingly. "Nice."

"I actually need to talk to you about that," Peter says. "Do you have any ideas for how we can explain away Spider-Man swinging you through New York City?"

"Already on it." Peter can hear MJ smirking through the phone. "I've been telling people that I'm Spider-Man's girlfriend."

"Ah, no!"

"And the new Falcon now that the old Falcon is the new Captain America."

"What?"

"But I got kicked out and dumped Spider-Man because I developed a debilitating fear of heights."

"What?" Peter repeats.

"People have been in my face. You know I get sarcastic."

Ned starts laughing hysterically.  "You're on a video interview, MJ!"

"I haven't been out much since Saturday. When I tried to run out to find a wifi spot yesterday, I ran into a wall of paparazzi."

Ned has barely caught his breath when he bursts into another round of hysterical laughter. "MJ just dead-eyed the camera. You gotta watch this, Peter!"

After the call ends, Peter does watch the video. MJ hurries through her front door in cargo pants and a denim jacket like it's not the middle of summer. She instantly freezes and the paps hurl questions at her. MJ draws herself upright. Peter's heart twitches at the way her arms go stiff and she fists the ends of her sleeves. He didn't know he knew her nervous tics till he sees them.

"You were seen screaming in the arms of Spider-Man."

"Yes." MJ is masterfully wielding her poker face.

"How do you know Spider-Man?"

MJ doesn't miss a beat. "Carnally," she says stoically. Peter chokes on air. MJ stares unblinkingly into the camera.

"You're dating?"

"Well, we were, you see, but when Spider-Man took me flying in preparation for my new job--Falcon is retiring his wings so there's an opening-- I developed a debilitating fear of heights. All that to say I don't get the job. Naturally, I blamed everything on Spider-Man and ended our fling. It's all good though. Now I have more time to work on my latest album. It is fire." 

She gives a little half smile, steps back into the house, and slowly closes the door.

Peter is crying with laughter. His girlfriend is so weird. She's perfect.

Chapter Text

HF9 

"I've been looking at the sky 'cause it's gettin' me high!" Peter belts. He twirls to try out the lenses. The main display needs to to be more central. He doesn't need things flashing in his peripheral during fights. "Forget the hearse 'cause I never die!"

He freezes as he finishes his spin. "Hi, Morgan."

"Hi, Peter." She's perched on the step with an innocent, hopeful expression. 

"Will you turn the volume down, F.R.I.D.A.Y?" Peter asks. "What's up?"

"You need to try out your new mask," Morgan says. "I can help you."

"You wanna swing with me?"

"You can catch me!" Morgan is effectively employing moon eyes. 

"Your mom has to agree with it," Peter says.

"Okay!" Morgan says. She scuttles back up the steps.

"Alright F.R.I.D.A.Y.," Peter says. "Let's get these 12% more centered." He places the lenses back on the data plate. He gets a little groovy to the chorus as the plate glows pale blue.

"Yes, I'm back. Well I'm back, back. Yes, I'm back in black. Well I'm back in black."

"Update complete," F.R.I.D.A.Y. informs him. Peter slides the lenses back into his mask.

"Looking good," he cheers. With a little heat and a lot of pressure, he seals the new lenses into his suit, right behind a protective layer of transparent plastic. It's time for a field test.

"Let's start with something simple," Peter says. "What's the weather, E.D.I.T.H.?"

"Sunny, 86 degrees Fahrenheit with a north northwestern wind speed of 10 miles per hour."

"Great, let's go!"

Peter bounds up the steps and nearly bowls over Pepper.

"Sorry!" Peter squawks, grabbing her elbow to keep her upright.

"Morgan is telling me that you're inviting her to go webbing?"

Morgan is making a face at Peter. He tears his eyes away so he can look at Pepper.

"Uh, yeah, I mean, if that's okay with you, of course. I practiced this morning with tree swinging, so she'll be fine with me--"

Pepper pivots with a smile. "Dinner will be in an hour. I expect you two back in 45 minutes or sooner."

"Yes, Mommy," Morgan says primly. She wriggles and jumps to give Peter a high five.

"Absolutely!" Peter says.

Pepper returns with a bicycle helmet. "Have fun, kids."

Peter starts cautiously, jumping close to the ground with Morgan pressed tight to his chest. Morgan is, however, too much of an adrenaline junkie to be satisfied. Within ten minutes, he’s tossing and catching her twenty or thirty feet into the air. He searches for pockets of airspace with fewer branches and, outside from some twigs snagged in Morgan’s helmet and the life erupting in her sparkling eyes, he returns her to Pepper in much the same condition.

Over dinner, Happy provides updates about the news coverage and May anticipates returning to work. Pepper reminds a bereaved Morgan that they have two more days before heading back. Morgan attempts a tantrum that Pepper immediately terminates and Peter thinks that this must be the family experience. He is so grateful to May and everything that she has done for him, but he’s always felt like he was missing out. He’s known Morgan for twenty-four hours and met Pepper maybe four times total, but he knows they’re family now. 

Peter is beyond exhausted when he collapses on the couch. He fully intends to experiment with E.D.I.T.H.’s capabilities and ends up scrolling through the Spider-Man news stories while half-asleep, mask rolled up to his nose for easy breathing.

He pauses at a wrong heading. He blinks blearily through his mask. He sits up in alarm.

Webbed Wonder Strikes Again? : Beloved Neurochemist Found Brutally Murdered

“What? No, no, no!” Peter topples off the couch. “E.D.I.T.H., roll the article!”

He reads quickly, the words blurring together before his eyes. 

Dr. Otto Octavius was murdered early this morning within his secure laboratory facilities. Dr. Octavius, affectionately known as Dr. Ock by his staff, was discovered this afternoon by his lab assistant on the eighteenth floor. Police are currently working with security systems to determine a point of entry. We all know, however, one individual for whom heights is no problem. Could this be the work of the notorious Spider-Man? Why would someone murder a man of such high esteem? Dr. Octavius left little inheritance but a wealth of scientific investments. Rest in peace, Dr. Oct, knowing that the investigation will not rest until you have received justice.

Although Peter has absolutely no evidence to support it, he instantly knows the culprit. The constant thorn in his side, the nonstop worrisome name echoing in the back of his brain.

“E.D.I.T.H., I need to know what Deadpool has been up to in the last few days,” Peter says. He gets momentary vertigo from the flash of screens--the sleep deprivation probably doesn’t exactly help either--and grits his teeth as he recenters. 

E.D.I.T.H. pinpoints a couple of locations where the majority of Deadpool’s text messaging occurs and rolls a running display of text messages across the right lens. On the left lens, CCTV footage loops of Deadpool sightings.

Spidey Mask 

Peter stares agog at the last text message, sent at 3:04 AM to Peter’s cell phone.

wat do u call someone who snoops thru ur texts? a spy, duh-man!

“This is bad, this is very, very bad,” Peter groans. He rips off his mask. How did Deadpool know Peter was going to look at his messages? How did he get Peter’s number? Does he know about E.D.I.T.H.? Is he going to try and take E.D.I.T.H.? Peter isn’t going to make the same mistake twice, darn it! He won’t reassign E.D.I.T.H. to anyone.

And then there’s a whole other Deadpool issue that is only now crossing Peter’s mind. This whole plan with trying to convince the public that Peter isn’t Spider-Man isn’t going to work on Deadpool. He’s seen Peter’s face; he’s watched Peter unmask himself right after sticking to a fricking wall. And Deadpool, while he’s been weirdly helpful, isn’t safe. He’s a killer willing to take shots at Peter and is around far too much for it to be entirely coincidence. Peter has no clue what his endgame is, and that makes him doubly dangerous.

He’s going to have to confront him. He’s going to have to stop him.

Peter swallows hard and heads upstairs to find Happy. Happy has never liked Deadpool and was unmoved by Deadpool saving his and May’s lives. So far, Happy’s strategy seems to be more of the run-and-hide variety, but now that Happy has started his countermeasures, maybe that would change.

He taps on the first bedroom door. "Happy?"

"...yeah," Happy groans.

"I got something urgent."

Happy opens the door. Peter hasn't seen him out of a suit before, and it's bizarre to see him in his flannel pajamas. He stares.

"What?" Happy prompts, not particularly gently.

"Deadpool," Peter stammers.

Happy makes a choked noise and huffs, "You gotta be kiddin' me." He shuffles out of the room.

"I saw about Dr. Ock getting killed," Peter explains. "So I asked E.D.I.T.H. about what Deadpool has been doing. And I haven't received it because my phone is off, but he texted me. He has my cell phone number."

Happy's brows go from grumpy to furrowed.

"And in his text, he told me he knew I was looking at his text messages."

Happy's face is slowly turning mauve.

"And he's seen me without my mask own. He knows for fact that I'm Spider-Man."

Happy heaves an explosive sigh. "Any other bombs to drop?"

"No.” Peter feels completely drained. “What am I supposed to do?” he asks in a small voice.

Happy scratches his stubble. “For now, rest. We’re safe here. There’s no way Deadpool knows this location.” He hesitates. “I don’t think he wants to kill you. He’s a stickler on kids. It’s just, when he gets involved, people do end up dead.”

“I’ve got to do something about that.”

“But not tonight. Tonight you’re going to sleep.” Happy gives him a stern look. “You gotta be well rested if you want to teach heathens manners.”

“Right,” Peter snorts. He turns to head back down the stairs.

“Hey. Peter,” Happy calls.

“Yeah?”

“You’re doing good keeping me in the loop. Keep it up.”

“Yeah, Happy, of course.” Peter runs his fingers through his hair. “Night.”

Peter curls up into a ball on the couch. Tomorrow is going to be Pepper and Morgan’s last full day at the cabin. If he can convince Happy and May to go back with them, then he’ll be able to confront Deadpool in person. Last time, his Peter tingle had given him sufficient alert when Deadpool was attacking, and Happy seems to think that Deadpool doesn’t actively want him dead. But then again, Happy’s logic is based on Peter being a kid, and Peter’s not really a kid any more. He has blood on his hands from how things went down with Thanos: he’s not innocent. In less than a month, he’s going to be turning seventeen. He hardly still counts as a kid.

Peter tucks the blanket around his chilled feet and burrows deeper into the couch. He had seen Dr. Octavius during a school presentation. The man had radiated a frenic energy not dissimilar to Mr. Stark. Mr. Stark was way cooler, of course, and no one could ever truly compare to him. But listening to Dr. Octavius speak enthusiastically about brain chemistry is part of the reason that Peter wants to go to university for biochemistry. Again, Mr. Stark and the Iron Man suit are indisputably amazing. Peter feels borderline sacrilegious for thinking praiseworthy things about another famous scientist while hiding out in the secret cabin of the literal saviour of half of the universe, himself included.

It’s just, what does Deadpool get out of Dr. Octavius’ death? Was it a job? Who benefits from killing a doctor? Deadpool is going to have to answer for his actions. But in order for that to happen…

Peter revisits his original thought. He has to convince Happy and May to go back to New York. The original reason they left was because Deadpool knew their location and they had recently come under attack. So all they need, hypothetically, is a new location that Deadpool doesn’t know and continued assurance that they won’t be attacked. And for Peter to not leave webbing trails across the city. It’s lucky that Deadpool is such a rambler; otherwise, Peter might have never figured out how Deadpool had tracked him down. 

One of the lenses from Peter’s mask is digging into his thigh. Peter scrounges under the blanket and pulls it out from where it’s pinched between the cushions. E.D.I.T.H. gave him locations; it won’t be hard to track Deadpool down. He debates looking through Deadpool’s text messages again--he had kinda freaked out the first time and hadn’t gone past the top message-- but somehow, stupidly, he feels a little called out about the whole snooping through someone’s private messages thing. It’s ridiculous because he knows for fact that Deadpool has done way worse, but Peter really wants to believe that the road to victory and justice doesn’t require treading through wrongdoings. The evils of the world are protected by people’s justifications and--oh wow, Peter’s feeling kinda pedantic. He rubs at his face with his left hand and presses his mask over his heart. Peter just would really like to be a good person, and he’s kinda scared of what he feels willing to do to protect what’s left of his identity. Like, what if he saves his secret identity only to lose the essence of what he believes in?

Sleep is not an ally. He dreams of Mysterio, and when the fishbowl helmet reflection of the desolate landscape of a fallen metropolis fades, the face that appears is his own.

Chapter Text

 

 "In summary," Pepper says, incredulity concealed in neither tone nor expression, "you want to go back to New York to scold a notoriously incorrigible mercenary assassin."

"I mean, I'll lead with that for sure," Peter says. Happy, May, and Pepper are looking at him as if they're waiting for him to crack into laughter about having pranked them. "I'll set clear boundaries and consequences--"

"Consequences?" Happy repeats.

"Yes," Peter says primly.

"What consequences?" Pepper asks over her mug of coffee.

"I'll make them while we're talking," Peter says. "I don't know enough about him yet."

"Deadpool has never been controlled by anybody," Happy says. "Let alone a teenager."

"But I'm not just a teenager," Peter says. "I'm Spider-Man."

"You're also not just Spider-Man," May says. Peter wishes he never slipped about the whole shooting incident. It's exactly the sort of thing that she would fixate on.

"It's not that we don't have faith in you, Peter," Pepper says with a clean cut, business air that Peter is not loving. "It's that we don't trust Deadpool."

"So what, now I'm hiding until Deadpool disappears? That could be years."

"That's not what I'm saying," Happy says. "I'm saying that we don't need loose factors right now. We're working on making it so you can walk around, not as Spider-Man, but as Peter Parker, and Deadpool only will and always does worsen a situation."

"First of all," Peter says, "Deadpool is a loose end."

"We can buy his silence," Pepper interjects.

"And secondly, Deadpool has worked for the Avengers. That means that he's a force that can be reckoned with." He hurries on before he can be interrupted. "And finally, he can't be allowed to go around killing people just because he's good at getting away with it."

"We just don't know what he wants from you, Peter," Happy says.

"I get that, Happy. I really do. But how are we going to learn that without talking to him?" Peter squares his shoulders. "Everyone here has been so incredibly supportive of me being Spider-Man. This is the next thing Spider-Man needs to do. This is what I need to do. I would just really appreciate a ride to do it."

He refuses to back down from their stares. He looks around at each stern expression with his best intense Captain America face. 

"If you want to talk to Deadpool, you're going to take your best defensive gear," Happy says with an air of resignation. "No spandex. You're taking the Iron Man variation."

"I can do that," Peter promises. 

"You're going to have me on backup with your location," Happy continues.

"Absolutely," Peter agrees.

"You will defend yourself from Deadpool by any means necessary, including killing him."

Peter is already halfway to nodding when Happy's words register. "What? No!"

"He can't be killed permanently, Peter," Pepper says. "It would only buy you time to handle a crisis situation."

"You're still asking me to pull a kill shot!"

"It's not a real kill shot!" May retorts fiercely. "Not like it would be for you!"

"If it comes down to you or him," Happy says firmly, "there's only one answer."

"I know," Peter says. His next words burn vile in his throat. "In that situation, I would take the kill shot." 

Happy nods his approval. May looks grimly proud, and Pepper looks business casual. None of them seem to realize what it costs Peter to say those words, to consent to killing someone. It doesn't matter that Deadpool can revitalize; what if next time, it's Peter’s life or some other villain’s? And then possibly Peter’s life or definitely the bad guy’s? He can't slide on this; he can't head in that direction. 

"So we head back tomorrow?"  Peter asks.

Pepper and Happy look to May.

"Yes, Peter," she says in a tight voice. Peter comes to her chair and squeezes her into a hug.

"Thank you," Peter says.

"Now go run off and play with Morgan," May says with a slight sniffle. "She's waiting."

Peter kisses May on the cheek before heading outside for Morgan. He knows she doesn’t like crying in front of him. When he was younger, he tried to cry alone too, but May always found him and held him. 

“Come on!” Morgan says when she sees Peter coming to the porch. “Hurry up!”

True to Pepper’s genetic contributions, Morgan has devised a precise schedule for their last day at the cabin. 

“We’re already late for swimming,” Morgan informs him crossly. “So we gotta skip one of the potty breaks.” 

Peter doesn’t have swim trunks, so he has to make do with his Spider-Man bottoms. Swimming primarily involves praising Morgan’s splashy dog paddle, tossing Morgan into the lake, and a slow-moving game a swim tag. They stay in the lake until they’re both pruny, and then they plop into the Adirondack chairs to drip dry.

“You’re a good swimmer,” Peter says. He doesn’t have any frame of reference for how well six year olds can swim. “Do you swim a lot?”

“Daddy didn’t like to swim,” Morgan says. It’s not the answer to Peter’s question, but hey, he’s flexible.

“Do you like to swim?”

“Yes. And Mommy likes to swim. And Peter likes to swim.” She looks coyly up at him. Peter didn’t actually do too much swimming; the lake is probably not even four foot deep near the shore and he spent the majority of their water time in a low crouch.

“Sometimes,” Peter says agreeably. 

“You can come play with me when we go home,” Morgan says. It sounds a lot more like a command than an invitation. 

“Thank you. I appreciate the offer.” 

Morgan squints at him suspiciously. “You can come tomorrow.”

“I’ve, ah, got a thing tomorrow.” 

“The next day,” Morgan pushes.

“I don’t know, Morgan,” Peter says.

“Are you my friend?” Morgan demands. Peter stares at her, aghast. “Are you just here because of Daddy?”

It’s the identity battle that Peter has been struggling with ever since he first donned the mask. It’s every time Flash has been a total jerk to him and then gone on to make an Instagram post about loving Spider-Man. It’s every time people wave frantically at Spider-Man when they spot him but can’t be bothered to not bump into Peter on the street. It’s seeing thousands of views on the Spider-Man videos and having three followers on his youtube channel, all of which he knows are Ned’s accounts.

“Morgan,” Peter says. He drops to a knee. “I get the honor of knowing you because of your dad. I’m hanging out with you because you’re a cool kid who knows how to have fun.” He emphasizes his point by bopping her on the nose. He’s seen it in memes, but he thinks it still might be a thing. 

Morgan regards him somberly. He pulls his hand away.

“Okay?” Peter asks. He offers her a high five.

Morgan barrels into his chest and perches her still-wet butt on his mostly-dry Spider-Man pants. She wraps one arm around Peter’s side and unfurls an improbably dry Crayola marker schedule in front of his nose. “Next we go swinging,” she informs him. 

“I can swing that,” Peter says. He gets a hand under her thigh so he can shift to his hip as he stands up. “We’re going to need an outfit change first.” As he carries her up to the cabin, he shakes his still-dripping hair like a dog. Morgan shrieks and wiggles. 

Morgan’s parents are the smartest person and the most capable person Peter’s ever met. He hadn’t talked to her at Mr. Stark’s funeral. He hadn’t know what to say. She is what he wasn’t. Her entire existence lapsed the time that Peter was gone. She hadn’t seemed to fully understand what was going on. Peter hadn’t seen her cry or react to the heroes who showed up for the event. He didn’t dare approach her.

She’s just a kid, but she’ll never be able to be just a kid. Peter wishes he could give that to her. 

The day passes quickly, and although there’s been no one exhausting activity, Peter is feeling a little soreness in his muscles. He volunteers to do clean up and goes down to tinker with his mask a little more. He ends up falling asleep in the basement while F.R.I.D.A.Y. is reconfiguring audio. He wakes to Morgan jumping on his chest, Spider-Man mask askew over her face.

“Is it morning?” Peter asks groggily.

“Yep,” Morgan says. It comes out deeper than usual. Peter grins at Morgan. She giggles, and the sound comes out distorted. “I sound like Spider-Man.”

“Aren’t you Spider-Man?” Peter asks. He pushes Morgan to his stomach so her butt bones aren't digging into his ribs. “It’s just, like, you’re wearing the suit and all, so I thought you were.” Morgan bursts into another batch of giggles, and yeah, Peter does need to program some extraneous sound effects other than his speaking voice. “Come on, let’s go show May.”

Breakfast is some scarfed down cold cereal. Morgan has to be bribed to pull up the Spider-Man mask enough to eat. She refuses to talk until she pulls the mask back down. Pepper closes up the cabin and they all pile back into the car. This time, Happy drives and Pepper sits in the back with Morgan and Peter.

“So you’ve upgraded the mask significantly,” Pepper says.

Peter recognizes the invitation to ramble, and he takes it. “Originally, I was looking for a way to have the original E.D.I.T.H. glasses in the suit without compromising the glasses, suit, or, um, my face. Turns out glasses are really impractical to wear in spandex. Who knew?” He laughs at his little joke, and Pepper smiles politely. “So, with the help of F.R.I.D.A.Y., E.D.I.T.H. was integrated into my suit’s lenses. I’m still not quite satisfied with the finished product because it can be difficult for eyes to focus on an object, especially text, that is so close.” He raises his voice a little. “And then I thought to myself, ‘Hey, Peter. You should get your voice integrated into the suit. That way when someone is being your body double, voice recognition isn’t a problem!’”

Happy makes a noise that sounds an awful lot like a coughed, “Suck-up!”, but May is turning back and smiling at him, so it’s totally worth it.

“Speaking of a body double,” Pepper says, and Peter wonders if her first question was just a sneaky segue into whatever she’s about to say, “I’ll need your body measurements for fielding applicants.”

“Applicants?” Peter repeats. Happy is staring intently at Pepper through the rear view mirror. May looks insufferably smug.

“For the part of Spider-Man,” Pepper says calmly.

“You’re not running applications for Spider-Man,” Happy says flatly. “Tell me you’re not.”

“Stark Industries provides some scholarships for Empire State,” May says. She’s so obviously in on it and loving it. “When you’re providing scholarships, you get access to all sorts of information. Extracurriculars, hobbies, athletic training...”

“We’ve got twenty pulled so far,” Pepper says. “They won’t know what they’re applying for yet, of course,” she assures Peter, who is still frozen, slack-jawed in horror.

“You didn’t talk to me first!” Peter says.

“You can meet them before they’re hired, obviously,” Pepper says.

“Huh, I wonder how that will go,” Peter says. “Yeah, this is suspected Spider-Man Peter Parker checking out your backflip execution and general mimicry skills. No one could figure out what’s going on. By that point, they’d have to be hired.”

“Good, so we’re agreed,” Pepper says.

“Yep!” Morgan says with Peter’s voice. 

“No!” Peter says, casting a betrayed glare down at Morgan. 

“Oh,” May says with the crisp glint of a person knowing exactly what she’s doing, “so why even bother with the voice for the mask?”

Peter sputters and looks up to Happy for assistance.

“Three and a half hours out,” Happy says. 

It’s nothing resembling help. Peter smiles weakly back at May’s victorious face.

“Thanks, Happy,” Peter grumbles.

Chapter Text

HF . 11 

By two in the afternoon, Peter has narrowed down Deadpool's location to two final options. The majority of the texts and CCTV pin him at a bar, but it is apparently a little early in the day for Deadpool to be in there. The second and third most used texting locations are a completely empty apartment and a senior citizen's home. The lady had not been not receptive to Peter's questions and shrieked profanities at him until he had fled. It kinda makes Peter wish he hadn't run off on Happy. Not completely though: he's still a little miffed that Happy provided zero support against May and Pepper's insane stunt double scheme. 

Now, a little shaken by the last women's vehemence, Peter is dangling into the location of the last text message. The text with the Spider-Man riddle. That text message is the only indicator for this abandoned tenement, but Peter's skyrocketing nerves remind him that he must be closing in.

The main hallway of the apartment building is dimly lit by the grimy windows at the front of the building. The linoleum floor is peeling at almost every tile, and Peter steps carefully to avoid crunching as he walks. There's one open door halfway down the hall.

"E.D.I.T.H.," Peter whispers, "I need night vision."

"The OLED interface does not support a night vision function," E.D.I.T.H. informs him. "I am currently an OLED interface. Would you like a contrast variation?"

"What? E.D.I.T.H.!" Peter whispers, peeved. "We'll talk about this later! Yes to the contrast variation." 

The world shifts into toned down hues and brightens. It takes Peter's eyes a moment to adjust, and then he's prowling forward into the soft gray cavern of the open room.

The apartment immediately lets into an almost-empty living room. There are two open duffel bags crammed with dozens of arms--firing ones, not human ones, thank goodness-- and ammunition. Peter leaps to the ceiling and continues into the kitchen. There's a window in this room, and the sudden light hurts his eyes.

"Drop the contrast vision," Peter orders.

"Dropping contrast variation," E.D.I.T.H. says tonelessly.

Peter blinks fast until eyes adapt to the lighting. The kitchen is also empty. Hardly daring to breathe, Peter crawls silently towards the next room. The bedroom door is cracked open.

Deadpool stands, still as a statue, looking out the window. He doesn't appear to be breathing. Peter coils himself and taps his web slingers for assurance. This time, he brought the solution that takes longer to dissolve. This time, Deadpool won't be escaping.

He explodes forward, webbing Deadpool's hands to his sides, and lands in a crouch at his feet.

Deadpool wobbles and falls over. His head snaps off and rolls across the floor. Peter screams before he realizes that there's no blood.

"So rude," Deadpool says conversationally. Peter yelps and pivots towards the voice. Deadpool leans against the door frame, arms crossed and wagging a disapproving finger at Peter. "My suit was almost done drying too. Do you have any idea how long the webs take to wash out?"

Deadpool is wearing a giant black sequined hoodie that dwarfs his face and dangles a few perilous inches past his butt. And that's it. An enormous hoodie and a pair of very pale, very muscular legs liberally covered in holsters and sheaths. Peter looks back at what he had first assumed was Deadpool.

"You dry your clothes on a mannequin?" Peter quickly looks back to Deadpool when Deadpool moves. He's just uncrossing his arms, but Peter's understandably a little on edge. 

"Uh, yeah," Wade says like Peter's the one being weird. "How else do you stop clothes from shrinking?"

"Don't put it in direct heat," Peter says.

"Oh shit, really?" Deadpool steps forward and Peter retreats towards the wall. Deadpool scoops up the masked mannequin head and tucks the body under his arm. 

"Yeah," Peter says faintly. "It's leather, right?"

"Sure is. I usually just don't wash, but with web on my suit, I look like a discount Spider-Man." Deadpool discards the suited mannequin into the closet.

"You don't need the webs to look like a discount Spider-Man," Peter assures him. 

"Aw, Petey," Deadpool coos. "You're too kind."

"Speaking of which," Peter says, segueing cleanly into the boundary-settling portion of his visit, "you can't kill people."

Deadpool shoots a look at Peter, but his face is too hidden for Peter to properly decipher it.

"Anybody can kill people," he retorts lightly. "People are very killable." His voice goes whiny. "Especially you."

"Don't kill people, then," Peter says. 

"I'm so good at it," Wade explains. 

"Yeah, and I'm good at eating pizzas by the stack," Peter retorts. "Doesn't mean I should."

"You should," Wade says. "Looking a little waifish there,  Petey."

"Yeah, well, I've been stressing a lot," Peter says. 

"I know," Wade says solemnly. He plasters his hands to his sides. "You wanna web me up?"

Peter shakes his head. The giant hoodie isn't conducive to restraining, and it's just not right to use webbing on skin unless absolutely necessary. Peter can personally vouch that it's not a pleasant experience.

"Come on. It'd make you feel better," Wade says tantalizingly.

"Not as much better as I would feel if we came to an understanding."

"Okay." Deadpool crosses his arms again. His hoodie hikes up his thighs another inch. "What understanding is that?"

"Can you put pants on first?" Peter asks.

"No. Some jerk just webbed my suit."

"I only webbed the sleeves," Peter protests.

"It's my crime-fighting onesie: inconvenient to get into a short notice, impossible to get into when literally stuck onto a dummy. Myself not included."

"You don't have an extra suit?"

"That is my extra suit. The first one is in smithereens after I skipped out early on our last outing. Don’t you remember?"

"You breaking into my room isn't an outing," Peter says firmly. "And how did you get my webbing on your backup suit?"

"It's very sticky," Deadpool explains seriously. "Like melted marshmallow. Gets everywhere." Peter pinches the bridge of his nose. It doesn't help his climaxing frustration. How can anyone be this impossible to talk to? "You alright, buddy?"

"This isn't going the way I planned," Peter admits. "Okay. Start again. Why did you kill Dr. Octavius?"

"Prevenge."

Peter is so relieved that Deadpool is owning up to the murder that it takes a second to parse his answer. "Revenge?"

"Preemptively," Deadpool agrees. "Hence, prevenge."

"That's not okay! That means he's innocent. If he hasn't done whatever it is yet, then--"

"He's done it before," Deadpool says shortly. Even slumped on the floor, his body language shifts aggressively.

"Just so we're clear," Peter says, "it's never okay to murder. But what did he do?"

"Murder."

"And he was planning on murdering again?"

"No," Deadpool says petulantly. 

"Do you have any proof that he murdered before?"

"Not in this timeline."

"And you don't see a problem with that?"

"You can't understand, Spidey. It's okay."

"It's not!" Peter insists. "I need you to do better. I need you to be better."

"Isn't that always the case," Deadpool grumbles so low that Peter can hardly hear him.

"What would you be willing to work for to stop killing?" Peter asks. "What do you like?"

"Nope, not going to happen," Deadpool states. 

"You like messing with me, right?" Peter pushes. "You gotta have other things you like."

"Ooooh, ooooh, I know. Arterial spray! Absolutely gorgeous. Those little suckers are under so much pressure--"

"No!" Peter yelps. He frowns at Deadpool, who looks back innocently. "Other than maiming and killing."

Deadpool regards Peter with a weighted look. "Tell you what, Petey," he says, "I'll give you ultimate deciding power. On any case-by-case basis, you can tell me no matando and no matando."

It seems suspiciously easy, but Peter is fast realizing his dearth of bargaining power. "Okay, we can do that."

"But you have to do me a favor every time you use your power," Deadpool adds in one rapid breath.

"There's the catch," Peter sighs. "Look, I can't be owing you unlimited favors."

"Harmless stuff," Deadpool assures him. "Taco errands and shit."

"I get to veto it if I determine it's not harmless."

"Yeah, sure," Deadpool agrees. "But then I can pick another favor."

"Of course." Peter mentally reviews the deal. "One more thing."

"What's that?"

"You've got to let me know when you're working so I can know each situation."

"No I don't."

"Then how am I supposed to tell you not to kill?"

"That's on you, bud."

"You're impossible," Peter groans. He can make out the flash of a grin inside of Deadpool's hood. "How about this: we patrol together."

"Exclusively?"

Peter has a brief internal debate. He doesn't want Deadpool roaming without him, but he will still definitely be doing things without Deadpool, which is a totally fair double standard because Deadpool up and kills people.

"Uh, predominately, yes," Peter compromises.  

"So when and where are we meeting?"

"Things are kinda hectic at the moment. We can sort those details out later in text. Speaking of which," Peter squares his shoulders," how did you get my number?"

"I remembered it."

"Remembered it? From where?"

"Last run."

Peter abandons that approach. "Is my number available for any old wackadoodle to find?"

"No," Deadpool says like a promise. 

"Good." Peter takes a fortifying breath. "That brings us to my last point."

Deadpool looks back expectantly.

"I need a favor. A big favor. And if it takes money--"

"Peter," Deadpool interrupts, "what do you need?"

Peter leans against the wall and slides to the floor. "I'm trying to regain my secret identity."

"You want me to be the new Spider-Man? I'm all in! Obviously I'll be lackluster in comparison, but--"

"No!" Peter says. "Thank you, but no. Absolutely not. I need you to keep my identity secret."

Deadpool mimes zipping his mouth shut and throwing away the key. A tiny, resilient piece of Peter's sanity whinges that zippers getting locked is utter nonsense. 

"I'm serious," Peter presses on to the important part. "No matter who's interested, no matter the price, no matter the stakes."

Deadpool unzips his mouth. "Yeah, Spidey, I got you."

"For what price?" Peter asks.

"Well now I'm getting offended, Spidester. It would be way outside of super bro code to not keep your identity on the DL. Exactly how much of a dick are you presuming me to be?"

"You're really hard to read," Peter says defensively. Deadpool drops down next to him on the floor. From three feet away, Peter can all too easily see the splotchiness of his legs. He wonders if he had webbed Deadpool at the start of this conversation, if the mercenary could have just shed the top layer of scabs and go on his merry, murderous way.

"Yeah?" Deadpool says encouragingly.

"I know you're not evil-evil," Peter explains. "But when you do nice things, it's in a bad way. I can’t tell why you do what you do. What do you even actually want?"

Deadpool laughs. "You wouldn't believe me."

"I would."

"I have substantial evidence to the contrary."

"Try me."

Deadpool looks over. His eyes glitter in the shadows of his hood.  "I'd like for you to reach thirty."

"Thirty? Thirty what?"

"Thirty years old. Break the ol’ record."

Peter cocks his head at Deadpool. "Every year I'm alive is breaking the record."

"Right," Deadpool says agreeably. "But I'm really hunting for the big three-oh."

"And that's what you want?"

"It's my numero uno raison d'être."

Peter shakes his head.  "I don't even know you."

"I know." Deadpool sounds melancholy. It's bizarre how profound a tone he takes, like he truly believes that he and Peter have history. 

"We'll work on it," Peter says kindly. "But you're going to have to be honest."

"Ask away," Deadpool says. He curls his hand to beckon the onslaught of questions. 

Peter doesn't hesitate. "How did you know that my home would be attacked?"

"I heard about it." Deadpool slides his legs long and waves his ankles side to side.

"Yeah, obviously. From whom?"

"A few different people."

Peter scowls at the vague responses and tries a different train of thought. "Do you know who planned the attack?"

"Yes."

"Who?"

"You think I'm involved."

"I'm not saying that. I'm saying that I want to know who attacked my aunt. That's a fair question." 

"You think I'm involved," Deadpool confirms. "Understandable. It was a hit put out by a kingpin."

"Like, of a gang?" Peter squeaks.

"Yeah," Deadpool says. "You're not ready to take him on yet."

"So how do I know you're not working for him?"

"I don't do long-term contracts. You can ask your little supercomputer friend." 

"Which gang?"

"One you're not getting involved with until next year."

Peter stands up abruptly. "Not cool. You're dodging all my questions."

"Yeah. There's a lot of stuff you don't need to know yet."

"You literally just told me to ask you questions."

"Yeah, ba-by," Deadpool croons. "I wanted to know what's on your mind."

"You're so unhelpful." Peter pulls open the closet door and yanks out Deadpool's suit. It's completely dry and stretched tight across the mannequin's body. "How did you get out of the webbing last time?"

Deadpool produces a knife between his fingers. "This little sweetheart."

The knife is two inches long max. Peter flips by and webs it out of Deadpool's hands.

"Hey!" Deadpool protests mildly. He doesn't sound too upset; it's more like a token protest.

Peter drags the mannequin's body to the far side of the room and scrapes some of the webbing off of Deadpool's uniform. "It's not metal based," he muses. "Plenty sharp though."

"Fresh off the press," Deadpool agrees.

Peter flicks off a chunk of webbing. "Huh." He carefully raises the knife up to his mouth and nibbles on the edge. "This is a fiber composite. Nanoceramic?" He hums appreciatively. "Of course. That makes sense." 

Deadpool makes a gutted noise. "Love your nerd brain, baby boy."

"Where did you get this?"

"Made it," Deadpool beams. His entire body lights up with the smile despite Peter's inability to see his face. Peter peels off another wad of webbing. At this rate, the suit will be wearable in a matter of minutes and Deadpool can finally get some gosh darn pants on.

"I thought you never stopped talking," he complains. "Why are you being so cagey with your answers?"

"I don't want to break the timeline."

Peter gives one brash, fake laugh.  "Right." Another hunk of webbing comes off. "I can't trust you if you're hiding things."

"I know."

Peter heaves an irritable sigh and pares away the last bit of webbing constraining the left sleeve of the suit. "You don't want me to trust you?"

Deadpool shrugs. "You're not going to anyways. You've had a lot happen to you recently. It's totes understandable."

"Oh, right, so don't even bother?" Peter attacks the second sleeve with vigor. "So just shoot at him, stalk him, and murder people while he's out of town? That's your thought process?"

"I murder less now," Deadpool pouts. "Not that you would know."

"Tell that to the family, friends, and staff of Dr. Ock," Peter retorts hotly. 

"He had to die," Deadpool insists.

"No one has to die!"

"Doc Ock has to die every time!" Deadpool snarls. "I'm not making that mistake again."

Peter's hands still and fall limply onto the mannequin. Bits and pieces are falling fast into place. Deadpool saying that he knows Peter but Peter doesn't know him, talking about "last run" and a timeline, heck, even declaring that his goal is for Peter to live to be thirty… 

"Do you think you're from an alternate reality?" Peter asks hesitantly.

"No," Deadpool says. "Just your run-of-the-mill time travel situation."

Peter chokes a laugh. "Time travel?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. It's not possible, the theory is sound but it's logistically impossible, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah." He flaps a condescending hand at Peter. 

"It isn't!" Peter insists. "Okay. Let's say you were a time traveler. What's your transport? How does it handle dualities? Do the same atoms that exist in your current form exist in your prior form? If you ate a hot dog and then traveled back to pre-hot dog, where would those atoms be? How does your transport recognize what travels through time? How does space equate--is it relevant to earth's location in space?"

"First of all," Deadpool says, "time travel is crazy valid. That's how the Avengers beat Thanos."

"Iron Man beat Thanos by making a glove that summoned the stones and reversing the snap," Peter corrects.

"Secondly," Deadpool shouts, "I want it on the record that the Avengers are copycats cause I totally did it first."

"Okay," Peter says. "I want you to go back in time and slap me right now if time travel is real." He raises his brows at Deadpool in challenge. "Whenever you're ready. No? 'Cause it's not real."

"I lost my device," Deadpool huffs.

"Nice thing about time travel," Peter says, "is that you don't have to travel from a certain time to get to a certain time. You can never travel back to ten seconds ago and slap me because you never get a time travel device because time travel is science fiction."

"This is why I hate this conversation," Deadpool grumbles. "You always go smartass and think I'm crazy."

"I am a smartass," Peter says. He resumes cleaning Deadpool’s suit. "And you are crazy."

"Yes, but not about this." Deadpool lumbers to his feet and retrieves the mannequin head.

Peter reconsiders the main points he wanted to cover in this conversation and casts for a diplomatic way to phrase his next question. "Did Dr. Ock kill someone in a different timeline?"

"Yes," Deadpool says coldly. He's clearly feeling patronized, but this insight into Deadpool's perspective means that Peter can set some more criteria. Peter presses on.

"I need you to not kill based upon other timelines," Peter says.  "If it's a different timeline, that means that things can change. People don't have to do the same thing. We can warn people. We can stop people."

Deadpool grunts noncommittally. 

“Who do we need to stop?” Peter cuts into the last strand of webbing on the suit. “Who do we need to go after?” He looks up just in time to see Deadpool yank the mask into place. 

“I’ll let you know,” Deadpool says. He claps and holds out his hands. “Suit me up, Spidey.”

“It’s still sticky,” Peter warns. He tosses the suit.

“You’re still sticky,” Deadpool retorts. Peter averts his eyes while Deadpool wiggles into his suit. It’s a painfully long process involving a lot of squeaking leather and surprised grunts.

“You need help?” Peter asks eventually as Deadpool ineffectually attempts to shimmy the top of the suit into place.

“No, everything’s going great,” Deadpool blatantly lies. 

“Cool.” Peter points to the window. “Then I’m gonna go.” He has zero need to watch a lunatic struggle with getting dressed. 

“Yeah, yeah, bye.”

Peter opens the window. “Remember to text me if you find anything.”

“Not part of the deal,” Deadpool reminds him.

“Yeah, but I’d like you to.” Peter shoots him finger guns from the window frame. “Catch you later!” He falls backward and swings away.

Eh, as far as interventions go, it could have gone worse.

Chapter Text

HF12 

 

Peter feels like a bad guy, but apparently not enough so to actually stop being a creep. After pressing his face against the window and determining that it is clear, he palms the window open and hops over the sill.

MJ's phone is sitting face-down on the table and playing a muffled rendition of some Kinks song. Peter reaches forward and is promptly and repeatedly hit in the face with a baseball bat from behind the closet door.

“MJ, it’s me!” Peter says. He one-handedly catches the bat on the second backswing as he gingerly pulls his mask off to determine the damage to his face.

“Oh damn, Peter?” MJ drops the bat and kicks her closet door fully closed. “What the hell? Oh my god, that’s a lot of blood.” Her hands flutter around Peter's face, never quite touching. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Peter says stuffily.

MJ slaps him on the back of the head. "You scared me, you idiot. Don't do that."

"I don't know, MJ, seems like you've got the situation under control." 

MJ throws a towel at him. "Tilt your head back. or maybe don't. I really don't remember." 

Peter pushes the towel to his nose and tries to give MJ a comforting smile. If her aghast expression is anything to judge by, it's not particularly effective.

"I've been telling people I dated Spider-Man and was a temporary Avenger," MJ says. "I've been expecting to get murdered in my sleep for the last couple of days."

"Ooh, that's rough," Peter says. "Do you want me to scope the area?" He feels like a bad boyfriend. She's been sitting on that stress alone.

"Psh, no." MJ tucks her hair behind her ears. It immediately curls back to frame her face. "It's nice to see you. Despite the whole creepy entrance thing."

"I know," Peter says. "Sorry about that."

"You got your comeuppance," MJ shrugs, but her eyes are still worried. "Come on, let's see what we've got to clean you up." She reaches the bedroom door and, woah, her wrists are so pretty. Is this a fetish? It feels like a fetish. "Come on," MJ repeats. "The parents are out, so it's fine to wander."

"Right," Peter says. MJ leads him into the kitchen and orders him onto the counter. She digs through a first aid kit with her hip a hairsbreadth from Peter's knee. He wants to close the microscopic gap, but he can't quite summon the courage.

"Knock next time," MJ orders as she opens an antiseptic wipe. "I think this is supposed to sting." She pulls the towel out of Peter's hands and thrusts the wipe at his nose. Peter hisses a breath at the jab, and MJ splays carefully fingers along his jaw. The next swipe is a lot more tender.

It feels like a hot electric current is buzzing between their bodies. Peter is so cognizant of every point of contact and painfully aware of every close body part. It's overwhelming. He bumps his knee into MJ's thigh. It feels like a boorishly obvious move, but it's way worth it for how MJ leans into the touch.

"Your nose is still bleeding," MJ informs him in a slightly unsteady voice. "I don't think it's broken though."

"I heal fast," Peter says. "It'll be fine."

"Tell that to my towel," MJ says flatly. "Quick healing or not, that's still a lot of blood loss." She pulls Peter down from the counter. "Go sit on the couch while I clean up."

"Let me--" Peter starts, but MJ gives him a hard shove out of the kitchen. Peter concedes and flops down with his head on the armrest. It's not particularly comfortable, but it keeps his head elevated.

"Spider-Man sure stays busy," MJ says as she rinses her towel out in the sink.

"Yeah," Peter agrees. "It wasn't always like that." He closes his eyes. "When are your parents coming back?"

"Monday." Peter can hear MJ's scowl. "They're on a cruise."

"Oh, fun."

"You think illegal waste practices, employee mistreatment, and legalized tax evasion are fun?"

"No," Peter says quickly. He looks over in alarm. "I mean, I just--"

"Yeah, they're having fun," MJ says heavily. She adds dish soap to the towel and scrubs vigorously. 

"It must have been hard, being alone with everything going on," Peter says. "I'm sorry that happened to you."

"I don't need anyone," MJ says with despair and desperation warring in her voice. "It's fine." A few suds drift up from the sink. "I don't have internet at the moment, and Ned has been busy with his spying and research and Betty, so updates have been few and far between. After the stint with the paparazzi, I couldn't leave the apartment. What if someone broke in while I was out?"

"Yeah," Peter says. "That totally makes sense. That's reasonable."

MJ takes a deep breath. "So sorry not-sorry for beating you up." She abandons the towel in the sink and comes to sit next to Peter. "Am I messing this up? I don't do well with getting close to people."

"No, MJ, no!" Peter turns to her with wide, earnest eyes. "You are so perfect."

"It's dangerous to put people on pedestals," MJ mutters. She's not really looking at him. "The only way to go is down."

Peter plops his head into her lap. It's a move he perfected on May whenever she was feeling sad.

"I like you," he says firmly. "I know I like you because I liked you after I got to know you. You're funny in way that almost scares me because I don't know if I'm supposed to laugh. You're so smart and observant and witty and once I first saw you as a girl, I can't stop thinking about how beautiful you are."

"Oh my god," MJ says. "Are you a player? Cause you sound like a player right now."

"If I'm a player, this is the only game I'm in."

MJ snorts. "Smooth, Peter. Real smooth." She tentatively brushes her fingertips through the mess of hair on his forehead. 

"I'm serious, MJ." Peter's eyes close automatically. It feels really nice.

"You always are," MJ says softly. She presses her fingers into his scalp. "Get me caught up with you."

"Well, yesterday Dr. Octavius was found murdered in his lab. You remember Dr. Ock? Did that presentation freshman year?"

"Yeah, go on."

He tells her everything: the article casting Spider-Man accusations, May and Pepper's harebrained scheme, tracking down Deadpool's location, Deadpool's warped sense of reality, and the deal they had struck. MJ is mostly quiet throughout his synopsis.

"What do you think?" he asks. Her fingers are woven through his hair and her expression looks distant.

"It's wild," MJ says. "You're just going to let Deadpool run around?"

"What else would I do with him?" Peter stares up at her. He really likes watching MJ's throat moving and nostrils flaring as she talks. 

"I dunno," MJ admits. "You said he left no evidence. It's not like you could turn him in. Also the prison system is in shambles and wouldn't give him the support he needs." She looks down at him. "I mean, if you're patrolling together, he won't be killing, right?" 

"I don't know," Peter admits. "He's not exactly a sensible guy."

"It sounds like he's kinda obsessed with you," MJ says softly. "Here's my question: if time travel isn't a possibility, how is he getting his information? He knows a lot." She counts with little taps to Peter's temple. "The attack on your home, that you would be at The Daily Bugle, your phone number, that you would look at his messages…"

"Until I see proof, I'm not buying the time travel story."

'And I'm not saying you should." MJ flicks his ear. "I'm saying you should figure out where the info is coming from."

"You think he's lying to protect his source?"

MJ shrugs. "He could be. Or he could just be that crazy.” Her eyes crinkle and Peter has just enough time to sense a conspiracy theory before she continues with deadpan seriousness. “Or he could be telling the truth about time travel and we’re just brainwashed academians blind to the possibilities of the universe.”

“Right,” Peter says. He doesn’t bother masking his sarcasm. MJ’s hand stops moving, and he wonders belatedly if he’s offended her. He didn’t mean to, but he’s really not interested in condoning Deadpool’s lunacy.

“Did he get Blipped?”

“I don’t know,” Peter says carefully. 

“Because we remember nothing from those five years, but what if something did happen? And because of his mutation, he can remember?”

Peter sits upright so suddenly that he nearly collides faces with MJ. “You could be on to something!” He scrambles back to her bedroom and snags his mask from the floor. He yanks the mask over his eyes as he hurtles back to the couch. “E.D.I.T.H., did Deadpool disappear with the Snap? Do you have any record of him being active?” MJ leans in to hear. 

“I cannot definitively confirm that Wade Wilson’s existence was temporarily erased. However, there is zero evidence to suggest that he remained.”

Peter pulls off the mask and turns to MJ. His words catch in his throat. Their faces are much closer than he expected. MJ stiffly leans backward, and as if the moment is broken, Peter tumbles off the couch.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. “But, uh, that means that he probably did get Blipped. Your theory is looking good.”

“Yeah,” MJ shrugs. “You gonna stay on the floor?”

Peter leaps to his feet. “I’m feeling awkward,” his mouth blabs.

“Yeah you are,” MJ says. She stands up haltingly. Her arms are straight and stiff, and she’s pulling the edge of her sleeves into her fists. 

“Hi,” Peter says. She’s really close. She looks so tense. He touches her hand and she just...unfurls. The tension drains out of her body and their hands slide palm to palm. MJ very suddenly--and borderline aggressively--pecks him on the mouth.

“That okay?” MJ asks. She’s flushing but not breaking eye contact. Peter’s hands feel so sweaty.

“Yeah,” Peter squeaks. He can’t stop staring at her face. When he moves in for another kiss, MJ meets him in the middle. He vaguely aware that he’s making little breathless noises and does his best to keep the sounds to a minimum.

“Crap,” MJ says urgently. She pulls away and gets caught on Peter’s hand.

“Sorry!” Peter apologizes frantically. He focuses on calming down enough to get his hands less sticky.

“You’re bleeding again.” MJ pulls him back to the kitchen sink, and now that she’s said it, he is very aware of the tickle in his nose and the drip running down his upper lip.

“Sorry, that’s so gross,” Peter says. “I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologizing,” MJ orders. 

“Ok,” Peter agrees. It takes all of his self-restraint to bite down on one last “sorry.” MJ gently dabs at his face with her ruined towel.

“May’s going to be mad at me,” MJ says. 

“No she won’t,” Peter says firmly. “She’ll be proud of you for taking on home intruders.”

“She can be both.” MJ’s eyes are intent as she wipes Peter’s face clean. “When are you headed back?”

Peter waits for her to put the towel down. “I don’t want to leave you alone to deal with my mess.”

“Your mess is clearing up fine, dummy.” MJ washes her hands. "And it's good knowing that you're back in town."

"E.D.I.T.H. can send an encrypted signal. I could leave my mask with you and use the glasses."

"Peter," MJ laughs. "It's fine. I'll just be more careful with my data usage next month. We're just a couple of days 'til I get new data."

"If you message me, I can still see the texts," Peter says. "So let me know, and I'll be here."

"Why? Cause I need a man?"

"Because I want to be there for you." Peter rocks onto his toes to give MJ another closed-mouth kiss. He can feel himself turning bright red, so he pulls his mask back down.  

"I'll text you," MJ promises. She shoves at Peter's shoulder. "Now get gone. I don't need your posse tracking you down here."

"Bye!" Peter says. He pops open the kitchen window and clatters onto the fire escape with minimal finesse. MJ snorts a laugh as she closes the window behind him. Peter waves, heart in his throat, and takes off back to Stark Tower.

Chapter Text

HF 13 

“Can you explain all the coincidences? Spider-Man’s travels coordinate exactly with yours. New York City, obviously, is your hometown. Washington D.C. and the numerous European sightings were school trips. If you’re not Spider-Man, why is Spider-Man continuously appearing wherever you are?”

Off the set, May gives him a double thumbs up.

Peter fidgets with his bow tie and throws a nervous look to the camera. He’s temporarily blinded by the lighting. “Yes, I can.”

“...well?” Trish Tilby prompts pointedly. 

“Right,” Peter says. Remember the story, remember the story. “I think it has a lot to do with the actual locations. New York City is kinda a superhero base, so it isn’t too bizarre for Spider-Man to live in the same city as me. And D.C. was under attack. It’s not a stretch to think that Spider-Man might have followed the culprit.” That lie hurts a bit. He casts another shifty look to the camera.

“Two coincidences are suspicious,” Tilby says. “But Venice? Prague? London? Seems like Spider-Man was right with your tour.”

“And I’m with you on that,” Peter says. “It is suspicious. Especially because the trip wasn’t originally supposed to be going to Prague. Apparently our trip got upgraded partway through.”

Tilby leans forward to the edge of her seat. “You’re saying that someone changed the itinerary to match the Spider-Man appearances.”

“I mean, I can’t say anything like that,” Peter waffles with an uncomfortable shoulder shuffle. He doesn’t remember how to shrug like a human. Being on camera is the worst. “I don’t know. I just think it’s kinda strange.”

“There has been some speculation as to why Quentin Beck would fake your identity as Spider-Man. Do you believe that an established scientist would, motivated by envy, frame a sixteen-year-old?”

“No, I don’t believe that,” Peter says. “But I don’t know Mr. Beck. I can’t speak for him. I’m just saying it doesn’t make sense. I don’t have answers.” These words come easier. They’re true. He’s still shook from the revelation that Mysterio played him.

Tilby is unsatisfied with his answer. “So you deny ever talking to Beck?”

“Yes,” Peter says. “That’s true. Definitely didn’t.” May makes an abrupt cutting motion in the wings and Peter promptly lockjaws.

“Explain this footage,” Tilby says with vicious satisfaction. The monitor over her shoulder switches from the interview screen to footage from the bridge in London. Peter watches the video and mentally rehearses his next line. It's the long-distance shot--one of the later appearing pieces of footage--that only reveals parts of his face at a time.

When the video stops and the monitor switches back to his face, Peter gets incredibly dry mouth. He sips and sputters down some water while Tilby repeats her question.

"It's not me," he coughs. Eyes watering, he fights for breath. "I'll prove it to you. If it were me, and Mysterio wanted to reveal my identity, wouldn't he have included my face in the shot where Spider-Man makes the execution call? Yeah, this looks like me, but that's because you're told it is me. It looks like anybody. Unless you're telling me that brown-haired white guys aren't common?" 

"It's very clearly you," Tilby insists as the footage reappears and loops on the monitor. 

"Right," Peter says dryly. "Because Spider-Man is a sixteen year old boy. Heck, when Spider-Man was making his first appearances, I was still fourteen." Tilby doesn't back down, so Peter pulls his trump card. "When Mr. Stark first approached me about the implications of my science fair project in sophomore year, I was so honored." Tilby makes a sad face for the camera at the name drop. "I naively thought that I had it made. I could provide for my aunt who raised me and had an internship squared away with the company synonymous with innovation. I thought I would make my parents proud." Tilby is visibly uncomfortable. "I should've known it wouldn't work out. Less than two years later and my boss is dead, I'm accused of Spider-Man's crimes, and my home is under attack." 

Tilby nods sympathetically. "There's one way you could lay the rumors to rest."

"What's that?"

"Show us your wrists." Tilby turns to address the camera. "Spider-Man's main transportation is webbing, which numerous eyewitnesses have confirmed originate from his wrists."

"Yeah, sure," Peter agrees. He rolls his cuffed sleeves up and presents his forearms to camera 3. Tilby pokes and prods his arms until his veins are bulging. 

"There's nothing," Tilby finally concedes. 

"Surprise?" Peter says. He shifts his weight back to his seat and promptly tumbles over backwards.

As soon as the on-air light blinks off, May rushes the stage to envelop him in her arms.

"You're really not Spider-Man," Tilby muses. 

"Nope," Peter says over May's shoulder. "Not me."

"You know what you need to do? You should ask Spider-Man to come out publicly."

"I reckon he would have done so by now if he were willing."

"I've been saying we should ask Spider-Man to make a public appearance with Peter," May says. "But my dear nephew doesn't want to be a bother."

Tilby hums noncommittally. She's already checking her pager for the next thing to do.

"Thanks for having me on," Peter says as an intern guides them to the exit.

"Sure," Tilby says.

Happy bearhugs Peter. "Nice work, kiddo."

"I thought so," Peter admits rather humbly.

"We gotta work on getting you more natural on camera." May slings an arm around Peter and whisks him out of Happy's grasp.

"Always a critic," Peter hums. May jabs him in the ribs and Peter squirms away.

"We can worry about that later," Happy says. "Peter's got to get ready for his date with the devil."

Peter rolls his eyes. Happy still has some lingering resentment about Peter meeting up with Deadpool a couple of days ago. Peter might have phrased it so it sounded more like a chance meeting and less like he had been actively seeking out the guy, but he didn't actually lie. He wants to keep his relationship with Happy going strong, especially with May being all into him.

It means that tonight's rendezvous will be supervised by an excessively grim Happy. Happy created and drilled a series of code words and phrases for Peter to signal everything from life-threatening danger to Peter getting sleepy and wanting to go home. It's a level of ridiculous that Peter hadn't anticipated but nonetheless had originally found endearing.

"Suit malfunction," Happy says.

"Is it beginning to rain?" Peter responds.

"Lightheadedness."

"I can't believe it's almost August."

"Vehicular extraction."

"Time to hit the streets." Peter exchanges a look with May, who seems to find the code situation hilarious.

They're supposed to meet outside an abandoned Chinese restaurant close to where Peter last ran into Deadpool at eight to track down an alleged villain. Peter shows up twenty minutes early so he doesn't have to sit in the car with Happy and continue getting drilled on more code phrases. 

He sinks into the shadows of the entrance way to avoid drawing attention to himself. The Iron Spider is much more suited for stealth than his regular red and blue. The streets aren't empty, but traffic is looking pretty thin. 

The Peter tingle goes off just before the restaurant door opens. Peter pivots hard, blasters automatically unfurling over his shoulders and ready to fire.

"Neat," Deadpool says. He pats the left blaster affectionately. 

"You're early!" Peter accuses.

"You're early!" Deadpool parrots back.

"You're earlier," Peter insists.

"God, no ," Happy buzzes in his ear. "What is this, the children's channel? "

"Uh, yeah," Deadpool says. "I wasn't going to keep you waiting."

It's half touching, half-creepy, so Peter ignores it. "You said you were going after a tinkerer?"

"The Tinkerer," Deadpool says emphatically. "You know, villains without powers almost always work in teams. You should maybe  clean up more than the face of the operation."

"What?" Peter isn't following. "Say what you mean."

"I'm saying you snagged the Vulture but none of his contractors, you murked Mysterio--"

"I didn't kill Mysterio," Peter interjects hotly. "I would have saved him if I could."

"Right. Anyway, stay in school, do your homework, and by 'do your homework' I mean figure out and dismantle the team behind your baddie." 

Happy makes a quiet, disbelieving in Peter's ear. "Huh. That's actually pretty good advice."

"It's not that easy," Peter says defensively.

"It is if you know what you're doing." Deadpool leans to be mask to mask with Peter. "And I know what I'm doing." He abruptly pulls back. "Let's go."

"Be cautious," Happy orders.

"I know, I know," Peter grumbles as he tails Deadpool. "Where are we going?"

"To the science fair for criminals," Deadpool says. "Your boy the Tinkerer  has a display you'll need to shut down."

"It's a trap! Extraction--"

"I'm glad to do it," Peter says loudly. "So who does the Tinkerer work for?" Happy continues muttering darkly.

"Little ol' Tinkerbell used to work for the Vulture. He was getting cold feet until the Vulture got caught, and now he's realizing how good he had it. He really enjoyed working in alien tech. And that's something you can only get on the black market."

Peter takes a few jogging steps to catch up with Deadpool. "How do you know so much about the Tinkerer?"  

Deadpool gives him a brief, considering look. "He's been on my radar for a few years now."

Peter's brow furrows. The Vulture hadn't been active long, so the Tinkerer couldn't have been either. And it's only been a little over a year since everything went down with the Vulture. Something is up. He doesn't want to interrogate Deadpool in front of Happy though.

"No matardo," he orders. 

Deadpool laughs. It puts Peter on edge.  "You are just handing me loopholes, baby!"

Peter scowls. "No killing tonight. I'm serious."

"Yeah, yeah, no killing," Deadpool shrugs. Peter bodyslams him into the sidewalk.

"I'm serious, 'Pool."

"Pool?" Deadpool repeats. "I like it." He's offering Peter no resistance. 

"Promise me!"

"I already did, Spidey." Deadpool solemnly waves his right hand in Peter's face. "I won't kill Tinky." 

"Good." Peter springs off of Deadpool.  Deadpool clambers up with substantially less grace. "Uh, no hard feelings?"

"Nah," Deadpool agrees. "I see now that this partnership will consist of you using brute force to bully me."

"No!" Peter objects. "I mean, except for killing. I will totally fight you on that. Are you okay?"

"Of course," Deadpool says. "My body is absolutely indestructible. In the long term sense, at least. Don't worry about it." The words have the exact opposite effect as intended. Peter realizes that he will have to be careful to avoid getting desensitized to Deadpool getting injured. He doesn't want to depend on Deadpool's healing factor to a point where he's being unethical.

With Happy grumbling in discontent in his ear, Peter follows Deadpool into a worn-down gym. There's no one at the front desk.

"Can't believe it's almost August," Deadpool says, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder to the class schedule posted on the wall.

"What?!? " Happy roars.

"You start school soon, Spidey?"

"I'm not talking about my personal life with you," Peter says firmly.

"Why not?" Deadpool asks innocently.

"It's time to get out. Don't make me come in there. "

"Stop it. You are making it weird. If you really think we're really working together, you'd cut it out." Peter's not entirely sure about who he's scolding, but both Happy and Deadpool back off.

"Geeze, sensitive much?" Deadpool groans. "Fine. We'll just be strangers of the night."

"Fine. Just...be careful."

Deadpool shushes Peter as they make their way down the hall. Peter shushes him back because no one needs to be shushing that loudly. 

At the end of the hallway, double doors open into a gymnasium. There are three displays on the court and around fifty people in the bleachers. Peter's tingle promptly goes haywire.

"Spider-Man," the announcer says. He's a hairy, grayed man with a rotund stomach and a sharp smile. "And I was just about to ask for a volunteer."

Deadpool has vanished. Peter has no clue how a bright red, squeaky-leathered lunatic disappeared so quickly, but he doesn't have time to consider it.

"I'll have to pass on that," Peter says amicably. "Just passing through. Don't mind me. Carry on." Happy is shouting incoherently in his ear.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls," the announcer beams, "let the games begin!"

"Okay, Seneca Crane," Peter says as he takes to the walls. "Oh, wow, do none of you get that reference? It's almost too on the nose." He's fully expecting guns from the crowd in the bleachers. He's not at all expecting a scrawny scientist to emerge from behind one of the displays with a giant gun ready to fire. He leaps to dodge, but the gun doesn't shoot point-blank. It shoots out a cone of energy. Peter's knee doesn't clear the target radius in time and he collapses to the ground in shock.

"Stun gun," the scientist says happily. Peter can't move. Despite being a pile of limbs, he feels as stiff as a board. The audience claps politely.

Peter can't quite make out what Happy is screaming in his ear. His voice is too small.

"For extended periods of time," the scientist continues, "it may even cause mental fatiguing."

No duh. Peter's exhausting himself trying to move as much as a twitch. His vision is tunneling fast.

"Afterwards," the scientist continues grandly after the fresh applause stops--Peter's not sure when they started clapping again," we will implement the resisto-glass asphyxiation chamber." His eyes gleam wildly. 

Peter's vision fades out to the sounds of the spectators oohing and ahhing appreciatively. 

Chapter Text

HF 14 

Peter wakes to a splitting headache. He rolls over with a groan and runs smack into a plate of glass. Dazed, Peter stumbles to his feet.

He's in a large glass box that is about a foot taller and a couple feet wider than he is. The box is situated on a platform before the inquisitive faces of a bleacher full of probable villains. It's not the most ideal for sure.

"Obviously, effects will vary depending on the super," the scrawny scientist is explaining. "For this reason, you would want to keep the stun gun on hand for transfer. But now that Spider-Man is up, we can go ahead and see how this beauty works." He slaps the side of Peter's prison.

"Ever heard of consent?" Peter ponders aloud. He scales to the ceiling of the box and executes a swinging kick into the side. His legs buckle on impact and his brain is momentarily scrambled by the potency of the vibrations thrumming through the box.

The scientist completely ignores him.  

"Later, upon closer expectation, you will be able to see the small releases built into the walls of this container." The scientist theatrically displays a large red button. "Anyone want to push?"

A flurry of hands go up. The scientist selects a woman in a black suit and tie. She smiles curiously down at Peter as she pushes the button.

All of the walls begin to hiss.

"Thank you," the scientist says. "At this point, thousands of filters all around the resisto-glass are vacuuming oxygen out of the box. Even a suited superhero will eventually require air. Now some supers might have methods to cover the holes..." He beams at Peter, who is not-at-all-subtly positioning to web a hole. "However, even if one were able to block every filter, he --or she-- would just be damning themselves to suffocation. If even one filter remains open, the oxygen will continue to deplete. It's just that simple, folks! Press to lock, press to activate, and press to reuse."

Peter presses closer to the wall, his wrists inches from the glass.

"With this set, the stun gun and the resisto-glass chamber, you become unstoppable!" the scientist announces, raising the controller into the air.

THWIP !

Aided by the suction of the vacuum, Peter's webbing streams forward blindingly fast through a filter opening and lands squarely on the controller's red button. Peter yanks hard, and the control bangs into his glass prison with enough force to depress the button.

The walls shudder and tilt upwards, and Peter is through the moment there's sufficient space.  He's ready for the stun gun now, and when the scrawny scientist aims it in his direction, he feigns left, dives a hard right, and webs the nuisance of a weapon to the side of the display.

" Thank all things holy ," Happy shouts in his ear. "Almost there, kid, I went for backup . Come on out. "

"Not yet," Peter replies lowly. "I've got to have a word with someone first."

" If you say Deadpool --"

"Oh, it's definitely Deadpool," Peter says. 

Happy says a few colorful things about Deadpool that Peter ignores in favor of webbing baddies together. Several make a run for it.

Peter fully intends to chase them down when he sees a smear of blood on the floor by the side exit of the gym. 

He hasn't drawn blood.

And Peter knows someone who draws more blood for fun than nurses do for work. Okay, not his coolest comparison, but the point still stands.

"Gotcha!" Peter breathes. He hurdles down the hallway and hesitates for a fraction of a second outside the women's locker room.

A muffled scream sends him back into action. Peter bursts through the door and bellows on sight, "DON'T KILL HIM!" 

Deadpool has both katanas out and is Edward Scissorhanding up a terrified dude cowering on the bench. There's a whole lot of blood on the floor. It's dripping off of Deadpool's suit in rivulets.

"Bad timing, Spidey," Deadpool growls through gritted teeth.

"I'm saying don't kill him!" Peter repeats firmly. He stomps forward to stand between Deadpool and his victim. 

"Just the once," Deadpool wheedles. His katanas waver. Peter can feel his eyes burning through the mask. 

"Don't make me restrain you," Peter warns. 

Deadpool cackles humorlessly. "You're going to regret this. And you're going to be sick with yourself about regretting it."  

"Doesn't matter," Peter insists. "No killing."

"You don't understand."

"Of course I don't. You snuck off during a mission that you planned so you could torture a guy that's not our target."

"I needed information," Deadpool complains. 

"About what, Deadpool? Is this how you gather intel?" Peter quashes the part where Deadpool set him up for slaughter. He has different priorities right now, dagnabbit! 

"Yeah," Deadpool says. "Look, just trust me on this. This guy needs to die."

"Why in the world would I trust you?" Peter demands. He offers the victim a hand. "Come on. We need to get you to a hospital." The man flinches away. "Sir, I want to help you." 

Deadpool groans with frustration and kicks a locker. His foot leaves a dent. Peter keeps a wary eye on him as he hauls the man into his arms and carries him out of the locker room.

The man passes out before Peter reaches the exit. There's a miniature quinjet hovering In the parking lot.

"Karen, where's the nearest hospital?" Peter demands.

It ends up being a three block trek. Peter has to avoid looking at the man's face. It has flaps of skin cut like gills around the mouth and down his neck.

"I'm so sorry," Peter tells the man. He's still unconscious, but Peter nonetheless has a profound need to offer him comfort. 

Deadpool trails sullenly from half a block behind. Happy has the quinjet riding Deadpool's tail, but Deadpool pays it no notice. 

Peter runs the man into the emergency room, where the man is loaded onto a gurney and rushed into surgery. Afterwards, Peter wanders through the exit and finds a spot on a bench outside the hospital. He stares at his blood soaked gauntlets in shocked horror.

"Come on, Peter. Time to go home. "

"Hey," Deadpool says. He's hovering six feet away from the bench. "I didn't mean for you to see that." 

Peter's temper boils over and his fog of exhaustion promptly dissipates. "No kidding. You didn't mean for me to see the light of day tomorrow."

"Not true," Deadpool says.

"I could have died tonight," Peter spits. "I've got people to protect, and I could've been killed."

"You're too smart for that," Deadpool says sharply. "I wouldn't have left you if I had any doubts."

Peter moans in tired, angry frustration. "You're not doing a great job of being trustworthy."

"Maybe I'm doing a great job of being untrustworthy." 

"Literally the exact same thing."

"No, it's not." Deadpool taps his knee. "Let's get tacos."

Peter stares at him in stunned disbelief. "What?"

"Let's get tacos," Deadpool repeats slowly.

Peter feels frozen. He's tired--physically, mentally, and emotionally--and this psycho wants to grab dinner after being responsible for the fatigue. Unreal.

"You need some food in ya. I'll explain as much as I can and you can decide how to retaliate." Deadpool shifts his weight nervously from foot to foot. "Come on. I know a great place. I'm buying."

"In case there are any doubts, the correct answer is 'no,' " Happy says helpfully.

Peter's feeling mightily overwhelmed. Deadpool is clearly awful, but he needs to parse how his brain works in order to have a shot at predicting his next move and preventing more deaths.  

He doesn't want to. Does he have to? Happy is running a looping chorus of no's.

Deadpool makes a little "aha!" sound and burrows into his belt pockets. Peter watched numbly as Deadpool pulls out a pack of wet wipes.

"Let me," Deadpool says. He takes a couple of steps forward so that he's an arm's length from Peter. When Peter doesn't respond, Deadpool takes one last step and crouches down to where Peter's hands are folded in his lap. Peter flinches backwards and Deadpool takes a rattling breath.

"Baby boy," he croons sadly. "Let me clean you up." 

"You're bad," Peter informs him.

"I know, baby. I'm just trying my best."

"How am I supposed to stop you from killing?"

"You already know." Deadpool laughs self-deprecatingly. "No matando, remember?" He gently wipes the top of Peter's right gauntlet. 

"I can't always be there." Peter feels very distant as he watches Deadpool clean his gauntlet. Oh, he's disassociating. Sounds about right.

"You don't have to be," Deadpool says soothingly. "Look, I think some food would be really grounding for you, but I know if I go and fetch some, your henchman will spirit you away."

"Yeah," Peter agrees. "Sounds like Happy."

" I will land this quinjet !" Happy threatens. " Get your tail over here now! "

"Look, I kept my word. You said no kill, and I no killed. If you come eat with me, I promise you no kills for the next 48 hours."

Peter stares at him. He can slowly feel himself returning to his body. "I don't know, that's pretty weak."

"It means you don't have to look at or think about me for two days," Deadpool says quietly. 

"Oh." Peter reconsiders. "One week."

Deadpool sounds pained. "That's a long time, Spidey."

"Not to me."

"I get rights on extenuating circumstances."

"Nope."

"You drive a hard bargain." Deadpool wrings out the wet wipe one-handedly. Peter retches at the watered down blood splattering the pavement. "Deal." Deadpool pulls out another wet wipe, but Peter is through with the moment. He snags the wipe and finishes cleaning his armor himself while Deadpool watches on.

"Kobe," Peter calls, arching the wipe into the trash can at the corner.

"Ten outta ten," Deadpool applauds.

"No," Peter says brusquely. Deadpool doesn't get to pal around tonight. "Go on then. Lead the way."

"Yeah!" Deadpool cheers. "You're gonna love the place, Spidey. The crunch is unreal. They make their own guacamole and it absolutely shows for it in the taste. So addictive. I am literally dripping with saliva thinking about it."

Peter says nothing in attempt to channel exactly how much he's not enjoying hanging with Deadpool. Deadpool either doesn't notice or doesn't care; he yammers relentlessly until he reaches a food truck that is clearly closed.

"No," Peter says disbelievingly. It's fast becoming his default setting around Deadpool.

Deadpool hammers the side of the truck. "Oi! Gimme my tacos!"

"Stop it!" Peter orders. But as he speaks, the window rattles up and a tiny man starts passing them bags of tacos.

"Gracias, Tio," Deadpool chirps. He grabs at the many bags. "Give me a hand, Spidey."

He loads Peter up with twelve paper bags of tacos. If Peter's hands weren't sticky, half of them would have already hit the ground.

"Probably poisoned ."

"This is too many tacos," Peter announces. Deadpool grabs the last five bags and the man rolls his window back down. "Wait! Did he pay you?"

"Yes, thank you," the man says. "He pay in advance."

"Wow," Deadpool says. "You really think I'd skimp on a bill, huh?"

"Your moral compass is a windsock as far as I can tell," Peter retorts. 

Deadpool shrugs. "Fair enough. Not the worst kind of sock."

They wander onto the ESU campus and find a bench to eat on. Peter dumps the bags in the middle and very intentionally sits as far away as possible from Deadpool. School hasn't restarted, so the campus is eerily empty. 

Deadpool pulls his gloves off and digs into one of the bags. "So how are we going to do this? I eat half a taco, you eat the other half? Split bags? You eat the ones closest to you?" As he talks, Deadpool unwraps a taco and pulls his mask up over his mouth . He crams half the taco into his face as soon as he finishes talking. It's mesmerizing in a terribly disgusting way.

"Karen, activate the ET protocol," Peter says. 

"ET protocol activated."

"Good idea ."

"ET?" Deadpool repeats. "Phone home?"

"Something like that," Peter says. He digs into one of the bags. The armor obligingly shifts into eat mode as he unwraps a taco.

"Nice interview today." Deadpool opens up a second taco. "The chair fall really sold you as being too uncoordinated to be Spider-Man."

"I, uh, don't know what you're talking about," Peter says significantly. "Spider-Man didn't give any interviews today."

"Riiiiiiiiiight," Deadpool agrees with a wink. Peter's got to get a closer look at that mask sometime. "Well, Peter gave a great interview."

"Thanks. Is what Peter would say if he were here." Peter bites into a limp, soggy taco. It immediately falls apart in his hands. He looks sadly down at the remains. "He might also tell you that that fall was purely accidental."

"Dibs!" Deadpool says. He lunges for Peter's taco. "It takes a while to pack 100 tacos, you know? That one must have been the first."

"You like the crunch," Peter reminds him as Deadpool takes the entire bag of soggy tacos.

"Yeah, but these are apology tacos. I can't give you the worst tacos or it's a bad apology."

"You pre-ordered apology tacos?" It means that Deadpool planned on doing something that would upset Peter and makes the apology cheaper and fake. It also means that Deadpool planned for Peter to be alive at the end of the night. But that's only if they're actually apology tacos. Surely one man wouldn't order a hundred tacos to eat on his own? Peter watches Deadpool stuff an entire mushy taco into his mouth and concludes that he will never know for sure.

"Yes," Deadpool mumbles around a mouthful of taco. "Here, this bag's fresher."  

"Were the tacos for what you were planning to do to that man?"

"Nah. You weren't supposed to know about him." 

"Geeze. Well thanks for your honesty."

"Just keeping it real." Deadpool unwraps another taco with gusto. "They were for disappearing when things got hot. You were supposed to be occupied longer. Or maybe I just wasn't fast enough this time."

Ah, yes. The time thing. Peter peels the paper back his his taco. It's hot and solid in his hand and smells amazing. "Did you get Blipped?" Peter asks all casual-like. He chomps down with gusto. Oh, god, that's good.

"Nope," Deadpool says. "I was dead at the time. It was weird waking up, I don't mind telling you. Half the world just vanished and people had just really entered the total panic state. Honestly, I think Death held me overtime."

"You were around during the Blip?" Peter stops chewing so he can hear better. The crunchiness is on point. 

"Yeah."

"Prove it!" Peter demands. He really liked MJ's theory, dang it.

"Yeah," Deadpool agrees. He crams yet another taco into his mouth and pulls out a bright pink flip phone. After a few long moments of squinting and clicking, he hands the phone to Peter. "This is Rusty at graduation." There's a giant, surly kid in green graduation robes with an ecstatic and unmasked Deadpool in a brick red tailored suit. The elbow is on fire and the shoulder is substantially singed. "My boy is a smartie," Deadpool preens.

Peter opens the information on the photo. It predates the end of the Blip by eight months. "Is he the reformed evil one?"

"Yeah," Deadpool says. "I was an absolute fucking role model for four years. Main mom on the PTA, sold the most cookie dough, worked all-nighters for the science projects." He smiles fondly as he accepts his phone back. "So rewarding."

"How old is Rusty?" Peter asks.

"Nineteen," Deadpool says, no hesitation. "He used to be about your age."

"I'm not going to be friends with your son," Peter informs him preemptively. "You're enough as it is."

"Oh, you're so not allowed to be friends with him," Deadpool says. "Oh no, no, no."

Well, now Peter's kinda offended. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"He would literally incinerate you. LITERALLY. No offense, Spidey, but you're totally bossy." Deadpool starts into his third bag of tacos. Peter's still only halfway through his first bag. He starts eating a little faster. "And Rusty doesn't handle getting bossed very well."

"I'm not actually here for you to complain about how hard it is being a parent," Peter says around a mouthful of heaven. 

"Right-o," Deadpool says. "What do you want to know?"

"Who is the guy you were torturing?"

"Dmitri Smerdyakov."

"And you were torturing him because..?"

"I need to find one of his connections."

"Is this related to the other timeline?"

"Yeah. Otherwise I would've told you, Spidey, I promise."

Peter scowls. "I don't like how you're using this team-up."

"Won't happen again," Deadpool swears. "Doc Ock and 'Yakov are the only two on my list."

Is it time to mention the abandonment? It feels like it's time. "What if I was killed today? Do you even know what happened to me in the gymnasium?"

"Intimately," Deadpool says. He viciously jams a soggy taco into his mouth.

"You left me alone in a location that you led me to."

"First of all, we've already determined that I was there for a different purpose. Nextly, what do you think would happen if representatives from every northeastern crime syndicate saw us working together? They'd think you mean something to me, and since they already know they can't hurt me, they'd go after you. I wouldn't lift a finger to help you in there unless your death was imminent."

"You wouldn't have known if my death were imminent because you were torturing Dmitri on the other side of the building!"

"Most importantly," Deadpool continues, "it's essential that you don't trust me."

"I don't know if I can work with you if I can't, to some extent, trust you."

"I need your little Spidey senses to read me as a threat. I need you to not blindly trust whoever's in a costume."  

It's a sore subject for Peter. The Mysterio stuff just only went down last week. "I don't trust you!"

"And I'd like to keep it that way!" Deadpool snarls. He grumbles something that sounds like, "Never again," as he throws down yet another taco. 

Peter is so done with this conversation. He inhales tacos rapid-fire so they can be done already and startles when a gust of wind sends four paper bags flying off the bench. They gleam as they dance away in the dark.

He just debating going to retrieve them when shadows shoot from the trees, tackle the bags, and haul them to the trash can.

Peter looks at Deadpool in alarm. "What was that?"

Deadpool grins, empties two bags of tacos at once onto the bench, and tosses the bags into the wind.

Again, shadows stream across the walkway and swoop the bags to the trash.

Peter hops into a crouch on the bench. "Karen, night vision, please."

"Night vision activated."

"Huh," Peter says. "They're squirrels."

"Yeah?" Deadpool laughs.

"Yeah. And, come to think of it, there's no trash anywhere." Peter scans the campus. There's nothing. No receipts, no straws: the campus is absolutely clean. "Does ESU have a recycling rodents program? Hey, no--"

It's too late. Deadpool is already throwing handfuls of taco wrappers like confetti. Peter moves to stop him when his Peter tingle flares.

"You!" shouts a dark figure. The person flips out of a tree, elbows Deadpool in the gut and follows it up with a backwards fist to the jaw, leaps over the bench to steal two bags of tacos, and runs up a tree , shouting back, "Do NOT litter again!"

Peter wavers between looking at Deadpool and at the tree where the mysterious person vanished. Deadpool makes as if to throw more trash and Peter quickly intercedes.

"Who was that? "

"I don't know who that was," Peter says.

"Doreen," a voice calls down from the tree. "Doreen Green."

Peter can practically see Happy's heart eyes. "Sorry, Doreen. We'll be more careful."

Doreen pops out upside down on a branch. "It's not you I'm worried about, kiddo, it's Mr. Hotshot Polluter over here."

Deadpool pulls an utterly unconvincing innocent face.

"You're not allowed on this campus after the amount of crap you've recklessly discarded in the last two days."

"Dude," Peter says disapprovingly. "You've been trashing ESU? Not cool."

"I wanted to meet Ms. Green," Deadpool says. "My, how athletic you are."

Peter groans. "Don't be weird. Please don't be weird."

"And strong," Deadpool says. "You're what, 5'7"?"

"You're doing it. You're being weird." 

"What of it?" Doreen demands, arms crossed and swinging by her knees.

"Just making casual observances is all," Deadpool says. 

"Perfect ."

"Look, I'm sorry!" Peter says. He doesn't know what's going on, but he's not interested in taking part.  "We'll leave now." He gathers up the last of the tacos and gives Deadpool a head nod. 

"Okay, okay," Deadpool says. "Goodbye, Doreen Green of Empire State University!"

"Go away, you nutjob!"

Peter shoves the remaining bags of tacos at Deadpool. "Go home, 'Pool."

"You too, Spider-Man," Deadpool says. He hip checks Peter. "You've had a long day."

"Still don't like him ," Happy grunts.

"Yeah, I know," Peter tells them. "I feel the same way." 

Chapter Text

hf15 

Happy is not living up to his namesake. He’s also being suspiciously non-angry. It's got Peter a little worried.

“That didn’t go as expected,” Peter says into the heavy silence. Happy hums slightly in agreement. “I’m really looking forward to having a whole week without Deadpool. Maybe I can actually have some summer vacation, am I right?”

Happy barely looks at him when he says in a level voice, “You’ve had a tough night. You need to rest.”

“I’m feeling fine,” Peter protests. Happy makes no discernible response. “Are you mad at me?”

“No.”

Peter hesitates. “You’re disappointed, aren’t you?”

“Put your seatbelt on.”

“Aha! That wasn’t a no!”

“I would have preferred if you heeded my directions,” Happy says. “But I am not surprised by the choices you made tonight, so no, I'm not disappointed.”

“Sounds like you’re a little mad at me.”

“This is my second time asking: put on your seatbelt.”

“Right. Sorry!” Peter fumbles to get buckled in. “I saw a lot of potential villains tonight. Were you able to identify any of them?”

“That’ll be a job for F.R.I.D.A.Y. or E.D.I.T.H. You look around fast, and when you pass out, your feed shuts off. That will need to be fixed.”

“I’ll work on it,” Peter promises. “I’d never reviewed footage. I didn’t know.” The silence weighs between them again. “Do you want to talk about tonight?”

Happy inclines his head a tiny fraction towards Peter. Peter takes this as a resounding yes.

“Obviously the main take-away is don’t trust Deadpool,” Peter says. “I wonder if those science fairs are regular occurrences. Might be something worth snooping around for, don’t you think? Yeah? I’d love some feedback, Happy; what are you thinking?”

“You’re going to do what you think is best,” Happy says broadly. Peter can’t tell if he’s saying it ironically or accusingly or just with a regular tone of voice. It’s really putting him on edge.

“I know I was taken down, but I did get out on my own,” Peter says defensively. “And we learned that there’s evil science expos: that’s pretty cool! Obviously bad but definitely cool. And we don’t have to think about Deadpool for a week. That’s a relief, right?”

Happy scoffs. “You think Deadpool’s going to keep his word?”

Peter sighs in relief of the conversational offering. “He hasn’t flat-out lied to me about anything yet. He’s been totally manipulative and delusional, but he hasn’t lied about anything.”

“Don’t rely on his being honest,” Happy says. “You know he’s dangerous.”

“I know, I’m not, we’re not--” Peter points a thumb over his shoulder. “The taco thing was about saving lives. I don’t want to become a mentee or friends with him.”

“I’m not saying you do.”

“I don’t!”

“Good.”

“Great!” Peter slumps in his seat. Now that he’s not overthinking whether or not Happy is mad at him, the physical and emotional fatigue is hitting him pretty hard. He feels a little loopy and disconnected and borderline effervescent. “I start school in less than five weeks.”

“I can’t believe it’s almost August,” Happy says, and Peter answers automatically.

“Lightheadedness.” Epiphany explodes behind his eyes and he scrambles upright to properly stare at Happy. “Happy--”

“Yeah.” 

“Deadpool said he couldn’t believe it’s almost August.”

“Yeah.” 

“Right before I was stunned, passed out, and nearly was oxygen deprived. Definitely experiencing lightheadedness.”

Happy deigns to look at him this time. “Yep.”

“He knew exactly what was about to go down.”

“Yeah.”

“He’s toying with me!”

“The other thing to consider,” Happy says pointedly, “is how he knew the code.”

“Oh. Right.” Peter draws in a sharp breath. “He’s spying on us? He’s been spying on us! How has he been spying on us?”

“Any time you meet with him carries possibilities,” Happy says. “Deadpool has a cartoonish amount of accessories.”

“Huh.” Peter pats down his suit. Deadpool had touched his hand, so maybe..? Peter holds his right hand in front of his face and announces the best appropriate insult he can construct on the spot. “Deadpool is the least funny person I know.”

“Are you trying to provoke him?” 

“I’m dropping critical truth bombs,” Peter says. “Deadpool’s suit looks like poorly designed pajamas.”

“I think you need to rest,” Happy says firmly. “He’s not going to be annoyed into not spying.”

“You don’t know that!” Peter feels like Happy is rolling his eyes, but it’s hard to see from where he’s sitting. They lapse into silence and Peter’s thoughts get all jumbled. He’s remembering the fresh taste of the tacos and the shrill sound of air suctioning out of the resisto-glass tank and the tacky feel of blood sticking his gauntlets and that man’s face cut to bits. He can’t put words together. The goofy placidness of the past minute is punctured and it’s too much, too much...

“We’re back,” Happy says gently. He’s gotten up without Peter noticing and holds Peter’s elbow when Peter moves to stand. “Let’s get you checked out, Mr. Parker.”

“I’m fine,” Peter tells Happy’s ear. He’s unsteady on his feet.

“Tomorrow will be a rest day,” Happy says with authority, so Peter doesn’t debate it. 

“Can MJ and Ned visit?”

“Yeah, sure,” Happy pulls a little on Peter’s arm and he obligingly takes a few steps forward. “Whatever you need.”

What does Peter need? “I need to protect my city.”

“Alright, Batman.”

“I am Batman!” Peter is pleased with that comparison, but there is one major flaw. "I'm not rich," he confides.

That man had labored to breathe. Peter can still hear it. Oh, wait, no, that’s just the garage door shutting. That’s funny, right? Peter tries to laugh, but it sounds more like heaving sobs. His chest in moving in time with his shuddering breaths. Peter slaps the Spider-Man logo on his chest and watches the armor melt away with satisfaction.

“Pete-Pete,” May says. “Come here.” 

Peter spins around to look at her. Everything is moving too fast. He can feel adrenaline starting to kick in and his world is shifting back to full-speed, live-time, regular pace--

May tucks Peter into her arms. He wiggles a little so he still has a visual of the rest of the room. Happy is watching with a tense jaw and a very wrinkled brow line.

“Happy’s not mad at me,” Peter tells May. “He’s not disappointed.” Happy’s face softens a little, and realization bops Peter in the brain. “He’s worried.”

“Yeah,” May agrees. “I was too.”

“We need to see if he’s currently under the effects of anything,” Happy says. Peter watches him walk closer with narrow eyes. “Who’s his doctor?”

“I don’t have a doctor,” Peter says crossly. “I’m Spider-Man.”

“His last doctor forwarded him for testing,” May says. “They were worried about hypertension because of his blood pressure.”

“We’ll have to get a SHIELD doctor then.”

“No doctors,” Peter says. He snuggles deeper into May’s arms. Her shirt’s wet. He’s crying. When did he start crying?

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” May hums. Something bursts in Peter’s chest and he sniffles as he tells her about all the overwhelming details from the night. He distantly hears himself and is aware that he’s not stringing things together correctly and she’s bound to be confused, but his mouth is a motor that he doesn’t know how to stop. 

May bundles him off to bed and sings off-key until his brain quiets down. He stares up at her and marvels at how much of a gift she is. May gives him a small, affectionate smile back.

“Hey, Pete-Pete.”

“Hi, May.”

“How you doing, sweetie?”

Peter drapes a hand over his puffy eyes. “I’m good.” The pressure is grounding.

“You had a lot on your mind,” May says softly. “Thanks for sharing.”

“Thanks for listening.”

May strokes his hair. “I think you need more than me listening, Pete.”

Peter moves his hand so he can stare blearily back up at May. “What are you saying?”

“If you want to keep being Spider-Man, I want you to find a therapist.”

“That would mean someone else knowing my identity. I can’t risk it.”

“I can’t lose you,” May says. “When you first stepped off that plane, I…” Her voice cracks. “I don’t want you to lose yourself in crime fighting.”

“I won’t! I’m being so careful about staying true to my values.”

“But what happens when your values aren’t upheld? What happens when you can’t force people to act the way they’re supposed to? What happens when the evildoers plan for you and your response? Heroes are constantly undergoing trauma. Pepper said Tony could never fully escape his trauma. I don’t want the same to happen to you.”

“I can’t put you at risk like that, May!”

“We can reach out at SHIELD. They owe you big after all your work in Europe.”

“I don’t trust SHIELD.”

“They already know who you are,” May says. 

“Yeah, exactly! I don’t need them to also know how to mess with me psychologically.”

“That’s not what a therapist does, and I think you know that.” May rubs a thumb back and forth across his shoulder. “I want you to honestly consider it.”

Peter glowers at his pillow. “Okay.”

“I love you, Peter.”

“I know,” Peter says. May leans in and drops a kiss on his forehead.

“Get some rest.”

“May?”

“Yes?”

“I love you too.”

May crinkles a smile at him, gives his shoulder one last pat, and stands. “You want a light on?”

“No, thank you.” Peter snuggles under his blankets and listens to the sounds of May’s footsteps receding down the hall. Now that the fog of confusion has lifted, he’s feeling wide awake and raring to go. He needs to track down the resisto-glass scientist and check up on Dmitri and check the optics on the suit camera. He also needs to brush his teeth. There’s definitely some cilantro wedged between his molars. Peter tries to wiggle it out with his tongue to no avail before throwing back the blankets and flipping into a walk to the bathroom.

Peter gets as far as globbing his toothpaste on before he catches sight of himself in the mirror. He’s not looking good. He looks even paler than usual and that’s saying something.  Peter sets his toothbrush on the counter and examines the dark circles under his eyes. They are prominent against his pallid skin. He looks skeletal. His lips look fleshless. Curiously, Peter yanks t-shirt over his head. His toothbrush clatters off the ground and he swoops down to catch it. When he straightens back up, he falls backwards into the towel rack.

His body is grotesque. Thin, spidery arms under small shoulders and white skin stretching over a bulging stomach. His ribs and hip bones jut out in sharp contrast. Peter knows he’s shorter than average and underweight for his age, and this must be why: whatever weight he does have just goes straight into a belly. He’s not chiseled like Brad Davis or muscular like Captain America or lean like Mr. Stark. He’s just...blah.

With disgusted fascination, Peter prods and grabs his stomach. He watches it jiggle with mild horror. He lives a pretty active lifestyle; it’s not like he’s not regularly lifting and getting his cardio. Peter doesn’t know how muscle building works on mutants. It’s not like a gym membership could make a dent in his physique. Is he supposed to go find a junkyard to bench press rusty cars? He’ll have to be careful about what he eats. He definitely ate too much tonight. 

Abruptly feeling too grossed out by his body, Peter tugs his shirt back on. He brushes his teeth with a vengeance and all but runs back to bed to hide his body under the sheets. It’s not a new feeling, not loving his body. It’s just never hit Peter this strong before. If he skips a few meals, his stomach will flatten back out and his body can be back to regular, acceptable levels of nerd bod. 

Mentally casting around for distractions, Peter thinks back to May’s request that he see a therapist. He knows that there’s a stigma about therapy and mental health being soft health issues, and he knows that’s not true, that mental health is important and valid. It just that in his particular case, he can’t afford for other people to know his weaknesses. Does that make him paranoid? Maybe, but better safe than sorry.

Tomorrow Peter can do some research to figure out what heroes do to handle their mental trauma. He knows Mr. Stark expo-ed a personal therapy system using retro-framing. Maybe he can borrow that. 

Right now, he feels fine. Everything’s fine.

Peter’s fine.

Chapter Text

HF . 16 

"Sleepover at Stark Industries?" Ned says. "Of course I'm free!"

It's not what Peter had meant, but a sleepover does sound like a substantial improvement to movie night. “Good,” Peter says. “Come over whenever and I’ll come let you in.”

“So cool,” Ned breathes.

“My parents come home tomorrow,” MJ says. Peter can hear her weighing the decision. “Yeah, I could work that.”

“So nice of you to offer,” a third voice says, and Peter promptly stops breathing. 

“Who’s that?”

“Wow, we don’t see each other for a week and you forget about me? Betty.”

Peter had not invited Betty. He hadn’t included her on the call. “Ned,” Peter says with the calmest voice he can muster, “did you merge calls?”

“Yeah,” Ned says nonchalantly. “I was talking to Betty and she already knows--”

“NED!” MJ and Peter chorus in dismay.

“Ned tells me everything,” Betty says. “And I even helped him clear your name, Peter. Without me, people wouldn’t know that you’re not Spider-Man.”

There’s a long pause wherein no one is sure how to respond. Peter has no idea how to covertly tell Ned to drop Betty from the call so they can discuss how much secret stuff is still secret stuff.

“So, yeah, you’re welcome for that,” Betty says. “Unfortunately, I don’t attend co-ed sleepovers so I will not be able to make it.”

“So unfortunate,” MJ agrees. “Alright, I’m hanging up. We’ll talk tonight.” 

“Yeah, me too!” Peter says. “See you later, Ned! Bye Betty, and thanks for your help.”

“No problem,” Betty answers. She sounds pleased. “Have a lovely sleepover.”

“Thanks, you too. Or, um, sleep well?” Peter facepalms. It’s not even ten in the morning. It’s definitely time to abandon this conversation. “Bye!”

He will have to have a talk with Ned tonight about boundaries. It’s one thing for Peter to talk about his secret identity, but it’s a total other issue if everyone is. And it’s not even like Peter chose to share Spider-Man with Ned, MJ, or May. They all found out on their own. Now that Peter thinks about it, it seems like he’s not that good at keeping a secret identity. That’s something he’ll need to work on.

He pads into the suite kitchen. May and Happy had let him sleep in today, and Peter’s immensely grateful for the luxury. Sleep hasn’t been very easy since his identity was first aired. He chugs a glass of water and moves on towards the elevators. Until Ned and MJ arrive, he’s got work to do in the lab.

Peter starts with suit repairs. Although Iron Man’s mask doesn’t blink, the Iron Spider mask does. It makes the footage particularly trippy to watch. As the footage of last night’s escapades projects into the middle of the lab, the image whirls rapidly and is punctuated by occasional blips of dead time. The camera can’t be aligned with vision unless Peter wants to freeze the mask into a set mold. That’s Peter’s last resort: he likes having little humanoid quirks to his appearance. 

He debates setting the camera on the chest to avoid messing with the beautiful construction of the face mask, but he too frequently twists and turns to see his opponents and chest placement doesn’t ensure full visuals. F.R.I.D.A.Y. helpfully provides an interactive scan of the mask, but it takes forever to understand how the components fit together. Even dissecting the final product, Mr. Stark’s work is so finely detailed that Peter still can’t fully understand how visuals are working.

Peter stretches his back and checks the time. He’s been in the lab for nearly three hours with nothing to show for it. 

“E.D.I.T.H., run a face recognition and association check on the feed.”

E.D.I.T.H. responds with zero hesitation, like maybe she was ready with the information and just waiting for Peter to realize he wanted it. “Phineas Mason, former employee of Bestman Salvage; Aleksei Sytsevich, escape convict and known mutant; Dr. Lorina Dodson, a recent widow--”

“Who was the main guy?” Peter interrupts. F.R.I.D.A.Y. whirls the footage back to the face of the scientist. “Yeah, that guy. Who’s he?”

“Phineas Mason is an associate of Adrian Toomes. All of his coworkers are either deceased or imprisoned.”

Peter starts at Mason’s face. He doesn’t remember seeing Mason before, but Peter does see an awful lot of faces and it’s possible that Mason has five extra years worth of aging. His hair is a high ratio of salt to pepper and his cap insufficiently conceals a prominent receding hairline.

“Is he an inventor?” Peter asks.

“He calls himself a tinkerer,” E.D.I.T.H. corrects. Peter’s senses flare in surprise. Deadpool had said that their target was a tinkerer. “His facebook page promises personalized fixes.”

“He has a facebook page?” Peter stares at the Iron Spider mask, which is about as close as he can get to staring at E.D.I.T.H. F.R.I.D.A.Y. shuffles projections so that a facebook page for “The Tinkerer” is on top. “Woah. Unreal. Can we see recent activity?”

“On Thursday at 12:20, The Tinkerer liked the page ‘Copykat Recipes.’”

“Criminal activity, not facebook activity.”

“No information about Phineas Mason’s recent criminal activity are available. Refer to footage from last night--”

“Can you tell where he is?” Peter honestly has no clue about E.D.I.T.H.’s capabilities and limits, but there’s no harm in asking, right?

“Mason packed his belongings and left his apartment yesterday evening. There is no current information on location.”

“He ran,” Peter muses. “That’s a sign of guilt. I mean, in addition to the part where he tried to kill me. Although I guess he could be running because he tried to kill me. Put an alert out him. I want all updates about his location and activities.”

“Alert set,” E.D.I.T.H. says.

“Great. Thanks. Now, do you reckon you could make me a diagram or some sort of a hierarchy of people of concern from last night?”

“Based upon what parameters?”

“Level of criminal activity with exponential factoring of life-threatening activity.” 

The facebook projection blurs into a massive bubble diagram linking criminal activity. “This is years’ worth of work,” Peter breathes. “And this is just organized crime.” It doesn’t account for random muggings and assaults and robberies, which is Peter’s usual stomping grounds. It feels like a lifetime ago that Peter was having a hard time catching criminal activity. How can he hope to monitor all of this? And it’s not like E.D.I.T.H. data is admissible in court; how can he dream of locking up all of these criminals?

Peter is saved from his overwhelmed quandary by his ringtone. He swoops the phone up to his ear and turns his back on the projections.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Peter. MJ and I are on our way. We’ll be there in like, ten minutes.”

“You’re together?”

“Yeah, Mom said we could give MJ a ride.”

“Hi, Peter!” MJ’s voice sounds distant. 

“Hi, MJ!”

“Hi, Ned,” Ned says. “You two better not make me a third wheel tonight.”

“Stop being insecure. It’s majorly unattractive,” MJ says. “Not a good look on you.”

“It’s a very legit concern,” Ned insists.

“Alright, see you guys soon!” Peter says. He’s not interested in being around for the argument; MJ can clean out Ned easily on her own. He saves the projections and tidies the lab. Today has been unproductive, but he has learned a lot about the Iron Spider mask and too much about organized crime. Not a complete waste of time.

Apparently Mr. Stark had outfitted the scanners to accept Peter’s biometrics at entry points. Peter’s not sure when the scan happened. When did Mr. Stark trust him enough to program Peter’s access all the way to his living room? Surely it wasn’t before the Avengers-splitting fight in Germany. But it also doesn’t seem plausible that Mr. Stark would grant him access while Peter was doing a horrible job of handling the Vulture tech situation. Maybe it was a dying protocol to ensure Peter would still have access to the labs? Peter knows that he’s smart, but he’s not exactly engineering-smart and despite how easy the lab makes inventions, he’s still lightyears behind Mr. Stark.

Right now, he’s just trying not to look out of place in the lobby. Fortunately, he only has to wait a couple of minutes before Mrs. Leeds’ Toyota pulls up to the curb and Ned immediately bursts out of the car. MJ exits with substantially more aplomb. Security waves them through with surprisingly little consideration. Peter immediately wraps the both of them in a huge.

“Stark Industries!” Ned says in an awestruck voice. “So cool.”

“I’m starting to think you’re not here for me,” Peter says.

“Dude, you know.” 

Peter pulls away to lead them to the elevator and catches sight of MJ’s quick elbow to Ned’s ribs. 

“Nerds,” she says disparagingly. 

“Like it’s not cool?” Ned challenges.

“Oh, it is objectively cool,” MJ says. She waits for the doors of the elevator to close. “Is it secure here, Peter?”

“Uh, should be,” Peter says. “F.R.I.D.A.Y.?”

“You are off the record,” F.R.I.D.A.Y. confirms. Ned squeals delightedly and stared around the elevator panels.

“Good,” MJ says. She draws herself up to her full height and glowers at Ned, who throws Peter a hapless shrug. “You don’t go telling people about Peter and come in thinking everything’s fine!”

“What? I would never--”

“Betty,” Peter says quietly. “What does she know?”

“She knows that you were framed,” Ned says. “I didn’t tell her- I wouldn’t tell her- that you are Spider-Man. Especially when she has a crush on him!”

MJ backs down. “Bad reason, but good logic.” She’s still watching Ned suspiciously. 

“And that’s all she knows?” Peter asks.

“Yeah,” Ned says. “Pals before gals, every time.”

“Next time don’t merge calls,” Peter says. “What if I had said something?”

“I know, I know,” Ned says. “I wasn’t thinking. I just couldn’t hang up, you know?”

“Nope,” MJ says. “But that’s okay. I’ve got no problem surpassing you in the best-friends-with-Spider-Man rankings.”

“No!” Ned says. He throws a betrayed look at Peter.

“That’s not a thing!” Peter says. He gives MJ a frantic head shake. She smiles back mischievously but refrains from preying on Ned’s friend envy.

The elevator opens up to the suite where Peter and May are living. Peter gives them a quick tour of the living spaces and they all end up staring out at the city for a few minutes.

“I wish you could have taken me swinging before your identity was blown,” Ned says. He casts a quick look at MJ. “I would have appreciated it.”

“You could commit a petty crime,” MJ retorts. “Then you can get the full Spider-Man experience.”

“Anyone up for Mario Kart?” Peter interrupts. He’s not a big fan of this back-and-forth thing that MJ and Ned have going on. 

“I think we’re both here to hear about last night,” MJ says.

“Last night?” Ned looks back and forth between them.

“My first non-solo job,” Peter says.

“What? Why does MJ know?”

“Why do you think he invited us over, dumbo?” MJ flops onto the sofa. “So you went out with Deadpool?”

“WHAT?” Ned goes bug-eyed, and Peter plops next to MJ on the couch.

“Yeah. It didn’t go great, but it wasn’t a total disaster.” Ned collapses into a recliner and stares, rapt, at Peter. “Deadpool wanted us to track down The Tinkerer, who’s actually the guy that made the Vulture’s tech.”

“The Vulture?” MJ repeats.

“Yeah,” Ned says. “That’s a different story. Super dangerous. Go on, Peter!”

“We found him at this criminal science expo and he hit me with a stun gun.”

“A stun gun?” Ned repeats.

“A stun gun,” Peter confirms. “I couldn’t move my body at all. I eventually passed out.” 

“Did Deadpool--” Ned asks. MJ lunges to cover his mouth.

“Let him finish,” she hisses.

“Deadpool disappeared. Turns out that The Tinkerer was a distraction for me. I woke up in an oxygen-deprivation chamber but got out by webbing the controls. And that’s when I found out what Deadpool was up to.” His stomach turns at the memory. The coppery smell of blood and Dmitri’s shredded face.

“What was he doing?” Ned asks in a whisper.

“He was torturing someone. I think he would have killed the guy if I hadn’t shown up.” MJ and Ned stare wide-eyed at him. “And then, after I got the guy to the hospital, Deadpool took me out to dinner on the condition that he won’t kill anyone for the next week.”

“Yikes,” Ned says. “That’s very yikes.”

“Are you okay?” MJ asks.

“Yeah.” Peter doesn’t meet her eyes. “It’s just a lot, you know?”

“Do you want to think about it, or do you want me to destroy you in Mario Kart?” Ned asks.

That’s an easy enough question. Peter grabs the controllers and lets his mind wander to less troublesome thoughts.

Chapter Text

HF . 17 

Peter uses up half the can of upscale Febreeze before he’s satisfied that the bathroom has no odor. He washes his hands thoroughly and fixes his hair a little before heading back to the living room. He doesn't make it far because May and MJ are chatting with Spider-Man in the kitchen.

"Hi, Peter," May says amicably. MJ does a huge double-take between Peter and Spider-Man before moving automatically closer to Peter.

"Hi, May," Peter answers. He tries to communicate with his eyebrows, but either his meaning is lost or May just really enjoying giving Peter traumatic heart events because she explains absolutely nothing.

"Peter's such a fan," May says. "Could he get a picture with you?"

"Sure," Spider-Man shrugs.

"Why are you here?" Peter blurts. 

Spider-Man looks at May. "You planning on telling him? I'm not so good at storytelling."

"You don't have to tell a story. The truth will suffice.” MJ takes a half step between Peter and Spider-Man, which although sweet, isn’t how Peter can let this go down.

“Spider-Man is here to handle scholarship arrangements,” May says.

“Is this the decoy Spider-Man plan?” Peter demands. The suit looks like a precise fit, and it’s not like there’s much wiggle room to begin with. The voice is a perfect match--of course, phony Spider-Man has the voice alternator-- and there’s something uncomfortably familiar about Spider-Man’s sprawling stance. Peter realizes that they both have their arms crossed and quickly lets his hang to his sides. 

“Yeah,” Spider-Man says, and he hops lightly up onto the counter.

“Do you have powers?” Peter asks. “Does he have powers?” He’s not sure whether he’s asking Spider-Man or May, but he can’t have some random mutant changing up what it means to be Spider-Man.

“She,” Spider-Man corrects. “Does she have powers?”

“No,” May answers. “She does not.”

“She?!” Peter repeats.

“Yeah,” Spider-Man says. “Who says Spider-Man can’t be a lady?”

“Spider- Man !” Peter answers heatedly. 

“Don’t debate pronouns,” MJ says. “She said she’s she, so she is.”

Peter flails around in frustration. MJ is supposed to be on his side! But whatever, gender isn’t actually the important thing. The important thing is the huge invasion of privacy that is May and Pepper prostituting his suit to scholarship students. Fine, maybe prostituting isn’t the most accurate description, but still!

“You’re kinda old to be bummed out about not meeting the real Spider-Man,” Spider-Man says. “Dude, grow up.”

“Who are you?” Peter scowls back at his imposter. 

“Go ahead,” May says.

Spider-Man unmasks and runs a hand through short auburn hair. “Doreen.”

“You think you can act like Spider-Man?”

“Yeah, Peter,” Doreen says. She webs the ceiling and lands squarely in front of Peter. “I think I can.”

“Spider-Man doesn’t land like that,” Peter snips.

“Oh, right,” Doreen says. She bounces lightly on her feet before dropping into a low lunge and swiping Peter’s feet out from under him. Peter takes the fall and rises feeling more than a little irritable. “Is that more like it?” Doreen’s confidence while wearing his uniform without his permission is unforgivable. 

“Cool,” MJ says shortly as she pulls Peter upright. “Peter, let’s go back to Ned. Nice to meet you, Doreen!”

Doreen gives her a little salute that MJ returns with a charmed grin, and Peter hates her a little bit more.

Ned instantly can tell that something is up when they reenter the living room. He scrambles to straighten the recliner and reaches for the remote.

“Don’t pause,” MJ says. “They’re still in the kitchen.”

“Who’s still in the kitchen?” Ned asks.

“Spider-Man’s PR stunt double,” MJ says. “She’s really good.”

“She?” Ned repeats, and Peter collapses dramatically back onto the couch. “Can she do the Spider-Man moves?”

“Not very well,” Peter says churlishly.  

“You think you can train her?” Ned asks.

“I don’t want to.”

“I talked to May and Doreen for five minutes without noticing,” MJ says. She plops down next to Peter and kicks her feet up into his lap. Peter automatically grabs her ankles. “I think she might have studied your body language already.”

“Making it more dangerous!” Peter points out. “If she’s so familiar with my body language, she’s going to figure out who I am that much faster.”

“I think you just don’t like the idea of there being another Spider-Man,” MJ says.

“It’s not that,” Peter says. “It’s that I’m trying to protect people by keeping my identity secret.”

“Yeah, but what better way is there of proving you’re not Spider-Man than having Spider-Man sightings around you?” Ned pushes up to his feet. “Think they’re still in the kitchen?”

“You can check,” Peter says grumpily. MJ whacks her feet into his stomach. “What was that for?”

“You being a drama queen. Talk to May later about her passing your suit off without permission, but don’t take it out on Doreen. It’s not like she knows.”

“She might know.” 

“You’re not upset that she’s a girl, are you?”

“No!” Peter says.

“Whatever she did to get in that suit, she’s a good body double. And she moves pretty fluidly.”

“I saw,” Peter says. He collapses against MJ’s side. “Am I being too dramatic?”

“You’re punching a gift horse in the mouth is what you’re doing.” MJ throws an arm around Peter’s shoulders, which presses Peter’s shoulder into her chest. He wills himself to be less bony. It’s not particularly effective. MJ adjusts so that his shoulder tucks under her arm. It’s much more comfortable and much less swimsuit area. 

“I don’t think I made the best first impression.”

“Same,” MJ says bluntly. 

“I’ll be more approachable as Spider-Man.”

“You better. You don’t want to give her reason to not represent you well.”

“I just wish May had asked.”

“She did ask though.” Peter splutters but is saved from responding by Ned bursting back into the living room.

“Doreen is so cool!” Ned exclaims. “Did you know she can do a backflip?”

“I can do a backflip,” Peter reminds him.

“Yeah, but you’ve got abilities,” Ned says. “She’s straight-up human.” When he sees Peter’s face downfalling, he hastens to do damage control. “I already know you can do incredible, amazing things. I didn’t know about Doreen.”

MJ shakes her head at Ned before addressing Peter. “You know she’s not here to replace you.”

“I know. And I know May’s trying to be helpful.”

“Trying?” Ned repeats. “She found the perfect person!”

“Did she though?” Peter sprawls upright. “I met her yesterday.”

“She was at the science expo?”

“No,” Peter says darkly. MJ and Ned cock their heads. “She was at ESU.”

“Empire State?” Ned looks back and forth between Peter and MJ. “Is this a school rivalry thing? That doesn’t sound like a bad thing.”

“She looks about college age.”

“Just let me explain.” Peter takes a moment to get his thoughts together, in which time Ned and MJ’s eyebrows start slowly inching up their foreheads. “Last night, Deadpool and I ate tacos on campus. Deadpool already knew her. He said her name.” He’s remembering with renewed clarity how Happy reacted. He had originally thought it was because Happy didn’t like Deadpool and enjoyed watching a relative stranger pick at him, but now it seems more likely that Happy was scoping her out for the Spider-Man doppelganger role.

“You think she knows him?”

“Or maybe works for him?”

Peter again thinks back to how Doreen had assaulted Deadpool and scolded him for littering. It definitely is one of the highlights of last night. “Probably not,” he admits. “But I do think that Deadpool wanted her to get the job, and Deadpool isn’t trustworthy. Therefore...”

“Obviously, we don’t want to trust Deadpool on principle,” MJ says, “but that doesn’t mean that everyone associated with Deadpool isn’t trustworthy. You associate with Deadpool and you’re plenty trustworthy. Be on guard, of course, but don’t count her out because you met her through Deadpool.”

“Exactly!” Ned agrees.

“I hear what you’re saying,” Peter says diplomatically. “Can I just not think about it tonight? I wanted to hang with my friends, not talk work.”

“Sure.” Ned sinks back down into the recliner. “You still going to Midtown?”

“Happy thinks I can,” Peter says. “It would be awful changing schools. I don’t even know where else I’d go.”

“Good,” MJ says. “Your distress is so much more interesting in person than long distance.” She digs a thumb into the tissue under Peter’s arm and he squirms.

“No touchy!” Ned yelps. “I am so not here for it.”

Peter can feel himself turning bright pink. MJ cuddles defiantly into his side. Ned rolls his eyes. Conversation halts until the end of Kill Bill: Volume One and Peter couldn’t be happier.

They’re just setting up Settlers of Catan when May makes an appearance.

“Hey, kids,” she says.

“Hi, Ms. Parker!” Ned says brightly. MJ waves back. Peter keeps a stony face; he’s still not okay with May’s hiring stunt.

“I would ask for a private word,” May says, “but I know Peter tells you two everything.” Peter wants to debate it, but she’s telling the absolute truth. May wiggles in next to Peter on the couch. “Doreen will be stopping by tomorrow to meet with the real Spider-Man. Get some tips about how to rock the look, you know.” She offers Peter a smile that he returns automatically. Dang it, he’s weak!

“Okay,” he says shortly.

“She’ll need some training to get comfortable with using the webs.”

“Does she need to use the webs?”

“Not on Tuesday.”

“Tuesday? What’s happening Tuesday?”

MJ’s and Ned’s heads ping back and forth between May and Peter.

“That’s Spider-Man’s first appearance. I thought we could take the occasion to go grocery shopping, maybe get some new school supplies.” Peter really loves his new school supplies, and May totally knows it. It’ll take more than fresh, clean, college-ruled notebooks and crisp graphite to make Peter amenable though. 

“We could tag along,” Ned says. “You can show me where you got those pens last year.”

“But then who would steal mine?” Peter glares at Ned. Whose friend is he anyways, Peter’s or May’s?

“I mean,” MJ says, “it’s a tough role, but I’m prepared to fill it.” She sticks out her tongue at Peter’s betrayed face. 

“Perfect!” May says. “So tomorrow, Peter, you’ll be dressed to impress and ready for a positive interaction with Doreen. She’s coming at 3:00. And Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be picking up you two to accompany us on a shopping trip.”

“Sounds wonderful, Ms. Parker!” Ned says brightly.

“Yeah,” Peter says unenthusiastically. “See you then.”

“Okay, okay,” May says. “I can take a hint.” She presses a kiss on Peter’s forehead. “You guys want anything for dinner?”

“I was just going to order a pizza,” Peter says. “Thanks though.”

“Enjoy your game, kids.”

“Thanks, Ms. Parker!”

May smiles and waves on her way out of the living room. Peter looks hard at the game tiles and ignores the looks MJ and Ned are shooting him.

“Look,” Peter finally tells his cards. “I’m going to get over it. I know May’s doing her best to be helpful. I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay,” Ned says.

“I’m just wondering when you’re ordering,” MJ says. “Pizza delivery takes time, and I know we’re not about to stop midgame to place an order. And you know Settlers can last hours.”

“Very true, very true,” Ned says. “We pooling money for this?”

“Pepper actually gave us a credit line for food,” Peter says. “Yeah, I’ll go ahead and order. What do you want?”

They settle on the traditional one pepperoni and one cheese with a side of breadsticks. Peter places the order and Happy brings up the pizzas twenty minutes later. They never actually end up finishing Settlers of Catan. Some time between washing hands after eating and Ned putting on his Settlers of Catan playlist, which is composed almost entirely of soft instrumentals and nature sounds, they pass out hard. When May peeks in at one in the morning, she tucks blankets over each of them and sticks the leftovers in the fridge.

Chapter Text

HF 12? 

“Hey, nice threads!” Peter swings into the gym and plants himself on a wall. Doreen waves at him from the floor.

“Hi, Spider-Man. Thanks for stopping by. I know you’re busy.”

“No, you’re helping me,” Peter says. “Thank you!” He doesn’t mean it yet, but at least he’s trying. “Let’s see what you can do.”

Doreen shrugs up the sleeves of her Keep the Earth clean, it isn't Uranus shirt, revealing web slingers strapped to her wrists. She double taps, shooting a strand to the wall slightly above Peter, leans back hard into the elasticity of the webbing, and flies through the air to land next to him on the wall. With a lithe twist, she mimics his crouch against the wall by angling her hands so that the webbing is wrapped and tense.

“Woah, nice!” Peter’s thoroughly and sincerely impressed. “I was thinking like cartwheels and stuff, but...you sure you’re not powered?”  

Doreen beams back at him. “You don’t need powers to be powerful. The gadgets definitely help though.” She gives Peter a hearty wink.

"Yeah," Peter says. "Right." He's a little stunned by the full force of Doreen's personality. "Let's check out the landing."

Peter drops twelve feet down to the floor and rolls into a low crouch in the middle of the gym. He nods up at Doreen. “If your fall is going poorly, I’ll--”

Doreen drops down the side of the wall, kicking out about halfway down, and rolls to be face-to-face with Peter. She beams at the shock Peter can’t conceal behind the mask. “Skater girls aren’t afraid of falling, Spider-Man.”

“Call me Spidey,” Peter says. 

“Will do,” Doreen says agreeably.

“Now I want to see you go for a lower stance. The closer you are to the ground, the more able you are to use all limbs at all times.” Doreen obligingly spreads her feet and springs closer to the ground. “Cant your hips a little more,” Peter coaches. “You can get explosive action from switching your lean or adding to your lean. Nice. Yeah, that’s about it. We’ll get some video footage and run an analysis to close the difference, but you’re a quick learner.”

“Standing still is nothing,” Doreen says. “Give me an action to replicate.”

The thing is, Peter doesn’t really have established moves. He’s good at catching his balance and staying in motion, and he’s pretty decent at figuring out the holes in defenses in order to get a hit on a target. Obviously, he can’t tell Doreen that. 

He leads her through a series of wall mounts and dismounts. Doreen’s muscles are fatiguing, but she doesn’t complain once. Peter can see her arms quivering on the hangs and hear the sharp gusts of pained exhalations. Doreen’s expression remains upbeat. 

“You’re fierce,” Peter tells her as she nails another landing. She’s had a few slips in today’s session, but she shows promising signs of reacting to prevent injury instead of promptly giving up.

“Gotta be,” Doreen says.

Peter stands at full height and cocks his head at her. “Why?”

“Do you know how many computer programmers are male?” Doreen plops to the ground and leans back on her hands. “Do you know how many nutheads think that the environment is a joke and treehugger is a slur? If I want to advance in the things I’m passionate about, I can’t stop.” She gives Peter a wide, buck-toothed smile. “Fortunately, that’s right in line with my personality.”

“You throw a good punch,” Peter says.

“Yeah, well, your friend deserved it.”

“Deadpool’s not my friend,” Peter says firmly. “I’m just trying to corral him some.”

“You can corral him off-campus,” Doreen says. “I’m serious. He’s not allowed back to ESU.”

“I’m sorry about the littering.”

“Yours was obviously unintentional.” Doreen shifts her weight so she can flap a reassuring hand at Peter. “His was obviously not.”

“About the campus,” Peter says, flopping down next to Doreen on the floor, “what’s going on with the squirrels?”

“Squirrels are very smart,” Doreen says. There’s a fanatical gleam in her eye. “And, as with all creatures, you can train them based around their natural habits. People see squirrels in or around trash cans all the time, but they don’t consider the possibilities.”

“Of waste management?”

“Exactly!”

Peter hadn’t been serious, but he’s not about to tell Doreen that. He nods encouragingly. 

“Of course, there are always some exceptional beings. I’ve got a couple that transcend a working-environment relationship. They’re usually with me, but I didn’t want them to panic at being this far indoors.”

“Huh,” Peter says. “So you must really like squirrels.”

Doreen rolls her eyes at him. “Duh.” She points at her teeth. “I was always climbing trees as a kid, and I’ve got pronounced front teeth. You know I was called Squirrel-Girl.” She gives Peter a grin that's all flashing teeth. “They thought it would bother me.”

“Huh,” Peter says again. “I know kids can be mean. It’s really cool that you were able to shrug off the haters.”

“Enough about me,” Doreen says. “What about you?”

“What do you mean?”

“How did you come to be Spider-Man?”

“Total accident.” Peter goes to run a hand through his hair, but he can only rub the back of his mask. “Spider bite, so it seemed kinda appropriate to be Spider-Man.”

“And the uniform design?”

“Well, red and blue are the hero colors, aren’t they?” Peter remembers with total embarrassment the original Spider-Man suit: a hoodie, a pair of sweatpants, and a pair of dorky goggles. He doesn’t dwell on those simpler days much anymore. 

“Do you have a tragic backstory to go with your hero color scheme?”

“Maybe,” Peter says. “I’m not really into my identity being out and about, you know.”

“And I totally get that,” Doreen says. “In fact, I would suggest more precautions.”

“What?” Peter says.

“Like making your voice moderator not your actual voice.”

“WHAT?”

Doreen shrugs. “Voices are pretty distinctive, Spidey.”

“Do you know my identity?”

“Would you be peterbed if I did?” Doreen smiles exuberantly over at Peter, who’s not feeling too appreciative of the pun.

And yeah, Peter is super perturbed. This is exactly what he didn’t want to happen. Even if the miracle of reconcealing his identity is successfully pulled off this time, if there are dozens of people who know his real identity, it will only ever just leak back out. And how many times can he expect people to ignore proof and testimony about who he is? Not an hour after his identity was first leaked, his home and family were attacked. It would be easy to track down Peter’s friends. Peter had originally become Spider-Man because he feels that if he doesn’t interfere with something that he has the ability to stop, he is, at least in part, guilty of the outcome. He’s not okay with random civilians, minorities, or business owners being targeted. But he can’t cope with the idea of those he knows and loves being targeted.

Doreen’s smile has faded. She stares concernedly over at Peter. “You okay?”

Peter springs to his feet and towers over Doreen. She cocks her head back at him. 

“Two things,” Peter says in a voice that verges on a growl. “My identity is sacred. You don’t think about it, much less reference it. My family and my friends are not getting mixed up with my enemies, period.”

“Yeah, okay, I get it,” Doreen says. She’s holding a strong front and stiff upper lip, but her eyes show that she has registered the unspoken threat, which is great, because Peter’s about to get to the spoken ones.

“You get nothing out of knowing my identity,” Peter snarls. “No bribes, no passes on wrong doings...in fact, if you dare go out--”

“You nutter!” Doreen says. “I’m literally just here for a paycheck. I didn’t agree to moonlight as Spider-Man so I could commit crimes! And ‘wrong-doings’ is so objective anyways...we were just talking about punching Deadpool and you were down for it.” She leaps to her feet and gets in Peter’s face. “Before you get to yammering, you should figure out who you’re talking to, yeesh.” She pulls at her shirt to air it out and cool down. “I’m done here. Thanks for the session.”

She turns sharply on her heel and heads for the exit. Peter flounders. He can’t afford to trust people, but Doreen hasn’t done anything untrustworthy yet. He is lowkey a fan of her assaulting Deadpool and her fearless attitude. 

Peter trails her through the door. But instead of leaving Stark Industries, Doreen hits the up button on the elevator.

“Where are you going?” Peter demands.

“I’m not just here for you,” Doreen says. “That’d be suspicious, wouldn’t it?”

It’s a good point, but Peter doesn’t feel a need to acknowledge it. “Who else are you here for?”

“Morgan. I’m her sitter.” Doreen saunters onto the elevator as soon as it opens. “Well, are you coming?”

“Uh,” Peter wavers. Doreen is making him feel awkward, but he can’t let very well let her wander around alone, can he? As the doors begin to close, he jumps into the elevator. He’s still not sure that it’s what he wanted to do.

“I’m fully anticipating that you’ll be reviewing my footage and giving me feedback,” Doreen says. “I do want to do my job well.”

“You’re not crime fighting,” Peter reminds her.

“It’s not fitting with Spider-Man’s image to pass by a crime.”

“You’re not crime fighting,” Peter insists. 

“Right,” Doreen says unconvincingly. 

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Alright then,” Doreen says. “So instead I’ll stop by a crime, get undressed, fight crime, and get dressed again, capiche?”

Peter groans. “This is why I didn’t want to get a civilian involved.”

“I get involved in stuff right now,” Doreen says. “Me punching Deadpool wasn’t an isolated incident.”

“Don’t punch people over littering,” Peter says firmly.

“Not the first time, obviously.” Doreen rolls her eyes as the elevator doors slide open. Peter opts to drop the topic.

“Have you met Morgan before?”

“Just met her yesterday. She’s quick.”

Peter’s not sure if she means intelligence, speed, or pickpocketing ability. “Yeah,” he agrees.

Doreen places her hand on the electronic pad by the door. It beeps twice and she pushes the door open. 

“PETER!” Morgan screams, and Pepper promptly intercepts her run across the room and whisks her into the closet.

“Doreen knows,” Peter calls resignedly. 

“Alright,” Pepper says. Peter wishes she had a more extreme reaction. It makes him feel like he overreacted. She opens the closet and Morgan, absolutely unbothered, continues doggedly into Peter’s arms.

“I’d modulate the voice if you were trying to keep it secret,” Doreen says. 

“People already know Spider-Man’s voice,” Peter explains as Morgan dangles from his midriff. 

“Well, something’s gotta give.” 

“Thank you for your suggestion,” Pepper says. “It’s definitely something to consider.” She disappears down the hallway.

Peter swings Morgan around a couple of times before setting her back on the ground.

“You can come to dinner,” Morgan informs him regally.

“Thanks,” Peter says, and he’s surprised and a little hurt when Morgan immediately moves on to Doreen. She scampers up Doreen like a tree and gives her a huge hug. An instant later, Morgan screams and a giant rubber tarantula topples to the floor.

“That’s mean!” Morgan informs Doreen.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Doreen says airily with a giant BS grin. “It wasn’t bothering you in my pocket. That’s not mean.”

Morgan tucks her hands into her armpits and scowls. Peter wonders if Doreen has an extended plan to break Morgan’s pickpocketing habits; he thinks it will take more than rubber spiders to keep her hands out of people’s belongings.

“Spider-Man,” Pepper says, grabbing her purse as she sweeps to the door. “Escort me down.”

“Ah, yeah,” Peter says. He doubts anyone has effectively told Pepper “no” before. He waves goodbye to Doreen and Morgan before tailing Pepper back to the elevator.

“Doreen will be discrete,” Pepper says. 

“I know,” Peter says. He remembers last night, when Doreen had apparently figured out his identity but said nothing to indicate as much in front of other people. “I’m just worried.”

“I know,” Pepper says gently. “God, I know.” 

Peter doesn’t doubt it.

Chapter Text

Michelle 15:30

How did it go?

 

Peter does a left-handed swing across the street as he types back his response.

 

Peter 16:08

honestly bettr than expected

 

He sticks his phone to his hand as he swings hard into the side of a brick building. Brick dust poofs onto his uniform and Peter brushes it off. He’s not used to traveling these side streets, but he’s not ready for Spider-Man to be seen in public yet. It’s harder swinging in close quarters. He’s used to having long swathes of street to plan his movements, not these narrow roads with crumbling buildings. Peter pauses to add a more elaborate update.

 

Peter 16:09

She knows ID

She’s really good at the movements.

Super strong.

 

Ned 16:09

How did she figure out?

 

Michelle 16:09

Oh damn.

Was it the voice?

 

Peter 16:09

Yeah. You could have said something.

 

Michelle 16:10

I mean, you never did a different voice before.

It was just really obvious when you two were talking in the kitchen.

 

Ned 16:10

What are you going to do?

 

Peter 16:10

There’s nothing I can do, is there?

I’m checking up on the vic. I’ll message you guys later.

 

Peter doesn’t pause to check that his message has been read. He continues his trajectory towards the hospital where he had dropped off Dmitri. It’s been a couple of days, so there’s a possibility that he’s been released already. Peter should have checked on him sooner. And if Dmitri has already been released, E.D.I.T.H. can help him track down the guy. Peter doesn’t trust Deadpool not to go after him again, and if Deadpool is actually on to something, it doesn’t hurt for Peter to stay cautious.

Peter climbs along the side of the hospital and peers through the windows. The panels offer a shoddy city view but aren’t built to open, which is really only for the best. It’s probably really unsanitary for him to go inside. The mask does a decent job of filtering out the stench of New York City, but he knows for fact that there’s bits of smog clinging to his suit.

They are loads of rooms in the hospital, and most of the rooms are holding multiple people. Whenever the room divider is pulled, Peter can’t identify the second patient. It’s frustrating work, and Peter grows less wary of getting caught. He swings into a large window plane without properly clearing the room and scuttles to move away from the glass before the nurses in the break room spot him. He hangs over the window, breath burning in his throat, and listens hard. It takes a moment for his breath to steady before he can focus on the sound on the other side of the glass.

“Must of been another pigeon,” one of the nurses says. Peter relaxes. He can’t afford to be so careless. “Go on with what you were saying.”

“Where was I?”

“John Doe woke up early from the anesthesia…”

“Right, right, right. He stole a pair of scrubs and a lab coat and just walked out.”

“With blood on his face? You said he was cut up pretty bad.”

“I mean, of course he wasn’t actively bleeding. They stitched up his face during the surgery.”

“And then..?”

“That’s it. We don’t know where he is. There’s no footage of him leaving the hospital.Security has him walking down the 400 hall, and that’s it.”

“So he could still be in the hospital.”

“Could be.”

“Ooooooh. Of all the days for me to be out, of course it had to be the most interesting case. Did security canvas?”

“Of course they did. But they didn’t find anything.”

“And they never figured out who the man was?”

“Nope.”

“Wild.”

“I know, right? So, how was the wedding?”

“Oh my gosh, total disaster. It was in a pub, so the bar was already pretty low.”

Peter snorts a laugh as he swings up to the roof. Pub wedding...The bar was low...Hilarious even if unintentional.

“Alright, E.D.I.T.H.,” Peter says, “what can you tell me about Dmitri Smerdyakov?”

There’s a moment of silence, which is odd. E.D.I.T.H. always pulls things up instantaneously. “There is no record of a Dmitri Smerdyakov.”

Peter bounces on his toes. “Who was that guy Deadpool cut up?”

“Identity unknown,” E.D.I.T.H. says haltingly. Peter gets the impression that she’s displeased with her inability to answer his question.

Peter crows. “Oh, this is good!” Excitement thrums up through his body. He can feel his body vibrating with anticipation. “E.D.I.T.H., can you hack the security cameras? We need to see footage of Dmitri and where he is now. We’re on the verge of something big; I can feel it!”

Deadpool must have been on to something. There’s no way that Dmitri has accidentally avoided detection by E.D.I.T.H., escaped a hospital, and is on the run without there being something nefarious going on. He needs to know what info Deadpool has. It won’t be reliable, but it will at least give Peter a starting point.

Peter jumps when his phone rings. “May?”

“Hi, Peter,” May says. “How did your meeting go?”

“My meeting?” Peter parrots dumbly.

“With Doreen,” May prompts.

“Oh, right. Alright, I guess.”

“Good.” May’s preening; Peter can hear it through the phone. “Doreen messaged me about you.”

Peter’s palms start sweating. He hadn’t exactly been on his best behavior this afternoon. “Yeah?”

“She wanted to pass along her thanks,” May continues.

Peter scowls. Now it just feels like Doreen is trying to play some sort of manipulative game. Is she trying to win May over from Peter’s corner? “For what?” he asks churlishly.

“She said you gave her some really good pointers today,” May says. “It’s nice to hear that you two were getting along well. And she’s planning on reviewing your notecards before Tuesday.”

“My what?”

“Your notecards,” May repeats. “With the little factoids about your villains.”

“I didn’t give her notecards,” Peter says. “May, can you give me her contact?”

“If you didn’t give her cards, then who did?”

“I don’t know, May! That’s why I need to contact her!”

“Green dot Doreen at Empire State dot edu,” May says. “She didn’t give out her phone number.”

Peter huffs a sigh. “Great. Can I talk to you later, May?”

The entire hiring-someone-to-be Spider-Man thing is going exactly as he had feared. Now there’s someone new who knows his identity and is wearing his suit and wants to fight criminals, there’s someone else who knows that Doreen is doing the job and apparently knows who Peter has fought, and Peter is wandering around clueless with The Tinkerer and Dmitri Smerdyakov God knows where.

Peter pulls out his phone and thumbs out a rapid message to Doreen.

Hey it’s Peter,

I didn’t give you villain trading cards. Where did you find them? Who else knows about your new job?

Respond asap!

Peter

He hits send before he can overthink it and start nitpicking his message. He really doubts that Doreen doesn’t have a phone, and she’s going to need quick communication if she plans on portraying Spider-Man.  He’ll have to get her number soon.

“E.D.I.T.H.?” Peter says. “How’s the search going?”

“Dmitri Smerdyakov is untraceable,” E.D.I.T.H. says begrudgingly.

“Unbelievable,” Peter says. “How can a man vanish into thin air like that? First Mason, now Smerdy?” He could do with less tech-savvy villains. What happened to the good old-timey crimes? Not that Peter had been particularly good at finding them. In fact, he had been spectacularly terrible at finding criming. But maybe now that he has a better sense of his Peter tingle, he’ll be able to spot crime live time. He’ll just have to pay closer attention as he’s patrolling.

Epiphany smacks Peter upside the head. What if he had been avoiding crime because of the Peter tingle? Everything makes sudden sense. It’s not like crime nosedives when he’s on the prowl, it’s just that he hardly ever catches it. And he mistook the tingle for hunger or boredom or anything but danger. Instead he should be leaning into the sense and trying to figure out what direction makes it stronger. 

Eager to test his new theory, Peter scampers up an office building. He avoids the illuminated rooms as he ascends. At the top of the building, Peter hunkers down into a sitting squat and closes his eyes.

“Where are you?” Peter grumbles. His tingle remains inactive. Peter takes a couple of deep breaths, but he still feels nothing. “Come on!” For two excruciatingly long minutes, nothing happens.

Peter jumps back to his feet and stalks the perimeter of the roof. New York City is a cacophony, so enhanced hearing does little to help him. Peter absent-mindedly itches his wrist as he mourns his inability to do much of anything heroic. He feels so reactionary and immobile. Of all the hero-ing work he’s done, he’s been summoned to all but two events and keeps having to contain problems of his own inept making.

Peter looks down to cover his wrist and freezes at the sight of his arm hair standing fully erect. He brings his arm closer to his eyes and stares as the hairs turn simultaneously to his right. Peter automatically steps back to the left.

“Yes?” Peter says. “Yes!”

He leaps off the building with gusto. His mind is fine-tuned now; he can feel his body squaring off with danger.

Peter swings among the buildings with ecstatic relief bubbling up his throat in tiny, laughing pants. He can hear raised voices drawing into focus: loud, brash, and defensive. An elderly man is waving a gun at a pair of bulky teenagers, one of which is apparently attempting to deescalate the situation.

"Don't point that at me, old man! I know you're not pointing that a t me ! You think I'm playing, old timer? You better-"

"Walk it off, bruh," the second teen says. "Come on; it's not worth it."

"If a man doesn't have his name, he ain't got nothing!"

Peter's all ready to interject a semi-Shakespearean witticism when he's spotted.

"Spider-Man!" the man says. He swings his gun to point at Peter. "I know about you. I know that you're a troublemaker!"

"What?!" the angry teen shouts. "You out of your damn mind. Spider-Man is a hero."

"Yeah!" pipes up the deagitator. "He's one of the Avengers. You all sorts of outa line."

"You lot are all buddies, huh?" the man snarls. He's waving his gun around an awful lot. "Thugs, all of you."

"Screw you!" one of the teens screams. Peter stays focused on the gun; he doesn't catch which one is shouting.

"Hey, hear me out," Peter says in his best, most calming voice. "How about we all take a deep breath and--"

Everything happens very quickly. The old man shoots at Peter and the teenagers, with outraged cries, jump him. The gun spins loose on the pavement. Peter fumbles with the gun until he gets the cartridge out and kicked down the adjoining alleyway, throws a teen over each shoulder, and sprints up the nearest building.

"You two okay?" Peter asks as he sets the teenagers down on the roof. They stare back with glassy-eyed, goofy expressions. Peter's debating how to make sure they get home safe when his phone buzzes against his thigh.

Doreen has responded. Peter taps his fingers against the shell of his cell phone case while the email loads painfully slowly.

The cards were in my bag. No one knows about my jobs; I’m not chatty about anything. They’re real cute though. Should have known it wasn’t you .

There’s a picture attached. Peter’s body seizes up with tension as the photo first appears, blurry beyond recognition. After a few long, painful seconds, the photo fully loads and he collapses with frustration and relief and irritation and a whole host of other feelings he can’t put a name to.

The picture shows a spread of hand-written villain cards, some turned upwards and some flipped on their backs. At the very bottom corner of the back of each card is a cartoonish Deadpool mask.

Chapter Text

 

Peter recognizes the arch of broad shoulders and light, stocky gait even before he notices that Deadpool is out of costume. He's ambling leisurely down the sidewalk in a hoodie and sweatpants with bulging plastic grocery bags. 

Peter isn't even looking for Deadpool. He just wants to go home and text his friends about all the craziness of his untraceable potential villains until he falls asleep. Today has already been too long, and Deadpool doesn't ever simplify things. Nonetheless, to spot Deadpool less than ten minutes after realizing he had something to do with Doreen's cards is too much of a coincidence to bypass, no matter how much Peter would like to.

Peter waits for the other two pedestrians to clear the street before descending down the side of a barred pawn shop and trailing Deadpool. He clings to the deep shadows cast in the dim street lights for several blocks. Deadpool pauses abruptly outside an unkempt apartment building, and Peter freezes behind him.

"I wish there was a strong youth who could help an old man with groceries," Deadpool moans without looking back, and then he unabashedly begins belting out in song, "I need a hero! I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night! And he's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast--"

It's not the entrance that Peter wanted, but it's definitely one he can work with. He kicks off the wall and flips to land directly behind Deadpool. "Hello. Is it me you're looking for?"

Deadpool spins, beaming, and gleefully pantomimes shock. Peter waves at him. "Wowie gee whizz," Deadpool says as he enthusiastically tosses his groceries at Peter. Peter fumbled to snag the flimsy plastic handles before the bags tumble to the ground. They're not heavy, even by unpowered standards, but they are incredibly bulky. At least three of the bags are crammed with bulk-buy packs of toilet paper. "Thanks, Spider-Man!"

"Now this seems a little unfair," Peter protests. Deadpool clasps him on the shoulder.

"Life is a fair: the rides will cost ya and all of the games are rigged," Deadpool informs him.

"Pretty dismal outlook."

"People still want to go to the fair," Deadpool says with a shrug. "It's fun. But nevermind that. What do you want?" He kicks open the entrance to an apartment complex. Peter trails him awkwardly. He has to shuffle in sideways to make the bags fit.

"You gave Doreen cards about my villains."

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"Because even if you don't like her, tiddlywinks, she can't do her job if you're muffling the deets."

"I don't dislike--"

"I'm going to stop you right there," Deadpool says firmly, "because I have a strong dislike of being lied to." He bounds up the stairs and Peter hurries after him with the bags banging against the railing and walls. "There's nothing wrong with being a little jealous, baby boy."

"I'm not jealous," Peter says just as firmly. 

"Protective, then," Deadpool amends.

Peter has a brief fight with the corner of a plastic bag snagged on the banister. "Well, you're being very suspicious. Not only are you way too involved with Doreen, your victim disappeared."

Deadpool's eyes narrow. "You lost Smerdyakov?"

Peter freezes at the note of interest in Deadpool's voice. "Do you know where he is? This is a run you've got to include me in because you started with me. And you still can't kill him!" He swings the bags a bit too forcefully and a dozen limes immediately topple through a rip and cascade down the stairs. Peter hurriedly webs the tear before it can widen. 

"Yeah, yeah," Deadpool agrees. He vaults over Peter and possessively gathers his scattered limes to his chest. "I know. You already said." Peter pivots so he can keep Deadpool in sight. 

"So really, I'm looking for answers to two things." Peter waits at the top of the stairs for Deadpool to catch up and lead on. "Doreen and Smerdyakov."

"You're not going to like the answer and I'm not going to like the debate," Deadpool says dismissively. 

"Time travel again?" Peter grits his teeth when Deadpool wags his head and shrugs his shoulders. Peter can't keep letting Deadpool slide by answering questions by just invoking time travel. Maybe he can piece together the truth from Deadpool's fragmented sense of reality. It's not an appealing prospect, but it's not like he has options on how Deadpool answers. "That's fine," Peter grimaces. "Tell me everything."

"Come on in," Deadpool says, soft as a promise and sleek like a threat. "I'll tell you everything."

Peter pauses long enough to feel preemptive remorse before trailing Deadpool into his apartment.

Peter didn't really have a clear mental image of what to expect, but the clinically bare room with the overwhelming stench of disinfectant is not it. He immediately switches to breathing through his mouth.

Deadpool snatches a notebook from the kitchen counter and jams it into his hoodie. Peter has just enough time to register bright green before the notebook is completely out of sight.

"What's that?" Peter demands.

"A notebook," Deadpool says. He pulls it out enough for Peter to make out Tinkerbell on the cover, and then he jams the book back into his pocket. 

"You're acting dodgy." Peter is not dissuaded. "What's in your notebook?"

"Things I need to remember," Deadpool says unhelpfully. He tugs a roll of toilet paper free. "I've got a business call to make."

"Yeah, of course." Peter shoos Deadpool. "Go ahead."

"Make yourself at home," Deadpool says before speed-walking into the bathroom and swinging the door shut behind him. And really, that is basically an open invitation for Peter to poke around. It'd practically be rude to refuse.

Because Peter was raised with manners, he starts by unpacking the grocery bags in the kitchen. Deadpool’s spoils are five more bulk packs of toilet paper, twelve family-sized bags of a variety of hot chips, cinnamon-bun-flavored Oreos, and a gigantic bag of pixie sticks. Peter doesn’t waste any time judging Deadpool’s tastes and promptly sets about exploring the apartment. 

The living room has one bedraggled sofa chair with an elaborately embroidered floral pillow bearing the message Eat dirt and die, trash in elegant cursive. There are a couple of knives stuck in the wall, on which hang guns that Peter doesn’t know well enough to identify. He listens to Deadpool grunting in the bathroom before carefully opening the bedroom door. 

Deadpool’s bedroom is long and narrow. All of the furniture is tucked into the right side of the room and there’s a television mounted next to the door. Deadpool’s twin bed is made and tightly tucked in. He has one pillow and two stuffed animals. The dresser next to the bed holds ammunition, two rolled-up Deadpool suits, a sewing kit, black leather patches, and a few yards of Deadpool’s red suit knit. There are also the predictable array of regular clothes and a lingerie section that Peter skips right on over.

The Peter tingle flairs when he approaches the closet. Peter dips into a crouch and jumps back upon opening the door. Not even a second later, a row of darts stream through the air and hit the wall above the bed. 

“Bingo,” Peter breathes. Surely Deadpool wouldn’t boobytrap nothing. He carefully straightens up and approaches the closet again. 

It’s fairly disappointing. The back of the closet is liberally peppered with photos of Rusty, some with Deadpool and some without. There’s an arts and crafts cubby with blank trading cards and Sharpies. Deadpool has already doodled his little logo in the corners. There’s a trenchcoat with empty pockets and a few different hats. There’s a box of magazines that Peter does not examine too carefully. Guns and knives are tucked into compartments of a shoe rack, but there’s nothing new, nothing that Peter doesn’t already know. 

Then again, Peter realizes, Deadpool doesn’t really conceal things. He’s very openly militant, he didn’t deny making the villain trading cards, and he’s already told Peter about his kid. Peter still can’t tell if this time travel bit is something that Deadpool believes in or if it’s something that he’s using to dodge answering Peter, but he’s currently heavily favoring the idea that it’s something that Deadpool believes. Maybe Deadpool has some powers he doesn’t know about; Peter’s pretty sure that the Scarlet Witch can get into people’s minds. Deadpool could possibly see futures but not know it.

Regardless of how Deadpool is getting his information, Peter’s quick search of the apartment has made one thing clear: he needs to get his hands on that notebook.

Peter startles when he hears the toilet flush. He shoves the closet door shut, webs to the wall to snag the darts without wrinkling the bedsheets, and just manages to get to the living room as Deadpool comes around the corner.

“Nice place,” Peter chirps. He’s breathing faster than usual, more from then adrenalin of nearly getting caught than from the speed with which he just vacated Deadpool’s bedroom. Deadpool quirks a disbelieving glance his way. Peter awkwardly gestures to the solo armchair in the living room. “Minimalism is really trendy.”

“Right-o,” Deadpool says, and he completely reanimates. Peter’s breathing eases as Deadpool begins to babble.  “Well, now you know where I live, so you can feel free to pop over any time. My fridge is your fridge and all that. I’ve got a first aid kit here. I made it, so it’s actually a good one.”

“I’m here for information,” Peter says. He eyes Deadpool’s hoodie pocket. It’s impossible to see even the hint of the notebook’s outline. Maybe Deadpool already hid it. 

“You can look at the villain cards,” Deadpool shrugs. “It’s just stuff you already know.”

“Yeah, but I don’t follow how you know about my villains.” 

Deadpool beckons Peter to follow him back into the kitchen. “You told me.”

“Last time you time traveled?” Peter asks dryly.

“Not last time,” Deadpool says.

Peter makes a noncommittal sound. He’s definitely not getting into that with Deadpool. “In that case, you already know where the Tinkerer went.”

“I don’t need time travel to know that,” Deadpool says. 

“And you know about the crimes in development,” Peter says. “Tell me; who do we need to look out for?” He says “we” to be inclusive, but by Deadpool’s pleased reaction, he knows the merc interpreted it as Peter saying they would work together.

“You can’t get the answer key to the exam before you get the lesson.” Deadpool slides up onto the counter next to the stove, and Peter mirrors him next to the sink. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’ve got a lot of things to work on. Tracking criminals, spotting crime, reading a room, strategic play, preventative care--”

“What?”

“You got to do the grunt work, baby.” Deadpool winks at him as he toes open the fridge and blindly grabs a hard cider. “I’m not going to spoon-feed you.”

“You’re going to teach me?” Peter doesn’t know if the full depth of his disbelief shows through his mask and tone. “You’re going to be my superhero guru?”

“Woah, easy with the gratitude there, buster,” Deadpool replies with a double dose of sarcasm. 

“I mean, it’s a nice offer, but it’s totally unsolicited.”

“You don’t want my help?” Deadpool’s eyes glint from the shadows of his hoodie. Even perched on the edge of the counter and dangling his legs haphazardly, there’s still a hard, dangerous edge to him that Peter finds both off-putting and mesmerizing. 

“I don’t know what you get out of this,” Peter says bluntly. He tries to relax his body language, but he isn’t able to do so until Deadpool softens and starts rambling again. 

“Good. Trust can be a liability. You don’t want to go around trusting everybody. Right now we’re working on you seeing that you don’t have to trust somebody to still get something out of an interaction with them.”

“I do know that,” Peter insists peevishly. “We patrolled together, remember?” 

“Yeah, but then you started trusting me.” Deadpool wags a finger at Peter. “You can’t be doing that.”

“I got out fine on my own!”

“You got knocked out. If the Tinkerer had checked for your shooters, you’d be dead.”

“You said you had no doubt I’d survive.”

“Yeah. But if you don’t figure out how to get information without placing trust, the next time, you won’t.” Deadpool is back to the intense eyes, but Peter is done with feeling intimidated by Deadpool’s bizarreness.

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll never trust you.”

He’s kinda hoping for Deadpool to look a little insulted by the words, but instead Deadpool gives him a small, grim smile. “Promise?”

Peter scoffs and hops down off the counter. “Show me your notebook.”

Deadpool sets down his cider. “When you’re done, I will. Not yet.”

“That’s your answer key?” Peter says. 

Deadpool trails him back into the living room. His face is still frozen in that weird small smile. “Yeah.”

“I guess I better start coming to class.” Peter says. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“I thought you didn’t want to see me for a week.” If Peter didn’t know any better, he’d say Deadpool looks insecure. 

Peter shrugs and says, “Oops,”  before backflipping out the window. He can hear Deadpool whooping all the way down the block.

Chapter Text

 

Peter twitches aside at a sudden movement in his peripheral and, half a second later, two dirks ping off the brick wall in their alleyway.

“Dude.” Peter’s aiming to sound disapproving, but he can hear the pleased amusement in his own voice. He’s definitely improving.

“Was that Spidey senses?” Deadpool cocks his head at Peter.

“No.”

Deadpool nods approvingly. It’s his third attack since Peter first knocked on his door this morning, and not a single one of them has activated the Peter tingle. Deadpool reckons it’s because he doesn’t want to harm Peter, but Peter reckons that that’s a load of crock. The cut on his forearm that he used to block the first attack has already scabbed over, but it definitely hurt.

Before Peter can reflect too much, Deadpool tosses a grappling hook up to the roof and swings up the side of Bestman Salvage’s warehouse and begins scaling the building. He’s pretty fast, but Peter can literally run up the side of the building. When Deadpool catches up next to him on the roof, Peter’s already anticipating the knife hurtling in his direction.

Peter catches the blade because he’s feeling a little bit extra and flinches back to to look at Deadpool when he hears the gunshot. Before he can properly react, a bullet tears through the muscle of his right arm.

Peter lets out a choked scream and falls back, jumping behind the silent air conditioner unit and clutching at his right arm. He hears the soft slide of metal on leather and knows that Deadpool has reholstered his firearm.

“Get the bullet out before it heals,” Deadpool calls. He doesn’t sound triumphant, and Peter is in too much pain to process the scant emotion coloring his voice.

Peter attempts to look at his arm and immediately begins to gag.

“It’ll be worse if you don’t.”

“I get it!” Peter hollers back. “Just give me a minute, okay?”

Peter takes a moment to be grateful that his suit is red. It makes the blood loss less apparent and less terrifying. The raw, gaping hole in his skin, on the other hand… Peter realizes he’s not breathing. He yanks his mask off and noisily gasps for air before falling prey to shivering whimpers.

“Not only should you expect your opponent to have a variety of attacks,” Deadpool says in an unreadable voice, “you should implement your own. If Spider-Man shows up, what do you expect?” He gives Peter a few seconds to answer before answering his own question. “Webs, of course. Which puts you at an advantage. Obviously webs are totes cool, but they can also function as a distraction for your real attack.”

Peter’s voice comes back to him. “You shot me.”

“After I conditioned you to expect blades. Super effective.” 

Peter’s voice rises to a yell. “You shot me!”

“Are you going to make the same mistake again?” Deadpool asks. His voice sounds closer, and Peter scrambles to get behind the door leading into the warehouse. He catches sight of Deadpool dabbing at his blood on the concrete.

“What are you doing now?”

“Getting rid of your DNA. You don’t want that getting into the wrong hands. Me, doesn’t matter. My mutation is specific to my experiences. Yours is from a body-altering foreign agent. People would kill for this.”

“People like you?”

“Or worse. Oh, here we go! Lucky for you; the bullet’s over here. Clean shot! You won’t have to go digging today.”

Peter’s stomach lurches and he huddles miserably against the roof entrance. The pain is slowly becoming more manageable, but there are seeming random and more intense spikes. Peter webs the wound shut, pinching his skin together as close as possible.

“Pe--” Deadpool cuts himself off abruptly. “Hey, Webhead.”

Peter looks up at Deadpool. He’s rounded the air conditioner unit but keeps his distance. Peter glowers at Deadpool as he wipes his face dry and jams his mask back on. “You done attacking me?”

“Not remotely,” Deadpool says. “But for today, probably.”

Peter heaves an exasperated sigh, which seems to relax Deadpool judging by how his body posture immediately opens up. It’s most certainly not Peter’s intended effect and he’s feeling pretty irritable about it. “Are we going in here?”

“If you can tell me why.” Deadpool hops on top of the air conditioner and kicks his heels into the grill. 

“To find the location of the Tinkerer.”

“Yeah. Why are we looking here?” Deadpool looks perfectly content to waste both of their time, and Peter is far from interested in letting that happen. He searches his memory for Bestman Salvage and comes up empty. It doesn't mean, however, that he can't hazard a guess.

"He's been here before."

"You could say that," Deadpool says with the verbal equivalent of a facepalm. He addresses thin air. "Kids these days. Can't handle the basics on their own." He sighs dramatically before looking back at Peter. "You don't need a supercomputer to find Tinky's connection to the place, but go ahead."

"E.D.I.T.H.," Peter says. "Tell me about Bestman Salvage."

“Bestman Salvage is a closed business operated by Adrian Toomes until his incarceration in--”

“Thanks E.D.I.T.H.,” Peter says. He’s not liable to ever forget the Vulture’s name, and now he has his answer. “We’re going in here because the Tinkerer worked here.”

“Good.” Deadpool jumps back down to the ground. “You should have been able to figure that out on your own.”

“This is his old life,” Peter says mulishly. "I'm looking for the criminal stuff." He knows Deadpool is right; he could have done some digging after E.D.I.T.H. said that Phineas Mason was untraceable. 

“There’s always a connection to the old life. A loved person to protect, a grudge to fill, an acquaintance who pieced things together…”

Peter shifts uncomfortably at the cold tenor of Deadpool’s voice. He wishes more than anything that he could erase Deadpool’s knowledge of his identity. The idea of Deadpool ever pursuing his family and friends to get to Peter is abhorrent. And Deadpool’s right; no matter how much Peter distances himself from his relationships, he knows that he will always be connected. It just means that Peter has to stay close.

“Enough of that,” Deadpool says as he shoulders past Peter. “Let’s go.”

“Right,” Peter agrees.

Deadpool kicks down the door with brute strength and Peter drops to a low crawl as he follows the merc down the stairs.

“Whenever entering a suspected villain’s lair, you want to watch out for booby traps,” Deadpool says.

“Obviously,” Peter says. He’s not stupid. 

Deadpool takes Peter’s sass in stride. “Our guy did the inventions when Bestman Salvage turned to an alien tech start-up. Who else was involved?”

“The Vulture,” Peter answers quickly. “And the Shocker. Both caught and in jail. There was another guy, but he was killed during experimentation. They found his ashes and everything.”

“That’s everybody?”

“Yeah?”

“You asking or telling?”

“I feel like you’re about to say there’s another guy--or gal!--involved.” Peter looks up at Deadpool. When he’s in his crouch, he can pretend that Deadpool isn’t over a foot taller than him. He can imagine the height difference is just from Peter being close to the ground.

“You better make sure,” Deadpool says. He kicks back a rolling chair and drops heavily into the seat, which squeaks in protest.

“You’re not helping me?”

“I’m teaching.” Deadpool kicks his feet up on the desk. “What do you see?”

Bestman Salvage is cavernous and split into fenced-off sections. Peter knows that Mr. Stark raided the facility after Toomes was arrested, so he knows for sure that there’s no alien tech left. There’s a good amount of assorted scrap metal and a space clearly used for testing if the scorch marks and disintegrating walls are anything to go by. Peter cautiously approaches the desk.

“I’m looking for writing,” Peter says. “Move?”

Deadpool rolls across the floor with one wheel squeaking in distress. Peter has to jimmy the desk drawer to get it open. It’s completely empty.

“What the heck?” Peter checks all the side drawers. The desk has been completely cleaned out. Peter reaches to the very back of each drawer and wiggles in fingers into every niche he can spot. “What's the point of having a desk and putting nothing in it?”

“Why is there nothing in it?” Deadpool retorts. He’s spinning in the chair, slowly drifting closer to one of the fencing separators. 

“The Tinkerer emptied them?”

“Probably,” Deadpool agrees. He hits the fence with a rattle that echoes around the warehouse. “Now what?”

“That’s my question.” Peter wanders stealthily through the sections. Deadpool trails behind on that dratted squeaky desk chair. “It would take days to sort through all of this.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Something that belongs to the Tinkerer, I don’t know!”

“You’re looking for a connection,” Deadpool says. “Where do you see a connection?”

“I know that the Vulture had some deals set up,” Peter starts, but Deadpool interrupts him immediately.

“No. One-and-done business transactions won’t give you what you need. They wouldn’t know where he is.”

“Do you even know what we’re looking for?” Peter rounds on Deadpool.

“And where to find it,” Deadpool beams back with infuriating satisfaction.

Peter wants to shout with frustration, but he also doesn’t want Deadpool to know that he’s getting to him. He takes a deep breath and tunes out Deadpool. He’s supposed to find something here, not to locate the Tinkerer, but to locate one of his connections. The Tinkerer is an inventor, and his company harvested scrap material, so he was basically self-sufficient.

“We could go talk to Toomes,” Peter says. “He’s an old connection.”

“I could,” Deadpool says. “You’re hiding that identity. You don’t want to go to jail, especially when your name isn’t yet cleared.”

“E.D.I.T.H., tell me about Phineas Mason’s family.”

“Phineas Mason was the only child of Silas and Phoebe Mason. Both parents are deceased and buried in St. Regis.”

“Good thought,” Deadpool says in a sing-song voice. 

Peter grumbles and storms on to examine the toolbox. There are rows of specialty hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches, carefully organized packs of screws, nails, and pins, and a multitude of tools that Peter doesn’t recognize. He reckons the Tinkerer has created some of his own tools. Now they’re just left to gather figurative dust in an abandoned warehouse. 

At the thought, Peter freezes. It's been years since this warehouse was closed. “Deadpool.”

Deadpool hums back at him.

“These tools are still being used. The Tinkerer comes back here.”

“Atta boy!” Deadpool shouts.

“Shhh!” Peter rotates to see the entire building. Is it possible that the Tinkerer is here right now? The Peter tingle isn’t indicating that he’s in danger, but it’s also not up to snuff if he gets no warning about Deadpool attacking him. Peter takes to the ceiling and slides into the shadows. He’s careful to refrain from using his still-throbbing right arm. Deadpool pockets three containers of screws and makes his way back to the spiraling stairs.

“Ready?” Deadpool asks.

“No. I’ve got to do surveillance now.”

Deadpool rolls his eyes. Peter has no clue how the eye roll is conveyed through his mask, but he honestly has so many questions about Deadpool that his ability to make expressions through a mask is on the back burner interest level. 

“We have what we need.” Deadpool starts up the stairs with long strides, easily covering two steps at a time.

“If you brought me here so you could steal screws--”

“I don’t need you in order to steal screws. I can do that perfectly fine on my own, thank you very much.”

“You know what I mean!” 

Deadpool crooks a finger at Peter, and Peter reluctantly swings over on his left arm. “See?” Deadpool says, offering the screws up for inspection.

Peter stares at Deadpool, the screws, and back to Deadpool. “I see ‘em.”

“What are you seeing?”

“You screwing around,” Peter says. Deadpool cackles and pops open the top container. Peter peers down at the screws. “They’re not the same color.”

It’s a mild difference, but there are definite variations in the screws’ coloring. Closer examination reveals that the heads are ranging from flat to rounded. They’re all 4 inch Phillips head screws, but there’s no questioning that it’s not original packaging. Peter looks back to Deadpool to see the merc nodding encouragingly.

“We’ve got some options here,” Peter says slowly. He’s thinking aloud for Deadpool’s benefit. “He could have just stored his same screw types together, but these are really well mixed and why would he keep buying screws if he already had so many? Unless he didn’t buy them. He could have scavenged them from the salvaged materials.” Peter releases his web and starts pacing along the stair railing. Deadpool follows behind by several feet. “That would be so much work. Much more cost-time effective to just go buy them.” Deadpool is practically vibrating with delight, so Peter continues that thought. “He could have bought them like this. Maybe some sort of resale shop?”

Deadpool claps. Despite being muffled by his gloves, it’s still plenty loud. Peter throws him a smile before focusing on his mask screen.

“E.D.I.T.H.?” Peter says. “Where can a guy buy used screws?”

E.D.I.T.H. flashes two addresses up alongside the map, and Peter whoops with joy. He dives off the stairs, earning an alarmed shout from Deadpool, and swings one-handedly around the warehouse.

“Ready?” Deadpool calls. 

Peter turns automatically and mindlessly goes to websling with his right hand. There’s a fraction of a moment wherein his body is weightless and his right arm is mildly protesting being overhead, and then his weight drops and he bellows.

Peter twists to grab the web with his left hand and dangles, letting out little crying gasps, until he has regained his breath and senses. Deadpool is waiting silently on the stairs, not looking at Peter but also not avoiding him.

“I’m ready,” Peter says weakly.

“Okay,” Deadpool says agreeably, and he climbs without hesitation back to the roof. Peter steels himself and follows.

Chapter Text

HF 22 

“That’s not okay,” MJ says curtly. Peter supposes it was a little naive to think that MJ would fawn over his injury. 

“I know that,” he says. He yanks his sleeve back down, feeling a bit disgruntled.

“You were shot,” Ned repeats emphatically. He’s been moon-eyed ever since Peter first mentioned it.

“Yeah, I know, I was there.” Peter shoots the both of them fierce looks as May approaches the car. “Don’t say a word.”

Ned nods, still looking glazed, but MJ scowls and turns to look out the window. Peter hopes for the best as May slides back into the front seat and waves back to Ned.

“Glad you could join us today,” she says. Ned squeaks back inarticulately. “Is Peter getting you all caught up with his Hardy Boys activities?”

“His what?” Ned squawks, his stupor over Peter’s injury completely forgotten.

“Hardy Boys,” MJ says without looking away from the window. When Peter grows up, he’s going to be someone who can affect a bored tone just as effortlessly as MJ. “Nancy Drew shtick, Nancy Drew era.”

“Yes, yes I was,” Peter says. “What did Mrs. Leeds want to talk about?”

“The safety of this outing.” May’s mouth thins. “She’s concerned about the dangers of being seen in public with you.”

Ned groans. “My mom is so embarrassing. It’s not like we’ve been best buds for years--” As he trails off, Ned and Peter simultaneously reach out for their handshake. Ned looks cheered up, so Peter opts for a topic change.

“Anyways, as I was saying,” Peter says significantly, “I was all alone at this massive warehouse where the Tinkerer and the Vulture used to run their legal business--”

“Right!” Ned agrees, a little too energetically. He leans forwards so he can waggle his eyebrows at MJ on the other side of Peter. “Completely alone. Got it!” 

“And I found this collection of odd screws,” Peter continues before May can get too suspicious of Ned’s exuberance. “And E.D.I.T.H. gave me the name of two shops that sell repackaged screws, one of which, it turns out, used to do regular dealings with Vulture’s company.”

“Nice,” Ned says. “And, uh, why were you going there?”

“To track down the Tinkerer, Phineas Mason.”

“The guy who put you in the suffocation box?”

“Yes!” MJ tears her eyes momentarily away from the window. “My god, just let him finish already.”

Peter touches her knee and she presses her bouncing right leg against his. She’s definitely teed off about the entire Deadpool-shooting-thing and doubly so that he’s trying to keep it secret from May. It’s just that Peter knows May is still anti-Deadpool on account of the time Deadpool shot at Peter outside The Daily Bugle, and if she got whiff that Peter is hanging, unsupervised, with Deadpool while on patrol, she would be on his back. Peter doesn’t even want to imagine how horribly May would react to Deadpool actually shooting Peter.

“Turns out the Tinkerer gets his products delivered now. By drone.” Ned’s eyes light up as if Peter just mentioned that they were on their way to the premiere of a lost original Star Wars episode. 

“Did you guys find the drone?” Ned asks. “Are you keeping it?”

“It’s not a stray pet,” Peter protests. “But we did manage to hack into it.” May looks back at him in her rearview mirror and Peter promptly realizes his mistake. “So after I hacked into it--” It had been 100% Deadpool doing the hacking-- “I can see where the drone goes.”  He sees Ned about to ask and answers pre-emptively. “It doesn’t have any internet connection or tracking history, so I couldn’t pick up an address yet. But the fact that we found it at all means that he's waiting for a delivery.”

“So you still don’t know where Mason is?” MJ drawls. Peter doesn’t love her tone.

“Well, this morning, I stopped by the shop,” Peter continues. “Last night, I had gone through the receipt books and found years’ worth of sales to P. Mason. So today, I asked for the Tinkerer’s unfilled order and double checked everything with Mr. O’Shaughnessy. I let slip that I had been asked to do a delivery and I was plenty worried because I didn’t want to get the order wrong on account of it being my first delivery.”

“You’re not sneaky though,” MJ says. Peter is really not appreciating her lack of support right now. This morning, he honestly did so good. He had let his nerves channel into his character and he's sure he pulled it off most convincingly.

“Shhh!” Ned says. “What’d he tell you?”

Peter beams. “He said to toughen up because I wouldn’t exactly blend in on Batchelder.” He’d also said that Mason’s a good guy, but he’s gotten weirder over the years, but that part’s not interesting for the story. 

Ned’s thumbs are already flying over his phone. “That’s in Brooklyn. Sheepshead Bay.”

“So after we finish this,” Peter gestures to the vehicle as a whole, “I’m visiting Brooklyn.” He’s going to make one stop on the way because he needs to wave his progress from this morning in Deadpool’s face. 

“Suited up,” May calls from the front seat.

“Of course,” Peter agrees.

MJ makes a disgruntled noise, and Peter focuses his full attention on her.

“What?” he demands with a little too much snap in his voice. Ned startles and scrambles to get headphones in his ears and his face pressed to the opposite window.

“You sure you’re fighting fit?” she asks. “I just think you should be fresh if you’re going after a guy who tried to kill you last time.”

“Yes,” Peter says in a low voice. His eyes dart towards May, who is doing absolutely nothing to hide that she’s listening in with interest. “I am well rested and completely ready to go.”

“Especially,” MJ says significantly, “if you’re going solo .”

Peter pulls at his hair. May is too close for him to be having this conversation. “Thanks for your concern,” he says diplomatically. He leans in to press a kiss to MJ’s cheek and adds in a barely audible whisper, “We’ll talk later, okay? Not in front of May.”

MJ turns away and stares back out the window. Her leg is still pressed firmly against Peter’s, and he feels like he’s getting all sorts of mixed messages. Girls are so complicated.

“Alright,” May says in the burgeoning awkward silence. “We’re getting school supplies first, of course, so the groceries don’t have to sit in the car.” She swerves into a parking spot, waving friendily to an irate driver she cuts off in the process. “We’re not going to be here all day. Half an hour tops, okay?”

“Yes, May,” Ned and Peter chorus.

“Sure thing,” MJ says emotionlessly.

When they get into the shop, May immediately abandons them to painstakingly try out each of the office chairs in turn. Ned pulls up the school supplies list on his phone while Peter distributes shopping baskets.

“We need two three-subject notebooks,” Ned announces at the top of the notebook aisle. MJ tosses six composition notebooks into her basket while Peter and Ned ogle the options for three-subject notebooks. Peter had never really noticed before, but yeah, MJ did always use composition notebooks regardless of what classes required. He can more easily imagine her firing a bow and arrow at Thanos than using a spiral notebook. 

“You doofuses keep losing your brains over notebooks,” MJ says. “I’m going to finish my shopping.”

Peter waits for her to clear the aisle before he turns to Ned and throws his hands in the air. His right arm stretches uncomfortably. “What’s her deal?”

“I dunno, man,” Ned says. He’s wildly flapping the front cover of a FiveStar hardcover in a standard durability test. “Sometimes girls are like that.”

“She tried to start in with me in front of May!”

“Yeah,” Ned says, clearly displeased with the spinal reliability of the FiveStar hardcover. He reaches curiously for the Meads like it’s not what he gets every year. “Like, do you see me getting all up into your business? No. She should take notes.” He waves the Meads notebook to emphasize his point.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Peter huffs. He picks up a composition notebook with a little nerd doodle on top. There’s the equation f(g) = m x g with the letters all personified. The m is saying, “What’s up gravity?” and the g is saying, “Not much.” Peter stares at the doodle. It’s his type of humor, but he doesn’t need a composition notebook. He puts it in his basket anyways. 

“Then what are you saying?” Ned asks. He’s more focused on Peter now that he has re-realized his love of Mead notebooks and is stocking up.

“She’s so disproving.”

“Of you hanging around a crazy murderer?”

“Yeah.” Of course it sounds stupid when Ned phrases it like that.

“Of you not responding to him shooting you?”

“Hey--”

“Of you keeping it on the DL from May?”

“Yes, okay!?” Peter blindly grabs two Mead notebooks. “May underestimates me because she wants to protect me. I’m still just her kid nephew.”

“Uh, yeah, you are, legally speaking.” Ned sighs and turns to fully face Peter. “I think you want to have this argument with MJ, not me.”

“I’m not arguing with you!”

“Good. ‘Cause I just want to hang out with my best friend in the whole world. Also, you just picked up wide-ruled notebooks.”

“Oh, no, definitely not.” Peter tosses the notebooks back into the box from whence they came and makes sure to grab the college-ruled version. “Thanks, Ned.”

“Of course. Now show me where you get your pens.”

They’ve hardly made it to the teacher supply corner with the really nice pens and agendas when Peter’s skin pimples and he can feel his body hair rising.

“Something’s happening,” Peter says in an undertone.

“This is where the magic’s at,” Ned whispers back reverently.

Peter shakes his head. “That’s not what I--” 

There’s a loud thud and screech of metal bending and harsh tinkling of breaking glass, and Peter sprints for the front door among a tide of other customers. He can feel his heartbeat hammering in his throat.

Spider-Man is helping a business woman to her feet and handing her an illuminated cell phone. Behind her, a car is jutting several feet into a diner. A second, very crunched car is pushed up on the sidewalk.

“Ma’am, are you alright?” Spider-Man asks.

“I, uh, yeah,” the woman stammers, clearly shaken. She automatically cradles the phone back against her ear.

“I’ve got to go,” Spider-Man says apologetically, “but you should definitely get checked out.” Spider-Man looks up, apparently surprised by the sea of phone cameras, and webs up and away down the street as the crowd erupts in shouts and cheers.

“So cool,” Ned breathes.

“I guess that’s it for today’s appearance,” Peter says. 

“Cool,” Ned repeats decisively. 

“Badass,” MJ says. Peter jumps. He hadn’t realized she was behind them. She bumps her hand against Peter’s, but when he grasps for her fingers, her hand has already moved. “Of course, it would have been more badass if Spider-Man could have stopped the accident…” She locks eyes with Peter for a fleeting moment before turning back to the store. Does that mean that she thinks Peter could have done better? Of course Peter could have done better: he's actually Spider-Man! “Are you losers done shopping yet?”

“Are you done shopping?” Ned retorts. He clearly thinks that the question is ridiculous and is planning on pinning it back on MJ.

MJ waggles her plastic bag. “Yeah. Cause I’m utilitarian and not elitist about the contouring of my notebooks or whatever you nerds are into.”

“That’s not a thing!”

Peter follows his friends back into the store with one last look at the wreck. He can’t tell if the driver of either car is okay, but there are already sirens headed in their direction. Help is on the way, and right now, that doesn’t include Peter.

“Sorry,” MJ shrugs. “I just don't care.”

“You don’t get it,” Ned says. He turns to Peter, “She doesn’t get it.”

“Yeah, okay, but let’s finish up though.” They return to their baskets, which Peter doesn’t remember having dropped, and MJ smirks at their meager selection of chosen supplies. Ned clutches his basket away from MJ.

“Don’t you two need to talk?” Ned says.

Peter looks at MJ to suss her reaction. Her arms are stiff and straight by her sides and she has a white-knuckled grip on the sleeves of her cargo jacket. “Peter’s right,” she says with a blaise tone. “We should save that conversation for later.” Her gaze flickers to Peter, the floor, and up to a bright neon display of Post-Its. Her next words were so quiet that Peter can hardly hear. “After you finish your Spider-Man shift.”

“I’ll swing over tonight,” he promises, and MJ gives him a small and incredibly sincere smile.

“I’d really appreciate that, Peter.”

The rest of shopping is delightfully uneventful. No one accuses Peter of being Spider-Man, they don’t stumble upon any crimes in progress, and May joins in with the banter with her wicked sharp humor. It feels like the type of normal that Peter knows better than to take for granted.

Chapter Text

HF23

There’s a wide trail of wet blood shining on the stairs leading to Deadpool’s apartment. Peter sprints up the stairs and, still following the swath of stained carpet, slams into the door with zero stealth.

How long did Deadpool wait after they scouted yesterday before he went off and found a new victim? Or did he find Smerdyakov? He promised not to kill Smeryakov, but with this much blood loss, could the victim even be alive? Geez, it’s not even five o’clock; Deadpool probably did this in broad daylight.

“Deadpool!” Peter barks. The door splinters free from its frame and Peter automatically catches it with sticky fingers before it hits the ground. The heavy, metallic smell of blood rolls over Peter so strongly that he can taste it.

“Fix my door!” Deadpool bellows back from the other side of the kitchen counter. Peter sets the door back on its hinges before jumping onto the kitchen counter. He promptly leaps back off, gagging, and turns to put his back to Deadpool.

“What happened?” Peter coughs. He’s trying to stop dry heaving, but he can taste the stomach acid burning in his throat.

“Lost my arm,” Deadpool says. Peter rests his back against the counter and tucks his head between his knees.

“Yeah. That's obvious. How?”

“It’s Deadpool Day.” The nonchalance in Deadpool’s voice is infuriating.

“That means absolutely nothing to me.” Peter closes his eyes to try and calm down his stomach, but his mind only gives him a vivid flash of what he has just seen: Deadpool sprawled across cheap laminate, sewing the flesh of his severed arm to his gory torso. 

“It’s a biweekly holiday,” Deadpool explains. He grunts and hisses, then falls silent.

“Is this a real thing?” Peter asks weakly.

“Yeah,” Deadpool assures him. “Just for New Yorkers, as far as I know. The goal is to inconvenience Deadpool as much as possible.”

“Inconvenience you? Doesn’t sound like much of a holiday. Who’s behind this?”

“The arm bit or the holiday?”

“Both!”

“The arm bit was me,” Deadpool says. “It was stuck where I didn’t want to be stuck.”

“You cut off your own arm.”

“Did I not just say that? I feel like I just said that.”

“You did say it, but I’m trying to process how ridiculous you are!” Peter leaps to his feet and moves to the living room to pace. It is mercifully free of blood. “Where were you stuck?” He raises his voice so Deadpool can still hear him from the kitchen.

“The door of a bus. You know those double-decker sight-seeing ones?”

“And you just lopped your arm off.”

“You concussed, Spidey? The ol’ processor sounds like it’s running slower than usual.”

“You’re running slower than usual,” Peter retorts with increasing heat, “on account of missing an arm!”

“You don’t have to rub it in.”

Peter shouts with frustration. He’s all for body autonomy, but it’s just not right and okay for Deadpool to dismember himself at the slightest inconvenience. And then to joke about it like that. “Do you feel pain?”

“Mind over matter, baby!” 

“So that’s a yes?”

“I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you didn’t hop on by today to play nurse for me, Petey.” Peter is so disgruntled that Deadpool is again evading the question that he nearly doesn’t notice Deadpool using his name. He knows that Deadpool knows his name, and he remembers Deadpool calling him variations of Peter when they first met. He definitely prefers Deadpool calling him Spidey. It seems more professional. And when they’re out and about, it’s also essential for protecting his identity. 

“Yoohoo, anyone home?” Deadpool asks. He sounds closer. When Peter sneaks a glance back, he’s clambering to his feet and leaning heavily on the kitchen counter.

Peter refocuses on Deadpool’s voice. “Sorry, I stopped listening,” he says honestly.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. What do you need? Why are you here? Didya miss me?”

“I got a lead on the Tinkerer.”

Deadpool whoops. “That-a-boy, Spidey!” He comes into the living room with heavy, plodding steps and wanders into his bedroom. “What’s your lead?”

“Batchelder,” Peter calls. 

Deadpool emerges from his room with a trenchcoat flapping like a cape. Peter's grateful that it covers the sewed-on arm. Deadpool drops into the armchair with a grunt. “Good work. Have you scoped the area?”

“Not yet.”

Deadpool beams brilliantly and his posture lifts up from its slouch. Peter distractly notices that he’s got particularly good teeth and briefly considers the possibility of them being dentures. “You want me to come with you!” Deadpool is channeling all the rambunctious energy of an enthusiastic puppy. 

“Well,” Peter dithers. “You should be resting--”

“Of course I’ll be there!” 

“If you’re having a bad day--”

“Deadpool and Spider-Man, cleansing the streets of crime!” Deadpool says in a deep, booming voice while waving a dramatic hand as though he’s framing a title on a big screen.

“Your arm--”

“When do you want to go?” 

“Can I talk?” Peter demands.

“Yeah, of course, Spidey. It’s a free country.”

“Thank you,” Peter says primly. “I’m about to go, but you’re staying to recover from your arm.”

“Oh this old thang?” Deadpool swings his until-recently-dismembered arm and it flaps about in the complete wrong way. Peter’s stomach lurches. “It’s fine. Skin’s already regrown completely. Just some muscle and bone to go. It’ll be back by the time we get there.” He stares at Peter as Peter deliberates. “Look, you’re gonna want back up. Your right arm isn’t at full capacity.”

“You’re right,” Peter says dryly. He glares at Deadpool. “I wonder why.”

Deadpool shrugs and smiles winningly up at Peter. 

“It’s just,” Peter says ponderously, “if you give me a hand, then you’ll have none left.”

Deadpool cackles and Peter can’t not grin. Yeah, Deadpool is odd and dangerous, but he’s also so darn earnest and he laughs at Peter’s jokes. Obviously doesn’t make up for being an abusive nuisance of a person, but against Peter’s better instincts, he kinda likes Deadpool. In very small doses, that is.

“Batchelder’s a ways out,” Peter says. “I was planning on swinging there, but if you can’t swing--”

“I can swing,” Deadpool protests indignantly.

“You cannot,” Peter corrects severely. “You’ve got one arm, you complete nincompoop!”

“Oh, but you can swing?”

“Yeah! Because I’m not throwing grappling hooks, I’m shooting webs. Totally different.”

“Sure it is,” Deadpool snorts. “I’ll call a taxi.”

“No!” Peter is aghast at the thought. “It’s like an hour away. Do you know how expensive taxis are?”

“Money’s not an issue, Spidey.”

“Sure it isn’t,” Peter says with a skeptical glance around Deadpool’s apartment. “I’m just saying we can take public transportation.”

“During rush hour?” Deadpool shakes his head. “I don’t think so. You’d get unmasked for sure if we were crammed close quarters, especially with all the current speculation--”

“This is Iron Spider.” Peter raps his knuckles on his chest. It pings in a satisfying way. “No way I’m getting unmasked.”

“Well something’s going to go wrong,” Deadpool says sourly.

“Ah, right,” Peter says. “Deadpool Day.” 

“Exactly.”

“If you’ve got bad luck today, maybe you shouldn’t come after all.”

“It’s not bad luck. It’s being around people.”

“I’m a person.”

“You don’t count. You’re not out to get me.”

Peter refrains from commenting on Deadpool’s paranoia. He’s not sure how Deadpool would respond. “You’re willing to drop sixty, seventy dollars on a cab?”

“No, I’ll just call Dopinder.”

“You’re going to have your friend drive us halfway across New York City during rush hour for free?”

“Yeah. It’s already done.” Deadpool reaches his functioning arm across his body, rummages through his pocket, and jubilantly pulls out his phone.

“Already done?” Peter repeats as Deadpool types animatedly.

“Uh-huh, yep, exactly that.” Deadpool finishes his text and shuts his phone with a snap. “Let’s get something to eat. Healing is famishing.”

Peter’s skin feels clammy at the thought of eating with Deadpool again. He remembers in technicolor, vivid detail the way his body looked last time they ate an unreasonable amount of tacos: bloated, disproportionate, and disgusting.

“You can’t,” Peter blurts. “Remember, Deadpool Day? Your food would be awful, right?”

Deadpool sags in disappointment before sloping back to the kitchen. “But I can’t cook you anything right now; everything’s all contaminated.”

“It’s fine. I already ate food for dinner beforehand,” Peter says. Gosh, why does he sound so robotic when he’s lying? “Maybe you could clean your kitchen until your friend gets here.” There’s a rare moment of silence in which, despite the fact that Deadpool has his back to Peter, Peter knows the exact scrunched-up, disbelieving face Deadpool is making. 

“I don’t bring messes home,” Deadpool says. “I guess it’s time to move.”

“No, you clean it up,” Peter protests. He trails Deadpool back to the kitchen and pauses when his stomach flips at the giant pool of blood seeping around the counter. “You can’t clean up the streets if you can’t even handle your kitchen.”

“No,” Deadpool says patiently. “I am handling it. That’s what the security deposit is for.”

“You don’t leave a crime scene's worth of blood and expect your security deposit to cover it!”

“Speak for yourself.”

“You’re being childish.”

“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?” 

Peter grabs a tea towel covered in unicorns and searches the cabinets for a bowl.

“Hey,” Deadpool says mildly. “Cut it out.”

“You can be better than this,” Peter says. He finds two bowls: a fine china with what appears to be hand-painted penises and a shallow plastic one with a Beauty and the Beast bottom. Penis bowl it is. 

“Look, you’re getting your suit all yucky,” Deadpool scolds. Peter squats down and begins wiping and wringing blood into the bowl.

“I’ll rinse off when we’re done.”

Deadpool throws his hands into the air and storms off to the bathroom. Peter is half-expecting him to barricade himself in and refuse to come out, so he’s pleasantly surprised when Deadpool emerges with a bath towel and begins to clean.

“I don’t like you injuring yourself,” Peter tells Deadpool. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Deadpool says. He rolls his eyes like they’ve had this conversation dozens of times already.

“If you’re having a bad day, if it feels like everyone’s out to get you, you could just call me,” Peter says. “Helping people in distress is kinda my thing.”

“Oh, Spidey,” Deadpool cooes. “What a big, strong superhero you are!”

“I dunno about that,” Peter mumbles. The blood is congealing and gelatinous, and despite the protection offered by the mask, the smell of blood is still hitting him hard. He’s not exactly feeling heroic at the moment.

“I do,” Deadpool says with nearly violent intensity. “You are, Spidey.”

“Thanks,” Peter says. He catches Deadpool’s twitch in his peripheral and whips the tea towel just in time to whisk a throwing knife out of the way. The knife hits the floor with a clang. Deadpool keeps innocently mopping up the floor. “Less of that, though.”

“It was getting too emotional,” Deadpool explains unapologetically.

“Oh, no,” Peter says dryly.

“You promised not to trust me.”

“Yeah. But you can do that without trying to maim me.”

“Oh, is da itsy bitsy spider afwaid of shawp things?” 

Peter ignores him in favor of emptying the bowl into the sink and washing out the tea towel. Deadpool is sometimes the absolute worst in the worst possible way. Deadpool doesn’t take well to being ignored if the shuriken that pings off of Peter’s back is anything to be going on. The Iron Spider suit definitely has its advantages.

By the time Dopinder texts Deadpool that he’s ready outside, the floor is in fairly good condition, although Peter suspects it might be slightly pinker than it was before. Peter drops the bowl and towels in the kitchen sink, wipes down his suit with wet paper towels, and follows Deadpool down the stairs, where Deadpool’s blood trail is still strong.

“Dodopinot!” Deadpool calls. He leaps through the open passenger window of a taxi cab. “I brought you a beautiful surprise.”

“Is it a partnership?” Dopinder asks with ready delight.

“No. It’s the one-and-only Spider-Man!”

“Oh,” Dopinder says with clear disappointment.

“Hi!” Peter tries to open the door, but it’s still locked. Dopinder unenthusiastically unlocks it. Peter climbs into the backseat. “Nice to meet you.”

“Spider-Man has powers,” Dopinder tells Deadpool, completely ignoring Peter’s proffered hand. “But I have anonymity!” 

“Spidey’s anonymous,” Deadpool says. 

“Yeah!” Peter agrees nervously.

“Sure he is,” Dopinder says with ringing sarcasm. 

“Dude,” Deadpool laughs. “My man, you totally thought he’s that high school kid, didn’t you?”

“He is!” Dopinder insists. “Did you know that Peter Parker and Spider-Man have never been seen in the same place at the same time?”

“You’re old news, buddy,” Deadpool says. “Just earlier today, Spidey saved a lady pedestrian from a car crash right outside of little ol’ PP. Webs and all.”

“Not really.”

“Really.”

“Oh. Well I guess that changes things then.” Dopinder looks momentarily saddened, but he brightens up instantly. “But does Spider-Man have a car?” There’s a triumphant, borderline-vicious edge to his voice that raises a few hairs on the back of Peter’s neck. 

“I’m not in this competition,” Peter says firmly. “Deadpool is all yours, Mr. Dopinder.”

“He’s playing hard to get,” Deadpool stage whispers. Peter gets lost in the ensuing conversation about a Catholic School, a weasel, and Dopinder’s love interest. Nonetheless, the conversation is certainly interesting to watch. Dopinder, despite his innocent tone and overall demeanor, keeps making alarming statements that never fail to provoke Deadpool into a dynamic reaction.

Peter props his elbow up on the door and keeps a rotating watch on his city and its reigning resident lunatic.

Chapter Text

HF 24 

“Which block?” Dopinder asks.

Deadpool twists in his seat and repeats Dopinder’s question to Peter as though Peter can't hear Dopinder from the backseat. 

“Keep going,” Peter says. “This is residential. Mr. O’Shaughnessy said I wouldn’t fit in.”

The next few blocks of Batchelder are also residential. The first nonresidential block has a gated school.

“Maybe here?” Dopinder says. Peter chokes back a laugh. Honestly, he'd prefer it if Dopinder thought he would look out of place at a high school. Deadpool makes no such effort to hide his amusement. Dopinder isn’t pleased with either response. “We are getting close to the end of the street: where do you want me to drop you off?”

Peter sobers instantly. He had been imagining more of a warehouse, similar to the one the Vulture had operated from. He doesn’t feel great about the prospect of surveilling everyday citizens in order to track down the Tinkerer.

“Is there another Batchelder, Mr. Dopinder?” Peter asks.

Dopinder scowls and mimics Peter but nonetheless pulls over and consults his GPS. Peter leans forward to look just as Deadpool twists back around to look at Peter. They bang heads hard, but while Peter is protected by his Iron Spider mask, Deadpool’s forehead dents. Dopinder shoots Peter a venomous look as Deadpool shouts, “Ouchie!”

“You okay?”

“You broke his skull, what do you think?” Dopinder scolds.

“Peachy. Peachy keen,” Deadpool says.

“I didn’t mean to--”

“Of course you didn’t,” Dopinder says darkly. He pulls back onto the road and begins driving the last block. “However, I would like it to be known that I would never, not even on accident--”

“Wait!” Peter hollers as Dopinder turns off of Batchelder. 

“--hurt you,” Dopinder assures Deadpool.

“Well, Spidey’s part of my package,” Deadpool says. “So if that’s true, it extends to him.” 

Dopinder pouts, and Peter privately speculates that Dopinder wouldn’t exactly pose a big danger.

“Can I just get out here?” Peter asks as Dopinder makes another turn away from Batchelder and beneath an underpass.

“Give it a minute,” Deadpool says with another twist to face Peter. His forehead has domed back up to normal. “The Cab Man always knows where to stop.” He says the words with the same flair that one would read the tagline of a comic book character.

Peter is grimly assuming that he can swing the difference if Dopinder takes him too far off course when Dopinder swings another left and another Batchelder street sign beckons from the next street corner.

“Dopinder, you genius!” Peter crows. 

Dopinder tries very hard to act like he doesn’t love the compliment, but he can’t hide the pleased smile pulling at the corner of his mouth or the delighted sparkle in his eyes.

Peter’s excitement fades very quickly. The second section of Batchelder is also overwhelmingly residential. “I don’t understand,” he complains. “Did Mr. O’Shaughnessy not know where the Tinkerer is based? I don’t think I’d be out of place anywhere on Batchelder.”

“Think, think, think,” Deadpool says. “Where could the Tinkerer--”

“Right here would be great, Mr. Dopinder!” Peter says. On the other side of the upcoming intersection, there are two enormous dumpsters sitting in the street.

“Yeah, buddy!” Deadpool crows. He offers Dopinder a double-high-five, which Dopinder accepts with no visible reluctance. “Roll on out!”

As soon as the taxi stops, Deadpool and Peter hop off. 

“A neighborhood with ongoing construction or renovation would be perfect,” Peter explains. “Thanks Dopinder! Machinery noises would be considered routine, getting rid of waste materials would be a breeze, and getting large deliveries or equipment would be no problem.”

“Yes, yes, and yes,” Deadpool agrees. 

“No killing,” Peter says abruptly. He waves goodbye as Dopinder drives away. Dopinder shows no sign of seeing him. “I’m serious, Pool, you’re not allowed to kill anyone we fi--”

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” Deadpool interrupts. 

“What?”

“I’m not just killing everything I set eyes on. I’m looking for a reason. Money, personal insult--”

“Convenience?” Peter offers coldly. “I’m saying that when we’re working together, don’t go finding a reason to kill.”

Deadpool sighs dramatically. “Case by case, Spidey. Let’s go!”

Peter glowers significantly at the unrepentant Deadpool before asking, “How’s your arm?” 

Deadpool awkwardly swings his arm up and gives Peter a struggling thumbs up. “Never better!”

Peter’s arm wound still hurts considerably. If he had Deadpool’s healing abilities, he would already be fully healed and with no sign of as much as a blemish. As it is, his arm is scabbed over and throbs off and on. He can’t bear to put much weight on it.

“We need to be sneaky,” he informs Deadpool. “If he’s gone as far as to elude camera notice, I bet he’s going to have precautions.”

“Booby traps!” Deadpool chirps delightedly.

“And an escape plan,” Peter says. “He can’t let him escape when he’s making bad guys more powerful.”

“One question.”

“What’s that?”

“Which house are you thinking?”

Peter examines the upcoming block. The houses have a lot of different designs, but one immediately catches his eye. It has high windows filled with house plants and sits diagonally to one of the dumpsters. 

“Papa’s proud,” Deadpool says in a teary voice. Peter’s gaze ricochets back to Deadpool’s dramatics. “Spidey-boy’s all grown up and making inferences all on his own.”

“Maybe chill with that,” Peter says. “Come on; I didn’t ride all the way over here to watch you goof off.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Deadpool sighs. Peter ignores him in favor of looking both ways before crossing the street. It’s a fairly calm area with minimal traffic despite all the road noise from the interstate at the end of the next block. The street is packed with curbside parkers. Peter takes a quick glance around before galloping up the side of the house on the corner and hiding behind a satellite dish.

“Hey!” Deadpool protests. He waves up at Peter from the street, and Peter promptly shushes him. Deadpool continues waving maniacally until Peter webs him and yanks him up to the roof. Deadpool lands with substantially less grace than Peter had. “Thanks!”

“Sure,” Peter says noncommittally. “Look, maybe you could be my backup on the roof.” 

“What are you trying to say?” Deadpool invades Peter’s space in a couple of steps. Peter very intentionally doesn't take a step back. He's not planning on backing down figuratively or literally on this point.

“I’m saying I’d like to have backup that can make sure Mason doesn’t escape. It does us no good if he promptly runs out the opposite door that I go in.”

“Silly Spidey, you’re not using a door.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know how this goes,” Deadpool says. “You’ve never seen a slasher film? It always goes wrong when the protagonists split up.”

“I’m not sure in what universe you’d be a protagonist.”

Deadpool turns and stares off into the distance. His healing arm bumps into Peter’s armored suit. “Definitely not all of them.” 

“This is my call. My mission,” Peter says firmly.

“I gave you Phineas Mason,” Deadpool retorts. “It’s definitely my mission.”

“Which you gave to me when you gave me Phineas Mason!”

“It was more of me lending you the mission,” Deadpool says obstinately. Peter groans and rubs the top of his helmet. It’s a poor substitute for pulling on his hair, but it does manage to relieve some tension. 

“Look, at least give me ten minutes.”

“Five.” 

“Eight.”

“Four.”

Peter wonders if Deadpool is capable of not being obnoxious. “Five it is.” As they run across the rooftops, he considers webbing Deadpool up on the roof. He doesn’t know if Deadpool has his nanoceramic knife on him, but he does know that if Deadpool can get out in under five minutes, he’ll be in the house in under five minutes. Better safe than sorry.

“Alright,” Peter says. “I want you keeping a close eye on the exits in case Mason comes running out. You’re not killing him though, okay?”

“I know, I know,” Deadpool drawls. 

“In five minutes, you’re sneaking in after me,” Peter says. “Can you be sneaky?”

“Can I be sneaky?” Deadpool repeats. “This guy.” He jabs his barely mobile thumb at Peter.

“Cause I need you being sneaky,” Peter reiterates. “Or don’t bother coming in.”

“I’m sneaky,” Deadpool promises. “I’ve got sneaks for days.”

“Good,” Peter says. He taps his chest so the Spider cam releases. It scans the closest window and radiates a disabling electromagnetic pulse. 

“Timer just started,” Deadpool informs Peter.

“Not fair!” Peter hisses as he leaps for the window. He lands with sticky fingers, pulls the window open with a wiggle, and slides into a hallway. “K.A.R.E.N., what do you see?”

“There is one individual in the house,” K.A.R.E.N. says, overlaying Peter’s regular field of vision with heat signatures. Peter can make out a man hunched over what looks to be a table on the first floor.

“Cameras? Traps?”

Peter’s tingle flairs and the red heat signature sits upright. “Of course,” the man downstairs calls.

Peter looks back out the window in alarm. Deadpool gives him a thumbs-up and wiggles four fingers at him from the neighboring roof. Peter pounces on the wall by the stairs and scurries down to the first floor. He nearly makes it when the steps alight with stun gun rays. His arms get clipped and he falls hard on his face at the foot of the stairs.

Peter only just barely manages to roll out of the path of another one of the rays to find himself facing the Tinkerer himself.

“Hey,” Peter says weakly. "Sorry to turn up uninvited. Do you have a restroom I could use?" He steps into a crouch.

“I suspected my time here would be limited,” Mason grumbles. “Oh, well.”

Peter goes to web Mason, but his entire body is jerked sideways and face-first into the back of the door. “K.A.R.E.N.? What’s happening?”

“You’re not the only one with EMPs,” Mason says. Now that he’s mentioned it, Peter’s suit does feel a bit clunkier and heavier, like he’s doing all the lifting. It’s hard to move inside of the suit with how skintight it is

“Your front door is a magnet,” Peter realizes. He can’t get any leverage on the door with his body plastered against it.

“Ding, ding, ding,” Mason says. He shakes a remote at Peter. Does this guy do anything not involving remotes? “Good suit construction. I anticipated your suit crushing you.”

“Yeah, the guy who made it really knew what he was doing,” Peter says. Also, Mr. Stark would never get stuck to a magnet. So embarrassing.

“You know, Spider-Man, I’m so glad you stopped by,” Mason says. He opens the coat closet and pulls on an immense bushy beard with matching eyebrows. “I never got to thank you for humiliating me at my place of work.”

“Hey, I was just trying to survive. Nothing personal.”

“Right,” Mason says in an alarmingly agreeable voice. “You’re absolutely right. Nothing personal.” He walks back into the back of the house, and now Peter’s tingle is so activated it feels as though his skin is attempting to crawl away from his body.

“Phineas!” Peter calls after him. “You don’t have to hurt people to make incredible inventions! Your brilliant mind could be used for good!”

“Goodbye, Spider-Man!” Mason is clearly unimpressed with Peter’s call for morality.  Peter hears the click of a door, and then deafening silence. He struggles harder in his suit. At this point, it’s looking more likely that he’ll break out of the suit than pull the suit free from the door. He has to be careful though; with a magnetic pull this strong, any fractures in the suit will curve towards the door and potentially through his body.

“Leaving already?” 

Peter doesn’t know whether to feel relieved or furious at the sound of Deadpool’s voice. “You just missed him! You’ve got to go catch him! This is what we didn’t want happening.”

“Nah,” Deadpool says. Peter can make him out in his peripheral. He’s whipping his katanas through the air fairly close to where Peter is situated. “You know what that taste is?”

“Whatever you just ate, probably.”

“Bug spray,” Deadpool says. He tears into the wall with his katanas. The plaster crumbles away and Deadpool grabs a handful of wires. “You’re welcome.”

“What?” 

Instead of answering, Deadpool slices through the wires. He grabs the frayed ends and shudders as the current channels through his body. Peter pushes free from the demagnetized door.

“Thanks,” he says belatedly. “I’m gonna go catch our guy.”

Deadpool slips to his knees. His mask is blank where Peter is used to seeing emotions so clearly displayed, but he doesn’t have time for that right now. He’ll have to check up on Deadpool later.

The front door turns out to not be an actual door. Peter hurtles through a window and tears down the street. He’s just laid eyes on Mason climbing into a car when the Peter tingle draws his attention back to the house just in time to watch it explode.

“No!” Peter screams. The car starts pulling away, and Peter stands a moment too long deliberating.

“I’m coming back,” Peter promises. He backs away from the dusty rubble and billowing smoke. “Just be okay. You can’t die, remember? Please!”

High on emotions he can’t begin to understand, Peter takes to the rooftops and sprints after Phineas Mason.

Chapter Text

HF 25 

Peter’s trying very hard to focus on the chase, but he can’t get Deadpool out of his mind. He had been holding the loose wires that had magnetized the door, and given how strong the magnet was, Peter is willing to bet that the current was very strong. And Peter knows that a strong electrocution can make the body’s muscles clench, meaning that Deadpool might not have been able to release the wires. He had just left him there.

Mason spins right and barrels the wrong way down a one way street. Peter swings across the intersection and dashes across the face of an apartment building to make the turn without losing speed. Mason’s car makes a left turn, this time legal, and fires a shot at Peter. This bullet’s not a technological phenomenon; it’s classic gun with metal bullet. Peter doesn’t bother dodging. It pings harmlessly off of his Iron Spider suit and ricochets into the side of a building. 

Deadpool had said he smelled bug spray before the explosion. Maybe he had been smelling DEET. Peter would not put it past the Tinkerer to rig his house to blow up, destroying any remaining evidence and any masked vigilante who might be stuck to the back of his magnetized door.

Crap! Peter jolts back to the chase as the Mason rolls onto a block with pedestrians. There’s too many innocent people that could become targets. There’s no time to waste.

Peter makes a wild leap for the back of the car, whips the front of the car with a strand of webbing, and lands hard while leaning backwards. The nose of the car comes off of the pavement and the car teeters precariously on the back wheels. Peter rocks his weight and lunges over the right taillight. The car wobbles perilously before flipping to its side.

“It’s okay!” Peter assures the mildly intrigued passerbys. “It’s all under--” The air catches in his throat, but he can’t cough. Can’t close his mouth. Can’t move at all.

“You’re more resilient than I first thought,” the Tinkerer leers. “But that’s about all you got, Spider-Man.”

Peter’s lungs are burning. His every instinct is to fight for air, but he remembers all too well what happens when he fights the stun gun. He can’t afford to pass out on the street with a villain and a potentially helpless regenerating Deadpool ten blocks back. Gosh, he hopes Deadpool’s regenerating. It’s one thing to see the man rise from a couch with bullet holes in his chest and an entire other thing to see an explosion consume the building he’s in. 

Not helping, not helping! Peter listens to the sound of Phineas Mason’s crawling out of the car and his footsteps fading away. He’s just lying in wait, gathering direction on which way Mason is fleeing. Yeah, that’s it. He’s still. He’s patient. 

Peter has managed to relax so much that he stumbles and falls to his knees when he’s first free from the stun gun. He sucks in air in relief as he pivots to face the Tinkerer.

Phineas Mason is being pinned to the ground by a broad-shouldered black man. Peter is relieved to see Mason’s hands held behind his back. The Tinkerer doubtlessly has more gadgets on his person.

“Spider-Man,” the man calls. “You need to come in too.”

“You a cop?” Peter asks. He sets the car upright and comes closer to Mason.

“Officer Davis,” the man confirms. “And there’s backup on the way.”

“I can’t come in,” Peter says. “This guy just blew up his house, and I’ve got to check for victims.”

“The ambulance is already on its way,” Officer Davis says. “They’re better equipped to handle the situation than you are. But I do need a statement from you. For this incident and a few others.”

“I can drop it off,” Peter promises. “But not right now.”

“Spider-Man--” 

“This is Phineas Mason. You’ll find that he’s connected to the Toomes operation from right before the Blip, and he’s been doing nefarious things since. “

Officer Davis pulls out cuffs from the back of his jeans and pulls Mason back to his feet. “You can’t hide behind that mask forever.”

“I’m fine with that,” Peter says. “But this mask isn’t for me.”

“Everyone’s got people to protect,” Officer Davis says.

“So you do get me!” Peter salutes the officer and relocates to the top of the closest building. “Ciao!”

He doesn’t actually leave yet: Peter’s trust-o-meter is running pretty low these days, and he can’t risk the possibility that Officer Davis is one of Mason’s associates, bribeable, or affected by Mason’s threats. His concern, it turns out, is unnecessary. It’s less than two minutes when police cars pull up and a snarling Phineas Mason is escorted into the backseat. 

Finally, finally, Peter can return back to the site of the explosion. Peter backtracks his route and feels bitter anticipation burning in his stomach. It wasn’t too long ago that Peter had been disturbed about Deadpool sewing his arm back on. Now Peter might be gathering and reassembling a lot more than a rendered limb.

There are two fire trucks effectively containing the fire. But Mason’s house is...it’s no more. Peter can’t even guess how hot a fire would have to burn in order to decimate the building to this extent in such a short period of time. The neighbors are huddled on the sidewalk, several wrapped in trauma blankets and answering questions from EMTs. 

Peter swings to land by the spot where the front door once stood. The heat immediately filters through the suit and he takes a few quick steps back onto the miniscule lawn.

“No one was in there, Spider-Man,” a firefighter calls. “We’ve got the situation under control.”

“There was somebody,” Peter insists.

The firefighter stares back somberly. “Then I’m sorry. They didn’t make it. We didn’t see any evidence of a body.”

Peter chokes. He steels himself and steps back up to the steaming remains of the house. Deadpool couldn’t have healed that fast. His arm took over an hour to fully reattach, and with that explosion, there’s no way that Deadpool wasn’t blown to bits. For crying out loud, the surrounding houses all have damage from the blast radius. But Deadpool can’t die. He said so himself. So he’s can’t be--

It’s just that Peter suspects that Deadpool very intentionally saved his life and he’s really tired of his allies dying while he’s mucking things up. 

Peter lifts up the remnants of the door and tosses it aside. The metal is still glowing hot. Realistically, Peter knows that he shouldn’t expect to see costume or even skin. He’s looking for bones and tendons and hopefully some tissue. Gagging in the heat and bile rising in his stomach, Peter digs through the ashes for any sign of Deadpool.

Anything at all.

Eventually the air cools and the emergency vehicles leave and Peter sits alone in ashes. He has nothing, and he doesn’t know what that means. 

Peter stumbles out of the wreckage of Mason’s house and stares at the starless night sky. He doesn’t know what to do. Yeah, Deadpool can’t be killed, but can he be obliterated? Does he respawn? Is each bit of Deadpool now a new Deadpool?

He starts back towards Queens by foot. His webbing is nearly depleted and his skin is blistered along his hands, arms, and feet from the heat of the incinerated house. He comes upon a stopped bus and drags himself to the top. Any triumph that he could be feeling at the Tinkerer’s capture is massively overpowered by the physical and emotional exhaustion he’s feeling. Peter’s consciousness numbly melds into the sounds of the city: car horns, shouts, blaring music, tires screeching…

He recognizes where he is a few blocks out from Deadpool’s place, which means he’s been out of it for at least an hour. Peter leaps from the top of the bus to the side of a giant store sign. His blisters have healed enough that walking is more uncomfortable than painful. His trajectory is automatic.

Of course Deadpool’s not in his apartment. Peter knew he wouldn’t be, but he doesn’t have any clue what else to do. He stands in the bare living room with the just the light left on in the kitchen to illuminate. 

“Hey, Deadpool,” Peter calls. He yanks his gauntlets off with brute force. His suit is all but useless now with all the electrical systems fried. Peter claws the mask off his face, and, in the process, he gouges himself in the cheek. It’s a small price to pay for finally getting some fresh air, if Deadpool’s apartment circulation can even be considered fresh air.

“POOL,” Peter barks, and he promptly kinda loses control. He’s storming through the apartment, looking in the cupboards and behind the shower curtain because no place is too small for Deadpool to be hiding after he got blown to smithereens. As he dashes around each room, he continues to tear his suit off with his bare hands. He cuts himself numerous times. 

But then he’s back in the empty living room of an empty apartment with fragments of his favorite gift from Tony Stark strewn haphazardly and Deadpool still isn’t back and Peter knows that the guy’s unkillable but he is very clearly not indestructible.

Embarrassed by his outburst, Peter gathers the pieces of the Iron Spider suit and uses the last of his webbing to wrap them up. He jots a note on the pad by the fridge-- the only thing he can find to write with is a crayon-- to tell Deadpool to call him as soon as possible. Peter makes sure to leave his phone number in case Deadpool’s phone was on him earlier today. He also steals a t-shirt and sweatpants from Deadpool’s dresser; he’s not about to walk around in his tank top and tighty-whities. 

Peter can’t stay here. He needs to get out. At the same time, he’s not ready to go back to the tower and face May and Happy’s inevitable questions. He considers visiting MJ and remembers, as if from years ago, the disdain she had shown towards Deadpool this afternoon. He can’t handle that right now. But he had promised he would swing by.

Decided but hesitant, Peter stows his suit scraps in the broken light of a Pizza Hut sign and hikes the eighteen blocks to MJ’s apartment complex in full civilian mode. He looks around furtively before scaling the side of the building. Using the front door never crosses his mind. Although he has seen MJ’s parents before, he hopes that during his first full impression he is wearing at least marginally nicer than Deadpool’s loungewear.

Peter knocks this time. He’s not interested in getting a nosebleed tonight. It would be rude to bleed on Deadpool’s shirt. He has just finished rapping a rhythm on the window when MJ strides across the room and cracks it open.

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” 

“Get your sorry tail in here,” MJ says. She yanks Peter through the window by a handful of shirt and plops him onto the bed.

“Uh,” Peter says incoherently. His mind is sounding sirens. He’s sitting on MJ’s bed! Does that mean something? Does he want it to mean something? He’s not ready!

“I thought you forgot,” MJ says, straddling her desk chair. Peter’s mind clears enough for him to be able to think. “What are you even wearing?”

“Some of Deadpool’s stuff,” Peter says. “My suit isn’t working right now.”

“Another traumatic night?” MJ asks. There’s a sarcastic edge, but she looks actually interested.

“Yeah,” Peter says. He flinches back when MJ leaps to her feet. “What?”

“Your hands,” MJ says. “Peter, your hands. Did you somehow fail to notice that your entire hand is a giant blister?”

Peter looks down at his palms and promptly regrets the decision to do so. Looking at his hands seems to remind his brain how much they hurt. His fingertips are raw and the worst of the blisters, but his right hand is missing a good portion of the palm. Peter’s not sure which cuts are from blisters popping and which are from his dramatic disrobement at Deadpool’s apartment. 

“I--” Peter starts. He doesn’t know what he’s going to say, so he stops right there, mouth agape.

“I’ll be right back,” MJ promises. She closes the door firmly behind her and Peter hears her running to the kitchen, opening the freezer, and pouring ice into a bowl. He hears her dad shout about her taking all the ice and MJ assuring him that she’s refilling the trays. A minute later, MJ pads back up the stairs and falls next to Peter on the bed.

“Thanks,” Peter says.

“Of course.” MJ gingerly picks up Peter’s hands and hovers them over the ice. “You’re holding a lot of heat.” Her eyes flicker to his face. “Was there a fire?”

“Yeah.” Peter swallows. MJ rests Peter’s hands against the ice. 

“Did everyone make it?”

Peter feels his mouth contorting. He doesn’t know how to answer that question. MJ releases his hands and runs her fingers up his arms until she’s holding his elbows, forcing Peter to completely face her. 

“Do you want to talk about this?” she asks. “We don’t have to--”

Peter gives her a watery smile. “We caught the Tinkerer.”

“That’s good.” MJ nods encouragingly at him.

“He rigged his house to explode.”

“Less good.” MJ is rubbing her thumbs along the crook of his elbows, and Peter finds the movement oddly grounding. 

“Emergency services got there, and no one was carted away under sheets.”

“Still is a lot though,” MJ hums. 

“Deadpool saved me,” Peter says. His eyes are burning. “He saved my life, MJ. And he was in the explosion. He--” Peter has to pause and remind himself to breathe. “I couldn’t find him.”

“You’re worried about him.”

“Of course I’m worried about him!” Anger wells up within Peter, and he much prefers feeling mad than that horrible defeated sadness. “I know that you don’t like him, but--”

“Of course I don’t like him,” MJ says. “You two have a toxic relationship and you’re way too lenient on him doing terrible things because of the good things he does do.  Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate him saving you.” She gives Peter a little shake. “I’m really glad that he saved you.”

“You’re not worried about him.”

“I mean, should I be? Didn’t he say he was indestructible? And if you can’t find him there, doesn’t that mean that he has to be somewhere that’s not there?” MJ drops his elbows and moves back over to her desk chair. She leans onto the back legs and walks it forward until she’s sitting with her bare feet nosing at Peter’s boots. “Again, it’s great that Deadpool saved your life tonight, but it doesn’t excuse him shooting at you. It doesn’t excuse him for setting you up to get captured by the Tinkerer that first time or torturing that other man. You need boundaries, Peter. I know it’s not the time to say this, but I don’t know when is.”

“You’re right about it being not now,” Peter grumbles. “I don’t even know how to set up boundaries with this guy. He’s crazy, but he’s doing a lot less damage with me than on his own.” He takes a shuddering breath. “I want him to be okay.”

“I know,” MJ says. She stares at Peter’s hands, which are slowly numbing in the bowl. “And he will, if what we know is true.” MJ looks up to Peter’s face. He flails backwards at how close she is an upends ice onto the bed.

“Oh, geez!” Peter scampers to get the ice back into the bowl before it melts. “Sorry, I just--”

“It’s fine,” MJ says. “Peter, there’s something I need to say and you need to hear.”

All of Peter’s vital organs take a nosedive. This is it. It’s been less than a month and MJ has realized that Peter is no good. He’s got too much baggage. He cries too much. He botches up being Spider-Man too regularly. “Yeah,” Peter croaks with attempted feigned casualness.

“You’ve got a support system,” MJ says. “A really good one. You aren’t alone. Stop isolating yourself, or just hanging with Deadpool. Let people in.”

Peter gapes at her. It takes a while to process that she’s not breaking up with him, and the euphoric relief makes it harder to realize what she’s saying. “May and Happy don’t need all the details. It would just make them worry.”

“Yeah, okay,” MJ says. She looks more confident now. “That’s a BS answer. And you know it is, Peter.”

“They woul-”

“I’ll make it easy for you,” MJ says firmly. She crosses her arms over the back of the chair and something in her tone fills Peter with trepidation. “You tell them or I do.”

Peter’s mouth drops into an O of horror. “You wouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Why would you?”

“Because I’m not enough, Peter!” MJ’s voice is loud and emotionless. Before Peter can protest, MJ barrels on at a lower volume. “And I’m so damn afraid that me saying so is going to make you cut me off as well. I want to know what’s happening, but it’s not fair to make me the only one. What the hell can I do? Get you ice and a kiss? Meanwhile when Deadpool comes back, which we both know he will, you’re going to be all wrapped up in this survivor’s guilt and be all the more into him. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to lose who you are. And May’s a big part of that.” She swallows hard. “If you were really interested in finding Deadpool, Happy and Pepper would have resources for that. But you don’t see that because you keep boxing yourself in so it’s just you and Deadpool.”

“MJ,” Peter says. He doesn’t know whether to argue or affirm. “I…” He trails off.

“That’s why I wanted you coming by today,” MJ says. She’s now staring at the ceiling. “I needed to say that.”

“I’m sorry,” Peter says. “I never wanted you to feel any of that.”

MJ’s eyes narrow as she looks back at Peter. “Don’t you dare hold out on me because I’m calling you out.”

Peter sets the ice on the floor and pulls MJ’s chair closer. Their knees are staggered, and with the height difference, Peter’s forehead is about level with MJ’s chin. “I thought you were supposed to be bad with people.”

MJ crinkles a smile. “What do you call all that?” 

Peter pecks a kiss on the back of each of MJ’s hands. “You being honest. You caring.” He looks up at MJ and sees her face glowing with soft affection. “I’m not ready to tell them about all the Deadpool things.”

“Okay,” MJ says simply. Peter is getting all ready to thank her for being so understanding when she smirks down at him. “I’ll tell them then.”

“MJ,” Peter groans. “It’s not your secret.”

“It’s not a secret,” MJ says. “Spider-Man identity, yes. That Spider-Man and Deadpool are pal-ing around, no.” 

“Give me some time,” Peter says. “I’ve got to sort things out mentally.”

“I’ll give you two days,” MJ says. “I reckon he’ll be back by then.”

Peter certainly hopes so.

Chapter Text

HF 26 

“PEEEEEEEETA!” Peter’s instincts send him flying toward the ceiling, but Peter’s bedsheets are firmly tucked. Peter ends up hanging halfway off the bed, bleary-eyed and hopelessly tangled in his bedding.

“Morning,” Doreen says. She scoops Morgan up and sets her on her hip. Peter blinks in abject confusion.

“Morning!” Morgan repeats. 

Peter rubs his eyes. “Good morning. What’s this about?”

“It’s breakfast time,” Morgan says as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Come on!” She wriggles in Doreen’s grasp. 

“You can’t stand up a kid,” Doreen shrugs, and she carries Morgan out of Peter’s bedroom.

Although they live in the same tower, the Stark penthouse is a few floors away from where Peter and May are staying. It’s not like Peter has been avoiding Morgan; it’s just that he tends to be up and out pretty late. He does feel a bit chagrined though because yeah, he could definitely make more of an effort to visit.

Doreen and Morgan have set up in the kitchen. When Peter emerges from the bathroom, they’re perched on the bar stools with cups of juice, neon purple scrambled eggs, and a teetering stack of chocolate chip pancakes.

“Wow, thanks,” Peter says as he plops onto the stool next to Morgan.

“We made it all,” Morgan informs him grandly.

“Morgan even operated the juicer.” Doreen claps Morgan on the back and Morgan wriggles with joy. 

“And I mixed the eggs!”

“They’re, uh, definitely purple, aren’t they?”

“Food dye,” Doreen mouths over Morgan’s head.

“You do not like purple eggs?” Morgan demands.

“Oh, yes, I love purple eggs!” Peter says. Morgan serves him a mountain of scrambled eggs and passes him the plate with the teetering pile of pancakes. “Thank you, Morgan. Thanks, Doreen. So, uh, what have you two been up to?”

“We’re going on a picnic,” Morgan informs him. She scoops a tiny piece of egg onto her fork and shovels it into her mouth. Peter thinks it would petty and unnecessary to clarify the past tense of his question.

“Today? Fun,” Peter says. He looks at Doreen. “Is that safe?”

“For Morgan to be in public, you mean?” Doreen says. “I don’t see why not.”

“Iron Man had a lot of enemies, and Morgan isn’t exactly a secret. If she were recognized--”

“Mrs. Potts and I are in total agreement that Morgan doesn’t need to be kept literally locked up in a tower,” Doreen says. 

“I’m not saying she does.”

“It’s not like I’m going out with nothing,” Doreen continues. “And it’s not like I’m defenseless myself.”

“I didn’t say that. I wasn’t even thinking that.”

“You can come too,” Morgan announces magnanimously. 

Peter is all prepared to politely decline, but today is the first day in forever that he doesn’t have something to do. His identity cover-up is going well, the Tinkerer is in jail, and Deadpool--hopefully--is in recovery and out of trouble. The next thing on his docket is getting May and Happy the activities-with-Deadpool updates, and he’s in absolutely no rush to get that over with. “That’d be really nice. Thanks, Morgan.” 

Morgan cheers, some food spilling out of her mouth, and Doreen, grinning, pushes her jaw shut with a gentle tap. “It’ll probably be good for you, Peter. You’re looking particularly white.”

“I am particularly white,” Peter huffs. It’s true. What with his limited sleep and long nights, his slight tan from the Europe trip is far gone and replaced with nearly translucent skin. “Where are we going?”

“ESU,” Doreen says. “Morgan’s going to meet my squirrels.”

“Right,” Peter says. He pokes at his heap of purple eggs and is hit with sudden inspiration. “Maybe I could invite someone else along?”

Doreen’s eyes narrow immediately. “Your friend isn’t allowed back on my campus.” She says it with enough vitriol that Peter would know who she was thinking of by tone alone.

“Not him,” Peter says. “A different friend. A girl friend. A girlfriend.” It’s the perfect gesture. It shows MJ that he’s not going to blindside her after last night, she already likes Doreen, and it’s giving her a safe crossover into the Spider-Man parts of his life.

“Oooooooh,” Morgan says. “You have a girlfriend? You’re in loooooooove?”

“We don’t do that,” Doreen informs Morgan flatly, and Morgan scowls but stops her racket. Peter wills the blood pooling in his face to disperse, but it’s not particularly effective. “Is this the chick who’s replacing Falcon now that the old Falcon is the new Captain America?”

Peter laughs at the reminder of MJ’s paparazzi interview. “Yes, but she’s not.”

“Does she know you’re Spider-Man?” Morgan asks.

Peter freezes. In all of the work and problems surrounding trying to reconceal his identity, he never once had considered the fact that Morgan knows. He can’t expect his secret to be safe in the hands of a six-year-old. He can’t very well convince her that it was a hoax either; he’s swung Morgan around and worked on the uniform under her watch. 

“Well does she?” Morgan demands.

“Is that a secret?” Doreen asks, and Morgan’s jaw drops. She pivots back and forth between Doreen and Peter. 

“No!” Morgan says. “Yes?”

“MJ knows,” Peter says hollowly. “She figured it out on her own.”

“Let’s use a secret code,” Doreen says. “But if we have a secret code, you have to use it at all times. Even if it’s just you and Peter talking.”

“Okay?” Morgan looks skeptically up at Doreen.

“We’ll practice now,” Doreen says. “Hey, Peter. Does MJ know about your bug bite ?”

“Oh,” Morgan says. “Yeah. Yeah! Does MJ know about your BUG BITE?” She shouts the last words.

“Yes, she knows.” Peter takes a sip of juice and slides his phone out of his sweatpants. “When are we going?”

“We leave at 11:30, arrive at noon,” Doreen says. “You not a big breakfast person?”

“Wha..?” Peter looks down at his plate. His pile of eggs hasn’t shrunk noticeably and he still has two untouched pancakes. “Uh, yeah. It takes the stomach a while to wake up, you know?”

“I wouldn’t,” Doreen says. She takes another scoop of violet eggs and drags another two pancakes onto her plate. “No complaints here: that’s more for me.”

“It’s delicious,” Peter assures Morgan, who looks about ready to say something about Peter’s lack of progress. He texts a quick invite to MJ--crap, they haven’t been on a real date yet; he needs to come up with a date plan for just the two of them. Maybe he can come up with one by the end of the picnic.

MJ responds instantly in the affirmative, and Peter looks up with a slightly dopey smile. “She’ll meet us there.”

After breakfast, Peter follows Morgan and Doreen back up to the Stark penthouse. Morgan very proudly shows him her nature log and a card trick that Doreen has taught her. Peter is honestly impressed and, even with enhanced senses, doesn’t catch how she’s doing the trick until the sixth repetition. He reckons Doreen’s not doing half bad at finding Morgan noncriminal things to do with nimble fingers.

They make sandwiches and pack lunches in Doreen’s bookbag, which already has a soccer ball and fully loaded bubble wand. Morgan adds her nature log and a pack of markers with great aplomb. They stop on the eighth floor before leaving the building so Pepper can give Morgan a send-off kiss, and then they’re walking out the exit.

“How are we traveling?” Peter asks. His wallet is pretty thin at the moment. It’s likely that Pepper already provided taxi fare, but it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.

“Subway, of course,” Doreen says. 

Peter practically gives himself whiplash when he turns to gape at her. “With Morgan?”

“Peter,” Doreen says sternly. “She’s not going to break.”

“I know. I just can’t imagine Mr. Stark’s kid—”

“I wanna ride the subway,” Morgan says. “The underground train. And the escaltor?”

“Subway escalators are usually broken.”

“I mean, you travel the way you want to, Peter,” Doreen says. “Morgs and I are doing the subway. That’s the greenest public transportation available, and I hope you can join us.”

“Yeah, of course I will.” 

“Good,” Doreen says. “Cause we all got to hold hands.”

At first, Peter thinks that Doreen is going for the whole make-sure-Morgan-doesn’t-get-lost angle, but after seeing Morgan’s head swiveling to follow a few pockets on the platform, he thinks he has a better sense of the real reason they’re all holding hands. 

Morgan is enamoured with every part of the subway. She holds her breath when the overhead voice announces that the doors are closing, stares at every single person in the car, and presses her nose to the window as their train plummets through the tunnel. Everything about the subway is subpar to the technology and superheroes that Morgan interacts with at the Stark Tower, but she certainly doesn’t seem aware of it.

“I saw Spider-Man yesterday,” Peter says, and Doreen cracks a smile.

“Oh, did you?” 

“Yeah. He saved this pedestrian from a car crash.”

“Interesting.”

“He looked pretty cool.”

Doreen’s smile becomes radiant to the point of being contagious. “You think he did alright?”

“Yeah. I really do. I’m very grateful.”

“I think we all are,” Doreen says. “Spider-Man is pretty cool.”

“Bug bite!” Morgan reminds them firmly.

Doreen doesn’t miss a beat. “Your bug bite is swell.”

Peter chuckles. Doreen is definitely growing on him. He can’t even remember why he ever didn’t like her. MJ is going to love her. 

They get to ESU a little early. Morgan immediately makes for the fountain, but Doreen is able to catch her in time to pull off socks and shoes. Peter opts to sit on the side with Doreen’s bookbag until Morgan starts splashing, and then he basically has to climb in as well to splash her back. Them’s the rules: Peter doesn’t make them up.

Morgan is gleefully showing off her “backstroke”--which Peter would definitely describe as a doggy paddle— when MJ arrives.

“Hi,” MJ says. “Good job not drowning.”

Morgan promptly inhales a mouthful of water and starts coughing as Doreen hauls her out of the fountain.

“Oh damn, did I just break a kid?” MJ asks. She stands frozen at the edge of the fountain, looking unsure about whether to try and help or keep her distance. 

“She’s tough,” Peter says. He feels rather than sees Doreen rolling her eyes at him. “Thanks for coming.” 

“Nice to meet you,” Doreen says. “MJ, right?”

“Yeah, that’s me. Good to officially meet you, Doreen.” 

“Same.”

Peter’s had already planned to introduce them, and he’s caught a bit off-guard by their acknowledgement of knowing about each other before he could say anything. He directs his attention to Morgan. “You okay?”

Morgan stares up at MJ, still coughing occasionally. Peter’s pretty sure that it’s all reflex at this point--she’s already expelled the water from her airway. Morgan nods and continues staring at MJ.

“What did you say about me?” MJ asks. Her expression is blank, but Peter knows she’s not loving the unblinking attention that Morgan is giving her.

“Nothing!” Peter insists.

“You’re Peter girlfriend,” Morgan corrects. 

“Well,” MJ says, and Peter looks at her in panic. “I am, but more than that, I’m MJ.” Peter starts breathing again without realizing that he had ever stopped. 

“Okay,” Morgan says.

“I packed you a sandwich!” Peter blurts in the growing silence. 

“Thanks,” MJ says. “And thanks for inviting me.” Peter hears the undertone that means she understands that this is him including her in more of his life.

They end up sitting on the edge of the fountain while their feet dry and Morgan plays with the bubble wand. Conversation quickly turns to ESU.

“I mean, any school is going to have issues,” Doreen says. “But I’m happy here. There’s a lot of room for students to be activists for their own causes.”

“Sounds like a double-edged sword,” MJ says. “There’s some crap causes out there.”

“It’s not bad if you’re willing to fight,” Doreen answers. “Overall, there’s definitely a progressive lean. I mean, this is a college in New York City: we’re not exactly a hub of backwards thinkers. There’s always some, of course, but overall...”

Peter makes sure she’s finished talking before he throws out his non sequitur. “Didn’t Dr. Octavius work with ESU?”

“He did some labs and internships. I didn’t know him. I always heard that he wasn’t fun, but he was fair.”

Peter hums in response. He’ll have to grill Deadpool some more on Dr. Ock when the merc regathers himself. He can’t believe he didn’t push his death more. As far as he can remember, Deadpool blabbered about time travel and Peter had written him off as crazy. Not that Deadpool isn’t crazy. Peter should just double check the story.

Planning his next conversation with Deadpool loosens the knot in his chest that appeared after the explosion. It lets him fully believe that Deadpool is fine, or at least, that he is going to be fine. 

“Science isn’t hard,” MJ is saying, “but I definitely see myself in more of a humanities arena. Maybe behavioral sciences?”

“Yeah, I don’t like people that much,” Doreen shrugs. “I get enough of that with activism.”

“Speaking of which...I heard something about squirrels?”

Morgan immediately hones in on the conversation. “I wanna see the squirrels!”

“First you’ve got to put the bubbles up,” Doreen says. She nudges the open bookbag closer to Morgan. Peter intercepts to properly close the bubble wand before Morgan shoves it in the bag. “Now, I need you to be very still and very quiet.”

Peter wants to call her out on her hoey, but he resists. Deadpool is never still or quiet, and the squirrels had no issue with flouncing about when he was littering the campus.

Morgan and MJ sit with identical somber expressions. Doreen gives them an affectionate smile as she stands up. Taking a huge breath, she tucks two fingers into the corners of her mouth and lets rip a long, shrill whistle. Morgan claps her hands over her ears.

“No shouting at my friends,” Doreen tells Morgan. Morgan nods with wide eyes. 

Peter can hear them before he sees them: a chittering horde of bushy-tailed rodents hurtling across tree limbs and plopping down on the cobblestones around the fountain. Their approach slows the closer they get. There’s something vaguely horrifying about being completely surrounded by something Peter had always considered skittish. 

Doreen digs into her pockets and pulls out an improbable amount of packets of unshelled peanuts.  She distributes the bags with underhanded tosses. “Start out with putting the peanuts on the ground nearby. After they trust you, they’ll come eat out of your hand.”

She sticks a peanut in her ear and beams as one skitters up her leg and perches on her shoulder. As Peter is opening Morgan’s bag, the squirrel yanks out the peanut and inspects Doreen’s ear for more treats. Morgan promptly disregards instructions and begins shoving peanuts at squirrels. They undulate away from her hands and fall in behind her.

MJ has that soft, pleased look as squirrels dart forward and snag peanuts off her shoes. The third squirrel yanks the peanut out of her hand before she can reach her shoe. They seem to instantly understand that she’s not a threat.

Not so much for Peter. He’s doing his best not to move, but the squirrels aren’t interested in making contact with his shoe. Doreen, meanwhile, is practically out of sight under a tsunami of squirrel tails.

“Move naturally, Pete,” Doreen calls. “You look coiled and ready to pounce.”

Peter slowly moves his arms and shifts his weight, and a few squirrels curiously climb up his jeans. It’s a little unsettling, but in a mostly fun way. He feels a lot more favorably towards them when they’re literally eating out of his hand. Morgan gives up and starts throwing handfuls of peanuts every which way.

After a few minutes of squirrel overload, Doreen clicks her tongue. The squirrels seize their empty peanut wrappers and scurry off across campus.

“How long did it take to train them?” MJ asks as the tide of squirrels retreats.

“Starting a project is the hard part.” Doreen waves goodbye to her squirrel army. Peter half-expects them to wave back and is relieved when they just keep scurrying on. He’s not ready for anthropomorphism today. “At the start, it took about a month of daily small steps. Now any new squirrel falls right in line.”

MJ shoots Peter a look brimming with mischievousness. “Hear that, Parker? A little elbow grease and you could get yourself trained spiders.”

Peter scoffs. “What exactly would I do with trained spiders?”

“Limited imagination,” MJ says with faux sadness. “I bet Morgan would know what to do.”

“You could hide them in people’s pockets!” Morgan says. “And they can tell you what’s in there.”

“I feel like this is your influence,” Peter tells Doreen.

Doreen waggles her eyebrows at him. “I feel like that’s a good thing.”

Honestly, Peter doesn’t disagree.

Chapter Text

HF 27 

“Something smells good!” May calls. She wanders into the kitchen and presses a kiss to Peter’s temple while he is taste-testing dinner. 

Peter peeks briefly at the rice before slamming the lid back down on the escaping steam. “Give it another ten minutes, May.”

“So is this a special occasion?”

“This is me showing my gratitude to the people who help me be the best me. Does that count as special?”

May pulls him into a hug and Peter nearly drops the spoon into the curry. Thank goodness for sticky fingers. “It makes it very special, Pete-Pete.”

Peter’s stomach churns with guilt. May ruffles his hair and threatens to give him a haircut soon. Peter runs his fingers through his hair to return it to its proper swoopy flop. 

Peter wants to be mad at MJ for essentially blackmailing him into talking to May and Happy, but he knows she comes from a good place and, yes, maybe a teeny tiny bit of him doesn’t know if he could ever have included May and Happy on his own. It will be good to get off of his chest, and he’s already mentally preparing his answers.

Yes, Deadpool is a dangerous mad man and it’s ridiculous to search for logic in his actions. But he does have a lot of experience and he has saved Peter’s life. 

Yes, Deadpool did shoot at Peter, but it won’t happen again. Peter knows to be wary around him, to not let his guard down.

Yes, Deadpool isn’t a moral compass that Peter wants to align with, but he will kill less if he’s working alongside Spider-Man.

However nothing can really prepare Peter for the moment May and Happy sit down at the table, thank him for dinner, and wait expectantly for whatever Peter has to say. Peter thought he would have a little more time and could just slip in the bit about his meetups with Deadpool somewhere between May’s most recent FEAST story and Happy’s latest commentary on the new Avengers team in development. 

“You can tell us anything,” Happy is saying just as May blurts out, “I know pregnancy is scary, but you two can--”

“Woah! No, no, no!” Peter says, scandalized. “I’m not! MJ’s not! We don’t!” He trails off in a flustered silence. He hadn’t even fantasized about MJ’s below-the-belt area, and to think that May though they were doing that is unbearable.

“Only two chaperones on the trip, and both male? That means there are a lot of unsupervised spaces. You two come back and are suddenly dating? That means something happened.”

“May,” Peter groans. He buries his burning face in his hands and peeks out through his fingers. “You know what happened! She figured out I was Spider-Man and got some of Mysterio’s tech, so she was super involved and I toldherthatIlikedher.”

“Did you?” Happy says. “I thought I had to deliver a necklace in there somewhere.”

Peter droops his head to look at his dinner and contemplate the unlikely supervillain duo that May and Happy have apparently decided to become. “That’s not what I want to talk to you about.”

“Well, until I hear otherwise, I’m assuming—”

“I’ve been hanging out with Deadpool!” Peter yells. The dinner table immediately falls silent, and Peter reckons that he can hear his voice ringing echos of Deadpool’s name around the room. 

“Peter,” Happy says in a tone of total betrayal, and Peter instantly has regrets.

“The Deadpool who shot at you Deadpool?” May asks with steely eyes.

“Yeah, actually, about that…” It wasn’t in Peter’s original plans to pull off his long-sleeved t-shirt at the dinner table, but here he is. “He did it again. And it hit me this time. And I didn’t want to tell you guys about it because I knew you’d—”

“React?” May demands. She stands over Peter, examining his arm with fierce, bright eyes. “I should damn well hope so. You get shot at, keep hanging out with him, and then are shot? What the hell were you thinking? I swear sometimes that you don’t have a drop of common sense--” 

“I imagine there’s more to the story,” Happy says quietly. He’s giving Peter a heavy, considering look. “Let’s hear the whole thing, May, so nothing gets omitted.”

May presses her lips together so tightly that they turn lose color and practically disappear. She brushes her fingers over the scabbed skin of Peter’s arm and nods at him to continue.

“I think I was mad and jealous about Doreen, but I’m over that now. She’s really great. I think things you don’t know about really started with the flashcards.”

“Flashcards?” Happy repeats.

“The supervillain info cards,” May says, flapping a hand at Happy to quiet him. “They were given to Doreen.”

“By Deadpool,” Peter adds. “He made them for her. So I confronted him about it. Turns out he’s really crazy.”

Happy makes a sound under his breath that sounds suspiciously like a grumbled, “I told you so.”

“But he sometimes knows things before they happen. I don’t know if he has clairvoyance or hears bits and pieces or if he’s ultimately behind everything that he knows, but I had to keep an eye on him.” A flash of approval crosses Happy’s stony expression, and May softens in relief when Peter mentions his final theory.  “He claims, and I think he believes, that he has lived this timeline before, and that’s why he knows what will happen. That’s how he knew how to save you two when the house was broken into. He claims that he’s trying to stop me from dying.”

“That’s not how time travel works,” Happy says. “You can’t stop things from happening.” It’s a weird way to say that time travel isn’t real, but Peter is not looking to quibble. He’s looking for this conversation to be finished as soon as possible.

“He wants to teach me, and we’ve worked together a couple of times since. You guys know about us going to the villain’s science fair to find the Tinkerer. We went to search the warehouse where the Tinkerer and the Vulture operated their business, and Deadpool coached me through some inferences. He was also training me to have reactions outside of the Peter tingle, and he shot me. He told me not to trust him even though we’re working together.”

“Damn right,” May says vehemently. 

“We left with a bit of a lead, and I did some solo work on the lead to narrow down the Tinkerer’s location to a street. On Tuesday night, I asked Deadpool to come with me.” Peter closes his eyes so he doesn’t have to look, he doesn’t have to feel. His world is just the red glow coming in through his eyelids. “We got to the exact house, and I had him stand guard outside while I went in.” He has to pause to swallow a lump out of his throat. Eyes still closed, he presses on. 

“Mason was prepared. He sent out an EMP that disabilitated the Iron Spider suit, and he had a supercharged magnet that I couldn’t break free from.” He squeezes his eyes shut tighter so that the red glow of the real world fades into a soft, safe black. “Deadpool came in, he cut the wires, he weakened the magnet. He grabbed the ends of the wires, and I left .” His breath catches, and for a moment the guilt is so overpowering that he can’t speak. 

“Mason wanted me dead. When I was stuck, DEET was being pumped into the room.” He had confirmed this theory in the lab last night, after the picnic outing at ESU. “And just after I left…” Peter draws a deep breath through his nose. “There was an explosion. Blew out the entire house and parts of the nearby houses.” Peter paws at his stinging eyes and his palm comes back wet with unshed tears. “And I left him!”

“Peter,” May says gently.

“I went after the Tinkerer, and now he’s arrested, but when I went back, Deadpool was gone. Who knows what happened or where he is?” Peter sniffles and lets all of his fears out. “Deadpool has been tied up in some bad things. What if someone got ahold of him with bad intentions? What if he can’t regenerate from explosions? What if--”

“Peter,” May says in a firmer tone. “It does no good to speculate when we have no data.” Peter feels her hand press in between his shoulder blades and tuck his face into her side. He opens his eyes to a blurry world of quickly-cooling and mostly forgotten dinner plates. 

“I guarantee we can’t lose Deadpool that easily,” Happy says. “I’ll tap some resources and see if we can figure out if anyone has seen him, or if anyone is known to be looking for him. You’ve got survivor’s guilt, kid, but I’d bet anything that Deadpool survived too.”

“I don’t want people to die for me.”

“Pete-Pete,” May murmurs into Peter’s crown, and her arm tightens, pulling Peter tighter into her side. Peter wraps his arms around May’s waist and turns his face into her stomach. His throat is as raw as if he’d been talking for hours, and he’s grateful for the reprieve of hiding.

“We appreciate you telling us.”

“I wish I could tell you to forget about him and cut him out, but I know exactly how that would end.” May pulls Peter back so she can make eye contact. “When he makes a reappearance, it’s time that we meet and talk.”

“You want to talk to Deadpool?” Peter’s automatic reaction is a big fat no. Deadpool is crazy and dangerous; May shouldn’t get wrapped up in all that. At the same time, his stories of Deadpool don’t reflect him in the best light. There’s something awfully fun and borderline charming about Deadpool that Peter can never convey verbally. Maybe meeting Deadpool could let May and Happy see those parts of Deadpool.

“Oh, you don’t want me to?” May asks, and she’s straight-up smirking now. “Interesting how those roles reverse, isn’t it?”

May can be so crafty. Peter catches Happy smirking out of the corner of his eye. “Why do you want to meet him?” 

“Why wouldn’t I want to meet him?”

“What do you want to talk to him about?”

“Well,” May says. “I’d like to thank him for saving your life. We take that very seriously here.” Happy nods his agreement. “And I’d like to give him my opinion on how to treat my nephew.”

Peter can imagine it now. May is plenty smart, but there’s a danger that she might believe the time travel talk, and then she’d start encouraging his delusion and Deadpool might start acting like he has to prevent the other (not real!) timeline from happening even more so than he does currently. Either that, or there would be shouting. Who’s Peter trying to kid, there will likely be both.

“Food is getting cold,” Happy says nonchalantly, and Peter really loves the guy for giving him an out of the conversation.

“We can reheat it,” Peter says. “It’ll just bring out the flavors more.”

“I said it’s getting cold. It’s still warm.” Happy impales a piece of chicken and eats it with gusto. “Mmmm, tsvera goo.”

“Pardon?” Peter asks politely. May shovels curry into her mouth as she sits back down and beams, mouth full, at Peter.

“Mmmm, yef, veraveragoo.”

Peter rolls his eyes at the two dorks with appalling table manners that are supposedly the adults in the room. He’s not naive enough to think that this conversation is over, but he’s grateful that this part of it is done. It feels like the more he shares, the less he carries. 

Peter’s not feeling particularly hungry with the emotions still swirling in his stomach, but he nibbles away at his plate of curry. Happy and May are right about at least one thing: this batch of curry turned out pretty good.

Chapter Text

HF 28 

Peter is trying to preoccupy himself with the upcoming start of the school year, but between planning a full-day date with MJ, memorizing his new classes, and rummaging through the pages of his summer reading, he still does daily outings to Deadpool’s apartment. Sometimes he’ll read on the armchair and once he cleans out the fridge. Most of the food has gone bad. He usually brings a few grocery items to slowly restock. Despite hoping for Deadpool’s reappearance, he’s come to expect his absence after nine days of nothing.

So today, as he opens the front door armed with the makings for hot dogs, he isn’t really expecting anything different. He’s certainly not expecting Deadpool to emerge, fully-suited, from the bathroom.

“Peter,” Deadpool says blankly, and then his body language instantly mutates and inflates into a giant, flashing danger sign. Peter has known Deadpool was dangerous ever since he first saw him rising, bullet-riddled, from the couch in the living room in May’s house, but he hasn’t ever felt scared of the man. Not like this.

Deadpool stalks forward, and the mask is terrifying in its lack of expression. Peter takes an unintentional step backwards into the hallway. Deadpool is moving differently. He’s not upbeat and bouncy. He’s wielding all 210 pounds of muscle like an unsheathed weapon.

“Wade,” Peter retorts with a little sass, and then he asks sincerely,  “Are you okay?”

Deadpool snarls. It’s a full-blown animalistic sound that causes goosebumps to spring up along Peter’s arms. 

“Sounds like a no,” Peter says. He takes a quick step into the apartment and warily closes the door, not taking his eyes off of Deadpool. “What do you need?”

“I need you to take some fucking notes!” Deadpool bellows. Peter tries very hard not to flinch away. He doesn’t want to give ground here. Deadpool already looks ready to fight and Peter is not at all mentally prepared to fight a man who doesn’t fear death or self-rendering.

“About what?” Peter shouts back. 

“About what?” Deadpool snarls. He’s standing absolutely still, but Peter can feel the chaotic energy radiating off of him in waves. It’s so unsettling. “You fucking tell me, Parker. Did anything ever get through?”

Peter clears his throat and reminds himself that he’s fought with the Avengers, he’s gone toe-to-toe with Thanos, he’s defeated an army of drones intent on killing him, that a screaming Deadpool is not the most terrifying thing that he has faced. “I’m serious. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Fucking obv—”

“Look, Pool, if you can’t get to the point, I’m not interested in getting shouted at and I don’t mind leaving.” Peter is pleased to hear that his voice is holding steady.

“I’m not shouting at you!” Deadpool shouts at Peter.

Peter doesn’t bother responding to that one. Verbally, at least. He’s physically incapable of not crossing his arms and raising an eyebrow. 

“I gave you a fucking object lesson!” Deadpool rants on, and with a tiny, tense hand flail, he gestures at Peter.

“An object lesson?” Peter repeats in total bewilderment. “You talking about my arm?”

“YES. Oh, gooood, you remember,” Deadpool snaps sarcastically. “What was that lesson about?”

“About not trusting you. Is that what this is about too? Look, I’ve been wor—”

“You’re shitting me.” Deadpool’s voice is quiet. For a moment, he looks cripplingly defeated. “You’re never this bad at picking things up. Something went wrong.” His voice darkens with loathing. “I’m always fucking this up.” Deadpool traipses into the living room and collapses into the armchair.

Peter really debates following him. He’s not even a little bit interested in being around a bipolar Deadpool, and he’d definitely rather leave him calm than all edgy and shouty. But when it comes down to it, Deadpool is clearly in distress, and he absolutely cannot leave a person in distress behind.

“Tell me then. What was—”

“I shot you,” Deadpool interrupts. “Before I shot you, what was I doing?”

“We were investigating the warehouse where--”

“No, not generally, specific. Right before I shot you.” Deadpool sounds urgent, but he’s not looking at Peter. 

“I know you’re looking for a specific answer,” Peter says, “but I don’t know what you’re looking for.”

Deadpool slowly straightens from his slump to regard Peter. “Was I shooting at you before I shot you?”

“Yeah. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s how guns work.”

Deadpool flips him off leisurely. “You’re saying I took multiple shots?”

“No, before that, you were throwing knives at me.”

Deadpool smiles. It’s both cold and encouraging, and overall, extremely unnerving. “Yes.”

Now Peter’s getting a little miffed. “You were gone for a week and come back mad because you think that I forgot about you throwing knives at me?”

Deadpool’s smile drops instantly. “No, you gerrymandered-brained infant. There was a lesson in there. A lesson which you didn’t pick up on and you could’ve died from. Now I want you to think about what it was!”

Peter regrets not leaving when Deadpool moved into the living room. His memories of that night mainly feature pain, and he hasn’t spent much time reflecting on it for that very reason. Peter’s pain tolerance isn’t great, especially for a superhero; it’s something that he’s very self-conscious about.

“You were throwing knives,” Peter says again. Deadpool nods encouragingly, if not a bit aggressively. “I was good at dodging knives. I wasn’t expecting you to shoot me.” Deadpool’s head continues bobbing an affirmative, so Peter continues that trail of thought. “It was about making your opponent expect one thing and then doing another.”

“And vice versa?”

“Expecting your opponent to have multiple weapons. Or attack strategies.”

“And how did you fail?”

Peter winces at the wording and thinks back. Again, it’s not a great memory. He had been shaken and worried and even catching the Tinkerer at the end had been a numb relief instead of a jubilant finale. 

“I couldn’t have predicted about the super-magnet on the door or the EMP.”

“That was the next lesson,” Deadpool says. “About not needing to work alone. Focus on the first one.”

“You knew about it?”

Deadpool glares a reprimand, and Peter glares right back. 

“You knew about the trap and let me walk into it? You planned on getting yourself blown up?”

“Yes. I regrow. You don’t. You also need to get over this nonsense fear of me getting killed. It can’t happen, and believe me, I’ve tried. Now, what did you do wrong?”

Peter looks beseechingly around the room, but unsurprisingly there’s no mediator hiding in Deadpool’s bare apartment. And truthfully, Peter doubts that anyone could get far mediating with Deadpool. He’s so infuriating. 

“The Tinkerer was shooting, and I didn’t expect his stun gun,” Peter says. 

“And?”

“What do you mean, and?”

“Outside of your car flip, every move you used chasing him down was repetitive and predictable.”

“Well, yeah. Maybe ‘cause I was worried about you!” Peter shouts at him, and Deadpool does a full-body flinch. “How do you even know what happened after..?”

“Cell phone videos,” Deadpool says with a careless wave of his hands. “You have to have your head on straight, Petey. You can’t be going after villains and thinking about other things.”

“You’d just been blown up!”

“Yeah, and I’ll keep getting blown up! Don’t kinkshame me.”

Peter is nowhere near willing to start the conversation into whether Deadpool experiences sexual gratification from dying. “Anyways, it was just a stun gun. I didn’t even pass out—”

“So you haven’t seen the footage,” Deadpool says abruptly. He digs into the cushions of the armchair, withdraws a phone, and starts playing a video before tossing his phone to Peter.

The footage is shaky but clear. The videographer had been on the far side of the street from Peter. There’s a close-up of Spider-Man standing, uncannily still, next to Mason’s car, and then there’s a jerky swing of the camera to the Tinkerer holding the stun gun on Peter and leaning to pick up his firearm, which must have flown from the car when Peter tipped it. Mason, one eye on Spider-Man, is just straightening back up when Officer Davis tackles him from behind.

Peter looks up at Deadpool. His mouth feels very dry. “He was going to shoot me.”

“You surprised?” Deadpool says, his words landing like a poke on a bruise. “He had tried killing you twice before.”

Peter’s mortality is weighing heavy on him. Breathing suddenly requires immense effort. It’s not that Peter hasn’t been in life-threatening situations before, or even life-taking situations before. It’s just that he usually knows about it in the moment. He had really thought that the Tinkerer was just making a getaway.

“If Jeff hadn’t been there,” Deadpool continues in a bright, hollow voice, “you’d be dead. Game over.” Peter wonders if Deadpool has been obsessing as much over Peter’s near death as Peter has been obsessing about Deadpool’s certain death.

“So you knew about the magnet door but not about Jeff?” Peter teases. It’s not his best, but it lifts some of the weight off of his chest.

“No, I didn’t,” Deadpool says. He’s starting to radiate that intense, chaotic energy again. “I didn’t know how that video would end when I started it.”

“Ah,” Peter says heavily. He tosses Deadpool the phone back. Deadpool makes no move to catch it. It bounces off of his chest and clatters to the floor. “Uh, sorry about that.”

“It’s not your fault,” Deadpool says, and Peter doesn’t think he’s talking about the cell phone. Peter doesn’t know what to make out of Deadpool brooding so much about the thought of his death. It makes him feel a little uncomfortable, like his end time is decided and he’s already being mourned. 

“I’m definitely going to remember now,” Peter says with false brightness. “Switch things up, anticipate things being switched up, and have backup, duly noted.”

Deadpool shakes out of whatever fugue he’s fallen into and laughs a little too loudly. “And not leaving things undone.”

“I didn’t leave things undone!”

“Liar!” Deadpool shouts. It’s the good kind of shout, clear and dramatic instead of the insipid-with-rage warble from earlier. 

“I made sure the Tinkerer was arrested! I’ve been following his case and I gave police detectives tips for things to look at.”

“Yeah, but what about the connections?” Deadpool says.

“What connections?”

“What connections. He said what connections.” Deadpool shakes his head at Peter. 

“Good to know you’re hearing well, old-timer,” Peter says. “Go ahead and share with the class.”

Deadpool heaves himself out of the armchair. “Nah, Petey, this is your homework. A research assignment.”

“Is it the other inventors from the science fair?” 

“Good thought, but not priority. They’re the Tinkerer’s competition. They’re wary of Spider-Man, but not personally invested in his demise. Priority goes to the allies.”

“The rest of the crew is imprisoned or dead,” Peter protests.

Deadpool looks at Peter like he’s an idiot. “That was five years ago! You think he’s just been sitting on his nuts for five years?”

Obviously not, but to be fair, to Peter, it feels more like five months ago. “I don’t know how to research that. He blew up his house and we’ve already been through his warehouse.”

“Oh, okay then,” Deadpool says sarcastically. “I guess that’s it, then.”

“Well, what would you do?”

“I’m not doing shit,” Deadpool informs him. He nods at the bag that Peter’s forgot he’s holding in his hands. “What’s that?”

“Hot dogs,” Peter says. “You hungry?”

“Fucking famished,” Deadpool says fervently. 

“Well, I’ll get started then.” Peter steps into the kitchen and pulls out a pot. He’s ready for a change of topic. “My aunt wants to meet you.”

“We’ve already met once,” Deadpool says churlishly. “She doesn’t like me now.”

“Yeah, but we’re hanging out now, so--”

“I don’t ‘hang out’ with teenagers,” Deadpool says, affronted. “I work with them!”

“How many other teenagers are you working with?” Peter turns on the spigot and makes a face at Deadpool over the counter.

“Right now, just the one.” Deadpool shoots finger guns at Peter.

“Anyway,” Peter says, getting the conversation back on track with immense effort. “We need to pick a time when you and May and Happy are all free.”

“I’m free right now.”

“Screw you, I’m making hot dogs right now.”

Deadpool laughs easily, and the last of the tension from his earlier demeanor drains out of the room. This means, of course, that Peter has to stir the figurative pot.

“So, um, Deadpool.”

“Yes, uh, Spidey?” Deadpool mimics.

Peter hauls the literal pot over to the stove and directs his attention to it. “What happened to you? You’ve been gone for a while.”

“I thought about giving it up,” Deadpool says. There’s no levity in his voice. 

“Dying? You said you couldn’t--”

“Restarting,” Deadpool says. “Making sure everything is done right. I needed a few days of me time.”

Peter isn’t sure what that means, but he is sure about one thing. “You’re mad at me.” 

Deadpool looks startled by the idea. “No, Petey, not at you. I’m frustrated.” 

“Disappointed?” Peter offers with a quirk of a smile. “Sorry, Dadpool.”

“Throw me a beer and we’re good, Spideyson.”

“I dunno,” Peter says. “Can you catch? Looks like your reflexes haven’t recovered yet.”

“You looking for a fight?” Deadpool asks with no mustard in his tone. He meanders into the kitchen and plops onto the counter to watch Peter empty an entire pack of hot dogs into the water.

“Maybe I am,” Peter replies amicably. Deadpool kicks him in the butt with the toe of his boot and Peter twists his leg around Deadpool’s to slide him off the counter. “I’m really glad you’re back, Pool.”

“I know,” Deadpool says. He’s leaning back to hold onto the counter and fighting to stay up. He twists and wiggles his leg free, and Peter ends up stumbling against the fridge. “You sick bastard.” 

Peter has mentally built up all sorts of things to say to Deadpool when he finally reemerged, but for now, the only thing he can think to do is give the man a hug. He’s not too out of it to keep an eye on Deadpool’s hands for emerging weapons. Fool me once and all that.

Deadpool stiffens before leaning fully into the hug. His arms wrap around Peter to squish him closer. Peter can’t remember the last time he’s been fully hugged by a guy, not one of those side hug squeezes.  It feels like a pact, like a promise. Like a brotherhood.

It feels really nice.

“Fair warning,” Peter mumbles into Deadpool’s shoulder, “next time you die, I’m taking your Tinkerbell notebook.”

“Is that so?” Deadpool rumbles above Peter’s head.

“Yeah. So you’d better not die.” Peter means to sound stern, but it’s super hard to sound stern when in the middle of a quality hug.

“You’d better not die,” Deadpool retorts. He does a squeeze and release, and Peter quickly retreats out of Deadpool’s space.

“So I guess we’re both not dying,” Peter announces, and Deadpool shrugs.

“And we’re both not using webs? Reanimating is part of my shebang, Spidey.”

“I didn’t like it,” Peter says staunchly. He’s hit with a sudden stroke of inspiration. “Hey, Deadpool!”

“Right here, Webhead.”

“No matando. No matando Wade Wilson. And, like, that includes putting yourself in circumstances where...what?” 

Deadpool continues gasping and starts clutching at his heart. 

“Can you have heart attacks?” Peter asks. He’s not sure what to do, so he just stirs the hot dogs. He doesn’t think they’re supposed to be stirred, but he needs something to do with his hands.

“Well, I never,” Deadpool says in a horrible approximation of a southern accent. “This is new. Throw out the dictionary ‘cause you’re the only Webster I need.” 

Peter laughs as he raids the fridge for condiments. 

“Of course, that does mean that you owe me a favor,” Deadpool says.

“I’m already making you hot dogs,” Peter points out. “What else could you possibly want?”

“I’ll think of something,” Deadpool promises.

Somehow, that doesn’t put Peter as at ill at ease as he’d have expected. It means that Deadpool is planning on being present, at least for the immediate future.

Chapter Text

HF 29 

“So is this a good look?” Peter asks with as much bravado as he can muster. Ned eyes him head to foot, looking exactly as clueless as Peter feels.

Betty, on the other hand, is neither indecisive or gentle. “No. It’s really not.” She circles around Peter with a slightly predatory air that is giving him a lot of anxiety. “What is this in your hair?”

“Product,” Peter says with all the dignity he can muster. 

“The oily look isn’t great,” Betty says definitely. “Especially with the sheer volume of hair you’ve got going on. When was your last cut?”

“I like my hair long.”

“This isn’t long.” Betty stops in front of Peter with crossed arms and an expression that suggests she’s about to land some critical hits. “This is the in-between hair of a good but slightly preppy boy and a free spirit. And every inch of it looks greasy. Did you use the whole bottle?”

Peter hems and haws but doesn’t answer. He had had one persistent cow lick, and once he got that bad boy slicked down, he had tried to reach the same level of shiny for the rest of his head.

“It does look like you came from an oil spill,” Ned agrees. “But the shirt is great!”

“The shirt is not great,” Betty says quickly. 

“What’s wrong with my shirt?” Peter self-consciously tugs on the sleeves of his dress shirt.

“The color overpowers you,” Betty says. “Red can be harder to pull off, especially looking as pale as you do.” She gives Ned a sweet little smile. “You’re lucky you’ve got the genes, you big nerd. I know you’d be as pale as Peter otherwise. The both of you need to get out more.”

“I get out!” Peter protests. He even gets out while wearing red, and it’s a very dynamic, vibrant color that he feels pretty confident in.

Betty’s nose crinkles as she bares her tear in a pitying smile. “Where are you going?”

“We’re doing an art walk,” Peter says. His stomach swoops ominously. He’s supposed to meet with MJ at the deli in an hour, and apparently his entire look needs to be scrapped.

“What type of art?” Betty presses. 

“Uh, I’m not sure,” Peter admits. “Does it matter?”

“Does it matter,” Betty repeats in a horrified whisper, as if she’s shocked that Peter can dare voice a question of such extreme idiocy. “Alright, you go get in the shower while I raid your closet for something with range.”

“My closet?” Peter repeats in a panic. He doesn’t know if any of the Spider-Man things are out and about right now. He’s gotten kind of lax about that sort of thing now that everyone who might come into his room already knows about the whole secret identity, double-life thing.

“Or wherever you keep your clothes,” Betty says. “I’ll figure it out. But definitely get that hair washed.”

“Let me just tidy up a bit,” Peter says, making frantic eyes at Ned. 

“Oh,” Betty says. “Right.” Her lip curls slightly in disgust. Peter doesn’t know what she’s imagining, but he doesn’t particularly care as long as he has time to get his room in order.

It turns out to be a near slip. Peter’s mask is laying on the dresser and the web shooters are discarded on the floor. Peter hastily stuffs everything out of sight in the bottom of his laundry hamper. He gives Betty and Ned a thumbs up before scampering into the shower.

Usually, showering is a time for Peter to decompress, maybe examine some injuries or release a little pent up energy. Right now, it’s the exact opposite. He is shampooing so hard that he’s pulling out hair and getting suds in his eyes. He’s climbing back out in less than five minutes, shivering slightly in the cool air of the bathroom. Ned knocks on the door after he shuts off the water to hand him his new-and-Betty-approved outfit. The jeans are stick to his still-damp legs and he ends up hopping around the bathroom on one leg as he tries to shimmy them up. There’s a black button-up that Peter didn’t know he had and a denim jacket that Peter has never been daring enough to actually wear.

“Hurry up, I still need to do your hair,” Betty orders as Peter examines his reflection in the mirror. He looks a little more comfortable and casual than he had in his bright red dress shirt, but it’s definitely nicer than his usual flannels and shapeless sweaters. He pokes the visible bump of his bicep with satisfaction. 

Betty towels Peter’s hair and spends a good ten minutes of the quickly depleting prep time to alternate the flop of his hair from side to side. Peter wants to point out that it’s not going to stay in place as soon as the first little breeze hits, but he’s honestly pretty intimidated by the intense focus of Betty’s dainty face.

“How about now?” Betty asks finally.

Ned shrugs his blind support. “You look good, dude.”

Betty smiles her approval at Ned. “I’ve always wanted a little sister to dress up,” she confides to no one in particular. “But I guess you’ll have to do.”

“Hey!” Peter protests.

Betty refocuses on him. “Now when you’re on your date, don’t ramble on about yourself. Get MJ talking about herself.”

“Peter already knows MJ,” Ned says. “He doesn’t have to do all the introductions stuff.”

“Oh sweetie,” Betty says. It sounds more like a joke than an endearment. “No girl wants to hear a boy monologue about himself on their first date.” She flips the collar of Peter’s jacket up experimentally before patting it back down. “Give sporadic compliments. Don’t heap them all on in the beginning and forget them for the rest.”

“Should I be taking notes?” Peter asks. He runs a hand through his hair and Betty’s mouth drops into a pained “o.” She holds her hands awkwardly in midair, like she’s fighting an internal battle between fixing his hair and conceding to the inevitability of the casually tousled look getting ruined. 

“No, just be yourself,” Betty says. “She likes you for who you are.”

Peter lets out a puff of air. Ned meets his eyes and he knows that they’re thinking the exact same thing: that last piece of dating advice directly contracts the previous bits. 

“Just make it clear that you’re into her more than you’re into yourself,” Betty says. Peter wants to scoff because of course he’s more into MJ than himself, but the memory of MJ shouting about not being enough is too fresh.

“Thanks, Betty. Thanks, Ned.” Peter pulls at his jacket. It’s a little snugger than most of his jackets. He’d definitely rip it if he were to wear it while webbing across town. “Wish me luck?”

“You don’t need it,” Ned says enthusiastically. He steps up so they can do their handshake and gives him an extra pat on the back at the end.

“Good luck,” Betty says with a face so serious that Peter is still lowkey panicking when he leaves Stark Tower.

The deli is almost exactly halfway between MJ’s apartment and Stark Industries. Peter alternates between a quick, anxious step and a more leisurely pace during which he fans out his armpits. He doesn’t need a dating guru to tell him that arriving sweaty with pit stains is a bad move. 

Peter feels pretty good about arriving two minutes early, but then he has a slight panic about whether to wait outside or head on in. He’s experimenting with lounging poses when there’s a sharp rap on the window next to him. MJ, smirking through the glass, raises her eyebrows like she’s laying down a challenge. Peter waves frantically so that she knows he sees her, promptly realizes he looks like a lunatic, and jams his hands into his pockets. He has to promptly pull his hands back out when the deli door proves to be a pull instead of a push.

“MJ! Hi!” Peter says breathlessly.

“Hey,” MJ says. She’s tucked into the back corner of the shop, legs tucked to her chest and toes dangling off the edge of her seat. Her drawing pad bridges the gap between her knees and the table, and Peter can make out hasty sketches of patrons from his upside down perspective.

“You’re beautiful,” Peter blurts. 

MJ snorts. “You seem pretty strung up. Don’t be so nervous. It makes me want to mess with you.” The grin she gives him is teasing, and dang does it flip Peter’s stomach.

“Right. Yeah. Sorry.”

“You look nice,” MJ says matter-of-factly. “Is that a May outfit?”

“It’s my outfit. Ned and Betty helped.” Peter clamps his mouth shut. He’s not sure if he’s broken dating rules, but he feels like saying that his best friend’s girlfriend dressed him is most definitely a faux pas. 

MJ doesn’t seem at all bothered about Peter mentioning Betty helping with his outfit. “Well, I might be biased, but I say it suits you well.” She thumbs at the cap on her pen. “It feels different, being out.”

“Bad different?”

“Strange different.” MJ gives him a furtive glance before staring determinedly down at the drawing pad. “We’re friends, right? We hang out in school. And it’s different now.”

“But we can figure it out, right?”

MJ finally looks up. “Duh.”

Maybe it’s knowing that MJ recognizes the awkward tension, but Peter feels a sudden rush of confidence, a sense that he needs to step up.

“Good.” He flops gracelessly into the seat across from MJ. “So tell me about this art walk. Do I need to know about art? Cause it’s not really my forte.”

“Really?” MJ asks with ringing sarcasm. Something indescribable has loosened in her face, and it feels right and natural to be sitting together. “You don’t study art at that fancy S.T.E.M. school of yours?”

Peter channels his inner Mr. Stark when he answers, “I dunno. Does staring at your face count?” He’s pretty pleased with the blushing eyeroll reaction he gets.

“You weirdo.” MJ shoves at him across the table. The contact is electrifying. “You don’t need to know art.” She fiddles with her phone. “I’m going to send you all you need.”

Peter’s phone vibrates as he pulls it out of his pocket, and he doesn’t hesitate to open the link MJ sent him. “You made this?”

MJ shrugs. “Yeah.”

Peter looks down at the website. It’s a scavenger hunt for art with little empty blocks for him to upload photographs that meet the requirements. He swipes through the topics: featuring a group, literary reference, probably Illuminati, a four-letter-word, profile, art-in-progress, inception… “This is really cool.”

MJ shrugs again. “Loser buys dessert, and no picture can be used twice.”

“Where exactly is the art walk?” 

“It’s New York. It’s everywhere.”

MJ takes an immediate lead before they reach the end of the block, snapping pictures of (1) something guaranteed to make Mr. Harrington uncomfortable and (2) anything purple, both of which were graffitied on the side of a dumpster. It takes Peter a moment to calibrate to look for the artwork. He’s always been aware of the bright colors fanning over New York on even the most overcast day, but it requires a certain level of appreciation to be actively looking for it.

They end up spending nearly half an hour climbing around an underpass, and MJ accuses him of cheating and tosses pebbles at him when he starts climbing up the sides. They end up making a mad dash down the street when a police car flashes lights at them.

“Getting arrested isn’t first date material,” Peter says.

“Yeah,” MJ agrees with a laugh brimming behind the straight line of her lips. “Definitely save it for the third date.”

Peter giggles helplessly and bumps into MJ. Somehow they end up holding hands.

It’s been a few hours when they halt the hunt and stop for ice cream. They wander back toward MJ’s apartment, not quite touching, but jackets occasionally brushing. 

“There might have been too many things on the list,” MJ admits to her ice cream cone. 

“It was perfect,” Peter says fervently. “You’re perfect.”

MJ’s shoulders droop, and Peter angles himself to face her more, turning his walk into a side step. When she speaks again, she sounds weary. “Don’t put people on pedestals, Peter.”

“I don’t--”

“Maybe Tony Stark could stand it, but I’m not down for you being disappointed by reality. By me.”

“Woah!” Peter protests. Mentioning dead role models out of the blue isn’t cool. 

“I’m not going to be your dream girl,” MJ informs him.  

“I’m not asking you to be!”

“Good.”

Peter uncomfortably slurps up his ice cream and shifts back to a regular walk. The burgeoning silence feels overwhelming. “You know I like you, right?”

MJ twitches. “Yeah.”

“Cool,” Peter says. 

MJ tucks her hair behind her ear. “I, uh, don’t do great with….” She trails off and gestures vaguely between herself and Peter. “I don’t believe, that is, I don’t get…”

“Hey,” Peter says. There’s something small and sharp in his chest as he watches MJ fret over her words. “We can figure it out, right? Together?”

MJ’s curtain of hair swings back over her face as she turns to look at Peter, and he catches a brief glance of bright, relieved eyes before they’re obscured. “Sure,” MJ agrees with apparent nonchalance. 

There’s a few more beats of silence, and then MJ’s hand bumps into Peter’s. Their pinkies are interlocked until Peter bids her goodbye in front of her apartment building. 

Chapter Text

hf 30 

“Yikes!” Peter says, teetering on the edge of the skyscraper. “That could’ve killed me!”

“That’s the point,” Deadpool says dryly. “Must be pretty embarrassing for you too, since we’re in your turf.”

“Not at all, since you apparently don’t care if I die!”

“The feeling is mutual.”

“It is soooo not mutual.” Peter glowers at Deadpool as he makes his way back from the edge.

Deadpool is currently spreadeagled against the base of the antenna tower. Pinning him down completely had been more of an ordeal than Peter anticipated. Everything involving Deadpool tends to be more of an ordeal than Peter anticipates. 

Peter’s had a few years of experience with incapacitating bad guys. Usually it’s a couple of thwips to get the hands out of commission, and then speed dial on his burner phone to get the police notified for a pick-up. Deadpool, however, requires restraint on all limbs--Peter has burning questions about how Deadpool threw three knives with pinpoint accuracy using his boots--and no passing off responsibility to an unsuspecting officer. 

“You’re getting faster,” Deadpool says approvingly. “Time to raise the heat!”

“It’s hot enough,” Peter says. He drops to a sitting crouch, crosses his arms over his knees, and looks up at Deadpool. “We’re not putting civilians in danger in the name of you throwing grenades or whatever you’re fantasizing about under the charade of training me.”

“Oh, well if grenades are off the menu, I’d better let all of the villains know.” If Deadpool had free hands, he would definitely be putting a hand to an imaginary earpiece. In his current state, he just cants his head a little to the side and looks off into the space by Peter’s right ear. “Oh, wait. What was that? They’re saying nope. Heh. Bomb appetit.” 

“There’s only one thing that could make this more perfect,” Peter muses. He holds up a hand, aligning his webshooter with Deadpool’s mouth.

“Oh, no!” Deadpool wails in a voice Peter resignedly recognizes as Deadpool’s impression of a dramatic, drunk college girl. “Please don’t...not my beautiful face.” He drops the voice and stares unimpressedly back at Peter. “You know, this isn’t my actual face, Spidoo.”

Peter drops his hand and tucks his chin over his recrossed arms. “Isn’t it?” He tilts his head a little to the left to see if Deadpool has managed to get his right arm loosened. Deadpool talks to distract, and that’s worked on Peter exactly one time. Deadpool’s arm is still tightly bound, and Peter glances back up at Deadpool.

“Ha, ha,” Deadpool says humorlessly. “Definitely preferable, am I right?”

“I don’t know about that.” Peter is watching closely enough that he sees Deadpool’s chest juttering in an irregular breathing pattern. Maybe he’s trying to use his lungs while pushing to get some distance from the wall? Weird tactic, but it won’t work. Peter’s webs have as much stretch capabilities as shrinking capabilities, so whatever space Deadpool is gaining will be lost when he exhales, which he’s definitely about to do because Deadpool is apparently physically incapable of not talking.

“Diplomatic answer,” Deadpool hisses.

“I mean, when are you not wearing the mask?” Peter retreats to his original point. He’s not going to tell Deadpool that his face looks fine. He’s not going to patronize him, and besides, he’d rather not mention that he peeked at his profile. “Isn’t that the face you choose?”

Deadpool looks at Peter like he’s said something profound. He doesn’t appear to be making any attempt to escape, but Peter’s not going to fall for it. He keeps hawkeying Deadpool. He tries to stay focused on his masked face so that it doesn’t look like Peter is anticipating Deadpool’s bid for freedom.

“Do you like breathing through your mask? You must have a good filter with how often you wear that.”

“I prefer it,” Deadpool says, and the tightness in his voice sounds so real. Deadpool, Peter realizes with a mild case of being impressed, is a terrific actor. Peter commits to seeing through his future acts.

“To each their own,” Peter shrugs, and he springs upright. “Look, instead of you breaking something trying to get free, how about I cut you out and we find a new location? It needs to be more secluded if you’re wanting to amp things up.”

Secluded might not be the right word. They’re plenty alone right now. It’s just that Peter is having pretty vivid mental images of what could have happened on street level if he hadn’t caught every single one of the knives that Deadpool had hurled. He knows from firsthand, close-up experience that those blades are super aerodynamic.

“Alright,” Deadpool agrees readily. “Or…?”

Peter doesn’t see Deadpool’s nanoceramic knife in its usual belt holster. “Or?”

“It’s past your bedtime, Itsy Bitsy. You need to be getting on a school sleep schedule.”

Peter rolls his eyes. As if Deadpool cares about his sleep schedule. “Sure. That works too.” He smirks up at Deadpool like the little snotball he can sometimes be. “It must be pretty exhausting for such an old super hero to try and keep up with someone like me.”

“Old!” Deadpool protests. “I am ageless! If you wanna old guy, you can go visit Rogers!”

Peter drops the teasing tone. “Where’s your knife?” 

Deadpool makes a face and writhes against the wall. The knife slides out from behind Deadpool’s left shoulder and clatters onto the concrete. “I was pretty close.”

“You were,” Peter agrees. Deadpool is the only guy he can think of who could wiggle a knife out of a holster and up a wall while earnestly maintaining a conversation. Deadpool is also the only powered guy that Peter is seeing on the regular, so it’s not like the competition is steep.

Deadpool is still yammering about older heroes as Peter slices through his webbing. Peter mostly tunes him out, but he does keep a careful watch over Deadpool’s hands in case Deadpool tries anything. Perhaps because he’s so focused on what Deadpool is doing, he loses focus of what he’s doing.

Deadpool momentarily pauses his stream of verbal diarrhea, and that’s all the notification he gives that Peter has sliced off a chunk of Deadpool’s palm. Peter stares, dumbfounded, at the steady pulse of blood as it dyes the remaining web pink and streams, bright and viscous, down the base of the antenna tower. 

“I mean, obviously not a teenager,” Deadpool continues brightly. “Thank God! Can you imagine being a teenager forever? That’d be--”

“I’m sorry,” Peter says. “I didn’t...your hand?”

“You worry too much,” Deadpool informs him. “And you think I’m the old guy out of the two of us.” He nods back at his hand. “Look.” The order is said with such certain authority that Peter follows it automatically.

It’s disgusting to watch, but now that Peter has Deadpool’s permission, he can’t take his eyes away from the sight of bright red glooping through a now-ruined black leather glove. The blood is already clotting, and Peter feels entranced as he watches pink skin reach across the edges of the wound. But just as soon as Peter recognizes Deadpool’s body is healing, the skin grows ridges and blisters. It’s just a matter of seconds, but the full meaning of Deadpool’s ability hits Peter hard. The constant decay of Deadpool’s body in an eternal battle with the persistent regeneration. 

“Cool, huh?” Deadpool beams.

“It’s a lot,” Peter says honestly. He’s much more careful as he cuts away the last of his webbing and he immediately presses the knife into Deadpool’s free hand. 

“Yeah,” Deadpool says simply. Peter knows that Deadpool took his response in a negative way, but he doesn’t know how to fix it. 

“Does it hurt?” Peter asks. He thinks about that fresh, pink skin puckering before his eyes. 

Deadpool shrugs. “You get used to it. Better than missing things forever.”

“Your skin,” Peter clarifies. “Does your skin hurt?”

“More of a nuisance,” Deadpool says. “Moreso when I think about it.” He levels a devastating look toward Peter, and Peter gets the unspoken message.

“Right, yeah.” Peter scrambles for something to say that’s not about Deadpool’s skin, or Deadpool needing a specialist doctor or dermatologist, or Deadpool being a total trooper about his really unfortunate mutation. “There’s food.”

Deadpool snorts. “There is. You want to grab a bite to eat?”

“Let me get you something,” Peter says. “To apologize for...uh…”

Deadpool waits patiently for Peter to find an end to his sentence with a face that, somehow even through a mask, is superficially polite, but is truly full of schadenfreude. 

“Beating you so thoroughly,” Peter finally says. 

“You did not!” Deadpool exclaims with more energy that Peter had anticipated.

“I did,” Peter says. He’s feeling a little sassy in the wake of Deadpool being a tool. “I mean, after the last round, you literally said it was time to go sleep.”

“Oh-ho-ho!” Deadpool shouts, and he stamps his feet like a petulant kid. “I let you win.”

“Of course you did,” Peter says with as much sarcasm as he can heap on. “Obviously.”

“Ding-dong, it’s on!” Deadpool roars. With a whack of the knife against a resilient piece of webbing on his ankle, he lunges forward. Peter dodges expectantly, but Deadpool twists behind and tackles Peter. “Ha!” 

The tackle comes midair and knocks Peter off of his feet. He’s got one leg tangled up with Deadpool’s knee, there’s a crack as his hip makes hard contact with the edge of the building, and then they’re plummeting down the side of a skyscraper.

“Oh my gosh, Pool,” Peter fusses. “You can’t just...eurgh!” All the air is yanked out of his lungs when Deadpool thwacks a webshooter and Peter’s body swings abruptly back.

Deadpool gives Peter a grin that’s all teeth. It’s weird in the mask because Deadpool doesn’t have a mouth--very ironic, that--but his mask is elongated and there’s little dents on the mask where Peter can see individual teeth. Peter headbutts Deadpool hard, gives himself a few seconds of freefall so that he can web Deadpool’s hands together, and swings them into the second story of a parking garage after sending a few strands to slow down their velocity.

Peter arches an eyebrow at Deadpool, daring him to try his luck with handsfree fighting Peter. Deadpool looks completely unbothered by the challenge. He shrugs his shoulders back and gives Peter an enthusiastic smile. Peter wonders, and not for the first time, if Deadpool has a serious mental affliction. Like, does he need to be institutionalized?

“You promised me food,” Deadpool says.

“We done with training?” Peter asks suspiciously. Props to MJ for insisting he sets boundaries; Deadpool has agreed to ceasefires at the end of training sequences. 

“Sure,” Deadpool says. It’s not the most placating response, but Deadpool hasn’t violated the ceasefire in the last few sessions, so Peter’s willing to stop regarding him with the uptight suspicion.

There’s a pub open halfway down the block. Deadpool looks longingly towards the bar as the waiter leads them to a booth.

“I never sit in the kids’ section,” Deadpool tells Peter morosely.

“I mean, we don’t have to sit together,” Peter says. He still can’t shake the memory of the first time he and Deadpool ate together. They will not be having a repeat of that. Deadpool can mess up his body and be relatively fine; Peter can’t afford to do the same.

“And leave you alone?” Deadpool says as though that’s the worst possible thing one person could do to another.

“I mean, I wouldn’t complain.”

“Nah,” Deadpool says. When he opens his mouth again, Peter’s expecting a rambling and possibly off-topic story or observation, and he’s chilled when Deadpool instead says, “You don’t eat alone.”

Peter freezes up hard. He hears a distant ringing noise and his throat feels too dry. He grabs for his cup of water and watches resignedly as it cracks in his hands. It feels like an out-of-body experience, both distant and real all at once.

“You gotta learn to take care of yourself, kiddo,” Deadpool says severely. He nudges his water closer to Peter as the waiter powerwalks back to their table armed with a pile of napkins.

“Thank you,” Peter chokes out.

“Spidey doesn’t know his own strength,” Deadpool informs the waiter jovially. “He’s been working out, can you tell?”

If the waiter responds, Peter doesn’t catch it. He’s staring into his new water cup like it has all the answers.

“Yo, you’re wigging out pretty hard,” Deadpool says. “FYI.”

“Uh, thanks,” Peter says.

“What’s that about?” Deadpool prods. Peter exhales and raises his head to look at Deadpool.

“What do you know about me?”

“You want to get into that topic in public?” Deadpool asks.

Peter rolls his mask back down over his mouth. “I’m going home.”

“But we just got here!” Deadpool whines. “Come on, Spidey!”

The front door of the pub slams open with such force that Peter knows something criminal is about to go down. He twists around to see May bearing down with all the force of a category 5 hurricane. 

“Drat!” Peter yelps, and he slouches down in his seat.

“I knew it was past your bedtime!” Deadpool yelps gleefully. 

“She’s not here for me,” Peter informs him crossly, and Deadpool’s jaw drops.

May marches right up to their table and plunks herself down next to Peter. Peter wiggles over to get more room and ekes out a groan when his hip drags over the wooden bench. May's eyes focus on Peter at the sound, and he gulps under their laser-light intensity.

“I’m a huge fan,” May says loudly. There’s a reverberating thud as she lands a solid kick to Deadpool’s leg. “I would like your autographs.”

“Please,” Deadpool says in a flat, scripted voice. “Sit down and eat with us. Always good to meet a fan.”

Peter looks from May to Deadpool in total bewilderment. “What’s going on?”

“Just a fan meet-and-greet,” Deadpool says. “Don’t say anything that would reveal your secret identity.”

Peter feels unbelievably slow. Of course: as far as the public knows, May doesn't know Spider-Man. “Right. Yeah. Ah, nice to meet you!”

“My son looks up to you two,” May says deliberately. “Would you swing by sometime to meet him?”

“When is convenient?”

Peter facepalms. It’s too embarrassing. There’s no way May and Deadpool are scheduling a meeting through bad acting and the guise that May has a fanboy son. He doesn’t want to be here for this.

He feels a little differently when May insists that Spider-Man escort her to her car and he’s able to escape dinner with Deadpool. The relief pales instantly when May turns on him.

“What the hell are you doing cavorting with the likes of him while telling me there’s not time for him to come introduce himself? And what the hell happened to your leg?”

“I was tackled off of a building today,” Peter says as nonchalantly as he can manage. “I hit my hip on the edge.”

“Let me guess who did the tackling,” May grumbles. “Damn it, Peter, you can’t let him run over you. You got to stand up for yourself.”

“I do!” Peter protests.

“Sure,” May says. Peter reckons even a deaf man could feel the sheer disbelief in her voice.

Chapter Text

HF 31 

Peter was very much okay with being the unnoticed dorky kid at school. He has Ned, he has MJ, and he’s on friendly terms with almost all of his classmates. Not the kind of friendly where they’d greet each other if they passed on the street, but definitely at least on that level where they’ll have warm greetings when they’re paired up for a group project.

Peter is not-at-all okay with being the teenage celebrity at school. He can’t walk down the hall without heads turning in his wake, and he’s really dreading whenever he needs to go to the bathroom because he doesn’t fancy having thirty people watch him go in. It’s weird and uncomfortable and Peter wants it to stop before he even makes it to homeroom.

“You had the coolest summer by far,” Betty says. “I mean, between the Europe trip and you getting mistaken as Spider-Man...nothing tops that. Of course they’ll look. ”

Peter would love more than anything to have Ned or MJ in homeroom, but it is nice to have Betty. She picks a front row sea, and Peter sets his things down right behind her. Betty radiates a bit of a safe zone. Everyone in her radius seems to sit a little straighter and pay a lot more attention to the teacher. Then again, it might have more to do with the types of students who sit in the front of the class. Peter can only hope that the starers in the back of the class will eventually get bored of watching the back of his head.

“I dunno, Betty,” Peter says. He can imagine the dozens of eyeballs trained on his back with hair-raising clarity. They were probably trying to analyze his physique to see how it compares with what they know about Spider-Man. “It was an awful lot of trying to stay on the down-low.”

Betty raises one perfectly groomed eyebrow and answers with a long-suffering, incredulous, “Yes, but like, in Stark Towers.”

“Yeah,” Peter concedes.

“Everything changed, but everything’s the same. They’re all recognize that sooner or later.” Betty flips her hair over her shoulder and turns to face the front of the classroom as Mr. Berman stomps through the door.

“Morning!” Mr. Berman roars.

“Good morning!” Betty responds with matching enthusiasm. Her voice stands out clearly among the mumbled responses of the rest of the class. 

“Welcome to Introduction into Photography and Filmography. We have a busy semester cut out for us, so I hope none of you took this class anticipating an easy A.” The class doesn’t respond verbally, but Betty shakes her head emphatically and looks horrified at the very thought. Mr. Berman counts out syllabi and slaps them down on the first desk of each row as he continues his monologue. 

“Our class is all about audience perception, so all of your work will be publicized. Your final exam will be a gallery walk in which you evidence your understanding of the terms and equipment we will be using in this room. The whole world can never fit on a camera lense. It is up to you to frame it, embellish it, and make something of it.”

Betty’s head is bobbing like a dashboard figurine. She’s probably wanted to take this class since freshman year, but seniors and juniors fill the seats before underclassmen get the chance to sign up. 

“It is also up to you to deconstruct it.” Mr. Berman brandishes a remote at the ceiling until the projector light flickers on. “Mr. Ionello, read that first section on participation policy.”

The majority of class is reading over the syllabus with periodic interruptions from Mr. Berman espousing warnings based upon student work and behavior from previous years. In the last few minutes of class, Mr. Berman has them debate which superhero photos best supports newspaper headlines, and Peter stammers out something about how the staring-at-the-camera shot of the Winter Soldier really compliments the headline about him being an armed and dangerous fugitive. When Jason matches a wide-angle shot of Spider-Man dashing past a civilians to the headline “Reckless Vigilante Poses Danger?”, every head in the classroom--including Mr. Berman’s--swivels to Peter. Peter stares at the projection and counts down the seconds until he’s free from this enclosed examination.

When the bell does finally ring, Peter is the first out of class. He throws a quick, “See you later, Betty!” over his shoulder and books it through the hallway just as students are pouring out of classes. He very intentionally grabs a seat in the back row of Ms. Warren’s class and waits for Ned to appear in the doorway. They need to strategize how Peter’s going to make it through the day without losing his dang mind.

Ned gets to class right before the bell rings. Ms. Warren motions for him to sit a table in the front row, and Ned turns bright red and nods nervously. Peter doesn’t get it. What does Ned have to be nervous about? They had Ms. Warren sophomore year, and she’s always been cool. As long as they get their work done, she lets them be.

As Ms. Warren reaches over her desk to grab the list of syllabi, Peter squat-runs up to the seat next to Ned. Ned gives him a little acknowledgement head tilt but keeps facing front.

“Dude, what--”

“Welcome to Advanced Physics,” Ms. Warren says. “We’ve worked previously with the basic laws governing the functioning of the universe, but now you will experience all the peculiarities and complicating factors. This is a collegiate course, and it will be run accordingly. The entirety of your grade comes down to two exams.”

Peter starts fidgeting. He doesn’t do horribly on exams. He is, after all, in a magnet school. It’s just that he tends to perform a lot better in practical sessions.

“Tuesdays and Thursdays, we will be in the lab,” Ms. Warren says. “You must pass both portions of the class in order to qualify for college credit.”

Peter’s focus shifts from Ms. Warren to Ned, who is staring earnestly at Ms. Warren and carefully writing down notes in his agenda. Peter makes a bewildered face, but Ned still is completely ignoring him. It’s frustrating Peter enough that he’s not much aware of the persistent stares at the back of his head.

Ms. Warren gives them a first day quiz to see what they remember from sophomore year, and Ned won’t even look a tiny bit affronted with Peter.  It’s really bumming Peter out. Maybe something happened in first period. But it’s the first day of school: what could have happened?

“Eyes on your own paper, Parker,” Ms. Warren reprimands, and Peter turns so his back is to Ned. 

Peter kinda has an unfair advantage when it comes to physics. He gets to practice application whenever he’s suited up, and the little paragraphs of word problems are vivid and real. Then it’s just a matter of knowing and applying formulas, and Peter has always had a nerd brain. He scribbles through the quiz in ten minutes and turns in his paper with a thin-lipped smile.

Peter doesn’t mean to look at Ned’s paper, but when he does, he looks again. Ned’s always had neat work but sloppy handwriting. Right now, he’s spending an inordinate amount of time carefully printing his letters. Peter lets out a disbelieving huff of air. Ned makes a face at him and returns to his work.

The first day of school is always repetitive and boring, but goodness, this is worse than Peter could have ever imagined. When the bell rings, he grabs Ned’s arm to pull him to the side in the hallway.

“What was that?” Peter demands.

“I can’t goof off in there,” Ned says. 

“I’m not saying you need to,” Peter says. “You didn’t look at me once.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I don’t want Ms. Warren to hate me any more than she already does.”

Peter gapes at Ned. “She doesn’t hate you!”

“Uh, you don’t know that!”

“Why would she hate you?”

“I dunno, Peter, maybe because she thinks I’m the type of kid who sneaks off to the computer lab to look at porn!”

“What?”

Ned pulls his arm free. “Come on. We got to start moving unless we want to be late.” 

Peter hurries to fall in step next to him. “Why would she--”

“Because I told her that’s what I was doing when she found me in the computer lab on prom night!”

Bits and pieces start slotting into place. “Oh,” Peter says. “But it’s been years!”

“Yeah, but Mr. Myers gave me one of two computers that can be seen from any location in the room, and I bet it’s because she told him about that. I bet all the teachers know!”

Ned’s mortification at the possibility of all of their teachers thinking he’s some sort of porn addicted derelict immediately supersedes the annoyance of everyone constantly looking at Peter. “You don’t know that for sure. We’ll have to collect data.”

“Data?” Ned repeats hysterically. “All of my life, my teachers have loved me! But now--”

“Now what?” Betty says, and Peter’s pretty sure that he sees Ned’s spirit leave his body.

“Hi Betty,” Peter says dutifully while Ned visibly struggles to compose himself. “How was class?”

“Fine,” Betty says. “You okay?” She links arms with Ned, and Peter gets momentarily distracted wondering if MJ would ever initiate a move like that, and if so, how she would do it, and if she’d do it, whether he’d like it. It’s kinda assertive in a way he doesn’t associate with MJ.

“Just pre-stressing,” Ned says, and Betty smiles affectionately up at him. 

“Well stop. You’ve got this. We’ve got this.”

Peter tries not to feel bitter as Ned and Betty chatter after Ned has spent the last hour auditioning for the role of teacher’s pet and completely ignoring Peter. He preoccupies himself with some casual horrified reflection of May and Deadpool’s upcoming meeting. He’s not sure who to be more afraid of and afraid for.

He says goodbye to Ned and Betty as they head into Spanish. It’ll just be one more class, and then it’s study hall time and he can sit next to MJ. Just thinking about it gets him feeling all sorts of giddy.

Ms. Carlyle crams her start-of-year speech into the first ten minutes of class and has them takes three pages of notes. She sternly informs them that, if they don’t solve the four practice problems correctly before the bell rings, she will personally rearrange their schedules so they can focus on trigonometry before attempting Calculus. Peter appreciates her severity; between that and the novelty factor wearing off, he’s not feeling as center-staged as when he first entered campus this morning.

“Hey, Parker,” Flash says when the bell rings and they’re leaving class. Peter begrudgingly slows down. Talking with Flash is never nice and only ever sometimes funny in a dramatic irony sort of way. “Good summer?”

Peter laughs humorlessly. “So-so. You?”

“Have you met Spider-Man?” Flash demands, all pretenses dropped. 

“Uh, I guess?” Peter doesn’t know what the safe answer is. He doesn’t even know what the honest answer is. “Not officially.”

“Right,” Flash says. He’s obviously not actually listening to Peter’s answer. “I’ve been working for him all summer, and I need you to tell him to--”

“I don’t know him like that,” Peter interrupts.

“You live in Stark Towers.”

“Yeah, that’s because Spider-Man was temporarily an Avenger and they're trying to run some damage control, make sure my family isn’t affected by the whole identify confusion mess.” At least, that’s the statement that Happy’s been pushing.

“So you know people who could get in contact with Spider-Man,” Flash says.

“No,” Peter says. “I don’t have any pull with Spider-Man. He wouldn’t even make a public statement about the whole identity thing.”

Flash rolls his eyes as those Peter is being purposefully obtuse. “Then talk to someone who does have pull. I need to talk to him.”

“About what?”

“It’s for Spider-Man’s ears only.”

“Sure,” Peter says. “I’ll let everyone at Stark Towers know that one of my classmates wants to talk to Spider-Man. Let me know if he shows up.”

Flash makes a strangled sound and storms off.

“Wow, Peter,” MJ says. “That was pretty sassy.”

Peter turns and beams at MJ. She’s trying to hold a straight face, but she can’t manage to keep her mouth in a straight line. “Hi, MJ.”

“Hey.” She kicks his leg gently, and when her foot comes back to the ground, it’s right next to Peter. “How’s first day going?”

“Everyone’s looking at me and Ned’s worried all the teachers think he’s a pervert.”

“Your day sucks. Ask me about mine.”

“You don’t want to know about Ned?”

“No, you idiot, I want to tell you about my favorite class if you can feign interest long enough.”

“I am interested!”

MJ rolls her eyes. “Then ask.”

It seems like MJ is making an unnecessary point by insisting that Peter say the words, but he’s not here to slow her roll.  “How was your day?”

“I have the perfect homeroom,” MJ gushes. 

“Art class, right? With Mr. Lieber--”

“Storytelling, and he goes by Mr. Lee.”

“It’s a good class?”

“Yes,” MJ says. Peter doesn’t know if he’s ever seen her this enthusiastic about anything. “He showed us some of his publications, and they were really good. I’m going to make you read them.”

“I’m not really big on reading,” Peter says. He tends to get distracted easily, especially with fiction. It just feels so pointless.

“There’s pictures,” MJ assures him, and Peter tries very hard not to find her patronizing tone endearing. 

“Oh, good. In that case...”

He freezes abruptly when the backs of their hands touch. MJ smirks down at him, and he’s willing to bet that she brushed hands just to watch him get flustered. He squares his shoulders like he’s about to lift a piece of infrastructure and grabs her hand. He remembers last second to keep his grip loose.

“Did you want to tell me more about Ned?” MJ asks. She’s not looking at Peter any more, but she’s got that little pleased smile that makes Peter’s chest ache with contentment. 

“I want to hear more about your day.”

MJ squeezes his hand. “Right answer, Peter.” The look she throws his way makes him feel all tingly. 

She’s only just started her subtle Mr. Nelson impression when Ned and Betty meander up to their table in the library. Peter watches MJ dim, her mouth straightening, her hands falling to the table. Part of him wants Ned and Betty to keep walking, but he’s also very aware that MJ is fully back into distant, aloof mode. 

“Hey, dudes,” MJ says as they sit down across the table.

Peter likes-likes MJ, and he doesn’t even fully know her. There’s new little things that he’s seeing whenever he pauses long enough to really see her. It’s thrilling, but also terrifying. MJ already knows literally everything about him, and Peter’s not really particularly interesting outside of the whole Spider-Man thing. Maybe MJ thinks she likes him because she was obsessing over whether or not he was Spider-Man. 

Oh gosh, Peter really hopes not.

Chapter Text

 

Peter executes a perfect flip through the door, timing his bookbag drop so it lands against the side of the couch, and finishes with a handspring on the arm to flop face-first into the cushions. When May doesn’t immediately ask what’s wrong, he adds a theatrical groan as a prompt.

“Awww, did baby have a tough first day at school?” Deadpool asks, and Peter is pretty sure he throws his spine out of alignment with how fast he shoves himself upright. Deadpool, unmasked but face still mostly covered by his hoodie, gives him a little wave while May is clearly having a laugh at Peter’s expense.

“What are you doing here?” Peter demands.

“Coming to an agreement,” May says. Her voice is bright with mirth. She’s sitting in front of her desk, the same way she tends to do when she’s having a one-on-one meeting with anyone seeking out any of FEAST’s services, and Peter briefly wonders if Deadpool is trying to scam his way into free food. 

“About?” Peter looks back and forth between May and Deadpool, trying to see who looks more likely to spill the details. 

“Joint custody arrangement,” Deadpool deadpans with a funny little quirk of his mouth that looks like both like a smile and a frown. 

Peter rolls his eyes as he fixes upon May. Deadpool may be more likely to talk, but his words are also more likely to be total nonsense.

“More or less, yes,” May says. 

Peter gapes at her. “What?”

“Doreen is going to be joining your training sessions. You’re to be back by eleven on school nights with no exceptions.” Her voice grows lethally sharp. “There will be no intentional injuries.”

And now Peter’s staring at Deadpool. “You agreed?” 

“Yeah. Those terms are reasonable and practical. Of course I agreed.”

Everything feels wildly surreal. “What happened to you having to train me to fight injured and not be reliant on Peter tingle?”

“You know how to fight injured and not rely on the Peter tingle.” Deadpool smiles innocently. “I should know, seeing as how I taught you.”

Peter splutters partial words for several seconds before he can string together any whole ones. “You...that...May, you’re believing this?”

“I am,” May says. “Wade was very convincing.” Deadpool takes advantage of May’s focus on Peter and mimes blowing a raspberry, hands flouncing from the sides of his head in the immature nah-nah nah-nah nah nah gesture. “Weren’t you, Wade?”

Deadpool lowers his hands guiltily and nods earnestly. “Cross my heart and hope to die hard.”

“That’s the spirit,” May says. She looks back at Peter. “Do you have anything you’d like to input, Pete-Pete?”

There’s an awful lot that Peter would like to input, but he doesn’t have a polite way to say it. Then again, Deadpool isn’t exactly polite company. 

“So you trust him now?” Peter heaves himself off the couch so he can arrange his legs more comfortably. It doesn’t feel right to slouch, so he ends up perched on the edge of his seat. 

“I don’t know Wade,” May says. “I know you. And you’re hanging with him, so I’m giving him one chance.”

“Awww, thanks,” Deadpool croons.

Peter and May ignore him entirely. “You want Doreen babysitting me?”

“I want Doreen training with you,” May says resolutely. “And if that means that she’s helping Wade find his manners, I’ve got no problem with it. If she’s going to do stunts for you, she should train with you.”

Peter’s warming up to Doreen, he really is, but that doesn’t mean that he wants her around when he’s sparring with Deadpool. She’s capable enough that there’s a very present danger that she’ll get in over her head, and it’ll be Peter’s responsibility to make sure she’s okay.

“You’ve got a big ol’ live dummy to teach webbing with,” Deadpool says. “It’ll be fun, Petey. Promise.”

Peter bristles at the nickname. “And what do you get out of this?” 

“Closer to my main goal.”

“Your main goal?” Peter repeats.

Deadpool nods and wriggles three fingers at him. “The big three-oh.”

Right. Deadpool is Peter’s self-appointed guardian angel ensuring that he gets to celebrate his thirtieth birthday. However could Peter forget.

Peter turns to exchange an incredulous look with May, but she doesn’t return it. He’s deeply uncomfortable with how amicable she seems to be with Deadpool. Maybe even a little betrayed. Wasn’t she defensive and angry on his behalf?

“So tonight’s training,” May says sternly, “will include Doreen.”

“We don’t know if Doreen is available,” Peter says.

“She has confirmed that she’ll be able to attend.”

“It’s not….” Peter trails off. “I’m all for girl power and all that, but Doreen doesn’t have abilities like us. I don’t know if it’s safe--”

“It’s safe,” Deadpool interrupts with a whine coloring his voice. “It’s not like I just randomly kill people I interact with.”

“Don’t you?” Peter snaps. He takes a deep, calming breath. May won’t be moved by hysterics and whining. He has to appeal to her common sense. “You don’t have the best judgment of what’s real.”

“You don’t have the best judgment of what matters,” Deadpool retorts. “Package deal.”

“Not killing people matters!”

“You being alive at the end of the day matters,” May says in a low, firm voice. “And it doesn’t seem to be too high up on your list of priorities.”

Peter’s stomach drops. He’s been anticipating this conversation ever since May first found out about him being Spider-Man, and he’s surprised that it’s taken this long to come up. He just wishes it wasn’t happening in front of an audience. “I have to give it my all, May. I’m actively doing my best not to get killed. I can’t do nothing. I’ve got to do what I can with what I’ve got.”

“I know you do,” May says. “So the way I see it, your safety has to be outsourced. You opted for Wade to be involved, now he’s been vetted, and you can carry on with your antics.”

Peter would very much like to know what Deadpool told May for her to completely buy in to the idea that Deadpool can be associated with safety. First impressions aside, he kinda thought that May hated the guy.

“Well, that’s great.” Peter pulls at his hair and lets himself fall back onto the couch. Truth be told, it is really cool that he doesn’t have to worry about May disproving of his outings with Deadpool. It’s just super unexpected and slightly inconvenient. 

“Good. Then we’re agreed.” May rises from her seat and pulls Deadpool up into a hug. His eyes flutter close and a pained expression spasms across his face, so fast Peter almost misses it. “Stark Industries, six thirty?”

“Yeah.” Deadpool gives May an all-teeth grin and throws an elaborate salute to Peter. “Nice to see you again.”

“Right,” May says. She looks amused, which means that there’s some sort of inside joke between them, and that level of camaraderie is borderline wrong and definitely weird. 

“What is going on?” Peter demands. 

“Well, I’m heading out,” Deadpool narrates. “You are having some cute little unnecessary internal crisis. May is waiting to ask you about your first day. Now I’m closing the door behind me. You and May are watching the door and wondering if I’m going to keep talking. I’m still talking. Yep, still talking.” Deadpool’s voice fades away as he walks down the hall. Peter can still hear him rambling and resists the urge to facepalm. 

“May,” Peter says, voice full of reproach. “What was that?”

“That was the tail end of meeting,” May replies.

“He’s dangerous.”

“He is,” May agrees. “So it’s good he’s on our side, isn’t it?”

“So you trust him now?”

“If I trusted him, would you have a third party observer and a curfew?”

It’s a valid point, but Peter’s still not a fan of how buddy-buddy the two of them seem.

“Additionally, in future,” May continues, “let’s not make flamboyantly acrobatic entrances into rooms. You’re lucky it was Wade in here and not someone else.”

“Yeah, no, you’re right.” Peter definitely doesn’t want word circulating about Peter Parker being an accomplished gymnast. It would definitely make give credence to the internet theorists still speculating that he is Spider-Man.

“So how was school?”

Peter does a quick mental drudge. Seeing Deadpool and May interact had completely wiped his mind of his original complaints about the start of the school year. It doesn’t, however, take very long to reboot. He does a quick summary of his new teachers and a refresher on the repeat teachers, provides a half dozen examples of how he’d been inconvenienced by his sudden celebrity status, bemoans having homework this early in the school year, and rushes through an oversimplified explanation of Ned’s teacher anxiety.

“Busy day,” May says. She started off listening avidly, but sometime around the moment Peter started tossing a paperweight, she divides her attention between her nephew and her inbox. “I know you want to be in the same class with your friends, but you know, they do say absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Peter gives her a look that conveys his opinion on that cliche, and May chortles. “I, um, wanted to ask about something else.”

May immediately picks up on the hesitance in Peter’s voice and looks over her glasses. “What’s that?”

“I was wondering what sort of stuff girls like?”

May beams beatifically, and Peter feels like he might have accidentally walked into a trap. He’s done pretty well avoiding conversations about relationships with May outside of one condom talk when he was fourteen. He can still remember shrinking back in horror as May showered him with phallic fruits and vegetables to practice wrapping while listing symptoms of STIs. It is an unforgettably bleak patch in Peter’s memory. If MJ’s first date idea hadn’t been so perfect, he would never had dared enter the dangerous waters of this conversation. 

“Well, all girls aren’t the same. It depends which girl,” May says. “Michelle strikes me as a very different young lady than your last friend.” She puts that weird emphasis on friend that adults use as if to say that they know the person is more than a friend. 

“She is,” Peter says. “She’s really into…” He pauses and scrambles for the right word. “She likes dystopian stuff, taking on ‘the man,’ and being a bit of a free spirit.” She likes things that are imperfect. She likes Peter. “It’s my turn to plan a date, and I want it to be really good.”

“Do you want to talk to her or do something with her?”

“Uh...which is better?”

“Don’t overthink this. You know you’ll freeze up if you overthink. Talk or do?”

“Both?”

“Okay. What have you done before?”

“MJ made this art scavenger hunt and we hunted graffiti.”

May hums approvingly. “So you’ll want to do something less structured and more private?” She waggles her eyebrows at Peter, and he promptly turns beet red. 

“We’re not like that!” he protests. He still gets that electric thrill of shock whenever they kiss. They’re not about to have a make-out date session. Smooches are more like accoutrements than their raison d’hangout.

“You should do a picnic on the top of a building!” May says. She looks entirely unconvinced by Peter’s protestations about needing privacy. “Weather will be a factor, of course--”

“And what about blimps and helicopters and drones? I can’t be maskless in a place where an average teenager wouldn’t have access.” 

“Fine,” May huffs. “You should do something more personal to you, but don’t you dare take her into a lab and forget about her while you’re nerding out.”

Peter doesn’t think it’s possible to forget about MJ, but he does know he can get overbearing in the middle of a nerd rampage and he’s not interested in inflicting that on MJ. “That’s who I am, though. I’m a nerd.”

“Yeah, you are.” May regards him warmly. “But you’re also Spider-Man.”

“I don’t want to involve MJ with that any more than I already have.”

“Just saying, Spider-Man is pretty cool.”

Objectively speaking, Spider-Man is probably the least cool of the superheroes. He can still vividly remember Mr. Wilson scolding him for rambling during his first powered fight. Peter’s grown a persona that he can wear while suited, but Spider-Man is still an awkward, babbling people-pleaser. But Peter doesn’t want to become a different person when he’s Spider-Man. 

“MJ didn’t like it when I took her swinging.” Peter had liked it. He had liked it a lot. There’s something really empowering in having someone clinging tightly and hiding her face in his chest. It made him feel really strong, and not just in the physical sense. Nonetheless, MJ had been pretty emphatic about swinging not being fun, and Peter is definitely going to respect that.

“I’ll think about it,” May promises. “Now you’d better get your homework knocked out. You’ve got a place to be tonight.”

Peter thinks about the upcoming training session and sinks into a deep sulk as he yanks his bookbag into his lap. He’s certainly not looking forward to attempting to mediate peace between Deadpool and Doreen.

Chapter Text

 

Peter looks back and forth between a fully-suited Deadpool and a Spider-Man-suited Doreen. It's pretty eerie to look at his doppelganger. “Who’s running this thing?” 

“It’s a free-for-all,” Deadpool says. He claps his hands together and rubs them vigorously. The leather scuffs and squeaks sound particularly loud in the silent gym.

“Meaning?” Doreen asks. She hasn’t taken her disapproving eyes off of Deadpool since Peter ran into the room. Deadpool appears completely aloof.

“Deadpool, you said you didn’t mind being a practice dummy, right?” Peter shifts his weight awkwardly from foot to foot.

“I’ll be whatever ya want, baby.”

“Cool,” Peter says brusquely. “Alright, Doreen, if you don’t mind, I want you to try and capture Deadpool.”

“Gladly.” Doreen does a little running-in-place motion.

“And Deadpool,” Peter says sternly, “no matando.”

“Of course,” Deadpool agrees. “What do you take me for?” He dodges a web with a small side step and takes off across the room in an intense zigzag through the obstacles spread throughout the gym.

Peter hasn’t really ever really watched Deadpool in action before. He’s usually focusing on the task at hand, or catching Deadpool, or stopping Deadpool from doing something ill-advised. It’s easy to see now, as Doreen tails him around the gym and Deadpool pants out taunts, exactly how adept and controlled he is. Peter tears his eyes from Deadpool’s antics and focuses on Doreen.

It’s obvious that she’s been practicing those vertical landings. She’s making solid contact and wasting no time in hurting over the obstacles.

“Give him places to go. Lead him,” Peter calls as Deadpool ducks another web and vaults across a beam. Deadpool gives him a thumbs up and continues to scurry around the room.

Doreen pauses, hanging from a bar, and Peter can practically see her strategy percolating. She lands in front of Deadpool, shoots a web over his left shoulder, and swings into him when he turns to his right.

“Good!” Deadpool says brightly. “Except you’re dead.” Peter jerks towards them in case Deadpool intends to give Doreen one of his object lessons.

“Come on!” Doreen protests from her roost on his chest. “I got you.”

“You didn’t restrain me. Of course I’m going to fight you.”

“I’m not about to restrain you. Aren’t we just going to do this again?”

“Restrain me,” Deadpool barks.

Peter wonders if Deadpool also has hallucinations involving Doreen’s death. The idea doesn’t sit particularly well with him. It’s kinda a Peter-and-Deadpool thing, and Deadpool’s hovering insanity is Peter’s cross to bear. It would change their dynamic if Deadpool has visions about everybody. Oh, and also it’s not great that Deadpool is hallucinating. There’s that too.

Deadpool makes a sudden stabbing motion, and Peter webs his hands to the ground automatically. Restraining Deadpool is basically instinctual at this point. 

“Great,” Doreen says, stepping off of Deadpool’s torso. “Thanks. Now what are we going to do, wait for an hour for the webs to dissolve?”

“It’s just his gloves that are webbed,” Peter says. He’s snooping hard, but there’s no sign that Deadpool actually had a weapon that he had been intending to stab Doreen with. “He can slide those right off.”

“In a fight, I most certainly would,” Deadpool says primly. “For now, I get a breather.”

“I tired you out, huh?” Doreen beams. She looks self-satisfied, but not in an annoying way. Her chest is still stuttering with quick breaths. 

“You got your nanoceramic?” Peter interrupts. Doreen hasn’t seen Deadpool in an actual fight. She doesn’t know that she was handling Deadpool lite, and he doesn’t particularly feel the need to explain that Deadpool is on baby wheels right now.

“Do I have my nanoceramic,” Deadpool repeats, shaking his head like he’s embarassed that Peter’s asking such a dumb question. “Do I have my nanoceramic.”

“Sorry,” Peter says, not even a little bit apologetic. “I meant, where’s your nanoceramic?”

“Boot.” Deadpool undulates his right leg before flopping it back onto the ground.

Peter crouches over Deadpool and pulls at the edge of his boot. The boot fit is snug, so Peter is extraordinarily careful to not wiggle the blade as he withdraws it. He’s not interested in drawing blood, no matter how quickly Deadpool might recover from it.”

“You’ve got a ceramic knife?” Doreen asks with open curiosity. 

Deadpool flops his head over to face Doreen. “I’ve got all sorts of knives.” His fingers wiggle as he talks, and Peter begins scrapping the webbing off of Deadpool’s gloves. If Deadpool is going to keep demanding to be webbed, Peter’s going to have to come up with a better unsticking solution than the knife. His mind immediately swirls with possible chemical formulas to accelerate web breakdown or weaken the webbing’s cohesive properties. He mostly tunes out Deadpool’s enthusiastic, “With enough force, anything can be a knife!” 

After Peter has finally freed Deadpool, Peter directs Doreen to sit high up on the wall, head practically brushing the ceiling, so that he and Deadpool can have the rest of the gym to spar. Peter feels electrified with the thrill of the upcoming fight. Doreen’s going to see how much Deadpool looks without the kid gloves on, and she’s going to realize just how dangerous it is to fight with heros and save her costume time for press junkets and not actually doing the Spider-Man stuff.

Deadpool’s not moving, which means that he’s expecting Peter to start the charge. Peter’s not inclined to humor him. Besides, it’s not like Peter randomly incapacitates people while patrolling. There has to be a reason for it. If Deadpool wants to play the waiting game, Spider-Man is not the one to play against.

It’s been almost a full two minutes of nothing when Deadpool rolls his shoulders and turns his head to look at Peter. Peter waves from his upside-down position, swinging slightly with the motion.

“Hey, how’s it hanging?” He gestures helpfully to the webbing from which he’s dangling in case there’s any possibility that Deadpool missed his pun.

“In a cup,” Deadpool answers without missing a beat. “Safety first. Think of the children.”

Peter experiences a tingle so strong that it almost hurts just before Deadpool springs into motion. Peter pads along the side side of his obstacle perch to keep Deadpool in sight. Deadpool hasn’t done anything truly offensive yet, but Peter is definitely looking for a reason to engage.

Deadpool swings on a bar and sticks a landing on top of Peter’s ledge. Peter’s nerves are on fire, and he’s got an adrenaline rush curdling his blood. He swallows. The fight hasn’t even started. He needs to calm down. He’s just not used to Deadpool setting off the Peter tingle, and it’s massively unsettling. 

Deadpool swings under the ledge, and Peter’s willing to count the motion as the initiating factor. He would certainly restrain anyone chasing after him, right?

Peter anticipates having to catch Deadpool, but Deadpool apparently has secured himself with some sort of grappling hook. Peter has just enough time to grab Deadpool’s forearm, stalling his knife, when he slips off the bottom of the ledge and just barely manages to sling another web. If he weren't mid-fight, Peter would facepalm his sloppy footing.

Grappling is new, and Peter’s forte has never been hand-to-hand combat. Super-strength and stickiness aside, he is and always has been a nerd. Mid-air, there’s not anything to pin Deadpool to, nothing to push against, nothing to bounce off of. He needs something.

Pressure to Deadpool’s wrist breaks his hold on the knife enough for it to clatter to the floor. Peter stretches out his right  hand to sling another web, to build momentum and get to a surface, and Deadpool slides smoothly under Peter’s left elbow, kneeing Peter in the jaw and pulling Peter’s left arm behind his back. Peter’s web misses his wall target and lands on the gym floor. He’s now dangling from his pinned arm and Deadpool’s line lies slack behind him.

“You ready to call uncle?” Deadpool says.

Peter releases his web and they lurch five feet down, where Deadpool’s tether snaps their descent to a halt. All the air is expelled from Peter’s lungs. Hands free now that he’s relying on Deadpool’s line to keep them in-air, he has two hands to focus on combat. He swings up to wrap his legs around Deadpool’s torso and sets about webbing his hands into place. It’s made difficult by the fact that there's not really anything to web Deadpool against and he is constantly having to disarm Deadpool, who is pulling a cartoonish number of knives from his sleeves in quick succession. 

Deadpool crooks an elbow down hard into Peter’s stomach. Peter gasps in pain and quickly clamps his mouth shut as bile creeps up his throat. He grabs Deadpool’s elbow before he can repeat the move, and as he takes the moment to web Deadpool’s arm down, Deadpool flattens out his free hand and chops at Peter’s face. Peter barely has time to turn, but he can’t turn quickly enough and Deadpool’s palm lands right behind his ear.

Pain explodes all the way down to his fingertips, and it becomes a struggle just for Peter to not squeeze his eyes shut to cope. It’s a couple seconds before he realizes a secondary effect of the hit.

“Either you’re calling uncle, or I’m calling your aunt,” Deadpool informs him. 

Peter’s arms are offline. His fingers are nonresponsive. He’s still got his legs wrapped around Deadpool’s torso, and it seems like those are his only functional limbs. It’s also all that’s keeping him from falling fifteen feet to the rubber floor of the gym.

“Stop!” Doreen demands, webbing down from her roost. “Stop!”

Peter’s struggling so hard to move that he nearly hits himself when his arm suddenly comes back to life. “What was that?”

“Your next lesson,” Deadpool says. Doreen reaches them and hooks an arm around Peter. Peter unlocks his heels and lets Doreen lower him to the floor.

“I get why May was worried,” Doreen says. “Geeze, that was rough to watch.”

Peter wants to protest. He always emerges victorious in the lessons, with the one exception being that time he got shot. This is just a one-off, a fluke.

“It’s not...Usually…uh...” Peter stammers to a stop. He knows it’s not a fluke. 

“He was going way easy on me,” Doreen continues. She charitably rambles on about the differences between their Deadpool sessions while Peter feels his haughtiness about Doreen training with Deadpool mutate into stunning humiliation. He had felt so superior knowing that Deadpool was capable of more than he had shown while Doreen was tailing him, but Peter had never even once considered the possibility that Deadpool had done the same with Peter. Peter’s no better than Doreen, and possibly even worse because he had known.

“You’re focusing on the wrong things,” Deadpool calls. He’s making slow, one handed progress back to the top of the ledge. Peter’s grateful that he’s not just cutting himself free and taking the free-fall. He doesn’t like seeing anyone get hurt, even if they can instantly heal; additionally, he’s not feeling particularly keen on being around Deadpool at the moment.

“How are you feeling right now?” Doreen demands.

The pain has weakened considerably, but there’s still the occasional flare. His limbs feel very weak. The urge to vomit has passed.

“Fine,” Peter says.

“Good,” Doreen says. “You got some fast healing abilities, pal.”

Peter starts to shrug his shoulders and quickly aborts the motion for the sake of comfort. “Not as fast as others.”

“I’ll show you how I throw a punch,” Doreen says. She settles into a slight crouch and floats her fists with a little bounce. “I wanna see what it looks like on you. Mimic me.”

Peter humors her and does his best to copy her motions. He knows the thought is misogynistic, but he can’t believe he’s being taught to throw punches by a girl. It’s really embarrassing.

“Punch through,” Doreen says. “We’re not bopping noses here. We are hitting the target behind the target.” Her punches are disciplined little jabs that move like a natural extension of her body, and Peter feels like his arms are just flailing. He’s unreasonably sore. 

“The weight is in your hand, drive with your elbow,” Deadpool shouts. He’s attempting to climb the side of the ledge with his free arm and feet, and he’s currently dangling upside down with both heels digging into the top.

“Nice, nice!” Doreen encourages. “Now give me a little pivot follow-through--Oh, Peter, that’s really good!”

“Thanks,” Peter huffs.

“The Avengers never taught him how to fight!” Deadpool yells. He’s got his knees over the ledge. “Just sent him off to do stuff.”

“That’s not--!” It’s not true. Really, it isn’t. Only, it kinda is? Like, Peter got himself involved with the entire Thanos thing, but the fight at the German hanger? That was all Mr. Stark. Like, yeah, it was nice to get suit upgrades and feel important, but the extent of developing strategy or training was Mr. Stark telling Peter to initiate by taking Captain America’s shield in a conflict that, had Peter properly understood, he would have picked the other side. 

“Wow,” Doreen says. “That’s bad.”

“I know!” Deadpool crows. 

“And Deadpool hasn’t taught you any of that? I thought he was supposed to be your trainer.”

Deadpool looks promptly less pleased.

“He’s taught me plenty,” Peter says defensively. “Tracking, takedown strategies, maximizing web advantage--”

“Learning those things doesn’t have inherent risk to the student.”

“Today’s lesson,” Peter says, jabbing towards the ledge where Deadpool is looking not-at-all-suave as he tries to clear his butt over the edge. “Today’s lesson was about where my webs and strength become ineffectual. It’s about making sure I don’t get caught in that situation. It’s about defending my neck--” There’s no doubt in Peter’s mind that Deadpool never intended to land a face hit; it had been about temporarily paralyzing Peter-- “It’s about …” It’s about not getting arrogant just because he thinks he knows what’s going on. Peter doesn’t want to say it that way. “...not relying on expectations.”

“My baby boy’s all grown up,” Deadpool says tremulously. “I want you to know that I would be clapping right now if I could.”

Peter rolls his eyes and looks back at Doreen. “He’s not a conventional teacher, and I’m not saying he’s always right. We’ve had to make some deals to make everything work out.”

“So you’re okay with today’s lesson?” Doreen asks skeptically.

Okay isn’t the right word. Peter shrugs. It hurts much less than the last time he attempted to move his shoulders. “I’m not going to need today’s lesson again.”

Doreen mimics a shrug back at him. “Well, I vote for hand-combat training for the rest of our time here. The type where people don’t get injured.” She levels a hard stare back at Deadpool, who totally misses it as he starts climbing down the obstacle course.

“Sure,” Peter says. “I need a block for that neck chop.”

“Just in case you ever get attacked by a horde of ninjas,” Doreen chuckles. Peter barks a laugh. Deadpool nods emphatically. He’s so bizarre; Peter honestly doesn’t even question it anymore.