Peter’s ribs hurt and the grocery store is closed.
The shopkeeper is still inside but when he taps on the door she just shakes her head at him. For a brief and mildly insane moment he contemplates just breaking the door down and then he gives himself a mental slap in the head and starts walking to the late-night crazy vegan organic grocer a couple of blocks down. It’s only a short step from breaking down grocery doors to holding all of New York hostage and opening up a sucking vortex of doom to some mysterious alien realm. Peter has a Moral Compass and is determined to use it properly and not turn into one of those supervillains that keep cackling wickedly and threatening to conquer the city and defeat the Avengers by, like, seducing them or something. (This happens every other week, mostly to Tony Stark, and Peter’s pretty sure it’s just because people like seducing Tony Stark.)
He gives into temptation and uses his web-slingers to swing over to the organic grocer, even though he’s not wearing his suit and he’s almost out of web and everything hurts. By the time he gets there everything hurts even more and he just wants to curl up into a crevice and maybe die a little.
The organic grocer’s still open. The girl at the counter has purple hair and snakebite piercings and she smiles at him when he walks in. He gives her a smile that he’s pretty sure looks kind of crazy and walks over to the eggs section. There’s a guy in the way, a huge guy with ridiculous muscles and hair that looks too blonde to be real, and Peter waits for him to move but he doesn’t. He just stands there staring at the eggs with this sort of lost, desperate look on his face. Peter can sympathise with him; there are a lot of different types of eggs and he usually gets the wrong ones. Usually Uncle Ben would tell him which ones to get but, well. Yeah.
“Hey, dude,” he says eventually, after a self-indulgent couple of minutes spent ogling the guy’s ass, “not that I’m trying to interrupt your existential crisis, or, or whatever, but I just need to nip in and get some eggs and I’ll be out of here.”
“Oh,” says the guy, startling, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be in the way,” and he turns around and it’s Captain America.
Peter shakes his head a little and wonders if the lizard antidote maybe has hallucinogenic properties. He pinches himself on the arm but no, Captain America’s still there, blocking the grocery aisle and freaking out over eggs.
“You’re Captain America,” he blurts out.
“What?” says Captain America, looking a little wide-eyed. He casts a nervous glance at the girl at the counter – he has nothing to worry about there, she’s rocking out to her iPod and could care less what they’re talking about – and says, “No, uh, Steve, it’s just, I’m Steve.”
“Right,” says Peter, and then because his brain-to-mouth filter had apparently been completely destroyed in the fight on Oscorp Tower: “Hey, your butt really is as tight as it looks on TV.”
Captain America just kind of stares at him and then Peter realises what he just said and freezes on the spot. He just met Captain America, war hero, icon of truth and justice and really spangly outfits, and then ogled his ass. He ogled Captain America’s ass and then told him about it. Peter is a terrible person and he is obviously destined for supervillainy. What is his life.
“...Thanks?” says Cap weakly.
“Uh,” says Peter, and then his brain kind of blanks out and he darts around and grabs the first carton of eggs he can reach, and he hopes they’re the right ones because he didn’t even check but this place is organic so they’re probably free range. He waves the carton in Captain America’s face and then says, “Right, well, I’ll see you around. Except not. Because you’re Captain America. Have fun saving the planet. Don’t, you know, die or anything.”
Cap doesn’t say anything. Actually he looks kind of dumbfounded, like someone hit him in the head with a heavy object. Peter all but runs to the counter and throws a random amount of money at the cashier. And then he walks home and it’s raining but he’s pretty sure most of it is still the antidote doing crazy things to the weather. The rain sticks to the back of his neck and he huddles into his hoodie but it doesn’t help, he feels like his bones have turned to ice. Spiders are cold-blooded.
When he gets home it’s almost eleven o’clock and Aunt May’s still in the kitchen and the rain is thundering down on the roof like it’s the end of the world. He holds out the eggs and Aunt May’s arms are around him and she tells him that it’s all right and for one short and shining moment he actually believes her.
He doesn’t sleep that night.
The next week Peter’s ribs have healed – thank you, weird mutated healing powers! – and he’s back in the organic grocery store because the one around the corner from Aunt May’s house shut down unexpectedly a few days ago. Some supervillain turned the place into a giant pumpkin or something, Peter doesn’t know. It’s not like he had the best history with the place anyway. So he and Aunt May are going organic for a while, that’s cool, he went vegan for a little while in middle school when someone told him that if you ate too many cheeseburgers you’d turn into one. He’s not a vegan anymore and, hello, this place isn’t totally vegan either because they have eggs and also dairy products but organic stuff tends to be pretty healthy and he’s totally up for Aunt May eating healthier. Peter has no idea how she’s survived for this long, honestly, that meatloaf of hers is radioactive. He only has one relative left and he intends to keep her.
By this point he’s mostly convinced himself that the run-in with Captain America was some kind of crazed fever dream or something, so he doesn’t worry about it too much. It’s probably stress. He’s a teenager. Teenagers stress. And yet when he walks in the door the cashier – blue-haired this time – is popping bubblegum and Captain America is standing in the frozen foods aisle looking just as distressed as he was last time.
Peter turns around and immediately starts banging his head against the wall. When he risks a peek Captain America is still there and he’s holding a packet of fish fingers and looking really confused, and also the cashier is giving Peter a weird look. Peter figures he’s losing brain cells and it’s obviously not remedying his psychosis so he stops thumping his head against the wall and saunters not-so-casually over to the frozen foods aisle.
“Hi,” says Peter.
Cap looks up at him and doesn’t say anything and then he looks back to the fish fingers and he looks like his pet kitten just died. What’s he doing here anyway? Maybe there are supervillains hiding out in the frozen foods aisle. Maybe they’re planning a string of grocery store attacks and they’re planning to turn this place into a giant eggplant or something. Or, you know, maybe he’s just here to do his grocery shopping. Superheroes do grocery shopping, right? Peter’s here so it must be true.
When Cap finally speaks his voice is hollow and he sounds really, really tragic, like someone just told him Dumbledore dies in the sixth book. Peter almost doesn’t pay attention to what he actually says but what comes out of his mouth is so utterly ridiculous that he can’t help but pay attention.
“Fish don’t have fingers,” says Cap, equal parts baffled and desolate. “Is this a future thing? Do fish have fingers now?”
Peter just gapes at him because that’s a level of weird that even he can’t handle.
“Fish don’t have fingers,” says Cap again, and there’s a deranged look in his eye. Peter starts to back away slowly.
“Okay,” he tries, “okay, Captain – um, sir – um, Sir Captain – Steve. You’re obviously upset. Just take deep breaths. Fish don’t have fingers. It’s cool, you can calm down.”
Cap obviously listens to him because he closes his eyes and does actually take some deep breaths but then he starts hyperventilating or something and Peter really isn’t sure what to do with a hyperventilating Captain America.
“Look, I get it, consumerism is hard,” he says, and starts eyeballing the exit. He hasn’t got his groceries yet but some things just aren’t worth dealing with for fresh fruit and vegetables and a hyperventilating Captain America is one of them. “Hey, don’t you live with Tony Stark? Get him to explain it to you. He loves consumerism. He’s like consumerism’s boyfriend. They like to cuddle up on the sofa and consume the souls of the innocent together.”
“What,” says Captain America and Peter winces. Okay, so that didn’t work. Possibly he should just get out of here and stop confusing the guy, but then Cap pulls out these lost little baby-blue puppy eyes and, all right, Peter’s doomed. Damn him and his Aryan wiles.
Something strikes him, and he frowns. “Wait, if you live in Manhattan what are you doing here? I mean, this place is great and all, but I’m pretty sure Stark can afford to have groceries delivered direct to Avengers Tower, you don’t have to come all the way out here.”
“I live in Brooklyn,” says Captain America, looking at Peter like he’s an alien. Well, Cap deals with aliens on a regular basis, so he should know better. “I have an apartment.” All right, so Brooklyn isn’t actually that far away from here. That sort of makes sense. In a world in which Captain America buys his own groceries at an organic health nut supermarket, which doesn’t make sense at all. And it’s not as if Brooklyn doesn’t have its own share of organic markets.
Peter turns to the freezer and after a cursory glance pulls out a plastic-wrapped sea bass fillet. He shoves it at Cap and says, “Here, you like fish, right? Take that. Grill it or something. Cook it in garlic butter, you’ll love it.”
Now Cap’s staring at the fish like it’s an alien. Cap really needs to sort out his alien-detecting abilities, Peter’s fairly certain they’re on the fritz.
“Thanks,” Cap says, and this lip does this wobbling thing, and suddenly Peter’s terrified that the guy’s about to burst into tears. Peter cannot make Captain America cry. Danger, Will Robinson!
“Hey, it’s cool, it’s just fish,” he says a little desperately. “You ever need help sorting out grocery catastrophes you just give me a call. It’s, uh. It’s Peter, by the way.”
“It’s good to meet you, Peter,” says Captain America at once, like it’s been drilled into him. Maybe it has been drilled into him. He’s meant to be the embodiment of America or whatever, so that would sort of make sense, except that the vast majority of Americans that Peter deals with are assholes. He thinks that’s partly just humans in general, though.
“Good to meet you too,” Peter says carefully. Good to meet you, Captain America. Seriously, what the hell.
He gives the guy a tentative pat on the back and then forgets what he was going to say because Cap’s muscles are really... hard. They’re really hard. Yeah.
Cap’s giving him an odd look and he realises it’s because he’s still touching him. Peter snatches his hand away as if it’s on fire.
“I have to get my groceries,” he says hastily, only it comes out all one word, one very garbled and incoherent word.
“Groceries!” yells Peter and grabs a random packet of something which later proves to be frozen peas, making his escape into the neighbouring aisle. By the time he emerges again, shopping basket full of ridiculously healthy non-meatloaf foodstuffs, Cap has left. The only customer in sight is a doddery old lady with bright, colourful tattoos spiralling over her shoulders and a shopping trolley full of gluten free pancake mix and condoms.
The old lady presses a packet of condoms into his hand and says, “Go get him, tiger.”
Peter seriously considers smothering himself with the peas.
So in the comics Peter lives in Forest Hills, Queens and that isn’t actually close to Brooklyn at all. I’m ignoring this because of reasons.
The next time Peter does a grocery run Captain America isn’t there and he refuses to be disappointed. There are aliens invading New York – again – so the guy has better things to do with his time than hover around a tiny organic grocery in Queens looking upset about consumerism and being oblivious to Peter staring at his ass.
Peter could be helping with that whole aliens thing, but, well. Manhattan’s already been evacuated so there aren’t any civilians for him to help out, and there’s a giant spaceship hovering in the sky threatening to wipe out the Earth. This is big-fry stuff. Peter is very much a small-fry kind of superhero. What’s he going to do, chuck webbing at the spaceship? It’s made of vibranium and the whole thing’s deadlock sealed, the worst he’s going to do is smear the paintwork. It’d be like a kid sticking chewing gum to someone’s Harley Davidson. No, this is diplomacy stuff. He’ll leave it to SHIELD and the Avengers.
It probably says something about New York that nobody’s freaked out much by the giant spaceship. The worst reaction even from the guys evacuated from Manhattan is grumbling about how it’s a Saturday, and couldn’t the aliens at least schedule this sort of crap for a weekday? But it’s New York – they might as well be sitting on top of a Hellmouth for all the weird shit that comes their way. Last week it was zombies, this week it’s aliens. It happens.
Peter loads up on fresh spinach and feta and garlic cloves, and resolves not to think too much about it. If he thinks about it he’ll only worry about it, and worrying about Captain America facing off against a spaceship half the size of the city armed only with a shield is just a recipe for disaster. Instead he’s going to make quiche. Quiche is awesome. And he’s discovered that the best way to avoid his aunt’s potentially fatal cooking is just to do all the cooking himself, which tends to work out better for everyone. Everyone being him and Aunt May. Who are not dying from meatloaf poisoning. That thing about his weakness being small knives? Yeah, no. His weakness is terrible meatloaf.
So he goes home and he cooks the quiche and watches the news. The news says that the aliens have been defeated and everyone can go back to Manhattan now. Tony Stark does a little speech about how aliens are just misunderstood and how people should just be super nice to them because they can’t help being confused genocidal maniacs. Peter puts the quiche in the fridge for later and goes out to the laundromat. Usually they do their laundry at home but the washing machine’s stuffed up and he suspects it’s because he put his Spiderman suit in a hot wash with webbing all over it and the webbing kind of melted everywhere. He’s hoping that Aunt May won’t notice until after he fixes it, and until then it’s laundromat adventure time.
And because the universe hates him Captain America is at his laundromat.
“You don’t even live here,” says Peter in despair.
Cap looks up and his face seriously brightens all over, like he’s got megawatt bulbs implanted under his skin. Peter knows how ridiculous this comparison is and he’s sticking to it because that smile is blinding. “Oh, hi Peter!” he says cheerfully. “Do you know how to work a washing machine?”
“Yes,” says Peter. “Yes I do. What are you doing here?”
“Washing... my clothes,” says Cap slowly. He peers at Peter worriedly, like he’s concerned he has a head injury or something. “We didn’t have these things back in my day and Tony just gets his robots to do his housework for him. I tried to use the Google but it wasn’t very helpful. Where do I put the coin?”
“In the coin slot,” says Peter. “Why are you washing your own clothes? You’re Captain America. Don’t you have minions to do that for you?”
Captain America gets a funny look on his face, like he’s just eaten a lemon doused in chilli powder. “They’re my clothes,” he says stubbornly. “I got them dirty so I’m getting them clean.”
“But,” says Peter, and then he swallows, because he doesn’t know what else to say.
“They’re my clothes,” says Cap again, somewhat plaintively. “When I wouldn’t let the robots touch them Tony kept just buying me new ones. I don’t need new clothes. I like these ones.”
“Okay,” says Peter, and he lets out a long breath. “Okay. Give me your clothes.”
Cap hands over his basket and it’s full of old-timey plaid shirts and also his Captain America suit. Peter is touching Captain America’s Captain America suit. He’s distracted from the awesomeness of the moment by the fact that the suit is covered in these weird brownish stains, and it takes him a moment to realise what the stains are and then he just can’t process it.
“Is this blood?” he asks in horror, and Cap takes the basket away again because Peter’s hands are shaking so badly he’s about to drop it.
“It’s not mine,” says Cap quickly. He winces. “Well, most of it’s not mine. But look, super-healing, see?”
And then Peter’s brain shuts down because Captain America is pulling off his shirt to show him that he’s okay and he’s revealing this huge expanse of perfect, golden skin, and Captain America has freckles on his shoulders. Peter lets out a strangled moan and then flushes brilliantly.
“Right,” he says, “right, okay, you’re fine, you’re good, please put your shirt back on.”
Cap puts his shirt back on and he doesn’t look fazed in the slightest and everyone else in the laundromat looks kind of shell-shocked, like Elvis or Jesus or Marilyn Monroe just walked in the door and started stripping off their clothes.
He shows Cap how to use the washing machines, and then he does his own, being very careful to hide his Iron Man underwear so that Cap doesn’t see it. They sit next to each other on seats with such hard backs that even Peter can’t get comfortable, despite his mutated spider flexibility. Cap seems strangely fascinated with watching his clothes whirl around and around in the machine, and he keeps getting up to press his fingers against the glass to feel the warmth of the water inside. Spaceships, robot suits, these things the guy can handle – but washing machines? Washing machines are what fascinate him?
Peter will never understand this guy.
They make a small amount of very stilted conversation while they’re waiting, but mostly Cap seems content to just sit there in silence and enjoy the really awkward moment. When their washing’s done Peter shows the guy how to use the dryer, and Cap’s so thrilled by it that Peter’s kind of worried he’s going to try and crawl inside it or something. When his clothes are dry Cap holds them all up to his face and inhales deeply like he’s trying to breathe in all the warmth. Peter does not find it cute. He doesn’t.
Well, maybe a little bit.
Okay, a lot.
Yeah, he’s in trouble.
The next time Peter meets Captain America is because supervillains are attacking their grocery store.
Yeah, Peter’s not impressed either.
There are two of them and they’re wearing lab coats and hefting enormous freeze rays. So far about half the store is frozen. Peter isn’t sure exactly what they’re trying to achieve – they haven’t made it to the till yet and there’s probably not even enough money in the till to justify this amount of effort. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of making a freeze ray why the hell would you then target an organic grocery rather than a bank? What are they going to steal, ethically grown cabbage? If Peter was a supervillain – not that he’s thinking of becoming one – he’d be a damn sight better at it than these idiots. Also he’d start with an IHOP maybe rather than a grocery store. Because pancakes are awesome.
Yeah, okay, so maybe Peter wouldn’t make a great villain after all.
They’re small-fry villains, the way Peter’s a small-fry hero, and usually he’d have no problems dealing with this. He’s already wearing his suit under his shirt, so all he’d have to do is just duck around the corner, take all his clothes off really quickly and stick his mask on and then he’d have the villains stuck to the wall in like five seconds flat. Except that Captain America’s here, and even though he doesn’t have his shield with him he’s still perfectly capable of making a nuisance of himself where villains are concerned. But Cap doesn’t seem to want to take them out, despite the fact that if he angled his spinning roundhouse kicks an inch to the left he’d have knocked both of them unconscious by now.
The problem here is that Cap’s a bleeding heart. Instead of knocking the villains out and calling the cops, he’s determined to talk them down, let them redeem themselves. And of course that isn’t happening any time soon.
He keeps trying to plead with the villains. “You could benefit society in a productive manner! You could donate to charities and contribute your science to peacekeeping relief organisations!” They’re not really listening to him.
The other problem with Captain America being here is that Peter is now in real danger of revealing his secret identity. Or, well, in revealing his not-so-secret identity, since technically Peter Parker is his secret identity and Cap already knows that one. Peter helps out where he can – unobtrusive web-shots tipping over a strategically-placed shelf, or stuck to one of the villain’s shoes so that he trips himself up; he resists the urge to aim his webs at the villains’ groins – but Cap has sharp eyes and the risk of him noticing is becoming more and more of an issue. Peter kind of wishes the guy would stop babbling and just take the villains out already, but that’s not really Cap’s style, at least when it comes to regular old New Yorkers and not, like, aliens or demons or zombies or whatever.
(The other other problem: Peter can’t help but flashback to the last time he was witness to a grocery store robbery. It’s not helping.)
“Think about your choices!” shouts Cap, while kicking one of the villains in the head. “You have a brain!” No kidding. “You could put yourself through university!”
“I’ve already been to university!” bellows one of the villains, aiming her freeze ray at Cap and shooting. The shot misses completely and hits a pyramid of satsumas. The satsumas immediately form a satsuma avalanche and tumble in every direction possible, some of them smashing into little frozen splinters when they hit the ground.
“Oh yeah?” asks Cap. Cap thinks that he’s subtle. “Which one?”
“Stanf –” she starts, before her companion interrupts her.
“Oh my gosh, Gracie, shut up,” he yells. “Do you want him to know everything about you?”
“My name is Doctor Freeze!” she shouts back, completely ignoring Cap in favour of bitching out her co-villain. Doctor Freeze is a really weak supervillain name. “Doctor Cold, you did not just use my real name in front of Captain America –”
Okay, so Doctor Cold is even worse. Doesn’t exactly evoke images of terrifying supervillainous antics. More like it evokes images of a malfunctioning refrigerator.
“You’re not even a doctor!” he shrieks.
“I have half a PhD in biochemistry!”
“Are we interrupting something?” asks Peter, nonplussed.
At that the villains both whirl around to face him, and Peter gets a sinking feeling in his stomach which is completely validated when three seconds later there are two huge jets of ice shooting towards him.
He slings a rope of web at the ceiling and pulls himself up and out of danger, the freeze rays harmlessly hitting the wall behind him. In the space where he used to be there is now a huge icy crater. A second later Captain America takes out both of the villains with one punch, which should not even be possible, but he’s Captain fucking America so there you go.
Cap takes a faltering step towards the icy crater. There’s a horrible, twisted look on his face.
“Uh,” says Peter from the ceiling, and Cap is so surprised that he actually trips and falls on his ass. Which is a shame. Because it’s a really nice ass.
“Peter?” he says in shock.
“You’re on the ceiling,” says Cap.
“Yes,” says Peter. “Yes I am.”
There is a brief and horrifically awkward pause.
“I can explain?” he offers.
“Please come down from the ceiling,” says Captain America.
“Okay,” says Peter, and comes down from the ceiling.
They stare at each other for a moment. It’s kind of an awkward moment. Peter has a habit of creating awkward moments wherever he goes, so this isn’t exactly new for him. He’s like the Santa Claus of awkward. Always giving.
“So, uh,” he says, and then decides to just get it over with, “I’m Spiderman.”
“That’s...” says Cap, and Peter braces himself for censure, “fine.”
“No, really,” says Cap. “I support your life choices. You’re a productive member of society. Well done. Gold star.”
Captain America just gave him a metaphorical gold star. Peter can’t decide whether to be absurdly pleased or really, really confused. He goes with both.
“You’re not going to arrest me?” he says uncertainly.
“Nope,” says Cap. “Did you forget the part where I’m a superhero too?”
“You’re not going to tell on me to SHIELD?”
“No, not that either.”
“You’re not even going to tap me for recruitment?” Peter’s starting to feel a little unloved here.
Cap sighs. “Look, Pete. You’re doing what you think is right, and I support that. I know Spiderman gets a lot of bad press but SHIELD keeps track of these things and if we actually thought you were a problem you’d be in custody by now. I’d love to have you on the team but I hope you understand why I can’t ask you.”
“Because I’m too young,” says Peter. His face screws up a bit and he looks down at his feet, so that he can avoid those baby-bird eyes. Cap’s whole face is practically cheeping at him in distress. “I’m eighteen, you know. I graduate in two months.”
“It’s not that.”
“And, well,” he swallows, “if we’re talking inexperience here, I mean, you didn’t even live through the nineties. You didn’t even live through the – whatever we’re calling the decade that came after the nineties. You’re practically a toddler. I bet you don’t even know how to play Pacman.”
“It’s not because you’re inexperienced,” says Cap. He gently presses his fingers to Peter’s chin and lifts his gaze up so that they’re eye to eye. “It’s because you’ve got a secret identity. The Avengers are put in the public eye a lot. Part of that’s Tony’s fault, but part of it’s just a job hazard. I couldn’t promise you that we’d be able to keep your identity under wraps.”
“Oh,” says Peter, feeling like all the breath has been sucked out of his chest. “Well, that’s – that’s fair enough.”
Cap smiles brilliantly at him. “Want to help me take these two miscreants down to the local precinct?”
“Er,” says Peter, feeling a little wrong-footed, “I usually just stick them to a wall and leave before the cops get here. After Captain Stacey... the police aren’t exactly fond of me.”
“I’ll vouch for you,” says Cap, shrugging. “The police are plenty fond of me.”
“No shit,” says Peter under his breath, and then blushes horribly when Cap raises his eyebrows. Fuck, he keeps forgetting about the super-everything. He should have figured super-hearing would be part of the package. Cap is a ridiculous specimen of humanity. “No, really, don’t worry about it. I have to go anyway, I have to pick up my au... my... uh... my ant.”
Cap stares. “Your ant?”
“Yes,” says Peter. Fuck. Fuckety fuck fuckfuck. “Fuck. I mean, no! I mean, yes, my ant. My ant... farm?”
“You have to go pick up your ant farm,” says Captain America, and, okay, now Peter knows the guy is just laughing at him on the inside because his eyes are crinkling up in this adorable way and his lips... hmm. His lips. Peter’s lost his train of thought.
“Yup,” says Peter. He’s dug himself this deep, he figures now he’s just got to own the awkward. And he guesses he’s proving Cap’s point – this is exactly what the guy meant about secret identities being hard to keep. This would be so much easier if Aunt May was a superhero too. “It’s at the vet’s. I have to pick up my ant farm from the vet’s because they’re... ill.”
“Right,” says Cap, biting at his lip in poorly concealed amusement. “You know, there’s a guy I could introduce you to that you might get along with. He likes ants too. You know Hank Pym?”
“No way!” says Peter, completely forgetting his outlandish lie in his excitement. “The guy who discovered the Pym particle?”
“Among other things,” says Cap. “Swing by the Tower sometime, I’ll give you his number.”
Peter’s brain goes a little fuzzy. Cap just invited him to the Avengers Tower. To give him Hank Pym’s phone number. Motherhugger, that is just way too much awesome for his mind to process right now.
Never mind that he’d never be able to actually call the guy – that shit’s traceable. But it’s the thought that counts. And the thought is pretty damn sweet.
“Thanks,” he says belatedly. “I’ll be sure to... do that.”
Cap pulls a business card out of – actually, Peter doesn’t want to know where he pulled it out of; his suit isn’t exactly covered in handy pockets – somewhere, anyway, he pulls it out of somewhere, and presses it into Peter’s hand. “Call me any time you need something,” he says, and then hesitates. “Even if you just need to chat.”
Peter stares down at the card. Captain America just gave him his phone number. Captain America just gave Peter his phone number.
He’s so overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of this moment that he completely fails to notice when Cap hefts both of the villains over one shoulder and leaves the store, jauntily singing Hitler Has Only Got One Ball under his breath.
Peter sinks to the floor in a daze, and will only later realise that he has sat in a puddle left over from the melting freeze rays.
I’m taking liberties with Peter’s age, but no amount of googling helped me to figure out what his actual age was in the film, so I figure it’s justified. (If anyone does know, shh! Let me live in my happy everyone-is-over-the-age-of-consent bubble!)
Peter had never really intended to follow up on the offer to swing by the Avengers Tower. He figures that he gets enough bad press as it is, and he doesn’t need the increase in attention that being publicly linked to the Avengers would get him. Now, though, it seems like he doesn’t really have a choice.
There’s a new supervillain on the block, and he’s calling himself Doctor Octopus – seriously, what is it with supervillain names starting with ‘Doctor’? They’re not even doctors – and Peter managed to provoke him into a bit of a tussle today. Well, if ‘a bit of a tussle’ amounts to three possibly-broken ribs and one definitely-broken arm. The arm maybe counts as more than one because he’s pretty sure it’s broken in lots of different places. Doc Ock was pretty creative.
Anyway, the point is, he needs medical attention, and he can’t get it at an ordinary hospital. Even if he could afford the medical bills, he can’t afford the questions it would raise. He’s still in his suit, and his dominant arm’s twisted at such an unnatural angle that he’s going to have to be cut out of it, and he can’t reach it himself. In the eyes of the public, at best he’s an illegal vigilante and at worst he’s a supervillain in his own right. He doesn’t want to risk having the cops called on him before he can even get himself fixed up.
Which leaves him with one option, and that’s reaching out to Captain America.
Peter’s not sure how the other Avengers would respond to him rocking up at their base and begging for painkillers, but hopefully he’ll be able to get in and out before they even notice him. Failing that, Cap’s word has got to be worth something. It’s not the end of the world if this doesn’t work out. He’s pretty sure that he could Google “how to set a broken arm” and not actually kill himself, and after that hopefully the super-healing would kick in. Broken bones only take a few hours to heal up, usually. The problem is setting it – if he doesn’t set the bone correctly then it won’t heal correctly, and if he’s left with his arm sticking out at a weird angle like this then he’s pretty much screwed.
Which leads him to where he is now: hanging around awkwardly on the roof of the Avengers Tower, cellphone in his left hand and Captain America’s business card clutched between his toes, weighing up his options.
He’s past the point where he’s worried about anyone tracing his cell. If he’s going to do this then he’s going to have to trust these guys. And if he can’t trust Captain fucking America then who can he trust?
It’s a little creepy that Peter’s standing exactly where Loki’s gigantic tesseract-powered portal-to-another-realm used to be, but at least there’s a trapdoor, and it’s not like he’s going to just drop straight into Tony Stark’s penthouse. How else is he supposed to get access to the top-secret Avengers Tower? He’s surprised they haven’t booby-trapped the roof by now.
He takes a deep breath and dials the number. It rings twice and then Cap picks up.
“Hi, Cap, it’s me,” says Peter raggedly.
“Peter?” says Cap, sounding surprised. “Are you okay?”
“I’m on the roof.”
There is a pause.
“Your roof. The Tower’s roof.”
There is a second pause, longer than the first.
“I’ll be right up,” says Cap at last. “Don’t go anywhere.”
Cap hangs up and Peter fumbles his cell into a pocket of his backpack.
After a few agonising minutes there’s a clattering of footsteps and the trapdoor opens to reveal Cap wearing his best concerned-citizen expression. The concern only intensifies when he notices the gross-looking angle of Peter’s broken arm.
“Oh, Pete,” he sighs, reaching out a hand and stopping just short of actually touching his arm, fluttering his fingers about an inch over the point where a bone’s poking through the skin. Bones really shouldn’t do that. “What happened?”
“Oh, you know,” says Peter, trying to be flippant and failing utterly. “Same old. Supervillain old, that is, I didn’t mean you, not that you’re old, ninety-five isn’t old, and you haven’t aged physically or mentally past your twenties yet – ugh, I mean, it was Doctor Octopus.”
“He a new guy?”
“Yep. Just started today,” says Peter. “I was lucky enough to be his superhero welcoming party.”
“Lucky,” repeats the Captain, sounding sad.
Peter shrugs, and then regrets it when the movement sends pain screaming up his arm. “Hey, so, I was wondering if you’d maybe know how to set this?”
“I have first aid training,” says Cap, “but I can do you one better. What do you say to letting Bruce fix you up?”
“Bruce?” repeats Peter, then, “Bruce Banner?” He swoons a little, then, but it’s definitely from pain and not from geeky joy. Definitely. “Are you sure he wouldn’t mind?”
“Trust me, he won’t mind.”
“Okay then,” says Peter. “As long as he’s not too busy, you know, making intense scientific breakthroughs in the field of gamma radiation.”
“He’s fine,” says Cap, smiling a little.
“Because I wouldn’t want to interrupt that,” he presses. “This can wait.”
“It can’t wait, you self-sacrificing dummy,” says Cap, rolling his eyes a little. “C’mon, let’s get you to the medical bay.”
“All right,” says Peter agreeably, and lets Cap help him through the trapdoor.
Anyway, it’s not as if Banner can’t set his arm and make scientific breakthroughs at the same time. Right? Right.
I can’t believe how many of you are reading this thing. You guys are ridiculous. I love you all.
Bruce Banner has access to the good drugs. That is, the drugs that work as painkillers and local anaesthetics even on metahuman physiologies, which is nice, considering that even morphine only serves to give Peter the faintest of very faint buzzes.
This may lead to him making some slightly embarrassing confessions directed at Cap while Banner wraps his ribs and sets his arm, but he’s high, he can’t help it. And Cap’s a gigantic Boy Scout, he won’t hold it against him. Probably. Even if Tony Stark’s smartass AI keeps pointing out that all of this is being recorded on the surveillance tapes.
“Cap, your eyes are really, really... blue,” says Peter earnestly, swinging his head around so that he can stare at Cap’s eyes properly.
“That’s nice, Pete,” says Cap, and bless the guy, he’s not even smirking at him, he just looks kind of worried. Banner, on the other hand, is biting down hard on his fist to prevent himself from laughing. Or possibly from Hulking out. One of the two.
“No, really,” says Peter. It’s very important that Cap listens to him. Very, very... important. “Your eyes are like. They’re like blue M&Ms. Blue M&Ms are the best kind and your eyes are the best kind. It’s scientific.”
Banner makes a really undignified noise and has to go in the other room. Peter stares after him for a moment and hopes that he’s not Hulking out, but then he hears muffled peals of laughter and, okay, he’s not Hulking out, he’s just having a gigglefit. It’s all good.
Anyway, his arm’s all fixed up now, and he’s got a shiny purple sling to prove it. Banner didn’t put a plaster cast on it because it’s going to be healed by tomorrow, but he strapped it up nicely and Peter swears he can already feel the bones knitting back together. The sling kind of clashes with his suit – Banner had cut away the sleeve and some of the torso but Peter had refused to remove the rest of it in order to preserve his secret identity. Preserving his secret identity would be a lot easier if Cap would stop calling him by his first name. Maybe Peter should change his superhero name to Peter Parker so that Cap can call him Pete without raising suspicion. No one would suspect a thing!
“Okay,” he says, swinging his legs off the gurney, “I’ll just be going now,” and then he hits a snag. The snag being that he sways dizzily and almost falls over but for Cap managing to catch him in time.
“Whoa there, soldier,” says Cap, steadying him with one arm looped under his armpits. “You’re not going anywhere in this state. You can wait here until your bones heal up.”
Peter isn’t listening to what Cap’s saying. He’s too distracted by the highly muscled upper arm in his face. Mmm.
“Peter?” says Cap. “Are you getting this?”
Peter blows a raspberry against Captain America’s arm and giggles because his mask gets in the way.
“Oookay,” says Cap, and hoists Peter to his feet. “We’re going to go upstairs and watch some movies. How does that sound?”
Peter mumbles something unintelligible and then possibly blacks out for the next ten minutes. When he surfaces he’s propped up on a couch and there’s a long, warm body beside him. He turns his head to the side and, okay, he’s cuddling on the couch with Captain America. That’s fine. Yup. Happens all the time. ...In his fantasies. But hey, he’s probably hallucinating, so he won’t worry about it.
“You’re not hallucinating,” says Cap, and oh, shit, did he say that out loud?
“Yes, you said it out loud,” says Cap, and grins a bit. “I hope you don’t mind not getting to pick the movie, I’m still working my way through the twentieth century. We’re up to the seventies. Tony’s educating me.”
Peter turns his head to the left and realises that Tony Stark is sitting on the adjoining couch. And Bruce just came back into the room and is sprawled out on this fabulously luxurious chaise longue and possibly purring a little bit. And Hawkeye is perched on the arm of the couch that Black Widow’s sitting on and the Norse God of Thunder is sitting opposite them wearing a bathrobe.
“Huh,” he manages, and burrows back into Cap’s side, because Cap’s warm and cuddly and his brain can only handle so much at once.
Cap puts his arm around him and maybe blushes a bit.
Tony Stark raises his eyebrows and, because he’s a complete bastard, puts on Harold and Maude.
Peter puts up a token protest at first, because, really, putting on a classic May-December romance film is a little inappropriate. Cap might be a senior citizen but he’s not a senior citizen and anyway Peter doesn’t even have a crush, nope, not at all. And then the movie really starts and he gets so engrossed that he shuts up entirely. Black Widow keeps letting out these little snorts at the deadpan one-liners and Thor keeps responding to the film in this booming voice that practically shakes the whole house – “I, TOO, WOULD LIKE TO BE A SUNFLOWER, TONY STARK!” and Tony’s like “Me too, Thor, now shut the hell up” – and Bruce gets another fit of the giggles at the part with the psychiatrist. And then by the end of the film they’re all sobbing helplessly and Thor’s brokenly singing along to the end credits and he’s completely out of tune, possibly because of the big, fat, Norse god tears rolling down his face.
Peter’s not quite sure how much of this is the drugs and how much of it is just the whacked-out farce that his life has become, but he gets to cuddle into Captain America’s abs, so, whatever.
Tony puts on Monty Python and the Holy Grail next because he’s a sadistic, disturbed creature and Cap’s face when John Cleese starts mocking everyone in an outrageous French accent is just too priceless. In fact, it’s so priceless that Tony takes a photo of it and puts it on the Internet. Of course Tony mouths along with every line, which surprises no one, but then when Dennis the Constitutional Peasant pops up and Hawkeye suddenly shrieks out “Help, help, I’m being repressed!” half a second before Michael Palin says it, even Tony looks shocked. (Tony gets over it quickly, and offers Hawkeye a fistbump, which he returns.)
And then they watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show and every single Avenger gets up and does the Time Warp, and after that Black Widow and Hawkeye start debating the relative merits of fishnets vs. sheer nylons, and Peter knows he’s not hallucinating now because this shit is just too crazy to make up. Cap seems surprisingly unfazed by all the transvestism and Tony decides that he’s going to create his own gold-hotpants-wearing mechanised version of Rocky and they all have to sit on him to stop him from running down to the lab.
And then they watch Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Peter falls asleep on Cap’s shoulder partway through, right after Han shoots first.
When he wakes up everyone’s gone except for Cap and the lights are dimmed and the Star Wars credits are playing on mute. Cap’s snoring like a freight train and his arm is still tucked around him. Peter yawns and snuggles closer and goes back to sleep.
After that everything sort of degenerates into this sneaky spiral of insanity where Cap keeps popping up in random places all the time. It’s not just the organic grocery and the laundromat anymore – it’s the bank and the pharmacy and the library and Peter’s kind of wondering if maybe Cap snuck a GPS tracker onto him at some point. If it was anyone else he might start to be worried for his virtue, but honestly, when it’s Captain America stalking you it’s just not scary at all. It’s like being stalked by a kitten. He’s just too sweet and fluffy and Peter just wants to pet him.
Most of the time Cap manages to drag him back to Avengers Tower, which is half really awesome, because Bruce and Tony let him hang out in the lab with them, and half really traumatising, because he keeps accidentally walking in on Tony and Pepper having sex all over the damn place. Peter’s pretty sure the Rolls Royce hood wasn’t built to take that much weight (not when Tony’s in the Iron Man suit, anyway), and that time with the kitchen counter was just unsanitary. Seriously, would it be so hard to stick a note on the door? Or to get JARVIS to shoo off unwary intruders?
And, yeah, so much for Captain America having his own apartment. Peter’s pretty sure Cap only stays there when he’s been out late from stalking too much. He’s got a whole floor to himself in the Tower, which includes a really comfortable couch that he lets Peter crash on occasionally.
Peter still keeps his mask on at the Tower, because even if Cap already knows everything there is to know, and Tony probably already knows his shoe size and his address and his favourite kind of toothpaste, he’s going to make every effort to keep his identity a secret from the others for as long as possible. He knows exactly how insane these guys are, and he doesn’t want to expose Aunt May to this kind of madness. Doesn’t stop him from getting kind of reluctantly fond of them, though mostly that’s Hawkeye’s fault. Hawkeye and Peter have a bromance. This bromance is mostly rooted in a shared love of perching in high places and then jumping out and scaring the crap out of people.
And if Peter occasionally finds himself stalking Cap in return... well, can you blame him? Cap’s just a big hunk of gorgeous, and there’s no way the guy can take care of himself, he doesn’t even know what a credit card is. He still calls Google “the Google”, for fuck’s sake – Peter’s half convinced that Cap still thinks there’s a tiny JARVIS inside his computer answering all his questions for him. At least he managed to figure out Wikipedia. That solved a lot of issues, but it raised a couple more. Nobody had actually told Cap about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then when he read about the Khmer Rouge and the Rwandan Genocide he went to his room and cried for a while. Peter didn’t say anything, he just sat there rubbing circles onto Captain America’s back and trying not to be too ashamed of his species.
Most of Peter’s family is dead, and everyone that Cap ever knew is dead. They both have baggage. But their baggage is complementary, and they manage to help each other through their grief in small ways, like when Cap hijacks the kitchen and makes the biggest sandwich in the world and then gives it to Peter, and when Peter manages to teach Thor the hammer dance and then makes him put on an impromptu concert for Cap. (Actually, that one ends kind of badly – Thor puts Mjolnir through the wall and Tony isn’t very impressed.)
And then one day they’re cuddled up in the rec room watching The Princess Bride, and Cap’s breathing soft little puffs of air onto Peter’s neck, and Peter tips up his head and kisses him.
Steve is so shocked he actually falls off the couch and, okay, it’s not Peter’s best moment, because Peter’s so shocked at Steve being shocked that he flails around a bit and manages to elbow him in the face. Steve’s nose makes this ominous crunching sound and Peter can’t stop apologising and then Steve wraps his arms around him and mashes their lips together. He keeps letting out these little hitching whimpers, which Peter suspects is because he just broke his nose and his nose is currently flattened against Peter’s cheek.
The next week there are aliens invading New York again, so they’re a bit distracted, but the week after that the supervillains quiet down again and Peter decides that it’s time to get back at Tony and Pepper for traumatising him for life. He and Steve fuck on pretty much every horizontal surface in the Tower, and then most of the vertical surfaces, and then some of the in-between surfaces, including the anti-gravity chamber that Tony installed a couple of months ago. It’s a little bit awkward and a little bit hilarious and also the hottest thing Peter’s ever done in his life. Tony won’t stop complaining about not being able to get the stains out, but Peter’s pretty sure he secretly thinks the whole thing is hysterical. Tony is a bad influence.
After a while Peter starts leaving his mask off when he’s at the Tower, because he loves the suit but spandex just doesn’t breathe very well. Eventually the press catches on, but by that point Tony’s got them all brainwashed to love him, and of course everyone loves Steve more than they love hamburgers, and as it turns out some of that love extends to Peter.
Two years later Steve asks Peter to marry him, and Peter’s so excited he accidentally punches him in the eye.
It pretty much goes uphill from there.