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All About Chemistry

Chapter Text

New Salem Community College is a small campus with a good reputation. According to all the brochures and online searches, it is ranked close to the top for two-year colleges in the state and has a high graduation rate. The classes are small. The campus is modern and clean.

Just pulling on to the lot is terrifying for Wade Wilson. It was terrifying a month ago when he showed up for a meeting with his advisor to get his class schedule, and as he puts the car in park, his palms are already sweating.

Really, he shouldn't be nervous. Wade has faced down enemy fire, been dropped into hostile territory, survived an IED blast for christ's sake, but this is somehow more terrifying.

There's just so many people. Not just people, but young people. Kids. Kids that are the same age he was when he enlisted into the Marines, but all somehow seeming younger. They walk through the lot without a care in the world with friends and phones with their well-coordinated outfits, and Wade just feels old.

Still, it beats sitting around his apartment watching Spanish soap operas and feeling sorry for himself. It's not like he's the first guy to get a divorce and be forced to move in with his best friend. And really, living with Weasel isn't that bad. Wade keeps the place clean and Weasel doesn't gripe too much when Wade leaves his guns in the living room. It's just that he thought things were going great with him and Shiklah. He never imagined he'd find her in bed with some hairy backed asshole that would pass easier as a werewolf than a human.

It's 8:30, and Wade's first class doesn't start until 9, but he wanted to get there early so he would at least be on time if he couldn't find it right away. He never thought that the hardest part of finding his class would be getting out of the car. He barely slept the night before because of the nerves, and he was starting to regret eating breakfast. He really regrets drinking a second cup of coffee because the caffeine is starting to make him jittery. Okay, more jittery.

"Quit being such a pussy, Wade," he says outloud and to himself. He taps the steering wheel in a nervous rhythm, then takes a deep, steeling breath and opens the door.

Outside, the morning air is thick with humidity from the late-summer storm that passed through the night before. Here and there, small puddles linger in the parkinglot, and Wade can't help but smirk when he sees a couple kids-er-young adults stomp through them. Despite the heat, he's wearing a long sleeved shirt with the symbol of his strike team-the Deadpool Corps-in the middle of the chest. He wears it like a security blanket, a reminder that he has been through worse before.

Feeling a little more confident, Wade grabs his book-laden backpack out of the back seat and slips it onto both shoulders, and starts towards the sidewalk that leads to the Stark Learning Center.

As he walks, Wade starts to feel more relaxed. He doesn't really like to be around people, but this isn't about being around others. This is about bettering himself and getting a fresh start to his life. At least that's what Nate said when the big bastard suggested he go back to school. He is Wade's therapist, of a sort, and is always pushing him to do something. Which isn't a bad thing, and if this whole college-thing works out, Wade will probably have to send Nate a thank you note. Or maybe not. Nate doesn't need another reason to think he's the Messiah.

"Do you know where you're going?"

Wade pauses in his trek and looks at the smiling face of an elderly woman wearing a NSCC ID badge. May, the name says. He nods towards the Stark Learning Center and says, "I think I'm on the right path. Stark 144."

Her smile is like sunshine, and she says, "You are certainly on the right path. Just go through those double doors, go to the end of the hall and take a left. Your room will be on the left side of the hall."

"Thanks, Miss May," he says with a grin, and he continues on with a little pep in his step.

Inside the Stark Learning Center looks just like high school, minus the lockers. Kids on their cell phones and in clusters clog the halls. Everyone looks like they are dressed to impress, and Wade feels only slightly self-conscious in his ratty blue jeans and reminds himself that he is way past the teen-angst phase of life. Hell, most of these kids are literally half his age. Some, more than half.

He finds room 144, and sees that the class before is still in session. A glance at the clock shows that it is only 8:45, so he meanders across the hall to the small alcove that leads to the Maria Stark Theater for the Performing Arts. The walls are adorned with paintings of Maria and Howard Stark, who were the principal backers for the Learning Center back in the 80's-something Wade learned from reading the college's brochure. There are plaques commemorating different awards the theater has received over the years, and he can't help but smirk at the picture of a young Tony Stark standing with his mother at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Wade met Tony a couple times over the years because when you work in special forces, you tend to get to try out new weaponry before everyone else. His impression had been that Tony was a smart guy who might be fun to party with, but he would more than likely end up punching if he was forced to spend too much time with him.

By the time he's finished perusing the alcove, kids are entering the room and Wade gets his game face on.

The first class of the day is Psychology. The class was one that Wade was a little hesitant about taking, but it is a requirement for any degree. There are a few already seated in the room, and at first he thinks about finding a seat at the back, but instead opts for somewhere in the middle. He was a back-row student when he was in high school, and Wade doesn't want to slip into bad habits.

The desks are designed for two people, and Wade knows he'll have to share with someone. Still, there are empty desks and he takes one of those and starts getting set up for class. He bought notebooks for each class and had enough pens to last a few semesters. Weasel convinced him to buy some slightly more expensive pens, too. The original reason he gave was the ease of writing, followed up with, "They're ergonomic for your old man hands." Bastard.

A couple minutes before 9, a dark haired girl wearing a purple headband plops down in the seat beside him. She gives him a tight lipped smile and removes her textbook from her bag.

The professor, Dr. Jean Grey, walks through the door right at 9. She has a warm smile and greets them all with, "Good morning, Psyche 101!" She strolls swiftly to her desk and says, "I am Dr. Grey, and that is how I prefer to be addressed. There are precious few women in this field of study, and it is my goal to make women with doctorates more visible. Thus, I am Dr. Grey. In return, I will call you as you wish to be called regardless of what might be in my roster."

Wade likes her immediately.

Then she proceeds to take attendance, calling out each name in alphabetical order. Wade makes a mental note that his desk mate was near the top of the roster, Kate Bishop. Here and there a few kids correct the pronunciation or give a nickname. It's obvious that Wade is the oldest one in the classroom, too. When Wade's name is called, out of habit he answers loud and sharp, "Here."

Dr. Grey smiles at him, then hands out the syllabus. After going over all the pertinent class information, she instructs them to talk to their desk partner to introduce themselves and share their educational goals. The class turns into a soft rumble of voices and conversations.

"I'm Wade," he says to his deskmate.

"Kate," Kate answers unenthusiastically.

Wade can tell she's not a talker. He says, "I really don't know what I'm doing here. I'm undeclared."

"Me too," Kate says. She takes out her phone and flips through messages. "I might do something in criminal justice. Maybe."

"It's a good field," Wade says. He thought about that as a major, but felt it would be pointless. He could walk into any law enforcement agency and get a job if he wanted, but he wants to do something different. What that is, he has no idea. "I figure I'll figure it out by the end of the year. Maybe."

"Everyone says that," Kate said. "This is my second year, and I'm supposed to transfer, and I still don't know."

Wade understands. He didn't know what he wanted to do when he was just a kid either. That's why the military had so much appeal. The thing is, he liked the military. Liked the discipline, and it takes all of his will not to suggest she go to a recruiting office. Maybe not everything was perfect and easy, but he wouldn't trade his years in the service for anything.

The remainder of the class is lecture, and Wade takes notes as best he can. He isn't used to writing so much, and by the end of the hour his hand is starting to cramp.

Wade's second class is just across the hall. World Civilizations, and it is taught by a man with a thick German accent. He's wearing a cobalt blue suit and has ears that are angled almost like an elf. The only form of introduction he gives is writing his name on the board, Professor Wagner, before launching into a powerpoint lecture on hunter-gather societies.

By the end of the class, Wade is feeling more relaxed. He has an hour break and decides to walk down to the Student Union to get something for lunch and to browse around the bookstore. He purchased all his books online, but he kind of wants to get a NSCC hoodie and t-shirt, just because. Turns out the Student Union has a pretty decent coffee shop, and after purchasing his hoodie and t-shirt, Wade finds a cushiony chair and gets out his phone and finds he has three new messages.

The first is from Nate. Short and to the point. Don't kill anyone today, Wade.

Asshole, is Wade's response.

The next is from Weasel, which is a little more cordial. How's your first day of school going? Making friends?

Wade shakes his head and replies, Oh tons. You know me. Little social butterfly. We need eggs, btdubs.

The final one is from Shiklah, and Wade discards it without reading it. The only thing that she ever wants to talk about is his faults and how she's adjusting the divorce settlement, and Wade is having too good of a day to want to deal with her bullshit.

After finishing his coffee and going back and forth with Weasel about who is really responsible for groceries this week (Wade knows it is his turn, but he likes annoying Weas), Wade goes to his third class, Intermediate Algebra.

When Wade signed up for classes, he had to take a placement test to see where he would be for the math portion. Though he was certain he missed every single question, somehow he didn't land in Basic Math. Of all the classes this semester, the algebra class feels the most daunting.

There are a couple familiar faces in the classroom from his previous classes, and Wade wishes he'd paid more attention to the attendance. A couple of them sound like supervillains with their alliterative names. Quentin Quire, Miles Morales, and Cletus Kasady. The last one makes him almost chuckle. Considering his name is Wade Winston Wilson, he doesn't really have room to talk.

The professor is also an alliteration, Professor Reed Richards. He's small and nerdy, and his ill-fitted suit makes his arms look like they've been stretched beyond his cuffs. He makes a few awkward jokes, and then launches into a lesson on factoring. Wade takes notes, he works the problems. By the end of class, he's feeling a little overwhelmed and he's pretty sure he's going to need to talk to Weasel a few times while doing his homework. Still, he managed to get a few of the sample questions right, and he's sure he can build on that.

The final class of the day is Introduction to Chemistry, and Wade is starting to feel tired. Luckily, Chem 101 is only a once a week class, and he's happy for that (even if the class is three hours long). After getting a drink from one of the fountains, he makes his way to the Baxter Science and Technology Building. It's a short walk, and he arrives at the chemistry lab to find it empty but for a young man with messy brown hair wearing a lab coat writing on the whiteboard.

Wade walks in hesitantly. Every other class there were other people waiting and he feels weird being the first one there. He clears his throat and asks, "Is this Intro to Chemistry?"

"Indeed it is," the young man answers. He looks so young, Wade can't imagine he's the professor. Then he says, "Provided you have Chem 101 with Peter Parker. If not, then you must be in some kind of alternate universe because this is the only Chem 101 class on Mondays."

"I don't think this is an AU, but I've been wrong before," Wade says as he sits on one of the stools around the large black lab tables.

The young man puts down his marker and says with a chuckle, "Excellent. I'm Professor Parker, by the way."

Wade smirks and thinks to himself, Great. Not only am I older than all the students, I'm older than some of the professors. "Wade Wilson."

"You can put your bag in one of the cubbies, Wade," Professor Parker says with a wave of his hand. "Did you bring a composition book?"

Wade pulls out the composition book and says, "Yeah, I got the message yesterday."

Turns out, Wade is the only one who checked his student email before class, and for the first time in his life, he feels like the nerd. But it isn't a bad thing. Professor Parker seems impressed with him, and for some reason that makes him feel good inside, even if their first project seems kind of silly. They make large name tags with shaving cream and food dye. It feels like Kindergarten. And just like Kindergarten, Wade is pretty sure he's developing a crush on his teacher. Or at least, he notes with a small amount of glee, that Professor Parker has a pretty nice ass when he takes off his lab coat.

At the end of the day, Wade has dyed his thumb purple, but he's happy. His name tag looks awesome, and according to Professor Parker, it is to be used for their at-home projects as proof that they were the ones who did them.

Wade takes his time packing up, letting the crowd by the cubbies clear out a little. So Wade keeps himself busy by putting the chairs back in place around the lab tables. Professor Parker starts doing the same thing, and when they're finished, Parker says, "Thanks for the help."

"No problem," Wade says with a shrug. "I like to keep things orderly."

"You were in the military, right?" Professor Parker asks.

Wade nods as he slings his backpack over his shoulder. "Is it that obvious?"

"My uncle was the same way. Liked keeping things orderly." He smiles and says, "Have a good week, Wade. See you Monday."

"See ya," Wade says as he backs out the door. And for some reason, he can't stop smiling. He's still smiling when he walks through the door of his apartment.

Weasel looks up from his laptop and says, "You are unnervingly happy, dude."

"I kinda dig school, man." Wade drops his backpack by the door and kicks off his boots. "Some of this shit is kind of hard, but I think I'm going to really like it."

"That's good, man." Weasel nods towards the table. "You got something big in the mail from New York City."

The smile falls from Wade's face, and he knows what it is. It is probably the reason that Shiklah texted him earlier in the day. Sure enough, it is from her lawyer. Official documents for him to sign so that he will officially be minus a wife. He should be happy, really. He and Shiklah hadn't been in love for a long time. Hell, they didn't even like each other the last couple years they were together. Really, they had no business being married in the first place. She was the daughter of a Sheik and Wade was just a way to piss off her father.

"Guess I need to call Matt." Wade grabs a beer and flops down on one end of the couch and tosses the manila envelope onto the cluttered coffee table. "Actually, I need to do homework."

Weasel snorts and says, "That's right, young man. Put down that beer and hit the books."

"The Golden Girls are on," Wade says as he reaches for the remote.

"No!" Weasel snaps, and snags the remote. "No TV until you are done with your studies, mister. Now get cracking."

Wade does his best to look put out, but then he's smiling again and grabs his bag. "Are you gonna help me with my math, mommy?"

Weasel frowns. "Only if you never call me 'mommy' again."

"Actually, I think I can handle it for now. Most of my homework is pretty basic." Wade rambles through the list-notes over the first chapter of the Psychology book, read chapter one in history, log into MyMathLab and do the first section-and then he says, "And then I have to fill out my logbook for Chemistry and look up lab safety procedures. That class is going to be fun."

That makes Weasel look up again. His brow draws together and he says, "You sound pretty enthused for Chemistry, considering it was your last choice for a science class."

Wade shrugs. "I guess I changed my mind. I'm all about Chemistry."

"Uh huh," is all Weasel says. Then he looks back at his laptop and types a few words and adds as Wade walks down the hall, "Just remember to check ID's before bringing a co-ed back to the apartment."

Chapter Text

Tuesday morning finds Wade in the Law Offices of Nelson and Murdock. The office is located in a small niche of Hell's Kitchen where rent hasn't gone up substantially in recent years. It's a small office, and Wade assumes that saying "Offices" on the glass door indicates that they strive to have more than one room to operate out of someday. Still, Matt Murdock is a damn good lawyer and before that he was a damn good Marine. At least until he was blinded by a chemical bomb. Everyone used to say that Murdock had the devil in him when they went into a firefight, and even blind, Wade would never want to get in a fight with him. Dude's wirey and alert in ways that seem almost supernatural.

Matt reads over the divorce papers, his fingers dancing across the Braille copy Shiklah's attorney had included in the packet, while Foggy goes over the printed version. Matt and Foggy are technically both Wade's lawyers, but they don't charge him double for retaining their services. Wade always brings Foggy the good bourbon, and that seems to have won some points along the way-in addition to being one of Matt's bootcamp buddies. They both have fond memories of sprinting up Mount Motherfucker during their time at Camp Pendleton, and by "fond memories" they mean "nightmares".

The basic settlement boils down to Shiklah retaining the majority of assets, which Wade is fine with. He could never afford the rent on the Manhattan apartment, let alone the taxes on the condos that Shiklah purchased while he was away on his last tour in Iraq. Shiklah was the money in the relationship, and Wade didn't want anything from her. The only thing he asked for was his DVD collection, his car, and her to leave him the hell alone. The fact that it has taken so long for her to agree to those terms is all the evidence Wade needs to prove that she is an evil, vindictive succubus.

"I see no reason you should not agree to these terms, Wade. Especially since she's agreed to give you the full sum of the joint stock dividends," Matt says after putting aside the papers in a neat pile. Everything about his desk is neat and orderly. Always in place. He adds, "If you sign the papers today, I can have these submitted to the court this afternoon."

"Thank fucking Odin," Wade says as he pulls out one of his ergonomic ink pens. "Let's get this party started."

Wade is pretty sure that he's never signed his name this many times in his life, and he can't help but make a joke about being happy he's had plenty of writing practice. Next thing he knows, Foggy and Matt are discussing different career paths with him and sharing stories of their time together in law school. Matt tells Wade to call when he finally figures out what he wants to major in, and he'll help him find a good school for that course of study. He even offers to proof read Wade's scholarship applications, and Wade is again reminded how awesome his friends really are.

The stock dividends is in reference to some stocks that were purchased in both their names as a wedding present from some Romanian ex of hers, and the dividends came to just over $250,000. Foggy found those assets when he was doing the due diligence of examining the fine print on the pre-nup, and Shiklah had that particular account hidden pretty well. Wade didn't even remember receiving them, and Matt figured they were never brought to his attention.

Wade feels lucky to have a lawyer like Matt in his corner, even if the guy typically deals with criminal law instead of civil. He made an exception for Wade in that regard, and has offered a great deal of moral support. Of all of the people that Wade knows, Matt Murdock is the only one who has also had the joyous experience of marrying and divorcing an heiress, and that has led to a great deal of commiseration.

As Wade is getting ready to leave, Matt stops him and says, "I might need to cash in a favor with you next weekend."

Wade studies Matt's posture and asks, "Why?"

"One of our clients is having difficulties with an ex." Matt's look says that "difficulties" could easily be construed as "threats".

Wade nods. "You need me to swing by and give him a lesson in manners?"

"Actually, I was hoping you could escort her to a function," Matt says with a smirk. "You know, considering you are a free man now. She is worried that her ex will show up and cause problems, and I would prefer that someone was there who is not connected with the office who can handle difficult people."

Wade nods, then remembers to confirm outloud. "Yeah. Shouldn't be a problem. What kind of function is this? Do I need to break out my monkey suit?"

"Suit and tie will be sufficient," Matt says flatly, though he fights a smile. "The event is an art gallery opening, so be prepared to deal with insufferable Manhattan elites and bite your tongue a lot."

"Because I'm so good at both of those things," Wade says with a little annoyance. Then he shrugs. "Whatever. I can handle it. I did enough of that shit with Shiklah to know the protocols. I'm a pro at being upper-crust arm candy."

"Which is pretty much why we thought of you," Foggy says.

Wade chuckles. "So what's my date's name, or is that covered under attorney-client privilege?"

"Gwen Stacy," Matt answers. "Daughter of former Chief of Police George Stacy, whom I am sure you remember."

Wade nods. "I met him at Cap's retirement party. Good guy."

"Again, why we thought of you," Foggy says, grinning. "We'll send her the details and send you the details, and if anything happens, you can give us the details."

"Sounds good," Wade says, and adds, jabbing a finger into Matt's shoulder, "You better make it clear that I am a classy gentleman, and no matter my reputation, I do not put out on the first date."

"Please leave my office, Wade," Matt says, gesturing with his cane.

Wade leaves the office feeling like he just lost a 120 pounds, and can't help singing along with the radio as he pushes through the city traffic. Technically the divorce won't be final for another month, but everyone has signed and it is as good as done. Not to mention the found funds, which honestly makes Wade's balls tingle a little. And since Wade finished all his homework the night before, the evening is free for whatever shenanigans a middle-aged man can get up to.

Which really isn't that much at all. Wade isn't a partier and Weasel has other obligations in the evening with his lame bowling team of lameness. He keeps trying to get Wade to join him, but Wade isn't a fan of that many people, so he opts to stay home with a couple Redbox movies and a six pack, of which he watches one movie and drinks two bottles before there is a knock on his door.

A peek through the peep-hole reveals only a chin, and Wade opens the door with a disgruntled, "You ever think about calling ahead of time, Pricilla? I might have had a hot date in here."

Nate doesn't even respond to that statement, and asks, "Have you been crying?"

"There were ninjas cutting onions while I was watching CHAPPiE," Wade grumbles as he backs up for Nate to duck through the door (even though he didn't have to; Nate's not that goddamn tall).

Nate sits in the big recliner, making it look like the small recliner, and says, "I hear your papers have been filed."

"Do you have some kind of chip in your head that lets you know everything about everything?" Wade asks as he resumes his spot on the couch. "Seriously, how the hell do you do that? Am I being followed?"

Nate gives him one of his patented long-suffering looks, and again ignores Wade's question. "I wanted to see how you are faring with everything. I know that starting your classes at the same time as finalizing the divorce can be pretty stressful, and I thought it would be good to check in with you."

Wade gives him the puppy eyes, and says, "Awwww, you big lug. I didn't think you cared. I'm sure this has nothing at all to do with Hope being at her mom's and boredom."

Nate sighs and leans back in the recliner. The poor chair groans under the weight. Nate is a big guy. Broad shouldered and tall, with the body of an Strongman competitor. He makes Wade feel tiny, which is a challenge considering he's no shrimp himself. He says, "I did come over here for another reason."

"I knew you were buttering me up," Wade grumbles. "I swear to god, if this involves me dressing up as a tree again for one of your kid's ballet recitals, you're going to pay me."

"You don't have to dress as a tree," Nate says with his version of a smile which is basically a twitch at the right corner of his mouth. Really, if the guy ever did smile, it would probably cause his face to shatter. He says, "Hope's school is hosting a Safe Space Halloween party, and I need more adults to help supervise."

Wade stares at him for a minute, trying to see if Nate's showing any signs of a head injury or a stroke. When he speaks, it is slow and deliberate to make sure that if there is a head injury or stroke happening, Nate will at least understand him. "And you think that am an ideal person to be put in charge of children?"

"I actually want you for perimeter security," Nate says. Then he adds, "But you should probably consider dressing up. And yes, I am going to pay you for your time."

It is Wade's turn to give a long-suffering sigh, and he says, "Fine. Whatever." Then he chuckles. "You're the second person to ask me to do security work for them today. I guess I'm good for something after all."

"You are good for a lot of things, Wade," Nate says, firmly correcting Wade's negativity. "I could hire muscle anywhere, but I need someone who is reliable, who I know I can trust, who has already proven himself as a person of character."

Wade nods, feeling both chastised and a little flattered. Nate is always after him about his negative self-talk, and sometimes Wade forgets. But it can be so damn hard to say good things about yourself when you're used to only hearing the bad. The only place Wade ever excelled was in the military, but he hopes he can change that. Maybe be known for something other than a jarhead grunt good for kicking ass and little else.

It is with that thought in mind that Wade's cell phone dings with an alert that he has a new email. The email is from Professor Parker, and is titled Week 1.

It says:

This is just a reminder to keep you on track for the week.

Get logged into the Aleks site. Instructions are in the Course Content file. All your homework will be through the online lab, and it is vital that you stay on top of it for this course.

Get a composition book and get it filled out as per the instructions in Getting Started. A lab log is required for this class, and must be in your possession every class session.

Don't forget to look up Lab Safety contracts. We will discuss this next Monday and by the end of class you will sign and submit your contract.

Remember to check your student email. If you are not checking your email, you will not receive important class information.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me any time.

See you Monday,

Peter

Wade reads and rereads the email, and realizes forgot all about the Aleks online lab.

"Something wrong?" Nate asks.

Wade stands. "I just realized I forgot something for one of my classes."

"I will not tolerate slacking on homework, Wade," Nate says in a fatherly tone that probably makes his daughter's eyes roll as much as it makes Wade's.

Doing homework is not a foreign thing for Wade, even if he is 40. Okay, two years shy of 40. 38. Whatever. There was a lot of class time in the military, and he spent a good deal of time filling out reports and paperwork, and there was always some kind of an assignment happening. True, none of it involved figuring LCD's or discussing the difference between psychodynamic and humanistic theories of psychology, but still. He's used to having things to do at the end of the day.

Wade goes to his backpack and pulls out his Chemistry file folder to find the Aleks access card, and grabs his laptop. He goes to the website, only to discover that he needs a course code to get logged in to his course. Wade goes to the Blackboard page and searches through the Course Content file while Nate scrolls through his DVR, but comes up with nothing. So he reads and opens every item in the entire section, only to find himself still empty handed.

So Wade hits reply and types:

Professor Peter,

My deepest desire is to start my homework, but alas, I can't find the course code for Aleks. I would not be surprised if I completely missed something, but I've clicked on everything and have felt nothing but sadness.

So I need the course code.

Thanks,

Wade

After hitting Send, Wade sets aside his laptop and asks Nate, "You want a beer or did you just bippity bop in here to proposition me?"

"I'll have a beer," Nate answers flatly. While Wade is in the kitchen, he asks, "Why do you have so much WWE on your DVR?"

"Are you kidding?" Wade hands Nate a beer and says. "Three hours of buff men in speedos and angry chicks who can break things with their thighs. Entertainment wrestling is a bisexual paradise."

"It just seems a very uncouth form of entertainment," Nate says, and Wade again rolls his eyes. The only thing that saves Nate from a lecture in just how uncouth he can be is Weasel coming through the door with a pizza from the bowling alley.

The three men end up watching Raw from the night before, just to educate Nate in why WWE isn't the worst thing on earth, with Weasel and Wade explaining the back stories (scripted or imagined by the two of them). Nate is kind of disturbed by the men wearing sheep masks and is starting to join the debate over if the sheep thing is some kind of euphemism or just an aesthetic when Wade's phone dings again.

Nice wording. Should be in the folder now. Sorry about that.

Peter

Wade chuckles, and replies.

Thank you very much. And sorry for being verbose. I've had a lot of excitement today.

Wade

Weasel gives him a curious look and asks, "That your co-ed?"

Nate's eyebrow forms a question mark. "Co-ed?"

"Professor," Wade corrects. "Just getting back to me about a question I had."

"Is she hot?" Weasel asks with genuine interest.

Wade tisks, and says, "Sexist, as if the only reason I could like something is because of sex appeal."

Both Nate and Weasel give him a similar look indicating that they are not buying what he is selling.

Wade smirks. "He's pretty adorable."

"Whatever makes you pay attention, I guess," Weasel says with a jovial laugh. "That's like Professor Monroe in my meteorology course. I think she hated me, but goddamn, I loved that class."

"Did you learn anything about meteorology?" Nate asks blandly.

"No," Weasel answers. "But I was an asshole kid. It'd be different now. Probably. Maybe."

Wade's phone dings again.

Questions, comments, long or short are always welcome and appreciated. Be as verbose as you wanna.

Peter

Wade can't help but laugh; that's a can of worms screaming to be opened.

Awesome. I'm just happy I didn't miss it. I'll admit that I am somewhat of a Luddite in that I am definitely not used to this newfangled online book learning. I haven't been in school in 20 years, and seem to have missed a few things along the way.

Again, Thanks.

Wade

Nate shakes his head and says, "You do know that professor/student relationships are generally frowned upon and often result in someone losing a job, right?"

"I'm not trying to sleep with the guy," Wade says with a tone usually reserved for southern belle's whose honor has been called into question. "I mean, I do have some dignity. If I get a good grade in Chem 101, it is not going to be because I'm the best piece of ass in New Salem."

Weasel snorts; Nate sighs.

Wade loves his friends. Loves them with all of his little heart.

It was kind of a fortunate accident that Wade ran into Weasel again a few years ago. Wade moved to Weasel's school district during his senior year, and the two became good friends. Then Wade joined the Marines and Weasel went to college to become an even bigger nerd than he already was (computer systems administrator for Advanced Idea Mechanics), and the two fell out of touch for the better part of two decades. Then the invention of Facebook happened, and on a whim Wade searched Weasel (known to plebs as Jack Hammer-no shit), and turns out they lived in the same borough of New York City.

When Weasel got the option to telecommute to work, he decided to move to New Salem, which was around the same time that Wade found out that his beautiful wife had a hairy lover. Weasel, being the stand up guy he is, offered to dig up as much digital dirt possible on the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Wilson, but Wade turned him down. He did accept the offer to move in with him on a temporary basis. That was almost two years ago.

Though Wade could easily afford his own place (especially after today), he was happy to have had Weasel around through the ups and low, low downs of divorce. Sometimes Wade felt like he was going crazy with the shit that Shiklah was doing, like freezing his assets, reporting his car as stolen, trying to steal his cat, Mr. Crusty Bottoms. The thing with Crusty was downright mean, even if the stuck up bastard never wants to chill with Wade anymore and always hides in Weasel's room like the betrayer that he is.

The point is, Weasel is a good friend. He was the one who talked Wade into seeing a therapist to deal with some of his shit (most of which had more to do with war than with divorce). And even if Nathan Summers, aka Priscilla, is just another friend from when he was a Marine and isn't an actual licensed therapist, he is a master of Baguazhang, which is pretty much the same thing. Once a week they get together and throw each other around the mat, and usually end up talking about feelings after the adrenaline high goes away. And sometimes, like now, Nate becomes a human being and chills in the living room for a few hours before soaring away to save the world or whatever it is he does when Wade isn't there to supervise.

The best part of being friends with both Weas and Nate is the fact that they accept Wade for who he is. He can relax and be himself and not be judged for liking boys and girls and sometimes having lengthy conversations with himself while making breakfast. He's not crazy; he just doesn't know how to shut up, and he's better at processing things out loud than just in his head.

And best of all, his two best friends are pretty good friends too. Which is why they can laugh and jab and be ridiculous, and really Wade couldn't ask for a better celebration of his freedom. He does feel free. Really free, and everything is looking pretty good. He just hopes it can stay that way, and if Nate and Weasel have anything to do with it, it probably will.

Chapter Text

After a good night's sleep, maybe the best night's sleep in months, Wade is up before his alarm and ready to get his second day of school started. He makes bacon and cheese omelets for both him and Weasel, and loads up his coffee with cookies and cream cappuccino mix before heading out the door, practically skipping through the lot to his car in the bright morning sun.

His mood is only dampened by receiving his very first writing assignment in Psychology. The last time Wade had to write something with citations was a long time ago, and he kind of wishes he could retake the college level composition classes he did his senior year. When he arrived at NSCC, he had 42 hours of college credit. Sixteen were earned when he was a senior (two decades ago), and the rest were gained through his time in the military, though very few of them actually transferred as anything other than electives.

Apparently seeing his distress, Kate nudges him as they are packing up, and says, "They have tutors down at the Library that can help with writing."

"Do they actually help?" Wade asks, feeling suddenly a little nervous.

"Yeah, totally." Kate says, "I can take you down there if you want."

"I've got a class in like five minutes," he says.

"So do I." Kate shrugs into her bag. "I'm done with classes at 11, and you have a free hour right?"

Wade nods. "Yeah."

"Wanna meet at the doors?" Kate has a hint of a smile happening.

"Sure, sounds good," Wade says with a shrug. Then Kate tucks her earbuds in and leaves the classroom, and Wade heads to his next class to take more notes on prehistoric cultures. He never found the subject of history all that interesting before, but Professor Wagner really knows how to tell a story. He makes the class feel like listening to an adventure, and Wade is amazed at how fast the hour goes by.

The Xavier Library and Testing Center is nothing like the libraries Wade is used to. There are no book-books. Or at least fiction. It's nothing but research and scholarly articles, and Wade wonders if he'll ever walk into a place like this and feel like he actually belongs. He scans the room looking for Kate, but doesn't see her purple headband.

If not for his military training, Wade would have jumped out of his skin when he looked back and Kate was standing beside him. She grins and gives his shirt sleeve a tug, and without a word leads him to the tutoring office.

The tutoring office is a large room separated into cubicles with high gray walls, all of which probably give some level of privacy, though they all seem to be facing a large panoramic window that looks out onto the lawn behind the Library. The lady at the front desk directs Wade to a cubicle towards the back, and when Wade rounds the corner, he finds a young man with black hair and bluish-gray skin sitting behind the desk. He has a definite goth-emo-thing happening with the black lipstick and red-contacts. Kate stands back and gives him a look that says, You're supposed to talk to people now.

"Uh," Wade starts eloquently. "I'm looking for help with writing? I'm kind of out of practice and I need to do this thing for psychology in APA, and I don't even know what that means because I only ever learned MLA, but that was like 20 years ago."

"Then you're in the right place," he says, looking up at him. "I'm Evan."

"Wade," Wade says as he sits and takes out his assignment sheets.

Evan goes through explaining APA style. APA stands for American Psychological Association, and is used mostly for science papers and such. Pretty easy to do once you get the basics. He asks, "Do you have Dr. Grey?"

"Yeah," Wade answers. "Psych 101."

"Awesome, then you'll only need to do the in-text citations and reference pages. We can save cover sheets for later."

Evan takes Wade through the process of writing a college level paper. During the hour, they make an outline and write out points that Wade should cover in his writing, along with making up a few examples of in-text citations. Since all the information is from a single source, the textbook, it is pretty easy. By the time they are finished, Wade is feeling a little less apprehensive, though he's still not sure he can write very well. Maybe the odd limerick, but scholarly stuff? Wade has no idea.

"The best method for most people is to write from their experiences," Evan says. "So, since this is a critical thinking essay, maybe write a few examples of times you've had to apply these principles to your life."

Wade nods. "So like, talk about how exploring options in a battle scenario helped me get out of Afghanistan on foot or something like that?"

Evan gives him a strange look, then says, "Yeah. Yeah, something like that." He pauses, watching Wade write down a couple notes, then asks, "Were you in the military?"

"Yeah," Wade says. "Marine Corps. I just retired at the end of last year."

Evan's brow draws together. "Not to pry, but aren't you kind of young to be retired?"

"I served my 20," Wade says. "I joined when I was 17 with the delayed entry program, and as soon as I graduated and turned 18, I was in."

"That's...That's kind of awesome." Evan smiles and says, "Yeah, so since this paper is due next week, if you get your draft done ahead of time, you can stop by again and if it needs tweaked, we can do that."

Wade shakes his hand as they both stand, and says, "Thanks, man. I appreciate it."

"No problem," Evan says.

Back in the atrium that connects the Library to the Stark Learning Center, Kate asks Wade, "Were you really a Marine?"

He nods. "Yes, ma'am."

"Were you an officer?" Kate says, looking up at him.

Wade laughs. "No. I was enlisted. You have to go to college first to be an officer. As you can see, I've sort of done it backwards."

"I didn't know that." She laughs as she pulls out her earbuds. "Well, uh…What was your rank?"

"Master Sergeant," Wade answers.

"Well, Master Sergeant Wilson," she says with a salute, "I will see you Friday."

Wade chuckles and bites his tongue against the desire to correct her about saluting someone who isn't an officer, but he just lets it go.

When Friday rolls around, Wade is sure that he has made a new little friend. Kate is waiting at the front end of the parking lot and walks with him to class, and when he's finished with World Civ, she's waiting for him to go eat at the Student Union. She's a lot more talkative and snarky, and Wade thinks he's found his small, female, much-younger twin. Okay, not twin. But definitely a kindred spirit.

Weekends aren't exactly excitement central for Wade. He overheard many of the kids in the hall talking about parties and club-hopping, and Wade's idea of a good time is sitting in his favorite chair in his favorite pajamas and t-shirt playing around on Tumblr and marathoning Netflix shows. Of course, this is when he is not working on his first psychology paper. It is supposed to be two to three pages, and Wade has managed just over one page. It doesn't help that Kate is sending him PM's through Facebook, telling him that she had it finished on Thursday night and he needs to stop being old and slow.

Still, with what he has, Wade returns to the tutoring office Monday and after he brings the document up on the screen, Evan reminds him that he's supposed to double-space, and suddenly Wade's essay stretches onto the third page. Evan reads it, and when he's finished he says, "That's actually a really good essay. The only thing I can see that needs to be fixed is a couple grammatical errors. I wouldn't change anything."

Wade and Kate grab a sandwich from the cafeteria, and Wade is way too happy. Most of his writing in the last few years has been technical. What happened, when it happened, who was involved, how many bullets were expended, what injuries occurred. It feels good getting good feedback from someone who doesn't have any vested interest in his mental health and well-being. He just hopes that Dr. Grey feels the same way.

Once again, Wade is the first one to arrive in Chemistry. Professor Peter Parker is sitting at one of the tables wearing a blue button down shirt with the buttons unbuttoned revealing a red t-shirt with Madam Curie in a Che Guevara-esque pose with, "Viva la Radiation" below the image. His sleeves are rolled up, and Wade can't help but notice that the guy must lift weights or something because he has some nice muscle definition.

"Good afternoon," Peter says as Wade is tucking his backpack into one of the cubbies.

"Howdy," Wade says as he digs around in the side pocket to find his eye-protection (as per a follow-up email), and grabs his completed lab book. He sits in the same spot he did the previous week asks, "So when do we get to start blowing things up?"

Peter snorts a laugh, and shakes his head. "Hopefully we won't be blowing anything up. Ever. At all. Please don't blow anything up in this class, Wade."

Wade chuckles. "I'll do my best."

Once again, Wade is the only one who actually prepared for class. Half of the other students didn't bring their lab books, and the ones who did had not filled in the required information in the syllabus. The girl sitting across the table from Wade looked overwhelmed with everything in life, and Wade noticed that there were quite a few with a similar look of desperation. For the first time, Wade is happy to be the old man on campus. He had twenty years of having responsibility and timing drilled into him to the point that following directions and orders were second nature. Deep down, he knew that he would be the same way if he was their age.

Having a fully developed prefrontal cortex has its advantages.

Peter is a patient teacher, though. Or at least he seems to be. He walks around the class, talking to each student about how to move forward with their safety contracts and walks them through putting Outlook on their phones and how to set up their student email address so that they won't miss emails anymore. Weasel helped Wade with the same thing, but earlier in the summer.

After getting the lab books sorted and a group-sourced safety contract roughed out, they move on to discussing the Pet Molecule project. Each student is supposed to pick out a molecule, and over the course of the semester, create a model of that molecule, and at the end of the semester they will do a presentation about it. Wade can tell that several are very enthused to grab up THC, amphetamine, cocaine, and any other substance that seems subversive. Wade opts for sucrose (sugar).

Peter asks him the same question he's asked everyone else. "Why did you choose this molecule?"

"Because I'm a sweet motherfucker," Wade answers and Peter chuckles.

Peter lingers by his shoulder for about ten minutes, going over a few details about the molecular structure, the glucose and fructose rings, the hybridization, and telling Wade to submit his molecule and overall plan for the presentation to the discussion board.

Wade, cheeky as he is, says, "Is the discussion board available, or do I need to email you?"

Peter gives him a look of amusement disguised as annoyance, and says, "The discussion board is set up."

Again, Wade assists in putting the chairs back into place under the lab tables, and as he's getting ready to leave, Peter says, "You do write some very amusing emails."

Wade shrugs. "I guess I just write what I would say. As you may have noticed, I don't exactly have a filter."

"I have attempted to get a filter," Peter says with a laugh. "You have no idea how hard it is sometimes."

"I bet it is hard sometimes," Wade says, and mentally kicks himself because of where that thought is leading his brain. His face heats up, and he says, "Uh, anyway, have a good week Professor."

Peter looks a little red in the face, too, as he says, "You too, Wade."

Outside, Wade feels light and happy, and can't help but notice how much going to college has improved his overall mood. For the last couple years, even before he left the Corps, Wade was struggling with depression. It didn't get bad until after he retired. There were days that Wade barely left his bed, and sometimes weeks that despite being in bed all the time, he barely slept. He wasn't eating or drinking, and there were a few times when he questioned why he was alive at all.

No matter what he ever does in his life, Wade will never find a way to thank Weasel for being his friend through those days and months. The guy put up with a lot of shit from him, and did so without complaint. But he also pushed Wade to change things. He started forcing Wade to get out of the apartment and get sunshine, and if it wasn't for all Weasel did, Wade knew he wouldn't be where he is. He wouldn't have contacted Nate about sparring. Nate wouldn't have suggested college. He damn sure wouldn't have applied. And he wouldn't be practically skipping to his car because he's happy with himself.

Wade doesn't know how long it is going to last, but for now, he basks in the feeling, hoping to absorb it all in case more drowning days come. At least then, he'll have his own life preserver.

Chapter Text

When Saturday comes around, Wade heads into the city. Matt and Foggy, separately and simultaneously, sent him emails containing information about Gwen Stacy and her predicament with some asshole named Eddie Brock. The guy sounds like someone Wade would like to punch on principle, but he has promised to be well behaved.

Wade decides to get a hotel room instead of having to drive back to New Salem that night. Normally, he wouldn't spring for a room that's almost $600 a night, but he had a free night coming due to still having a membership from when he was with Shiklah. Wade checks in, and gets his suit out of the bag so he can steam a few wrinkles out. He only owns the one suit, and it is perfectly tailored to his body. It was something he got in London shortly after he and Shiklah were married and she insisted that he have a bespoke suit. He actually hates the term "bespoke" for some reason, but the suit fits very well and the material feels like silk against the rough skin of his legs. 

He sends Gwen a text asking about when and where she want to meet, and she opts to come to the hotel since it is close to the gallery. Wade's just finished buttoning his waistcoat when there is a knock on the door. He opens without looking through the viewer and finds a gorgeous blond woman with bright blue eyes that seem to sparkle when she smiles. She's dressed in a conservative black dress with converse sneakers on her feet and strappy heels dangling from her fingers.

"Hello!" she says cheerfully as she extends her hand. "I'm Gwen. And I really hope you are Wade Wilson."

"In the flesh," he says as he shakes her hand. She has soft skin. He backs away from the door, and gestures towards the furniture. "Make yourself comfortable. I just need to finish putting on my party dress."

Gwen sits in one of the plush chairs and starts untying her sneakers. "Matt told me you are a friend from bootcamp?"

"Yeah. We've known each other a long time." Wade puts on his suit jacket, and says, "I know your father too. We have a mutual friend. Captain Rogers."

"Ah, of course." Gwen's tone isn't as happy. She adds, "Just don't let that get in the way of us having some fun tonight. If I wanted a bodyguard that was all worried about my dad's approval, I would have asked a cop."

Wade laughs at that, and says, "Well, I've only met him once. Don't worry. I'll be as devil-may-care as possible, within the bounds of social decency."

"Good." She chuckles and says, "My best friend was supposed to be my escort, but he is kind of a brilliant idiot and ended up making plans with his aunt. Jerk."

Wade shrugs. "Well, you can't say 'no' to an aunt. It's empirically proven."

Gwen laughs and stands up in her heels just as Wade is finished with his coat. She walks to him and adjusts the collar of his shirt, and Wade finds the proximity interesting. Gwen is pretty and has a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. She's the kind of girl that Wade would charm the pants off of, if he was so inclined. Except, Wade isn't feeling particularly inclined.

A little known fact: sex drive changes as you get older. When Wade was in his twenties, all he needed was a guy or girl to throw breeze his direction for his dick to get hard. Now that he's getting close to 40, he isn't as easily aroused. Right after everything went to hell with his marriage, Wade had a couple short flings that were as skeevy as they were unsatisfying. Now, he's more interested in someone who would call 9-1-1 if he fell in the shower than he is a one night stand. With the exception of a certain chemistry professor, Wade hasn't felt attraction for anyone for a while.

Wade holds out his elbow and says, "Shall we?"

The gallery is packed when Wade and Gwen arrive, and Wade feels completely out of his element. Gwen is very knowledgeable about art, and as they walk through the crowd she talks to different acquaintances about the mood and tone and composition, and mostly Wade just sees a blur of colors and sculptures that don't make much sense to him. He's never been all that into modern art because sometimes it just looks like styrofoam balls stuck to a green board. Which is his exact impression of the display on the back wall. The longer he stares, the more convinced he is that it is, in fact, just styrofoam balls stuck on a green piece of sheetrock.

Gwen slips her arm into his, getting Wade's attention. She'd been talking to curator of the collection when Wade wandered to the styrofoam balls. "You have a look that says a kindergartner could do this."

"Mama always said I had an expressive face." Wade frowns at the styrofoam balls. "I don't get it."

"You don't have to get it, really." Gwen chuckles. "With this stuff, you have to kind of find some kind of hidden meaning. For example, if someone asks what you think of this, you could say that it is a statement on the artificiality of the city and the underlying desire of the artist for things that are green and natural."

Wade huffs. "That sounds like a lot of bullshit."

"Art critics love bullshit." Gwen leads him around to another sculpture by the same artist. It is a larger foam ball, this time sitting on a wood block made from packing crates. She says, "What does this sculpture say to you, Wade?"

Wade gives her a side-eye glance, then studies the piece. He says, "I think the artist is trying to convey that he or she was moving."

Gwen gives him an elbow.

"Fine, fine." Wade studies it some more and says, "Maybe like, because the ball is on top of something that says 'Fragile' when it isn't going to break, but it was shipped like it was priceless or something. So, uh, I guess it is a statement of something along the lines of putting value on worthless things? Maybe being superficial?"

Gwen beams a smile and kisses his cheek, her lips lingering a moment longer than necessary, Wade notes. "Good. Now if someone who looks like a critic asks you the same thing, go with that answer."

Gwen makes Wade come with her to mingle, and introduces him to Pepper Potts. It takes Wade a minute to remember where he recognizes her from. That is until there is a mention of Stark Industries, and Wade remembers that she's only the top paid executive in the country (regardless of gender). Most of the people at the gallery are in some way connected to Stark Industries. Turns out that this opening is a charity event, and all the proceeds are going to help a youth science program in Hell's Kitchen.

Really, it isn't that bad. Wade manages to make some small talk, and Gwen keeps giving him these looks that make him a little curious as to what she has on her mind. Doesn't help that she stays latched onto him. She's also drinking a good amount of champagne, which may have something to do with how feely she is, though she seems to really enjoy running her hand over his left bicep.

A little after 11, Gwen nudges him and says, "Want to get out of here? I still need to pick up my sneakers from your hotel room."

Wade is no fool. He's lived long enough to know that the look Gwen gives him coupled with the tone of her voice is strongly indicative of certain desires. He knows this, and it makes him feel apprehensive. Suddenly he wishes that someone would burst through the door with a flamethrower so he'd have something to do other than deal with the sudden air of sexual tension. He feels too warm, and he's sure that his palms are sweating, but Gwen's not holding his hand. Gwen's holding his arm and doing that rubby thing against his bicep as they step outside.

And then she's suddenly got a death grip on his arm, and Wade looks at her face, but her eyes are across the street.

Her voice has lost all sensuality when she says, "That's him."

Eddie Brock doesn't look like much, in Wade's opinion. Sure, he's a little taller and a little broader than Wade, but that doesn't mean shit. He looks like someone who's never been in a real fight, but the way he's walking toward them, he looks like he wants one.

"Let's go," Gwen says, and her voice is full of fear.

Wade leans down to her ear and asks in a soft but stern voice, "If you want to go, we'll go. If you want me to fix this, I'll fix this. What do you want?"

Gwen looks almost terrified as she says, "I want him to leave me alone."

Wade nods. Brock is getting closer to them, making a steady line through the crowd on the sidewalk. He looks more and more pissed the closer he gets. Wade's not sure if he's armed or not, but that's never been a bother before.

"I want to talk to you," Brock says to Gwen, and Gwen's grip on Wade's arm gets a little tighter.

"Just leave me alone," Gwen begs.

Brock takes a step forward, and Wade puts a hand on his chest and says, "The lady asked you to leave her alone. She doesn't want to talk to you. It's time to go home."

There are a lot of things that can be gauged from body language. For one, Eddie Brock thinks that just because he's taller than Wade that he can be intimidating because he puffs out his chest trying to use all of his size to his advantage. He's also thinking about swinging a fist. Wade can see the way Brock's playing out a fight in his head with just the movement of his eyes. Wade also knows that he doesn't want to be the one who swings first; that's assault. So he does the next best thing. He rolls his right shoulder in a faint, and Brock takes the bait and throws a fist hard into Wade's jaw.

Faster than anyone can blink, Wade has Brock on his knees with his arm twisted up behind his back. All Brock can do is let out a surprised yelp. He starts to struggle, and Wade smirks as he twists the arm a little harder. If he keeps going, he'll dislocate the wrist and shoulder.

"Look friend," Wade says calmly, bending down to Brock's ear as blood starts to drip from the split lip the punk gave him. "I know that Miss Stacy is a very beautiful woman, and you are probably pretty upset that she is not interested in you. God knows, I would be a little bummed myself. But the thing is, she told you no. She said to leave her alone. Now you will follow that request. And if I ever hear from Miss Stacy that you are bothering her, you and I will have another talk, during which I will break all your bones in alphabetical order. Understand?"

Brock hisses, "Fuck you."

Wade wrenches his arm a little harder and something inside pops. "What was that?"

"I'll leave her alone!" he all but screams.

Wade gives his arm a final twist before shoving him to the ground. He spits a wad of blood beside Brock's head and he kind of wants to kick the bastard, but there's a sizable audience gathered around. Wade pulls a napkin out of his pocket from the h'orderves and wipes the blood from his chin, then casually holds out his elbow for Gwen. "You ready to leave, Miss Stacy?"

Gwen latches onto him, wide eyed and mouth hanging slightly agape, and they walk to a waiting taxi. During the ride to the hotel, Gwen won't let go of Wade and he lets her cling. She's stressed and scared, and has every right to be. Though Matt didn't go into the full details, he knows that she and Brock were in a relationship and when she broke it off, he started threatening her. Criminal charges didn't stick for whatever reason, and now she is suing him for defamation.

They get up to Wade's room and as he closes the door and turns, Wade says, "You know, I could teach you some self defense techniques that would make you the scariest thing in a…"

He's cut off because Gwen is kissing him, and at first Wade is a little too surprised to reciprocate. Then he does reciprocate and his brain reminds him that she is just feeling the adrenaline and champagne, and he carefully extracts himself from her spider-like embrace.

"I don't think this is a good idea," Wade says, holding her at arm's length. Parts of him are angry and protesting his level-headedness, but he soldiers on. "You've been under stress and that's what you're feeling now. I've seen this before."

"Do you ever just shut up?" Gwen asks with a look that screams at Wade for being an idiot. "Look, I'm not interested in some kind of relationship with you. Don't get me wrong, you're sexy and funny, but I'm a busy woman with a lot of things going on right now. And yeah, I'm stressed and there's adrenaline, and I'd rather work it out with you instead of my vibrator."

Wade feels his brain go offline. There is practically an audible click. Other parts of him seem to be reacting differently, but he ignores those parts because he is a man of principle (or something like that) and he says, "I can't. I'm sorry."

Gwen glares at the wall and shakes her head. "Matt said you were a classy gentleman who doesn't put out on the first date."

"I am classy," Wade says with a smirk. "Did he mention honorable? Because I'm a very honorable motherfucker."

"Sometimes I hate honorable men," Gwen complains. Then she sighs and grips his lapels, carefully avoiding the spot where blood dripped. "I'm not going to say I'm not disappointed. You are definitely going to be in my fantasies for a while. The way you manhandled Brock, I just…" She bites her lip and Wade can't help but chuckle at the way her eyes roll back as she says, "Unf! Probably the sexiest thing I've ever seen."

"Trust me, the fantasies will be better than the reality," Wade demurs, and he can practically hear Nate shouting at him for the negative self-talk.

She lets him go and takes a step back, looking around the room a moment before asking, "Mind if I hang out here with you anyway? I just… I don't know. I don't want to be alone. I promise I'll behave myself."

"Normally I'm the one who has to say that." Wade gestures to the chair and says, "Make yourself at home. I think I have two sets of jammies in my bag."

Wade and Gwen end up watching a short marathon of Impractical Jokers, and eating room service ice cream. She accepted his offer of pajama pants and she is practically swimming in the material. She took up residence on the bed, and Wade lounges across the chair with his feet kicked over the armrest, going between eating the ice cream and holding the carton against his busted lip.

Mostly they talk. Wade tells her a little about his military background and that he's now going to college. Gwen is just thrilled that he is taking that step. She's a chemist by profession, working for Stark Industrial. She talks about her work, her family, and her friends.

"I think that's why it's fun to hang out with different people now and then," Gwen says after dropping her spoon into the empty ice cream container. "All my friends only want to talk about work, but we all do the same thing, so there's no variety. You at least have some good stories."

"I have to admit that I'm kind of into Chemistry lately," Wade says. He's only halfway through his pint and feeling relaxed. "Of all the classes I'm taking, Chem is probably the most fun. Doesn't hurt that the professor has an ass you could bounce a quarter off."

"You've got to love the sexy professors," Gwen says. "I had one for art history that I flirted with. Constantly. Like Indiana Jones, writing 'I Love You' on my eyelids flirting." She laughs and adds, "I was kind of shameless when I was younger."

"Only when you were younger?" Wade says with a grin, and she flicks melted ice cream at his forehead from her spoon.

Gwen sticks her tongue out, then asks, "So are you going to NYU or…?"

"New Salem Community College," Wade says as he takes another bite. "It's nice. Small campus. The town is pretty cute and small and not…" He trails off because the expression on her face is somewhere between surprised and confused. Maybe even amused. His brow furrows. "What?"

"What's your chemistry teacher's name?" she asks, and Wade can tell that something horrible is about to happen.

Instead of answering, he asks, "Why?"

"It's Peter Parker, isn't it!" And her eyes are practically sparkling with joy.

"Uh…" Is all that Wade can manage before she is cackling and practically rolling on the bed from how hard she's laughing, and Wade is both concerned and frightened. Actually, he's terrified. Though his mouth has suddenly gone dry, he says, "I assume you know him?"

Gwen sits back up and wipes the tears off her face, still laughing, as she says, "Yeah. I know him. He's been my best friend since high school."

"Oh shit," is all Wade can manage to say as the embarrassment falls upon him like a shroud. Suddenly he wishes he'd gone with the post-adrenaline sex; there would have been less talking. Hiding behind his hand, he grumbles, "I swear by all that is holy, this world is too goddamn small."

Gwen breaks into another fit of laughter, and Wade gives her a side-eye glare. Once she catches her breath, she says, "I swear I'm not laughing at you. It's not that. It's… It's just something else."

Now Wade's getting nervous. "What."

"Sorry," Gwen says, finally catching her breath, though she's still giggling. "It's bro-code."

"Bro-code?"

She nods. "You know. Bros first kind of thing."

"Does bro-code extend to certain ex-marines who'd like to not feel weird in chem class Monday?" Wade asks.

"Oh I won't tell," Gwen says with a chuckle and a shove to his shoulder. "You made my asshole stalker cry on the street. You bled because of me. We're totally bros now."

"Just doing my job, ma'am," Wade says with a half-hearted cocky grin, again hiding behind his hand.

Gwen leaves a little after two o'clock and texts him later to let him know that she made it home safely. Wade feels like he should beg her to forget anything he said about Peter's ass, but knows he doesn't really have to. Gwen is nice; she's not going to rat him out. Hopefully. Please. Please let bro-code be a real thing.

Wade is also acutely aware that he is behaving like a teenager with a crush, but as he lays down to sleep he reminds himself that he is an adult. Adults do not have crushes. They… Actually, he has no idea what adults are supposed to act like. He's amazed some days that people willfully put him in command of others. But the military was different. There were rules and protocols. He knows how to be an adult in the military.

As a civilian, Wade has no idea what the fuck he's doing.

Chapter Text

Sunday, Wade wakes early feeling like he needs to punch something. Sleep didn't really happen and after a shower and shave (and stowing all the extra soaps and shampoos into his bag), Wade heads back to New Salem. The apartment is empty, and Wade suspects that Weasel didn't come home last night either. He texts Nate asking if he has time for a sparring session, but Nate takes too long to respond, and Wade ends up going for a run.

Even though it's hot as hell outside, Wade runs in a lightweight longsleeve shirt and long pants. It's not all that unusual; he's used to running in uniform, and it was a lot thicker and came with a 60-pound pack. After just a couple miles, he's soaked through with sweat and finds a nice shady spot under a tree in the park to sit and cool down. Truth is, he's let himself go a little since he retired. Spending a few months with a refrigerator full of junk food and only working out a couple times a week, he doesn't quite have the endurance he used to. Plus that whole almost 40 thing.

Being almost 40 doesn't change the fact that he's still angsting over opening his mouth to the wrong person. The fact that Gwen and Peter are friends just feels like the world's craziest coincidence, and he's never liked coincidences. It makes him feel like some god or bald-headed Watcher is out there with a magnifying glass, just seeing how much shit they can do to him without Wade's head popping.

Wade's only by the tree about five minutes before he hears a familiar voice call his name.

Wade looks up to see Kate bounding towards him. She plops down in the grass and says, "What the hell happened to your face?"

"I ran into a door," Wade grumbles. The left side of his chin is bruised and there's a dark scab over the split on his lip. It doesn't really hurt, but it doesn't feel good either. "Does it really look that bad?"

Kate shrugs. "Just tell me the door looks worse."

"I'm pretty sure I dislocated its hinges," Wade answers.

She takes off her backpack and pulls a bottle of water from the inner pocket and tosses it to him. "You look like you are about to die. Why the hell are you wearing long sleeves?"

"Too many naked girls on my arms," Wade lies. "I don't wanna traumatize the kiddies."

He realizes immediately that the lie isn't going to work because Kate's eyes light up and she gasps with great excitement, "I wanna see your tattoos!"

"No you don't," Wade says flatly.

"They can't be that bad." Kate laughs, and says, "There's a guy in my Literature class that has a tattoo of a rooster hanging from a noose on his shin, and proudly declares to everyone that he has a cock that hangs below his knee."

Wade laughs. Then he frowns and admits, "I don't really have tattoos. I have… something else."

Kate looks confused, until he pulls up his left sleeve.

There's only about six inches of skin revealed, but it is enough for her to get the picture. The skin is a purplish color and looks shiny. There are marks all around the edge like stitching, and Wade says, "Skin grafts. I… I was in an explosion and I got burned pretty much all over my body. Back, legs, chest. Left side got it the worst. Pretty much everything but my face was scorched. The places that weren't burned is where they took the donor skin. So most of it's still mine. A little bit of it is cadaver skin." He laughs, but it isn't a happy sound, and he says, "At least I got to keep my boyish good looks."

"Dude…" is all Kate can say. She looks back at the grass, and after Wade has again rolled down his sleeve, she asks, "Is it healed or…?"

"It's healed. It happened a while back, but I still need to be careful about sunburns." He shrugs. "And… people stare. I'd rather not have to tell the story to everyone I pass at the grocery store, you know?"

"Still," Kate says, shaking her head. "You shouldn't be out here running in this heat. You'll have a stroke or something."

Wade smirks. "Why Katherine, I didn't think you cared."

"Of course I care," Kate says with a shy smile. "You're my friend. I like you."

"You barely know me," Wade counters.

Kate looks him in the eyes."I know you have an unreasonable love of Bea Arthur and Roman Reigns and you like your tacos without lettuce and extra guac, and if that doesn't mean we're friends, then I don't know what does."

"Fine." Wade sighs and says, "So why are you here, my little friend? Just policing the unsafe habits of passing joggers?"

"I'm meeting my sister here to look at the Fairy Garden," Kate answers, not in the least taken back by his gruffness. "She's getting married in the Spring, and supposedly the Fairy Garden is perfection or something. I really don't care. We're supposed to go dress shopping. I swear if she makes me wear pink taffeta, I'm going to mutiny."

"I for one adore pink taffeta," Wade says. And with a flutter of his lashes, adds, "It really sets off my eyes."

"Dork." She slouches against the tree and asks, "Do you have plans for tomorrow?"

Wade shrugs. "Same as every Monday. School. Homework. Play some Yoshi's Wooly World."

Kate raises her eyebrow. "You do know that there is no school tomorrow, right?"

"Huh?"

"Labor Day," Kate says, as if it is obvious. "The campus is closed. No school. It's why my sister's here."

"Oh, thank fucking Odin," Wade practically moans. He flops back against the tree, feeling relieved that he will not have to see Peter until at least another week, and hopefully by then whatever residual embarrassment over his unintentional confession will have vaporized.

"You are way too happy right now," Kate says. "Is there something else going on?"

"Just boys and shit," Wade says with a laugh. "Actually, yeah. I'm pretty happy right now."

"Did you forget to do an assignment or…"

"No. Just…" Wade laughs. "It's kind of a silly thing. Very silly. See, I kind of said something that i shouldn't have said to someone who shouldn't have heard, and now I'm keen to avoid any kind of interaction with a certain someone."

Kate raises an eyebrow. "Okay, friend. Now you have to spill it."

"I think I've confessed enough this afternoon." Wade stands up and dusts the grass clippings from his pants. "You have fun with your sister. I'm heading home."

Kate squints at him. "You know I'm going to pester you about this."

"A little mystery is good in any relationship," Wade says with a bright smile, and he jogs away. And really, he is feeling pretty good. But Kate is right; it's hot outside. So instead of going directly back to the apartment, he detours to the small convenience store a few blocks from the apartment complex. It is a place that Wade goes frequently.

The guy behind the counter is an old man with white hair and 70's moustache, always wearing black shades and a suit. Wade likes him just because he really knows how to tell a good story. He gives him a wave, and says, "How ya doin', Wade?"

"Pretty good, Stan," Wade says as he pops an earbud out. "I'm thinking it's time to get chocolate chip-faced."

"It's a good day for it," Stan says in his usual chipper way.

Wade studies the ice cream section. Ever since Wade started being a regular face and asking for Cherry Garcia, Stan started stocking Ben and Jerry's. At first it was just the Cherry Garcia, but now there were about 20 flavors, and Wade had to think about what to get.

The bell above the door dings just as Wade has selected his Cherry Garcia and a new flavor, Karamel Sutra. An older woman walks in, and she looks distraught. She also looks kind of familiar. It takes Wade a minute to remember where he saw her, then realizes she's the lady who gave him directions to his class on the first day of school. From what he's heard of the conversation, she has a flat tire and is inquiring about people to call.

"Do you have a spare?" Wade asks as he walks up to the counter.

She looks up at him and seems a little apprehensive, but says, "Yes?"

"I can change it for you," Wade offers.

She looks at Stan, and Stan says, "Wade's a good egg, ma'am. You got nothin' to worry about."

Wade puts the ice cream back, and goes out to the side of the convenience store where the poor car awaits. She pops the trunk, and Wade notices just how full it is of neatly marked boxes. He carefully removes the packed boxes to get to the compartment the tire and tools are stowed.

"Are you moving?" Wade asks. He grabs the jack and lug wrench and lays on the ground to start lifting the car.

"Yes. Finally." She stacks up a couple of the boxes and sits atop them. "It's not far from here. We started yesterday, but the moving truck wasn't available until this morning, and I'm about beat after getting everything out of storage."

"Moving sucks. Hopefully you have a bunch of strapping young lads to help you."

She laughs, and says, "Well, I have one. Between the two of us, I think we can manage." She's quiet a moment while the car silently rises, then she says, "Thank you for doing this. I'm always a little nervous having to call someone these days."

"Yeah, stranger danger is a real thing; I understand." He says, "As Stan said, I'm Wade."

"Nice to meet you, Wade. I'm May."

"Yeah, I remember you from the college. You directed me to my first class," Wade says as he gets up to grab the tire. "You were totally my hero that day."

"Well right now you're my hero."

Wade chuckles. "I'll make sure to pick up my cape from the dry cleaners."

"Sassy," she says. "I like that."

"Better watch yourself," Wade says with a shark grin. He starts loosening the lug nuts. "You got that Sally Field thing happening, makes me wanna drive to Texarkana and bootleg some beer."

"Oh stop," she says, laughing and a little pink in the face.

Once he's finished with the tire, May asks, "Do you live near here?"

"Yeah, over at Greymalkin Apartments."

May looks surprised. "Well my goodness, that means we're neighbors."

Wade's eyes brighten. "Awesome! Nice to meet you. I live in Building 5."

"Building 6! I'm right across from you," May says, beaming.

Wade smiles brightly. "Well, welcome to the neighborhood. And if you need some help with heavy lifting, just knock on door B."

"You are too kind," May says as she starts to put her boxes back in the trunk. "How about a ride home to keep your ice cream from melting?"

Wade barks a laugh. "You're assuming I won't eat it on the way home."

She gives him a look.

"Gimme a minute," Wade says, and then hurries back inside.

Back at the apartment complex, the first thing Wade notices is the large moving truck. He had a vague memory of it going by when he left on his run of stress-induced restlessness. May parked in front of it, and they both open their doors just as someone calls out, "I was starting to get worried."

May stands up and says, "I had a flat on the way back, but one of my new neighbors stopped to help me." Wade's now standing beside the car, just turning to look as May says, "This is Wade."

Wade is certain that somewhere out there in the Universe, some douche-bag god or bald-headed watcher is cackling, because Wade is certain that he is the focus of a big cosmic joke.

Peter Parker, who Wade was so keen to avoid, is standing on the other side of the car with his arm around May's shoulders. For a moment, they both look at each other with a similar expression of confusion, then Peter smiles and says, "We've met."

"Really!" May gasps, obviously delighted. She'd probably be less delighted if she knew just how much Wade was wishing a comet would strike.

"Yeah, uh, I'm in Peter's Chemistry class," Wade says with a nervous chuckle.

"That's wonderful!" May is beaming, and it is so infectious, Wade can't help but smile too.

And Peter is smiling, and not in that way that would suggest he is uncomfortable, either. The look he's giving Wade is not one of anger or disgust or disapproval. He looks relaxed and happy as he says, "Well at least I know my aunt has a good neighbor." Then he's walking around the front of the car, and he shakes Wade's hand and says, "Thank you so much for helping her. If it was anyone else, I'd probably be worried."

"Glad to help," Wade says, and he tries not to hold on to the feel of Peter's warm hand or that smile, because it is strangely calming. He thought that seeing Peter would make his anxiety worse, but instead he feels happy. Relaxed. Then he realizes, Yeah, I am an adult. I can do the adult thing.

Wade clears his throat. "So, uh, do you need help with anything?"

Peter laughs, and shakes his head, and says, "No, I uh… Yeah. Actually. Yes, I could use some help. There's an upright grand in the back, and I barely got the damn thing up the ramp."

"No problem."

May puts Wade's ice cream in the freezer while Wade and Peter carefully (and with a lot of cussing) move the old piano from the truck into the living room. May directs them to the far wall, and doesn't complain that it is a little off center because both Wade and Peter are red-faced and leaning against the wall.

Emptying the rest of the moving truck only takes about an hour, and that's including arranging furniture and May telling stories about certain items and showing Wade all of Peter's many graduation pictures. Wade really likes May. He really likes Peter, too. Even more now, because Peter isn't just a smart guy with a nice ass. He's a genuinely good guy who takes care of his aunt and has sacrificed a lot for his family. Wade doesn't just have a crush; he'ssmitten. Every little smile and look makes Wade feel like he is plugged into an outlet of happiness.

Wade ends up staying for dinner because May asked, and Wade accepted because Peter insisted. It was a simple meal (hamburgers and chips), and May got out a bottle of wine to inaugurate the first meal prepared in her first new kitchen in almost 4 decades. It was kind of strange to be part of this celebration, but nobody seemed to want Wade to leave.

Still, Wade departs after dinner with an excuse that he needs to feed his cat (even though the little fucker will probably just stare at him with disdain the moment Wade opens the can), and May tells him to not be a stranger. And Peter… Peter walks with him to the door. They were in the middle of a debate about who was the best Starfleet captain. Peter is a diehard fan of Jean-Luc Picard, and Wade is hopelessly enamored with Captain Janeway.

Next thing Wade knows, they're standing in front of his door, and both he and Peter are kind of awkwardly looking at each other. Then they both laugh, and Peter says, "Thanks again for helping my aunt. And just… Thanks."

Wade shrugs, and says, "It's nothin', really. Just trying to be a good neighbor."

"I don't think you have to try very hard to be good at anything," Peter says. Then he backs up a couple steps and says, "I guess I'll see you in class."

Wade nods. "I still want to blow some shit up."

Peter laughs a throw-your-head-back-and-laugh-with-your-whole-body laugh, and says, "No! Not in my class."

"How about extracurricular explosions?" Wade asks with a grin.

Peter just shakes his head, then turns on his heels and walks back across the street.

Wade goes inside and finds Weasel standing just inside the door with a shit-eating grin on his face. Wade walks past him, and sits in his chair with Weasel watching him until Wade says, "What, asshole?"

"That was so freaking cute," Weasel says, and Wade rolls his eyes. "Seriously, I could practically smell the pheromones through the door. Is that Captain Chemistry?"

Wade glares at him. "Yes."

"And he's our neighbor now?"

"His aunt is our neighbor now," Wade says through gritted teeth.

Weasel nods. "I can see a lot of borrowed sugar in the future."

"I swear Weasel, I will stab you with a butter knife."

Weasel laughs and laughs, and he would have probably kept laughing if he hadn't been cut off by a knock on the door. With a sigh of extreme annoyance directed at Weasel and the Universe as a whole, Wade goes to the door and sees Peter standing on the other side. He opens the door, and says, "Something up?"

"Your ice cream," Peter says as he holds out the bag.

"Yes!" Wade says triumphantly.

Peter laughs, and says, "Cherry Garcia is my favorite. I almost had to be slightly unethical."

"It's all good, baby boy," Wade says with a laugh. "As long as you don't get your hands on my Karma Sut-Karamel Sutra. I've heard it's yummy."

"I bet it is," Peter says, and then he's kind of snickering and turning an interesting shade of red. He backs up and says, "Uh, have a good long weekend, Wade."

Wade is pretty sure Peter didn't mean that as suggestively as it sounded. He's certain. But still he says, "Oh I always enjoy a long weekend."

They both laugh. Wade closes the door. And Weasel… Weasel will probably need oxygen.

Chapter Text

The next few days are busy for Wade. May comes over early on Monday asking if he has a hammer, and he spends a couple hours tapping nails into her living room wall to hang her myriad of pictures. She pays him in cookies (which aren't really that great, but it's the thought that counts). Wade likes May Parker. He likes having her as a neighbor. He tries to not think too much about how much he likes her nephew.

Besides, Wade is reminded on Monday afternoon that his relationship with Peter Parker is that of student-teacher, because he receives a class-wide email about a project for the week, since they are not having class. They are to construct a spectroscope from household odds and ends, and make a post about it in the discussion forum with pictures and details about the build.

Wade spends the evening on the internet looking for spectroscope construction methods, and finds one that seems pretty easy on a children's science website. Tuesday morning, he collects up the required materials (a paper towel tube, black tape, old CD with the label peeled off, small box, and a couple razor blades) and sets up shop at the counter to make his spectroscope.

The CD he uses is an old CD-ROM of Encarta '95 that Weasel had tucked in a box of old discs because he never throws anything away. Wade works diligently to line up the holes of the box and place the piece of CD just right to reflect on the back end of the box. The box he paints black and makes light-tight with the tape, all while stopping every few minutes to snap a picture of what he is calling the Wade-o-spectrometer.

Once construction is complete, Wade shines a few different light sources through the thin slit formed by the pair of razors, and uses his phone to take pictures of the color bands inside the box. Some just look like a rainbow; others have black lines separating the colors. In the end, he spends a couple hours reading about spectrometry and why different sources of light create the effects.

At first, Wade was joking about being into Chemistry. Now he has a genuine interest in the subject. Science feels almost like magic, and the part of him that loved playing Dungeons & Dragons is intrigued. By the time he gets around to writing the report of his project, Wade's had a couple beers and decides to include the magic analogy.

Wade sleeps a little longer than planned, and when he gets up Weasel is up and staring at the coffee pot, as if by force of will coffee will start to brew. Wade pushes the Start button as he walks behind him and the machine comes to life and grabs some sausage and eggs out of the fridge and Weasel watches him like a zombie as Wade makes breakfast.

As he sits down in one of the barstools by the counter, Weasel asks, "How are you always so energetic? Is it drugs?"

"High on life, brother," Wade says as he puts a plate in front of Weasel with couple of sunnyside-up eggs and sausage links forming a smiley face. Wade leans against the counter and eats quickly, then he's out the door with his backpack over his shoulder.

Kate is waiting for him at the benches, and she says, "You look happier."

"I am a chipper motherfucker," Wade says as they fall into step, headed towards the Stark Learning Center. "Breakfast was good. Slept good. I have a new cool neighbor who brought me cookies yesterday. Really, everything is pretty good."

"You got laid, didn't you?" Kate says with a smirk.

Wade shakes his head. "Philistine. It may surprise you, dear Katherine, that joy can be derived from such simple things as breakfast and sweet old ladies without any carnal activities."

Kate laughs, then launches into a story about her weekend with her sister Susan. Sue didn't go with pink. The color of choice is lavender, and Kate is very happy about that. Lavender has always been her color. They get to the classroom a little early, but the previous class is already gone. They take their seats, and Kate asks in a soft voice, "So seriously, what happened over the weekend?"

"I was on bodyguard detail for a friend," Wade says, keeping his voice a whisper. The room is too quiet. He says, "I went to an art opening, and there was a little trouble, but nothing all that major. Nothing I couldn't handle. I only got punched because I wanted to make sure that anything I did would be classified as self-defense."

"That is so awesome." She smirks and says, "Sometimes, I think that's what I want to do. I've really been considering criminal justice for my major. But I don't know if I can really handle it physically, you know?"

"Are you kidding?" Wade points at a kid seated across the room. He's a tall lanky kid that Wade imagines could blow away in a strong enough breeze. "I was the size of that dude when I joined the Marines."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously." He gets out his notebook. "With some training and conditioning, you'd be able to take on a grizzly barefoot and nekkid."

Kate's face turns serious, and she asks, "Do you think you could help me train?"

Wade shrugs. "I guess. I did spend some time as a Drill Sergeant, so I kind of know a thing or two about whipping people into shape."

"When can we start?"

"I guess whenever you want to. I have a room reserved at the gym for me and my buddy a couple times a week. You can come by this Saturday if you want and do some Baguazhang. See how you like it." Wade can't help but smile at how happy she looks. They have a fist bump, and then Dr. Gray is coming in and the class has started.

Wade is starting to wonder if he is maybe just a little bit cursed by some long dead artist, because the following Monday, the Psych class is meeting at the campus art museum. Their next section is on Sense and Perception, and they will be writing another paper using their tour of the museum as the medium to discuss the topic. Dr. Grey explains this as she hands back their Critical Thinking essays, and Wade is sweating a little when the paper lands in his hands.

After staring at the rubric scoring on the cover sheet, Wade looks at Kate and asks, "Is this a good thing?"

"Yeah, Wade," Kate says. "25 out of 25 is generally considered a good score. Perfect, even."

Wade flips through the pages, reading the feedback that Dr. Grey left in the margins. The note that sticks out the most is, You have had some very interesting life experiences. I look forward to getting to know you this semester.

There's a feeling inside that makes Wade feel a little warm and light headed. He snaps a picture of the grade with his phone and sends it to Nate and Weas, and looks up to see Dr. Grey giving him a frown. He quickly tucks his phone in his pocket and tries to look innocent, and it must work because she doesn't say anything.

At lunch with Kate, both Nate and Weas respond to his picture message.

Nate says, Good job.

Wade rolls his eyes.

Weas asks, Do you want me to put it on the refrigerator door?

"Your friends sound like they are hella cool," Kate says as she stirs her soup.

"I guess," Wade says with a shrug. "Do you have friends other than me?"

"Yeah, but you're more fun," Kate says with a smile and look that makes Wade feel like he needs to correct her. I'm not fun. I'm old and uninteresting. He says nothing and goes back to eating his soup.

One thing is sure, math isn't as scary as he thought it would be. Wade really likes the way that Professor Richards teaches the course. He has vague memories of algebra in high school and how it made his brain feel like it was turning into an alien sludge and falling out his ear canal. But now, he's starting to understand how factoring works and how to divide things by letters and why it works the way it works, even if he wants to cuss and throw things every time he logs into MyMathLab because of the stupid thing being a pain in the ass to enter answers. He's sure that someone much younger than him could show him how to do it without all the hunting and pecking. Maybe. Still, his classmates—especially Cletus—seem to be just as annoyed by it.

There's a quiz coming up, too. But it is a take home quiz, and Professor Richards hands out a copy that will be due the following Monday. While the rest of the class leaves, Wade reads over the questions. Most of it is pretty familiar, and Wade's pretty sure he can work through it—even if he feels nervous about it. Still, the grade from his Psych paper has boosted his confidence.

"You're doing really well, Wade," Professor Richard's voice interrupts his thoughts. He says, "I could tell you were nervous the first couple days, but I think you really grasp the subject. Keep up the good work."

Wade has a moment of nervous laughter. He's not used to praise. "Yeah, uh. Thanks. You make it pretty easy to learn."

"That's good to hear."

They both leave the room, and Wade heads to the science building out of habit rather than accident. He knows it is Wednesday and he doesn't have class, but he figures the detour won't hurt. Either way, he's heading towards the parking lot.

As he walks by the Chem lab, he peeks through the narrow window and sees someone who is not Peter at the head of the class. He has dark hair and glasses, and Wade thinks that he might be Dr. Banner, the head of the Chemistry department. Wade keeps walking.

The day turned off a lot warmer than the morning suggested, and Wade drives with the windows down and radio up on his way to the apartment. Right before he turns onto Greymalkin Avenue, his phone rings through the speakers.

"Hello, Nathaniel," Wade says as he stops at the sign.

"There's a meeting Saturday morning for the Halloween planning committee," Nate says by way of greeting.

Wade says, "Oh yeah, I'm having a great day. You?"

Nate's silence means he's probably scowling with the phone to his ear, and Wade waits. "How's your day going, Wade?"

Wade asks, "What time's the meeting?"

"It's 9am in my classroom," Nate answers calmly. "Are you going to be there?"

"I think I can make an appearance."

The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters is a prep-school on a sprawling old-money estate. The Xavier family has their name on practically everything in the town (including the community college Library and Art Museum), and is one of the top rated private schools on the East Coast. All the kids seem to be these well groomed specimens of polite behavior, even on a Saturday. With one notable exception, and that is Hope Summers, first of her name, daughter of Nathan Dayspring "The Chosen One" Summers (who also happens to be the school's political science professor). The moment she sees Wade step out of his car, Hope sprints towards him and throws her arms around his waist with the force of a freight train.

Wade does an exaggerated stumble backward, and says, "Geez, kid. Lay off the steroids!"

Hope punches him in the stomach, and Wade groans. She says, "Dad told me you're going to be at the Halloween party!"

"Yes," Wade says with a chuckle. "I'm supposedly needed for security, but I think you could take on the universe with that right hook."

"Do I get to throw you on the mat after the meeting?" Hope asks, a little too sweetly for being the vicious creature that she is. "I promise I won't make you cry this time."

"You didn't make me cry last time," Wade counters. "I got chalk in my eyes and they watered. Not the same thing, dammit. And… If your dad says it's okay, then yes. You can throw me around like a rag doll."

Hope gives him a firm fist-bump, then pumps her fist in the air and shouts, "Yes!"

"What are we celebrating?" Nate asks as he approaches.

"Wade said I can throw him," Hope answers with a toothy grin. She's all of 11 years old, and is way too enthusiastic about violence. She's also evil-genius smart. Might be why Wade likes her so much.

Nate gives Wade a stern look, and says, "Maybe, but only if you finish your homework by the end of the meeting. I know you have a math assignment you have neglected to do. Otherwise, no throwing Wade."

Hope sighs, her eyes giving an epic roll, and Wade says, "I have a lot of homework, too, pumpkin head. Your dad isn't letting me slack either."

"But you're an adult," she says.

"I keep telling myself that." Wade chuckles as she rolls her eyes again, clearly exasperated by all the adults in her life, and trods off to the school's library.

Wade follows Nate inside the school. Inside the place is like a piece of antique furniture, all polished and hand-crafted, with walls of paintings ranging from Renaissance classics to modern art, to pieces made by the students. The carpets look like they belong in a palace, and Wade almost feels bad walking on them, except he remembers that a herd of children traverse them every day.

Really, Wade feels like he's getting to glimpse a different side of Nate. Or maybe a side that he remembers from a while back. Nate is dressed in a dark gray suit and it reminds Wade of when he first met the giant in Rumekistan, back when he was a UN Ambassador to the soon-to-be defunct country. Wade's squad was part of Nate's security detail for a meeting of world leaders, and there was an attempted assassination against Nate and two others. The bullet glanced off Nate's incredibly hard skull, which is how Nate received the lovely scar across his eyebrow. Wade also got a couple new scars that day, namely the hole in his lower left abdomen. That was almost 15 years ago. It wasn't long after that the country of Rumekistan ended up falling, and Nate returned to the US to become a school teacher/psychic knower of everything.

Okay, that last thing was just Wade's projection.

Still, Wade understood the desire to get out of the line of fire. After getting shot more times than he can specifically remember (without counting the bullet holes) and getting burns over 70% of his body, Wade was ready to get out of the shit. Despite his reputation as the unkillable Regenerating Degenerate, he was tired of tempting fate. He had enough medals clanging on his uniform; he was ready to do something less painful.

Everyone at the meeting looks like they just left the country club, and Wade is there in his blue jeans and red button down shirt feeling pretty out of place and slightly uncomfortable. He falls into his military habits, going a little rigid with his senses high. Nate asked him to be here based on his training because he knows that Wade is good with security, not because he's designed to fit the prep-school mold.

The school's head of security (and art professor) is a guy named Logan Howlett. He's an older man, probably getting close to (or past) 60. His hair is steel gray, but he still has a hard look that Wade associates with men who've seen a lot of combat. Wade's seen the same look on his own face a few times. Howlett takes Wade on a circuit of the school and shows him all the areas that visitors will be allowed on Halloween. Basically, everyone without a school ID badge needs to keep to the main hall and the front lot. There will be kids set up to hand out candy and a costume contest will be held at 9pm. The whole event will be over by ten o'clock.

As the two of them are returning to the front of the school, Logan says, "You were in the Marine Corps, right?"

"Yes sir," Wade answers. "2nd Battalion 4th Marines."

"I was 1st Battalion 1st Marines," Logan says as he pulls a cigar out of his pocket.

"First of the First," Wade says with a smirk. "How'd you end up an art professor?"

"Realized it was what I wanted to do." Logan shrugs and asks, "Did you just get out?"

Wade nods. "Yeah, and sometimes I have no idea what I'm doing out here."

"Well, if you ever need to talk to someone who's been through the same grinder, look me up." Logan slaps him on the shoulder, and says, "If I don't see you before, be here at seventeen-hundred October 31st."

"Yes, sir," Wade says, and he walks down the steps to where Nate is standing by the car looking over Hope's math homework. "All the figures figuring?"

"Yes," Hope answers. "Nate's just being a butt."

Nate gives her a look, then says to Wade, "You ready to go to the gym?"

"Yeah." Then Wade snaps his fingers and says, "I just remembered. I have a friend from one of my classes interested in some training. You think it'd be fine if she tags along with us?"

"So there is a co-ed," Nate says.

Wade rolls his eyesHope has trained him well. "Not like that, Pricilla. She's just a friend and she's interested in going into criminal justice, but she doesn't think she has the physical ability to handle the enforcement part of the law. I figure having her see Hope fling me around would be a confidence booster."

A quick text and a drive across town later, and Kate is in the workout room following Hope through her warm up stretches. This wasn't going to be the typical Nate-and-Wade-pummel-each-other-until-Wade-has-an-emotional-breakthrough day. Those sessions were pretty violent and bruising (and always minus a small redhead), and always left Wade a little emotionally wrung out. This was a training day with Hope, which usually involved a little sparring and a lot of skill practice, which was perfect for Kate's first day.

Though Wade still plans to put her through the drills, he sticks with the basics of Baguazhang, starting with stance, and moving through a few counter moves. By the end of an hour, Kate is pretty good at shoving Wade to the ground. Then Hope asks to spar with Wade, and the two square off. Wade has a solid two feet of height on the girl, but Hope counters every move he makes, and then uses his momentum to fling him to the mat flat on his back.

"Ouch," Wade groans. He's pretty sure he felt his hip pop.

Kate laughs and says to Nate, "He's just playing, right? She really can't do that."

"Would you like to try?" Nate asks with a smirk.

Kate shrugs. "Sure."

Wade gets up with a groan and says, "You gotta watch her left. That kid will make you bleed internally."

Kate laughs, at least until she falls into the stance in front of Hope. Hope is all business, her eyes the cold calm of a seasoned ass-kicker. The two circle each other until Kate steps in and goes for a leg sweep. A moment later, Kate is on her back trying to figure out why she's staring at the ceiling.

Hope hauls Kate off the mat, and Kate says, "Teach me your ways, master!"

"I am not a master," Hope says, looking up to her father, adding a sharp, "Yet."

Nate squints at her, then says to Kate, "You are welcome to join us any time."

"Thanks!" Kate holds out her fist, and Nate seems a little confused, then finally bumps her fist. Then she asks Wade, "Same time next week?"

Wade can't help but smile because of the bloodthirsty look in her eyes. He's creating a monster, and he knows it. But that's not a bad thing, really. He can tell she's going to be a good student because she takes direction well and already has a pretty mean punch. If Wade had a daughter, he'd want her to be the same way.

When Wade gets back to the apartment, Peter is just coming out of May's door holding a bag of trash.

"How's it goin' professor?" Wade says as he falls into step beside him in the street. Peter doesn't seem to care that Wade is walking with him to the dumpsters.

"Oh, you know. Just ridding the world of trash." Peter gives him a once over because Wade is still wearing his workout clothes. "Are you training for something?"

"I'm training someone else," Wade says with a smirk. "Just got finished with my weekly ass-kicking session."

Peter laughs. "Does ass-kicking always make you chipper?"

"Abso-fuckin'-lutely," Wade answers with a grin.

"Maybe I need to start kicking ass," Peter says. He tosses the bag in the dumpster, and they walk back towards the apartments. When they are about to part ways, Peter says, "I really liked your report on the spectrometer, by the way. Your observations were excellent, and the thing about being the Bard had me laughing."

"Yeah…" Wade can feel his face warming from more than the workout. "I might have had a couple beers in me by the time I got to that part."

"It was good, and really, I wish my other students put a tenth of the thought into their lab reports that you do. Some of them don't seem to be able to string two coherent sentences together. Most of them are plagiarizing their work." Peter sighs. "I know I shouldn't feel this way, but it makes me feel completely ineffective."

"That's not on you, though." Wade shrugs and says, "Sometimes the only thing you can do is say 'God speed, little dummy', and let them fail."

"I wish I could do that," Peter says. "I guess I care too much."

"It's not a bad thing," Wade says with a half smile. "It's what makes you a good teacher."

Peter smiles. "Maybe I could stand to learn some things from a Marine."

"I could start you with a cadence," Wade says, waggling his eyebrows.

Peter laughs. "I don't know why that scares me, but it does."

"It should," Wade says. "You wouldn't believe the shit I'm singing in my head right now."

"You…" Peter pauses, then shakes his head and says, "Thanks. I'm happy I ran into you tonight."

Wade raises an eyebrow and says in a voice usually reserved for conspiracies and other naughty secrets, "We keep meeting like this, and people are gonna talk."

Peter shakes his head, and says, "Goodnight, Wade."

"Later, professor," Wade says as he turns on his heels. As he walks he calls out drill-instructor style as he marches to his door, "My bag is packed, my boots are tight. My balls are swingin' from left to right."

Really, the sound of Peter's laughter is like music to Wade's ears.

Student-Teacher relationship or not, Wade is pretty sure he's falling in love.

Chapter Text

Wade makes a 90% on his first math quiz. Thanks to Gwen's brief lesson in talking about art, Wade rocks his Sense and Perception Art Museum paper (and makes friends with Peggy, the sweet little British docent in the process). And if there is one thing that Wade accels at more than anything else, it is Chemistry.

Every Monday, Wade is the first to class and the last to leave. Even on days when they finish labs early and everyone is free to leave, Wade stays to work in the virtual Aleks lab (especially when he gets to the math-heavy sections of the homework). Wade and Peter always start out talking about the homework and always end up talking about comic books or movies or favorite Bond villains. Wade has to remind himself regularly that Peter is his professor, because now and then there's an urge to say or do something that is decidedly outside the boundary of a student-teacher relationship.

Especially since (as far as Wade knows), Peter is a straight man who just likes hanging out with him. And really, Wade is fine with that. He has a lot of straight friends, and if at the end of the semester they remain good friends who talk about comic books and hang out sometimes on May's small porch, then Wade will be fine with that.

They keep seeing each other at the apartment complex too, and always end up talking in the parking lot. May keeps asking Wade (and eventually Weasel) to come over for dinner. She's almost their unofficial Den Mother, because there are cookies being exchanged and Weasel helps weed the flower boxes so May can plant pink and blue Aster, Goldenrod, and Fall-blooming Crocus. It makes everything seem brighter in their little corner of the complex, and Wade notices a few other neighbors start putting flowers in their boxes.

Wade has also started training Kate. The first time he put her through a true Marine Corps PT session, he was pretty sure she wanted to kill him. She texted him for three days telling him that he is a monster, followed up by requests for more. After a couple weeks, Kate was doing 10-counts like a champ and was starting to get pretty good at brawling when they sparred. Once, Kate caught his chin with a left and it left Wade a little stunned. Kate apologized; Wade gave her a high five and told her how to increase the power in her less-dominant hand.

But as September comes to an end, the word "midterm" is now being uttered in the hallways in the same dismal way one might utter "Voldemort" at Hogwarts. Really, the only test that Wade is concerned about is World Civ. That class has been nothing but notes and more notes with no assignments. It makes Wade nervous because in his other classes, he has an idea of where he stands. With World Civ, he has no idea.

Luckily, Professor Wagner gives the essay questions as a take-home portion a week prior to the actual test. There are twelve questions, of which Wade has to select four to answer in a complete manner.

For some reason, writing those essays is hard for Wade. He struggles going between his notes and his book for the answers, and every time he tries to start writing, he just can't get his thoughts onto the paper. It is frustrating because he knows the answer that he wants to give, but it feels like there is a block in his brain that he can't get around.

Wade decides it is time to go back to the tutoring office, and Evan's blue-gray face lights up when Wade walks into his cubicle.

"Dude, I don't know what the hell is wrong with me," Wade begins as he sits down. "But I can't figure out how to write this damned essay. And it is for the midterm, and I really don't want to fuck it up, but I also can't seem to connect my brain to my pen."

"That's called test anxiety," Evan says with a sympathetic smile.

"I'm not afraid of a test," Wade says, though he doesn't sound too confident. Truth is, he is terrified of getting a bad grade on the World Civ midterm because it will be the only grade in the book. He doesn't want to have his only grade for the class be a fail.

Evan says, "I can't really help you write this because it is for a test, but I can give you some advice on essay writing.

Wade clicks his pen and says, "Teach me, Obi-Wan."

Evan laughs. "The best thing to do is find the topic in your notes and rewrite everything from them. I mean everything. With stuff like this, you don't want to give a short and sweet answer. You want to write a few paragraphs and use big words so that you sound like you know what you're talking about—even if you're a little iffy on the material. The more you write, the more likely you are to fully answer the question. And I know Professor Wagner. He likes long-winded answers."

Wade nods and says, "That makes sense."

"Sometimes, it helps to verbalize things, too." Evan gets out his phone and opens the recorder app and shows it to Wade. "A lot of times I talk myself through my essays and use my phone to record it. Then I go back and listen and write things down. I'm more of a verbal processor, and I'd venture a guess that you are too."

"To say the least." Wade smirks, and says, "Thanks."

Evan smiles and shrugs. "That's about all I've got for essays, but I hope it helps."

"It does," Wade says, feeling slightly relieved. He sighs, and says, "I guess I better get to writing. Thanks again."

"No problem."

On top of midterm essays, Wade also has an appointment with his advisor. Or rather, his new advisor. The person he met with to get his classes was a new-student navigator, and Wade has now been assigned Emily Preston, who works with undeclared students as well as non-traditional students, and Wade falls into both categories.

Emily Preston is a tall woman with a firm handshake and a hearty laugh. Her office is covered with family pictures and art pieces created by her kids. After Wade fills out a short questionnaire about his visit for the day, which he answers "chit-chat" on the line for "Reason for visit", Preston asks, "How are you liking classes so far?"

"It's pretty awesome," Wade says with a smile. "I mean, it's a lot different kind of challenge than I'm used to. But it is a challenge, and I dig that."

"That's great, Wade." She enters his student ID number into the system, and asks, "Have you thought much about what you want to major in?"

He shrugs. "Not really. I mean… I just got out of the Marine Corps, and I guess I haven't quite reconciled myself to having a wide open future, ya know?"

"That's understandable." Preston brings up a website, and says, "If you want, I can set you up with a few assessments down in the testing center that might help point you in a direction. They're kind of aptitude tests, but they also help unpack some of the clutter to find what you might not realize you actually want to do."

"Is Chippendale dancer an option?" Wade asks with a cheeky grin.

Preston laughs and shakes her head. "I was warned by Adsits that you're a joker."

Wade smirks. "Mama always said I was a card."

"Very punny." Preston rests an arm on the desk and tries to give him a stern look. "Do you want to take the assessment, or should I just keep you on the Gen Ed track another semester?"

Wade winces. "Can it wait until after midterms? Because I'm kind of up to my eyeballs with questions to answer right now."

"Absolutely," Preston says. She goes into the testing center's page and sets Wade up for the assessment the last week of October, and also sets up another appointment with her to get his class schedule for the Spring. Despite it being his first year in an actual college setting, Wade's credits from the military give him enough hours to be one of the first to make his schedule. According to his transcript, Wade only needs two more semesters to complete his Associate's degree.

The Friday before midterms start, Kate comes over to Wade's apartment to study. Wade warned Weasel ahead of time that she was coming over, and when the two of them walk through the door, the living room is immaculate and Weasel has showered and trimmed his beard. Even his unruly hair is combed neatly into place, and Wade wants to laugh because finally Weasel is the one who's the stuttering idiot in the house.

Wade and Kate set up their laptops on the kitchen counter, and start going over psychology questions from the previous quizzes. They work on coming up with mnemonics to help remember the functions of the brain, like imagining an octopus with an oculus to remember the occipital lobe that operates the eyes and a happy happy hippo for the hippocampus. After running through the vocabulary once and quizzing each other for about an hour, Kate's phone buzzes and she tells Wade she needs to leave.

"Hot date?" Wade asks with a waggle of his eyebrows.

"Not really." Kate laughs and says, "It's this guy from Literature. We're kinda sorta dating? Ish?"

"Not the guy with the cock below his knee," Wade says flatly.

Kate laughs. "No, father. Not him. Different guy."

Wade gives her a stern look, and says, "Just remember, if he tries any funny business, punch him in the throat."

Kate plants a hand on her hip. "Maybe I want him to try some funny business."

"Then don't forget the condoms and lube," Wade says with a smirk.

Kate shakes her head. "You are terrible. Absolutely terrible."

"Just want to you to be safe, my child," Wade says with all the sincerity of a drop of rain. "Also, we have an appointment tomorrow for more PT."

She salutes him, and says, "Yes, sir, Master Sergeant sir!"

Kate leaves, and Weasel says, "You make the most adorable friends."

"Kate's a good kid," Wade says as he sits back at the counter and opens up a Word document to start typing up his essays. He's written them out longhand after recording them outloud like Evan suggested. The typing takes him a little over an hour with revisions, and when he looks at the clock it is 8:30.

The thing is, Wade's feeling a little antsy with all the stress of the upcoming midterms. Part of him wants to go running, but it the first week of October and it's starting to get cold. And while running in the cold can be fun, Wade is happier to find something warm to do. And it is not because he's old. It's because… Well...

He turns to Weasel and asks, "You wanna go see a movie?"

"Well, I smell good," Weasel says as he sets aside his laptop. "I might as well go out in public."

The local theater is a decent-size complex, showing ten different films. Wade and Weasel debate in the lobby between the newest action flick or something animated. They end up settling on something Sci-Fi with Matt Damon in his usual predicament of being trapped somewhere trying to get home. It's a pretty good movie, and Wade gets so wrapped up in it he forgets to be stressed about midterms. He almost forgets about his Whoppers, and more than once has one melt between his fingers because he forgot what he was doing.

Wade and Weasel sit through the credits talking about Mars and Weasel tells Wade that at one point he tried to apply at NASA because he had big dreams of working for the rover projects. This is news to Wade.

"You should try again," Wade says as they get up. "You've got like five degrees and more brains than anyone I know."

"Three degrees, and none of them really equal Space Command," Weasel says with a shrug. "It's just something I wanted to do when I was younger. Now, I'm kinda happy working from home."

Wade smiles. "Well, if you're happy, no reason to change it."

They are just about out of the theater when someone behind shouts, "Wade Wilson!"

Wade and Weasel turn in unison, and Wade's eyes get wide seeing Gwen Stacy half-running towards him. She throws her arms around his neck and Wade gives her a quick hug and pat on the back before straightening and asking, "Wh-what are you doing here?"

"I'm here with a friend," she says with a mischievous smile. Wade looks behind her and sees Peter approaching with a slightly confused look on his face. Gwen reaches back to grab Peter's hand and says, "This is the guy I told you about!"

Peter looks at Wade, then says to Gwen, "What guy?"

"My bodyguard!" she gasps, and Wade is pretty sure she's laying on the excitement a little thick.

But Peter's eyes go a little wide, and he looks to Wade. "You're the one who dislocated that asshole's arm?" Then his gasps and says, "The split lip! That was from…"

"Yeah. That was from… that." Wade can feel his face getting warm. But he knows one thing is for sure—Gwen stuck to the bro-code. It's obvious that Peter had no clue that Wade ever met Gwen, and from the smug look she's wearing, Wade has to wonder if she somehow planned it this way.

"Man." Peter is grinning, and he says, "You have no idea how grateful I am that you took care of that asshole. I felt so bad not being able to be there, and I'm so happy you were. And just…Thank you. Gwen is like family to me."

"Just doing my job," Wade says with a shy smile.

Peter gives him this look that Wade can't quite discern, and he says, "I don't know how it is possible, but you seem to always be there for all the people I care about. It's like you're my personal hero."

"I haven't saved your life yet," Wade says, his face going pink up to his ears. "But hey, I've only known you seven weeks."

Peter can't fight away the smile, though Wade can see he's trying. He says, "I think if I'm patient, it will happen."

"I won't hesitate to throw you under the emergency shower," Wade says.

Peter blurts a laugh, and steps a little closer. "I certainly hope that if that happens, it is for fun and not necessar— I mean! I mean, I hope it's necessary, not… Not a prank. No horseplay in class, Wade."

Then there is the sound of a throat clearing, and both Wade and Peter turn to where Weasel and Gwen are standing, both eating popcorn like they are watching a show. And maybe it is a show, because Wade is suddenly aware that he and Peter are standing close. Closer than people should stand who are just having a conversation.

Both he and Peter step away from each other as Weasel says, "How do you feel about Shark's?"

Simultaneously, Wade and Peter cock their heads to the side.

"Pool hall," Gwen clarifies, giggling. "Not the sea predator."

"Wanna play some pool?" Weasel asks, smiling like an excited idiot.

Wade and Peter look at each other, fishmouthing a couple times before Peter says, "I think…" He studies Wade's face a moment, then, "Yeah. Sure. If… I mean if you want?"

The question is directed at Wade, and Wade wants to shout YES, but he's also suddenly filled with apprehension. It is one thing to happen to cross paths outside of the classroom, but intentionally spending time with Peter in a setting that involves so much bending over might stretch Wade's ability to keep from saying something overtly perverted. Seriously—balls, racks, sticks, tables, pockets, holes—it is a minefield of sexual innuendos, and goddammit, Wade only has so much self-control.

Not to mention that Wade has had his fair share of pool-table related fantasies in his life. Usually they involve people like Channing Tatum or the chick that plays Brienne of Tarth, but it wouldn't be hard to sub in Peter Parker. And goddammit, just Peter's name screams a series of sexual things—har har, I would park my peter in Peter Parker. (Seriously, he feels skeevy just thinking such a lame-ass thing). But it is late, and he's in the mood to have a beer or knock back a couple slippery nipples (it's a drink, motherfucker), and get a little loose. And if he gets loose, he's going to absolutely end up making comments about Peter's perky ass and demonstrate his wrist moves with a pool cue.

But still, Wade reminds himself for the 80-millionth time that he is an adult. Wade is a master of military bearing. He's got the thousand-yard stare and the ability to be cool under enemy fire. He is capable of holding it together for an hour of pool. Plus, Weasel is going to be there. So is Gwen.

Actually, Gwen isn't much help. She's still munching popcorn like she's in the fucking theater, though it kind of looks like slow motion because Wade's brain is going faster than light with all of these scenarios. But Gwen knows that he's interested in Peter's ass.

That's right. She knows. She knows. And she's conspiring with Weasel to force all of them to spend more time in close proximity. Or closer proximity, because Wade's still close enough to Peter to smell his cologne and he kind of wants to wallow in that scent because it reminds him of warm and happy things. And FUCK, he hasn't been this ridiculous over someone since he was in highschool, and boy did that turn out fucked up.

But Wade's an adult. He can handle it.

All of this happens in Wade's head in the space of a half-second, and he answers Peter with a casual shrug and, "Sure. Let's do this."

Shark's Pool Hall is located just at the edge of town. Wade and Weasel go there from time to time to shoot pool and have a couple drinks, but it is always a rare occasion. The only place anyone considers the two of them "regulars" is one diner and Stan's Stop'n Shop. Being a Friday night, the place is fairly busy, but a table opens up near the back and the four of them get drinks and head that direction.

On the way over, Wade decided to be the designated driver and both he and Peter (separate and independent of each other) order Mountain Dew. Weasel on the other hand gets a Jack'n Coke (heavy on the Jack) and Gwen orders a strawberry margarita that could double as a pool.

Gwen and Peter team up against Wade and Weasel, and it only takes a couple shots for Wade to know that some of his earlier fears were absolutely founded. Peter is wearing dark blue jeans that hug his firm ass in all the right ways. Wade has looked enough to notice there's a small tear at the waistband below his belt and that the stitching is misaligned on the left pocket. The loose grip that Peter has on his pool cue (middle finger and thumb touching just right) is so suggestive of just how good he would be at a handjob that Wade can feel his pants getting tight.

Wade knows that his thoughts are inappropriate, but it is getting close to midnight, and Wade's darker thoughts always want to come up to the surface. Besides, it's not a bad thing to appreciate someone's physique if it isn't the only thing that you appreciate, right? Wade adores Peter for reasons that transcend the physical. He's smart and funny, has good taste in comic books, and is just your all around friendly neighborhood good guy. Right.

Peter's also pretty damn good at pool. He studies every shot like it is a complex problem, and Wade wonders if he sees it all in the form of geometry and spacial ratios or something, because some of the shots he calls seem a little on the edge of impossible. Some of them he misses, but even the misses leave Wade a little stunned because he couldn't predict the way the ball went.

Gwen and Weasel are apparently turning into best buds, because they are constantly whispering to each other and giggling like nerds. Wade doesn't mind, because he and Peter are doing the same thing. Well, minus the whispering. They talk like they always do, just while holding long pieces of wood in their hands (internal snickering).

It's getting late and the pool hall starts to empty. Peter and Wade have to wrangle their less-than-sober counterparts and usher them outside. Their cars are parked side-by-side towards the edge of the parking lot. It's dark out there, with the only light coming from the streetlights closer to the building.

Gwen hugs Wade tight, and says in a low whisper, "Bro-code, motherfucker."

Wade laughs, and says, "You're a peach, Miss Stacy."

Once Gwen and Weasel are in the cars, Peter says, "I had fun tonight."

"Me too," Wade says with a lazy smile. He's tired and happy.

"We, uh…" Peter runs a hand back through his messy hair as he steps closer. His voice is a little softer. "It's… I… I really enjoy hanging out with you." Peter swallows, then sighs. "But we probably shouldn't do this again."

Wade nods, and says, "Because the whole student-teacher thing."

"Yeah." Peter's voice sounds disappointed. Then he chuckles and asks, "Are you considering taking Chemistry next semester?"

"I haven't thought that far ahead," Wade says.

Peter steps infinitesimally closer, and says, "If you do, take Dr. Banner. Or Dr. Van Dyne. Or basically anyone but me."

Wade laughs, and says, "I think I can manage that."

"Good." Peter smiles, looking into Wade's eyes with so much joy, it is almost palpable. "Goodnight, Wade."

Wade loves the sound of Peter's voice saying those words. He says, "Goodnight, professor."

There's a moment (a brief moment), when Wade thinks Peter's about to kiss him. Maybe it's the way he licks his lips or the way his eyes flick down to Wade's mouth. Either way, there's a hint of a lean and head tilt, and then they both simultaneously take a step back and Peter says a hasty, "Bye," and Wade says, "Later."

Peter drives away and Wade sits in the driver's seat of his car and laughs because he's that goddamn happy, even if he still has half a semester of pining in his future. Still, if Wade's not just imagining things, Peter Parker has a little crush too. And at some point, Peter won't be his professor. It's just getting there is going to be a challenge to Wade's ability to be patient. Wade accepts this.

Really, it'll make anything that follows that much sweeter.

 

Chapter Text

The rest of the weekend is filled with studying. As much as Wade would like to wallow in the happy feelings, he has a lot of responsibilities to attend to. He's almost relieved when Kate texts him to say that she wants to skip their PT session because she needs to study.

Sunday night, Wade has a hard time sleeping. He can't get his mind to shut up about solving word problems or the differences between Hellenistic and Hellenic Greece and the parts of a neuron. The last time he checks his phone, it is after 3am, and next thing he knows his alarm is going off.

Wade takes a hot morning shower, hoping to steam away the sleepiness that is clinging to him like a cheap cologne. He can't stop thinking about the note that Dr. Grey left in Blackboard (Study early, get plenty of REM sleep, and hydrate!). Wade managed two out of three, so he figures that ain't bad. At least, that's what Meatloaf said in the song.

For the first time since his first day, Wade feels nervous driving to campus. His palms are sweating as he parks the car, and he has a knot of dread in his stomach that isn't going away. He didn't eat breakfast because he didn't think he could stomach it. He did drink a full glass of water, and that is in danger of making a return trip.

A tap on his window almost makes Wade jump out of his skin. Kate is standing outside his driver's side door looking far more chipper than he feels. Wade finally turns off the car and gets out.

"You don't look so good," Kate says as they start walking.

Wade stuffs his hands in his hoodie pocket, and says, "I guess I'm a little nervous about the tests today."

Kate nods. "Yeah, I am too. I didn't study enough, but that's my fault." She smirks, her face going a little pink as she says, "I guess I was a little busy."

Wade laughs, and says, "So I guess you had a good time with Mr. Literature?"

"Yeah." Kate shrugs and says, "I think we're a thing now. Maybe. I like him. We're going out again this Saturday."

"That's cool," Wade says. Then he asks, "Do I get to meet this guy? Give him the third degree?"

"You really do sound like the father I never had," Kate says with a laugh. She's told Wade about her father. He lives in Europe and calls maybe once a month. He hasn't been part of her life since a couple months after her mother died. Wade didn't intend to fill that vacancy, but Kate seems to want someone for added support and Wade isn't a creepy old guy trying to get into her pants.

Though Wade will never say it out loud, sometimes he wishes he'd had kids. But at the same time, he knows that it wouldn't have worked too well with him being in the Marines. Still, if someone needs a surrogate, he's up for the job.

Wade says, "Just so long as he treats you with respect, he'll never have a problem with me."

Kate smiles. "Thanks, Wade."

The atmosphere in the classroom is a little different than normal. The stress is almost visible in the air. Some have their notes out for some last minute cramming and others have the same stoic look of someone facing a firing squad. Wade and Kate take their seats just before Dr. Grey enters the room and starts writing instructions on the board for how to fill out the scanner sheets. One of those instructions is that pencil is required, and Wade starts digging through his bag because he did buy pencils, but he also can't find them.

Luckily, Kate is prepared for this eventuality and hands him a pink mechanical pencil with a softly spoken, "Keep it. You'll need it."

The test is fifty questions, and Wade goes slow, carefully reading each question and answer. By the time the first person hands in their scanner sheet, he's only a quarter of the way through. Still, Wade takes his time and when he finishes, it is with only a few minutes left in the class period. He's also the last one to finish. Dr. Grey gives him a smile as he hands over the scanner sheet, and he leaves with the quickness.

In World Civ, Wade gets the printout of his essays out of the folder and does a quick re-read. The questions he picked were about the difference between a "culture" and "civilization", Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and the effect of the Kingdom of Nubia in Egypt. He wrote almost a full page for each question, and hoped that they would do the job. He was half-tempted to email them to Nate to get his opinion on the Nubia question, just because the way that Nate talks about Egypt you'd think he was there for the construction of the pyramids or something, but Wade decided that his answer was good enough without an additional all-knowing source.

Professor Wagner enters the classroom with his usual stoic expression and asks for the essays before handing out the test. Wade is pleasantly surprised to see that the entire test is only 30 questions, and a mix of matching and fill in the blank. He works through the matching in short order, first going through to find all the terms that he knows and going by process of elimination to get the rest. The fill in the blank is a little tougher, but in the end he feels pretty confident that he found the correct answers. It only takes about thirty minutes to complete, and he's out early and walks to the Library lobby to chill until Kate finishes up with her Literature test.

When she shows up, it is with a young man that Wade automatically assumes is her new squeeze. He's a tall kid. Not quite as tall as Wade, but tall, with dark hair and a dark tan. His name is Travis. He's from Ithaca. He likes bubblegum and his favorite color is whatever's popular. Or at least, that's Wade's assumption.

Really, Wade isn't a fan. The kid has a habit of interrupting people, which is just an annoyance to Wade. He's also cocky, but not in the way that denotes confidence. It's the kind of bravado Wade's seen plenty of times from new recruits who think they are badasses because they have a high rank in Call of Duty.

Still, Wade will give him the benefit of the doubt. Kate's a smart girl. She's sharp. She has a good head on her shoulders. If she thinks he's okay, then Wade will trust her judgment.

Wade leaves lunch a little early so he can log into Blackboard for one last look at the math review before heading to class. The only thing that he's worried will trip him up is the point-slope formula. He writes it down a couple times to try and cement it into his head. And as soon as he receives his copy of the test, Wade writes it down in the margin so he wouldn't forget it.

When Wade was in high school, he hardly ever followed the rule of "showing your work". Despite his reputation as the class clown, he was pretty damn good at doing math in his head. Now, he makes sure to write down everything, not leaving a step out as he works through each problem. He fills up three pages of scrap paper in the process, and when he's finished he makes sure to go back and double check all his answers (and to make sure he didn't skip anything).

Looking at the clock, Wade feels like he needs to double check everything again because only 25 minutes have passed. He didn't think he was working that fast, but after going over it all a second time, he can't find any errors (or at least blatant errors), and he hands in his test.

Despite the building knot of tension in his shoulders and slight headache that Wade has developed, he's a little happier just entering the doors of the Baxter Science and Technology building. He's exceptionally early for class, though, and the door is not yet unlocked. So he walks to the small bench that sits opposite the door by the windows and puts in his earbuds to listen to something nice and relaxing while he waits to see Pet—er—waits for class to start.

The playlist that he is listening to is a 90's compilation. It's the stuff he was jamming to back when he was just a pup, and one of the first songs that comes on is "No Diggity" by Blackstreet. Wade mouths along with the words and leans his head back against the glass. By the time "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" comes on, Wade is half-singing along in a very high and off-key voice. He's still singing when Peter comes around the corner.

Wade's heart picks up a little just seeing him, and he can almost feel the tension leaving his body—even if a different kind of tension is filling the space between them. Peter is smiling in that way that makes Wade feel a little light headed, and he says, "How was the rest of your weekend?"

"Pretty good," Wade says, knowing he's smiling a little too much. "Other than having to babysit my roomie Saturday because he acts like hangovers are lethal."

"Gwen was up at fucking 7am trying to get me to go to breakfast," Peter says with a shake of his head. He opens the door and flicks on the lights.

Once through the door, Wade knows that it should be all business. He puts his bag in one of the cubbies and gets out his eye protection and lab log. He sits in his usual spot and asks, "So what are we not blowing up today?"

Peter gives him the patented no blowing up anything look, and says, "You and your wonderful classmates are going to do a reactivity series." He smirks and adds, "There will be acids involved, but they will only burn your skin. No explosions."

"Awesome." Wade says. "Is this the Midterm for this class?"

"No midterm here," Peter says. "But you should be about halfway through the Aleks work."

Wade grumbles. "Yeah, yeah. I'm kind of stuck on naming side-chains of organic compounds, but I still have a few days before that section is due."

Peter nods. "Stay after class and we'll go over it."

Wade starts copying the instructions Peter is writing on the whiteboard into his composition book. Really, Wade enjoys all of his and Peter's interactions in the classroom, especially when Peter is all about business. Eager as he may be to spend time with him free of certain taboos, Wade still finds joy in watching Peter work. He's so full of knowledge that it is amazing. Peter knows Chemistry the way that Wade knows weaponry.

Slowly the rest of the class files through the door, and soon they split into two groups to work through the reactivity series. Wade has turned into the default leader when they get into a group, and he starts assigning people tasks while he and another girl (he thinks her name is Amy?) start setting up a chart to record their data that is passed around for everyone else to copy into their lab logs.

The entire lab takes less than two hours, including cleanup, and Peter releases everyone early with instructions on what to post in the online discussion post for their reports. Wade and three others stay behind to work on the Aleks homework. Most of them are stuck on the same section, and Peter takes his time showing them how to read the diagrams of carbon chains. Wade ends up working through the last the parts of that section of homework, and when he's finished he looks up to find himself the only student left in the room.

Though Chemistry is a real challenge, Wade finds it easy to get wrapped up in the processes. There is so much that he wants to know, and so much that is left to know. Over the weekend, he thought many times about what Peter said about taking another Chemistry course. Wade wants to, even if it isn't what he ends up with as a degree.

Wade closes his laptop and asks Peter, "If I were to decide to take Chem I, who would you recommend? Banner or Van Dyne?"

"Van Dyne is by far the best for that class," Peter says as he leans against the white board. "She's thorough and patient, and I love the way she runs her labs. I sit in on her classes sometimes just to get pointers on how to be better at my job. Not to mention she's done some amazing research into synthetics. She uses wasp honey to make plastics, which I honestly didn't know was a thing."

"I wonder if it tastes good…" Wade wonders out loud.

Peter shrugs. "I have no idea, but I'm terrified to even try."

Wade nods. "What about Banner?"

"He's fucking brilliant," Peter says, though Wade can hear a "but" on the way. "But, he is pretty unpredictable with his moods. You fuck up in his class, you'll feel like he's transformed from a mild-mannered dude into something that will smash you."

"Sounds like this generation's Lou Ferrigno," Wade says with a laugh. Then he remembers something he keeps forgetting about. "Speaking of people turning green, do you know of any costume supply shops nearby?"

Peter's brow scrunches. "That was really random."

Wade laughs and shrugs; it's not the first time he's heard that in his life. "I have this thing I'm doing for a friend on Halloween, and I need a costume. Preferably something kid friendly."

"No sexy pirates?" Peter says with a laugh.

"That's the rule. No sexy outfits, but…" Wade chuckles and says, "That's going to be a hard rule to follow because I'm sexy by default."

Peter wants to say something to that; Wade can tell. Peter's mouth opens and he quickly clamps it back shut and shakes his head before saying, "I'm sure you'll figure it out. You seem to be a problem solver."

"I am the king of creative solutions," Wade says with a solemn nod. "Pretty much one mullet away from being MacGyver."

Peter snorts. "Maybe that should be your costume."

Wade laughs. "What part of 'not sexy' did you not understand?"

"MacGyver was not sexy," Peter says. "Not in the least. However, Colonel Jack O'Neill was a sexy beast."

Wade nods. "Agreed, but I was more partial to Jackson. He was such a sweet boy."

"James Spader or Michael Shanks?" Peter asks.

"Tough call." Wade bites his lip, thinking a moment before he says, "I wouldn't kick either of'em out of bed for eating cookies. They both got that sexy brainy thing that really lifts my skirt."

Peter raises an eyebrow and again seems to have an internal battle over words before he says, "W-What about Teal'c?"

"Oh baby, that is a topic far outside of the classroom," Wade says with a waggle of his eyebrows.

Peter shakes his head as he laughs. "How did we get on this subject? I swear we were talking about Chemistry classes."

"Yeah, I…" Wade shrugs. "I guess I have a bad habit of deviating from the subject." He shakes his finger at Peter. "But you, sir. You are supposed to be the adultier adult around here."

"I tell myself that all the time," Peter says with a chuckle. "You make it hard, though."

Wade wants to make a lewd comment. He really wants to. He also half-wishes Peter would erase the word "hard" from his vocabulary because Wade is basically a pre-pubescent boy trapped in a man's body. It takes reserves of willpower that he seldom calls upon to keep his tongue and lips in check.

Peter seems to recognize this, and he says, "We should probably end on that note."

"I love when I can quit while I'm ahead," Wade says with a cocky smirk.

Peter has a smirk of his own. "I guess it depends on what we're counting."

Wade again points a finger at him, shaking his head before walking to the door with a little extra sway in his hips and a gleeful, "Later, Professor Parker!"

When Peter told Wade on Friday night that they couldn't spend time with each other outside the classroom, there was a hint of disappointment that came with the expectation of future time-spending. But Wade enjoyed the feeling of anticipation. He liked the little lift he got from their short interactions with that feeling of tension and holding back from saying more.

He doesn't have much time to think about that, because halfway to the car Wade gets a notification from Blackboard on his phone of an update to his Psychology grade. He stops in the middle of the sidewalk and opens the tab, feeling his heart pounding for a slightly different reason. He scrolls down and has to fight the urge to jump up and down seeing the 92%.

The score for the math midterm doesn't show up until a little before 10 o'clock on Tuesday night. Wade is sitting in the living room with Weasel and Nate watching the DVR of Monday Night Raw (a sort of bi-monthly activity now), and Wade is almost lightheaded because he managed a 98% on that one.

Weasel gives him a high five with an enthusiastic, "Right on!"

Nate says, "Good job, Wade. I'm pr—"

"Don't say it," Wade says with a snap of his fingers. "Don't say you're proud of me. I'm not Hope, dammit."

Nate smirks, and says, "I was going to say, I'm probably going to head home after this match."

Wade squints at him. Nate shakes his head.

They've had that discussion before. When Wade first approached Nate for "therapy", Nate went on a long spiel about how proud he was that Wade chose to take the step to seek help, and how proud he was that Wade was willing to open up about some of his troubles. Something about the word "proud" got under Wade's skin, not just when Nate said it either. It seemed to be a trigger for him. Wade knew that if he were to think on it hard enough, he could come up with a reason for it. Freud would say it was because of something in his childhood, which Wade figured was a possibility.

Wednesday, Wade goes to class feeling confident, his mood bolstered by the grades he received on two of his tests. He walks into World Civ feeling relaxed about that test too. The class goes as usual, and at the end, Professor Wagner hands back their exams and essays.

When Wade sees his score, he feels his bubble burst with an almost audible pop! In bright red ink on the top page of the matching section is the number "58". He sits at his desk, flipping through the pages. The only marks are on two questions on the fill in the blank section where he had mixed up the Babylonian kings. There is no feedback on the essays; just a mark on each page like a slash in the corner.

Wade kind of wants to punch things. He also wants to find a corner and cry. He does neither of these things. Instead he gets out his phone and texts Nate. It appears I failed my World Civ midterm. 58%. Miss 2 matching and I guess all essays. Wanna spar later? I need to hit something.

Instead of texting back, Nate calls. Wade grumbles and walks outside to answer. "I really don't need a lecture, Priscilla."

"This isn't a lecture, Wade," Nate says. He doesn't sound angry or placating. "I'm not available tonight, but I am available tomorrow. However, I think that there is something that you should do today that might be helpful for any future assignments in that class."

"And what is that?" Wade says, knowing he sounds like a petulant child and not giving a damn.

"Talk to your professor," Nate answers.

Wade's face scrunches. "What good will that do? I'm already failing."

"Talk to him about why you failed," Nate says calmly. "Find out what he expected from your essays because you want to do well."

"He didn't even leave feedback," Wade complains.

"Then you really should go talk to him." Nate clears his throat and says, "Most professors have office hours. Look at your syllabus; they should be listed."

Wade shakes his head, but he says, "Fine. Whatever. I'll talk to him."

"One bad grade is no reason to give up, Wade," Nate says in that way he does when Wade is being stubborn and the motherfucker is reading his mind. "If you learn from your errors, then they are worth it."

"Okay, okay," Wade grumbles. "Quit sounding like a goddamn fortune cookie. I'll go talk to him."

"Good." Nate then asks, "Still want to spar tomorrow?"

"Yeah," Wade says. "I've missed pounding your ass into the mat."

"I'll remember you said that." Nate hangs up.

At lunch, Wade spends most of his time stewing over the test and Kate is so wrapped up with Travis that they only say a couple words to him anyway. Professor Wagner's office hours start at 1:30, a half-hour after Wade's math class ends, and Wade feels like he's waiting for a root canal as he tries to focus on absolute values and square roots.

Waiting those last thirty minutes with absolutely nothing to occupy his time is almost cruel. Then it is finally 1:30, and Wade feels a brand new wave of apprehension. He wants to just leave the building rather than discuss his huge embarrassing failure with the one who judged his work.

Despite this, Wade walks down the hall to Suite 3 and finds Professor Wagner pouring a cup of coffee. He looks at Wade with a smile and asks in his thick German accent, "Is there something I help you with, Wade?"

Wade has a moment of nervous laughter, and says, "Uh, yeah. I'd like to talk to you about the midterm?"

Delighted, Wagner says, "Yes! Of course. Come into mein office."

Wade follows him to the small broom-closet of an office. There's room for a desk, a skinny bookshelf, and two chairs provided the door is left open. The walls are covered in maps and pictures from all over the world, and the desk is pretty cluttered with stacks of binders for the classes Wagner teaches.

Wagner takes off his blue jacket, and asks, "What can I help you with, Wade?"

"I, uh…" Wade pauses to take the test out of his backpack, and says, "I'd like to talk to you about my grade. I… I guess I thought I'd do better than I did? And I'd like to know how I can improve. In the future."

"If I recall correctly, the only error was confusing Darius and Hammurabi," Wagner says with a brow arched. He holds out his hand and Wade hands him the test. He nods, and says, "Yes, that was your only error. You only missed those two points."

Wade's brow scrunches. "Okay. I'm confused. So the 58 isn't a percentage?"

Wagner's eyes went wide, and he gasps, "No! No, the test was 60 points, total. Your percentage is a 96."

The relief that Wade feels is so complete he laughs, and says, "Holy shit, dude. I thought I failed."

"I am so sorry, mein freund," he says with great sincerity. "I feel terrible for your distress. You must be the only one I did not mark properly."

Wade chuckles, putting a hand over his heart. "Oh, it's okay. I'm fine. I'm all better now."

"Your essays were excellent and well thought out," Wagner says as he flips to the one about Alexander the Great. "Your insight into Alexander's battle strategy was quite intriguing. And your examples for the culture and civilization essay shows you must be quite a traveler."

"I was in the military," Wade says. "I traveled a lot. I've seen a lot of the places we've been talking about. I have a picture a buddy of mine took of me sitting in the gold throne of Babylon. It's kinda cool learning the history. And you make it feel like adventure story time, so I dig it."

"History is a series of great adventures," Wagner says. "And thank you."

Wade shrugs. "Like I said, you make it interesting. And the stuff we're covering now—the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. I love that shit. I watched that show that was on PBS with Joseph Campbell, and I loved the stuff about India."

"Have you read his books?" Wagner asks, obviously excited.

"Yeah, just one," Wade says. "Hero With 1,000 Faces, but it was kinda for a silly reason. Star Wars."

"Anything that gets people to read great works is a great work in itself." Wagner smiles and says, "You are doing excellent. And please, feel free to come by anytime you have questions or just want to chat. It is funny that students who do well tend to be the ones who come by, and not the ones who are struggling."

Wade feels better when he leaves Wagner's office, but by the time he gets home he feels like he's been on a roller-coaster. He texts Nate to tell him the result of his meeting with Professor Wagner, and promptly flops onto his bed and pulls the blanket over his head. He's just about to go to sleep when his phone chimes with an email notification.

Staying under the blanket, Wade blindly feels around the bedside table for his phone and under the covers pulls up his email. He smiles seeing it is from Peter, even if it is just a class-wide email about the upcoming lab.

Wade is about to put the phone back on the table when it chimes again with another email. It is another from Peter, only it comes from a Gmail account rather than a NSCC address.

I was thinking about our conversation the other day, and realized I forgot to tell you about the costume shop. There's a Party Depot in Ridgefield. Lots of costumes of the non-sexy variety and probably facial prosthesis to combat whatever residual sexiness you have showing through. :)

There's a warm fuzzy feeling that accompanies the email. It seems Peter has the same habit of thinking about Wade that Wade has of thinking about him. Wade is smiling as he copies Peter's email address and pastes it into his personal account. He replies:

My sexiness is indomitable. It is a fact. But I will endeavor to suppress it. Maybe I will go with the mullet. Rumor has it that MacGyver wasn't all that hot.

The response is quick.

You'd probably make it happen.

Another comes through a moment later:

The costume. MacGyver. Not the hotness.

Wade laughs, and responds back:

Are we still keeping score? :)

Peter responds:

I'm not sure I like this game.

Wade laughs.

You're the one who keeps playing. I'm just laying here being a well-behaved adult trying to take a nap.

Peter replies:

Right. Well, sweet dreams, Mr. Wilson.

There are so many things that Wade wants to say, most of them involving ways to sleep better through mutual cuddling, but he just replies:

Later, Professor.

Chapter Text

With midterms behind, things seem to be returning to normal. Wade still has papers to write and assignments to do, but it isn't stress inducing. In fact, he's feeling pretty confident again. Though he knows that he is not his grades, Wade likes that he is doing well. He likes that his professors seem to like him. He feels like he is managing to incorporate a new side into himself that he never imagined would be there. Wade Wilson, the Scholar.

And as a Scholar, Wade needs to find a direction for his education. He goes to the planned aptitude assessments, and then has a visit with Emily Preston to talk about the results.

"Are you sure they didn't mix me up with someone else?" Wade asks, because surely he didn't hear her right.

Preston smiles. "It takes all kinds, Wade. And no, they didn't mix up the tests."

He looks at the list of potential careers, his brow furrowed. Most of them are things he never even considered. Lawyer, Engineer, Surveyor, Translator, Pharmacist, Psychologist, Teacher. That last one he automatically knocks off the list. Actually, all of them seem like things that are too far outside of his skillset. Matt Murdock is a really smart guy. Always has been. It makes sense that he would be a lawyer, but Wade Wilson, Attorney at Law? It just doesn't sound right in his head.

As for the other occupations…

"None of this sounds like something I'm even remotely capable of," Wade says.

Preston says, "You are also only in your first semester of college. This is to help you get an idea of the possibilities, not to tell your future like a palm reader."

"It just sounds strange to think that any of these are possibilities." Wade rubs the back of his neck and asks, "How long do I have to pick a major?"

"You could finish your Associate's degree without actually picking a major, but I don't recommend it." Preston asks, "Is there anything that you are particularly interested in?"

He shrugs. "I don't know, really. I know it sounds stupid, being almost 40, but I've never really thought much about what I want to do. My life has been orders and mostly directed by other people."

"Okay." Preston shifts in her chair. "What do you enjoy doing?"

"I enjoy doing a lot of things, but most of them are illegal to do as a profession in this state," Wade says with a smirk.

Preston doesn't take the bait. "You need to put some serious thought into it. You'd be surprised how fast two years can go by." Then she smiles and says, "And don't limit yourself, Wade. If there is something that you want to do but don't think you can because of whatever reasons, those obstacles can be overcome."

Wade nods and the conversation transitions to what classes Wade should take the next semester. He knows he wants to take College Algebra directly after Intermediate, and he's pleased to find that Reed Richards teaches a section of it. He also chooses Philosophy with Professor Wagner. To fulfill the Fine Arts section of his AA, Wade chooses Music Appreciation with Professor Alison Blaire. The final class he chooses is General Chemistry 1 with Professor Janet Van Dyne.

Preston prints out the list, along with the class codes, and reminds Wade that he can sign up for classes as soon as November 5th.

"Remember, remember the fifth of November," Wade says as he accepts the paper.

"You should look into the theater club, I think," she says with a chuckle.

"Oh no," Wade says, shaking his head. "I made fun of theater kids too much to do that. I'll screw up and say Hamlet or something, and everyone will die."

"It's Macbeth," Preston says.

"Yeah, yeah." Wade shakes her hand, and promises that he'll put some serious thought into majors.

But there is something else he needs to put some serious thought into, and that is figuring out his costume for the Safe Space Halloween party at the Xavier School that weekend. There's been a few ideas tossed around between him and Weasel, but most of them have been knocked down for various reasons. Really, Wade doesn't want to dress up at all. The whole costume thing is annoying. He'd rather be there in tactical gear to discourage any bullshit, but Nate insists it's an "atmosphere" thing.

In the end, Wade opts to be a blue-skinned Twi'lek (those critters from Star Wars with the two tentacles on their heads). Wade plans out the costume in a couple hours, then drives to the costume store to track down things to make it all happen. He ends up spending over an hour in the store, because they have literally every kind of costume and accessory possible and Wade is a giant kid at heart. In the end, Wade only buys hypoallergenic blue body paint and a headpiece that he can use to anchor the tentacles he plans to make out of wire wrapped in bubble wrap and blue stockings.

And because Wade wants to have a reason to have his very own lightsaber, he decides that he will be a Jedi Twi'lek. The robe is easy enough to construct with a few yards of fabric and an afternoon at his sewing machine. Little known fact: Wade Wilson is a wizard with cloth.

He's also pretty good at imagining things and making them happen. The tentacles come together without trouble, and the blue thigh highs Wade uses to cover the bubble-wrap and wire are an almost perfect match to the blue body paint.

The most time consuming part was putting on the makeup. Wade Wilson is nothing if not thorough, and he did not stop with painting his skin blue, but also used a variety of cosmetics to give depth and contour to his face. Once finished with his face, he snaps a picture and sends it to Peter.

Peter responds a minute later with, Holy Blue Man! That is awesome work. Can't wait to see the finished product. :D

Get your ass over here then, Wade responds.

A moment later, I'm handing out candy with Aunt May tonight, so I'll be in the neighborhood. What time are you leaving?

Wade answers, 30 minutes. Gotta get there early.

Peter's response is a sadface, and a second after, What time is it over?

Wade's grinning as he sends, Should be home by 10 or so.

This time, Peter responds with a smiley, and Wade needs to touch up his face paint because grinning has caused a couple creases.

For two people who were not supposed to spend time together outside the classroom, Wade and Peter manage to text more often than your average teenage couple. (Or not "couple". Friends. Because they're totally not a couple. Right?) The email messages lasted two days before Wade sent Peter his number and told him to just text him. The amount of messages easily tripled, and their conversations had become much more in depth. Wade knew all about Peter's childhood and his Uncle Ben, his time in college and working for Stark Industries. Wade told Peter about his military career and bootcamp, his less than stellar years in highschool, his difficult relationship with his father and death of his mother when he was only fifteen. The explosion.

Really, Peter probably knows more about Wade in a couple weeks of texting than his ex-wife ever bothered to know about him their entire time together. Wade always felt like he needed to maintain a certain persona when he was with Shiklah, and as soon as he tried to open up to her about anything, it never ended well for him. She often threw his insecurities in his face, so Wade stopped telling her anything. Eventually, they just stopped talking. They went a few times to a couple's counselor, but as soon as Wade thought they were making progress, he discovered that she was seeing someone else.

All of this he told Peter too.

So far, their conversations have remained strictly in the zone of friendship, even if now and then they both throw out some thinly veiled innuendos. Though there is a great deal of tongue-biting (or finger biting since it's texting?), Wade likes the level of communication they have. Considering that most of his relationships revolve around sex, actually getting to know someone before taking off his pants is almost a novel experience.

Everything in the classroom stays strictly professional. Wade doesn't receive any special treatment. When Peter checks his lab log, he gives the same criticism he would give anyone else. Wade has a bad habit of falling behind in his Table of Contents section, and there's a few labs where he didn't write down all the steps involved in the process. Peter docked him the same points he did everyone else. When others stay after class and Wade is finished with his work, he doesn't hang out because he knows that it isn't appropriate to do so.

Wade leaves the house at 4:30 to go to the Xavier School, dressed in his Jedi robes but without the headpiece. The headpiece is easy to put on, and it is kept in place with a strap under the chin and the position of the tentacles on Wade's shoulders. After doing a few finishing touches using the window of his car for a mirror, Wade goes inside to find Logan.

Logan is not quite so festive. He is supposed to be Einstein, which means that he didn't comb his gray hair and is wearing a labcoat. He looks Wade over, and asks, "What the hell are you supposed to be?"

"A Jedi knight, motherfucker," Wade says with a smirk.

"Watch the language, bub," Logan says with a glare. Then he tosses Wade a clip-badge that says SECURITY in bold letters over the Xavier School's X-logo. It's yellow and bright, and Wade clips it to the lapel of his robe. Logan says, "You'll be out in the front courtyard. Just make sure to watch for anything suspicious."

Wade nods. "Yes sir."

"And you can stop that Sir shit," Logan says.

"Language," Wade says with a wag of his finger.

Logan glares again, then shakes his head and walks away to points unknown.

Wade goes out to the courtyard. It's kind of warm for Halloween, but Wade isn't complaining. It always sucked as a kid to have to wear a heavy coat over his costume, which was pretty common considering he grew up in Nova Scotia. Wade is comfortable with the Jedi robes, and his patrol of the grounds keeps his blood pumping enough to almost feel too warm.

Parents and teachers have little booths set up in the courtyard with carnival games and literal trash can-size containers of candy. Inside, some of the kids who are residents of the school are running a small not-too-scary haunted house. Nate is inside moving things with his mind (or ropes and pulleys), which Wade suspects is his way of avoiding actually wearing a costume. Hope, on the other hand, is Ninja Merida on a sugar high. Or at least, Hope is on a sugar high and dressed as Ninja Merida. The costume is a green gi with celtic knot-patterned material sewn around the lapels and cuffs, along with a belt and gauntlets made of the same material. Rather than a bow, she has a plastic Bagua broadsword at her hip.

When she sees Wade, she leaps in front of him in Black Tiger stance with her sword drawn, and Wade immediately draws his purple lightsaber and drops into Travelling Dragon.

Wade says, "We meet again, young grasshopper."

In an adorable Scottish accent, she answers, "It'll be tha last time, Jedi!"

They circle each other until Wade hears Hope's mom say, "No fighting."

Wade pushes the telescoping blade of his lightsaber back into place and says, "Hi, Irene."

"Hello, Wade," she says pleasantly. She is dressed as Rosie the Riveter, complete with rivet gun at her hip. Wade's only talked to her a few times, but she's always been nice. She even invited him to the Fourth of July barbeque she hosted. (Mainly because she thought that Wade and Nate were a couple, which she seemed to be kind of disappointed about...) "Nate said that you were working security. Love the costume."

Wade waves her off and says, "Oh, this old thing."

"You are too cute," she says with a laugh. Then she turns officious. "There's a bus coming, so we need to get to our battle stations."

A few minutes later, the place is a circus of costumes and screaming kids that lasts until the end of the event. Wade spends most of his time keeping kids from wandering off onto the school grounds and shooing away a couple stray dogs. He also ends up having his picture taken with a bunch of little Jedi. His personal favorite was a tiny Darth Vader who pretended to Force-choke him.

Wade sends that picture to Peter, with a message that says, The Dark Side tried to tempt me.

At the end of the night, Wade helps take down all the tables and booths, and carry things into the building and load up cars. When Nate comes out to pay him, Wade tells him to put it into the scholarship fund.

"I thought you didn't lift a finger without being paid," Nate says with a smirk.

Wade waves him off. "You haven't seen the amount of candy bars I have stuffed in this robe, either."

Wade gets home a little after 10, and wrestles his way out of the car because he's still wearing all the robes and they've gotten heavy after the last five hours. The headgear is starting to weigh on his neck too, and the paint is kind of itchy. He closes the car door and promptly drops his lightsaber.

As he bends over to grab it, Peter's voice from across the street yells, "Use the Force, Wade!"

Wade stands up with the lightsaber in hand, smiling a little too much for a Jedi. He walks towards Peter, and says, "You still handing out candy? Do I still have time to trick or treat?"

"I guess it depends on what you want," Peter says with a smirk. "Trick or treat? We ran out of candy."

"I'm good on candy." Wade chuckles and says, "The only treat I want right now is someone to help wash all this blue paint off. I'm starting to get itchy."

Even in the streetlights, Wade can see Peter's face turning a little crimson. "I, uh…" He laughs, and says, "There's really nothing I can say right now that won't sound really inappropriate."

"It's okay, baby boy," Wade says as he takes a step closer. "I'm kind of high on sugar and low on inhibitions. Go ahead."

"I think I have the same problem," Peter says, shaking his head. He looks at Wade, the smile on his face shifting to something different. Something that makes Wade's heart rate spike. "I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but blue is my favorite color."

"Oh really." Wade knows there is something coming next. He knows it, but at the same time he knows that they are supposed to not be doing this. He knows that he should just say goodnight and go inside and jerk off in the shower and just be done with it. He knows this. But at the same time, he also knows that his body is experiencing a certain drive and if he wants to drop his arousal level he needs to do something to get to homeostasis (Dr. Grey would be so proud!).

And right now, Peter's eyes are so bright and looking at him with what feels like a mix of hunger coupled with apprehension, and Wade knows that feeling. He knows what it is like to want something and know you shouldn't have it because motherfucker he's experiencing it right now. He wants to grab Peter and kiss him until they both are gasping for air. He wants to touch and taste and do all manner of unspeakable things, because Wade's been a damn good boy. He's been so good and patient, but he knows he needs to be more patient because god and the bald-headed Watcher are all dicks.

Then suddenly Peter is kissing him and Wade's brain flat-lines. Just click, no signal to be found. He's so stunned that he doesn't even kiss back. He just stands there like a stick and freezes because he's still having his own internal debate. And shit! Peter's backing away, and Wade knows that this is also turning into a missed opportunity. So before Peter can do much more than remove the pressure of his lips from Wade's, Wade pulls him back in, kissing him with all the fervor of a drowning man breaching the surface.

Honestly, Wade isn't sure if what is happening is reality or not. It's just as likely that he fell asleep and is having some kind of sugar-induced fantasy. But he's never been the type to waste a good dream. He tilts his head slightly to deepen the kiss from just a press of lips into something involving tongues and Wade can taste chocolate on Peter's lips. If he didn't like chocolate before, Wade's addicted now.

Peter presses in closer, and Wade's arms encircle him. Wade feels like he's floating because everything feels like it can't be real, but there is something pressing against his thigh and Wade is pretty sure he's the only one who brought a lightsaber to this party. Maybe. Probably.

When they break apart, both are breathing a little hard, and Peter's voice is soft and shaky, "I was worried there for a second."

"Me too," Wade whispers before kissing him again. He really only meant it to be a brief thing, but Peter has different intentions. Next thing he knows they are pressed up against his car making out like they aren't in a public space with neighbors. It's not even that late. And it's Halloween. People are up, and they are definitely committing an act of PDA. Of course, neither of them are thinking about this because their reptilian brains have taken over. They might have been kissing for five minutes (or an hour, who knows?) when a car door down the street snaps them both back to reality.

They step apart, both laughing. Wade leans back against his car, head tossed back and laughing at the sky. Peter runs his hands back through his hair, taking a few deep, slow breaths, then leans against Wade's side.

"Six weeks, Wade," Peter says.

"Stupid rules," Wade stands up straight and looks at Peter. "I say we break them and go have a shower. What's a little soap suds between friends?"

Peter shakes his head. "Tempting. So... tempting."

"Join the dark side," Wade says. "It is useless to resist."

Peter smirks. "I will not be turned."

Wade wants to kiss Peter again. He wants to take him inside and do those unspeakable things with his tongue to Peter. He wants to test Peter's flexibility and vocal stamina. There are a lot of things that Wade wants to do. But what he does is the reasonable thing and he says, "Goodnight, professor."

"Goodnight, Wade," Peter says. But he doesn't make a move to leave. Instead he grips the collar of Wade's robes and pulls him down for one last kiss. It isn't as needy, but it is so perfect Wade feels like he could die a happy man. A very happy, very horny man.

Eventually, Wade and Peter go their separate ways. Peter gets in his car and leaves, and Wade goes inside to find that it is a little after 11 now. Weasel looks up from his laptop as Wade enters and immediately starts laughing.

"What?" Wade says with as much false anger as he can muster when he's practically singing and dancing inside.

Weasel says, "Your face is awesome right now."

Wade's brow scrunches, and he walks to the hall mirror and can see that the paint all around his mouth and chin has been smeared and rubbed off. Wade laughs and says, "I'm going to take a shower."

"I think half the neighborhood needs to take a shower after that shit," Weasel calls after him as Wade walks down the hall. Bastard is always keeping tabs.

Once in the shower, though, Wade is not thinking about Weasel. He's not thinking about washing either because almost as soon as he steps under the warm spray, his semi stands at full attention because the only thing he's thinking about is Peter Parker. For a long time, Wade's sex drive was basically non-existent. It's been awhile since he's pleasured himself in a manner that was more than just a quick pump and go because it's a handy stress reliever. But now he takes his time because his mouth is still tingling and he can swear he can still taste Peter's tongue. Just the thought of what things such a mouth could do sends a frisson of ecstasy through him and Wade is biting back a moan.

It all still feels like a dream, but if it was a dream, Wade wouldn't have let Peter go. His mind trails down that road of getting to explore Peter's body, imagining what might be under his clothes. Imagining Peter's hand is the one stroking his cock in the shower with his lips on Wade's, and Wade doesn't get far with that thought because he's coming with a soft gasp.

For a while, Wade stays under the water, just reveling in the heat and muted pleasure coursing through his veins. Then he opens his eyes and remembers that he's painted up like a member of the Blue Man Group, and it might be a good idea to actually wash. It takes three tries to get all the paint off of his head and neck. The only thing that wants to stick around is the eyeliner, but he planned accordingly and bought eye makeup remover swabs.

Feeling fresh, clean, and relaxed, Wade falls into bed on his back and snuggles down under the covers with a contented sigh that feels more like the first breath of mountain air on a clear morning. Everything feels good and light, and Wade falls asleep feeling like the world is awesome.

Chapter Text

Monday feels like every Monday, except Wade is pretty sure he's in love. This strange kind of courtship Peter and he have undertaken—complete with chaperons provided by ethics and social taboos—is a special kind of torture that Wade has gleefully signed on for with a smile and a, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

Kate, however, seems to be getting over her brief attraction to Travis. She spends their walk to class complaining about how sexist he is sometimes and how he never listens to her. They have not broken up yet, but Wade can see it on the horizon. As they sit down, she says, "I'm sorry I've been skipping training."

"It's okay," Wade says with a shrug. "But I'll have you know that Hope has bruised a few of my ribs in your absence and I place that squarely on your shoulders, young lady."

Kate laughs, and asks, "So how did the whole costume security thing go? Did you get to punch anyone?"

"No punching, but I did get Force-choked by a miniature Darth Vader." Wade takes out his phone to show her all the pictures from the event, and Kate demands that he teach her his wicked cosplay ways.

All day, Wade looks forward to Chemistry. He knows that it will be the same thing as every Monday, but he wants to refresh his sensory memory of what it is like to kiss Peter's lips and taste his tongue. But he also knows that he needs to play it cool because they are not anywhere as remotely private as the parking lot of Greymalkin Apartments. Oh, and Peter's boss is there.

Dr. Banner really is a soft, squishy looking fellow. Like a human teddy bear. His soft voice and his curly black hair carry no indication that he is secretly Mr. McSmashyton. Then again, Wade knows a lot of people who are the human personifications of Mt. Vesuvius.

The two professors are discussing the labs for the next class periods. There are only three labs, a laboratory final, and their molecule presentations remaining. Wade writes down a few notes on the upcoming fun in an effort to keep himself from looking at Peter too much. Peter has the look and posture of someone speaking to the principal. By the time Dr. Banner leaves, everyone else has arrived and Peter starts relaying the information to the class.

"Okay, everyone," Peter starts as he swivels back and forth on his stool. "Because of Thanksgiving coming up, we only have a total of five class sessions left, including today. Today, we're testing pH. Next week is the internet battery project. I'll send an email out with all the details, but this is something you can do at home or here, but you need to bring all your materials if you bring it into class. You will have the option to skip the class, provided you post your process and tests on the discussion board. The week after that, we're doing lipid testing, so you'll need to bring a food item. The next Monday is the week of Thanksgiving, and we are not having class. If you need assistance on homework or questions on your molecule, it is a great day to come by anyway and I will give you all the help possible. The Monday after thanksgiving will be the lab final, and I'll send you all the details on what you'll need to bring. And finally, our final day will be the 7th, and we will be doing all of the molecule presentations."

Peter takes a deep breath, and asks, "Are there any questions?"

There are quite a few, but Wade just keeps writing things in his log book. Little reminders for things he needs to do for the upcoming classes, and only occasionally glancing up and almost every time he does glance up, Peter is looking at him. A couple times it makes him smile and Wade knows that he shouldn't be so damn happy about that.

They get a late start on the pH lab, and other than someone accidentally mixing a small amount of bleach with a small amount of ammonia, everything goes well. They get out at the time they are supposed to leave for once (4:20 haha), and Wade is only the last one because everyone else darts for the door like they are trying to win the race.

Still, Wade isn't in any kind of hurry, and when he and Peter are alone, Peter says, "I see you got all the blue off."

"That's not all I got off," Wade responds without even checking with his brain first. He shakes his head and says, "That was horribly crude. I'm such a philistine."

Peter's face is red. "I think it's just part of your charm."

"What can I say? I'm a charming motherfucker," Wade says with a grin.

"Only five weeks," Peter says. "Four class sessions."

Wade nods, wanting more than anything to kiss Peter again and again. He says, "I'm patient. So very patient. There are oysters who are envious."

"No pearl jokes," Peter says as sternly as one can when snickering.

Wade laughs. "See, I wasn't even going there, but now that you did. Oh baby."

Peter's face has gone from pink to crimson. "You have a good afternoon, Wade."

"Good afternoon, professor," Wade says as he turns towards the door. His backpack manages to hit the light switches, turning the room pitch black. Wade fumbles for the switches, and then feels a hand on his followed by another hand capturing his cheek and guiding his mouth to another mouth that tastes familiar. It only lasts a few seconds, but it is enough to get his blood pumping. Then the lips are gone and the lights come on.

Peter smiles at him, his lips a little swollen and eyes a little darker, and says, "I'll see you next Monday."

"Philistine," Wade whispers.

Yes, it is torture, and Wade is loving it. He loves the stolen moments that happen throughout the week, because Peter's always over at May's, and Wade always knows because Peter texts him. Then they'll walk out to the car for something or down to the dumpsters, and there's hands and tongues and it is always over too soon, but Wade is fine with it. He's addicted to it.

One such event happens Saturday evening. Wade happens to be outside when a familiar car pulls into the lot. Wade walks over, takes a quick look to make sure no one is around, and proceeds to kiss Peter breathless. They are both aware that this situation is getting out of hand, and Wade doesn't know how to stop himself. Peter doesn't seem to want to stop either, but they both know that they can't take this thing much farther. Not now. Not yet.

Wade ends up helping Peter bring the groceries in that he picked up for May. It is only three bags, but it gives him a reason to remain with Peter a little longer. Besides, May is just happy as hell to see him. She greets him with a hug and a smooch on the cheek, and asks, "Are you staying for dinner?"

"I can't," Wade says. "We've got some people coming over for game night."

Peter raises an eyebrow. "Game night?"

"Yeah, uh." Wade chuckles, and says, "Weasel is part of this tabletop gaming group, and I've been roped into participating."

"Like Dungeons and Dragons?" Peter says with a sneaking smile.

"It's exactly Dungeons and Dragons," Wade says. "We just started our evil campaign last month."

The look that Peter gives him is the kind a kid has when presented with the world's largest Gobstopper. He gasps, "That is so awesome! Gwen and I used to do D&D in college. I love D&D!"

Wade grins and says, "Well, professor, I would ask you to come over, but it might be inappropriate, me being your student and all."

Peter shakes his head and reaches into his pocket and produces a black 20-sided die. "How about we roll and see if I can come over?"

Honestly, Wade is excessively turned on by the fact that Peter Parker is the type of nerd that walks around with a D-20 in his pocket. Wade says, "I'm pretty high in Will, so you better roll high in Charisma."

Peter tosses the die onto the table, and rolls a 1. Peter groans.

"Ouch!" Wade says. "Critical fail, baby boy. No bueno."

May clears her throat, and says, "How long do you two intend to keep doing this?"

Both Wade and Peter look at May with the same deer-in-the-headlights expression. Then they both ask in unison, "Doing what?"

May just shakes her and and chuckles her way back into the kitchen. Wade looks at Peter, and Peter whispers with a slightly embarrassed smile, "Do you think she saw us?"

"I don't know," Wade says with a shrug. Then he sweeps in and gives Peter a quick peck on the lips, and says, "I'll be thinking about you in the shower later."

"I hate you," Peter says with a smile that says something more like the opposite.

Back in his own apartment, people have already arrived. The D&D group consists of Weasel's ex-girlfriend Inez, her co-worker Alex, and a nerdy dude named Bob who is the group's Dungeon Master. Right now they are plotting to take over a town, and Wade's necromancer just found Inez's thief inside his secret chamber.

When Wade was first roped into playing this game, he thought it would be boring as fuck. Now, he kind of feels like he needs to send a letter of apology to so many people who he made fun of in high school for their love of Dungeons and Dragons. Weasel also likes LARPing, and there is a good chance that Wade will be pulled into that world too.

They drink beer, eat nachos, and work their way through a couple battles. Time always flies when they're playing, and Wade doesn't realize that it's almost midnight until his phone rings.

He's surprised to see Kate's number on the screen. She never calls; always texts. Wade steps away from the table and answers, "Kate?"

"Wade," she says, and he can tell from her voice that something isn't right. "Can you… Can you come pick me up?"

"Yeah, I can do that," Wade says because he's feeling uneasy all of a sudden. "Where are you?"

"A house," she answers, and her words are slurring. "'s on ninth. I dunno th'address."

Wade grabs his keys and walks outside as he's shrugging into his red and black coat. "Is it a party or something?"

"Yeah. Lotta people. I'm in th'bathroom." Kate makes a noise that sounds like a sob and says, "Please come'n get me."

"I'm on my way, kid," Wade says. "Just stay on the line with me. I'm on my way."

Wade speeds his way to ninth street. It's a mostly residential area not too far from campus. A lot of houses, and he knows which one is the party house as soon as he sees it. There are cars everywhere, filling the driveway and lawn, and people standing around outside smoking. Most of the houses are cheap, lower rent. Mostly rented to college kids, so it's doubtful the neighbors care. Most of the neighbors are probably there because the place is packed.

Wade parks on the street and says, "I'm here, Kate." She doesn't answer. Her answers were getting fewer and fewer as he drove.

At the door, a tall kid says, "Who the hell are you?"

Wade pushes past him and walks through the door into a cloud of pot smoke and a cacophony of loud music. Wade steps over and around kids, looking for anything that looks like the bathroom. He finds it because of the line outside. There's protesting when he pushes to the front. He knocks on the door and shouts, "Kate! It's Wade."

When she doesn't answer, Wade opens the door with a hard slam of his shoulder. Kate is laying against the sink, and the first thing he notices is that her shirt is ripped and there's blood splattered on her shirt and arm. Wade kneels down and feels for a pulse, which he finds but it is slow. He gives her a shake and says, "Kate? Kate, it's me. Can you hear me?"

Kate's eyes open a crack, and then she immediately throws up on herself. Wade leans her forward, giving gravity a boost to get all the gunk out of her so she doesn't choke, then grabs a towel to clean up her face. The blood, Wade notes, isn't Kate's because he can see no obvious wounds. She was in a fight. Or fighting someone off of her. Wade takes off his coat and wraps her in it before lifting her up and carrying her out of the bathroom.

Wade knows that whatever is happening to Kate is bad, and he doesn't bother to be polite as he pushes his way back towards the entrance. He carefully puts Kate in the passenger's seat and closes the door. He's about to jump in when someone drunkenly shouts, "Where the fuck you taking my girlfriend!"

It's Travis. Wade says, "I'm taking her to the hospital, you worthless fuck."

"The fuck you are," he says, and he shoves at Wade. "She's just a dumb little bitch who can't hold her liquor."

Wade notices that Travis' nose has blood around the nostril and looks a little bruised and crooked. Wade grabs his shirt and says, "What did you do, you little piece of shit?"

"None of your fucking business!" he snaps back. "Who do you think you are? Her father?"

"No," Wade says, and he laughs. He laughs the kind of laugh that denotes madness rather than humor. Then he jerks the kid up off his feet by the neck and he hisses in a voice as cold as the center circle of Hell, "But daddy needs to express some rage."

Whatever happens after that isn't really clear. He knows that he punched the kid a few times. He knows that a few of his buddies showed up to try and help. Wade punched them too. He also knows that he drove Kate to the hospital. Sometime after she was taken into the emergency room, he was arrested. He didn't put up a fight then.

Now, Wade is sitting in a jail cell. He's been there almost four hours and hasn't said a word. There's blood dried in the creases of his knuckles, and he's not sure exactly what happened. It almost feels like he left his body, and is only just returning to it.

It isn't until the door buzzes and Nate comes in with an officer that Wade even looks up from the floor. Wade just sighs and looks back down.

"It sounds like you've had a busy night," Nate says. His voice is tired, but not angry. Still, Wade flinches at the sound. Nate continues, "They are not going to press charges against you. Apparently there are several witnesses who claim that the four young men fought amongst themselves and fell off the porch. One of them, Travis, has a broken nose, broken jaw, three broken ribs, and a fractured tibula. He, along with two others, are being charged with possession of rohypnol and assault, and will be under arrest as soon as they can leave the hospital."

Wade is still silent.

"Your friend, Kate, is going to be fine. She'll probably be in the hospital for a couple days," Nate says, and Wade can feel something inside release. Nate continues, "There were two girls found unconscious in a room when the police showed up. Three more were taken to the hospital to be tested and were found to have the drug in their system." Nate's voice grew a little angrier as he spoke, and he clears his throat to say, "It seems that the, uh, fight those young men had on the front lawn may have stopped a lot of bad things from happening. Now get up. You're free to go."

Wade sighs out his nose, and gets to his feet. The officer opens the cell door then holds out a hand to Wade. For a moment Wade is confused, then he shakes the deputy's hand before following him out the door with Nate behind him.

The Chief of Police is waiting for Wade with the paperwork to sign himself out. He's a tall guy wearing an eyepatch. His badge says "Fury", and Wade signs without a word, even though Fury tells him "Sorry for your trouble." He feels strange still. Almost sick, but he can't put his finger on why. Really, he's having a hard time thinking and Nate has to usher him out the door and into the car.

The police department is across town from where Wade lives, and Wade is just as silent in the car as he was in the cell. He's got nothing to say because if he starts talking, he knows he's going to say something he shouldn't. Or something he doesn't want to say.

It's just after sunrise, and Wade feels drained in ways that have nothing to do with just being tired. He feels like he's coming down from something, and he knows what it is. PTSD is a motherfucker sometimes. As Nate parks the car in front of Wade's apartment, Wade says, "I wanted to kill that kid."

"I know," is Nate's response. Calm, no judgement.

Wade looks at him and flatly repeats, "I wanted to kill that kid. I wanted to kill him. And all you can say is I know? Don't you get it, motherfucker? I wanted to kill that kid. I wanted to kill him and his friends and basically everyone else in that fucking house who wasn't Kate. And honestly, I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that the fucking rapist piece of shit is only in the hospital and not in the morgue."

Nate puts a hand on Wade's forearm, and in a calm voice, says, "I know, Wade. All I could think when I heard what happened was what would I have done if it was Hope. And I know without a doubt that I would have done the exact. Same. Thing."

Wade can feel something on his face, and he realizes that there are tears, hot and streaking down from his eyes. He sniffs and dashes them away. He wants to stay quiet, but now that he's started talking, he can't seem to stop. His voice is quavering. "Nothing makes sense out here, Nate. I don't belong here. I thought I did, but I don't. I'm pretending. And I think that's what… That's what fucking Shiklah knew. That's who she wanted me to be. I'm just a killer, and that's all I'll ever…"

"You are not just a killer," Nate says sternly. "Dammit, Wade, can't you see that?"

Wade's eyes are stinging again, and he looks out the passenger window. "I feel like I'm faking it."

"Then you're doing a damn good job of it, Wade." Nate gives his arm a squeeze, and says, "You're not some monster. You're a good man who has done some bad things, but that doesn't change who you really are. Because you're still the man who took two bullets for me in Rumekistan."

Wade frowns and says, "It was one bullet and I just happened to step in the way."

Nate smirks. "You're also very humble."

Wade sighs and looks down at his hands and says in a barely audible voice, "Thank you."

Wade gets out of the car and walks inside to find Weasel sitting at the counter with coffee already brewed. He immediately walks to Wade and gives him a big hug, and Wade feels himself start tearing up again when Weas says, "I was worried about you, man."

"I'm fine," Wade says as he half-heartedly pushes Weasel away.

Weasel smirks and says, "I said nothing about your looks, big sexy."

"I will punch you in the head," Wade grumbles. Then his eyes brighten, and he asks, "Did you make muffins?"

"It was a mix I found in the cupboard," Weasel says. "But they're actually pretty good. I ate one. Two. Half. The rest are all you. And!" Weasel grabs a cup and fills it, then hands it to Wade. "This is blueberry muffin coffee. I made it. And it actually tastes good."

Wade smiles down at the blueberry-scented liquid, and asks, "So did we take the city?"

"We cancelled after you texted from the hospital," Weasel says. Wade doesn't remember texting anyone, but it now makes sense how Nate knew where he was. "Besides, we had no hope against Inez's guild without your horde of the undead."

"You didn't try diplomacy?" Wade asks.

Weasel laughs. "What part of Evil Campaign don't you understand?"

"Touche," Wade says as he sips his coffee. "I think I'm going to take a nap or something. I'm beat."

Wade's asleep almost as soon as his head hits the pillow. It's not the best sleep he's ever had, and it is filled with nightmares he hasn't had for almost a year. When he wakes up, it's a little after 2 in the afternoon and he can hear voices in the living room. He knows that Weasel is talking, and he sounds annoyed, but the other voices he can't quite place. Or if he is placing them, it's unexpected.

He dresses quickly in a pair of lounge pants and a clean long-sleeved t-shirt and goes out into the living room to find Peter and Gwen sitting there with Weasel. They all look angry, and Wade is just confused as to why Peter would be there at all considering the whole non-contact thing.

But he doesn't have time to think about that because Peter comes straight to him and kisses him like they don't have an audience and aren't supposed to be undercover lovers (or pre-lovers who text a lot and smooch on the sly), and Wade just goes with it because why not? It's been a stressful 24-hours.

When Peter steps back, Wade says, "It's good to see you, baby boy, but what's with the meeting?"

"You're being kicked out of school," Weasel all but shouts.

"I'm what?" Wade says.

"Not being kicked out," Peter says sternly to Weasel. Then to Wade, he says, "You are being temporarily suspended, though. At least until Tuesday. The school found out about what happened last night because one of the assholes found with rohypnol happens to be the grandson of an asshole administrator."

Weasel flings an arm out and says, "Clearly no good deed goes unpunished."

Wade keeps his attention on Peter. "What does this mean?"

"You'll have to go in front of a review board," Gwen says. "It's the procedure they go by when a student breaks the code of conduct on or off campus. If you'd been arrested for drinking, you'd have the same result."

"But he wasn't drinking," Weasel says angrily. "He was saving a girl's life."

"Which the review board will absolutely take into consideration," Peter says calmly. He looks at Wade and says, "More than likely, the most you'll end up with is a slap on the wrist and be warned to not do it again, especially since no charges were filed. This is literally just some asshole being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole."

"I take it you don't like him?" Wade says.

"No," Peter says flatly.

Wade nods, and says, "Okay, so I'm suspended. It's not the first time in my academic life. The only question I have is how do you know before me?"

"I got an email about it at 6 o'clock this morning," Peter answers. "They have to inform all of your instructors, so I called Weasel to get the scoop and I was so fucking mad I wanted to punch things."

"So I suggested that we just come on over and let you know," Gwen says with a smile.

Wade sighs and leans a shoulder against the wall. "Okay, so if this doesn't go my way, what—"

"It will go your way," Peter says sternly. Then smiles. "You do realize that you have a small brigade of loyal followers who will swear on a stack of bibles that you didn't do a damn thing, right?"

Wade's face scrunches. "What?"

Gwen grins. "It's all over Yik Yak."

Wade turns serious, and says, "They're not going after Kate, are they?"

"Not that I know of," Peter says. "I doubt they will, considering she had no alcohol in her system. She wasn't breaking any rules."

"And if they do they're a bunch of victim-blaming assholes that I will personally make famous," Gwen says. "I'm not afraid to use my friends at the Times."

Wade nods, and asks, "So what now?"

"Right now, you should probably turn in whatever you can into Dropbox before Monday, so you'll have a little leeway when it comes to missing classes," Peter says. Then he smirks and says, "I know you have Chem covered."

"Why professor," Wade says with a smirk. "Are you suggesting I'm getting some kind of favoritism?"

"No," Peter says. "I'm suggesting that you already turned in your battery project three days ago and it has already been graded."

"Well, there's that too." Wade chuckles. He looks at Gwen and Weasel, then asks Peter, "So is this our coming out party too or something?"

"They both know," Peter says, his cheeks a little pink. "They actually have a series of bets based on you and me. Apparently, Weasel won ten dollars Halloween."

Wade gives Gwen and Weasel a half-hearted glare, and says, "You're both assholes."

"Assholes who love you," Gwen says with a beatific grin.

Weasel shrugs. "What? I bet your favor every time."

"Well, since you're both cheering for us, I hope you don't mind if we depart your company for a little bit," Wade says, then looks at Peter. "You and I need to talk in private."

Wade leads Peter down the hall with Gwen wolf-whistling. Once inside his room, Wade closes the door and Peter goes to kiss him, but Wade holds him back. "Wait a moment, because I really do need to talk to you about something. And it's pretty important and in the interest of full disclosure."

Peter nods and takes his hand. "Okay. Let's talk."

Wade leads him over to the bed and they sit side by side. For a moment, Wade is silent with his eyes fixed on his hand wrapped in both of Peter's. He likes that feeling. Still, there's something he needs to say.

"I want you to know who you're dealing with. I mean, I know I've told you a lot of things about me. Some things I've never told anyone. But what happened last night… I barely even remember what I did. It was like I wasn't even in control. I just… I could have killed those guys." Wade swallows hard and says, "It's not the first time I've had this… this anger come out. Fuck, I almost choked Weasel to death once because he tried to wake me up. The shit he has put up with from me is unreal. And you deserve to know that I'm not always the guy you see in class or at May's. Sometimes…"

"I'm familiar with PTSD," Peter says when Wade trails off. Wade looks at him with a hint of fear in his eyes, and Peter says, "Aunt May told me how my uncle was when he first got back from Vietnam. He was the same way. Jumpy. Quick to anger. He had nightmares and flashbacks. Aunt May had to adapt. Like, she had to use a whisk for everything because the sound of the hand mixer could trigger him." He smiles and says, "It's not a deal breaker. It's part of who you are. And I... I like all sides of you, Wade."

Wade looks down at their hands. "You know all that shit I say about blowing stuff up is bullshit, too, right? I'd probably shit myself if something exploded around me. Kind of gallows humor, I guess."

Peter smiles and says, "A little gallows humor is how we get through the world sometimes."

Wade nods. "I just… I just wanted you to know. And right now, my head is completely wrong." He smirks and says, "Despite this golden opportunity to have you all to myself with the blessing of our two esteemed companions who are eagerly cheering our impending fornication, the only thing I really want to do is go check on Kate and make sure she's okay."

"That right there," Peter says as he cups Wade's cheek. "That is why I'm… Why I really… You're just…"

Wade leans forward and says in a low voice, "Oh, shuddup and kiss me."

Chapter Text

The New Salem Medical Center is not a very big hospital. It's big enough to have a few beds for longer stays for those who do not have severe injuries and an excellent staff that will get someone stable until they can be relocated to a larger facility.

Without the gentle barrier of an adrenaline fortified rage, just entering the hospital made Wade nervous. Hospitals, while places of healing, he always associates with agony and a ceaseless string of procedures that left him in even more agony and out of his mind on pain medication. There were the painful bandage changes that happened before and after skin grafts. There were the oozing wounds and dehumanizing examinations. You do not leave a hospital with your dignity intact, especially when the injuries cover 70% of your body.

However, Wade is prepared. He has his little red and black voodoo doll in his hand, a little talisman that he created during his occupational therapy sessions. It was meant as an activity to keep his hands limber and show that he still had coordination and turned into something like a security blanket. It is made of string wound tight around a pipe-cleaner and a bead for the head and arms. It's his worry stone, and he always keeps it with him when going to places he knows have caused panic attacks in the past.

Freshly showered and shaved, and wearing a clean shirt and jeans, Wade walks to the front desk and says, "I'm here to see Kate Bishop."

The lady behind the desk types something into her computer, and says, "Only family is permitted to visit Miss Bishop. Name?"

"Uh, Wade Wilson," he says.

"May I see your ID?" she says. Wade pulls out his military ID and driver's license, and after glancing at them, she says, "She's in room 202. Second floor, just past the nurse's station."

Wade smiles and nods, tucks his ID's back in his wallet, and heads to the stairs. When he gets to the room, Kate is staring blankly at the TV. At least until she sees him, and she pushes back the blanket and stands up to hug him. Wade's typical response with unexpected affection is to play it off, but he wraps his arms around her and rests his chin on top of her head. She's crying; he can feel the trembling sobs that pass through her and the shudder of her breathing.

"Thank you," she whimpers into his shoulder.

"Hey, we're family now apparently. It's what we do," Wade says and Kate manages a little laugh. Wade squeezes her a little tighter. They stay like that for a few minutes, until the tears stop.

Then she releases him and wipes her eyes on the back of her hand before asking in a hollow version of her usual tone, "Are we still on for PT today?"

"I'll put you through the paces," Wade says with a smile. "Don't think I'm going to go easy on you just because you're in the hospital."

"They want me to stay another night, but I don't want to." Kate sits on the edge of the bed and sighs. "I hate these stupid gowns. The food sucks. And I have this fucking parade of people asking me the same fucking things over and over again. I feel like my skin wants to crawl away or something. Do you ever feel like that?"

"Frequently," Wade says.

Kate hugs herself and asks, "How do you make it stop?"

"I go beat up Nate," Wade says with a shrug.

She nods. He's told her about his own brand of therapy. "Do you think we could spar? You know, when I get out of here?"

"Absolutely," Wade says.

Kate is quiet for a moment before asking, "Do you think you can take me home now?"

The nurses are not very enthusiastic about Kate leaving, but Kate is an adult who has no medical reason to stay. It takes an hour to get herself signed out of the hospital, and she rides with Wade to her apartment wearing some of Wade's sweats and a hoodie he had stowed in the back of his car.

Kate lives just a block away from campus in a complex of small studios. Her's is on the third floor of Building 1. Wade follows her up and he can see just by her body language that Kate is getting anxious, but she's trying to hide it by keeping her hands balled up in the oversized sleeves of the hoodie. When she unlocks the door, it takes a few times to get the key in the lock with the way her hands are shaking, and Wade makes a mental note to go pick up some better hardware. The lock and deadbolt are both old, and even if it is a rental, Kate needs better protection now just for her own peace of mind.

Inside, the one-room apartment has the clutter and items typical of your average college student. The futon couch is old and strewn with clothes. There's a TV in the corner surrounded by stacks of video games. There are a few empty pizza boxes leaning beside the trashcan in the small kitchenette. Still, the place is mostly clean, but Wade isn't concerned about cleanliness. He's concerned about security. He walks to the windows and frowns seeing the flimsy locks. The only saving grace is that the apartment is on the third floor. Still, he locks the windows.

Kate comes out of the bathroom wearing her own pajamas and hands Wade his workout clothes. She's still shaking. The room is a little cold, but Wade is sure that her chills are from more than just the temperature. When she looks at him, Wade's heart is on the verge of breaking. Kate has a look on her face that Wade recognizes. It's that determined look one has when trying to look brave when they really want to cry but don't want someone else to worry.

Wade says, "You know, I have Mario Kart at my place. And there's a really good pizza place nearby that delivers literal slices of heaven. And my couch is by far the most comfortable sleeping surface in the place."

The look Kate gives him is so full of relief that it is almost palpable. She grabs her backpack and shoves in a couple changes of clothes, and practically runs Wade over on her way out the door.

Weasel rolls with it like he expected they would have company. The living room has been cleaned up and Weasel tosses Kate a controller as soon as she sits on the couch and the two of them start a game of Mario Kart while Wade puts in an order for pizza. Without having to say it out loud, Weasel knows not to mention the whole Wade being suspended thing. Kate doesn't need to hear that. If Wade has his way, it will be resolved without her ever knowing a thing. The only thing she knows is that he's skipping class Monday and has a meeting Tuesday.

They play Mario Kart for a couple hours, then switch to watching the Justice League cartoon while eating ice cream. Kate is on her phone most of the time, and Wade has to wonder if she's talked to her sister yet about everything. More than likely, the answer would be "no".

Getting near 11 o'clock, Weasel goes to bed and Wade says to Kate, "You can have my bed, if you want."

"It's fine," Kate says. "I'll take the couch. It is pretty comfortable."

Wade nods and goes to his room to retrieve a pillow and blanket. The pillow is one that he seldom uses, but is nice and fluffy with a clean case, and the blanket is covered in 80's style Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also brings a sheet to cover the cushions of the couch, just for extra comfort. While she makes her nest, Wade makes a show of locking all the doors and checking the windows. Most of the time, he and Weas don't bother locking up while they are home because it is a good area of town with mostly middle class renters and 24-hour security, but Wade wants Kate to feel safe. It is vitally important.

"I'm the first door on the right side of the hall," Wade says, hesitating to leave Kate alone. "Just in case you need anything."

Kate nods and says, "Okay. Good night."

"Good night." Wade turns to leave. 

Then Kate says, "Thanks again."

Wade shrugs and says, "It's what family's for, right?"

She smiles and snuggles down into the couch. Wade lingers a moment, then walks to his room. He's not tired, so he gets out his tablet and browses through his e-book list for something to pass the time until he could manage to sleep. He gets wrapped up in an Indy book about a witch-hunting YouTube star that a friend of a friend recommended. He sits up against his headboard with the screen dimmed all the way down in the dark.

The apartment is quiet, except for all those soft sounds that come along with modern life. The hum of the air ducts, the buzz of the refrigerator, and the occasional hiss of tires passing by. All of these sounds, Wade is used to. So much so that he doesn't acknowledge them. However, just after midnight he can hear the sound of muffled crying, and Wade immediately gets up.

Kate is sitting cross-legged on the couch, rocking herself back and forth with her face pressed into the pillow as she sobbed. The sound was so heartbreaking, Wade could feel his eyes stinging as he knelt down in front of her, announcing his presence with a soft, "I'm here."

She latches onto him and cries. Cries until she is hiccoughing and Wade has to take her to the bathroom and hold her hair back because she can't keep her food down. She heaves until there is nothing left, and then heaves some more.

With her face red and dotted with busted corpuscles, Kate sits on her knees in front of the toilet and growls in a thick voice, "I'm so fucking stupid."

"No, Kate," Wade says, shaking his head as he hands her a damp washcloth. "You're not stupid.

"I shouldn't have been there," Kate says. "It's my fault I was there. If I wasn't there, he couldn't…"

"No," Wade says firmly. He shakes his head and says, "What happened to you was not your fault. You didn't ask that motherfucker to put something in your drink. You didn't want that at all. You thought you could trust that piece of shit, and he betrayed that."

Her face crumples. "So what? It doesn't change anything."

"Yes it does." Wade looks her in the eyes. "You did nothing wrong. You recognized that something was fucked up, and you did exactly what you should have done. You called for help. And because you did that, you saved others from being hurt. You are a fucking hero."

"No I'm not," she says angrily. Suddenly, she shoves him back and says, "You don't know, Wade! You have never been in my shoes. You're the one who comes in and saves people. You don't know what it is like! You don't know what it is like for someone to take away your choices. You don't know!"

"Yes I do," Wade says softly, and Kate goes from angry to confused. Wade sighs and closes the lid on the toilet and sits before saying, "When I was in highschool, I was in love with this girl named Theresa. Like in love with her. We dated all the way through sophomore year, and she had this purity thing that she was doing, and I was 100% on board with waiting, because I loved her."

Wade picks at the fuzz on his sleep pants, and says, "Anyway, so right after I turned 17, my buddy threw this party and everyone was trying to get me drunk, and they were succeeding. Terri went with me, but she got mad because I said something stupid and she left. So of course, I got really wasted and ended up passing out in one of the bedrooms. At some point in the night, Terri came into the room where I was. I was drunk and… I just went with it, because it looked like Terri, sounded like Terri. But the next morning…" He pauses a moment, rubbing the back of his neck as he takes a deep breath. "I wake up, and it isn't Terri in bed with me. It's this fucking lunatic named Mary. She fucking pretended to be my girlfriend. Her hair was dyed red and shit. Like she fucking planned it."

"That is so fucked up," Kate says, shaking her head.

Wade nods. "Yeah. It was. Of course Terri didn't believe me. My so-called friends let it happen. And I blamed myself and felt like a piece of shit. I shouldn't have gotten drunk. I shouldn't have passed out. I should have known it wasn't Terri. I should have been smarter about it all. But the fucking truth is that some crazy bitch took advantage of the state I was in."

Kate dashes the tears off her face, and says, "It wasn't your fault."

"And what happened last night wasn't yours," Wade says sternly. "It didn't happen because you are stupid or weak or anything else. It happened because that motherfucker wanted to take something that wasn't his to fucking take, and the only way he could do it was by drugging you. And even then, you gave him a broken nose for his trouble. Because you are a smart, tough, and a fucking powerful person, and you need to remember that. You need to fucking scream it to the fucking heavens, because that is who you are, Kate. Before, after, and always. That is who you are."

"I don't feel that way though," she says as the tears start again.

"I know, kid," Wade says. "But you'll get there."

Kate shakes her head and opens her mouth to say something else, but instead sinks against him. Wade has never felt such a need to protect someone, and he can't help but wonder how actual parents get through life without bubblewrap. He also has to wonder what kind of an asshole abandons their child the way Kate's father did.

Once the tears have again subsided, they go back to the living room. Neither are too interested in sleep, so Wade gets out a couple of his photo albums. He shows her the last picture of him with his strike team, the Deadpool Corps, and Kate is immediately curious about Wanda, the one and only female member of the team. In the picture, Wanda and Wade are standing at the back, both holding their M-16's in a mirrored stance, with The Kid, Head, and Dog crouched in front of them. Wanda is just as tall as Wade with the same buff build with her arms covered in tattoos. The picture was obviously before the explosion, because Wade's exposed arms are tan and lacking the scars.

Wade tells her about a few of their missions (things he's not supposed to tell civilians, really), and Kate gets wrapped up in the stories about sneaking into jungle palaces and rescuing hostages, and Wanda being a raging badass and saving everyone's lives a couple times. She finally goes to sleep sometime just before sunrise, and Wade sleeps in the chair.

The next morning, Wade takes Kate on a run. It's cold, being November, but it seems to be what the doctor ordered. After the run, they head to the gym, and Kate goes through the PT routine and still wants to spar when it is over. Wade is mindful to not put Kate into any holds, and there are a few times that he's pretty sure Kate is envisioning someone else's face when she strikes at him, but he'll take the bruises just to see the fight in her. She needs that, and if throwing him to the ground and choking him almost unconscious helps, then Wade's willing to make the sacrifice.

After all that, Kate's pretty tired. They drive back to her apartment and Kate picks up a few more changes of clothes. Wade and Weasel talked over breakfast about their houseguest, and Weasel was the one who suggested she stay a little while longer. When Wade brought it up to Kate, she didn't hesitate to say 'yes'.

They arrive back at Wade's place at the same time that May Parker is getting out of her car with a few canvas bags from the local market. Wade jogs over with Kate behind him, and they take over the grocery carrying. One of the items is a 15-pound turkey. Once inside, Wade introduces Kate and May, and May is instantly enamored.

When Kate mentions that Wade is teaching her Marine Corps-style fighting, May says, "Now that is something I'd love to learn. I've never been much of a fighter. I'm more of the hippie protestor type. But that sounds like fun."

"Wade could totally teach you," Kate says, looking at him with an enthusiastic nod.

May looks at him, and Wade shrugs. "Yeah, sure. I'll make you the scariest thing in a dark alley, Miss May."

"I don't know about that," May says with a grin. "So when can I start? I only work a few days a week at the college now."

Kate's eyes brighten. "I thought I recognized you! I think you were a guest lecturer or something for my freshman health class."

"Probably," May says. "I'm a navigator for the the nursing program, and usually do the feminine health portion every semester. My nephew is one of the Chemistry professors. Peter Parker." Wade can feel his heart pick up a little, and he wants to stop May before she says, "And that reminds me, Mr. Wilson. If you don't have plans, we're hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and you, Kate, and Weasel are welcome to join us."

Before Wade can say anything at all, May adds, "And I know that you and Peter have some kind of rule or whatever, but I don't think anyone here is going to rat you out for passing the gravy boat at dinner."

Kate slowly turns to Wade with a very amused look on her face. And if it wasn't for the fact that he's missed seeing her smile, Wade would want to crawl into a hole. He hasn't told her about his "thing" with Peter because of various reasons (why tell people about the "thing" if the "thing" isn't even defined by the participants?).

But Wade, eloquent as he is, just says, "Gravy boat?"

"I've been putting up with this from both of them since Halloween," May says to Kate. Then to Wade, "Are you coming over for dinner or not?"

"Sure?" Wade says, his face a little extra pink. "Do you want me to bring anything? A pie? A side dish? What's left of my dignity?"

"Oh, stop," May says with a little push on his arm. "Bring yourself and whatever you feel like bringing."

"Can I bring pumpkin mousse?" Kate asks. "It's delicious. And goes good on pie. Or in a bowl by itself. It's like the only thing I actually know how to make."

"Same goes for you," May says. "Bring whatever you feel like, or just bring yourself."

Wade's phone dings then, and he takes it out of the pocket on his sleeve to see a new email from Preston. He opens it and it reads:

I need you to come to my office if you can at 3 to discuss your current status. I think you're going to be able to avoid the review board entirely. If you are available, let me know.

Emily

"Something up?" Kate asks.

"Sort of," Wade says. "I need to meet with my adviser."

Kate nods, but Wade can see a little fidget. And May Parker might be a psychic, because she says to Kate, "If you don't have to run off, I could use some help getting things arranged in the freezer. I'm old and not good with heavy lifting."

Honestly, Wade could kiss her. He really could.

With Kate busy with May, Wade sends Preston a quick response as he changes into less sweaty clothes, then goes to the college. He goes straight to Emily Preston's office and finds Dr. Grey and a man he doesn't recognize seated in the chairs across from her.

"I missed you in class this morning," Dr. Grey says with a smile.

Wade closes the door and says, "Uh… What's going on?"

The man in the black suit stands and says, "We are discussing your suspension, Mr. Wilson." He shakes Wade's hand, and Wade sees his name badge. Phil Coulson, Dean of Student Affairs. "Emily and Jean have both weighed in with their opinions of the matter, and having read your file and reviewed your academic record for the semester, I'm inclined to agree with their summation of the situation."

"And that is...?" Wade says, looking from Dr. Grey to Preston.

"Your suspension is bullshit," Dr. Grey says, and Wade is only slightly shocked that Dr. Grey said a cuss-nasty. "It absolutely sends the wrong message. While typically I do not believe that violence is the answer, I also know that sometimes it depends on the question."

If Wade didn't love her before, he adores Dr. Grey now. "I tend to agree."

"I know you are good friends with Kate." She frowns and says, "I know all of the girls involved. They've been in my classes. And I am personally appalled that someone on our board would sanction you for stepping in to help them."

"I stepped in to help Kate," Wade says.

"You took action in a world of bystanders," Dr. Grey continues. "That's why my recommendation is that this suspension be dropped without review."

"Professor Parker had the same opinion. In great detail," Coulson says. "Between their opinions and the official police report that I received this morning from Chief Fury, I am going to go with the recommendation and remove the suspension from your record." He gives a tight smile but it goes to his eyes. "You are welcome to come back to class, Mr. Wilson."

Wade nods. There's a lot of things that he wants to say about school politics and wanting to choke this board member, but the only thing he says is, "Okay."

Coulson leaves, and Dr. Grey says, "There's something else I'd like to talk to you about."

Wade sits in the seat vacated by Coulson, and says, "Okay. What?"

"I know through a mutual friend of ours that you have been teaching Kate self-defense," Dr. Grey says.

Wade's brow scrunches. "We have a mutual friend?"

"Nate Summers," Dr. Grey says. "He and I had a long discussion about you Sunday afternoon at dinner. I didn't realize you were the same Marine who saved his life in Rumekistan or that you are the Uncle Wade that Hope refers to as her favorite sparring partner."

Wade shakes his head with a chuckle. "So how do you know him?"

"He's my nephew," Dr. Grey says with a smile, and Wade has to wonder what kind of skin cream she uses because she doesn't look old enough. And mind-reading must be a family trait, because she says, "We're actually the same age. He's the son of my oldest sister, Madelyn. There was a lot of space between us."

"Holy shit," Wade says. "Small world."

"New Salem is a small town, and all of our family lives here." Dr. Grey says, "Anyway, to business. I am also good friends with the director of mental health at New Salem Medical, and we would like to coordinate a self-defense and therapy course for the young women who were involved. I would like you to teach the self-defense side of it."

Wade rubs the back of his neck, and says, "I, uh… I mean, I'll teach them. But I'm not exactly a counselor type."

"Empowerment goes a long way in healing," Dr. Grey says. "The counseling will be Dr. Maximoff's department."

Wade asks, "Is it alright if I think about it?"

Dr. Grey smiles and says, "Of course. Just let me know your decision. I'll see you Wednesday, Wade."

She leaves, and Wade sits in slightly stunned silence for a minute. Part of him wants to accept the offer, because she's right. Empowerment is a good thing. But at the same time, he's not sure if he's really up for the challenge. He's good at barking orders and pushing people to their limits, but he doesn't know if that's really the right approach with everyone. Kate takes the PT training like a champ, but she wants to learn it.

"You can do this, Wade," Preston says, pulling him from his thoughts.

Wade had almost forgot she was in the room. He says, "I don't know about that."

"I do," she says. She smiles. "I've seen your aptitude assessments. Teaching and counseling are within your skillset."

Wade nods, and says, "I'll think about it."

Wade leaves Preston's office right at 4 o'clock, and instead of leaving campus, he walks to the Baxter Building and goes to the Chem lab. Peter is cleaning the whiteboard. Wade leans against the door jam, watching him for a moment before saying, "You missed a spot."

Peter jumps, and Wade is half surprised he didn't end up stuck to the ceiling. Then his face blooms in a bright smile. He puts aside his cleaner, and walks to Wade. For a second, Wade thinks he's going to disregard all semblance of secrecy and kiss him, but he stops short and says, "You're the only one who showed up for class."

Wade really wants to kiss Peter. He wants to. Badly. "Does this mean I get extra credit? Cuz, you know, I'm not suspended anymore."

Again, Peter looks like he's going to latch onto Wade, but he tucks his hands in his pockets. He's smiling so much it looks like it hurts. "That's such good news." He pauses a moment, hesitating before asking, "How's Kate?"

"She's been better," Wade says. "But she'll be alright. Right now she's at your aunt's house learning how to brine a turkey."

"Oh shit," Peter says with a laugh. Then he asks, "Does she know about uh-us?"

Wade sighs and rubs his temple. "Your aunt, bless her heart—"

"You don't need to finish that sentence," Peter says.

Wade smiles. "Don't worry. Kate's my homie. We got the bro-code."

"Four weeks. Three class periods," Peter says in the tone of a man resigned to his fate.

"May invited us to Thanksgiving," Wade says. "Apparently she's fine with me passing you the gravy boat."

Peter snorts. "That shouldn't sound dirty."

"Oh baby, I can make anything sound dirty with these lips," Wade says with a shark smile.

"You're torturing me," Peter says.

Wade grins. "You know you like it."

"Turnabout's fair play," Peter says with a devious look of his own.

"I have a lot of willpower," Wade says. "Then again, Mr. Right Hand isn't as satisfying as he used to be."

Peter looks to the heavens and shakes his head. "You… I just… I…" Then he says, "I need to go to my office. Right now."

Peter's office is small. It is tiny. Smaller than Professor Wagner's. There's no room for anything but a small desk and chair. That's it. Wade assumes it is a repurposed broom closet, but he doesn't think on that too much because there is also no window and it is exceptionally private in that regard.

And Peter is kissing Wade like his life depends on it, and Wade's not really all that concerned about the scenery. He's too caught up in the feel of lips and taste of tongue and the sweet feeling of the way Peter is grinding against him. There is a very limited blood supply in Wade's brain with how hard his cock is from just a minute of this, and he has no idea how he is supposed to withstand this kind of torment because he knows that there can be no relief. Not here. Not like this.

So Wade slows things down. His lips move more deliberately, hands gently. He curls his fingers into Peter's hair and kisses him slow and deep, punctuating each long, luxurious taste with a small nip on Peter's swollen lips. There is part of Wade that wants to forget the rules and stop all this waiting, but there's another part of him that is exhilarated by the prospect of holding out and holding back. He wants Peter, yes. But he wants more than just a quick fuck in a broom closet. He doesn't want a quickie with their buddies cheering in the next room. Wade wants to take his time. He wants privacy. He wants somewhere with soundproof walls.

Really, it is the only thing holding Wade back.

"Three class periods," Wade says between kisses. "Four weeks."

Peter rests his head against Wade's neck and says, "Torture. Absolute torture."

Before leaving the office, Wade adjusts Peter's hair so he doesn't look freshly fucked, and Peter says, "I hope to see you before next Monday."

"You will," Wade says. 

Yeah, anticipation. It's a good thing. 

Chapter Text

The first day that Kate goes back to school is Friday. There is a lot of tension in her from the moment she gets in the car with Wade. A few precautions have been taken, though. For one, Kate has altered her schedule so that her Literature class is an online course so she doesn't have to be in the same room where she spent so much class-time with the piece of shit Travis. She also swapped her Music Appreciation course from Tuesday/Thursday to the Monday/Wednesday/Friday course at the same time Wade has math. It is the same professor, just a different class time. While Wade is in World Civ, Kate has scheduled a time to meet with one of the school's counselors who was recommended by Dr. Grey.

Still, Kate stays pressed to Wade's side as they walk to Dr. Grey's classroom, and she keeps her earbuds in with the music going to help block everything else out. Really, Wade wishes she'd been in class on Wednesday, though he knows that it probably would have been hard on her. They were in the chapter on Social Psychology, and groupthink and the Bystander Effect were the final topics of the section.

Towards the end of the lecture, Dr. Grey stepped away from the podium and said, "I feel the need to really drive this point home because I want all of you to remember this. When you stand by and let bad things happen, you are giving your tacit consent. You are, by your silence and inaction, agreeing with what is happening. When you see someone being bullied or beaten or you see someone put something in someone's drink, and you do nothing, you are saying to the world that you agree with what is happening."

Wade wanted to pound the desk or shout something like an overly exuberant church-goer.

"Ask yourself," Dr. Grey continued. "Who do you want to be? Do you want to be the bystander? Or do you want to be the one who stands up. Because I guarantee, when one stands others will stand with you. All it takes is one person to make a big difference. And I promise you that whatever pain you experience because you stand up for what is right is nothing compared to what you will do to yourself and others by being silent. I want all of you to think about this."

However, this class period, Dr. Grey does not touch on that subject. They have moved on to the Personality chapter, and Wade is happy for it. While Kate is a tough kid, she doesn't need to have to face any demons in class. They go over the different theories of personality, and are assigned to take a few online personality tests and write a paper about the results. The paper is due the Monday after Thanksgiving, and Wade figures he'll have plenty of time for all that.

After class, Wade walks with Kate to the Counseling Office in the Admin building. Once Kate is safely in the hands of Elizabeth Braddock, Wade jogs to World Civ just as Professor Wagner is starting his lecture. They are discussing the early middle ages, and while it is interesting, Wade is worried about Kate the entire time and the hour drags by. Wade's notes are sloppy and lacking his usual detail.

Kate looks drained by the time she steps out of Braddock's office, and she is all too ready to go with Wade to an off-campus diner to get lunch. It's a little soup and sandwich place, and Kate gets broccoli cheddar in a breadbowl and Wade opts for one of their footlong sandwiches. They don't talk much, just eat and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.

Wade has a quiz that day in Intermediate Algebra, and he leaves the room pretty sure he failed it. A few of the questions, he couldn't remember the steps in solving, so he just wrote down as much as he could reason to do, and handed in his paper. He's not concerned with that grade, really. He still has a 97% overall, and even if he fails one quiz, he'll still pass.

As soon as he and Kate get back to the apartment, Kate curls up on the couch and goes to sleep with the Turtle blanket pulled over her head. She's been sleeping a lot, and Wade doesn't need to be a counselor to know why.

Wade spends the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen looking at recipes to make candy. With the Molecule presentation coming up soon, Wade needs to start making his atoms, and since Wade's molecule is Sucrose, he plans to make the whole thing out of hard candy. He finds a few different recipes, and starts making a list of things to purchase so he can start experimenting over the weekend.

Kate is still napping when Wade gets his list finished, and he stands near the couch and says, "I'm headed to Ridgefield for some stuff. You want to come along?"

"No," is the beleaguered reply.

"Do you want anything while I'm out?" Wade offers.

"Sleep," is all she says.

Wade nods, mostly to himself, and says, "Okay. Might be gone a couple hours."

Kate pokes her head out from under the blanket, squinting at him a moment before saying, "Are you going by Mega Pop?"

"I can," he says.

"Chocolate mint popcorn," she says, then she burrows back under the blanket.

Wade writes it on his list and grabs his coat. As he steps outside, his phone buzzes with a text from Peter. It just says: What are you up to tonight?

Just heading out to do some shopping. Wade types this, then shrugs and adds, You should join me, before sending.

Peter doesn't respond. At least not with a text, because he's pulling into the lot. Wade shakes a finger at him, and says, "You, sir, should not be texting while driving."

Peter laughs, and says, "I was at a stop sign and there was no one behind me."

"I've got my eye on you, professor," Wade says. Then he steps into Peter's personal space and says, "How about you and me go get some sugar?"

"Is that a euphemism?" Peter asks.

Wade leans down and whispers in Peter's ear, "It's not, but I like the way you're thinking."

After telling Aunt May their plans, they get in Wade's car and head to Ridgefield. It's a little bigger town than New Salem and has a kitchen supply outlet store that Wade wants to hit up for candy making supplies. The Mega Pop store is just a few doors down, so Wade parks halfway in between.

Wade feels like he's found his paradise going into Kitchen Connect. There is literally every possible kitchen gadget in the history of kitchen gadgets, and he needs to give himself a mental peptalk to stick to the list. He needs a candy thermometer, wooden sucker sticks, and round silicone candy molds.

While looking at the wall of confectionary tools, Peter asks, "What exactly are you making?"

"That, dear sir, is not to be discussed," Wade says.

That's when Peter lets out a squeak, and picks up a Death Star silicone mold. He holds it out to Wade, and Wade can feel himself falling in love again. He grins and says, "Holy shit, that would be perfect for what I have in mind."

"What do you have in mind?" Peter asks.

Wade shakes his head and says, "That's for me to know and you to find out."

Peter gives him a pout. 

Wade pokes him in the lip and says, "A buzzard's gonna poop on that."

Peter laughs and shakes his head. They continue to meander through the kitchen store, picking up a few different odds and ends that Wade thinks up as they go. He also gets some flavorings and food coloring, along with fine grain sugar and corn syrup.

They drop of Wade's purchases at the car and head over to Mega Pop. It's a gourmet popcorn shop with 40 flavors of popcorn, ranging from plain butter to Oregon Truffle. Wade orders a pound of the chocolate mint, and while that is being prepared, he and Peter go to the taste testing area. Wade's always liked cinnamon popcorn, but there is Strawberry and Cotton Candy and Caramel Cashew.

It is pretty enjoyable just getting to spend time with Peter without time constraints. Really, it almost feels like a date. A kind of odd date, but a good date because they're laughing and and making jokes and just enjoying each other's company. Being in public, they are avoiding any type of PDA, but Wade's never been the exhibitionist type (except for at Halloween in the comfort of his own parking lot). They leave with a pound of Oreo Cheesecake and Caramel Pecan, along with Kate's Chocolate Mint, and go back to the car.

They take a slightly meandering path back to New Salem, going down sideroads and back roads, and stopping at a rundown park to fog up the windows.

Wade pulls Peter to him and kisses him in that slow, sweet way that makes Peter moan into his mouth and grab at the short hair at the nape of Wade's neck. Their hands roam more, moving to touch and caress beneath their shirts. Wade is pleasantly surprised to feel the solid muscle of Peter's back and abs, his fingers brushing through the light dusting of hair below his navel.

The only trouble is Peter's hands are on the same exploration, and Wade's skin doesn't feel like normal skin. There are bumps of thick scar tissue where the skin grafts were sewn, as well as puckered lines from field surgeries to remove bullets. Some places don't have much feeling; others are exceptionally sensitive. When Peter's fingers press against one such spot, Wade lets out a strangled sound and Peter goes to move back.

Wade catches his hand and turns on the dome light, raising his shirt so that Peter can see what it is he is touching. For the first time, Wade is genuinely nervous because the last person who saw him completely naked was disgusted by the scars.

Peter's touch is feather-light, his thumb barely grazing the sensitive suture line. "Does this hurt you?"

Wade shakes his head. "No. Just kind of sensitive."

"Good sensitive or bad?" Peter asks earnestly.

"Kind of depends on the situation," Wade answers.

Peter kisses him, and it doesn't feel like consolation. It feels like hunger, and Wade decides that he doesn't need to be worried. At least, not about his scars. He might need to be concerned that he's going to come in his pants with the way Peter is rubbing against his lap. That might be a little drafty in the winter.

When Peter begins kissing down Wade's neck, he whispers, "You know, I kind of have a three date rule."

"Because you're a classy gentleman," Peter says, returning to Wade's mouth. "And you don't put out on the first date."

Wade grins and says, "It's true."

"So is this our first date then?" Peter asks.

Wade nods. "Yeah, I think it is."

Peter bites his lip and says, "Honestly? This is probably the best date I've ever had."

"Me too," Wade says. He laughs softly, and says, "I can't remember a time when I felt so happy with someone without being balls-deep first."

Peter laughs and shakes his head and says, "Me too."

"I'm going to be very honest right now." Wade kisses Peter soft, and says, "I can see myself with you for more than just a couple nights. And it might sound cheesy as fuck, but that's something worth waiting for. Because I can see myself loving you for a really long time."

And there it is. Wade Wilson, laid bare. Heart on his sleeve.

"That's what I want," Peter says, and Wade believes it.

By the time they get back to the apartment, almost 6 hours have elapsed, and Wade only feels a little guilty about that fact. But when he walks inside and finds Weasel and Kate playing Little Big World with Weasel's hair French braided in two neat rows, Wade feels a little better.

Then Weasel and Kate pause the game and put aside their controllers and vigorously clap for him, and Wade has to remind himself that he loves his friends. He also has to remind himself to not cry because Kate is laughing and happy even before he hands over the Chocolate Mint popcorn.

Saturday, Wade is meeting with the three young women who want to be part of the therapy/self-defense program. And though Kate complains and drags her feet, Wade convinces her to come with him to Quicksilver Fitness. The facility is owned by the Maximoffs, and operated by Dr. Maximoff's brother, Pietro.

Dr. Maximoff was waiting in the front entrance, and greets Wade and Kate with a bright smile. She is a small woman with a slight frame and a distinctively Eastern European accent. (Maybe Romanian?). Kate introduces herself, and the three of them wait in the front entrance for the others to arrive.

In the emails that Dr. Maximoff and Wade exchanged, they decided on a few protocols for their operation. Dr. Maximoff would escort them to the locker room and the private workout room. Wade would always be accompanied by either Kate (who was to be his assistant) or Dr. Maximoff at all times. An added layer of security would be the selection of code names for the women involved in the program.

Kate chose the name Hawkeye, which was her nickname back when she was in the archery club in high school. The other three Wade knows only as Stature, Surge, and Miss America. One of them, Stature, he recognizes from World Civ class, and he feels bad for never learning her real name.

One thing that Wade likes is seeing the expressions they wear. They have that stoic anger that he knows he can use, and with Kate standing beside him with her ass-kicking mask firmly in place, Wade starts the class.

"My name's Wade Wilson. I'm a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant, and I am here to teach you how to fight." Wade falls easily into his drill sergeant tone. He knows that he sounds mean, but the recruits (as he takes to calling them in his head) don't flinch at the words. "I am not going to teach you how to fight in a boxing ring. I'm going to teach you how to fight dirty and defend yourself. If you want to be the Karate Kid, you're in the wrong course. But if you want to know how to save your life or someone else's, this is the place to be. We're going to start with the basics, and by the time I am done with you, you will be the most dangerous thing in the dark."

The first thing that Wade teaches them is the basic weak points on any human. Most know the balls are a weak point on a guy, but capacity to fight and harm is more diminished by eye-gouging and throat punching. Along with this lesson is how to throw a proper punch. Wade uses a sparring cushion so Kate can demonstrate the technique using both a closed fist and her palm. They also covered using elbows in close-combat situations, and the best place to kick a knee to snap the joint.

The entire session lasts two hours. The final part of the day, Wade tells all of them to use the gym to work on building muscle and gives them a print out of the same PT routine that he puts Kate through with the suggestion that they build up their endurance. They have the private workout room twice a week, Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, and Stature, Surge, and Miss America promise to attend every class. Surge says she is going to bring a friend next session, and Wade encourages them to bring whomever can use the training.

Once they were in the car, Wade asks, "You hungry?"

Kate shrugs. "Not really. Just tired."

"You did a helluva job," Wade says.

Kate leans against the window and says, "Stature wants me to go to their group meetings with Dr. Maximoff. I…" She sighs. "I think I will. Just… Just to see what it's all about."

Wade wants to say, Good. I'm proud of you for taking that step. But he kind of wants to punch himself for sounding like Nate inside his head, so he just holds out his fist and Kate gives it a solid bump, and that's the end of the conversation.

When Wade and Kate walk through the door, Weasel immediately stands up from his chair and says, "I need to talk to you about something."

"That doesn't sound ominous at all," Wade says as he sets aside his gym bag.

Weasel shrugs and says, "Well, I guess it all depends on what you think."

Wade props his hands on the counter. "Okay…?"

"Al is getting kicked out of the retirement place in Vegas," Weasel says, and Wade can't help but chuckle because good-god, that isn't really a surprise.

Kate's brow furrows. "Who's Al?"

"Foster mom," Wade and Weasel say in unison.

Weasel says, "We both lived with her for a while. I was there for three years. Wade for like—what? Six months?"

"Something like that," Wade says. "She's blind and evil, and generally awesome."

Weas continues, "I don't know the whole story, but she needs to be out by the middle of December. And considering that she's old and you and I are basically the only sort of family she has, I…" Weasel pauses a moment before saying, "I was going to have her move in with us."

"Okay." Wade rubs his chin, and says, "I mean, I'm cool with that, but we're definitely going to need a bigger place."

"That's the other thing," Weasel says. "Since you moved in here and started paying half the rent, I've put away a lot of money. And I'm halfway thinking about looking for a house to buy."

Wade nods. "Okay."

Weasel frowns. "Is that all you have to say? Because I really do want to know what you think about this since you're like my platonic lifemate and all."

Wade laughs, and says, "No, I mean. Yeah. I like the idea. And I've got that money in savings from the stocks and everything, so I'll throw in on a down payment or pay the mortgage or whatever. I ain't gonna abandon you, baby."

"But Al," Weasel says. "Are you cool with her living with us?"

"Are you kidding?" Wade says. "I love that crazy old lady." Then he snaps his fingers, and says, "Don't ever tell her I said that. I don't want her to get the wrong idea."

Weasel grins, and says, "Awesome. I figure I'll have Bob look into properties. He's almost as good of a real estate agent as he is a dungeon master."

"Dungeon master?" Kate says, sounding a mix of worried and amused.

"Dungeons and Dragons," Wade and Weasel say in unison.

Kate laughs and shakes her head. "You two are such nerds."

"You haven't seen nerdy until you see us on pay-per-view nights," Wade says. Then he looks at Weasel and says, "How big of a place are we getting?"

Weasel smiles, gesturing with his head towards Kate. "Big enough for everyone."

Wade grins. "See, this is why I love you."

Weasel says, "I know."

"You know, if it wasn't for the fact that you don't like boys…" Wade says with a grin.

Weasel shrugs. "You find the boy you need. I'll find the girl, and we can all snuggle like the big weird family we're destined to be."

"I think he's already found the boy," Kate says and she and Weasel fist bump.

Yes. True. As far as Wade is concerned, he's found The One. Or at least one who has a strong potential to be The One. There are so many things that he has imagined involving Peter, but his favorite fantasies involve sitting on the couch together reading or cuddling on a rainy day. Maybe that makes Wade a sap, but he's had enough sex that there isn't that much that will surprise him any more. But someone he can talk to for hours and not get bored? Someone who isn't freaked out that he's a human version of a patchwork quilt? Someone who is on board with waiting to get freaky because of squishy lovey dovey feelings?

That would be a novel experience.

Chapter Text

The next week, Wade is a busy man. Between house hunting, homework, and teaching a twice weekly self-defence course, there isn't much time to spare. Bob brought by a bunch of real estate listings Sunday afternoon, and Wade, Weasel, and Kate went through them. There were several that were out of their price range, some that were too small for their growing family, and a smattering that seemed to really fit their desires.

Every day, they went to check out a couple of the listings. Wednesday, they toured one place that Wade figured was doable, but would need a lot of work to make it suitable for an old blind lady. That, and Weasel kept finding things that were wrong with it. There were faults in the stairs, too few outlets, old wiring, evidence of a past basement flood. His thoughts were, "It's the high end of our budget, but we'll still need to put work in it." He shrugged and looked at Wade. "What do you think?"

"I think we have five more places to look at," Wade said.

And so went their days.

It wasn't until Saturday that they happened upon a real gem. The house was an older home that was in the middle of a renovation. The homeowner died in the middle of construction, and the family was more keen to be rid of the place than to worry about finishing the cosmetics. It is five bedrooms, three baths, full walkout basement, and the price point was on the low end of what they were willing to pay. Both Wade and Weasel walked through the place, bouncing ideas back and forth on how they could finish up the rooms. The basement and first level were completed, but the upstairs rooms were still lacking sheetrock and only one of the upstairs bathrooms had all of its fixtures.

The biggest appeal was location. They would be moving only two blocks from their current location, and Wade is ecstatic. 

"Seriously, we could finish this shit up in a few weekends," Wade says when they all reconvene in the kitchen. "I could make a few phone calls, and have this place right and tight before Al gets her old ass off the plane."

"Closing will take a little time," Bob says. "But there's a good chance we can get this done in as little as six weeks."

"Six weeks?" Wade says. "We have like 3 weeks."

Weasel says, "We'll make it work."

"I do have an apartment, guys," Kate says, though Wade can see the reluctance there. She hasn't gone back to her apartment more than to pick up more clothes and her car, and never stays more than a few minutes.

"Is there any way we can speed up the process?" Wade asks.

Bob shrugs. "Maybe. But the house needs to be inspected and appraised by the bank, and you'll need to purchase insurance and—"

"Make a list," Wade says. "Let's get this ball rolling."

For various reasons, everything is being done in Weasel's name for the house, and Wade is fine with that. Weasel is the one with good credit history and isn't living on a military retirement plan. In fact, Wade is slightly blown away by how much Weasel makes working for Advanced Idea Mechanics. At one point, they offered Wade a position with their Security department, which after reading the fine print was more like a Mercenary job. Wade considered it, but chose to take a different path.

All things considered, Wade is happy with the way his life has turned out. Maybe he's not rich, but he has managed to accumulate something much more valuable in his friends that have slowly become his family. At first, it was just Weasel. But now Wade has Nate and Hope and Kate. Maybe even Peter, if the stars stay aligned in his favor. And considering that the night after signing all the papers for the house, they have their second date, Wade's pretty sure the stars still love him.

This time they hop in Peter's car and drive north out of town into the countryside. There's a little diner out in the middle of nowhere that just has a sign that says Restaurant. They sit in a booth and order burgers and talk about every subject under the sun. Wade tells Peter about the book he's been reading, and Peter tells Wade about his gymnastic career, which leads to a whole different topic because Wade is both intrigued and aroused by the idea of Peter doing an uneven bar routine.

Wade says, "You really need to show me your moves. And your costumes."

Peter's face is red from laughter and a hint of embarrassment. "The costumes were horrible. Very binding."

"Okay, no costumes," Wade says. "Still wanna see you on a pommel horse."

"I was never very good at the pommel horse." Peter makes a motion with his hands, drawing a couple loops, and says, "Stationary rings was my best event, but I had a lot of fun with parallel bars and high bar."

Wade nods. "Yeah, baby boy. Keep talking. I'm imagining you swinging around and flying through the air in your red and blue tights—"

"Why red and blue?" Peter asks, chuckling.

"It's my imagination, just go with it," Wade says. "But yeah. It's a good image."

Peter just shakes his head and says, "You have an interesting imagination that I find very fascinating."

"You've just seen the tip of the iceberg," Wade says with a shark smile.

Peter chuckles and says, "Just the tip?"

Wade chokes on his soda at that, and coughing, says, "Oh waitress (cough cough), check please!"

It almost feels like a game, the way that Wade and Peter hold back. They again find an isolated spot to park the car, and Peter straddles Wade's lap. Peter unbuttons Wade's shirt and explores the patchwork of scars on his chest and torso. It feels strange to have someone touch the suture lines because Wade is the only one who has. Some of them almost tickle and others he can barely feel anything but slight pressure. The ones that cause a reaction get a little extra attention, and Wade gets the odd feeling that Peter is performing some kind of ritual, and Wade feels himself falling into the spell.

And it is a ritual, because later, when Wade is changing clothes and sees his skin, for the first time the only thing he sees in his mind is Peter where normally he has flashes of the hospital or the explosion. Peter's touch is magic like that, he decides.

When they parted company, they did so with their countdown. Three weeks. Two class periods.

One of those weeks is Thanksgiving break.

Thanksgiving has never been a big holiday for Wade. At least, not since before his mother got cancer. After she died, his dad was always gone and then Wade was in the military. Once in awhile they would have a big meal, but most of the time he missed that shit being out on field assignments. Wade never spent much time on base. The biggest Thanksgiving celebration he had in recent years was in the VA hospital, and Wanda and Head visited him and gave him a couple shots of Wild Turkey. The nurses were pissed, but he slept damn good that night.

But May Parker is throwing a genuine family-style Thanksgiving, and Wade is doing his part to be festive about it. He woke up early Thanksgiving day to mix up a couple cheesecakes (one pumpkin, one Oreo), and started peeling potatoes to make his world famous mashed potato casserole (trademark). It's a combination of potatoes, cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, chives, and just a hint of garlic, all layered together and baked with more cheese. It's something he makes now and then as a comfort food, and all those Thanksgiving specials always have extra mashed potatoes, right?

This is going to be a big affair, too. Because Wade, Weasel, and Kate are going to be there, along with Peter, Gwen, and May. And considering that Wade's biggest family dinner was only ever three people, it qualifies as a big affair.

Kate spends about an hour on the phone with her sister, and as far as Wade knows, it's the first time they've talked in awhile. She sounds happy, and Wade knows that part of it is a front, but she's also started to be a little less closed off. The sessions with Dr. Maximoff and Dr. Braddock have helped a lot. She still isn't back to her old self, and maybe she never will be. But no matter what, Wade's happy to see her smiling again.

Weasel wakes about the time the cheesecakes are coming out of the oven, and he stumbles into the kitchen to stare at the coffee pot as if by force of will, coffee will happen. Wade musses his hair, and pushes the Brew button, and puts his cheesecakes in the ice bath.

"Breakfast?" Weasel says, a hopeful note in his voice. Poor dude's never been a morning person, even when he's slept until almost 10 o'clock.

"Not today, puddin'," Wade says. Then he reaches into the cabinet and tosses him a chocolate chip fiber bar. "That'll tie you over."

"This is old man food," Weasel grumbles as he opens the package. He takes a bite, and while chewing says, "I know for a fact, no one in this house has a colon problem."

Wade laughs, and says, "You really know your shit, Weas."

"Why aren't you two married?" Kate asks, having finished with her phone call.

"We are married, haven't you heard?" Weasel says, then takes another bite. "And I'm pretty sure we're going to start adoption proceedings pretty soon. One big happy Wilson-Hammer family. Me, Wade, our sweet daughter, and that bastard cat."

Kate's brow furrows. "Cat?"

"Cat," Wade says.

"Uh…" Kate looks from Wade to Weasel. "There's no cat?"

"There's a cat," Wade says. "An antisocial asshole cat who resides somewhere in Weasel's room. He used to be my cat, but now he's Weasel's."

"Don't put that on me, man," Weasel says as he wads up his wrapper. "That little fucker doesn't belong to anyone. He's his own cat."

Kate just looks bewildered. "I've been here like almost three weeks! How have I not seen this cat?"

"Like I said," Weasel grumbles. "He's a little fucker."

Ten minutes later, Kate emerges from Weasel's room with Mr. Crusty Bottoms cradled in her arms. He's a fat gray tabby with bright yellow eyes, and he's nuzzling against her throat and purring like he's an angel instead of the devil incarnate.

Both Wade and Weasel stare in amazed bewilderment as Kate sits on the couch, and the little asshole cat lays in her arms like a baby.

"I can't believe this shit," Wade says. "That little bastard has avoided everyone. For months."

"Maybe he just likes girls?" Kate says with a grin.

Wade goes to the living room and is about to sit on the couch beside Kate when Crusty hisses, and Wade frowns. "I saved you from a storm drain, and this is how you repay me?"

Kate snuggles her face against Crusty's and says, "You need to be nice to Wade, yes you do."

"Apparently you now have a cat," Wade says as he chances to stroke his finger down the back of Crusty's head. The cat looks at him with narrowed eyes but does nothing else. "Yeah, I see you finally found your best friend. Asshole."

"He's a sweetheart," Kate says as she scratches Crusty's belly.

Wade just shakes his head and says, "I'm going to take a quick shower. We're supposed to be across the street at 1200."

"Yes sir," Kate says, making Crusty salute with his paw.

Wade laughs and heads to the bathroom. He showers quickly and towels off, then spends about ten minutes rubbing lotion on his skin. Winter is hell on his skin grafts, so he goes through lotion at a quick pace. He told Peter about this particular after-shower activity, and he seemed keen to assist. Wade likes that idea, if only for utilitarian reasons—some places are just hard to reach.

Once cleaned, shaved, and well lotioned, Wade dresses in dark wash jeans and a dark red button down, and runs pomade through his hair to keep it from sticking up in odd angles. For a long time, he kept his head shaved and there are times he considers going back to that look. But then again, he likes the feel of Peter's fingers running through the short strands.

When Wade gets out, Kate is in the shower in Weasel's bathroom, and Weasel is sitting in his chair having a staredown with Crusty. Wade sits in the other recliner and the cat turns his lemon-eyed gaze on him.

"I still can't believe it," Wade says, not breaking eye contact.

Weasel laughs and says, "Just further proof that Kate is part of the tribe."

Wade smiles. "I guess so."

Just before noon, the Tribe walks across the street to May's place. May greets Wade and Weasel with a kiss on the cheek and she hugs Kate tight before ushering them all into the living room and relieving Wade of his cheesecakes. The house smells delicious, and Wade trails into the kitchen to investigate.

"This place smells like heaven," Wade says as he peeks through the window of the oven. "That is a beautiful bird."

"I can't believe these cheesecakes," May says as she sets them on the counter. "Mine always want to crack on top. Then again, I've never been much of a baker."

Wade spies the vegetable tray and snatches a carrot. "The secret is putting a pan of water in the oven with them. Keeps the cracks from happening."

"I'll remember that," May says with a bright smile. "Then again, I have the feeling you'll be around for more holidays, and I won't have to worry about it."

Wade raises an eyebrow. "Oh really?"

"Don't play coy with me," May says as she bats his hand away from the vegetables. "If you think I don't know that you and my nephew are canoodling like a couple of teenagers, then you are wrong."

"We're not canoodling," Wade says with a cheeky grin. "I've never canoodled in my life. I'm a classy gentleman. Ask anyone."

May just shakes her head and is about to say something when the doorbell rings. She points at Wade and says, "Keep your hands off the vegetables."

He follows May out of the kitchen, snatching a slice of red pepper on the way into the living room where Peter and Gwen are coming through the door. Gwen hugs May around the neck, and says, "Thank you so much for inviting me."

"Oh, hush," May says. "No way I'd let you spend the holidays alone in Manhattan!"

Gwen then sits on the couch beside Weasel and whispers something in his ear at the same time that Peter hands May the casserole dish he was carrying. Then Peter walks to Wade and says, "You beat me here."

Wade grins. "Well, you know, it's such a long drive…"

Peter tugs his sleeve, pulling him along to the kitchen. Behind them, Wade can hear Gwen and Weasel chattering and Kate say, "Let me in on this action", and he can only imagine the betting pool is growing.

In the kitchen, Wade is given the task of removing the 15 pound bird from the oven, and Peter starts working on getting the rolls buttered and into the oven. May takes over carving and Wade starts putting dishes on the table. The three of them work well together, and Wade enjoys that feeling. It isn't awkward. It's comfortable.

They sit at the table and proceed to feast. They talk about past holidays, Gwen's brothers, Kate's newfound cat, Wade and Weasel's house plans, May's winter flowers, and Peter's plan to submit a new paper for peer review, and Wade just feels happy. He's happy to be sitting in May Parker's dining room with his family of friends with Peter's left hand resting on his right knee. He can see that his life has changed in the last few months, and every step has been for the better.

By the time the desserts have been eaten and dishes washed, everyone is in the mood for a post-turkey nap. They all pile into the living room. Kate commandeers a pillow and stretches out on the floor and falls asleep playing a game on her phone. Weasel and Gwen fall asleep on opposite ends of the couch. Aunt May goes to her bedroom to snooze. Wade and Peter end up nestled together on the loveseat, with Wade lounged back and Peter laying against him with his head on Wade's chest.

There's a movie on TV, but Wade's more concerned about the scent of Peter's shampoo and how comfortably they fit together. It's like Peter's head is meant to rest in the dip between Wade's chest and shoulder, and fit just right against his hip. Everything feels so good, Wade doesn't want it to end.

Then Peter looks up at him and motions for Wade to come closer. He whispers in his ear, "Let's go to your place."

Wade looks around at all of the softly snoring people, and nods. The two of them leave as stealthy as possible, Wade employing all of his skills to keep the door from making a sound.

Once the door of Wade's apartment is closed, Wade finds it impossible to stop kissing Peter. He feels like he's in some kind of a trance. Maybe it's all the sugar or the tryptophan, but he feels like he's high and getting higher with every touch. And the best part is that they have privacy and are not cramped up in a car. They have Wade's bed, and Peter is on top of him grinding his pelvis against Wade's and they are both hard. Wade bucks up against him, and Peter smiles in a way that screams lust.

"So...What is this?" Peter asks as he starts undoing the buttons on Wade's shirt. "Date two-and-a-half? Date three? Have we fulfilled the rule, Mr. Classy?"

"My virtue is in tact," Wade says as he peels Peter's henley off and tosses it in the corner. Peter pushes Wade back down and mouths along a particularly sensitive scar just below Wade's left nipple. Wade draws in a sharp breath, and says, "You… I like you."

"Is that your witty comeback?" Peter asks with a smirk.

"I'll give you some come back on your chin," Wade says. Then laughs, and covers his eyes. "I can't believe that just came out of my mouth."

Peter presses a hand against Wade's still-clothed dick, and says, "Promises, promises."

Wade has to bite back a moan. He wants to say something about keeping his promises, but he's more in the mood to flip Peter onto his back and subject him to the same kind of torture. Wade crawls over him, trailing his fingers down Peter's side, making him squirm and pant because Wade knows exactly where he's ticklish. But Wade has never had this kind of exploration available to him, and goddamn does Peter have an amazing body. He's all lean muscle and smooth skin, and everything about him is just perfect. And for some reason, Peter likes Wade.

Maybe god or the bald-headed Watcher isn't that big of a douchebag afterall.

But Wade doesn't think about that. Instead he thinks about kissing all that flesh and unbuttoning Peter's jeans, and debating if he wants to kiss Peter's mouth or take off his pants. He opts to do both at the same time because Wade's a multitasker. Wade's only a little nervous at this part, because it has been a long time since he's had a dick in his hand that wasn't his, but if the way that Peter moans into his mouth is any indication, he's doing alright.

And goddamn, Peter Parker is a goer. He's not content to just lay on his back and let Wade jerk him off. His hands are working at Wade's fly, and Wade wants to come at the first touch of his tight grip. They set a slow pace, matching the movement of their hands with the movement of their mouths, both gasping and shuddering with the sheer pleasure of touching each other.

Wade knows he's not going to last. It's been too long and it feels too good. But Peter's not far behind him, and when Wade comes Peter's only a few strokes behind him.

When Wade catches his breath, he can see the mess they made on Peter's stomach and chest, and Wade has to chuckle seeing the drops that made it to Peter's chin. Wade wipes it off with his thumb, and says breathlessly, "Told ya."

Peter laughs and pulls him down for another kiss. And another. And another, until they are just laying side by side exchanging lazy kisses. They both know that they can't do this all afternoon. That's the penance, Wade figures, even if the only thing Wade wants is to curl up with him and snooze until it is time for Round 2. They may have gotten off together, but it was just a sample of what the future holds. When all the barriers are gone, Wade has every intention of spending a few weeks naked with Peter Parker.

So they work to get themselves dressed and decent. Wade smooths out Peter's unruly hair and Peter straightens Wade's uneven buttons on his shirt. Then hand in hand, they walk back across the street to May's. And if anyone noticed their absence, the only mention of it is Weasel passing a twenty to Gwen.

Chapter Text

Monday, Wade is still on cloud nine. The break had been exceptionally good, and not just because of sneaky handjobs at naptime. Friday, Bob called to let them know that they've worked a bit of magic to rent the house to Wade and Weasel until the closing proceedings could be completed—which was great. Weasel is doing all the paperwork to get the electric and water turned on while Wade is in class, and Wade plans to head to the hardware store on Tuesday to put in an order for sheet-rock and other materials to get the bedrooms finished. They have two weeks to get everything done, and Wade intends to do it in one.

Saturday, there were twelve in Wade's self-defense class with the initial core group taking on mentoring roles—which was wonderful. Stature and Miss America both squared off with him for demonstration purposes, and he's not so sure he didn't get a bruised rib from how hard Miss America kicked him through the padded gear. Cypher was in the middle of making a website for the group, too, with plans to have a sort of hotline in case of emergencies. Wade is not involved with that part of it, but he likes the idea.

Sunday, Wade finished the final touches on his personality paper and got most of the atoms for his molecule molded. He made 45 Death Stars: 11 in Strawberry (oxygen), 12 Black Cherry (carbon), and 22 White Raspberry (hydrogen). He still needs to put it all together into an overall molecular form, but the hard part is complete.

Wade didn't see Peter after Thanksgiving Day. Peter drove Gwen back to Manhattan and stayed a couple days to visit friends from NYU. Still, there was plenty of texting and one phone call that resulting in the need to change the sheets. Peter Parker, mild mannered chemistry professor, is a master of dirty phone sexing and Wade can't wait to find out how good he is at all the sexing.

Two weeks. Two class periods. The finish line is in sight.

Being a Monday, Wade and Kate drive separately. And as soon as they arrive on campus, Stature is there to meet up with them. As they walk into the building, some of the others from the class give Wade and Kate a fist bump as they head to Psychology. Seriously, Wade is pretty sure he is creating a small army of violent women, and he is pretty sure it will be a highlight in his memoirs.

Strangely, even though all of his classes are starting to talk about Finals, Wade doesn't feel the stress he did with midterms. He's pretty relaxed about the whole thing, mainly because he's kept his grades high. All of his classes, he's managed to maintain a 90% or higher even with all the stress and bullshit. Really, Wade's happy.

Kate, on the other hand, is starting to get a little frazzled by everything. She's struggling to stay on target, and Wade knows that there are a lot of factors in that. The one that she talks about the most is that she has yet to declare a major. Wade wishes he was more knowledgeable about the academic process and could somehow help, but the only thing he can do is rally her to keep going.

Wade coasted through the day until Chemistry. Chem has a series of finals. The first is the laboratory final, followed by the molecule presentation final, and the online Aleks lab final. Today is the lab final, and Peter sent out a class-wide email informing everyone to to bring a clear glass bottle which they would chemically silver. Due to Wade's brief attempt at being an alcoholic, he had a few clear bottles at his disposal. The one he chose was in the shape of a skull with a slight iridescent sheen. The email also said that Peter would not be the one grading this lab; that would be the job of Dr. Banner.

Dr. Banner is the only one in the room when Wade arrives. Wade gave him a quick wave before getting his materials out of his backpack and taking his seat with eye protection in place. Rather than the usual instructions written out in Peter's precise handwriting, there is a projection on the whiteboard of the lab procedure. Wade starts copying everything down as others enter the room.

Peter arrives just as Dr. Banner starts verbally going over the instructions for the final. They will be graded on proper lab procedures, calculations, and final product. Unlike many of their labs, there will be no group work other than in handling some of the chemicals which will require two people.

Wade works his way through the steps, always mindful of safety (especially with the hydrochloric acid). It is tedious, but not difficult. Even the math feels simple after his semester in Intermediate Algebra. Wade figured the amount of glucose water, sodium hydroxide, ammonia, and silver nitrate with great ease.

The final step, after putting the silver nitrate and and sodium hydroxide in the bottle, is for Professor Parker to add the ammonia. Despite the careful calculations, the ammonia is added a drop at a time until the mixture in the bottle turns clear, and Wade is instructed to cork it and shake it for approximately ten minutes.

"Pace yourself," Peter says with a smirk. "Don't want to wear yourself out."

Wade chuckles, shaking the bottle at about hip level. "I've had plenty of practice with this motion, professor. Shake weight is an awesome workout."

Peter just shakes his head, and Wade heads back to his table to finish shaking.

Wade lets his mind wander while he shakes the bottle, watching the other students in the room. One of the guys at his table (who he still doesn't know the name of) had to restart after adding chemicals in the wrong order. He wasn't the only one, either. A kind of cowboy looking kid dropped his bottle right after rinsing the acid and he had to make a run to get another.

It was pretty cool watching the bottle slowly develop a silver shine. It happened slowly at first, but after about five minutes the whole bottle started to look like a mirror. Amy (the only one Wade managed to learn the name of in the class) was grinning as her small ink bottle did the same thing. They were talking about potential uses for their containers (Wade planned to make a lamp), when there was a sudden shout.

Wade looked up to see the guy from his table staring in slight horror at his hand. Wade could see the bottle of acid and the slowly forming puddle and he knew. He just knew what had happened.

Immediately, Wade set aside his bottle and grabbed the kid by the back of the shirt and ushered him to one of the sinks and told him to put his hands under the water. The kid's hands were shaking, and Wade wasn't sure if he got acid on just one or both by the way he was acting.

"Fuck, it burns!" the kid gasped. "It fucking burns!"

Wade can see the kid's skin reddening and blistering. "Did it get on your clothes?"

"No!" he practically screams. "Goddamn it fucking burns!"

"Keep his hands under the water," Dr. Banner says to Wade in that smashy-tone that Peter mentioned. Wade nodded, having to forcefully keep the kid from taking his hands from under the spray.

"My skin! My fucking skin!" he keeps saying, and Wade can feel his head starting to get cloudy. He looks over his shoulder, desperate to get someone else to take over this job. Anyone, but the rest of the class is across the room because there's acid splashed everywhere and Peter is working to clean it up and Dr. Banner is getting someone from the medical office.

Wade focuses on his breathing. His mind is screaming a mantra of Stay in the present! Stay in the present! Stay in the present! But he can feel himself wanting to slip away. Still, he fights it. He blinks away the fire and sand because this kid, whoever the fuck he is, needs someone to do his thinking for him, and Wade was the one who jumped into action. Wade always jumps into action, but this is one time that he almost regrets it.

It feels like an eternity passes before the nursing staff arrives to take over, and from there, Wade has no idea what happens because he needs to get out of the room. Dr. Banner is in the middle of a lecture on lab safety and this incident being a prime example of carelessness, and Wade doesn't listen.

Out in the hallway, Wade tries to keep his breath slow and even, but his heart is pounding. His chest hurts. His fingertips are starting to go numb, and all Wade wants is for the screaming (Ow my skin ow my skin ow my skin) in his head to stop. But it isn't the kid's screaming; it's his own. It's that litany, that painful repetition of agony, and Wade can't shake it.

Wade feels for the wall, needing something, anything to steady him because there was so much happening behind his eyes that he was having a hard time seeing. All he could smell was that acrid scent of burnt skin and chemical fire and hear screams. So many fucking screams! Not just him, but Head and Kid and Wanda. Those hopeless, helpless screams that haunt his nightmares. His breathing was harsh. He could hear the roughness of it, just barely, over the thick sound of blood pumping in his ears and the roar of fire...

The desert road looks the same as all the others. Flat, rocky, almost white under the blazing sun with nothing to relieve the eyes except the occasional dust-covered shrub. It's hot as hell, and Wade is riding shotgun. Wanda's in the driver's seat. Head and Kid are in the back making jokes about Dog's girlfriend. Typical. Normal.

And then nothing is normal. All Wade feels is the bump-thump of the tires hitting something, and then there's fire and heat. His ears are ringing from the concussive force of the blast. In a split second, Wade has time to come to terms with his fate. He's always known that death was part of the job, and he's dodged that bullet (metaphorically, because he's been shot plenty of times) so far. But not this time, and that's fine. He's calm because there is nothing else to be when your light is going out. In an instant, Wade is ready to meet his maker.

Then he's dazed. And very much not dead. He can see Dog laying a few feet away, chest covered in blood and lifeless eyes staring back. Somewhere, someone is screaming. It feels like slow motion as Wade tries to push himself up from the ground, but his left shoulder is out of place and the right arm is broken. Still, he pushes through the pain and uses those shattered limbs to pull himself away from the fire. Except the fire is coming with him. He's the one on fire. And he's screaming. It's a sound so inhuman he doesn't even recognize it as his own voice.

Wade tries to roll, tries to put it out, but he can't move. He just can't MOVE. But he can see. He can see Dog lying dead a few feet away. He can see Kid staring at the empty place where his left leg is supposed to be. He can't see Wanda, but he can hear her. It doesn't feel real. It feels like his worst nightmare.

It feels like Hell.

For the first time, Wade wishes he were dead if only to make the pain stop. If only to get the image of one of his best friend's lifeless eyes out of his head. If only to stop smelling his own flesh burning away. If only to stop...

A touch on Wade's shoulder startles him, and blindly he swings an elbow back, colliding with something solid. Something human that lets out a yelp. And Wade looks. He looks through the haze of all those nightmares and he sees Peter on the ground.

And like a splash of water to the face, Wade snaps out of the flashback and into another nightmare. Peter is wincing, a hand holding his ribs.

"Fuck," Wade blurts as all the air rushes out of him.

Peter is wide eyed, and he asks, "Are you okay?"

Wade can't speak. He can't even think. Everything in him is screaming to run away because he just fucking hit Peter! There's something stinging in his eyes, and Wade shakes his head and he backs away and shudders out, "Fuck! I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I...I'm..."

The whole world is spinning, and his chest is so tight. Wade can feel the panic taking over. He knows what it is. He recognizes it, but it is consuming him just as much as the fire did. Body on autopilot, Wade makes a shaky run to the bathroom, barely making it to the trash before he's throwing up. His whole body is heaving, and it feels like his eyes are going to come out of his sockets.

Wade is sweating and feels ice cold inside. He feels like he's having a heart attack.

He feels like a monster because he hit Peter.

Then he hears Peter's voice behind him say, "Wade?"

And Wade can't even bring himself to turn around as he whimpers, "I'm sorry."

"I'm fine," Peter says as he steps closer, coming into Wade's range of vision. "Are you okay?"

Wade squeezes his eyes shut and leans against the wall. The wall is cool and Wade tries to anchor himself to that feeling, because that is the present. The present is the bathroom of the Baxter Science and Technology Building at New Salem Community College. He is safe and he is not on fire. He breathes deep, letting the cool air come into his lungs, along with the scent of toilet bowl cleaner and hand soap and the slight rank aroma of his own vomit.

Again, he says, "I'm sorry."

Peter comes to his side and very slowly and carefully puts his hand on Wade's forearm. It is a gentle touch. Calming. He says, "Tell me what just happened."

Wade's eyes are stinging, and he says for the fifth time, "I'm sorry."

Peter's hand comes up to cup Wade's chin, and finally Wade looks at him. At first, Wade is afraid because he expects to see anger and disgust. He expects to see in Peter's eyes what Wade sees in himself on his darkest days. But that isn't what he sees. He sees concern and kindness, and it almost hurts.

"It was that kid… He just…" Wade swallows hard and presses the heels of his hands against his eyes as if somehow he can make the images go away. "I can't explain it. I can't… Goddammit! I want this to fucking stop!"

Peter puts a hand over Wade's thundering heart, rubbing gentle, soothing circles, and Wade can feel the tightness start to loosen. Part of him wants to fight the comfort, because he doesn't deserve it. He doesn't deserve it from someone he just struck because he can't fucking control his own mind.

"I'm fucked up, Peter," Wade says as the tears start to fall. "I'm fucked up, and I probably always will be. My brain is a minefield, and shit just sets things off. Sometimes I can stop it, but sometimes… Sometimes I can't… Sometimes I can't even remember where I am because I'm somewhere else five years ago and thousands of miles away."

"I told you before; this isn't a deal breaker," Peter says, and Wade knows he means it because Peter Parker doesn't know how to be anything but sincere.

"I hurt you," Wade grinds out through clenched teeth. 

"I'm fine," Peter says. 

Wade asks in a weak voice, "But what if it's worse next time? What if I really hurt you?"

"You won't," Peter says, not an ounce of doubt.

"But if I do—"

"If you do, I will know that it isn't because you wanted to." Peter's hand is still over Wade's heart, and he says, "And I'll learn. I'll learn how to recognize the signs and know what to do. I'll become an expert in taking care of you because I love you, Wade."

Something happens at those words, because Wade can feel everything inside go silent. Wade covers Peter's hand with his own, holding tightly as his heart rate finally starts to slow. When he takes a breath, it doesn't hurt. They stay like that. Still. Silent. Breathing.

Then Peter says, "I need to go back to the lab. Make sure everything is good there. If you need to leave, go ahead. I'll see you in an hour or so, okay?"

Wade looks at him, and bewildered says, "You… You want to come over?"

"If you're good with that, yes," Peter says.

"It's good with me," Wade says.

Peter kisses him. It is a soft kiss to the corner of Wade's mouth, almost chaste. "I'll see you soon."

Wade stays in the bathroom for a while longer, just to compose himself. The shakiness in his limbs is still there. He feels like he had a sudden case of the flu, complete with miraculous healing, though the residual effects remain. By the time he walks back to the lab, everyone is gone except for Dr. Banner and Peter. A glance at the clock shows that almost an hour had passed.

Wade's silver skull is still sitting where he left it, only the cork was replaced with the silver cap. Dr. Banner says, "I went ahead and finished off the project for you."

"Yeah, uh… Sorry about that," Wade says. "I guess I kind of failed this one."

Dr. Banner flickers a smile and says, "That is not my assessment. Thank you for being so quick to take action."

Wade just nods and leaves the room. When he gets to the apartment, Kate is sitting at the counter doing homework. She looks at him and immediately asks, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Wade says. "Just… Just not feeling well."

"Do you need anything?" Kate asks.

Wade shakes his head. "No. I'll be fine." He walks to the hall, then says, "Peter says he's stopping by. Just so you're not surprised."

"Thanks for the warning," Kate says. Then she smirks and asks, "Do I need my earbuds for the night?"

Wade shakes his head again, and continues to his room where he collapses onto his bed. It is as if every ounce of energy has left. Taking off his shoes feels like a monumental effort, so he curls up still fully clothed with his little voodoo doll in hand. He turns on the small aroma diffuser on his bedside table and hits the button that turns on his Nate-prescribed meditation music. All of these things are meant to calm and soothe, and sometimes they actually work.

Still, Wade startles awake when the doorbell rings. He can hear muffled conversation, and a minute later there's a soft knock on his door.

"Enter," Wade says groggily.

Peter comes inside and closes the door. He has a bag on his shoulder which he sets at the foot of Wade's bed. Then he takes off his shoes and gets in bed beside Wade, maneuvering himself up against Wade's back with his arm around Wade's torso.

Wade wasn't sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn't cuddling. Still, it is nice. And he manages to say, "I'll have you know I'm rarely the little spoon."

Peter laughs softly. "You strike me as an aggressive little spoon."

Wade huffs. "Oh, just shut up and cuddle me, dammit."

Peter tightens his hold on him, and whispers, "I rest my case."

On any normal occasion where Wade has a vivid flashback with accompanying panic attack, the only thing that really relaxes him is extensive time alone because people only agitate him. Somehow, Peter Parker seems to be the exception to that rule because Wade falls asleep. It's still early, and Wade figures that Peter will be gone when he wakes. Instead he wakes with his head against Peter's side, and Peter is reading a comic book on his tablet.

"Nerd," Wade says as he loops his arm around Peter's waist.

"You're the one who suggested I read Preacher," Peter says with a chuckle. "Cassidy is hilarious. There aren't enough Irish vampires in the world."

"I'm kind of partial to Arse-face," Wade says.

Peter sets aside the tablet, and asks, "You hungry?"

Wade's stomach answers with a growl. He laughs and says, "Maybe?"

They go out to the living room where Weasel and Kate are playing Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. There is pizza on the counter, and Wade and Peter grab a slice and stand by watching the bean battle. Kate is a shit-talker, and Weasel is focused because she's bombarding him with extra beans. They are so wrapped up in the game that they don't notice Peter and Wade until Weasel is defeated.

Weasel is the first to see them, and he says, "Oh, hi! Didn't mean to wake you lovebirds. You feeling better, babe?"

"Just fine, schnookums," Wade replies.

Peter laughs.

Weasel gets up and walks to the kitchen, and after grabbing another soda he walks to Wade and asks in a low voice, "Seriously, are you okay?"

"Kinda had one of my drowning days," Wade says.

Weasel gives him a squeeze on the shoulder, then motions to Peter to come closer. He says something to him that Wade can't hear, followed by a stern look, and then he asks Wade, "Wanna jump in the game? Show that evil menace child of ours who's boss of the beans?"

"In your dreams!" Kate calls over her shoulder.

"Nah," Wade says. "I'm still kind of out of it."

Wade and Peter eat and watch Weasel and Kate play a couple more rounds. Then the four of them watch an episode of Gotham before Wade is again struggling to keep his eyes open. So he and Peter return to his room. Only this time, they both put on clothing more suitable for sleeping. There was no real discussion about Peter staying the night; it just was kind of a given. And Wade can't help but be amused that Peter's sleep pants are covered in Green Lantern emblems.

They crawl back under the covers, nestled up together.

As they both start to relax into sleep, Wade asks, "What did Weas say earlier?"

Peter smiles. "He told me to take care of you."

Wade shakes his head. He loves his friends. He loves them a lot. Which reminds him… "You know, with all this stress today, I kind of forgot to tell you something."

"What?" Peter says, resting his forehead against Wade's.

Wade clears his throat. "I, uh...I love you, too."

"I know," Peter says.

Wade kisses him, holding him close and letting all of Peter's warmth fill him up. And best of all, he really believes that Peter loves him. He must love him to want to put up with Wade's special level of fucked up. Especially since Peter doesn't really see him as fucked up at all. For someone to see him at his absolute worst and to not run for the hills?

That… That's kind of magic. It's the best kind of magic.

And yeah, Wade didn't imagine that the first night he spent with Peter Parker would be after having a crazy-ass flashback and they would spend the whole night in their superhero jammies cuddling in a strictly PG-13 way, but really, he wouldn't change it for the world.

Chapter Text

Because he slept so much the evening before, Wade wakes up a little before 6am. Peter is still sound asleep, and Wade takes a moment to just absorb the moment because it feels really good. It's been a long time since Wade's shared a bed with someone. Even when married to Shiklah, they slept in separate rooms unless she was in the mood to use Wade like a live-action sex doll. He used to pretend he was asleep just to avoid having to talk to her in the morning because it always turned out so bad for him. Now, Wade doesn't want to sleep. He barely wants to blink because he's afraid that this is the dream.

Peter looks so relaxed, too. His breath is slow and even, a calm legato rhythm of someone who is in peaceful deep sleep. As romantic as it may seem to watch the one you love sleeping, Wade's body (and bladder) is now awake, too. So after a few minutes he carefully extracts himself from the bed so as to not disturb his sleeping partner and quietly goes into the bathroom.

After relieving himself, Wade decides he's due for a shower. He smells like stress-sweat and generally feels clammy because it was so warm sleeping with someone else. Peter is like a furnace, and Wade is suddenly liking the idea of winter cuddling. Specifically naked winter cuddling.

Wade steps under the water, stretching his neck and shoulders as he rinses off the last remnants of sleep. It's about an hour before he usually wakes, but that just means he might be able to get a little bit of an early start on things. He has a lot planned for the day, most of it involving the new house. He needs to take some measurements and make a list of the things necessary to complete the place by the time Al gets to New Salem.

Once out of the shower, Wade towels off and starts applying lotion to his skin grafts. He's standing with one foot on the counter when he hears an odd sound, almost like a burbling brook with crystalline chimes that make him think of fairy music. A couple minutes later when he's twisting himself into a pretzel to try to reach the middle of his back, there's a knock on the door.

"Who is it?" Wade asks in a soft sing-song.

"It's me," Peter says. "Can I come in?"

Wade grabs his towel and wraps it around his hips and says, "Yeah. I'm just about out of here."

"Stay where you are," Peter says as he slips inside, closing the door behind him before all the steam can escape. He wraps his arms around Wade's waist and says, "I woke up and got lonely."

Wade kisses his forehead and says, "You came to the right place. This bathroom is small and cozy. Impossible to be lonely."

Peter breathes deep, and rests his face against Wade's chest. "You smell good."

"You're adorable when you first wake up, you know that?" Wade kisses his temple and asks, "Was that magical sound your alarm?"

"Mmm hmmm," Peter says with a nod.

"I would never wake up to that," Wade says with a laugh. "It's too purdy."

"It's science," Peter says. "The series of tones is designed to stimulate the brain to wake. It will wake anyone."

"Nice," Wade says, again kissing his forehead. "What time do you need to leave?"

"Meeting at 8," Peter says.

Wade smiles. "How about I make you some breakfast?"

"Mmmmm…" Peter looks up at Wade and says, "How about I have you for breakfast?"

Wade makes a scandalized noise. "Why Peter! I do think you are trying to seduce me."

"Yes," Peter says as he kisses Wade's neck just below his ear.

Wade is pretty sure that his towel and dick are going to have a standoff because Peter shimmies out of his sleep pants. Peter pulls Wade against him, kissing him deep and slow before pulling the towel off of Wade as he kneels down and sucks the head of Wade's dick into his mouth.

It takes monumental self control to not moan out loud with how amazing Peter's mouth feels. And goddamn, Peter is good. He's so damn good with the way he moves his tongue and the slide of his lips. Fuck, it feels so goddamn good. And Wade want's to write an ode to Peter's mouth. He can almost swear there are angels singing somewhere and he grips Peter's hair to pull him off.

Wade lifts him up and puts him on the counter, and takes Peter's dick deep. Peter grips his shoulders, his face slack and eyes closed. It's been a really long time since Wade's done this, and he wants to make it good. He presses his tongue against the veins and contours and Peter digs his fingers in and lets out a soft, oh fuck, when Wade slides him all the way into his throat and swallows around the head of his cock.

"I'm gonna…" Peter says, and pulls Wade up to him, kissing him hard and deep as he grips both their cocks in his hand. They're both spit-slick and close to the edge, and they're moaning softly into each other's mouths until they are both tipping over the edge, and breathing hard and fast. They slump against each other, frissons of pleasure making them both shiver in the humid bathroom.

Wade kisses him and says, "That's how I like to wake up."

"Me too," Peter says.

From the other side of the door, Kate says, "Are you done? Because I need to pee."

Both Wade and Peter laugh, a little embarrassed. Wade says, "Just a second."

"Oh, take your time," Kate says, chuckling.

Wade and Peter cleanup quick, and both exit the bathroom with slightly averted eyes. There's just enough time for Wade to make Peter a breakfast sandwich before having a smooch as he walked out the door. Well, two or three smooches. The sandwich was probably cold…

Wade dressed in his ratty jeans and old hoodie, and headed to the new house with Weasel a little after 8 o'clock to start working on the cosmetics to get the place livable. The two of them walk through the place, taking measurements of the unfinished rooms and making lists of materials they need to buy. Because Wade used to do construction when between deployments, he has quite a bit of experience in building and finishing. Except this time, the place he's working on is his. (Or at least half his). And it feels good. Everything feels good.

Really, Wade feels like he's on a path. He's just not quite sure where that path is going. Judging by the scenery, it is somewhere pretty good. He thinks about all the things that led him to this moment, and it almost feels like some kind of destiny unfolding, though Wade doesn't really believe in such thing. He just knows that sometimes when you are on the right path, things happen for you. The same thing happened when he joined the Marine Corps. Things just seemed to fall in line. And it was that way for a long time.

And then things sort of stopped falling together. They started coming apart, and Wade knew that something needed to change, but he couldn't figure out what to do because everything that always worked stopped working. The explosion was the end point, because nothing was the same after. And everything he did—the booze, the pills, getting married, trying to go back into the field. It didn't work because the changes were, in essence, bandaids. All superficial patches in hopes of filling a void in a vessel with too many holes.

It wasn't until Wade started working on himself that he started to change. He'd be a liar if he said he did it alone, because without finding a good support system, Wade would have killed himself by now either intentionally or by accident. Weasel and Nate gave him the tools he needed, and he's been slowly putting all his pieces back together. And now. Now, Wade feels like he's finally walking the path again.

Maybe it is that Dark Forest of Error that Dante talks about, and you just have to go through Hell to get back on track. Well, Wade's been there. He's been to Hell and for a while thought that Death was the most beautiful mistress he could ever chase, but he's ditched her for something better. And even on days where he stumbles and ends up in the bushes, he's still moving forward.

All of this is what rolls through Wade's mind as he meanders through the halls, trying to imagine what it will look like when they get a coat of paint on the walls and install some wainscotting in the kitchen and put some crown moulding around the ceiling. They ordered all the fixtures for the bathrooms, including an old-person tub to put into the ensuite for Al, so she won't break a hip or something getting in and out of the shower.

By the time Wade needs to leave for his self-defense class, the order from the lumberyard has arrived, consisting of a small pallet of sheetrock and boards, drywall mud, and a few pounds of screws, caulking, and two five gallon cans of paint primer. If not for the fact that he cares about his students, Wade would have skipped just to get to start working on the walls.

Wade goes to the gym after taking a quick shower and picking up Kate at the apartment. This time, there are just 10 in the group. Blindfold has strep throat and one of the newer girls, Mercury, had a family emergency. Wade pushes them through the PT workout, then has them pair off to work on their punching and evasive tactics. Miss America fights like a true brawler, and Stature is a pro at slipping holds.

Still, Kate is the one he is most impressed with. He noticed it before, but now he's certain she has the uncanny ability to copy any move he makes and turn it around on him. He's only ever seen one other person who could copy fighting styles in that way, and Wade isn't so sure that Kate isn't better at it. There's a lot of determination in her to be the hardest hitting. She puts her whole body into every punch and kick, and more than once, Wade has found himself stunned by a blow even through the sparring pads.

It's a little after seven when they finish up, and Wade and Dr. Maximoff escort everyone to their cars, and Wade and Kate wait at the gym until they get text messages informing them that the others arrived home safely. Wade hasn't checked his phone since arriving, and he finds that he has messages from Peter. Hope you have a good class tonight (Sent at 4:30), and, Call me when you get home (Sent at 6:50).

After Wade get's the last of the messages from the recruits, Wade dials Peter's number and Peter answers on the first ring, and says, "Where are you?"

Wade can hear a strange tone in his voice. "Something wrong?"

"You could say that," Peter says on a sigh. "I just pulled into the apartments. It's...I can't tell you over the phone."

There's a feeling settling into Wade. A feeling of dread. That unmistakable feeling that shit is about to happen. It's a feeling that he knows all too well. He says, "Okay. I'll be there in ten."

He hangs up and Kate asks, "What's going on?"

"I don't know, but it's probably not good," Wade says.

Inside, Peter is sitting in Wade's chair, and he and Weasel both stand up when Wade and Kate enter. Wade takes time only to close the door before Peter says, "We need to talk in private."

Wade looks at Weasel, and Weasel just shrugs, so Wade follows Peter to his bedroom. He closes the door, and Peter takes a deep breath and shakes his head. Then he looks at him and says, "Banner knows."

Two words, and Wade feels a little sick inside. All he can say is, "What?"

Peter runs both hands back through his hair, and says, "He has a picture. In his email. Of you and me. At that diner we went to before Thanksgiving."

Wade's brow scrunched. "A picture?"

"I tried to tell him that we're just friends, but he said there were other pictures." Peter shakes his head again and says, "Pictures of you and me in the car. On the side of a road. Out in the middle of fucking nowhere."

"The fuck?" Wade says, trying to make sense of what he's hearing. "Like… Someone was following us?"

"Yeah," Peter says. His hands are shaking as he again runs them back through his hair. "It's so fucking bizarre. I don't get it. What the fuck? Why the would someone…" Peter lets out a frustrated sound, then takes a deep breath and says, "Not the fucking point. The point is Banner's going to review every assignment you've done. All the labs. All your reports. All my grades. Everything. Depending on his opinion, you may see your grade change."

"Fuck my fucking grade," Wade says. "What about you? What's going to happen to you?"

"I'm not sure," Peter says with a shrug. "I just don't know. I guess it depends on what Banner thinks after reviewing your work. But then again, I can see him sending me for an ethics review and me never getting another teaching job again."

"Fuck, Peter. I'm sorry," Wade says. "This is my fault."

"It's not your fault," Peter says. "I mean, as you say, I'm supposed to be the adultier adult around here. And I haven't been. I've been letting my dick do the thinking, and for some reason someone decided to take pictures of my thought processes."

"We haven't been fucking though," Wade says. "I mean, what could these pictures even show?"

"They show me straddling your lap in a fogged up car," Peter says. "Even if we weren't fucking, it's kind of hard to prove it." He sighs, and says, "The only thing that might save my ass is I've known Banner for like twelve years. He's the one who recommended me for the Stark Genius Award."

Wade sits on the bed and shakes his head. He opens his mouth to say something, but just shakes his head again and lays back feeling very much like a puppet whose strings have been cut.

Peter lays beside him, both men staring up at the ceiling for a moment before Peter says, "I'm concerned, Wade. Not about my job. It's just… Someone's following me."

"Yeah," Wade says. He looks at Peter, and says, "If that's the case, then whoever it is probably knows you're here. Probably not going to help your case with Banner."

"Cat's out of the bag," Peter says, looking at him. The smile on his face is dimmed by worry, but he says, "No point in hiding it now."

Wade sighs. "I still feel like this is my fault. I mean… I'm the one who kept moving things forward."

"I kissed you first," Peter points out.

"Not your fault," Wade says with a little smile. "I was a Jedi Knight, and the Force is strong with me."

Peter adds, "And I emailed you via my private email first."

"But I also sent you my number," Wade says.

Peter smirks and says, "And I'm the one who's been checking you out since the first day in class."

Wade stares at him for a moment, then says, "You were checking me out the first day of class?"

Peter laughs. "Yes. Yes, I was."

Wade pushes up on his elbow, and says, "Why you dirty cad."

"You tend to bend over tables," Peter says, his face heating up. "I kept wishing you would just sit down instead of leaning because I was having bad thoughts."

"Oh my stars," Wade says with a chuckle.

"The point is," Peter says as he looks into Wade's eyes. "I know how I got here. This isn't your fault. You didn't force me into anything. I made my choices and I have to accept the consequences."

Wade turns serious and says, "We need to figure out why someone is watching you."

"That too," Peter says with a nod.

Wade is quiet a moment, thinking. The idea of someone surveilling Peter is infuriating, but he doesn't want to let that anger cloud his mind. Wade knows a little bit about surveillance. He knows that in this modern age, it is pretty easy to track somebody because everyone carries a handy little device that pings their location constantly. More than likely, if there is any kind of surveillance happening, it is happening through Peter's cell phone.

Luckily, Wade also happens to know a pretty awesome IT guy who also happens to be his platonic lifemate. Thus, Wade and Peter stay up pretty late with Weasel working his magic. Weasel's specialty is digital security. Companies like AIM and Stark Industrial have a lot of intellectual property, and they don't want any of it falling into their competitor's hands. There is a lot of digital espionage happening, and all it takes is one person to forget to log off or leave a cell phone in a diner for their trade secrets to become public.

Weasel got the job with AIM by assaulting and successfully breaking through all of their defenses from the comfort of his own home. The owner of the company, Aldrich Killian, offered him a sizable salary if he would make their systems impenetrable. Weasel was only 21 at the time, and he accepted.

Considering that most of his work involves high-level security, it really isn't much of a shock that Weasel finds the source of the trace in a little under ten minutes. He finds logging information for a GPS surveillance bug that was implanted into Peter's phone via a text message. He scrolls through the messages on Peter's phone and finds the message. It's one of those innocuous looking texts that looks something like a wrong number.

Peter's brow scrunches. "But that message happened after Thanksgiving. These pictures are definitely from before."

Wade raises an eyebrow, and says, "What about my phone?"

It takes less than a minute for Weasel to find the code in Wade's phone, hidden in the same way. Only in Wade's case, it has been sending information on him since early in November. Weasel says, "It looks like it started a couple days after your overnight stay at the New Salem PD."

Kate sets aside her phone. "What?"

"They've been tracking me," Wade says. "Why?"

But Weasel is now on a mission, and he finds that all of them—including Kate—have had their phones tampered with via the same bug. The only one that hasn't been affected is Weasel's work phone, which has an extremely high level of encryption and security features.

If Wade was mad before, he's furious now. He says to Weasel, "Can you find out where this data's going?"

"Already on it, babe," Weasel says. After a few minutes, he stops and looks up at Wade and says, "I don't know who you pissed off or how, but this information is feeding back to the security division of Oscorp."

"Holy shit," Kate says as she stands. Everyone looks at her, and she says, "Stanley Osborn? Grandson of Norman Osborn? He's Travis' best friend. You put him in a hospital. Their court date is soon."

Wade's jaw tenses.

Kate continues, the anger rolling out of her with every word. "The fuckers are probably trying to find dirt on all of us. Me, Stature, Miss America, Magik, Dust. All of us. And if they can do that, then the little fucks will get away with everything."

"They're not getting away with fucking anything," Wade says flatly. "They walk out of that court, I'll put them back in the hospital."

"And with that sentiment, I'm glad I already disrupted the voice monitoring," Weasel says. Then he shakes his head, and says, "I don't know man. This is pretty fucked up. I think if I were you, I'd get ahold of Matt or someone for legal advice." He looks at Kate and says, "You too, kid. This is some serious shit."

It's after midnight, or Wade would call Matt immediately. Instead of calling, he sends Matt and Foggy both a text. It's just a quick, I'm in need of your counsel, counselors, message, and Wade looks at Peter. "Looks like I am to blame for this."

Peter says, "No. Some entitled asshole is to blame."

"What about the others?" Kate asks. "I mean if someone is tailing all of us? Listening to our conversations? What the fuck!"

Wade grips her shoulders to try to ground her as she starts to shiver. He keeps his voice steady and calm. "We'll talk to Dr. Maximoff. Tell her what we've found out. She might have some advice."

"This happens all the time, Wade," Kate says, angry tears in her eyes. "It happens all the time. Fucking rich dickheads get a good lawyer and turn their victims into liars on the stand. It happens all the time. It's like evidence doesn't even fucking matter when there's enough money involved."

"That's not going to happen," Wade says. "We know what they're doing now. We'll be able to prepare."

Weasel stands beside her and says, "I'm downloading all the exchanged data. I'll hand it directly over to the prosecutor. Hell, I'll report it to AIM because they tried to infiltrate my work phone. Osborn will have more people up his ass than he ever dreamed could fit there. We've got your back."

Kate nods, and says, "But what if…"

"No what ifs." Wade says. "We're ahead of it now."

"But what about you?" she says looking at Peter. "You're the one who's going to suffer for all this. And you weren't even involved!"

"There's worse things than being fired." Peter shrugs and says, "Really, if the result is helping you and your friends, then it's a good trade in my opinion."

"It's still not right," Kate says. She grits her teeth and says, "I almost hope the little bastards are set free. I hope they are, because I'm going to rip them apart. I'll make them wish they were somewhere as safe as prison."

And there's that stone-cold killer that Wade knew was lurking under the surface. He's feeling both proud and worried. The two feelings are mixing inside of him, and he doesn't know which one is the best to feel. But one thing is sure: Kate isn't scared. She's pissed.

Chapter Text

Wednesday, Kate decides to skip classes and goes with Weasel to meet with the prosecuting attorney. And while Wade really wanted to go along, he also knew that he didn't have anything to add to the situation. During his hour break between World Civ and math, he calls Weasel and feels like some small portion of justice still exists in the world, but only a small piece. The prosecutor can use the illegal monitoring to block any evidence generated from it from being used in court. However, that won't stop the defense from bringing it up, and it won't guarantee the jurors will not consider it no matter how they are instructed. It feels like a wash instead of a win.

In his own personal matters, Wade knows that Banner's review has started because all of his scores from Introduction to Chemistry have been put into a pending state. At 4:30 Thursday, Wade has a meeting with Dr. Banner and Peter in Banner's office, and he was kind of dreading it. Peter seemed neutral, and Wade wished that he could tell if it was just an act or if Peter really didn't care if he lost his job or not.

Still, Wade cared. Wade cared a lot because Peter told him frequently how much he loved to teach. He talked about it all the time. He left a very well paying position for Stark Industrial to become an adjunct professor who made a quarter of his previous salary because he wanted to teach.

Wade expressed as much as he lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling with the air slowly returning to his lungs after Nate had slammed him there. It had been a while since Wade had gone to "therapy", and he was happy that Nate agreed to meet him at the gym before the meeting. The Xavier School had a half day in preparation for a Visitor's Weekend. Sometimes, Wade's timing is excellent.

Wade sighs, his hands coming to rest on his solar plexus as he says, "I think I'm cursed. Or maybe… Maybe I'm the curse."

Nate stands over him. Wade feels like he is looking up at a redwood tree and it makes him slightly dizzy. Either that, or it the whole lack of oxygen in his brain thing. Nate asks, "Why do you think you are a curse?"

Wade shrugs against the mat, feeling a twinge in his right shoulder. "I just… It feels like the people around me always get hurt."

"Do you think you are the one hurting them?" Nate asks.

"I feel like my presence sometimes leads to it, yes." Wade sighs heavily. "I mean, I always seem to skate through everything, and the people I care about always suffer."

Nate says, "You think you have never suffered?"

"That's not what I mean." Wade frowns. "And stop doing that."

"Doing what?" Nate asks.

"That thing you do where you ask questions like you don't know what I'm talking about and I have to explain shit that you already know." Wade huffs. "I know I've been hurt and shit, but I can handle being hurt. I've had a lot of practice and I'm good at it. But other people... They don't need to hurt because of me."

Nate starts unwrapping the tape from his hand. "You don't want other people to hurt, and you think you should be able to prevent it."

Wade scowls and rubs his shoulder, still staring at the ceiling. "Kind of. It isn't just Peter, either. It's everyone I have ever known. I always feel like if I love someone, they're going to be hurt. Sometimes literally hurt by me. I mean, you know what happened to Weasel. And…" His voice got a little thick as he added, "You know about Dog."

"You are not responsible for that explosion," Nate says, and Wade feels the tears start to sting his eyes. Nate kneels down beside him, and says, "You need to let go of that guilt, Wade. It is not your fault that he died. It is not your fault that Kid lost his leg. You almost died, too."

Wade covers his face, and tries to control his breathing. Between the panic attack and flashback on Monday and the bullshit of Tuesday, Wade was really struggling to keep all of his demons from coming out to play. If he really thinks about it, he knows that his self-loathing is the direct result of the explosion. "Survivor's guilt" is what people call it. And Wade feels guilty. He feels guilty for every moment of happiness he experiences because it feels like happiness he has at the expense of someone who never got to see another birthday. Someone who died too young and never got to experience life at all. The fact that he wasn't the one who made the explosive or concealed it on the road did not matter. The only thing that matters is that he is alive, and Dog is not.

After a few minutes, Nate hoists Wade up off the floor and the two of them sit on one of the benches. Wade slumps forward, his elbows resting on his knees, head hung while tears continue to drip off the end of his nose onto the mat.

"Someday you won't feel like this," Nate says as he puts an arm around Wade. "You haven't had the chance to really heal. You've started the process, but between your own struggles with the hospital and your marriage—you haven't been able to really work through everything. But I know that you have improved just since we first started doing this. You've made big leaps. You're making healthy decisions. You're taking care of yourself. You're forming positive relationships."

Wade huffs, "I'm causing people to lose their jobs."

Nate counters, "I would like to point out that Peter at any time could have chosen to not pursue a relationship with you. He is an adult capable of giving or denying his consent."

"But I'm irresistible," Wade says, managing to laugh a little.

"'Indomitable' might be a better word for what you are," Nate says fondly.

Wade wipes his face on the back of his taped hands, and says, "You always make me have to look shit up."

"Personal growth, Wade," Nate says, giving his shoulder a squeeze before standing. "And as for your situation with Peter, I would advise only one thing, and that is to examine your motivations. Do not let guilt make you choose or abandon a relationship."

Wade nods, and says, "I'll remember that."

It takes a few minutes for Wade to completely compose himself, and by that time it is a little after 4 o'clock. So he does a quick rinse in the locker room shower and heads to the college. Being late in the day, Wade finds a spot close to the Baxter Building, and walks briskly to Banner's office, where Peter is standing outside waiting for him.

Peter gives him a concerned look, and asks, "Everything okay?"

"Just had a meeting with my therapist," Wade says with a shrug. "I'm fine. Just needed to get some shit out of my system."

Peter starts to reach for him, but Banner comes out of his office and says, "Let's get this over with."

Banner's office, unlike Peter's, is a very large office with a large window that looks out onto the small grove of trees behind the Baxter Building. There is a wall dedicated to all of Banner's degrees and certifications, along with a wall that is nothing but books. His desk is large and uncluttered, and there is ample space to move around.

Wade and Peter sit across the table from Banner, and after the door is closed and Banner is seated behind his desk, he says, "I doubt that we need to go over too extensively why you are here today and why I am less than pleased with this situation, so I'll just get to the point." He gestures to his computer, and says, "I have looked over all of your work, Mr. Wilson, and I compared it to what I would consider A-work. My conclusion is that there is no evidence that your relationship with Professor Parker has altered your grade. And I know from personal observation that your work in the laboratory is excellent."

Oddly, Wade feels a slight bit of happiness from that fact. Still, he knows that this conversation is not over.

Banner pauses to take off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose, before he says, "This is not an easy decision for me to make. I do not want to lose a member of my staff, especially one as valuable as you are, Peter. But this institution has a policy against student-staff relationships."

Wade glances at Peter. Peter's face is unreadable.

"That being said," Banner says as he sits up a little straighter. "You are an adjunct professor for this institution. In essence, you are a contract worker."

A little bud of hope starts to fill Wade's chest, but he keeps his expression neutral.

"And since you are a contract worker, I am not going to fire you for this, as our bylaws are generally reserved for only full-time staff," Banner says. "However, your contract will not be renewed for next semester. In the fall, should you choose, you may return. If not, I will give you a good recommendation for whatever position you may find."

The bud of hope dissipated, and Wade looks at Peter for any clue how he should feel about this. Peter's expression is still neutral. He nods and says, "Understood, Dr. Banner."

"As for you, Mr. Wilson," Banner says. "You are now on academic probation. Provided that you do not break any other institutional rules between now and the end of the semester, it will be removed from your record." Wade starts to say something, and Banner holds up a hand to stop him. "This is lenient, Mr. Wilson. And far better than you would fare if this had to go before a board."

"I was just going to say that I am pretty sure I can manage to behave myself for two weeks," Wade says with a forced smile.

Banner's eye twitches, and he says to both of them, "My advice is keep it off campus and out of my sight. Whatever happens after the grades are submitted is none of my concern."

Peter and Wade walk out of the building, and once outside Wade stops and takes a deep breath of the cold air. Peter stays beside him, and says, "You still okay?"

Wade nods. "Yeah. I guess. For a second there, I kinda thought you'd get out of this one clean."

"I'm still mostly clean," Peter says with a smile. "With all the worst-case scenarios I've found on the internet, this is actually pretty clean. At least I won't be a complete pariah."

Wade laughs. "You're too cute to be a pariah."

Peter gives Wade a sly look and says, "How about you come over to my place?"

"I thought we're supposed to behave?" Wade says with a smirk. "I mean, I know I'm a delinquent now, but..."

"On campus we're supposed to behave," Peter says. "But my place is not on campus."

"Is that so?" Wade says. "Well, I've never been to your place, so this could be an exciting end to the day."

Peter smiles. "I was kind of hoping it would be."

Peter's little duplex is on the opposite side of New Salem from the college. It is a small place. Smaller than Wade and Weasel's place by probably five hundred square feet, though it is also a two bedroom. Just shrunk.

Once inside, Peter starts picking up clothes and putting dishes in the sink, and apologizing for the mess. "I didn't really plan to ask you to come over. But then again, I'm feeling a little impulsive right now."

Wade sidles up behind him and kisses the junction of Peter's neck and shoulder, and Peter goes still as Wade says, "I understand being impulsive." He smooths his hands down Peter's biceps, and says, "But we have time. I don't want anything we do to be because of anything other than it is what we both want."

Peter looks at him and says, "Good thing I've wanted you for weeks."

Wade turns him around and says, "Then put down the dishes and show me where the bedroom is."

The trip to the bedroom is one with a lot of stumbling and stopping due to removing clothing. By the time they arrive at the bed, Wade is down to his jeans and Peter is hopping on one leg to get out of his trousers. They fall onto the bed a little less than gracefully, and Wade pulls Peter against him. They are both hard, and for Peter it is quite pronounced due to being down to his boxers already.

Wade dips a hand below Peter's waistband, gripping the hard, hot flesh and kissing Peter deep, capturing the pleased moan released. He strokes him slow and languid, his mouth and hand matching pace. Peter's hands roam Wade's body, gliding over the topography of scars and skin grafts. Wade can feel the light touch both in the place where Peter's hand connectes and in places across his torso. The ghost touch of nerves that sometimes want to misfire, and in this moment, Wade loves the sensation. It is like Peter has more arms and is touching him everywhere at once.

Then Peter gasps, "I want you to fuck me, Wade. Please."

"Well, since you said please," Wade says. He rolls onto his back to finish unbuttoning and unzipping his pants, watching as Peter gets up to grab a condom and lube from the bathroom. The view is pretty nice, and Wade is amazed that he never took the time to really look at just how muscular and perfect Peter is. The other morning in the bathroom had been quick, and there was no luxury of time to just observe.

When Peter comes back to the bed, he stands between Wade's now bare knees, seeming to take in the view for himself, too. Normally, Wade felt insecure in front of such open scrutiny, but the smile that Peter wears puts him at ease. It wasn't mocking. It was something else. The kind of look a person has when being told they've been upgraded to First Class when they thought they'd be riding in the cargo hold with the pets.

And speaking of riding, Peter straddles Wade, lining up their cocks so Peter can stroke them both with his lube-slick hand. Wade holds out his hand, and instead of passing the bottle, Peter drizzles a little on his fingertips. Wade reaches between them and finds Peter's entrance. Peter lets out a soft gasp when Wade slides a finger inside.

It isn't long before he's saying, "More," and Wade obliges. Really, Wade's a little nervous. He hasn't done this in so long, he's afraid he's going to hurt Peter. Having been on both ends, he knows how poor prep and lack of lube can lead to a bad experience, and he doesn't want that to be the story of their first time together. Wade wants to make it good, so he waits for Peter's instruction.

The way that Peter's body moves on his fingers makes Wade excited to see what he'll look like riding his cock. His whole body is graceful, all lean and tight and perfect. Wade knows that he's a lucky man, and that feeling of being lucky is only getting more intense as Peter smoothly slides the condom over Wade's cock and gives a few strokes to add more lubricant.

Peter rises up, and Wade removes his fingers and pulls Peter down into a kiss that is all tongues and teeth and heat. When Peter begins to guide Wade inside, Wade feels like all of his nerves were concentrated on the tight ring of muscle encircling his cock. He has the sudden desire to say be gentle to me, but all he can do is grip Peter's hips and fight the urge to thrust up into him. Because he really wants to.

But dear god, when Peter starts to move. Wade is pretty sure that he's hearing angels sing and birds chirping like he's some goddamn fairy tale. Or maybe that is just the squeaking bed frame. Either way, it feels like a holy experience, and Wade is mesmerized by Peter's lithe movements and the way their bodies just seem to fit. Everything about it feels like something that he was born to do, rather than something he needs to figure out. His cock was made for fucking Peter Parker.

Peter is reduced to breathy sounds and near-words, a soft litany that Wade wants to turn into a battle cry. With only a couple of head and hand gestures (because neither are doing well with higher brain functions), Wade and Peter roll and Wade takes over the work, thrusting into Peter at just the right angle to turn those breathy words into moans. Peter dug his fingers into Wade's shoulders, pulling him down to kiss. He wrapped his legs around Wade's hips, shifting the angle just so, and soon both of them were in that blissful zone.

Wade's whole body is aching for release. He strokes Peter's cock, and soon they are both shaking and panting, reduced to guttural sounds and broken syllables. Peter comes with a near shout and Wade is right behind him. Peter keeps moving his hips until Wade's whole body is jerking from over stimulation.

Wade drops down onto his elbows, kissing Peter slow and deep, his whole body humming and cock still twitching inside of Peter.

"Fuck me," Wade says with a breathy laugh as he pulls out and lays beside Peter.

Peter looks at him and says, "Let me catch my breath, and I will."

Wade grins. "See, I knew you were a team player."

"Hungry?" Peter asks, still breathless.

Wade nods. "I could eat."

After discarding the condom and cleaning up a little, Wade and Peter go to the kitchen and Wade realizes that Peter is very much the quintessential bachelor. As in, he has no food except for a few protein bars and a large collection of takeout menus. They decide to order something from a delivery place, and Wade is about to place the call when he notices how many missed calls he has from Weasel.

"Something wrong?" Peter asks.

"Just need to call home," Wade says as he pushes dial.

Peter slouches against him, and Wade's free hand comes up to stroke through Peter's hair as the phone rings. Weasel answers on the first and says, "Why haven't you answered your phone!"

Wade sighs and says, "I've been occupied. What's wrong?"

"The Nightmare Queen is here," Weasel says.

Wade's hand stills in Peter's hair, and he says, "She's where?"

Weasel sounds like he's on the verge of either panic or murder. "Outside. In a big black car. Waiting for you."

"Make her leave," Wade says, feeling all of the endorphins dissipate.

"I am not equipped to deal with her," Weasel says. "She scares me, Wade."

Wade knows that he's lost this one. He looks at Peter, then says, "Fine. I…" He sighs and says, "I'll be there in a little bit." He hangs up and says, "The universe hates me."

"What happened?" Peter asks, his voice full of worry.

"My ex-wife," Wade answers. He shakes his head and says, "I don't know what she wants or why she's here. Just… Fuck, she always has such fucked up timing."

"I'm coming with you," Peter says, and there is no question. A few minutes later, they are both in Wade's car heading back across town.

As they pull onto Greymalkin, Wade says, "I'm sorry about this. I really am."

Peter reaches over and takes Wade's hand. "No apologies."

Wade gives Peter's hand a squeeze, and says, "Still. She's a fucking nightmare."

As soon as Wade pulls into the lot, he can see Shiklah's car, a one of a kind Mercedes built for her as a gift from her father the Sheik. It is a sleek, black mechanical marvel, designed to survive a bomb blast without cracking the windshield. Considering the number of kidnapping attempts, Wade understands her paranoia in that regard.

Wade parks, and as he and Peter step out, so does Shiklah's entourage. The only one that Wade recognizes is N'Kantu, an Egyptian who has been on her staff since she was a teenager.

"How's it hangin', N'Kantu?" Wade says as he walks toward the car.

N'Kantu responds, "Same as always, Mr. Wade."

N'Kantu opens the door and Shiklah steps out in a manner that Wade knows is calculated to display her long legs. Despite the cold, she is in her usual uniform, which is more or less lingerie with a hint of dominatrix flair. Wade is pretty sure that the way her hair is tossed to the side and the way the coat has fallen from her shoulder is a calculated pose. The dragon-beast Persian cat, Bug, is curled in her arms with its icy gaze fixed on Wade as she turns to face him.

"To what do I owe the displeasure, Shik?" Wade says, standing a few feet away. A good buffer is always wise when dealing with a hell-beast.

Shiklah regards him with detached aloofness. "You always have such hostility towards me these days."

"Divorce does that to people," Wade says.

Shiklah smirks. "Hopefully after you hear what I have to say, you will change your tune."

"If you'd like to get to the point, that would be awesome," Wade says impatiently. "It's kind of cold out here."

"You could invite me in," Shiklah said, purring almost as much as her cat.

Wade shakes his head. "No. I've read enough vampire novels to know that's a bad idea."

"Very well," she says as she snaps her fingers, and one of her escorts walks to her with a folder which Shiklah accepts and then passes on to Wade. For the first time, her gaze passes to Peter, giving him the kind of look that suggests she knows all of his secrets.

Wade frowns. "What is this?"

"The point of a sealed envelope is to open it, is it not?" she says with her usual haughty tone.

Wade's jaw tenses, but he opens the metal clasp and pulls out a small stack of pictures. Pictures of him. And Peter. Pictures that, up until now, he had only heard second-hand descriptions of. Anger swells in him, and he looks at Shiklah.

"Before you express your fury, allow me to tell you a story." Shiklah hoists the fallen part of her coat onto her shoulder and she says, "A man came to me Sunday to make an offer. His employer would pay me a supposed 'handsome' sum of money if I would be willing to divulge all of your secrets."

Wade's eye is starting to twitch.

"Apparently, they seek to harm you and assumed that as your ex-wife, I would be only too glad to help." Shiklah shakes her head as one might at the antics of a misbehaved child. "The gentry have such a simple view of how the world is."

"So did you sell me out or not," Wade says flatly.

Shiklah leans a hip against the side of the car. "The pictures were quite intriguing. So I sent my men to investigate Osborn's connection to you. And I must say, my distaste for that swine has only increased."

Wade squints. "Why?"

"I learned of the criminal case, and what his grandson and friends did to those girls." Shiklah's face, for only a moment, shows a hint of real emotion. But it is gone so fast, Wade isn't sure that it ever existed. As far as he knows, it was distaste with the wind. With her neutral mask again in place, she says, "I can abide many things, but these acts… They disgust me." She smiles, "And as usual, you are the hero of the story."

"I'm nobody's hero," Wade says, eye still twitching. He calms only a little at the feel of Peter's hand against the small of his back.

"But you were mine. Remember?" Bug crawls down into her arms, and Shiklah snuggles her face against his plush fur. "I will never forget that you rescued me from those mercenaries. You were covered in blood and smelled of gunpowder, and I knew I must have you for my own."

"Then I took a shower and was less exciting," Wade says with a glare.

Shiklah shrugs, and says, "Fantasy and reality seldom overlaps, but it did for a while."

"What are you getting at, Shik?" Wade says, not wanting to play along with her nostalgia.

"I am going to help these girls," Shiklah says. "Right now, my men are gathering all that they can on Osborn and his dealings. As you can imagine, my family has resources that few possess. And knowing what he is trying to do and what his kin have done, it is only proper that I should destroy him."

Wade doesn't really know what to say except a surprised, "Seriously?"

"Have you ever known me to ignore an insult?" she says with a smirk.

"Touché." Wade shakes his head, and says, "But you didn't come here for that. You could have done all this without my knowledge and never left your penthouse."

"I know." She shrugs. "But then you wouldn't know that we are even. You saved my life. Now the ledger is balanced."

Wade stares at her, trying to see any hint that this is all some kind of a rouse. He doesn't know what to say. At one point, he loved Shiklah. He really did. And then he didn't love her. Then he hated her. And now… The trouble with Shiklah is she's hard to read. She is royalty, and bred into a life of negotiation and tactical manipulation. Wade never knew when she was telling the truth. In this instance, Wade is inclined to hope that she isn't lying.

Wade nods and puts the pictures back in the envelope. He says, "You're always full of surprises."

"Never dull," she says with a soft laugh as she steps towards him. Shiklah radiates sex and Wade can predict that she will put her hands on his chest and sidle up against him before she does so. She looks into his eyes, and says, "I wish you happiness, Wade. It is what you deserve."

Wade says, "You too."

Shiklah shakes her head and backs away with a pat to his chest. "Practice saying that a little more. Maybe someday I will believe you wish me well."

"I do," Wade says taking a step back out of her reach. "It's just I prefer to do it from a distance."

Shiklah nods, and that is the end. Wade can see it. Neither of them have anything left to say, and really it is the first civil conversation they've had since… since… Well, he can't remember. N'Kantu opens her door and Shiklah steps inside, and soon they are gone.

Wade looks at Peter, and Peter says, "That is possibly the strangest episode of the enemy of my enemy is my friend I've ever witnessed."

Wade laughs. "Yeah. No shit."

Chapter Text

Meeting Shiklah is an educational experience for Peter Parker. With the way that Wade is sometimes prone to hyperbole, Peter sometimes wondered if she really was the cold hearted hell-beast that Wade described. After meeting her, he is pretty sure that Wade's assessment that she is Lawful Evil is absolutely correct. And he definitely wasn't exaggerating about her beauty or that she must ooze pheromones.

Inside, Wade relays what Shiklah had expressed to them, and Weasel and Kate go through a cycle of horrified confusion to almost palpable joy. Especially Kate. On top of it all, Weasel informs Wade that AIM is taking legal action against Oscorp. It's definitely a good day for the good guys.

And Peter really wants to take a certain Good Guy back to his house because they have some unfinished business. Or at least business to restart, because somehow, Wade is never more sexy than when he's taking care of people. It was the thing that made Peter fall in love with him in the first place. He's sexy and funny, but his heart is the thing that Peter is most attracted to.

By the time everyone is on the same page, Peter's stomach is growling, and he suggests, "Anybody down for pizza?"

"We already ate," Kate says.

Wade smiles at him, and the look makes a new heat bloom in his chest. He says, "Maybe we can pick something up when I take you home."

Weasel laughs, and says, "Were you guys on a date? Did I interrupt your Lady and the Tramp moment?"

"Nah," Wade says. "I already had a mouthful of meatballs."

Kate barks a laugh, and Peter's face heats up. Peter says, "Yeah, I am kind of in the mood to slurp some spaghetti."

Kate looks like she's struggling to breathe, and Weasel just shakes his head. "You're both horrible people. Please leave my home."

Wade gets up and says, "I'm just gonna grab a couple things, and we can go get that spaghetti."

Peter watches him go down the hall and disappear behind a closed door. He stares for a moment, his mind replaying a variety of things that make him twitch in naughty places. Then Weasel clears his throat and Peter realizes that both he and Kate are looking at him with expressions that he typically associates with principal's offices or late night lectures about drinking underage.

"Have a seat, Peter," Weasel says, gesturing to the spot on the couch closest to him.

Peter nods and sits where directed, and Kate immediately scoots closer to him, her eyes fierce. Weasel looks more neutral, but equally territorial. Peter says, "Uh, what's on your mind?"

"I just wanted to talk to you a moment." Weasel steeples his fingers under his chin, and says, "I like you, Peter. I really do. You're a smart dude. And you seem to genuinely care about Wade—"

"Which is a good thing," Kate interjects.

Weasel continues, "But Wade's my family. He's a brother to me."

Kate adds, "He's my surrogate father."

"And you may care about him, but I love that motherfucker," Weasel says firmly. "And I don't want to sound like a dick or anything, but I need to know that you aren't just… You're not just having fun. Okay? I mean, I know him. I know how he is. He doesn't go halfway. He's not playing about what he feels. He doesn't do that. I can tell that he's all-in with you. So… I mean it. Don't play with him."

Hearing the concern in Weasel's voice and the hawkish way that Kate is looking at him makes Peter feel a little strange, and not in a bad way. This is the first time Peter's never been on the receiving end of a speech like this. And seeing how much Weasel and Kate care is kind of beautiful.

Peter nods, and says, "This isn't a mid-life crisis or some kind of fling or curiosity. Sometimes it feels like fate tossed us at each other, as unscientific as that sounds, but that's what it feels like because of Gwen and May and just everything. Wade is…" He smiles, his heart starting to pound just thinking about him. "He's amazing."

"I agree," Weasel says with a nod. He sweeps back his shaggy hair. "Just remember what I said, okay? I mean, I know that people fight and all, and that's none of my business. But if you are just jerking him around, I'll… Well, I probably won't kick your ass, because—"

"That's my job," Kate says with a smile. She fist bumps Weasel and says, "Wade taught me how to snap necks. You hurt him, I break you. Comprende?"

"Completely comprende," Peter says, still smiling. He kind of wants to hug them both, but instead he says, "I'm happy that Wade has friends like you."

Kate smiles and pats his knee, and Weasel says, "You kids have fun, okay."

Right on cue, Wade's door opens and he comes into the living room, and looks at Peter with a smirk. "You ready to get something to eat?"

Peter notes that he has his backpack on his shoulder, and he feels more heat building. He's suddenly less hungry. But he stands and says, "Yeah."

Wade give him a funny look, then glances at Weasel and Kate and says, "You guys weren't in here giving him the third degree, were you?"

"Absolutely not," Kate says at the same time Weasel gasps, "Why I never!"

Peter and Wade laugh, and then Wade takes Peter's hand and they are out the door. As soon as the door closes, Peter finds himself wrapped up in Wade's arms, his world a sudden haze of tongues and lips and minty breath (Wade must have brushed), and he is half hard by the time Wade again takes his hand and they rush to the car. Despite all the talk of spaghetti, they pick up a few sandwiches at Stan's Stop'n Shop, and head back across town.

By the time they get back to Peter's place, they have both sated their hunger and are more enthused about other activities. Peter has a singular thought in mind, and that is to make Wade feel every bit of pleasure possible. He can't stop thinking about the way that Wade's eyes lit up at the suggestion that Peter fuck him. And considering that at some point, Wade had inserted a steel butt-plug, Peter is pretty sure that he's still on board.

Peter takes his time because there is no reason to rush. Earlier was good, but Peter wants to make this even better. He wants Wade to feel like the center of the universe. And it isn't easy, because Wade is a giver in every aspect of his life, and Peter can see he isn't used to someone making his pleasure a priority. He knows enough about Wade's past to know that he has been used. Peter knows that Wade deserves better.

So Peter makes sure to catalog all the things that make Wade gasp and cry out. The things that make his legs shake and stomach quiver. Peter draws out these sensations, bringing Wade to the edge of ecstasy over and over again. It is a beautiful thing to see, because Wade always looks surprised and delighted.

Wade is a big guy. He tall and broad shouldered. Wade's body is muscular and defined, and covered in a road map of scars and bullet holes that show the life of violence he has experienced. And seeing him reduced to wordless bliss under Peter's hands is like a drug for the younger man. Wade is putty in Peter's hands, and Peter loves the absolute surrender that Wade gives him.

In Peter's life, he's never fucked someone who is as responsive as Wade Wilson. His whole body moves in time with Peter's. And good lord he feels so good. Peter is not the type to believe in such things as soulmates and destiny, but Wade is changing his opinion. Everything about them fits together perfectly. Every movement feels like something practiced rather than something they've done for the first time that day.

After, they lay in the dark holding each other, and Peter knows without a doubt that it is the best feeling he's ever had. Though Wade's breath has evened out and he is no doubt sleeping, Peter whispers against his skin, "I love you." Wade's arm tightens around him, and Peter sighs and realizes that every moment feels a little better than the last.

They spend the majority of the night going between sleep and doing something that Peter can only define as making love. They manage to go through a small box of condoms and the sheets will definitely need to be tossed in the laundry, but it is the best night Peter can remember.

When his alarm goes off the next morning, they are both a little sore but still struggling to keep their hands off of each other. It is Friday, and they both have to go to the college. The trouble is, both of them are more keen to stay in bed all day and it takes every ounce of adult-like fortitude to get dressed once out of the shower and out the door.

Any normal person might be less than enthused to go to work after being informed that they are in the process of being let go. But Peter is just too damned happy. He's going on just a couple hours of sleep and his whole body feels loose and he has to practically stop himself from dancing his way to his office.

Except that when he gets there, Peter finds someone standing in the hall that he didn't expect to see in New Salem. Ever.

"Tony?" he says, and the billionaire turns away from the case displaying the patents and creations resulting from NSCC's chemistry program.

Tony smiles like he's posing for GQ, even though he's dressed in grease-stained blue jeans and a ratty Metallica t-shirt. "Parker! How's my favorite chemist?"

Peter shrugs. "Feeling pretty damn good, actually. What are you doing here?"

"I'm giving a surprise lecture to the engineering students," Tony says. "So how do you like the quiet life of a college professor?"

"I've enjoyed it, but I'm looking for a different position now," Peter says as he unlocks his office door.

Tony looks inside the small box that is Peter's office, and frowns. "No wonder. I have more space in the trunk of my car."

"I've actually been fired," Peter says, and it comes out so easy and so light-hearted he's a little surprised at himself. He's actually fine with the idea of being jobless.

Tony, on the other hand, looks shocked. "What! You? For what?"

"Inappropriate behavior with a student," Peter answers.

"Ha!" Tony looks way too happy to hear that. He actually looks kind of proud. "Little Peter Parker—brilliant and studious and perfect—getting it on with a coed. Never would have believed it."

"I'm full of surprises," Peter says as he sits in his chair. "So yeah, I'm going to be job hunting again. I've already been looking, and there's a position opening up at the local high school. The pay's better than being an adjunct, so—"

"You have been working as an adjunct?" Tony says, clearly appalled. "My dear boy, what in the hell were you thinking leaving me?"

Peter laughs. "I was thinking you pay me a king's ransom to use my spider-silk polymers and I can stand to make a little less in my day job."

"True." Tony smirks and says, "Who's the gorgeous young lad? Promising and intelligent? Dumb but cute?"

"He's a 38 year old ex-marine," Peter says, his smile reflexive and involuntary.

Tony's face twists in confusion. "They're firing you and you didn't even take advantage of someone young and nubile? What the hell is wrong with the world! Did he threaten to sue?"

"It wasn't him. It's…" Peter shakes his head. "It's a long story."

"If I were you, I'd probably say it was because of a hot young coed," Tony says. "It just sounds better."

"It might sound better…" Peter smirks. "But I'd rather have a man who knows what he's doing than a kid who only went through puberty a couple years ago."

Tony just smiles and claps him on the shoulder. "Seriously, Peter. I like this side of you." He glances at his watch, and says, "How about lunch while I'm in town? I have a talk here and then at the prep school, but after that I'm free."

"I only have my morning class, so sure," Peter says. "Mind if I bring my coed?"

"Please do," Tony says as he backs out of Peter's office. "I want to meet the man that turned you into a rule breaker and shake his hand."

Peter texts Wade to ask him to come to lunch, and then heads to his first class. His good mood manages to survive three lackadaisical freshmen's attempts to get out of having to do their molecule presentations, a small fire, and Banner's constant presence. Peter is finished with the class at noon, and he lingers in his office for another 50 minutes until Wade is finished for the day.

It has been a helluva week, Peter decides. It's been a helluva semester. Everything that has happened… It feels like a year, but also like just a few seconds. Peter opens up his email and scrolls back to his and Wade's first exchange about Peter's oversight on the Aleks site key and hits print. When Wade first emailed him, Peter was amused by the way that he expressed himself. Peter had a crush from the beginning.

Peter called Gwen that night, too. Told her all about this amazingly sexy, funny student in his Monday Intro class. Told her everything that he had gathered about him like a teenager with a crush, and Gwen told him right then that he was going to get in trouble. Peter insisted that he could behave. Really, he's fine with being wrong. Once in 32 years is perfectly acceptable.

Wade texts him at 12:45 to tell him that he needs to drive Kate home first, and Peter tells him he'll just pick him up at the apartment. After a couple lewd suggestions of pre-dinner handjobs, Wade finally accepts the terms, and Peter can't stop smiling the whole way across town. When he pulls into the lot, May is standing outside with Wade. She's laughing at something he said, and it makes Peter feel even more warmth. May hasn't been happy since Ben died, and he is so happy to see her smiling.

Since the day he changed her tire and helped empty the moving truck, Wade has been May's favorite person. At first, it was almost like some kind of torture for Peter to see him so much. Wade is a flirt and he doesn't try to conceal his feelings. Then it went from being torture to something that Peter enjoyed but wished he didn't because he's supposed to be a professional. And then everything shifted. The entire way, May was standing by giving him that look that she gets when she's reading him like a book.

Coming into the house Halloween with blue face paint smeared on his chin might have been the real tip off, but she continued to play dumb until a little before Thanksgiving.

Peter pulls up beside them and says, "Is this man bothering you, ma'am?"

May chuckles and pats Wade's arm. "Oh, he's always bothering me. I can't imagine what kind of a pain in the ass he is for you."

Wade barks a laugh and Peter rests his head against the steering wheel. Wade hugs May, and says, "You're a peach, Miss May."

May leans against the car. "What are you boys up to this chilly afternoon?"

"Lunch with Peter's former boss," Wade says.

"Tony?" May says.

Peter nods. "Yeah. He's here doing a couple presentations."

"Well, you kids have fun," May says.

Wade gets in the passenger's seat and leans across the console to kiss Peter's cheek. Peter tugs him back for a proper kiss. He intends it to be brief, but it isn't because he just wants to absorb Wade into his senses. Then there's a thunk! on the hood of the car, and May is giving them a disapproving look that has no heat because of the giggling. Peter gives a quick wave, and they are on their way.

"We're going to the Main Street Diner," Peter says. "Tony likes greasy spoons for some reason."

"I love that place," Wade says. "I'm trying to convince Madge to name a burger after me."

Peter links his hand with Wade's on the armrest, and says, "So Tony is kind of like my mentor-type person. He'll probably grill you. He's also planning to congratulate you for turning me into a heathen."

Wade laughs. "Yeah. I've met him. Once. It was during a weapons demonstration. Seemed like a cool dude, for a billionaire."

Peter laughs. "Yeah, don't tell him that. He thinks he's the center of the known universe."

They arrive at the diner and Tony's 1976 Mercedes is parked in front. It's his incognito vehicle, the one he drives when he wants to go places without being mauled by people. It's dark blue with a cargo rack on top and tires meant for off-roading. The car has been converted to run on biomass, and it is part of how Tony hopes to revolutionize the car industry. That is as soon as he's finished revolutionizing the energy business.

The Main Street Diner is a typical small town diner. It is a family owned and operated establishment that has been in operation in town for almost seventy years. The inside smells like charbroiled meat and toasted bread and fried foods. The counter is a hodgepodge of newspaper clippings and photos that have been sealed into the top. There are framed articles on the walls where their business was featured in the Times and magazines. The wall of fame had pictures of celebrities that had stopped in. Of course, Tony's picture is there.

Tony is waiting just inside the door, staring at his phone until the door jingles. He looks up and his eyes go from Peter to Wade. Peter expects him to snark, because that is what Tony does. But instead, Tony's eyes go a little wide and his mouth drops open, and he utters the word, "Dead Man?"

Peter also says, "Dead Man?"

"You remember me?" Wade says, and Peter is just confused.

Tony smiles and says, "How the hell could I ever forget you?" He looks at Peter and says, "This? This guy? This is your coed?"

"Yeah. This is Wade," Peter says, smiling but still confused. He cocks his head to the side, looking at Wade for some clue because he just told him that they only met once. And yeah, Wade can make an impression, but Tony… Tony is Tony. He forgets who he's talking to while talking to you. 

"Afghanistan," Tony says. He is still looking at Wade like some kind of god. "This guy and his strike team rescued my ass from the Ten Rings." He holds out his hand and says in a star struck voice that Peter has never heard come from Tony, "I've wanted to say thank you for so long. Just… Thank you."

Wade flickers a smile and shrugs in that self-deprecating way he does, and says, "Just doing my job, Mr. Stark."

Tony claps Peter on the back and says, "You have good taste, kid. Let's eat."

They sit in a booth, Wade tucked against the window with Peter beside him. Peter likes the way that Wade is comfortable putting his arm behind him, like it doesn't matter that there's a few construction workers giving him a side eye. When the waitress, Sandy, comes by, she gives Wade a bright smile and says, "You want the usual?"

"Yes, ma'am," Wade says with a grin.

Peter and Tony both order bacon cheeseburgers and fries, and after the waitress leaves, Peter asks, "What's your usual?"

"Double bacon burger with roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms, guacamole, and pepperjack cheese," Wade says with a grin.

Tony laughs. "That is a mouthful."

"That's what he said," Wade says, and Peter just shakes his head.

"Oh my god, you two are made for each other," Tony says as he slouches back.

They fall into conversation, going over Peter's options after the end of the semester, Wade's finals, what Tony's latest project is. Then Wade mentions the house and all the work he needs to get done, and Tony says, "If you are okay with it, I'd love to help you with it."

"I don't need money, Mr. Stark," Wade says.

"Not money," Tony says. "I like to build things. It's kind of my specialty. You know, when I'm not being America's favorite playboy. Building is awesome. And I have a few people here in town that could pitch in. We'd have the place ready in a day. And like it or not, I feel like I owe you. So let me put my conscience at ease and cut some sheet rock and play with the wiring so you can study and get ready for your finals or play hide the sausage with Peter or whatever. Please?"

Wade laughs, and says, "Well I won't turn down an offer like that."

They drive from the diner to Wade's house, and Wade takes Tony on the tour. Peter follows along, loving the way that Wade's face brightens when he's talking about his plans for the place, and Tony is clearly getting ideas and bouncing a few of his own back Wade's direction. Then Tony goes off to call in his troops, and Peter pulls Wade into one of the bedrooms and kisses him like he's wanted to kiss him for the last couple hours.

"What was that for?" Wade asks him with a pleased smile.

Peter kisses him again and says, "I'll tell you later."

"Is that good or bad?" Wade asks, his smile widening.

"Oh, it's a good thing," Peter says, his mind again replaying all the ways that Wade bent him into a pretzel the night before and all those blissed-out looks that Wade gets when he's about to come. "Yeah, yeah it's good."

Chapter Text

Wade isn't sure exactly when it happened or why, but somehow he has become the luckiest man alive. Most of his life, Wade has felt unlucky. Some might call living through so many near-death experiences lucky, but Wade always figured if he was lucky he wouldn't have been shot in the first place. But standing in the kitchen, watching Tony's army busily working to finish his home, Wade knows that he is lucky.

Meeting Tony was luck of the draw, really. Wade and his team was sent out on a rescue mission, picking up someone with the codename Iron Man. It was a typical mission for them, and they executed it with the same precision they would for any hostage. When they infiltrated the Ten Rings' compound, they found their target in a dingy cell inside a cave with a month's growth of beard and a septic wound on his shoulder. He was delirious and dehydrated, and there were a couple times that Wade was sure that he would die before they got back to base. It took a few days, too, because their helicopter was damaged and they had to walk.

When Wade said he was surprised that Tony remembered him at all, he meant it. The guy was the time they got back to the rendezvous point, Tony was doing a little better (as in they no longer had to carry him). He told them who he was, and Wade and the rest only gave him their codenames.

And now, Tony Stark, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, is in Wade's house barking orders at a group of people that he ordered in from all around to get the house ready for Al's arrival. He likes Tony's friends, too. The Odinson brothers are especially impressive. The oldest, Thor, is a master builder (and really knows how to swing a hammer), and the younger, Loki, has taken over the design aspect of everything, and plans by some form of magic to have the bathrooms tiled and all rooms painted before the sun sets on Sunday. Clint and Natasha (last names as yet unknown) are installing a security system, something that Tony recommended and Weasel approved.

There are a lot more people coming in and out of the house, a mix of Tony's friends and associates and a few interns who are striving for college credit. The whole house is a cacophony of noise and motion, and Wade kind of wants to stick around and see things progress. But Weasel and Tony are persistent, and Wade finally leaves a little after 9 o'clock to go home and study for his finals.

Wade has a lot to get done before the weekend is over. He needs to finalize his Pet Molecule Presentation (and finish assembling the Death Star suckers into a molecule shape). There's a timeline due for World Civilizations. He needs to write a paper for Psychology. The only class that doesn't have anything extra due is Intermediate Algebra, and Wade could almost kiss Professor Richards for that.

Still, Wade has other things on his mind. Namely, Peter. Peter, who has been using every opportunity to pull him into a room just to kiss him, who looks at him like he's the moon and stars. Wade feels luckiest of all to have met Peter.

Though finals loom, Wade is kind of tired and he can tell Peter is too. After all, they barely slept the night before and have been running on sex-fueled adrenaline and caffeine. While once upon a time, Wade would have still been raring to go, he also used to be 20. Now, at 38, he's much more keen to rest snuggled against the man he loves than to try for another night of wild monkey lovin'. Thankfully, Peter is in the same frame of mind.

Wade noticed at Peter's place that Peter always sleeps on the right side of the bed. Wade always sleeps on the left. Yet again, Wade loves how they just seem to fit together. They find their spots on their respective sides and turn out the lights, and with a little bit of wiggling, find a comfortable way to snuggle together. It feels so good to sleep next to someone that he loves, and Wade can't fight the urge to kiss the man lying against his chest.

Wade is just getting into the content twilight between awake and asleep when he says, "Earlier at the house, you were going to tell me something…"

Peter laughs softly, tightening his arms and snuggling closer. He says, "It is very unscientific."

Wade hums, and asks, "What is?"

"Soulmates," Peter answers. "That people are destined to be together. I never believed it."

A smile curls Wade's lips. "You've changed your mind?"

"I had to." Peter pushes up on his elbow to look at Wade, and says, "I've known about you for years. It's like we were always going to meet. Somehow. Someway. You and me… I just wish it happened years ago."

Wade brushes a stray hair from Peter's face, his fingers lingering in the messy tangle, and says, "We met right when we needed to, baby boy. We met when we both were ready. Because I wasn't ready. Not before. I wasn't myself. I was screwed up." He smiles and adds, "Now, I'm still kind of screwed up, but at least I know a good thing when it's in front of me."

Peter kisses him, and it is soft and sleepy and feels like heaven. Wade is pretty sure he's seen Heaven. Once. It was the third time he was shot. The bullet barely missed his heart, and according to Head, he died a couple times during the operation. All Wade remembers is feeling like he was going somewhere else and there were people there to greet him, though he didn't really know any of them. But they were friendly and he felt at peace. The nurses told him it was just his brain misfiring and producing a hallucination. Still, it was a nice feeling, and the only thing that ever compared is what is happening at that moment with Peter content beside him.

Wade prefers this version of Heaven, anyway. It is real and solid, and he wants to keep it forever.

But, like all parts of heaven on Earth, it is a moment. Because the next day Wade is busy with his final projects and Peter has to work on his own finals preparation. Kate and Weasel stayed at the new house, and Wade woke with a bunch of text messages from Kate. They were a mix of hilarity and the story of her developing girl-crush on Natasha.

11:11pm: Just so you know, there's a million people here.

11:51pm: Tony is sassy. Like way more sassy than I thought he would be. He's having a sass-off with Smarmy Nordic Guy.

12:04am: Natasha looks so done. I want to be her friend. :D

12:30am: Natasha installed three cameras in like five minutes! I've never been so interested in a screw gun. I may love her. 3

1:07am: She caught a board with her foot.

1:07am: WITH HER FOOT.

1:08am: Normal people don't catch things with their feet. ::strongarm emoji::

1:45am: Oh my god, she's a ballerina AND a ninja.

1:46am: I'm in love, Wade. ::floaty hearts::

2:33am: Weasel challenged Clint to a nail gun competition.

2:34am: I'm concerned. Clint has a target. Who walks around with a target in their pocket?

2:38am: Dad #2 is going to die. ::skull emoji::

2:41am: Big Nordic Dude just picked up Clint like a baby. I'm dying. Weasel wins by forfeit.

3:22am: Natasha threatened to nail Smarmy Nordic Dude to the basement wall.

3:23am: I love her, Wade. Can I keep her?

4:01am: Clint made coffee.

4:03am: Clint makes awesome coffee.

4:10am: javajavajavajavajava omg i can taste colors

5:15am: I painted my room. Mine. Because it is now purple and I claimed it. No backsies. I love you Wade!

6:20am: The sun is up. I didn't know it was ever up this early.

6:21am: Did I mention I'm in love with Natasha?

Wade really wants to get back over to the house, but he still has a lot of work to do. After making a quick breakfast for him and Peter, he gets to work on his finals. They spend most of the morning working in silence, Wade at the kitchen counter and Peter in the living room. Despite the ever present desire to glance towards the sexy man sitting on the couch, Wade manages to get his powerpoint finished and most of his timeline roughed out on the poster board before noon.

Wade sits back and rubs his eyes and asks, "You at a stopping point?"

"I'm playing Candy Crush, so yeah," Peter says. "What's on your mind?"

"Naked greased sumo wrestling," Wade answers, and he chuckles when Peter barks a laugh. He says, "Actually, I was thinking about heading over to the house before my class. See what they have accomplished."

"You should probably check for robots," Peter says as he stands and stretches. "Tony likes to put robots in places they don't belong."

Wade nods. "Kinky."

"You're terrible," Peter says as he loops his arms around Wade's waist and kisses him.

At some point, Wade is pretty sure he'll get used to Peter's affection. But right now, it is unexpected and always feels like some kind of gift. After stealing a couple more kisses, Wade asks, "Want to see if May wants to come over to the house?"

"Yes," Peter says, laughing. "She'll want to harass Tony."

They drive separately, Peter and May following Wade the couple blocks to the new house. The sight that greeted them was one of a very active construction site. There was an army of young people in Stark Industrial t-shirts, who were hurrying in and out of the house, some with materials, others with furniture. All of them moving with the kind of purpose only someone seeking college credits can muster.

Wade joins Peter and May on the sidewalk, and says, "This kind of scares me."

"It's Tony," May says. "He built a robot arm that only makes smoothies. He doesn't do things halfway."

Weasel comes outside and shouts with the excitement of a chihuahua on meth, "Wade! Get in here! You've gotta see what they've done!"

Suddenly a little anxious, Wade follows Weasel inside and feels like he's walked into an episode of Extreme Makeover. When Wade left, the house was empty. Completely bare walls. No furniture. No curtains.

Now, the large living room has a matched set of couch, chairs, and loveseat. There is a coffee table with rounded ends, as well as round end tables between the ends of the couch and chair. There is a large cabinet housing a TV that could double as a theater screen. The curtains on the windows look like something from Rivendell.

"After I told tony that Al is blind, he called in a consultant," Weasel says as he rubs the back of one of the chairs. "All this stuff is designed for blind people. All of it. There's no edges to stub a toe, and all the furniture is textures on the back so you can tell what it is by touch. Feel this shit. Feel it, Wade!"

Chuckling, Wade touches the back of the chair then the couch, and he can sense the differences. "Awesome."

"Exactly!" Weasel motions for Wade to come to the kitchen.

When they get back to the kitchen, Kate is waiting with her new BFF, Natasha. They are talking and Kate is bouncing on the balls of her feet like a three year old on a sugar high. Or like a 21 year old on a caffeine high. When she sees Wade, Kate bounds over to him and says, "Did you see my room? In case you missed it, it is the purple one. Upstairs. Entirely purple. I love you, by the way. And your friends. And Clint's coffee. Have you had Clint's coffee? Because it is the best."

"I'm starting to believe that," Wade says, laughing. Then he asks, "Are you going to be rested enough to go to Quicksilver?"

"Yes!" Kate all but shouts, eyes wide. Wade is certain that at some point, she is going to achieve flight.

Natasha, calm and collected, asks, "What is Quicksilver?"

"It's a gym where Wade teaches girls how to kill people twice a week," Kate says with a grin.

Natasha raises an eyebrow, looking at Wade. "You do what?"

"It's a practical self-defense course," Wade says with a tight-lipped smile.

Kate blurts, "Where we learn how to rupture kidneys, snap necks, and crush skulls."

Natasha nods but says nothing else.

Weasel, who has also apparently indulged in Clint's coffee, flags Wade over to the refrigerator. "Everything in here has Braille labels. Braille, Wade! There's a frigging touchscreen with Braille on it. I didn't know that was even a thing. But it shows what's in the fridge. In fucking Braille!"

Wade grins. "That's pretty cool."

"It's also a prototype," Tony says as he saunters into the kitchen. He's speckled with paint and dust from construction. "And I would love it if your mother-type-person would review a couple of these gadgets for me. I have them in a school for the blind, but I'd like to get the perspective of a slightly older demographic."

Wade is getting that fluttery feeling inside, like he wants to hug Tony Stark. He suppresses it. It takes effort. He says, "Thanks. You… I didn't expect this."

"I don't half ass anything," Tony says with a smirk.

"Except maybe sleep," May says.

Tony's eyes brighten. "Why, May Parker! I haven't seen you since… Since…I'm really not sure. But you look just as gorgeous as ever."

"Oh hush," she says.

Tony points a screwdriver at her and says, "You are gorgeous. Accept it. Own it."

"I'm going to own you if you keep this up," May says with a challenging grin.

"I may have to keep it up then," Tony says with a flirty wink.

May raises an eyebrow. "You might want to take a nap first."

"I've got Clint's coffee in my veins." Tony grins. "I can go all night."

Weasel asks Wade, "You want to give these two some privacy and look at the bedrooms?"

Both Tony and May look a little sheepish, and trail after Wade and Peter as they continue the tour of the house.

The next stop is Al's bedroom. Like the living room, everything has rounded corners textured surfaces. The bathroom has the safety tub and shower installed. There are safety handles by the toilet and the floor is skid proof even when wet.

Wade feels so much happiness he could almost kiss Tony Stark. That anyone would do all of this work for him… Wade doesn't know what to say. If the only thing that Tony and his crew did was finish Al's room, he would have felt the same gratitude. Everything beyond is not extravagant, but it is finished. The walls are complete and painted. The floors are polished. The bathrooms are tiled. The basement bathroom has a goddamn jacuzzi in it. By the time Wade makes it through the rest of the house and basement, he's on the verge of tears.

"I can't believe you did this," Wade says to Tony.

Tony shrugs. "I would do more. If you'd let me, that is."

"You've raised our tax value enough," Weasel says. Weasel had to put his foot down to keep things from getting out of hand, because Tony wanted to go to the extremes.

"Still, I'd like to do more." Tony holds up a hand to keep Wade from interrupting, and he says, "The others. Your strike team. I would love to do the same for them. All of them."

Wade nods and says, "Yeah. That would be…" He has to stop to clear his throat because emotions, and finishes with, "Yeah. Good. That would be good."

Though the only thing Wade wants to do is stay in the new house and see what else Tony and his minions would do, Wade has a self-defense course to teach and more finals to study for. And though neither of them are too enthused about it, Peter goes to his apartment so that they both can work without distractions. Though, it doesn't work too well because they text until well after midnight.

The next day, Wade is up bright and early. Unlike midterms, he's not as anxious—even if objectively, the finals are far more important to his grade. He has two that day, Psychology, and Intro to Chem, both of which have arts and crafts projects involved. Wade's molecule looks delicious, and it is put together so precariously that Wade is pretty sure it is going to collapse. He took a lot of pictures for the presentation just in case his Death Star suckers decided to fall apart in transit. For Psychology, he had to construct a visual aide that represented a type of mental illness. Because of his own personal traumas, he opted for making a PTSD voodoo doll. It was a little more detailed than the one he made in rehab, and owing to the festive season fast approaching, he made it a gingerbread man with a prosthetic leg.

Wade's other finals fall on Wednesday, and Wade hopes that he finishes Intermediate Algebra earlier than the allotted two hours because he plans to throw a welcome home party for Al. Or at least make a big dinner in his shiny new kitchen (that he hasn't seen completed yet, but close enough to make him tingly).

Kate is less than enthused about rising and shining. Unlike Wade, Kate's only final for the day is psychology. The rest are either online or on Wednesday. Like Wade, Kate is more enthused about moving her stuff into the new house, a task that they all will need to accomplish by Wednesday.

Wade breezes through the psychology final. It was only fifty questions, and because of his work with Dr. Maximoff and the recruits, Wade has gotten pretty well versed in a lot of the terms. In fact, when he's finished with the test and has walked Kate back to her car, he goes to Preston's office to talk about switching around some of his classes because he's decided on a major.

Preston beams as she says, "I hoped you would choose this path."

"It seems like it was chosen for me," Wade says with a shrug. "I mean, I'm doing all this work with the recruits, and maybe I could do more if I actually had a fucking clue how to be a counselor."

"From what I hear, you do just fine." Preston smiles at his confused look. "People talk, Wade. And when they talk about you, it's usually pretty good."

She gets into the system and opens up his file. After a couple minutes of clicking and typing, she pauses, and gives him a strange look. "This says you are on academic probation."

"Oh that. That's…" He chuckles, and says, "That's nothing. Really."

Preston stares at him.

Wade shrugs. "It's a long story, and I'd rather wait until after the end of the semester to tell it. Maybe over Christmas we can have a cup of coffee, and I'll tell you all about my mischievous exploits and my consistent ability to get into trouble."

"You need to behave yourself," Preston says sternly. "Also, I'll take you up on the coffee."

Wade leaves her office with his revised schedule. The only real change is that Wade decided to drop Chemistry in favor of taking Psychology of Personal Development and added Child Psychology as an online course. Both classes are taught by Dr. Grey, and Wade finds that it is much more to his liking. Also, it is kind of nice to have a direction for his work, even if it is something that he never dreamed he would choose for a career.

As he waits for the Chemistry lab to open, Wade texts Nate to tell him his decision.

Nate responds back with, I'm very happy for you, Wade. This is a good fit for you.

Wade is smiling like an idiot. He hadn't told anyone about his decision (except Peter) because he was worried that maybe his friends thought he was a little too crazy to help other people. Yet again, Wade is reminded to have a little more faith in his companions.

As for the Pet Molecule Presentation, Wade feels like it is a slam dunk (even if Banner looked like someone shit in his Cheerios the entire time). Wade went third, immediately following a girl whose molecule was THC. It gave him the perfect segway. ("Now that we all have the munchies, let's talk about sucrose.")

Wade did his usual. He made some jokes. He ad libbed. He totally nailed the science. And when he was finished, everyone was thrilled that Wade's molecule was completely edible. Even Banner decided to have a Death Star sucker. And Wade found himself very distracted by Peter, who could make any activity look sexy, but made an innocent activity such as ingesting a sugary treat something that Wade would fantasize about later.

Fantasies was about all that Wade had, too, because after class was out, he had work to do. Monday evening was dedicated to hauling things from the apartment to the house. Tony's people had gone through the place and cleaned it to a showroom shine when they finished, and Wade and Weasel were both beaming with joy. Also, they both realized that they didn't really have very much stuff and were thankful for the furniture that had been purchased because otherwise, the place would look empty.

When Wednesday came around, Wade was filled with nervous energy. He was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet all day because of Al's impending arrival. Peter was coming over after he was finished with classes to help cook, something that Wade was pretty excited about. But Wade still had two finals to get through, and time was moving excruciatingly slow.

The only thing that kept Wade from saying "fuck it" was his strong desire to keep his GPA above a 3.0. Going into finals week, he had A's in all of his classes. He wants to finish the same way. So he does his best to take his time answering questions in World Civ, and checks and double checks his work in Intermediate Algebra. Then, he has to remind himself not to speed home because he's supposedly a responsible adult. At least, that's what he keeps telling himself.

When Wade pulls into the parking lot of the apartment complex, he has a moment of laughing at himself for forgetting where he was supposed to drive home. He parks the car anyway, and walks across the lot to May's door. He gives his customary knock, and May opens the door with a big smile.

"Howdy, neighbor," he says as he hugs her. "Or I guess ex-neighbor? But I'm still going to pester you for a cup of sugar."

May squeezes him a little tighter and says, "I'm going to miss having you and Weasel at my beck and call."

"You're coming over tonight, right?" Wade says.

She nods. "Absolutely. I'm looking forward to meeting Althea."

Wade says, "You're coming over for Christmas, too. Weas and I have been talking about it, and we think we're going to do the lights and tree and all that stuff. Never did it before, so it might be fun."

They talk for a little longer, until Wade got a text from Weasel saying that Al's flight had arrived. Wade said goodbye, and May promised she'd be over in an hour or two. At the house, Wade went to work getting things going for dinner. He made a pie. He put a couple chickens in the rotisserie in the new oven. He squealed like a kid because of all the cabinet space.

Peter arrived just as Wade was starting to peel potatoes to boil. After removing his shoes, he walked straight to Wade and kissed his cheek before grabbing a paring knife to help in the peeling process. Once again, Wade was struck by how well they worked together. It was easy for him to imagine doing little domestic things like making supper together for the rest of their lives.

Kate got home and came through the door with a shout of, "Freedom!"

"Did you have a good day at school?" Wade asks as Kate snatched a piece of sliced apple off the counter.

"I think I nailed all my finals." She smirks and says, "You two are so cute and domestic."

Peter laughs. "Yeah, well I was already house broken."

"I wasn't," Wade says. "Just last week I figured out the litter box wasn't for me."

Right on cue, Crusty came around the corner to leap up into Kate's arms. Crusty was Kate's cat, and he mostly stayed in her room at the house. Kate bought him the best cat food and loads of treats, and Wade was happy that the cat had decided he liked at least one human.

Nate and Hope were the next to arrive. Hope immediately latched onto Wade, then snatched one of the remaining black cherry Death Star suckers before Nate could say no. Nate doesn't volunteer to be kitchen help. As far as Wade knows, Nate lives off of food pellets from the future and bowling alley pizza. At least, that's the only thing that Wade has ever seen him eat. Okay, maybe not the food pellets.

May arrives shortly after Nate and Hope, and she recruits Nate to help set to the table while Hope and Kate carry extra chairs up from the basement because there are only six in the dining room.

The timer is just buzzing on the pie when Weasel and Al come through the door. It has been years since Wade has seen Al, but she hasn't changed much. Her hair is a little whiter, maybe, but her face looks the same. Not even a new wrinkle. Or maybe one.

"Alfred!" Wade says as he practically runs to the door to hug her.

Al gives him a squeeze, before saying, "You're not a lanky little shit anymore, are you?"

Still hugging her, Wade says, "You still smell like old lady musk and sound like an angry pitbull, just like I remember."

"You're still an asshole," she says, but she's laughing. "Good to see you, Wade."

"You can see me!" Wade gasps. "It's a miracle!"

She whacks his arm, and says, "It's a figure of speech, asshole."

Weasel laughs, and says, "She's sassy. And old."

"So where's this child of yours?" Al asks.

"Right this way," Wade says as he holds out his elbow to lead her through the house to the kitchen where he introduces Al to the rest of the family. Al likes Kate immediately, and she seems to really enjoy feeling Nate's arms. Peter is the last that Wade introduces, and he's been rehearsing in his head how he was going to do this part. As far as he knows, Al is unaware that he is bisexual.

Wade's heart pounds a little harder against his ribs as he says, "This is my boyfriend, Peter."

"Pleasure to meet you," Al says to Peter.

"Likewise," Peter says. He adds, "Wade's told me a lot about you."

"Probably all bullshit, no doubt." She smiles and says, "Just remember, I'm blind. That means my hearing is damn good. So whatever kinky shit you two get up to, make sure to oil the bed."

Peter snorts a laugh, and says, "I'll take that into consideration."

"You better," she says. Then she says, "I'm starving. That was a long ass plane ride."

They gather around the table, and Wade is in his happy place. He really does feel like the luckiest man on Earth. Somewhere out there, god or the bald-headed Watcher is giving him a break. And it is awesome. Al might be cranky, but he gets a kick out of her sassy snark as she talks with Aunt May and feels up Nate's shoulder. Weasel is beaming. All of them are happy. For once, everyone is actually happy.

Later that night, after dishes are done and the kitchen is clean and guests have all gone home (except for Peter), Wade and Weasel stop by Al's door to see if she needs anything before they head to their respective parts of the house.

"There's a little intercom thing by your bed if you need something," Weasel says. "Button one is me, two is Wade. Three is the garage, if you know, we're out there or something."

"Thanks," she says. She sits on the side of the bed, and says, "And thank you for taking me in like this. You two are awfully nice for a couple of asshole kids."

"Just returning the favor," Wade says.

Weasel says, "We owe you."

"Nah," she says. "I'm the one who owes you."

Wade chuckles and says, "Well, if you want to pay the tab, I can get some IKEA furniture for you to assemble. I've heard the Hurdal is a real joy."

"Asshole," she grumbles. "Go to bed. And remember what I said about the noise."

Weasel closes the door and the two of them walk toward the stairs. Weasel stops, and says, "Thanks for doing this."

"It was a team effort," Wade says.

"Still." Weasel hugs him, and says, "Thanks for being on my team."

"You're going to make me cry," Wade says.

"Just let it out, big man," Weasel says with a little squeeze.

Wade sighs and says, "You know I love you, honey buns."

"Asshole," Weasel says as he steps back. "Goodnight, sugar britches."

Chapter Text

Two Years and a Semester Later

 

The airport is a busy place any time, considering that JFK is one of the busiest hubs in the country, but being Memorial Day weekend, it is exceptionally busy. The security lines are long. Many flights are delayed. And countless beleaguered passengers dressed for vacations and meetings in other cities carry the look of stoic acceptance that their vacations are on hold until after Tim the TSA agent has wanded them in ways that do not seem to be about security. All these reasons and more are why Wade hates to fly.

Luckily, Wade's not the one flying. He's just there to pick up a few passengers. The gods must have had a meeting and decided to make his life easy, because the flights from Tampa, Portland, and San Diego are all supposed to arrive around the same time, and at relatively close gates. Wade arrived early enough to park, walk the half mile or so to the airport, and get through initial security to be right on time for the Tampa passengers.

Among the herd, visible first by the bright platinum blond ponytail on top of her head like I Dream of Jeannie, is Wanda Winston. She's dressed in pajama pants, a tank top, and combat boots, and she is smiling as she runs to Wade to give him a tight hug and slap his ass.

"Holy shit! Look at you!" Wanda says, stepping back to take him in. The last time they saw each other in person was at the VA hospital, and Wade was half mummified. She pinches his cheek and says, "You look like a happy school boy. Where's your little Petey-pie?"

"He still has classes to teach," Wade says.

She slings her carry on over her shoulder and asks, "Who's gonna be here next?"

Wade glances at his watch, and says, "Head's flight is supposed to be here at one, so we probably ought to get moving."

After picking up Wanda's duffle, they head to the next gate, and they arrive just as Head is leaving the baggage claim. He's the oldest of the three at forty-five, and his black hair is mostly gray. Head is covered in tattoos and has a few piercings. He greets Wade with a fist bump, and gives Wanda a lascivious look that Wanda returned with a quirked eyebrow. Those two were prone to bouts of sexual tension that went back to their first time in Iraq, and Wade knew that his guest room was going to be desecrated.

Head looks around and says, "Where's your man? I thought I was going to meet the new squeeze?"

Wade laughs. "He still has classes to teach, but he should be done about the same time we get back to New Salem."

"How long until Kid gets here?" Head asks, sobering a little. "Last time I talked to him, he was living in a forest with a bunch of hippies and making tie dye shirts and shit."

"Still lives there," Wanda says.

Wade nods, and says, "He's doing better now, though. I guess the new prosthesis and that app I found have really helped him out."

"Good," Head says. Out of all of them, Head fared the best in the explosion. He had a few lacerations. Wanda had a punctured lung from a piece of shrapnel, and a few scars on her cheek from shards of glass. Wade and Kid were hit the hardest because of where they were in the vehicle. Wade was burned; Kid lost his leg. They were also the only ones with long-term psychological trauma from the event.

Over the last couple years, as Wade has worked through a lot of the big issues with his PTSD, he has passed along the tools he's found to Kid. And while Kid is just as stubborn as Wade about going to a therapist, he's started talking to Wade. Once a week they get together on Skype and talk. They both use an app called myBivy that helps them sleep better. It uses a Fitbit to monitor heart rate, and if their heart rate spikes in the middle of the night (indicating a nightmare), the phone or linked device starts playing a tone that gets them out of the night terror. Peter was the one who found the app on Kickstarter, and as soon as it was available, Wade started using it and his sleep has improved.

Really, everything has improved. Wade still goes to therapy with Nate, but he also goes to a bi-weekly meeting at the local American Legion for veterans. Not to mention that through his own education, he's learned a lot of new coping skills and methods to change the way he thinks about a lot of things. It has been over a year since Wade has had a panic attack, and even longer since he's had a flashback.

Thanks to Tony Stark, another thing has improved for Kid that Wade could not provide, and that is a state-of-the-art prosthetic leg. It is an experimental prosthetic, but it is a high-tech articulating limb that connects into the nervous system. Tony flew out to Oregon and fabricated the entire thing in a weekend. Kid sent Wade a few pictures, with the caption, "I am now Robocop."

Wade, Wanda, and Head arrive at Kid's gate just as the Portland flight is disembarking. Kid is one of the last to get off the plane. He looks exhausted, and he's walking with one hand on the head of his service dog, a black fluffy mutt named Dork. But he's smiling and his eyes light up seeing the three of them waiting for him.

Living up to his nickname, Kid is a lot younger than Wade and Wanda. He was only 21 at the time of the explosion. His clean-shaven face and kind of chubby cheeks makes him look even younger, but his eyes still give away that he's seen a lot of shit for being so young.

"It's so good to see you guys," he says, smiling. "I almost cancelled this morning because I haven't left the woods in a while."

"I would have personally gone out into the great north woods and dragged your ass here," Head says with a gruff voice. "Also, where's my tie dye shirt, motherfucker? I was promised a smiley face and a guitar."

Kid laughs. "All that shit's in my checked bag. But don't worry, Head. I got the tie dye hookup."

After leaving the airport, the first stop is a drive-thru to get something to eat because all of them have been dealing with flights and security since early that morning, especially Kid. They drive with the windows down once they are out of the city with Kid playing DJ with Wade's MP3 player, and causing a singalong because of Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning". (Head is still convinced that the lyrics say "Just brush my teeth before you leave").

Wade is happy. This reunion was a long time coming. It's been too long since he hung out with the Deadpool Corps. Most of it was the fault of distance and deployments (since Head was still active duty, though currently inactive because he's going to Sergeant Major school). But sometimes, the stars align. Or a certain Chemistry teacher decides that he needs to invite everyone you've ever met to what is supposed to be a "small wedding".

Oh, yeah. Wade and Peter are getting married.

Despite the whole being married before and subsequently divorced, Wade feels like it is the first time because he is sober and actually planning the event. The way they came to the conclusion that they should get married happened during game night. They switched to Pathfinder about a year ago, and during one of their first sessions, Peter's Monk asked Wade's demon to marry him to keep him from being beheaded. To answer, Wade rolled his dice, and came up with a natural 20, which he felt was a sign from the heavens.

Then later that night, Peter said, "If I were to ask you for real, what would you say?"

"I'd say hell yes," Wade answered.

And that was that. They were engaged. Bob the dungeon master considers himself a matchmaker now.

After that came the planning. Wade was all for just going to the courthouse and getting it done, but Peter wanted to make it an event and give their friends and family time to make room in their schedules. Peter invited several of his friends from high school and college, as well as friends from Stark Industries, NSCC, and the Xavier School (where Peter is currently head of the Science department). Really, the guest list isn't that big. There's going to be about thirty people in all, counting the few who are bringing dates and significant others. They're doing it in the park, and Nate is going to be their official (since apparently that is also something the mutant messiah has been ordained to do). Weasel is Wade's Best Man; Gwen is Peter's Best Woman. Kate and May are tag-teaming the cake.

When they arrive at the house, Peter and Weasel are there to greet them. Wade introduces them all by their real names (Wanda Winston aka Lady, Johnny Salvini aka Kid, and Buchanan Neket aka Head).

Weasel raises his eyebrow and says to Head, "Please tell me you go by Buck Nekkid."

"You bet your ass," Head says. Then he looks at Kate, and looks like he is going to say something inappropriate (because Head has the social graces of a horny cocker spaniel), but he says in the most genteel voice Wade has ever heard the man use, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Kate. Wade's told me about his ass-kicking adopted daughter."

Kid is a little shy to say hi to her, and just smiles and nods at her, though Dork has no such reservations. The dog is all wagging tail and happiness as Kate kneels down and digs her fingers into the dog's plush fur.

Wanda pinches Peter's cheek and says, "I'm so excited to finally meet my little Wadey's Petey-pie in person!"

Peter laughs. "Yeah. Skype is fun, but you are way taller in person."

"No shit," Kate says as she stands. "I thought it was just camera angles or something, but you are a freaking Amazon goddess."

"You bet your ass I am," she says, leaning an elbow on Wade's shoulder. Really, the two could pass for twins with their blond hair, brown eyes, and Nordic bone structure. But they were born in two different countries, but only a month apart.

Inside, May and Al are sitting on the couch, and both get up to greet everyone. Al's seeing-eye dog, Deuce, is excited to meet Dork, and the two service dogs have a quick sniff and tail wag. After everyone has stowed their gear in their rooms, used the bathroom, and changed out of their travelling clothes, Nate has arrived, along with Mary Jane Watson, Cindy Moon, Jessica Drew, Tony Stark, and Ben Reilly. The house is getting full, but soon everyone departs and go their separate ways for Peter and Wade's respective bachelor parties.

It's not the kind of bachelor party that involves strippers and excessive booze. Both of them have fairly tame evenings planned, especially since Al and May are going to be part of the festivities. Wade and his compatriots are going to a bar with a live band in Ridgefield. Peter and company are going to the New Salem Country Club (Tony's idea).

Or at least, that was supposed to be the plan.

However, when Wade woke the following morning on the living room floor covered in glitter, he had a feeling that something went terribly awry. Judging by the taste in his mouth and the pounding in his head, he drank quite a bit the night before. Wincing and still a little tipsy, Wade got off the floor and stumbles to the half-bath in the hall to take a piss, and sees his reflection in the mirror.

Suddenly, everything starts to come back to Wade.

Yes, they started out at the bar playing pool and listening to the band. Then Weasel announced that there was a drag show happening a couple blocks away. Wade was pulled on stage, which is where the veil and makeup came from. There was also a vague memory of karaoke, Marilyn Monroe dancing with Wanda, Nate and Al having a shots contest, and Kate and Kid making out by the bathroom doors.

When Wade walks to the kitchen, Marilyn is sitting on one of the bar stools sipping coffee, a healthy growth of 5 o'clock shadow on her face. She salutes him, and says in a hoarse voice, "Mornin'."

Wade nods and backs out of the kitchen and starts towards his bedroom, and sees the hall closet door standing open, and four bare feet peeking out. Wade looks inside and sees Lady and Head sleeping under a table cloth with a couple of towels balled up for pillows.

"Head. Lady. Why the fuck are you in the linen closet?" Wade asks flatly.

Lady sits up, her face scrunched. "This isn't the guest room?"

"No," Wade says.

Head sits up and looks around. "Where's Marilyn?"

"Kitchen," Wade says.

Once in the bedroom, Wade undresses and takes a shower to wash the bar funk away. A lot of mornings, he and Peter shower together. Sometimes it is for fun, but mostly it is because they are both short on time and there are two shower heads. This morning, Wade stands in the spot where all the water converges and soaks for a few minutes. He wonders what Peter is doing, and by the time he gets out of the shower, he has a text message from Gwen. It is a picture of Peter curled up on a floral loveseat wearing a sequined sleeveless shirt with a ballcap pulled down over his eyes that says "Groom".

At least Peter had a crazy night, too, Wade thinks.

After dressing in a pair of cargo shorts and t-shirt, Wade walks back to the kitchen and sees the front door is standing open. Wade grabs a cup of coffee, and walks out to find Wanda, Head, and Marilyn sitting on the small porch bench.

"You look refreshed," Marilyn says.

Wade nods, and chuckles into his cup, and says, "That was a crazy fucking night."

"For damn sure," Wanda says.

Head asks, "You ready for today, Marine?"

"Bet your ass I'm ready," Wade says.

When Wade's halfway through his cup of coffee, Kid steps out with Dork. Kid sits on the top step, his high-tech prosthetic kicked out in front of him as Dork runs out into the yard to take his morning dump. Kid asks, "What time did we get home last night?"

"Four," Marilyn answers, smirking.

"What time do we have to be at the park?" Wanda asks.

Wade grins. "Noon."

"When is that?" Head asks.

Wade looks at his watch, and says, "Three hours."

"We need food," Wanda says.

Kate is the next to wake up. She's in the kitchen making a fresh pot of coffee and toasting a bagel when Wade and the rest come inside. She fistbumps Wanda and Head, hugs Wade, and kisses Kid's cheek before saying, "Gwen texted me and said she's hungover and dying."

"Tell her the feeling's mutual." Wade grins, and says, "I voted to do all this in the afternoon."

Head says, "Oh, hell. Sleep's for the weak. We're all awake, anyway."

"Except Nate," Kate says into her coffee cup.

Nate's groggy voice says, "I'm awake, just resting my eyes." His voice is coming from somewhere in the living room, and Wade pokes his head out of the kitchen and sees Nate's legs sticking out from behind the sofa.

"I kind of want to bounce on him," Wanda says with a smirk.

"After the wedding," Kate says sternly. "We don't want an official with a black eye or anything."

Wanda smirks. "I wasn't planning to bounce on his face. At least not this morning."

"You are terrible," Kid says, leaning against the counter. He reaches for the coffee carafe, and Kate bats his hand away and pours for him. Seeing the two of them being cozy kind of warm's Wade's heart. With Kate leaning against him, Kid says, "I still can't believe you're getting married, Dead Man."

Wade can't believe it either. After how bad everything went with Shiklah, he didn't think that marriage was something he would ever do again. This time, though, Wade feels like he's making a good choice. He isn't marrying Peter because he needs validation or because he is self-destructive or he has nothing better to do. He's marrying Peter because he loves him, and every day with him seems better than the last.

When they first moved in together, there was some adjustment. Peter is a little messy and likes to leave toothpaste smears in the sink, and Wade sometimes just needs his personal space. Still, in the grand scheme of things, their conflicts are few and easily resolved. It isn't perfect, but it is close enough.

Wade wouldn't trade a minute of it. He loves the days they spend working in their little office, and meeting up for lunch at the Xavier School. Wade's favorite nights are the ones that the whole family gathers to watch (or listen to) movies or wrasslin' (Nate is hopelessly hooked, he just won't admit it). Those nights are becoming a little scarce, especially now that Kate is working for Alias Investigations and lives part-time in Hell's Kitchen.

After all the continuances and changes of venue, Travis and the rest of the co-defendants are currently serving a decade in state prison. It wasn't as much time as Kate (and everyone else) thought they deserved, but ten years is better than nothing. And after the illegal wiretapping and other malfeasance, Norman Osborn will soon join them. The civil case is still in the works, but Matt and Foggy are confident that it will go in their favor. The justice system is a slow machine, and it doesn't always work the way anyone wants.

The whole experience is what drove Kate to be a private investigator. Matt was the one who introduced her to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and with Wade's training and her natural gift of being stealthy, Kate is perfect for the work. Sometimes she calls Wade if she is on a stake out, and they talk until the early morning. Sometimes she comes home with a few bruises and stories about chasing people down dark alleys. Wade worries about her, but he knows that she is tough as nails. It helps that he trusts her backup, too.

Wade and Marilyn tag-team breakfast. (His real name is Dave, but Marilyn Manroe is his stage name. Apparently he's won several awards, but in his day job he's a stockbroker). They set up a small buffet on the counter, and the scent of bacon is enough to wake the remaining inhabitants and rouse Nate up from behind the couch. Weasel and Al stumble in at the same time, though Al looks a little hungover. For an 80+ year old woman, she can still pound the liquor. Weasel was the only one who didn't drink from their entourage, which meant that he had the best pictures.

Though Wade would deny that he is nervous, he doesn't eat much more than a piece of toast and a couple slices of bacon. Weasel and Kate (and Kid by default) volunteers to clean up the kitchen, and Wade goes to his room to get out his suit. Wade has bought a few more suits in the last couple years, mainly because the clinical work requires him to dress professionally. He chooses the black suit and gets out the red shirt that Peter likes so much, and goes with a black tie with little silver samurai swords making the design. He takes out the ironing board and while waiting for the iron to warm, Al knocks on the door frame.

"Come on in," he says.

Deuce leads Al to the bed, and they both sit. After a moment, she says, "I remember when you was just a kid trying to iron your shirts. Burned a hole through the ironing board."

Wade laughs. "Yeah, I remember that. Made the whole house smell like burnt plastic."

"You're a good man, Wade," she says. "You had a rough start, I know. But you made your life your own, and you still are. I'm proud of you, Wade. You and Jack are the only kids I ever took in, and I'm proud of both of you."

Wade pauses in his ironing, suddenly feeling a little emotional. Normally, hearing "I'm proud of you" makes Wade want to punch someone. But this time, he feels something very different. He carefully sets the iron aside and goes to the bed and hugs her. He doesn't cry, but his eyes are stinging, and his voice is a little thick when he says, "I guess this means I need to un-hide your Milkduds."

She whacks him, and says, "Asshole." But they are both smiling.

Wade finishes his ironing, and by the time he is dressed it is getting close to time to leave. Everyone is dressed pretty snazzy to be going to a park. Weasel, Nate, Wanda, and Kid are wearing suits. Head is in his dress blues. Al and Kate are wearing lavender dresses (Kate's idea). And both Deuce and Dork have bow ties attached to their collars.

The park is only a few blocks away. They've reserved a pavilion in the middle of the Fairy Garden, where there are thousands of bright blooms everywhere. The pavilion looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. But Wade doesn't really see any of that, because Peter is already waiting for him and he looks perfect. He's smiling and looking at him like Wade is the entire universe, and Wade knows what Peter's face looks like when he's looking at the universe.

Everyone convenes in the pavilion, forming a semi-circle around them. Gwen and Weasel stand beside their respective best buds, and Nate starts talking about love and commitment and all Wade can think about is how brown Peter's eyes are and how happy he looks. There are so many emotions inside of him that he knows he is going to start to cry if he talks, and of course that means that Wade talks, because they have vows to say and rings to exchange.

Peter goes first, and Wade is happy for that. Peter's well spoken (when he's not fumbling over his words and being an adorable mushmouth). He says, "It's kind of funny how you and I met, and every day after has been the best day of my life. I love you for all that you are. You are my best friend, and the best part of my days. All I want are days and nights with you forever." Peter slips the ring onto Wade's hand and says, "I love you, Wade and always will."

Yeah. Wade's crying. He takes a deep breath, and says, "I think you and me were always meant to be. One way or another, you and I was gonna be here in this park with our friends and family and friends that are family. We're meant to be, and I look forward to all those days and nights, and seeing you go gray, and us being cranky old men together." Peter is grinning so much, it must hurt as Wade slips the ring onto his finger. Wade says, "I love you Peter. Always will."

Wade wants to kiss Peter, but he restrains himself. Patience is a virtue, he knows. But Nate is being a talker, because he's also kind of a talker.

Nate says, "I asked Wade and Peter separately if they could think of a word that would sum up their relationship. Separately, they both said the same thing: Chemistry. And having the privilege to see their relationship grow over the last couple years, I know that they react well together. And their reaction precipitates joy for those who know them. And it is my honor as their friend to say that by the power vested in me by the State of New York, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss your husband."

There isn't a moment of hesitation. Peter and Wade kiss with their family clapping and wolf-whistling. And then they are both laughing and hugging, and everyone is congratulating them and wishing them luck. May hugs them both and says, "I'm so happy for you both, and I know Ben is smiling down at you."

Yeah, Wade's hopes of not crying are out the window. Good thing he washed off the mascara.

Gwen and Tony took care of the food, and that means catering. There are finger sandwiches and light salads and a lot of expensive wine. Then there's the cake that Kate and May made, which was a large sheet cake topped with a pair of Stormtroopers holding hands with an oversized D20 dice between them.

As they ate, Wade and Peter's friends exchange stories of their bachelor parties. Apparently, Tony took everyone via his helicopter to an undisclosed location an hour away to an underground casino/speakeasy. Peter's sequined shirt was the result of the shirt he wore getting covered in brown gravy, and Wade couldn't stop laughing. Peter was greatly amused by the pictures Weasel had from the drag show, especially the one of Wade the Blushing Bride.

Also, Al isn't the only elder in the family who can hold her liquor, because apparently May Parker likes the gin. She also likes dancing with strangers who look sort of like Burt Reynolds.

There are pictures. So many pictures. Hope punches Wade in the stomach to keep it real. More friends arrive in the evening, and the party continues back at the house. There is dancing and music. Weasel and Gwen give a toast together.

"It was pretty awesome seeing these two dorks being so oblivious and obviously in love," Gwen says. "I got so many calls from Peter telling me all about this Marine he met."

"In class, mind you," Weasel says. "Not gonna lie, I'm proud of my brother for hooking up with his teacher. Way to live the dream, boobear."

"Thanks, gumdrop," Wade says, both he and Peter laughing.

"But seriously." Gwen looks at Wade and Peter and says with her glass raised, "You two are so adorkably perfect for each other. I love you both."

Weasel finishes with, "Congratulations."

Yeah, Wade's happy. He's happy because the world feels amazing. Having a day like this is something that was unimaginable once upon a time. Then again, there are a lot of things that Wade never imagined for himself. Sometimes he catches himself wondering if it is all a dream, because happy endings don't happen for Wade Wilson. They just never seem to be in the cards. But maybe, just maybe, in this universe, he gets to have his happy ending.

But this isn't the end. It's only the beginning.

Wade and Peter have their whole lives to live. Wade has a doctorate to achieve. Peter has patents to file and papers to write. They have breakfasts and midnight dinners. Snow days and sick days. Rough days and perfect days. So many days ahead. And they are not alone, because they have family and friends that are family, too. They have a whole world to see, and all of it to do together.

And really, what could be better than that?