Work Header

child's play

Chapter Text




Time is a funny, funny thing.


This dawns upon Peter Parker as he's clinging to a wall, bare fingertips aching. To him, it feels as if he's been stuck to this wall for an eternity; but then he squints blearily at the shattered face of his wristwatch and comes to realise with an overwhelming amount of debility that it's barely been five minutes.


Time is the funniest thing, but it doesn't make Peter laugh.


He rests his forehead against the surface of the wall, taking comfort of the cool brick against his skin. In the distance both near and far, he can hear many things — after all, this is New York, and New York isn't exactly famous for it's silence — but he carefully tunes it all out until what he's searching for becomes divided from the hum of the traffic outside.


Voices; both dramatically different, akin to the men who own them. One is gruff and accented with a sharp tang of something Russian, while the American's is lilting and kind and definitely counters the tone of the companion he so closely follows.


Peter swallows and it roars in his ears so emphatically that, for a moment, he thinks it could give his position away. He's not really the most practical hider — he's always been the kind of person to get himself included rather than to withhold from it — but he supposes that clinging to a wall in a cutaway of the alley, body positioned so that he is concealed in the shadow cast by the streetlamps outside, is good enough for him.


The Russian man swings his foot at a trashcan and it topples over, scattering crushed cans and empty Chinese takeaway boxes across the floor. "Where the fuck could he have gone?" he curses, head snapping towards his accomplice as if he's to blame. "I saw him go in here! A dead-end alleyway... no way out. Where could he have gone?"


He trails off, then. A small voice in the back of Peter's mind tells him that he's been caught — that his stupid hiding spot isn't as smart as he thinks it is. But this is thankfully proven incorrect when the American begins to speak, his serene tone the voice of reason. "Maybe he just... slipped out of the alley without us noticing. He was pretty scrawny."


Peter’s unappreciation for the insult burns into the wall.


"I would have seen him," the Russian insists, his accent growing stronger the more fury he pumps into his words. He kicks another trashbin over; this one spills multiple empty doughnut boxes. Does this man have no regard for New York’s littering laws? "Honest to God. He's here somewhere."


"It's possible you didn't see him go," the American counters patiently. He goes to put his hand on his companion's shoulder, but visibly hesitates; Peter understands that this highlights who is the more dominant — and dangerous — of the pair.


Peter assesses his situation further. If he were to drop to the ground, there is an extremely high chance of him being found and chased down — and Peter's body really doesn't run nearly as fast as it used to. The amount of trouble he's been put through just because he can't find it in himself to sprint faster or jump further is growing ridiculous.


He glances up the wall. The light from the streetlamps hits the building on the other side of it, and crawling from the wall to the side of the building could also give his position away. Besides, his backpack — which holds everything he owns — is still tucked behind one of the giant metal skips in the alley and he really, really cannot afford to lose that.


He hates that he's unfortunate enough to be in this situation, and all because he napped outside of the wrong apartment building.


Parker luck does that to you, he supposes.


"Let's just go," the American says — no, pleads, in a voice so innocent that Peter finds he nearly likes the man. "It was just some homeless kid. All he was doing was sleeping. It wasn't like he was breaking our windows or vandalising the side of the building."


The Russian doesn't appear to be pleased by this new information, for he violently kicks over yet another trashbin with a roar, and the clatter sends alarm bells ringing throughout his whole body all at once. It takes a couple of minutes for the man to agree with his patient companion, but he agrees nonetheless, and Peter holds his stuttering breath as the pair walk right underneath him. He watches their backs; watches the way the Russian fingers at the tip of the dagger he'd wanted to sink into Peter's chest; watches the way the American skips like a jolly school girl as they hit the street again.


He waits. Listens for their footsteps until he can't tell the difference between theirs' and everyone else's.


Inhaling a lungful of polluted New York air, Peter drops quietly to the ground. The bitter cold wind sends aggressive shivers up his spine, his thin coat doing nothing to protect him from the bite of December weather. "Ah, fuck," he whispers to himself as he pulls out his backpack from behind the bin, his numb fingers barely having enough strength to hold it. "Fuck me."


Of course, the cold is nothing he isn't used to; after he'd been kicked out of May's apartment a year or so ago, his body gradually adjusted to the merciless winter temperatures. The cold hadn't been that big of a problem for him until the lack of proper sleep and proper meals and too much exercise started to weigh down on him. Now, his body can't seem to warm itself up anymore.


(In the back of his mind, something reminds him that spiders can't thermoregulate. Of course they can’t. That’s just Parker luck.)


It would be much easier to manage if he had his suit. He had built heaters in that and everything; there isn't a day where he doesn't miss the presence of the spandex pressing against his skin. When May had found out about his nightly activities, she'd promptly locked him in his bedroom and burned the suit until it was just another layer of glowing embers on the fireplace. His trusty webshooters had been crushed with a hammer in front of his own eyes.


All his hard work gone to waste.


To be honest, he isn't entirely mad about the suit. Sure, he misses it, but he still has his acrobatic flexibility and his sticky fingers (he wishes there were a better way to describe them), and he's okay with that.


He's more angry that May thought it was okay to kick him — her own nephew, her last family member — out of the apartment completely. Whenever he went back and tried to reason with her, she'd just slam the door on his face and tell him to 'fuck off, I thought I'd already told you that you're not welcome here anymore'. Which is fine. He's fine with that.


(He isn't.)


After ten minutes of walking aimlessly up and down a somewhat deserted section of street, his shoe hits a pile of sludge. The wetness soaks through to his feet, unprotected by a decent pair of socks. "Fuck," he murmurs, staring down at his feet in a trance of complete displeasure. He isn't surprised; just frustrated that his shoes are going to stay damp and cold forever. "Fucking shit. Fuck you, December."


He'd have gone about cursing his emotions out more if it weren't for his spider-sense, interrupting him with a tidal wave of sharp needles that travel down the back of his neck and ring ever so quietly in his ears.


He doesn't want to do anything dramatic, not until he knows what to be dramatic about. Instead, in order to appear as if he is unaware of whatever he's been warned about, he does what a homeless person does best; sitting solemnly against a random wall.


The ground is ice cold and hard enough to ache underneath him. He drops his backpack to his side, hooking his arm through the shoulder strap out of pure habit (the last time he didn't, his bag got stolen — along with everything he'd once owned). His spider-sense isn't what he could call ringing anymore, but it's still there, like a low whine of white noise in the back of his mind. Something is wrong. Nothing entirely fatal, so to say, but definitely wrong.


It becomes clear to him when he hears a feminine voice on the rooftop of the building he's leaning against. His thumbs rubbing absently over the palm of his fingerless gloves, he focuses his enhanced hearing on that particular voice. The noise of New York's streets steadily become a low rumble along with the whine of his spider-sense.


"It was just some homeless kid. He was probably looking through the dumpsters in the alley."


The fact that she thinks he'll actually search through a dumpster...


"Barton, chill. Homeless kid. Nothing more, nothing less."


The name 'Barton' sounds somewhat familiar to him, but Peter files that matter away for later. The only subject on his mind is what in the world the woman is doing on that rooftop, and what business she has watching him as she is. She's talking to someone, but they must be on the phone or on a commlink, because he cannot hear a response even if he strains.


Part of him longs to go back and take a proper look in the alley. He had been too busy hiding from an insane Russian man to admire the sights in the area, but even the concept of something with potential value piques his interest...


He shakes his head, then, and reminds himself of the situation at hand. Going down the alley now would draw the woman on the roof to him even further and that's the last thing he wants.


"It's getting late, Barton. Let's go back to the Tower and we'll try again tomorrow."


Her footsteps are just loud enough for him to pick up and even then Peter has trouble dividing it from everything else within his audio range. He waits until he cannot hear her anymore before he finally allows himself to relax, her presence having been the only thing that'd been keeping him from falling asleep right there and then.


Trying to make sense out of the fragmented information is pointless, and even wishing to follow the woman even more so; sleep is tugging at his eyelids, energy leaving his legs as he finds some traces of comfort sitting against the rough concrete of the pavement. People are hitting his legs as they walk around him but he hardly even notices in this state.


He falls asleep lying against the wall, the name 'Barton' lingering on his mind.