When Peter had said “sticking around me might be dangerous,” Ned hadn’t actually thought he’d been serious. Sure, the bad guys usually went after the people superheroes cared about, but Ned was just the guy in the background. The guy in the chair. It wasn’t like he was actually anything or anyone important, but he was okay with that. It suited him.
Which was why this latest development kiiiinda sucked ass.
He’d been minding his own business when the ship had first dropped out of the sky like an acorn bent on world domination. He hadn’t even been paying attention to the villain who’d come out of it, if he was being completely honest. He’d been a lot more interested in Peter, because Peter had immediately ducked into a closet and Ned had been the one to stand guard behind it, whistling nonchalantly.
“Don’t do that,” Peter had hissed, but Ned hadn’t listened. He knew what he was doing. Acting casual? Easy as pie.
Peter, now known to the world as Spiderman, had pushed past him, shoving his way out of the closet and engaging the large, bald, angry guy in some witty banter while he shot webs at him. And Ned watched with shining eyes, because that was Peter up there, and he couldn’t have been more proud of him.
And then the ceiling of the school collapsed, and things got kinda fuzzy.
Ned remembered the dirt and the dust. He remembered coughing. And he remembered Peter abandoning the fight and yelling his name as he pulled him and several other students out of the pile of rubble.
That had been the turning point, if Ned had to pick one.
The villain —he was calling himself “Endlord,” which Ned personally thought was ridiculous and overtly clichéd-- had up and left in the confusion, and Peter was upset that he hadn’t caught him. They hadn’t heard from him for a couple of weeks, not even through Peter’s extensive web of super-friends, so they’d thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d had enough to decide that a life of supervillainy wasn’t for him.
It really, really sucked to be wrong.
“I won’t go anywhere if you don’t have me tied up, you know,” Ned wheedled for what felt like the hundredth time. The high-quality ropes were digging hard into his wrists, and he’d been trying since he got caught to get Endlord to realise that it was dumb to restrain him. “I can’t go anywhere, man. We’re like, a billion feet in the air.” Endlord had grabbed him during school hours, nabbed him as he’d headed to the bathroom during his fifth period class the way he always did. It had happened so quickly that Ned couldn’t even call out to Peter for help —he doubted he would’ve heard, but Peter had something they’d dubbed his ‘spidey sense’ that tended to tell them if something weird or bad was going on.
“Shut up ,” Endlord growled from the front of the ship. Ned heaved a heavy sigh.
“Seriously. Would it kill you to let me down?”
“I’m going to kill you if you don’t stop this incessant chatter,” Endlord replied through gritted teeth.
So Ned shut up, for a little while. His wrists were sore and his back didn’t feel great from being strung up like a piñata, and all he could think about was Peter, but other than that, it wasn’t that bad. It was actually, arguably, better than actually attending his fifth period class.
At least, it was, until Peter actually showed up.
There was a big fight between them, between Endlord and Peter. Ned couldn’t see much of it from where he was, but he was pretty sure it was epic.
The ship must’ve had an autopilot feature, because there was nobody in the driver’s seat anymore when the bottom of the ship beneath Ned dropped out. He might’ve marvelled at the technology if he hadn’t been so busy screaming as he plummeted to his death.
“Alright. Endlord? Seriously messed up guy. Like, on a scale of one to ten, he’s probably a twelve. Or maybe more.” Peter was muttering to himself, not expecting a response, so he jumped three feet in the air when one actually came.
“You know, kid, you should’ve called us as soon as you knew your little friend had been baby-napped.”
“Mister Stark?” Peter, from where he was on top of Endlord’s ship, looked around wildly. “Where are you? Are you here?”
A scoff came through the suit. “Yes, we’re here. You’re not going to be able to see us, though. We’re right above you.” Peter immediately looked up, craning his neck in the process. Tony snorted. “Don’t hurt yourself, kid. We’re here. That’s all you need to know.”
“Who’s ‘we?’” Peter asked, wrinkling his nose beneath his hood and squinting up at the sky above him. If he listened close, he was pretty sure he could hear the humming of a ship from above, although he couldn’t be positive if it was real, or if he was just projecting.
“Don’t listen to Tony, kid. He’s just mad because he was in the middle of his soaps when he realised you were in trouble.”
At the sound of the faintly bitter woman’s voice from his suit, Peter’s eyes went wide. “Ohmygosh, is that Black Widow?”
“I told you to leave communication with him to me.” Tony’s voice was back, and he sounded annoyed. “ Yes, it’s her. Please try to stay focused, Parker.”
“Right, right. Okay.” Peter balled his hands into fists, attempting to reign in his excitement. “Ned. He has Ned, Mister Stark.”
“We know,” Natasha said, before she huffed out an annoyed breath and Tony took over on the line again.
“We know. We have a plan to get him out. Just hang tight, kid.”
“Hang tight? But Mister Stark, I can help! This guy’s really bad, but I’ve fought him before! I told you about him, remember? I can—“
Peter blinked. “Mister Stark…?”
“Change of plans, Parker.” Tony sounded tense. “If you want to save your little friend, you’re going to jump off that plane.”
“He’s falling to his doom down there. You jump, and I’ll guide the suit. You’ve got about five seconds.”
Peter’s mind kicked itself into overdrive immediately, fear and panic clouding his judgement. He took a look over the edge of the plane.
“Mister Stark, it’s a long way down and I don’t think that jumping off is the best—“
“Trust me,” Tony barked. “Jump. Now!”
Peter made a noise that was most certainly not a whimper, but he did as he was instructed. He took a running leap off the side of Endlord’s plane, his breath coming in short bursts as he felt Tony take manual control of his suit and somehow —man, he really needed to figure out how this thing worked!— managed to propel him down faster than he would’ve just fallen.
“Stick out your arms, kid.”
Blindly, Peter did as he was told, holding out his arms in front of him. And then, he finally saw him: Ned was thrashing about, his wrists tied together behind him and his ankles bound by thick ropes as well. He was yelling, but the sound was lost to the wind whipping around them.
“Man, this is gonna be close,” Tony muttered in his ear.
“Tony—“ Natasha started warningly, but Peter didn’t know if she continued or not, because suddenly he had Ned in his arms and they were both falling through the air now and Ned wasn’t screaming anymore, but he looked downright terrified and honestly? Peter understood the sentiment.
And then they crashed into something hard and metallic, and everything went black.
Everything smelled like Peter. That was the first thing Ned noticed upon awakening, because the scent was all around him. It kinda smelled like the last time they’d had a sleepover and Ned had fallen asleep in Peter’s bed and Peter hadn’t woken him up to get him to move away. But that didn’t make any sense, because the last thing Ned remembered…
Oh, man. The last thing Ned remembered was the sound of wind whipping around him and the feeling of his stomach moving up into his chest.
His eyes felt crusty and gross when he tried to open them, and it took him a couple of tries to successfully peel his eyelids up enough to see his surroundings.
Okay, this really didn’t make any sense.
He slowly became aware of the fact that his wrists were still sore as hell, and that there was something lying underneath his side, jutting rather uncomfortably into his ribs. When he went to touch it, it was warm. And… attached to… Peter?
Peter’s arm. It was Peter’s arm.
Peter didn’t have his hood on, but he was still wearing his Spiderman outfit. The metallic spandex glimmered from underneath the blanket that had been haphazardly thrown over the both of them.
Okay, so that whole Endlord thing definitely hadn’t been a dream. Great. What it didn’t explain was what they were doing here, or even what had happened with Endlord.
The last thing he remembered… was falling. He’d been falling, and then Peter had caught him and they’d…
They’d slammed into something , Ned was pretty sure.
Peter groaned quietly beside him, and Ned frowned, staring down at him. There was silence for a moment, and then Peter’s eyes shot wide open and he sat up straight, wrenching his arm from underneath Ned’s body.
“ Ned! ” he cried out, and Ned’s own eyes widened almost comically. Peter whipped his head around crazily, until his gaze landed on Ned and slowly focused. “I— Oh, god, my head hurts. Ned? Are you… okay?”
Ned thought about that for a second. Besides his wrists, he wasn’t actually hurt. “Yeah. I’m okay.” He carefully placed one hand on Peter’s shoulder, fingers sliding a little on the cool fabric of his suit, and brought the other up to swipe at his eyes, wiping away the crust that had gathered there from the tears that had come down while he’d been falling from Endlord’s ship. “Are you okay.”
“You got kidnapped!” Peter exclaimed immediately, one hand jerking up to grab onto Ned’s. “You… right? You got kidnapped. That wasn’t just some weird nightmare, right? I don’t sound like a crazy person?”
“No, no, it did happen. I definitely got kidnapped,” Ned assured him, trying not to freak out about the fact that Peter was holding his hand. “How did we get here?”
“Where—?” Peter began, looking around. He frowned, blinking in confusion. “I don’t… remember…? I caught you after you fell off Endlord’s ship and then…” He shook his head, as if to clear it, when the sound of a phone pinging split the otherwise quiet of the room. They looked at each other for a second, because that was Tony Stark’s ringtone, and then Peter was clambering off the bed, slipping and sliding against the sheets, and Ned was right behind him until he pulled his phone out of his backpack in the opposite corner of the room.
“Endlord is with us. We got him. Rest easy, kid,” Peter read aloud with Ned peering at the text over his shoulder. They both turned to look at each other in the same moment, until Ned’s face split into a grin.
“Peter. Did Iron Man help you save me ?”
“And Black Widow,” Peter replied slowly. He didn’t look as happy as Ned felt.
“ Black Widow, Iron Man, and Spiderman saved my life,” Ned whispered reverently. “Holy shit.”
“You wouldn’t have even needed saving if it hadn’t been for me,” Peter mumbled, dropping his phone on the floor and turning to sink back onto his bed. Ned’s grin faded some.
“What do you mean?”
“I told you that you’d end up in trouble if you didn’t want to stop being around me. I don’t want you to get hurt, Ned. You’re my best friend.”
“And you’re my best friend,” Ned stated firmly, pushing himself off the floor where he’d been kneeling and walking over to join Peter back on the bed. His sudden presence there jostled Peter enough that they wound up leaning against one another, but neither of them shifted away. “I didn’t get hurt, Peter.”
“But you could’ve,” Peter told him. “Mister Stark said that it was close. We both got… knocked out, or something. What if you’d gotten more hurt? It would’ve been my fault.”
“Nope,” Ned replied after a moment’s thought. “Because I’m your best friend. Besides, man. If something happened, it’d be worth it. I got kidnapped by a supervillain! We can’t tell people you’re Spiderman, but at least now we have a story we can tell people! Peter, this is cool.” He flopped over, so that his head was lying in Peter’s lap, and grinned up at him. “Seriously. Don’t worry about it, okay?”
Peter didn’t look too convinced, but he did acquiesce. “...Okay.”
There was silence for a moment, and then Ned ran one hand along the suit, against Peter’s torso. “You should probably change out of this before your aunt sees,” he suggested, and Peter’s eyes went wide again.
“ Shit,” he muttered, pushing Ned’s head off his lap and hopping up amidst the sound of Ned giggling, still lying there on the bed.