Peter felt like he might choke on his own breath. He clenched his hands into fists and relaxed them, feeling heat radiate from and around them. His tongue lay heavy in his mouth and he shifted from foot to foot. His eyes stayed on the ground despite being the only one in his bedroom. Peter wasn’t estranged to anxiety but this felt like the first morning after the bite. He could hear the fly on the window sill of his room as loud as a motorbike, and aunt May’s shoes clacking against the kitchen tiles made his head pound. But it wasn’t brand new Spidey senses causing this, it was just him, standing in front of the mirror, on an ordinary school day, unable to look himself in the eye.
On his bed, his laptop lay open. A self-help article half-way read. It had recommended self-affirmations and he’d almost laughed out loud. How could Peter affirm himself if he hadn’t even said it out loud yet.
Peter stood in front of the mirror on the inside of his cupboard door, refusing to make eye contact with himself. It shouldn’t have been this hard. He just needed to look up say the words that’d been floating around his head for almost a year now. If he said it maybe all this pressure and stress would go away. He wasn’t a stranger to the pressure and stress that came with being the friendly neighbourhood Spiderman and almost Avenger, but this was different. This was weight on your shoulders, un voiced shame and guilt. At least some people knew about Spiderman, those Peter could trust. No-one knew about this.
Peter’s eye caught his old battered, self-made, first edition Spiderman suit. He had been so nervous when he first put it on but now it lay battle wearied and forgotten, half stuffed in a box at the bottom of his cupboard, the first of many more and a way to remember. Maybe one day he’d look back on this moment and laugh about how hard this was. The self-help article said this fear wouldn’t last forever but right now it felt all consuming. Breath in and breath out. Peter had fought many a villain and never had an issue looking them in the eye, so why should this be any different.
Summoning his courage Peter met his eyes in the mirror. His heart picked up in pace, he wiped his sweaty hands on his thighs and cleared his throat. Without breaking eye contact he whispered under his breath.
“I like boys and that’s ok.” His sigh afterwards was three times louder than the whisper.
“Peter? Are you dressed yet? If you hurry I can give you a lift to school before my shift!” Peter startled as May called out to him from the other end of the house. He scrambled to close his tabs on his laptop before flinging it into his school bag. Peter pulled on his shoes and jacket before scrambling to the kitchen to grab something to eat before heading out the door.
Peter began to make a habit of his morning affirmations. He’d wake up, pull himself from bed dragging himself into his cleanest pair of jeans, a shirt and jumper before giving himself a short moment to look and say to himself. “I like boys and that’s ok.” Before moving on to prepare for the rest of his day. Each day he was able to say it a little louder and with a little more confidence. Peter firmly believed in fake it ‘till you make it, as that had mostly worked for him as Spiderman.
He’d gone back and read the rest of the article, it said that self-acceptance was the first step to living your truth. Although it reminded him of the compulsory mental health presentation pulled out for one home room period a year, the article had a point. Not only was he able to admit it to himself in the morning, but when he was around school. Seeing the GSA signs with their aggressively cheesy slogans, ‘LOVE IS LOVE’, ‘ACCEPT YOURSELF’, ‘HATE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED’, he no longer felt the bubbling need to avert his gaze. And if Peter happened to stare at the back of the very male Australian exchange student in his biology class for longer than appropriate who was to say.
What he didn’t expect was this new-found sense of self to bleed into his time as Spiderman. Peter was never any good at keeping himself and Spiderman separate. The amount of times he’d almost slipped and introduced himself as Peter Parker after giving someone a helping hand couldn’t be counted on all his fingers and toes. This part of his identity was different though. It didn’t have to be a secret. Plenty of people would actually benefit from Spider-man coming out, but Peter filled that away. That’d be for when he was ready, when he’d already told those important to him as Peter Parker. So he continued doing his job as the ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-man’.
One afternoon when Peter heard a crash of trashcans and sinister laughter coming from a back alley, as he swung through Queens streets, he prepared himself to face off an armed robber or maybe intervene in a drug deal gone wrong. Instead, as he crept along the alley facing wall, he saw a gaggle of school boys no older than twelve. Unwilling to let a disturbance go un-investigated he watched and listened for any reason to interfere.
“So, Josh you had a good day at school today?” One of the boys elbowed his friend.
The boy shoved him back. “Yeah, I did, well mostly. My day was almost ruined when the little faggot over there bumped into me. I could’ve dropped my lunch!” Peter swallowed thickly, realising what was happening.
“I can’t believe it! The little fag thought he had the right.” Another boy piped up.
“We simply can’t let this go un punished. We gotta teach him a lesson.” A chorus of agreement signalled the group moving threateningly forwards. Peter could now see the victim, a shorter boy with dirty blond hair and crooked glasses. One of the boys drew back his fist ready to strike but Peter wasn’t about to let that happen. He swung down from his perch firing off a web which fixed the boys hand to a dumpster nearby.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“Spiderman?” The boy on the ground choked out in surprise.
“That’s me. Now shouldn’t you boys be somewhere else, minding your own business.” He was met with cold stares.
“You can’t tell us what to do. You’re just an idiot in a onesie.” One spat.
Peter put his hand over his heart. “Oh, that hurts, that really hurts. Now go run along before I call your mothers.” He carefully positioned himself between the boy on the ground and the rest.
“Bullshit, I don’t have to listen to this!”
“It was Josh yeah? You want me to treat you like an adult, do you? Well you know if I called the cops instead you could be charged with an attempted assault.”
“You wouldn’t. You’re just a fag like Liam over there. And faggots get what they deserve. Come on boys let’s get him!”
“Oh, youth these days.” Peter dodged out of the way before systematically firing his webs sticking each boy to the alley wall. They spat vile words as they struggled against the web but Peter ignored them. Swinging down he met the target, Liam, where he sat on the ground stunned.
“Do you know these boys?”
“Y-y-yeah… Um, yes, I go to school with them.” The boy worried his lip. “Are you really going to call the police?”
“No, I was just fibbing, I believe a call to their parents will be just as effective don’t you. Besides I don’t think the police are too fond of me right now.” Peter went over to one of the boy’s bags, left in a neat pile by the alley’s entrance. Sparing a thought to all the backpacks he’d lost to alleyways, Peter searched until he found a bag with a book labelled Joshua Ashley. He rummaged through the rest of the contents and pulled out an old beat up flip phone, thumbed through the contacts before reaching ‘mum’.
“This yours Josh?”
“Shut up you fag!” He shouted indignantly. Peter walked up to him looking down at him as he attempted to rip free of his webs.
“So, what if I am kid.” Josh froze a mixture of surprise and disgust adorning his face, “I suggest you find some better words with which to vent your frustration at the world. That word in particular just makes you sound like a toddler who has just learnt the word ‘no’. Not a flattering look.” The boy practically seethed. “Now give me a moment I have a phone call to make.” The phone rang twice before it was answered.
A woman’s voice called through, and from Josh’s reaction he could hear her too. “Josh, where are you? You were meant to be home right after school, you’re still grounded remember. I swear-” The woman broke off. “Josh? You there?”
“Hello, I assume this is Josh’s mother.”
“Yes. And who is this.” She snapped.
Peter hummed, rubbing the back of his neck as a nervous habit. “Yeah. Um, I sort of caught your son and his friends threatening a friend of mine, Liam. They go to school together.”
“Bloody Hell, not again. Where is he?” Peter looked around himself.
“The alleyway along fourth street, next to the convenience store.”
“Ah I know the one, I’ll come around and collect him.” The sharpness blead from her voice. “Sorry for the hassle.” She sounded tired.
“Just doing my job, see you in a few.” After hanging up Peter plopped the phone back.
The boys looked on in horror as he went to the bag beside it and started rummaging. “Right, whose next.” A few calls later, he sat down next to Liam who hadn’t moved since Peter first interfered.
“You know you don’t have to hang around if you don’t want to.” The boy looked up and cracked a smile.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world. It’s not every day I get to see them squirm.” The aforementioned boys seemed to have come to terms with their imminent demise, refusing to look up from the ground. “Also, was it true what you said before.”
“Are you really gay?” At the time Peter had known exactly what he said but had been too frustrated to care. Looking at Liam he remembered being that young, pushed into lockers for his stutter, for being smart, for tucking his shirt in, for whatever the bullies decided was their reason for the day. He sighed, the long breath calming his now racing heart.
“You know what, yeah. Yeah I am.” The boy lit up. What was a hard admission to Peter seemed to be like a gift from Santa to Liam.
“That’s cool. Me too.” He looked up at the bullies. “I know they just pick on me because I’m different and stand out. But if you’re also gay then I’m the same kind of different as a Superhero! How cool is that.” Peter ruffled his hair.
“You know, you’ll be alright kid. Despite what those idiots say.” An idea came to him. “Can I borrow your phone?”
“Huh? You gonna call my mum too?”
Peter waved his hand dismissively. “No of course not. Although I would suggest talking to someone about today, make sure someone knows what’s happening.”
Liam considered that before nodding. “Will do Spider-man. Oh, and here’s my phone.” Peter took it and flicked to the camera then pulled up the front camera.
“Come here.” Throwing up a peace sign Peter took several pictures with Liam, his school bully’s sulking in the background. Liam laughed once he realised what they were doing and the two began pulling faces and doing silly poses.
“Now never let it be said Spiderman condones black mail but if they ever threaten you again I’m sure a little leverage like this won’t hurt.” He handed the phone back just as a car pulled up outside the alley and a harried woman in her mid-forties got out.
“Aha, which one is yours?”
Actually telling someone had been easier than he thought, especially when that stranger was a star eyed boy and he was Spider-man. But it was only after the fact that Peter started freaking out. If it got out that Spider-man was gay, people would know. Ned would know he’s gay. MJ would know he’s gay. May would know he’s gay. Mr. Stark would know he’s gay. But Peter wasn’t even sure he was gay. He liked boys, but then he’d also really liked Liz. Again, he turned to google.
He was three pages deep and more confused than he had been before. Was he bisexual? Pansexual? He’d been linked to songs by Panic! At the Disco and Troye Sivan. Read pages on Yahoo answers and Quora, people asking questions similar to him. Everyone seemed to be different and have different experiences. How on earth was Peter to figure anything out. He needed to talk to someone, usually that’d be Ned. It should be, Ned was his best friend, but somehow, he just couldn’t bring himself to. He needed someone on neutral ground who he could trust with the truth and not worry about their reaction. He needed…
She’d been weirdly cool about the whole Spider-man thing. Said she’d already suspected, and just moved on in the conversation. If she was at all the same with this then he had nothing to worry about. He grabbed out his phone, only hesitating for a second before typing out.
Hey MJ, you awake?
its 12am parker shouldn’t your aunt have tucked you in by now
you could use some beauty sleep
Peter could practically hear MJ’s voice in the snarky comment.
Haha, very funny? I was wondering if I could ask you about something personal.
you know I don’t do personal
why don’t you ask ned
I just can’t, not yet.
Tension built as the typing bubble appeared and disappeared several times.
I swear if you want advice on how to ask out a girl I will block your number.
It’s not that. I mean kinda but not.
She didn’t message back for several minutes.
I don’t want this to change what you think of me.
that you’re a looser
That I’m your friend.
look parker whatever it is can’t be that serious
youre a real weirdo but your my friend and that wont change
Although they’d only been on a friendship basis for a few months Peter really appreciated her place in his life and he was glad she felt the same.
Thanks MJ, that means a lot.
yeah, yeah just get on with it
Well, I don’t just like girls.
I also like boys.
The reply was almost immediate.
oh, thats it
good for you parker
So you’re ok with it?
of course, im no flash
Yeah I know, that’s why I came to you.
so you bisexual?
That’s what I need help with, I don’t really know.
thats fine labels arent for everyone
It’s not that I don’t want a label it’s just that I don’t know which one to use.
Like am I bisexual? do I count?
I mean I’ve never dated a guy.
I’ve never even kissed a guy.
Or a girl.
How am I meant to know.
Peter wasn’t even half way done when MJ cut him off.
whoa slow down there parker
you said you like both guys and girls yeah
so bam bisexual
unless you prefer pansexual
What’s the difference?
well traditionally bisexual means liking men and women but some prefer it as liking two or more genders
pansexual is gender or sex not playing a part in who you are attracted to
Ok. Well then.
I guess, I’m bisexual.
id say any time but please don’t make a habit of this
Okay, see you at school tomorrow!
see you, and really you should tell ned
he might freak out about it at first but hes cool
dont tell him I said that
I’ll think about it.
think about what telling him ur bi or me saying hes cool
Why not both?
fuck you parker
Peter chuckled quietly to himself.
Goodnight to you too MJ.
MJ was right though, he really should tell Ned. He’s known Ned for so long and Ned had been supportive, if not overly curious, when he found out about Spider-man. If MJ was cool with both there’s no reason this should be any different. Yet, Peter couldn’t help but worry that it would change the relaxed and intimate relationship they had. There was only one way to find out.
The next day at school Peter had every intention to tell Ned what was going on. All he’d have to say is ‘Hey Ned can I talk to you?’ or ‘Ned I’m actually bisexual.’ or even ‘You know that Australian exchange student in my biology class is really attractive. Yeah, the guy with the blond hair.’ Really it would be that simple. But it wasn’t. At the end of the day Peter waved good-bye to his best friend as he always did without having said anything.
He promised himself he’d do it tomorrow. Ok, maybe not tomorrow but the day after that. Ok, the day after that. Ah, but then they’d have their test which he wouldn’t want to throw Ned off for, so the day after that.
It was a full week before MJ pulled him aside during decathlon training.
“You haven’t told him yet have you.” She raised an eyebrow at him as though daring him to lie.
“Not exactly no.” She sighed.
“Look I know it can be scary and you’re meant to wait until you’re ready yada-yada-ya. But I can see this weighing on you Parker. You’re getting jumpy, more so than usual and I think Ned can tell.” Peter had thought he was being subtle but apparently not.
“I knew it.” Peter slumped. “It’s I just can’t seem to find the right time. I know he’d understand but it just won’t come out.” MJ smirked.
“Nice one Parker.”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, you know what I meant. It’s just hard to talk about.”
“Well you managed with me.”
“Well you’re you.” MJ almost laughed.
She put a hand over her heart in mock gratitude. “Thanks, I’m touched.”
“You know what I mean.” Peter looked down at his shoes, and shuffled nervously from side to side.
“Why don’t you just text him like you texted me.”
“Text who?” Peter’s spider senses were really letting him down right now.
“Ned! Hi!” Ned looked between Peter and MJ suspicion creasing his brow.
“Hi… um what were you two whispering about? It sounded serious.” Peter knew he was only worried for his friend, but this entire situation was making his breath come in shallow.
“It wasn’t really it was just-” He looked to MJ hoping for an excuse, a way out.
“Just what, Parker? Do tell.” He was screwed.
“Um it’s just I… uh.” His tongue again grew heavy in his mouth, he swallowed but the lump growing in his throat stopped him from getting any more words out.
“Come on, you were going to have to tell him eventually.”
“Uhhh…” Peter looked into Ned’s eyes and it was like all the fear and apprehension came to the forefront of his mind.
“Tell me what?” But he just opened and closed his mouth like a gaping fish. This is not what he wanted, it wasn’t supposed to go like this, he was meant to have time to prepare. “Are you alright Peter? You’re going a little pale.” Ned put a hand on Peter’s shoulder.
MJ quirked a brow. “Hey, Ned why don’t you take Peter to get a drink, I’ll tell Mr. Harrington he wasn’t feeling well.”
“Ok. That alright with you Peter?” Peter himself was a little beyond replying, his breathing picking up pace dangerously. Ned seemed to have caught on and quickly guided his best friend out the library doors. “Ok, let’s go. Come on.”
The two had barely left when Peter’s legs gave out. It felt like back when Peter was stuck under the building. He was trapped and he couldn’t breathe. He felt sick. Ned dropped to the ground next to him.
“Whoa, whoa. Peter are you alright. Well obviously you’re not alright. Um, is there something I can do? Was this because of something I did?” Peter shook his head, only serving to blur his vision and make the nausea he was feeling worse. “Do you want me to go get the nurse? Is this a Spider-man thing? Should I call May, or maybe Happy? What about Stark?”
“I need air.” Peter managed to wheeze out.
“Right, ok, right! Let’s go outside.” Ned hooked his arm under Peter and hoisted him up off the hallway floor, all but dragging him out the closest door into the school yard. He settled them against the brick of the building and began rubbing circles on Peter’s back. “Hey, come on dude, breath, in and out yeah. You’re scaring me a little. You just need to breath ok. Forget all the questions I just asked.” Peter tried to focus on what Ned was saying over the chaos of thoughts swirling in his head.
Ned shifted them so he was sitting in front of Peter, making eye contact. “Hey, do you remember Miss. Gordon’s meditation she made us do that one health class? Breath in for four, hold for four and out for four. You think you can do that with me.” Peter nodded slowly, trying to avoid his head spinning. “Ok. Breath in.” Peter drew in a shaky breath. “Now hold. Good. Good.” Peter’s hands were shaking. “Out for four now.” Peter choked on his breath as it rushed to escape him. “Now again.” Ned’s voice took on a soothing monotone that played like a soundtrack to Peter’s slowly subsiding panic.
The two boys sat there for who knows how long, focusing only on breathing. Eventually the shaking faded, Peter’s breathing evened out and he was able to slump back against the brick building.
“Hey dude no pressure but what was that about?” Ned moved to sit beside Peter, his own back pressed to the wall. “Was it to do with what you and MJ were talking about, because I don’t have to know if you don’t want me too but I could help overhearing.”
“Ned.” Peter was just so tired, it was so easy not to care in that moment. He’d just run all the negative outcomes through his head; there was nothing left but to take the jump and find out which one came to reality. “I’m bisexual. I like boys too.”
“Oh.” They sat there in silence. Peter felt tears start to well up. This is what he’d been afraid of. The silence. Ned was so talkative, full of questions and this silence from his best friend was slowly killing him. His tears spilled over. “Oh no, no no no, Peter don’t cry. It’s ok really, this is fine, I was just processing. That’s cool and fine. I mean, you liking guys. I don’t mind.”
“Really.” Ned pulled him in for a hug. Peter couldn’t breathe for the second time that day, but this was the good, bear hug, squished to your best friend’s chest, kind of can’t breathe.
“This actually explains a lot. You’ve been super on edge recently...” He says into the crook of Peters neck. “So, MJ knows about this?” Ned slowly released him.
“MJ knows yeah.” He agreed too tired to go into any more detail.
“I can’t pretend to understand why you went to her first because she’s the opposite of kind and sympathetic but I’m glad. Anyone else know?”
“A twelve-year-old kid named Liam.” Ned chuckles.
“Spider-man right?” Peter hummed his acknowledgement.
“How about that. Hey!” Ned looked over at him in excitement. “You must be like the first bisexual superhero. That’s so cool.”
Peter shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know about that. Captain America and Bucky totally had a thing.”
“You think. My moneys on Ironman. No offence but it seems like it’d fit with his playboy millionaire vibe.”
And as easy as that, Peter and Ned were back to their usual banter. Ned insisted on going home with Peter to make sure he was ok until May got home from her shift. They passed the afternoon lazing on the couch, Ned playing video games while Peter dozed head in his lap. It all almost made up for the hell Peter had gone through that afternoon, because Ned made sure every five minutes to reassure him about just how ok he was with his best friend’s sexuality. Ned even went so far as to quiz him on which male celebrities he found most attractive. It was really sweet and even after Ned had left, the warmth in his chest stayed.
Later that evening when Peter’s phone buzzed he expected it to be Ned but instead found a text from MJ.
sorry about today I shouldnt have pushed you
are u ok
Yeah I am. I talked to Ned.
howd he take it?
Really well actually, just took him a moment to collect his thoughts and then he was cool. Like aggressively cool. I’m expecting bi flag cupcakes.
see I told you
still sorry for freaking you out tho
that wasn’t cool of me
see you tomorrow parker
It was a Saturday and May didn’t have shift at work so the two of them planned on spending the day in. May had insisted on cleaning out the house, using the words ‘come on, it’ll be good family bonding time. We can even play ABBA as we work.’ Still Peter was not enthused. However, the productivity was infectious and by lunch time Peter was hauling down old boxes from the top of his cupboard ready to sort through his collection of childhood toys, fighting off nostalgia.
“Hey Peter, is it an abuse of power if you come Spider-man these photo albums off the top shelf for me?” Peter laughed and followed May’s voice into the living room.
“Nope! I’m doing exactly what Spider-man should do, looking out for the small people.”
“Ha ha, very funny.” Peter climbed up the walk and onto the ceiling grabbing the photo books May pointed too and handing them too her as he hung upside down. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing you do that, but it is rather helpful. I should get you to do the dusting later.”
“May,” Peter whined, “come on.” Mock upset he stomped his foot on the ceiling.
She laughed. “Well I’ll see how you go with your room first.” Peter turned around and walked still hanging from the ceiling to his room, May’s laughter following him.
About half an hour later Peter was sprawled out on the floor with piles of old school books to sort through when he heard May call. “Peter come out here.”
“What do you want me to get down now?” He whined as he entered the lounge.
“Oh no, not that. Just come and have a look, I found the photo book from my first year at college, this was just before your uncle Ben and I got together.” Peter flopped down on the couch next to his aunt, more than happy to take a break from the mess he’d made in his room. “I was a bit of a trouble maker back then, and there was plenty to protest about so we did.” She held out a photo of herself, fresh out of high school holding a banner with five other young women reading ‘WOMEN STRIKE FOR PEACE AND EQUALITY’.
“May your hair!” Peter laughed, taking in how frizzy and curly it was.
“I know, I know. It really was the fashion. See this one is me and the girls with our matching tartan pants.” Peter couldn’t help but cringe.
“Hey, look at this one, that’s Cathy. You remember from my birthday last year.” May pointed to an image of herself a small woman with tightly curled blonde hair wearing badges proudly proclaiming them part of the ‘women for justice society’. “We all joined up when she came out. You know I dated her for year way back when.” She sighed lost in a memory. Peters eyebrows shot up.
“Hang on what?! So you were into women.”
“Still am. I loved your uncle Ben though, knew he was the one for me. Cathy and I managed to stay in touch regardless. I’m glad because she makes the best orange and poppy seed cake and refuses to share the recipe.” Peter couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Peter? You alright? I know it’s a shock thinking about me all young hip and cool, getting some.” He almost choked.
“No, it’s not that not that at all. I was just so stressed that you’d think differently of me, only to find out–” He burst back into laughter.
“Peter what do you mean.”
“It’s just, I also like girls and guys.” A smile split over May’s face and she pulled him into a bone crushing hug.
“Oh my god, Peter!” She began laughing along with them. “If I’d even thought I would have said something sooner. You must have been so worried.” She rocked him back and forward as she used to do when he was younger, face buried in his shoulder. The comforting smell of her shampoo surrounded Peter.
“It’s fine May.” His laughter quieted and he pulled back from her embrace “Do you think Ben would have been ok with it? I mean did he know about you and Cathy?” He found himself fidgeting with the hem of his shirt.
May smiled at him fondly. “Did I ever tell you how your uncle and I met?”
“Would you believe me if I told you it was at a march for AIDs awareness, and at the time I had a wonderfully rainbow button pinned to my chest. He always said if it weren’t for my shameless flirting he’d have passed me off as a lesbian.” She flipped through to the back of the photo album.
“Really?” Peter examined the photo she pointed out of them at the march. Seeing Uncle Ben smiling back at him made his vision cloud.
“Yep, you better believe he’d be hanging up flags around the apartment and looking up the dates for the next pride march in seconds. He loved you and I love you. Never in a million years would this change that.” Peter knew he was going to cry before the first tears spilt. How was he so lucky to have such wonderful people in his life.
“Oh, Peter come here.” She pulled him back in. May and Peter sat there on the couch happily embracing each other until the photo album slipped from her lap forcing the two to break. “Well I guess we better get back too it.”
“Come on May! I just came out to you can’t we just call it a day!”
“Ah so it was all a plot to avoid dusting! Why am I even surprised?” She huffed good naturedly. “Come on, if you finish up in your room we can go out for dinner tonight to celebrate!”
“Fine.” And with an over exaggerated groan Peter returned to his room but he couldn’t stop the grin that stuck on his face for the rest of the afternoon.
Since Homecoming Peter and Tony Stark had come to an understanding. Peter would stay clear of major trouble, of the world ending, severe bodily harm kind, and in turn the Tony would meet with Peter once every two weeks to do an in-person crime report, train with the suit, tinker with its functions, install upgrades or just generally check in. When Peter had turned down Tony’s offer to join the Avengers he’d been scared that he’d cut off one of the most important relationships in his life. But with the returning of the suit and Tony’s number safely tucked in his contacts his confidence returned.
Peter was unbelievably grateful to Tony, who had insisted he ‘drop the Mr. Stark crap’ even going as far to bring a spray bottle to a training session, spritzing him every time he forgot. Without him he’d be half the hero he was today. They’d come so far in improving Peter’s webbing formula and every single one of Peter’s successes were shared with his mentor.
The first time Tony had hugged Peter he’d frozen and didn’t have the chance to react before Tony had pulled away, already talking at a mile per hour about upgrades he could make to utilise the longer lasting web formula. From then on out Peter noticed that their physical contact increased; a hair ruffle here, a guiding hand placed on his back, Peter even managed to drag a fist bump out of the man on one of his better days.
Sometimes when Peter got to the lab it was very notably a bad day. He’d see the slight shake in Tony’s hand, the way he rubbed at his eyes, the dirty dishes messily shoved onto crowded desk space. Those days Peter worked quietly, but ensured to make enough noise that he wouldn’t accidentally surprise Tony when asking a question. It was on the day he had accidentally startled the man, who’d flinched like he’d been hit, summoning his ironman gauntlets before realising what he was doing, that Tony first opened up.
“I’m so sorry Peter. I just- I-” He had removed the suit with practiced care, going through the soothingly familiar motions.
“It’s alright I should have been louder.” Peter sat on the nearest stool, question about his suit forgotten.
“No, this is on me kid.” Tony shook his head as though to rid himself of a thought.
Peter frowned, not sure if he should press Tony. They’d come so far in their relationship these past few months, so it couldn’t hurt to try. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m afraid it’s a part of the gig.”
“What is?” Tony looked up carefully examining Peter, searching for any sign of humour, but the teen was dead serious.
“The anxiety, the PTSD, or at least that’s what the psychiatrist said. It tends to go hand in hand with staring death in the face and purposefully seeking out danger for a hobby.” A moment of silence stretched between them as Peter processed what he’d said. Things beginning to click in place.
“So is that why you don’t sleep much.”
“And the bad days?”
“And the shakes?”
“Yep. Insomnia. Panic Attacks. I’ve got the lot kiddo.”
“That must suck.”
“It does.” Tony gave Peter a tight-lipped smile before turning away and continuing his tinkering, signalling the end of their heart to heart. However, the silence that spaced between them didn’t feel awkward, the clinking of metal and work tools soothed them both.
An hour later, when Happy announced he was ready to take Peter home, Tony had turned to him and embraced him.
“If you ever find yourself dealing with this stuff, know it’s ok to talk about it. Don’t make my mistake. Keeping quiet doesn’t help.”
“Anytime Peter.” The man had patted him on the back before sending him on his way.
That had been a few weeks ago and now Peter once again sat in Tony’s lab. Tony had expressly told Peter he should talk about things that were troubling him, but that didn’t mean Peter felt calm.
They sat tinkering in companionable silence. When he’d walked in that morning, Tony had rambled about a new water resistant and insulating fabric that might work for a future suit with a few adjustments. It was a good day, so that meant it was a perfect change for Peter to tell Tony. He wanted his mentor’s support in his life, not just as Spider-man. So this was important. And naturally he was terrified.
It was like the first time he said it to himself in the mirror, he just needed to breath smoothly, calm his racing heart, relax his clenched fists and start speaking. But where to start. Where could he even start. Peter cleared his throat.
“Hey, um, Tony?” He kept his eyes directly on his work bench.
“Mhmm.” Was the only signal he got to go ahead.
“Well I, I just… I think I had a panic attack the other day.” Peter heard the familiar clinking of a screwdriver being placed down on a bench. “I mean, it wasn’t super bad, it just, um, I couldn’t really breath right and um, I couldn’t speak.”
“Yeah it’s like that sometimes.” Came the level response.
“I just… You said it’s good to talk about and well, I didn’t mean to start with this but it just kinda slipped out and yeah, that happened.”
“Do you know what triggered it.”
“I do and that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. It’s just hard.”
“That’s ok, take your time.” And just like that Tony went back to his tinkering. The noise made a relaxing soundtrack to Peters racing mind.
“Ok well it started… I don’t know actually but I had a bit of a crisis. Not like a Spider-man crisis, but a Peter Parker one. So I texted my friend MJ and she was super helpful, a little annoyed because it was past midnight but helpful all the same. She also told me that I should talk to Ned about it and I wasn’t really ready to. But then the next week MJ cornered me about it and Ned overheard so I had to tell him and I just started freaking out.” Peter barely paused for breath before continuing. “I mean I was scared but I didn’t think I was that scared and then I couldn’t breathe. Ned took me outside, calmed me down and I ended up telling him everything. He got it and was super chill, of course he was, but I just couldn’t handle the pressure and panicked. I was so tired afterwards too, like I was relieved to tell him but it was exhausting. And now I want to tell you but it’s hard, and I can’t seem to find the words.”
It all just spilt out, but Peter was now the opposite of relaxed. Remembering how scared he’d been, all the pressure building up the week before telling Ned, and now what he was trying to tell Tony. It was too similar. Suddenly Tony appeared besides Peter drawing his focus.
“Hey Peter, you need to slow down; take a second.”
“But I still haven’t told you what I need to tell you.” Peter swallowed and screwed up his face in frustration. “I should’ve just started with it. I should’ve just-” Tony gently placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“This ok?” Peter nodded, “Alright, you can tell me in a moment, but right now do you have anything that helps with panic attacks. What did your friend Ned do to calm you down?”
“Breath… Breathing exercise.”
“Right classic, just what the doctor ordered. Can you tell me how that works Peter?”
“Breath in for four. Hold for four. Out for four.”
“Excellent, perfect, we’re going to do that now.” Tony guided Peters hand to lay on his chest. “Ok with me.”
Just like the last time it took a while for Peter to be able to draw breath with a consistent, even pace. Everything was overwhelming, but the feeling of Tony’s shirt under his hand and the steady rise and fall of his chest cantered him. Once he’d regained his breath however, he couldn’t meet Tony’s eyes. Peter had no clue how he’d be able to tell him anything now, he was so mortified. Exhausted and embarrassed, tears began sliding down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry, it’s so stupid, I didn’t need to freak out about this again. I thought I had this.” He wiped his face with the back of his hand, not wanting his mentor to see him cry. “I’ve just gone and made a huge deal out of it.”
“Hey, hey, none of that. It’s obviously something very important to you and whatever you need to say I’ll here you out. Remember keeping quiet doesn’t help.”
“I wish I didn’t have to deal with this. I’d take a late-night patrol with no nice old ladies and three armed robberies over feelings any day.” Peter sniffled.
“Me too kid.”
Taking a few more deep breaths, Peter swallowed his fears and looked up at Tony. “I hope you don’t hate me and kick me out or something.” Tony had barely got to fix on his disapproving stare when Peter stated. “I’m bisexual. I like girls and guys. As in both. As in I’d date both a guy and a girl. Because I like both. Yes.” Peter closed his eyes unwilling to see Tony’s reaction, trying to prepare himself for the next words to come out of his mentor’s mouth but nothing prepared him for…
“Ah, so are you with that Ned kid?” Peter spluttered. “I mean you talk about him almost constantly.”
“No, we’re just friends!” Burst out. “He’s just my friend, best friend I mean. I’ve known him since I was tiny. That’d be like dating my brother.”
“And that MJ chick?” Peter laughed, shocked.
“Friends. She’s my friend. Not like a sister but she’s just MJ.”
“Ok, keep telling yourself that.” Tony smirked.
“So, you’re ok with it then. Me being bisexual?”
“I may be old but I’m not an asshole. And I’ve dabbled here and there, who am I to judge.” Tony ruffled his hair before moving back around to his own work table.
“Oh my god! Ned was right.”
“See you talk about him all the time. Sure he’s not your secret boyfriend?” Peter shook his head, amused.
“Alright then. And for the record I’m proud of you Peter, that took guts. And for the record, that panic attack,” Tony sent him reassuring look, “completely justified. I know how scary opening up can be, and I’m glad you feel like you can be honest with me.” It was a serious heart felt moment, he’d probably have the words ‘I’m proud of you Peter’ echoing in his mind for a week. So naturally he had to go and ruin it.
“Thanks dad.” Tony almost choked.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I said thanks, Tony.” Peter smirked trying to pass it off. “Wow, your hearing must be fading with age.” If it were any other day and Peter hadn’t just had a panic attack and then proceeded to come out to Tony he would’ve received back a ‘and you youth seem to be forgetting how to respect your damn elders.’ But not today.
“I swear kid, you’ll be the death of me. Why don’t we call it a day? We can watch some Netflix before Happy comes around.”
“Sound’s good Mr. Stark.”
“Don’t push it.” Peter laughed genuinely as they exited the lab. The day’s work left forgotten.
Peter had told the people he needed to tell. The weight had lifted off his shoulders. Well one weight. He was still Spider-man and a teenage boy, those two things came with enough emotional baggage to fill a life-time. Just now he had one less thing to worry about, or so he thought. It had been any old average day when Flash stopped him, pushing him into a locker, two of his mates blocking an escape from either side.
“Hey, Penis Parker.”
“Flash, come on, I thought we’d gotten over this.”
“Gotten over what Penis Parker? Because the last I heard you were still a looser.” The boys either side of him smirked as if that was the most incredible burn they’d ever heard. Peter sighed.
“Look I just want to go to English.”
“And I’ll let you go in just a moment. I have something I want to ask you.” Flash stepped forward threateningly.
“Yeah, see, a little birdie over heard something very interesting the other day during decathlon.”
Peter raised an eyebrow. “And what might that be?”
“Oh, nothing much except little Penis Parker here living up to his name and being not just a looser but a gay looser. How about that? Is it true? Does little wittle Peter Parker like boys?” Flash started making cooing baby noises at Peter as his friends snickered.
Peter’s heart stopped for a moment as the boys stared down on him, laughter fading. He had several options. First would be to say nothing, try to weasel his way out of the situation, he had the strength and agility to do that if he really wanted, but it’d bring unwanted questions. Second, he could deny it, but something about that didn’t sit right with Peter, on one hand it would be self-preservation, but the fighting spirit Spider-man had given channel to, stopped him from estranging that part of himself in favour of avoiding Flash. Thirdly, admitting to it, with the full knowledge that by the end of the day the entire school would think that he was gay. Now that wasn’t exactly true, so fourth, he could correct Flash not only confirming the boy’s suspicions but daring to be defiant, the reaction to which in no reality would be in Peter’s favour.
“What cat got your tongue Peter? Are you gay or what?”
“Oh well that’s not what I heard–“ Peter interrupted him, if he could face a bunch of homophobic bullies once he could do it again.
“I wasn’t finished Flash. No, I’m not gay, I’m bisexual but I don’t see how that’d any of your business.” Flash gaped like a dead fish for a few seconds before the words seemed to click and a sinister grin.
He broke out into manic laughter, shared a look with his fellow bullies before taking a deep breath. “You heard it here first folks. Penis Parker’s a queer!” Flash yelled, drawing more attention than his usual antics ever would. He turned back to Peter “You’re dead meat now Parker, let the hyenas descend.” It’s like the whole corridor had silenced itself. Forced school outings previously being no more than a spectacle in TV dramas to the students at Midtown High School.
Flash’s barely contained laughter was all that could be heard. Peter kept his eyes staring forward, analysing the lockers over Flash’s shoulder, unwilling to give into his irrational feelings of shame and guilt but unsure of what else to do. “Yeah and so what Flash? Nobody cares.” A familiar voice came. “Go sulk about your repressed emotions to someone qualified to help. We don’t want to hear it.” MJ immerged from the crowd looking incredibly bored and faintly displeased. “And the rest of you, what are you even looking at. Never seen a bisexual person before? Take a picture it’ll last longer.”
Thoroughly embarrassed the hallway started to move again. The chatter raised back up and all along the corridor Peter could hear his name. It was like his head was full of whispering, his heightened senses picking up everything, he could feel his head start to throb. A hand came down on his shoulder and Peter jumped.
“Woah it’s alright Peter. It’s just me.” The guy who’d been at his right had been pushed away by a rather protective looking Ned.
“Looks like three losers makes a party.” Peter hadn’t meant to drag MJ and Ned into this, this was bad. “So sweet.” Flash had yet to stand down.
Ned straightened up to his full height, chest pushed out in mock confidence, but Peter could see beads of sweat collecting at the back of his best friend’s neck. “You’ve gotten what you want now Flash, can’t you just leave us alone?”
Peter could practically feel the lingering glances of those passing in the hall. If anyone started anything, a teacher would be called and all six of them would end up in the head office.
“Just stop ok.” Ned stood his ground.
“Or what are you going do.” Flash took a step closer, back into his personal space. “Get Parker to call Spider-man on us? I wonder how he’d react to finding out you’re a queer.” Peter could feel the hair on his arms stand on end. He now had to focus on his breathing, like Ned and Tony had shown him. Everything was escalating; maybe as Spiderman he could handle bullies but when it was Peter Parker on the receiving end it felt a whole lot harder. This was going to end badly and he knew he needed to do something, but couldn’t calm himself enough to think.
Thank god for best friends. “I said stop.” Ned shoved Flash back and Peter took a deep breath.
“Oh, coming in to protect your boyfriend. That’s cute.”
Now standing behind Flash, MJ pulled him further away from Peter. He took another breath. “Come on Flash, don’t let this get out of control.” She said.
Ned wrapped his arm around Peter’s shoulders and guided him out from where he’d been pinned to the lockers whilst MJ had Flash’s attention.
“If you get called into the office again, you know we’ll have grounds to kick you from the decathlon team and I’m sure your father would be just so happy to hear about that.” Now standing in the centre of the hallway people flowed around them. Peter could still hear the whispers and feel his peers glancing at the obstruction to the path but with Ned’s arm around him and a steady count of one to four he was beginning to regain control.
“You wouldn’t, you know it’s because of my father’s funding that we were even able to participate last year.”
MJ smiled. “And if he cuts that funding I’m sure everyone is going to want to know why. So yes Flash, I would.”
“I liked you better when you had no friends.” He huffed.
“And I liked you better when…” MJ pauses in mock thought. “Never, actually.” Flash looked to be gearing up for a response when his mate grabbed his arm.
“Fuck it. Let’s go Flash. She’d not worth it.” The boy almost snarled. “Look, Mrs. Thornberry’s coming. Let’s go.” Flash shrugged off the arm before turning around and stalking off down the hallway.
Peter turned to look at MJ and Ned. He thought he’d had this one, but apparently not. The hallway was quickly emptying, the bell mere moments away.
“Thanks, you guys, you didn’t have to do that.”
“What are you even saying Peter! Of course we did.” Ned gave him a squeeze where he was still nestled under his arm.
“Flash is an asshole but even I didn’t expect him to do that.” MJ flanked Peters other side as they began moving down the hallway.
Peter nodded but still felt the weight of what had just happened. More than being publicly outed, but being unable to stand up for himself. He was Spider-man, he’d faced so much more than this but he’d just panicked. “I should’ve been able to handle it on my own.”
“You might think that. But you shouldn’t have to. We’re your friends Peter, we want to be by your side when things go bad.” Then Ned smiled nervously. “And if I’m being a hundred percent honest, standing up to Flash like that felt really good and I don’t think I’d have been able to do that in any other situation, like ever. I mean, not to say that I’m glad you got picked on but just, you know it was nice to win for once.” Peter matched his smile, and breathed a sigh of relief.
“I mean yeah, that was pretty cool of you.” He agreed.
Ned practically beamed. “You think so?”
“I know so. Even MJ agrees with me, right?” Only huffing slightly in annoyance, she turned to look at Ned over Peter.
“Yep. It was cool. And I agree winning was nice, but we better get a move on.” MJ hurried her steps.
Peter and Ned went to follow, but the second bell rang. “Oh right yeah, MJ, this isn’t the way to class.”
“Of course it isn’t. That last thing you need right now is to be stuck in English, you’re a nerd anyway you can catch up. My point was if we stay in the hall any longer we’re going to get caught.”
“So we’re skipping?” The confidence Ned had gained a moment ago seemed to seep out of him.
“Yep, I mean you can go if you want.” Ned’s arm tightened around Peter’s shoulders. “Didn’t think so.”
As they walked Peter’s mind began processing all that just happened. “Thanks MJ, for this and for back there. You were really cool too.”
“Yeah, yeah. Look I owed you one.” She rubbed her neck nervously.
“Ok, sure thing. Now where are we going?”
“If I told you I’d have to kill you.” She paused for dramatic effect, smirking at the faces the boys pulled. “Just kidding. If you go around the back of the science building there’s a gap in the fence that can’t be seen from any of the classrooms or office. And then just around the corner there’s a donut place.”
This was a bad idea. Peter really should leave before anyone sees him. This is such a bad idea. Why did he even think he could do this? He could feel the familiar heat of panic drip around him. His breathing quickened threateningly and he felt his gut drop out. No. No, he was past that, past this. No shame, no guilt. If Peter could be out as a high school student then he could be out as a superhero too. He just needed to do this. Like ripping off a Band-Aid it would be over in seconds and he would never have to look back.
Peter tried to think of all the people it would help, people like Liam. They needed the representation of an openly bisexual superhero. Someone who could be more than just a symbol of justice.
But ultimately, he was doing this for himself. Flash’s words had been ringing through his head since the incident. “Or what are you going do. Get Parker to call Spider-man on us? I wonder how he’d react to finding out you’re a queer.”
This was going to be the biggest ‘up yours’ Peter had ever pulled off. He wondered how Flash would react to finding out their own Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman was ‘a queer’. Peter almost wished he could be there to see it.
He’d known from that moment that he should come out more publicly as Spiderman. It would feel like he’d come full circle and was important for creating a safer world for others like him. But the question had remained. How?
This had all been Ned’s idea actually. Since coming out to him, Ned had done plenty of research into sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ+ culture in America. He’d actually taken it upon himself to borrow several books on the subject from the local library for Peter, which were really insightful and told stories of many different sexuality journeys, but ultimately nothing quite answered Peter’s question of how to come out as a bisexual superhero.
“Peter. Peter. Peter, Peter, Peter.” He’d been dozing at the lunch bench when Ned shook his arm.
He started upright. “Huh? Yes. I was listening. What were you saying?” MJ Rolled her eyes as she slid onto the bench next to them.
Ned rolled his eyes. “Pride! As in the parade. It’s in a week.”
“Oh yeah,” Peter replied, “I remember Aunt May mentioning it.”
“Are you going to go?” MJ asked as Ned looked at him expectantly. Peter weighed it up. It sounded fun and May had told him about the few years she went to pride, but thinking of all the people, and not really knowing anyone, it was too much.
“I don’t know, it might all be a little overwhelming.”
“But it’s the perfect chance!” Ned insisted.
“For what?” Peter said confused.
“For Spider-man! Just imagine it. Pride in full swing, the parade, all the flags and banners, and then bam! Spider-man! Swinging along, bisexual flag billowing out behind you. It’d be epic and all the people and media means that you can come out in one fell swoop.” MJ sends Ned a look. “I mean, that is, if you want to.” She hummed in approval before he continued his explanation. “But it’d be epic. Like then you could join the parade and do your whole thing. Like ‘Hey guys it’s just me your friendly neighbourhood bisexual Spider-man!’ Everyone would cheer for you and it’s be awesome publicity. Like I know it’s not a publicity stunt or anything but it’d be really good to get wider recognition you know. And all the kids who look up to you before would have an even better public role model! Before you know it there’ll be rainbow t-shirts with your mask and…” Peter put out his arm to stop him.
“You’re getting a little ahead of yourself Ned.” Still the idea itself wasn’t at all bad. As Spider-man, maybe Pride wouldn’t be so overwhelming. All he’d really have to do is swing overtop and if he got too overwhelmed he could leave easily enough. “But it’s not actually a bad idea. Couldn’t expect any less from my man in the chair.” Ned practically beamed. “You think you could help me find a Bi Pride flag?”
MJ laughs. “Knowing Ned, he already has one.”
“Ok yeah I do, it was going to be a gift for your birthday but it’ll be perfect for this! And if you want the support I could come along, stand on the sidelines you know, and after you de-suit we could meet up and have our own little celebration back at yours. ‘Cause I mean it’s your first pride, I thinks that’s supposed to be a big deal.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Peter looks between his two friends, “but that actually sounds really good.”
So now here he is. On a wall in an alleyway, watching the parade move past. Trying to work up the courage to get out there, to take this final step. Ned is out in the crowd somewhere. They’ve arranged to meet back at this alley at 3 o’clock. It wouldn’t be too hard for him to just stay where he is and wait it out. He could also just de-suit and walk into the crowd observing from the side lines. But any move Peter could make to back down feels like he’s betraying himself. It was the same when he was cornered by Flash. He couldn’t lie, or evade, not anymore and although he was sure no one would blame him, Peter wanted to prove how far he’d come.
So, summoning his courage he whispered to himself words he hadn’t needed to say in weeks.
“I like boys and that’s okay.”
Checking the bi pride flag was tightly secured around his shoulders, he took a deep breath in, released a string of web to a building on the other side of the street and jumped.
It was like being hit with a wall of sound and colour. Peter swung through the street instinctively. The flash of cameras below him mixed with cheers filling him with courage. Peter swung and flipped, spinning through the air. He swung down low enough to high five a girl no older than five sitting on her father’s shoulders, and she grinned at him, glitter in her hair and rainbow socks matching her father’s bowtie. Someone in the crowd send a glitter canon up, covering him in confetti which drifted off in a rainbow stream behind him. He saw a group of drag queens who waved and whistled as he went by. A group of teenagers draped in a giant rainbow flag began to chant “Spider-man, Spider-man. If he can do it, everyone can!” The excitement and the atmosphere was electric and should have been incredibly overwhelming, but Peter had never felt more alive.
As he swung over a float he heard a man with a megaphone yell, “Hey what’s up Spiderman! Got anything you’d like to say?” Dropping down next to a group of dancers in fishnets and shorts that looked tight enough to cut off circulation he accepted the offered microphone.
Looking out into the crowd he spotted phones and news reporters, aiming himself towards them he pressed the black button as shown by the man and shouted. “I’m Bisexual! I like boys and girls! And there’s nothing wrong with that!” Cheers burst from the crowd. Peter can feel the energy coursing through him. “I want everyone to know that there is nothing wrong with being yourself and if anyone tries to hurt you because of that, then they’re going to have a problem. A Spider-man problem.” He hands the microphone back and the man claps him on the back before Peter launches himself back into the air. “Well said Spiderman, well said.” Fading behind him.
That weight off his shoulders means he begins to fully take in his surroundings and enjoying the atmosphere, the sun is out, people are happy, he feels the wind whip by him billowing under his flag. Peter feels so ultimately free.
He only swings a little way further before he hears someone call. “Hey, Spiderman come down here.” Looking around he spots a collection of young people holding a brightly coloured banner and walking as the head of an organised group in the parade. He drops down beside them.
“Do you want to help carry our banner?” A woman in her early twenties with a bright blue pixie cut calls out to him, the corner of the banner outstretched. “We’re the local LGBTQI+ youth group and it’d be awesome to have your public support, it’d be great for the kids.” Peter grins although he knows she can’t see it, laughing at the fact some of the ‘kids’ are older than he is.
“Sure, I’d love to.” As he walked with them they started talking. He found out her name is Gina, and she was one of the youth leaders. She talked about their group and what they do for a little while before gesturing to the others walking with them. Along the banner he hears several yelled introductions. Abbey, Kyle, Kai, Charlie, Ace and Dominique all smile over to him. He feels a tap on the shoulder and turns around to see Liam standing there, rainbow face paint on and a Spider-man t-shirt. Peter grins so hard his face hurts.
“Hey Spider-man!” Peter gives the boy a one-armed hug.
“Liam, buddy, it’s good to see you!” Gina moves over and Liam falls into step beside them now holding the end of the banner.
“I was so hoping you’d be here! I wanted to tell you that Josh moved schools. His mum decided Spider-man calling was the final straw and just switched him out. Without Josh the rest of the bullies have no clue what to do with themselves. I haven’t been bothered since then, and I’m no longer the only gay kid in my class either. My friend Ryan is around here somewhere, but he was too shy to come say hello!”
Peter ruffled his hair. “I’m so happy to hear that!”
Gina nudged his side. “I can’t help but say we all admired what you did for Liam. Those photos were excellent too! When he told us all at our Friday gathering we couldn’t help but be glad we had such an ally, but to find out you’re bisexual! This is honestly going to help so many people. Just know we’re here to support you in any way we can!”
“Thank-you, that means so much! And if you ever get any trouble or anyone is bothering you I’d be happy to help.” Peter stuck with them for the rest of the parade. It all felt unreal. Liam talked about school and Gina their group. He was introduced to even more people, and felt completely welcomed. They were all so happy and despite not knowing his true identity, they embraced him. He was taught several chants and on request flipped and cartwheeled in front of the banner. At one point, he even piggy backed Liam around. They sang and danced and walked through the sunny street and people cheered and waved flags from the side lines. This was all a celebration of who they were, despite all the violence he’d seen and known to happen, here and now was a moment made for him and others like him.
He almost cried as Karen informed him it was nearing three o’clock. He left the group with a promise to contact Gina and join them one afternoon so he could catch up with Liam and everyone else. Then he swung up and onto the roof tops. Jumping through back streets and alleyways to get back to his meeting spot with Ned the adrenaline from the past hour coursed through his veins and he found himself laughing and whooping as he ran.
He’d barely got his feet down onto the ground of the alley before he was tackled by Ned. Strong arms wrapped around him and all but lifted him off the ground. Only when Ned had put him back down and Peter had the chance to remove his mask did Ned speak.
“Holy shit, that was so awesome! Did you know you’re currently trending on Twitter. And what you said into the megaphone! That was so cool.” Peter pressed the button to deactivate his suit and took his backpack as Ned held it out. “There are so many cool videos of you with the flag billowing behind you.” Peter scrambled out of the suit and jumped around to pull on his jeans. “I even heard people chanting ‘Spider-man, Spider-man’! It was wicked.” Peter pulled on his top then his sneakers. “And all the rainbow things and glitter. I’m only used to seeing it on the TV, but Peter I think I’m now permanently sparkly.” He stuffs his suit back into the bag. “There was also that video of you covered in confetti. I don’t know how your suit isn’t still covered in it. Stark Tech sure is something. Whenever you do an official run up of the suit’s capabilities you need to add glitter proof.” Peter goes back in to hug Ned now fully dressed.
“Thank-you Ned!” He says into his shoulder only just heard over of the sound of people in the streets.
“For the idea, for supporting me, for being my best friend. Thank-you.”
“Of course! Now come on we have an after party to go to.”
Peter almost didn’t believe his eyes when he arrived home not only to see May in the kitchen icing a rainbow cake but MJ standing chatting with Tony Stark under a rainbow banner in his lounge room.
“Surprise!” Ned says as he all but pushes Peter into the room. May immediately scooted around the kitchen bench and came over to hug Peter.
“I’m so proud of you! We all watched a live broadcast, and you did so well. And I know you said there was no need to do anything special but hey, who doesn’t like rainbow cake!”
She releases him and MJ comes over and claps him on the shoulder. “That wasn’t bad Parker.” He raises an eyebrow. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding, it was pretty cool.” She hugs him briefly too. “Also, it’s been super fun watching Mr. Stark squirm. I don’t think he’s used to normal household settings.” He can’t help but laugh as she pulls away.
Tony stands rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly a few steps behind MJ, waiting his turn. As soon as he makes eye contact with Peter however he opens his arms. Peter all but falls into them.
“You did really good, kid. You deserve to be proud of yourself.”
“Thanks Tony.” His mentor coughs as he pulls back, unused to showing affection in front of other people but it makes Peter smile. “How come you’re here anyway?”
“You have good friends that care about you Peter.” Tony says looking over his shoulder at Ned who smiles sheepishly.
“Yeah I really do.”
“Cake time!” May calls and the five of them pull up chairs around the dining room table. The cake has ‘Happy Pride Peter’ written on the top in red and black frosting, with little frosting spiders scattered around. Slices were passed around and everyone dug in. It was a bit awkward at first but all it took was May asking after Tony and Peter’s current work on the Spider-man suit for him to open up and conversation to start flowing. Ned was still a bit star struck over Tony but MJ kicked his shin if he stared a little too long. Peter laughed at his friend’s antics and as he recounted his experiences from the day they listened attentively. He didn’t know how was he so lucky to have all these people who cared and supported him. He felt so loved and wanted and safe in the knowledge that one day if he brought home a boy rather than a girl, nothing would change. These people had accepted him. Because Peter liked boys and that was ok.