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I'll Tell No Lies

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Part 1 of Dead Men Walking 

Peter’s not a very good liar.

Even Peter’s best-kept lie—that he is New York City’s friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man—isn’t a kept secret at all. It’s an open secret. Really, not a secret by any definition of the word because more than one person knows his alter ego. It only took eight pitiful months before Peter blew his cover as Spider-Man to Tony Stark, a man who had simply needed three days and one YouTube clip of Peter’s crime-fighting prowess to track Spider-Man down using FRIDAY. And, of course, destined for bad luck, as soon as Mr. Stark discovered his true identity, Ned followed suit like a cosmic joke from the universe.

The most important thing to a masked superhero is his identity and Peter nearly shit himself when Mr. Stark and Ned confronted him. Peter can’t lie. He crumbles under that sort of pressure. He gets tongue-tied and babbles and flounders desperately for nonexistent distractions in attempt to uproot the conversation. Peter gets red in the face, sweaty palms, and hot flashes with intensities that could rival a menopausal woman’s. Then he caves and out comes the truth.

Peter knows he lacks the finer talent of fibbing. Really, the only reason no one else knows he’s Spider-Man is simple. Since he was so paralyzingly terrified the day his friends nearly died in the Washington Monument thanks to his own stupidity, Peter has been carefully grooming himself in the art of the next best strategy to lying: avoidance.

Peter doesn’t have friends anymore. He can’t have friends anymore because he will unknowingly drag them into his superhero life, which is far less fabulous and far more dangerous than it sounds. At fifteen, nearing the end of his freshman year of high school, Peter had realized how utterly imbecilic he had been. Parading around the city flippantly with no protection other than the Baby Monitor Protocol, which he’d promptly had Ned shut down in what was not a singular moment of senselessness. Peter had been careless with himself and thus, careless of those around him. It had ruined him to come so close to losing Ned and the Decathlon team—even Flash, who despite being an asshole, was still a human life. Peter went home from Washington D.C., finished the year, and sat in the living room watching Aunt May bustle around the kitchen for a week with the daunting realization that he could lose her too, just as easily as he almost lost Ned and Liz.

So, now Peter has just turned twenty and the only people he talks to are the people he has to for work.

Unfortunately for him, at the moment, that includes Mr. Stark, who is holding a manila envelope within a frankly rude proximity of Peter’s face.

Peter takes a deep breath and gulps audibly. Staring dumbly at the envelope, he tells Mr. Stark the truth.

“I can’t do this.”

Mr. Stark looks deeply unimpressed. “I’m not asking, kid. Not really. You’re the only one we have that has a half chance at succeeding with this. The Avengers are too well known. None of us have secret identities anymore, if we did in the first place. For God’s sake, most of us have our faces plastered on T-shirts and mugs. We need this intel and we need it pronto, capisce?”

Peter must be looking just about ready to bolt because Mr. Stark suddenly drops the envelope on the coffee table between them and instead, reaches to grab a tablet. One fingerprint scan and a few taps later, a hologram projects itself into the air right in front of Peter’s nose.

Mr. Stark, eyes dark and eyebrows rather severe, flicks his hand up to gesture at the photo projected in blue pixels. “Look at it, Peter.”

Peter does and immediately wants to vomit. “Oh my God.” It comes out as a whisper, broken and raspy. His stomach churns uncomfortably.

“Do you know what this is?” Mr. Stark’s voice is unforgiving.

Nose wrinkling, Peter looks away, off to the huge ceiling to floor windows of the penthouse where they are meeting. He’s not sure if Mr. Stark lives here or just conducts business here, but it’s no less luxurious than a spread one might see in Architectural Digest. All modern, sleek lines and pretentious white marble. He supposes Mr. Stark has been camping out here ever since the Avengers moved to the New Avengers Facility in upstate New York.

Peter wonders if Mr. Stark ever misses Stark Tower—if he ever walks by it and feels melancholy now that it’s been put through the mill, nearly destroyed, and then purchased by a new buyer. Mr. Stark has talked about it wistfully over the years, mostly when he’s cursing the lack of good research facilities. He talks of the glorious top ten floors which housed his labs when Peter mentions running to the community college to work on his web fluid. He’d even spent an hour ranting about the basement where they’d have to dump Dr. Banner if the Hulk was becoming a wedding crasher during meetings. But he doesn’t ever say he wants to go back.

The cityscape doesn’t make Peter feel any better. His throat feels tight.

It doesn’t matter how many people Peter’s seen injured over the years. He’s seen people get shot. He’s seen what a victim looks like pre-, mid-, and post-rape. He knows what a twelve-year-old looks like after a gang beating and what a thug looks like after getting curb stomped. Hell, he’s run into his fair share of dead bodies. He’s run into people in the act of murder. It’s something that a vigilante can’t go five years without seeing. Or unseeing. It doesn’t matter how much gore he’s seen before, Peter is still just as unsettled by violence now as he was before he was bitten by a radioactive spider.

And this? This is too much.

The hologram shines brightly before him, unmoving.

“That’s a child,” Peter says from behind gritted teeth.

Mr. Stark’s eyes don’t move from Peter’s face. He looks grave as he purses his lips and stares Peter down. “No. Peter, that was a child. Now, it’s a corpse hacked into pieces. Look at the picture, Peter.”

Peter swallows roughly again, fingers coming up to tug restlessly at his hair. He shakes his head in some sort of unvoiced denial. “I,” he coughs, breathing in deliberately, and tries again. “I don’t understand. I’m not qualified for this, Mr. Stark. This isn’t what I do. I don’t even think I can do this at all. Why are you asking me?”

Peter hears him sigh. It sounds tired and weary.

“Kid. If I could put someone else out to do this, then I would. But I can’t. You know the Avengers aren’t the Avengers anymore. Hell, half of us have gone AWOL and the other half are on a collar with the Accords pulling the leash. Even if I could get the government’s okay on this, it’s like I said. There is no one else for the job. We can’t play undercover if our covers are already blown. And these people are too well connected, too up to date. They know the people they have to know. Natasha and I? We’d be recognized before we even got started.”

There’s a moment of silence, heavy and cloying.

The hologram still sits in place and Peter finds his eyes reluctantly pulled back to it. Like a protagonist in a horror movie, he can’t help but peek into the darkness, over and over again, even knowing that some relic of evil is waiting for him.

There’s a crinkling sound and then a wad of newspaper is in Peter’s hands. Peter tears his eyes away from the hologram and looks down at a recent issue of The New York Times. Mr. Stark has boxed off an article in black marker.

“Pepper brought me that three weeks ago,” Mr. Stark says. When Peter glances up, he sees that Mr. Stark is pursing his lips again. He looks older, Peter thinks. His hair is grayer than it is brown and the lines around his eyes are heavy and folded.

Unraveling the newspaper, Peter peeks at the title of the marked article and reads aloud. “Goldsteins urge for action, not reaction.”

“The Goldsteins—prominent family. Father’s on the board for a few of my charity organizations. They’re pro-mutant and have been since the beginning.”

Peter nods carefully. The political opinion on mutants is a rocky one that had been brewing from long before Peter was even a teenager. It’s grown more and more heated, gaining more press nowadays. People tend to separate themselves into one of two extremes, either pro- or anti-mutant. It doesn’t matter how many Hulk notebooks or Captain America hats are popular with the public. The government is cultivating an anti-mutant movement. Peter’s seen the WikiLeaks tapes and documents proposing registration laws. The Accords were just the start of, like Mr. Stark said, the leashing of mutants and heroes with superhuman abilities. Still, there are some people who still see that vigilante mutants and people like the Avengers are just trying to do good in this world, rather than endangering the culture of non-mutants like The Daily Bugle proclaims.

“They told the Times, quite truthfully, that the police never did a damn thing. Didn’t even want to file a missing person’s report when the Goldsteins came in. Wouldn’t even interact with Mrs. Goldstein because of her strong political stance on mutants.”

Mr. Stark gets up, walks over to a small bar that Peter hadn’t even noticed before, and pours himself a tumbler of something. Taking a swig, not even wincing—and Peter’s sure he should be wincing, really, he can smell the burn of alcohol from six feet away like he’s snorting it—Mr. Stark walks to Peter’s chair and perches himself on the cushioned arm.

He points to the damned hologram.

“That’s not the only one,” he says plainly. As soon as he mentions it, the hologram rearranges itself into photos of six identical children.

No.

Six identical child corpses. All chopped up carelessly in the same way.

“There’s something off about this. And not just the obvious.” Mr. Stark snorts dryly. “I’m rich as fuck. I have all the resources in the world, regardless of any Big Brother watching. What I don’t have is the freedom I once did or the anonymity to get the intel needed to confirm the source of this.”

Before they trail off into another pensive silence, Peter finds himself blurting out, “Why do you care? About this in particular? There are a lot of local crimes you could be solving instead.”

Mr. Stark takes another sip of his drink, this time wincing. He looks off into the cityscape looking like he has anchors on his shoulders. He sounds more like he is talking to himself than answering Peter. “We’ve fucked up a lot.” Peter knows he’s not talking about Spider-Man or Peter Parker. “I’ve fucked up a lot. Let’s just say that now’s a good time to have a little bit of right in our lives.”

Peter’s uncertain of what to say to that.

“The NYPD is so anti-mutant that they didn’t want to even speak to a woman who’s an activist for mutant rights about a missing person. And Mrs. Goldstein isn’t just any lady. She’s a Goldstein. The woman’s a lawyer and so is her husband. They come from old money. Do you know what it means when the police won’t even listen to wealthy, educated, and socially elevated people?”

He does know.

Peter might be socially inept and crap at balancing his own life, but he is some kind of smart. Ordering a cup of coffee is a mundane challenge that always ends with a cringe, but his book smarts? He takes comfort in them. Every subject in high school had been easy for him, even as a part-time Spiderman. A 4.0 GPA and a perfect SAT score were enough proof of that. Though science was his favorite, Peter still remembers sitting through the drone of history. The blahblahblah discussions of politics that were simple to predict with a little bit of critical thinking and deduction.

It’s easy to conclude that police aren’t doing their jobs if they are turning away people who need help.

The police force has histories of being corrupt and susceptible to bribes. That they weren’t swayed by the Goldsteins’ money or power means that their loyalty had already been bought. Their anti-mutant stance is the only breadcrumb anyone needs to sniff out an origin similar to that of the Sokovia Accords. Big, powerful benefactor in good ties with the government.

Peter gives it a couple of weeks before some perceptive journalist finds the trail of murders so similar that they must have been committed by the same person. And then he gives it a matter of days before the police get ahold of him and spin the story to reveal the United States’ first mutant serial killer.

It’s a domestic war tactic, and an old one at that. Mutant or not, the murderer must be found before any of that can happen. Peter sees Mr. Stark’s interest now. The aftermath of something like this could be detrimental, if not apocalyptic.

Downing the rest of his drink, Mr. Stark returns at a languid pace. Reaching into his pocket, he takes out a small piece of paper and holds it out to Peter like a peace offering.

Reaching up, Peter grabs it without elegance and looks at it curiously. It’s a wallet-sized photograph of a little girl with sandy blonde hair. She has round brown eyes, a wide nose, and a mole on her cheek. There’s a butterfly clip holding her bangs out of her face.

“Her name’s Esther,” Mr. Stark murmurs. “She’s wearing the same dress.”

By the time Peter understands, Mr. Stark is already out of the room, his footfalls echoing behind him as he takes his leave.

Peter looks between the photograph in his hand and the six photographs still being projected by the hologram over the coffee table. He hates that he can’t tell which one matches the girl in his hand.

“Me?” He snorts derisively. “Undercover?”

Peter wants to say, I don’t know if I can do this.

Esther’s dress is pink.

If he looks closely enough, he thinks he can see a purple stain on her collar—like she was drinking something purple and spilled it all over herself. His eyes are drawn back to the hologram.

It’s more than wrong. There isn’t a name for an act like this. That someone has committed such a heinous wrongdoing in Spider-Man’s city doesn’t leave him feeling hollow as he might have guessed it would.

It leaves him enraged.

Peter wants to say, I don’t know if I can do this. But his mind is already made up. So Peter keeps his mouth shut because he can’t tell lies.

He’s not sure how long he sits there, but when he leaves, he takes the manila envelope with him.

-

It’s three and a half weeks later when Peter finds himself by the entry to Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children.

Three and a half weeks. Nearly a month since accepting that manila envelope from Mr. Stark. But honestly, it feels like it was just yesterday that he’d agreed to Mr. Stark’s outrageous and totally unreliable plan for Peter to go undercover in the mercenary scene to confirm Mr. Stark’s inklings about Esther’s murderer.

Peter has no experience in this. He’s been a vigilante for five years now and he’s just barely holding onto his life by its threads. It’s only been two years since he graduated high school and so he only has two years of real, solid work experience. All of which revolve around cashiering and stocking shelves. Not playing secret agent.

It had taken him exactly all of those three and a half weeks to learn to say his alias with casual confidence. Ben Weber, his fake identification card said. He was Ben. Ben Weber. Not the cleverest fake name, if he’s ever heard one. The first name a variation of his real middle name and the surname? A jab at him being Spider-Man, he’s sure, even though Mr. Stark had denied it intensely.

He doesn’t need a psychic to tell him this is going to go south real fast.

Peter is not Peter Parker tonight. He is not Spider-Man either. He is Ben Weber.

Ben Weber, who does not work at Mr. Delmar’s Deli-Grocery. Ben Weber, who does not fight crime in night shifts, seven days a week. He is Ben Weber, who is a master thief.

Ben Weber. Who steals things for other people for a living.

Peter had been absolutely ready to fight Mr. Stark on that. Why did he even have to go undercover at all? Why couldn’t he just be some nameless man wandering into the nearest bar for a drink on a Friday night? Surely, he could pick up some useful hint or two by sitting in the corner of the bar, downing drinks. Peter had enhanced hearing after all. And he couldn’t get drunk. It seemed like a great argument until Mr. Stark had mowed him down with frightening efficiency.

There are no nameless, regular joes wandering around into Sister Margaret’s. There are only workers, Mr. Stark had said. And by workers, he meant that the bar played home to men and women for hire. The bar is the home base for mercenaries. It’s where mercs get their assignments and subsequent payments. No regular person would wander into Sister Margaret’s because they would never be able to find it. Sister Margaret’s identity as a bar is unknown to the civilian public. Only people in the business know what and where it is.

Mr. Stark had made it very clear that Peter would be shot in an instant if he went with his own plan.

They’d both known Peter could never pass as a mercenary.

Not even with the best acting classes in the world, Mr. Stark had said. Peter didn’t have the attitude. Even if he’d somehow conjured the confidence he channeled when in his Spider-Man suit—an unbelievably difficult feat for Peter Parker, even five years into the job—he didn’t have the aura for it. He didn’t walk or talk like a mercenary. His aversion to offensive violence would be detected effortlessly.

Mr. Stark said the bar ran a regular betting pool on who would be killed on site every day. As in, every day of the week, these people were expecting and encouraging one of their colleagues to kill another just for the sake of making a few dollars.

Peter had found it reprehensible.

It was disgusting. Peter had spent two days adamantly asserting that they should just plan to take every bar goer downtown in a police cruiser to await a trial by law.

But Mr. Stark lost patience quickly. That was not the mission, he’d said. Peter was being given one job, only. They were employing Peter to find Esther’s killer. Peter reasoned that he could do that in addition to busting several more murderers with 9-1-1 on speed dial.

It had taken a cool down session and another day for Mr. Stark to sit him down to explain that these people were too well connected to be brought to justice in the traditional route. These weren’t the petty criminals Peter stopped on the streets. Mr. Stark had drilled into his head that these were sophisticated career criminals. They might look the same as the next thug, but they had their hands in pots that Peter couldn’t fathom. The police wouldn’t even answer a 9-1-1 call from Sister Margaret’s.

It had been a hard lesson to swallow.

And to be truthful, Peter wasn’t convinced that these people were so well networked and good at their jobs that they were untouchable. No one is untouchable. Everyone can be held accountable for their actions, especially if the evidence was unerring.

And that, Mr. Stark had said, was why Peter could never pass as a merc even with ten million prison tattoos on his skin.

So, Peter wasn’t posing as a merc.

Ben Weber was a thief for hire. A minority in the population of Sister Margaret’s, but still acceptable enough not to arouse too much suspicion. With his own contacts and the help of the dark web, Mr. Stark had been cautiously putting out hints to Ben Weber’s skills as a thief and untraceable internet trails of vague-sounding success stories of his supposedly accomplished jobs.

It wasn’t much, Mr. Stark had said, but it would save his ass if anyone went digging.

Ben has one goal today.

Go inside, get a drink, and sit down to listen.

Peter doesn’t have any fancy earpiece to communicate with Mr. Stark or even a notebook. Hell, he doesn’t even have his iPhone. Not one piece of Stark tech. This is off the grid. It’s not as glamorous as fiction makes it out to be. Peter’s about to perish from the sheer buildup of it all.

He has on his web shooters, which he never takes off and a burner phone full of fake text messages from fake clients.

Get inside, order a drink, and listen.

When he steps inside, Peter expects everyone to drop what they’re doing and stare at him, like they do in the movies.

That doesn’t happen.

Peter feels like there’s a Post-It stapled to his forehead that says “LIAR,” branding him with the truth that he doesn’t belong. Yet, metaphorical sticky note or not, no one looks his way as he walks inside of Sister Margaret’s.

The bar is boisterous.

It’s dark and full of cigarette smoke doing a better job than any fog machine could. People all over have drinks in their hands. It’s unbearably loud, especially with Peter’s heightened hearing. People are laughing and yelling. There’s a game of darts going on and a billiards match. It smells like something died there and Peter does his best to not think that that’s probably the case.

Peter doesn’t go to bars unless Spider-Man’s there to take out the trash, so he’s not sure, but he thinks it seems pretty much normal. If Peter didn’t know what Mr. Stark had told him during his month of briefing, he’d think this was any other corner pub, hopping with business on a Friday night.

His nerves are going haywire. He wants to panic.

This is his first time as Peter Parker in a bar. But no! No, he’s not Peter Parker, he fervently reminds himself. He is Ben Weber. Thief.

Crap.

Now’s not the time for a panic attack and Peter’s already spent too long hesitating at the bar entrance. If he lingers here any longer, he’ll attract unwanted attention. If he can, he’d like to attract no attention whatsoever. Better to be a fly on the wall.

He trades indecision for impulsivity and heads to the bar itself rather than one of the tables in the main arena. There are no tables open anyway, he notices. So, he makes his way to the left side of the bar, where there are five empty bar stools in a row. He needs to keep his distance.

Peter tries his best to walk sedately and sit like a normal person who is a thief, who is in the right place. It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds.

As he drops into the seat closest to the wall, he feels his heart hammering in his chest.

His ears are ringing.

Whenever he gets nervous like this, his mutant senses go haywire. Not just the Spidey sense that tingles when danger is tossed into his path. But everything. He can feel his eyesight sharpen. His hearing is so good that it’s bad; all sounds blur together to make one amalgam of white noise. He can feel the clothes on his body. He can feel the tag of his military green coat rubbing through the material of his thin long-sleeved shirt. Jeans rough on his legs, wool socks itchy on his feet with the weight of hiking boots compressing them. His hands, which are in his pockets, are sticking to the material in the same way they stick to a ceiling when he’s Spider-Man.

What he wants is to close his eyes, cover his ears, and bury his face into his arms until he drowns it all out.

“Can I get you something to drink?”

Peter jumps at the nasal voice and immediately chastises himself.

“Um,” he looks up, focusing on the man questioning him. He recalls him from a profile. This is the bartender and if he’s not mistaken, the bar owner. More than a bar owner. This man acts a bit like a dealer, dealing out jobs to mercs in line.

Weasel.

Peter can see how he got the name. He looks like junkie meets hipster. Sallow skin, limp long hair, and coke-bottle round glasses. His teeth are yellow and peeking out as he waits in bored, open-mouth anticipation of Peter’s answer.

Peter sees the minute Weasel’s eyes go from ambivalent to curious.

Not good. Very not good.

“Whatever's on tap,” Peter says, and Weasel nods moving away to fix a beer.

Peter wants to bash his head on the bar top and hope for a magical concussion that fixes this all. He hasn’t even had a chance to do more than a cursory sweep of who’s in this joint, let alone get to eavesdropping on some hopefully fruitful conversations. Peter needs to relax. If he’s visibly tense, then he’s already eye-catching in the worst way possible. Sure, Mr. Stark and he agreed that he couldn’t play as a merc. He doesn’t have the confidence for that. But he knows he can swing Ben Weber. He’s studied for nearly a month.

He forces himself to sink into the barstool. Loosens his limbs. Pulls out his phone and looks at it, like he’s waiting for a text or checking a very important criminal email. This time, he’s aware when Weasel approaches, even though his eyes are trained on the burner.

He looks up in time to see Weasel smile, a bit oily, before placing a pint of beer to the left of Peter, out of his reach.

“You look a little young.” Weasel grins, eyebrows raising in question. “I’ll have to card you.”

His words are casual, friendly even. Fitting for a bartender doing his job by the rulebook. Even his face is non-combative, despite his harsh features. It’s the tone that puts Peter at ill ease. His Spidey senses aren’t going off, so he knows Weasel isn’t about to pull a gun to his head and shoot. Yet, it sounds suspiciously like a test that Peter hasn’t studied for.

He doesn’t want to make a sassy comment in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, Peter shrugs. He plays the newbie. Because that’s what he is. If Weasel is the man in his profile, there’s no fooling him into thinking he’s seen Peter before. As easy as it was to get inside of the bar, the silent security is nothing to fool. Weasel knows everyone that steps foot in here because he deals with each of them personally.

Peter can hear Mr. Stark’s voice in the back of his head telling him to not be over-excitable.

He pulls out his wallet and hands Weasel Ben Weber’s identification card.

Peter watches as Weasel reads it over. He stares at it for what seems like forever, before glancing back up at Peter and grinning again.

“Happy birthday, then,” Weasel says, voice light and Peter feels something tugging inside of him. That same feeling you get when the teacher asks a question you know the answer to on an exam.

“July sixth was over three months ago,” Peter replies, softly but confidently. It’s cheating, kind of. Peter’s birthday was on the third of July. He really did have his birthday three months ago, except he’d turned twenty, not twenty-one.

Weasel hums, lips pulled thinly, nodding back at him. The bartender twirls Ben’s I.D. in his hand a bit before reaching with his other to place the beer in front of Peter. He does a weird little dance where he tosses the I.D. card in the air, catching it in his left hand to pass back to Peter.

“Benjamin Weber, huh?” He holds out his hand cordially for a handshake which Peter accepts, willing himself not to sweat. It feels like the type of handshake he’d got from Mr. Delmar when he was accepted to the position of daytime cashier. But with none of the joking, fond looks.

“Weasel.”

Peter nods. “Good to meet you.”

“Likewise.”

Despite his best effort, it’s an awkward little moment of handshake-slash-staring contest. He still feels triumphant when Weasel pulls away first. The man gestures with his thumb behind him.

“If you need anything, just holler.”

With that, he turns away and moves to another customer that’s sat on the other side. Peter watches as Weasel fixes her a shot before huddling back to the cash register and punching in some numbers. The more he punches in, the quicker it dawns on Peter that it’s not a register at all. It’s a computer. A fossil of a computer. Bulky desktop crunched together in a space where a cash register should certainly be. Weasel stays there.

Taking a quick breath, Peter pulls his eyes away before he looks too curious.

He looks at his phone instead.

He’s not sure how much time passes, but he reads and re-reads fake text messages on the burner, interspersed with measured moments for him to sip his beer. He tries to keep them as random looking as possible. Like he’s actually enjoying the most disgustingly bitter drink in the world. Like he’s drinking to drink, but not to get drunk because he’s waiting for an important call.

He’s finally able to start focusing his hearing. It takes a few tries; isolating conversations isn’t a cakewalk, especially when there are so many people speaking so loudly in one confined room. Soon enough, he’s able to listen to speech rather than hearing the sounds of billiard balls like bombs in the back of his head. None of the conversations are useful though. There’s mostly shit talk. People talking smack about other people. People placing bets on people or a hand of cards. There’s even one guy complaining about his landlord.

He doesn’t hear any names he’s looking for.

Of course, it’s when he’s relaxed well enough that the disturbance in the force breaks through.

Out of nowhere, a portly man materializes at Peter’s side. His meaty hand slams down on the bar’s countertop, shaking Peter’s mostly empty mug of beer. He looks like a cartoon character or a Sons of Anarchy cosplayer. Hair balding in the middle, but the rest falling down his shoulder in a gray mass that nests with his long beard. There’s a bandana wrapped around his forehead, a leather vest stretched across his sizable chest and stomach, and intricate ink down his arms in a sleeve.

When Peter looks up at his face, he sees the man’s raising both eyebrows and eying him appraisingly. He looks Peter straight in the face without an ounce of decency, seemingly taking in his features with approval before huffing loudly.

“How much? I got three hours to kill.”

Peter actually feels shocked and he can’t stop the way his eyes go wide. Like, taser shocked. Woah, Parker, this did not just happen, right? If anything, when he left the house, he thought he was giving more homeless vibes than prostitute vibes. Sketchy vibes that say he’s a thief in the night. Not sketchy vibes that scream he’s selling his body for a meal. But then again, he’s not certain of the etiquette and usual dress up in here. Mr. Stark didn’t include that in his little, harried lessons.

This is very much unwanted attention.

He’s saved from having to answer, though, because abruptly, Weasel has slithered his way back to Peter. On the other side of the bar still, though. The man keeps his distance, peeking at Weasel briefly, but otherwise quite focused on Peter.

Peter’s eyes drag from his wannabe John to Weasel, who leers at them with a smirk on his face. He reaches up to adjust his glasses before looking Wannabe-John in the eye.

“Boy’s not a whore, Sunny.”

“You sure?” Sunny growls and Peter schools his own face blankly when Sunny rakes his eyes over Peter like he’s a corndog fresh out of the deep fryer.

Weasel darts his eyes back to Peter and the smirk grows slick. “He’s a bandit.”

Ah.

So, that’s what Weasel was doing on the computer this whole time.

Suddenly, Sunny, like a giant star himself, spreads his arms and puffs up his chest, taking up as much space as possible. To Peter’s utter and genuine horror, the room starts to quiet down, and people are beginning to look their way.

Crap, crap, crap!

“Oh, eh?” Sunny grunts and his voice is somehow at high volume, resonating through the bar like the bass at a fucking Skrillex concert. “S’at so? How’d I know ya ain’t just holdin' him for yerself? You always do, the good ‘uns. Don’t see you doing no dealings.”

Weasel’s smile grows tenfold like he’s just been given a miracle from God.

Peter does not like where this is going.

“Actually, Sun. I’ve got a good one. Got a client that wants a Dali stolen from his ex-wife’s storage. Turns out, he’s emotionally attached to it. Sounds like child’s play, but apparently, wifey’s a bitch on wheels. Last two people he hired got shot in the balls. And we only know because she keeps sending their balls back in Chanel boxes. I think she’s just trying to make him into the man he says he is.”

That sets off a string of chortles among the crowd encroaching around him and Sunny at the bar.

Sunny makes a snorting sound.

Peter distantly calculates how many people there are around them and how much webbing he’d need to hogtie them together right there on the cigarette-stained floor like a pagan sacrifice. He could do it. Probably. His webshooters, disguised as bracelets around each wrist, are heavy with reassurance. 

“What do you say, Benny boy?” Weasel calls out and Peter sees him holding out a gold card, looking every bit like a snake in the grass.

At this point, Peter’s feeling mixed emotions. He plainly doesn’t want to be at Sister Margaret’s. He doesn’t want to be next to one man who wants to pay him for sex and another that’s enabling thievery as easy as a waitress may ask if anyone would like fries with that. And mostly, he feels more than disturbed that he can’t do a thing about any of this. If he pulls any of Spider-Man’s moves or tries to take Weasel to the station, he knows it’s not going to work in his favor.

He needs a way out of this.

He didn’t get anything that he or Mr. Stark needed, anyway. He could just walk out.

And he might have just left if out of the corner of his eye he didn’t see the exact man he was sent here to find.

Right there, in his periphery, Peter sees a tall man decked out in red and black spandex, towering a good head over everyone else in the crowd. He has a mask on and Peter can’t see his face. That’s how Peter knows he’s got the right guy.

Deadpool.

If he walks away now, blowing his cover in front of the mercenary he’s supposed to be investigating, then he might never get a chance to get within five feet of him again. Peter doesn’t have a mask here or a suit. He can’t just throw on another costume and come back in here, cool as a cucumber. They all know what he looks like. If Peter ruins this now, there’s no way he can fix the broken ends later.

In the pocket of his coat, the little picture of Esther feels like a lead anchor keeping him in place.

Peter grits his teeth and barely breathes.

“Sounds good,” he spits the words out like venom and, quicker than he means to, Peter snatches the gold card from Weasel’s hand. Getting up, he uses the same hand to reach into his jean pocket to grab a ten-dollar bill to toss on the countertop.

The burner’s already in his hand, so with haste, he punches in the number on the gold card into the phone. Then he reaches back and pulls his hood up. By now, he has a full audience, including the attention of Deadpool. This is his one shot, he thinks.

In full view of Weasel, he presses the call button, raising the phone to his ear, and lets it ring as he starts to make his way to the exit.

He’s sweating, pumped up on adrenaline and anxiety in a way that he hasn’t been for years. Just as he approaches the door, a man answers the phone call with a sharp greeting.

If you asked Peter before he got there what thief might say when answering a phone, he might have shrugged. Maybe said something along the lines of, Hey there sir, if you need something stolen, I’m your man. Or possibly, This is Ben Weber, master of thieves, how can I illegally serve you today? Something awkward and stupid because Peter isn’t a thief and he doesn’t answer Craigslist ads for punks that need help breaking the law.

As it goes, Peter just barks out a laugh and says, “So, I’ve heard you’re having a custody battle.”

A booming laugh sounds behind him as Peter makes his way out the door.

Art credit: Tumblr @onthestraightandnarrowpath

(Art credit: @onthestraightandnarrowpath)

-

When he gets back to his apartment, Peter doesn’t sleep at all.

Or eat.

He goes straight to the sink, drinks right out of the faucet, and then throws himself on the sofa. It’s a pleather sofa, so it squeaks in distress when he falls on it. Absentmindedly, one of Peter’s hands come up to play with a patch of fraying duct tape which holds some of the sofa’s stuffing in place.

Peter didn’t make enough money to buy a sofa. This one, he’d garbage picked one night after patrol. He’s glad he did because the thing is soft and comfortable. It’s slouchy and unsightly, with one too many battle wounds, but it was easy to clean. It only took two days of Clorox wiping before the sweaty smell mostly dissipated.

Now, Peter uses it as a spot to sit and wait out his emotional crises. Which happen at least once weekly.

Eventually, darkness turns to light. It’s Saturday morning when he snaps out of it, forcing his racing thoughts to calm down. He’s starving, but the pain of hunger is ignored when he hears the telltale ringtone of his phone.

Jumping up, Peter takes a few steps to the twin size bed just a few feet to the right of the sofa and grabs his phone, where it’s lighting up from the cocoon of his sheets.

It’s a text from Mr. Stark. Just one word. Alive?

Peter stares up at the ceiling in askance.

Alive. He writes back.

The reply is almost immediate. Anything juicy?

Peter’s poor heart, which had just recently returned to a semi-acceptable pace, jumpstarts again. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the gold card, staring at it in disbelief as if he’s never seen it before. It looks even less innocent glimmering in the rays of daylight. It’s made of plastic, he notices. Not unlike a credit card. Similar in size and weight, except there’s no decoration on it except for a phone number.

A phone number that Peter had called last night and used to book a job.

A thieving job.

Peter remembers the entire conversation, word for word like he can see it written down in the blank air in front of him.

So, I’ve heard you’re having a custody battle?

The man on the phone had made a wounded sound and Peter had been quick to cover his open liner by stating that he’d been recruited to help.

The guy had grumbled, before telling Peter in Slavic accented English that he’d needed a Dali original painting recovered from point A and delivered to point B. The locations were described in latitude and longitude. Then the man had declared his three-day deadline and promptly screamed in his ear that he’d better get it done this time because he was tired of paying the submission request fee without any follow through. That was followed by a quick, but poignant tirade about how he’d sooner put half of New York in their graves, including himself, before letting his shameless whore of an ex-wife keep that painting.

Then he hung up.

It had been very easy, actually, to participate in a call to set up crime. Peter had only had to call the man—his client—and greet him before the man was sprouting demands. Peter hadn’t said one other word throughout the entire conversation. He’d just listened with what surely must have been a bewildered face before the phone call was disconnected. Good thing it wasn’t a FaceTime call.

Dropping down on his bed, Peter fishes out the manila envelope from somewhere near his pillow. He opens it and dumps the contents on his bed.

Out falls a stack of papers.

He sets the ones of Esther and the others aside with a clenched jaw. Instead, he reaches for the back of the stack and lets his eyes roam what must be a candid shot of the mercenary known as Deadpool.

Peter gives him props.

The name is cool as hell.

The photo is in color and Peter frowns hard at the black and red costume. When he’d first opened this file with Mr. Stark, he’d sputtered indignantly and cried, “He stole my costume!”

Mr. Stark, as unimpressed as ever with Peter, as is his default mode, cocked an eyebrow his way and replied, “You mean he stole my costume? Maybe I should have patented the suit design.”

Peter had been sheepish enough that he’d let it go quickly. But still. This guy, Deadpool, was wandering the city dressed eerily similar to Spider-Man. Peter wonders how he had never once noticed. How is it that there’s a six foot and three inches tall killing machine running around New York City in bright red spandex and Peter’s never run into him?

Spider-Man’s job is literally to patrol at night and protect the little people. He goes out with the actual intention of searching for criminals and stopping them before they can cause any harm. And here, Peter’s not only missed enough criminals to populate a sleazy bar, but he’s also been oblivious enough to miss the one that’s apparently the most active. And dressed nearly identical to him.

Epic fail doesn’t even cover it.

Peter leans closer, scrutinizing the picture. The costume differences are there, he reassures himself. The patterning is different and, very obviously, the man is walking around with two swords attached to his back, a utility belt, and one AK-47 in his hand. It doesn’t matter though, the man’s so conspicuous that Spider-Man would only have to be blind to not see him, even in a darkened alleyway.

The profile states that Deadpool’s kill count is estimated to be two hundred and eighty-six. That’s a staggering number of individuals. That’s an almost unfathomable number of people that have been killed by this raging maniac. Peter doesn’t care that he’s been paid to kill these people (and with that comes the mind-bending truth that, at maximum, two hundred and eighty-six possible people have commissioned the death of at least one other person), this brings Deadpool’s title from mercenary to mass murderer in Peter’s mind. Peter can see why Mr. Stark thinks Deadpool’s behind these children’s deaths.

Deadpool’s dossier paints him to be ruthless, callous, and efficient. Peter can imagine nothing but a cold, calculating executioner. This is a man who is a monster—well, more of a weapon, really. Every job he takes, he completes. His success and his claim to fame is that he never misses a mark? It must be enough to have villains of all types flocking to him to do their dirty work. This is the mercenary one goes to when they need a disgusting job done, no questions asked. It doesn’t matter if the mark is a weapons kingpin, a librarian, or an innocent child. This is the man that gets the job completed.

It has to be him.

Peter reads the dossier again.

There’s not much there. It’s many pages long, but nearly all of the text is redacted. When Peter first saw it, he’d looked at Mr. Stark incredulously. Why waste all the trees by bothering to print this? Mr. Stark had rolled his eyes and told him the redacted information wasn’t necessary to know. Mr. Stark had been seemingly confident that Deadpool was the merc commissioned for the killings. Peter’s job was to confirm that and see if he could find any information on who Deadpool’s new boss might be.

Which brings Peter to his next issue.

Peter had to infiltrate Sister Margaret’s somehow and position himself as a regular. Whether that meant a regular fake thief who hangs at the bar listening in on everyone’s chitter chatter in hopes being thrown a bone or interacting with Deadpool enough to extract the intel they needed? Mr. Stark hadn’t specified. But Peter is going to go with a combination of both because it seems the most logical.

The two are intertwined, anyway, he suspects.

In order to become a regular at Sister Margaret’s and even come close to figuring out Deadpool’s association to Esther, he has to both listen to the bar’s gossip and interact with Deadpool on some level. Briefly, Peter thinks he could tail the guy. Wait until he leaves the bar on a job and follow him around.

It was all pontification at this stage, though. Because Peter has to deal with the foremost problem: he has to become a regular at Sister Margaret’s. In other words, he has to be able to show his face in that bar without being killed on sight.

Peter had been manipulated into taking a job from Weasel. He knows that.

But it’s not just taking a job from Weasel. It’s not as simple as Ben Weber got himself a job and if Peter Parker chooses not to complete it, well no one's the wiser. Untrue. So, so wrong. Not even a little bit of fake dark web five-star reviews can lie for Peter and help him escape Ben Weber’s commissioned job.

By taking the gold card, Peter has effectively signed a binding contract with Weasel.

If Peter doesn’t complete the job, then the news will get back to Weasel and everyone will know.

There’s no way of getting around it. Peter can’t even track his client down because Weasel is the one with the Slavic man’s contact information. Peter knew the moment he called the number on the gold card that he’d been calling a burner just like his own. He’s positive that if he called back now, the line wouldn’t exist. That’s why Peter was able to keep the gold card in the first place: it leads to nothing. These people aren’t amateurs. They’re doing shady business and they know how to handle it.

The only amateur here is Peter and even he knows with a sickening jolt of realization how he needs to handle this.

He needs to steal this Dali painting and in three days’ time and run back to Weasel to collect on the job. If he doesn’t, the only way Peter is going to see Sister Margaret’s or Deadpool again is in therapy when he recounts his numerous failures.

Biting his lip, Peter grabs his phone again.

Nothing to report.

He sends it to Mr. Stark before full on freaking out, because he only has an hour to get to work. If he’s late one more time, Mr. Delmar is going to fire him, no matter how sweet he is on Aunt May.

-

Peter thinks this should be more challenging.

Blinking, he looks around him, feet shuffling a little in old, ratty converse.

Nope. Still no security coming for him.

Sighing wearily, Peter squints up at the storage unit in front of him from under his baseball cap. He sincerely thought it was some kind of joke. Maybe Weasel had set this all up? When he’d plugged the latitude and longitude of the coordinates of the painting’s apparent location into Google Maps, Peter had made a sort of wheezing, skeptical sound. The Dali painting, which Peter can only guess is worth millions of dollars, if it can be priced at all, is being kept hidden in a U-Haul storage unit just outside of Jersey City? That sounds like that context for a bad joke.

It had been devastatingly easy to buy a cheap MegaBus ticket to Jersey City and then walk his way to the U-Haul facility with just a granola bar as fuel. Peter had found a small café near the storage center and got himself the cheapest coffee on the menu—small, black, no sugar, absolutely disgusting—then settled down to wait for dark. To his surprise, the café remained busy enough through the night that Peter, still sipping at cold coffee while dreaming of a Starbucks frappucino, tapping away on his laptop in a seat nearest to the window had gone unnoticed.

From his vantage point, he can see the guard on gate duty lazily watching the security feed. One hour later, it’s getting darker, no cars have tried to gain entry into the facility, and the guard understandably appears to have fallen asleep with his face smooshed against his hand.

Peter thinks wistfully of Ned as he hacks into the U-Haul security system. It’s entirely Wi-Fi based and dependent on internet connection, even the CCTV cameras. If Peter somehow makes enough money one day to own something valuable, he is never going to hold it in U-Haul storage. Ridiculous.

A preteen with more pimples than coding lessons could have shut the place down.

Packing up his backpack, Peter jets out of the café, crossing the street toward the U-Haul. He tosses his coffee cup in a nearby garbage can and uses his Spider-Man cultivated stealth to go around the back of the facility to the southeast entrance. And by stealth, he means that he stands there like an idiot on the sidewalk for a good five minutes, obsessively looking around himself thirteen times to make sure that no one is watching him.

The guard is still sleeping.

There’s really no one out on the streets, just a few stragglers here and there which are minding their own business. Everyone is alarmingly caught up in their own worlds.

In Peter’s humble opinion, the universe needs more vigilantes.

The gates are electric, not manual.

It doesn’t matter because Peter climbs up the side of the fence and jumps over the barbed wire on top. He lands in a soundless crouch, one hand stabilizing him, fingertips to the ground. Glancing up at the numbers marking the units, Peter hastily makes his way toward the one he’s here for. At first, when he’d realized he was being sent to a storage center, he’d been confused. How was he supposed to know which unit held a priceless Dali? He didn’t have any personal information about his client or the man’s ex-wife. If he wanted to, he couldn’t even hack into the U-Haul’s record system because he had no names to go on.

But then he’d realized the coordinates had been extraordinarily exact. So, he punched them in again, minutes and seconds, then dropped down to street view. It had evidently been unit 5H.

This had to be a cruel prank. Hazing?

It was too easy.

When he gets back to Sister Margaret’s, that is, if he gets back at all, he’s so dead. They’re all going to laugh at him and eat his eyes or something like a freak episode of Punk’d. It’s possible that Weasel engineered this as a trick because he recognized Ben Weber as fresh meat. He’s not sure and right now, he doesn’t have the time to consider the train of thought. Peter has exactly eleven minutes until the U-Haul security system turns back on and the guard on duty wakes up from his impromptu and very well-timed nap. If he isn’t awake already.

Unit 5H is identical to all of the others, save for its mark.

Peter grabs his backpack and dumps it next to his feet. He pulls out a lockpick from the front zippy pocket and drops down to his knees. He prays this is just as easy as YouTube made it out to be. He’d practiced on his own lock to his studio apartment before and after work for two days. Not much prep time, but he’s running on a schedule.

Peter’s already panting, and he hasn’t done much. It’s strange to be out in the world committing a crime. But it’s even stranger to be relying on a mix of his skills as Spider-Man and Peter Parker, with no costume to hide behind.

It takes a lot of finagling and three minutes too long.

But it works.

His hands are shaking.

The click and turn of the lock releasing sounds like the pearly gates of heaven parting to Peter. He almost feels dizzy with how relieved he is.

Stuffing the lock picking kit back into his backpack, he crouches and pulls the garage-like door up. Once he gives it a push, it automatically opens the rest of the way, retreating upwards to reveal a storage unit that is filled with junk.

Peter blinks again, taking in the site before him.

There are boxes lining the walls. Stray bits and bobs are scattered along the floor. Peter sees stacks of books and old-school vinyl records. He sees a few antique-looking wooden tables, a Singer sewing machine, and what is undoubtedly a Swiffer hanging out in a corner. It looks like the set of Hoarders: Buried Alive.

And, of course, there’s the Dali painting.

Which Peter doesn’t see, but he knows it must be there, because straight ahead of him, in the middle of the chaos is a pristine black safe box. Just like the ones in the hotels where tourists are urged to store their expensive belongings before going out to explore.

The path between where Peter stands at the entrance, all the way to the safe box, is clear of rubbish. Not even a speck of dust, as though it was recently cleaned.

And Peter has played enough video games to know that it’s a trap.

It must be.

Hadn’t Weasel mentioned that this client sent in men before Ben Weber to acquire this painting? And these men had died?

Peter’s heart is doing its favorite tachycardia dance and his stomach is soured beyond belief. Despite it all, he clenches his fists until his nails are digging into his palms painfully. It brings him a measure of center.

“Assess the situation,” he murmurs to himself, finally succumbing the faint bit of madness he feels creeping into his mind. All these near panic attacks this week are going to send him into a spiral of incurable insanity. Talking to himself doesn’t seem like such a big deal in comparison to stealing, anyway.

Eyes keen, he scans the storage unit’s gut twice. It’s when he’s doing his second look over that he sees it squatting innocently in the corner, just hidden behind the entrance. He recognizes it instantly.

Stark tech.

He grins crookedly, a laugh huffing out of him.

A Sensitor 5300. It’s an old model, he’s sure. In fact, Mr. Stark had mentioned something or other about updating its programming algorithms just two weeks ago in one of his self-absorbed tangents about how he had to travel to Beijing to conduct business talk to re-patent the technology. Peter hadn’t really been paying attention, still trying to say "My name is Ben Weber"  with a straight face to the mirror above Mr. Stark’s wine rack. But he does recall something Mr. Stark mentioned that aesthetically set the old from new series: the old ones were black with gold hardware, while the new ones were silver—forged in the same nickel-titanium alloy that makes Iron Man’s suit: nitinol. The older models were easily breakable. The newer models were bulletproof.

That doesn’t help him now.

Peter didn’t bring any guns or knives or weapons with him. Because, first of all, that would have looked suspicious on the bus. And second of all, Peter doesn’t use weapons. Carrying weapons is a declaration of a personal intention to kill or maim; Spider-Man would never stand for such a thing.

So, he can’t shoot the Sensitor. He also can’t get close to it. It’s a motion sensor that uses infrared laser lines to detect movement. It’s a security bot—no doubt, it’s hooked up to some security system and if Peter trips it, he’ll be triggering an alarm somewhere. Clearly, not one in U-Haul since he shut theirs down with a temporary bug. This is an independent measure of security, probably added by Ex-Wife herself.

Taking a step back, Peter looks at the bot.

There’s only one. The lens in it is about the size of a quarter. Maybe just a bit smaller. So, if a quarter is 24.26 millimeters in diameter, then the lasers shine just as visible light would through the widest point of the lens, projecting throughout the storage unit at an angle which at its highest point can’t be more than four feet tall. Peter nibbles on his lip, thoughtfully. It’s been a while since Physics class.

Too tall to walk over. No one can walk through four feet of lasers without being detected.

It’s definitely a trap. He’s not sure what happens when motion is detected, but it can’t be good.

Grimly, Peter reminds himself: eight minutes to go.

He’s not Spider-Man for nothing, he reflects. “Okay, fine then. The ground is lava.”

Quickly, Peter rips off his shoes by toeing aggressively at them. He backs up a few more paces before running forward and jumping up, throwing himself at the wall of the unit next door. His hands and feet stick to it. Then he’s crawling as fast as he can and as carefully as he can above the height of four feet. He crawls along the wall and into the unit, moving fast to attach himself to the ceiling. And then the safe is directly below him.

Seven minutes.

There’s really only one way this is playing out. The safe is below the four feet mark, fully encompassed by detectors just waiting to go off. Peter momentarily mourns that his radioactive spider powers didn’t come with the ability to see infrared. It would have been oh, so, helpful.

He’s going to trip the alarm.

He has no choice—and isn’t that really the motto of his life.

Wrist straightening out, Peter lines up his web shooter and makes the shot. He watches with a removed, but overwhelming sense of dread, as his web sticks out and glues itself to the top of the safe. He doesn’t give himself any more time to think. Peter instinctively pull the web upwards, lifting the box out of the four feet mark just as a deafening series of booms crackle around the unit.

Peter startles backward, his head hitting the ceiling roughly. His eardrums feel like they’ve popped and all he can hear is ringing.

Gasping for breath, nearly shaking, Peter looks around frantically. He recognizes the sounds as gunshots within close range.

The storage unit is dark and silent now, but with his eyesight, Peter sees very clearly where a bunch of bullet holes litter the walls on either side of the unit, right there at the four feet mark. It smells like gunpowder and ozone.

Yes.

Now Peter can see why the previous men had been shot in the balls.

Four feet is just about crotch height for most average sized men and anyone walking through the unit would have set off the Sensitor and the subsequent booby trap.

Five minutes.

Peter crawls with lightning speed across the ceiling to the entrance of the unit. He swings the safe down to the ground near his backpack before snaking out of the side of the unit and leaping down next to it.

Four minutes.

He stares at the safe.

That’s not going to fit in his backpack. It’s about a meter long and half meter high. There’s a lock on it. A digital one with a number pad ready for use. But Peter doesn’t have time. He’s just rounding down to four minutes to get the hell out of there.

He does the only thing he can think of: he punches the safe at the weak spot near where the door is. He has so much strength that it crumbles like aluminum foil under the force of the blow, whatever mechanism holding it in place crunching with a metallic whirr. The door pops open.

And Peter reaches in, disbelievingly, to grab what has to be the smallest painting he’s ever seen.

It’s smaller than the wallet-sized photo of Esther and dotted with strokes of primary colored paint in the same way Peter’s kindergarten art was. It doesn’t seem to be a picture of anything. Just blobs of color, wilting and messy. It’s hideous, but there in the corner, he sees Salvador Dali’s iconic signature.

“This can’t be real,” he mutters, holding the painting skeptically.

Two minutes.

Adrenaline pumping through his body on overtime, Peter shoves the ugly thing ruthlessly into his backpack, before jumping to grab a hold of the pulley door to the unit. He uses his left hand to pull any evidence of webs from the safe box and kicks it into the unit—a bullseye for the Swiffer in the corner. He shoves the pulley door down, closed, the lock snicking back into place just as the second round of fire starts up inside of the unit. Then he throws his backpack on his shoulders and cradles his Converse in one elbow.

Peter runs like a maniac on fire to the southeast gate, tossing his goodies over the fence, then climbs, scaling the chain links faster than he’s ever done anything before.

He’s only a few feet away when he hears the screeching alarms going off down the street.

This better be worth it.

-

It’s Monday—three days from when he’d first entered Sister Margaret’s and accepted that gold card.

He stands in front of the alcove entrance a new man. One that has committed burglary. Or larceny? He’s not even sure. But he’s standing there as a man who’s officially given up his ethical code to infiltrate this crowd.

Is this how real cops feel when they go undercover?

Peter touches the picture of Esther in his pocket.

It’s nearing ten at night, but the streets are still heavily populated. Peter blends in with the crowd in attire identical to what he was wearing last time he’d been here. Still the clunky hiking boots, worn jeans, thin shirt, and oversized jacket. It’s not that he doubts Weasel will remember him, but rather, Peter has a limited set of clothes to begin with. He doesn’t want to risk anyone memorizing his wardrobe by chance and running into him, recognizing him by day.

It’s the costume of Ben Weber. The clothes are linked to this identity just as his suit is linked to Spider-Man. Except Ben Weber’s costume isn’t as flattering and has none of the accoutrements his Stark-made super suit does. He misses Karen with a fierceness that’s most likely depressing. She’s the only woman in his life besides Aunt May. Karen’s more than just an AI—she’s his AI and his confidant. Peter talks to her too much, but his reasoning is that she keeps him busy. And keeps him sane, but that’s a bag of chips for another day.

Peter steels himself. It’s now or never.

He thinks his mission went well. He stole the stupid Dali painting and dropped it off at the specified location—which, by the way, was a mailbox to a rundown looking house in a ratchet neighborhood of Jersey City that Peter isn’t familiar with. He didn’t run into anyone along his way. No contact with his so-called client.

And, thankfully, no authorities have come to lock him away.

So, it went very well. Or very badly.

Shaking himself back to reality, Peter whips out his phone and shoots a quick text to Mr. Stark.

Got another date tonight.

They hadn’t settled on any code words, but Peter thinks Mr. Stark will understand. He’s better safe than sorry. He doesn’t want any flagged words like "undercover" on his phone should someone steal it in the bar.

Mr. Stark doesn’t send an emoji, but Peter can feel the eye roll in his soul.

Let me know if you tap that.

Peter cringes. Over the last five years, his hero worship for Mr. Stark has tamed down to a respectable level. After having contact with the man for the duration of his hands-off training, Peter now knows enough to see that Tony Stark is very much a human being, flaws and all. Mr. Stark is Iron Man. He’s a genius. And not a day goes by that Peter doesn’t try to have even an ounce of the brilliance and bravery that Mr. Stark does. Peter is forever grateful that Mr. Stark agreed to let him keep his suit, encouraged him to continue being Spider-Man, and let him participate every now and then in SHIELD cases that needed attention. But Peter sees that Mr. Stark is a man too. He’s tired and arrogant. He’s narcissistic and an alcoholic. All while he’s still compassionate and forgiving, self-sacrificing and determined.

He’s also mind-bendingly crude and has no filter whatsoever.

Peter was relieved when his faux Stark internship finished, and he could keep the man at arms-length from Aunt May.

Peter tucks the phone back into his pocket. At least now, if he doesn’t answer Mr. Stark’s text tomorrow, someone will know where to go looking for his remains.

-

Walking into Sister Margaret’s brings him face to face with the same scenery as last Friday night. All the loud noises, the strong smells, and dubious characters lurking about.

Peter doesn’t pause in the door this time. He goes straight to his spot at the bar, which is empty as if it’s waiting for his arrival. He barely touches down on the seat when Weasel beelines to over to him.

“Benny boy, you just missed Sunny!” he says, smacking his lips together, a playful look in his eyes. Like he’s teasing Peter. As if they are friends and Sunny’s just part of the crowd. Peter would genuinely like to remind Weasel that Sunny tried to solicit him for sex right under Weasel’s nose and all the man did was apologetically point out that Peter wasn’t a prostitute. Which means that prostitutes linger here often. And Peter knows that it’s a job people fall into when there’s nowhere else to turn, but it’s an illegal job. There’s nothing playful about that.

Peter tries not to grimace. It must not work because Weasel lets out a howl of a laugh. “Don’t worry, he’ll be back later tonight.”

Without asking him, Weasel grabs a glass and fills it up with some beer that’s on tap. Peter doesn’t know his beers. If he’s honest, Weasel could be serving him piss with a dash of isopropyl alcohol in it and he wouldn’t know the difference.

The beer is plunked down in front of him.

“Mr. Weber,” Weasel begins, elbows planted on the bar. He leans forward, eyes narrowed, and looks at Peter searchingly.

He smells like marijuana.

“You made our man very pleased, Benny,” Weasel murmurs with an intensity that matches his gaze. He stares at Peter unforgivingly in a way that makes Peter highly uncomfortable.

He feels undressed in Weasel’s presence. The man puzzles him completely. All his words are light-hearted and airy, but deliberate and resonating with something that Peter can’t place. Weasel looks like every other pothead on the street. He looks diminutive and non-threatening. Despite the glasses, he looks unkempt and almost moronic. But Peter greatly doubts this is the case. Peter’s instincts light up around Weasel, even more so than they did with Sunny. This man is intelligent. It would be more than remiss of Peter to let his guard down around him—it would be fatal.

Peter doesn’t have to reply because Weasel continues without prompting.

“The man’s been giving me a hard time. Lost a few pawns here and there, sad to say. He’s a bit of a loudmouth. Thought we’d never please him. Almost invested in hiring a PR representative to handle his bad-mouthing.”

Peter doesn’t respond, just keeps his eyes on Weasel as the man makes a face that says he holds the world on his shoulders before giving Peter a pointed look.

“Newbies aren’t very reliable, Benny. I wasn’t sure we wouldn’t find a piece of you in a luxury designer box like the others come today, but the old man called last night. Delighted! Apparently, you left a shit show behind in the ex-wifey’s den. He liked that very much. But not a trace of you for the investigators to go by. All the wrapping paper left behind, but the chocolate was gone.”

Weasel taps the beer in front of Peter.

“Like a mouse.” Weasel snorts, blinking lazily at Peter. “You know they were there. They got the cheddar, but where the fuck did they disappear to and how the fuck did they get in in the first place when you’ve set traps every two inches?”

Weasel pushes the beer closer toward Peter, who watches anxiously as Weasel reaches beneath the bar. It’s not a firearm he retrieves though. It’s a packet. A mini envelope, black in color, sealed off so the content is unseen. He puts it next to Peter’s beer.

“I almost don’t want to give this to you.” Weasel looks at the envelope mournfully. “You’ll be vacationing in Bora Bora for the next fifty years. Alas, I’m a man of my contract. I take my cut and no more.”

Weasel backs away from the bar as a couple—two skinheads by the look of it—sit down on the other side.

“First beer tonight’s on us, Mouse.” Weasel nods. “You’ll make your way onto the team yet.”

Peter takes the envelope, nerves alighting at the cryptic declaration.

When Weasel’s back is turned, he peeks inside the black envelope furtively. A quick glance and he can see that it’s a hand-written check. Peter closes it quickly, not looking at it. He doesn’t want to read it. Whatever amount it is for, it’s dirty money and it probably says something that will tear at Peter’s soul like for committing larceny. He decides that he’ll shove it in his bedside table later, locked in the dark to never see the light of day again. 

-

Weasel doesn’t bother him again, so Peter repeats his old routine of focusing his senses. It’s easier this time knowing he doesn’t have as much to prove tonight. He’s not sure how this works, but Weasel seems content to let him sip his beer and hasn’t visited his computer once this time. Peter takes that as a good sign.

Time drags on and Peter’s starting to doubt he’ll get a glimpse of his target tonight. Weirdly, the night’s been pretty peaceful. No Sunnies have stumbled up to Peter asking for a price tag, so that’s good.

And that’s when the door slams open and in walks in Deadpool, loud and in full dress.

Peter tediously notes that as soon as Deadpool walks through the door, everyone within Peter’s line of sight turns to look. None of them stop talking, but each of them looks—just once—before returning to their business. As if they want to keep the mercenary’s location on file. Peter doesn’t blame them. All eyes on the loose cannon.

Peter follows suit reluctantly, dropping his eyes and fiddling with his beer. He hasn’t had much of it. It’s the taste more than anything. The texture of it is actually rather pleasant, but Peter’s enhanced taste makes him unable to stomach bitter foods the way he used to. It doesn’t annoy him too much since he never liked broccoli rabe or coffee anyway. He's more inclined toward sweets than anything else.

The bar’s fuller now. It’s almost midnight. But there seems to be an unspoken rule in which one seat is left between each bar attendee. Because mercenaries have respect for personal space.

Except for Deadpool, who groans in a manner that screams suffering, heavily stomps over to the bar, and drops like a boulder on to the barstool next to Peter. The stool trembles precariously under his weight.

“Weas!” he shouts, voice loud and raspy despite its whine. “This hunk of man needs Clase Azul Ultra tequila: four shots. And don’t you water that shit down, I’ll know the difference, ¿comprende?"

Weasel appears in front of them in the blink of an eye, reared up like a mamba ready to strike. “I don’t fucking think so, Wade. I’m not wasting premium tequila on you, you shithead. It’s about seven grand per bottle. You can’t even get drunk!”

Peter’s not sure what he’s more shocked about. That Weasel just went from zero to sixty in a half a second or the fact that all Deadpool does is whine loudly and fidget in his seat, like an overgrown husky puppy being scolded.

“What the hell, Weasel?” he whines, hands flapping around in a complicated, uncontained gesture. “You know I’m good for the money. I’ll pay you for the bottle, up front. When have I done you wrong? And I so too can get drunk, fuck you! It just takes maximum effort and only lasts a couple of minutes.”

Weasel huffs a breath through his nostrils, not unlike a dragon. “Done me wrong? You serious, Wilson? Does last deal ring a bell? I’ve had Wanamaker riding my ass since Saturday morning because you recreated a scene from American Horror Story in the mark’s living room. He’s withholding half of the payment and talking my ear off asking about how he’s going to keep this from the press—and I don’t give a flying cock. What part of ‘discretion needed’ did you miss, you fugly douchebag pyro?”

“Aw, come on, man!” Deadpool slams his hands down on the bar and throws his head back frustratedly. “It was one little bomb. Not even a real one! It was homemade and I’m not fucking Bill Nye. The blast range barely extended past twenty feet! It was all contained in one room. You can’t blame me, Weasel, you know I hate rapists. I woulda used Bea and Arthur for some slicing and dicing, but I’d just sharpened them and it seemed too easy. So, I popped into the kitchen and used a tuna can for my C4. The fucktard was enthusiastic about climaxing, so I thought I’d show him one last good time, right? Put that tuna can right on his dick.”

There’s a pause.

Peter’s mind is racing, trying to hang onto every word. Deadpool speaks a mile a minute and Peter actually stopped looking at his phone because he can barely keep up. He watches as Deadpool and Weasel stare at each other, frozen in time.

Then, all of a sudden, Weasel snorts unattractively.

And the two of them are in peals of laughter.

“You reckless son of a bitch,” Weasel says through a chuckle.

“You can keep my cut of the money.”

“I already did, jackass.”

“Four tequila shots, por favor. Sometime soon, I’d like to start my morning with the breakfast of champions. Woulda had Frosted Flakes on my way over, but I’ve earned all my stripes,” Deadpool says, slouching onto the bar as Weasel dances around.

“Oh, is that what you call those things?” Weasel sets four shot glasses next to Deadpool, pulls out a fancy looking alcohol bottle, and fills each with two fingers of drink. He closes the bottle, puts in out of sight, and downs one of the shots with a stern look on his face.

Deadpool whimpers. “You’re a no good bully who bullies. I hate you.”

“You love me, butterface.”

“No! No, I do not. Liar, liar, pants on fire, call me butterface again and I won’t be for hire,” Deadpool sings fist pumping once in Weasel’s face. “BOOM! Real threats, son. You’ll be broke the moment I leave. Sister Margaret’s will become a homeless shelter with you as the head homo.”

“Homo’s not short for homeless, Wade.”

“I’m well aware of that, Weasel.”

They have a stare off again.

Peter thinks Weasel is really good at staring contests. It must come with the territory. However, when Peter lifts his head fully to take a good look he concludes Weasel might lose this round. Deadpool’s mask has white cut outs for the eyes, surrounded by black, surrounded by red leather.

As usual, Peter is proven wrong embarrassingly quickly.

Because Deadpool’s eyes blink.

Peter jumps. Because, seriously, how does that even happen? Peter wants to say science, but can only think: witchcraft. What kind of tech makes blinking eyes in a mask and how does Deadpool control them?

Unfortunately, Peter’s jump calls the attention of both men to him. Abruptly, Deadpool straightens, sitting properly in his chair and lifts from his slouch, leaning away from Weasel. The motion puts him closer to Peter. And Peter looks up…and up some more to meet the whites of Deadpool’s mask with his heart in his throat. He hopes he doesn’t look too much like an introvert in the spotlights, but he can feel his eyes widen a bit in simple response to being so close to Mr. Stark’s prime suspect for murder.

Peter can’t tell for sure when Deadpool meets his eyes because the whites have no pupil, but he guesses it’s the same time Deadpool gasps and rears back comically like Peter has Ebola or something.

“OH MY GOD!” He screeches at a pitch unfit for his register. “Holy fucking doe eyes, Batman. What the shitfuck freckles? What the f—” Deadpool stills like someone hit a pause button. He turns, looks at Weasel. Then does a double take, looking back at Peter.

“Excuse me,” Deadpool says indignantly to Peter. He reaches out, and Peter jumps again, but Deadpool just grabs Peter’s beer. “Are you drinking this?” He lifts the beer up and shakes it meaningfully. Then he turns to Weasel once again, shaking the beer. “Is he drinking this? Are you insane? Did you just serve this child alcohol? He’s literally twelve?”

Peter’s at a loss of what to say, but Weasel doesn’t miss a beat.

“Just because you wanna bend him over doesn’t mean he’s underage, you ginormous fucking freak.”

Deadpool squawks. Actually, literally squawks, loud and shrilly like an insulted chicken. Pulling the beer out of Peter’s reach, Deadpool gasps and trains his eyes on Weasel.

“Fuck you, that’s fucking disgusting man. You’re a bully,” Deadpool replies, then points accusingly at Peter. “He is totally underage, look at that face!” Deadpool says, before slouching down a bit and lowering his voice to a heated pseudo-whisper. “Did you look at the Bambi eyes? Huh, Weasel, did you see the big Precious Moments, deer in headlights Bambi eyes with all the lashes and the freckles? Freckles, Weasel. He looks two seconds away from singing a ballad and having woodland creatures waiting on his beck and call. Like full on Disney Princess mode. Snow White style, obvi. And we all know the Disney Princesses were grossly underage.”

Peter feels his face heat up tremendously.

“Card says he’s twenty-one.” Weasel grabs another of Deadpool’s tequila shots and drowns it.

“Yeah, and my card says I’m a lady.”

“You just might be. I’ve never asked to see your junk post avocado big bang. I can’t know for sure what the fuck they did to you.”

That, whatever it meant, must have been the verbal equivalent to loading a gun because suddenly, Deadpool goes from whiney and obnoxious to frankly, intimidating. His shoulders straighten up and he knocks two shot glasses to the floor. They crash, ignored, as Weasel pulls backward, putting a bit of distance between himself and Deadpool. The muscles in Deadpool’s chest ripple and the swords strapped to his back seem a lot more noticeable than they were before. 

“You’re a dick, Weasel,” Deadpool murmurs, tone soft.

“And you have a dick, Wade.”

There’s a breather again and Weasel’s line must have been a peace offering because after a moment, he and Deadpool settle. The lines of their bodies relax.

“Get me three more shots.”

Weasel does, then scurries off to the other side of the bar.

-

It’s when Weasel’s fully engaged with another customer that Peter starts to get nervous again.

Weasel, as unpleasant as he is, had acted as a brief buffer between Peter and Deadpool. But now that he’s gone, Peter begins to feel the reality of sitting next to a man from whom he’s supposed to be gathering a bunch of information on.

Peter is just commencing the debate with himself over what to do next. Should he try to engage Deadpool in conversation? How does one engage a mercenary in conversation? Hi sir, killed any people lately? Stupid question, not a good icebreaker, even as a joke. Besides, Peter already knows the answer is yes. The real question, which Peter had somehow missed until this moment, is how is he going to get to talking to Deadpool about the things that matter? Esther, the children, Deadpool’s boss? One simply does not jump head first into the meaty questions. Peter wonders if a quick search of “how to be a smooth criminal” would be acceptable at this moment in time.

He’s saved from his thoughts, though, before they can get any more explosive.

Deadpool turns to him, hand clutching Peter’s beer. “I’m not giving this back to you.”

Peter blinks at him.

Deadpool’s really big. He’s not even standing up, he’s just sitting there next to Peter on the same sized barstool and he looks like he’s taking up three times the amount of space as Peter. It’s not just that he’s tall—Peter knows this from the dossier and the fine detail that his neck aches a bit from craning upwards to look Deadpool in the face. He’s also bulky. Bulging, pure muscle, body-builder, Terminator bulky. Now that Peter’s so close to him, he observes faintly that Deadpool’s suit doesn’t seem to be padded or armored. It’s just leathery, sliding over his body without changing or manipulating Deadpool’s frame.

“But I’m twenty-one,” Peter tries, and succeeds, he thinks. It sounded convincing. It’s not even a big lie, he’s just turned twenty. And twenty is very close to twenty-one. He could do this.

Deadpool chuckles. The sound of it hits Peter right in the gut, twisting.

“Sure, you are, baby boy,” Deadpool says and it’s like all the whining and squawking before was just a figment of Peter’s imagination. A hallucination of some sort, it must have been, because Deadpool’s voice now is deep and rough and Peter feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

And there’s that pesky heat, burning on Peter’s cheeks. Peter’s not very good at being social.

Deadpool swivels on his chair, angling his body toward Peter, who deliberately does not look down. Nothing interesting to see, anyway.

Find some useful intel. That’s Peter’s job. That’s what he needs to do.

“So, your first assignment went well, I see, Bambi,” Deadpool comments, one elbow resting casually on the bar.

Peter shoves his hands into his pockets.

“What do you mean, you see?”

The mask is very expressive, even without a mouth or nose. Peter can see Deadpool smartass smirk from the way the whites of his eyes squint.

“You’re all in one piece and not here in boxes,” Deadpool replies. “That means you did A-plus work, little Bambi.”

Peter can’t help but bristle. “My name is Ben!” He sends a quick thanks to Mr. Stark’s mirror because that was confident. Serious as a heart attack.

The whites on Deadpool’s mask pull upwards at the ends, like Deadpool’s wearing a huge Cheshire grin. Peter hears the same smile in his words. “Uh huh. Of course, it is, baby boy.”

Deadpool holds out a gloved hand between them and Peter automatically reaches out to meet him in a handshake. See, Mr. Stark? No acting classes needed. Somethings do come naturally after all.

“My name’s Wade.”

Deadpool’s hand, huge like the rest of him, grips Peter’s hand. Before Peter can react, he pulls it, so Peter’s palm faces down. Deadpool hooks his own fingers beneath Peter’s knuckles and brings Peter’s hand right to his mouth. Across Peter’s knuckles, he feels the texture of soft, buttery leather, the heat of breath, and what is unmistakably the warm pressure of Deadpool’s lips dropping a kiss on Peter’s skin through the mask.

It feels like he’s being electrocuted.

Peter inhales sharply, fingers curling around Deadpool’s in reflex.

Then Deadpool jerks upright and in one movement releases Peter’s hand, grabs a Smith and Wesson from where Peter has no idea and stands, pivoting to face the other side of the arena, by the billiards table.

Peter’s Spidey sense bursts to life like a firework just as Deadpool pulls the trigger.

A gunshot sounds loudly in the bar, with it, a wake of silence.

Peter is about to web this out of control merc down when he hears an enraged growl by the dart board. Peter turns to see a face he recognizes. There stands Sunny, a dart in one hand and a beer in the other.

“What’d ya do that un for?” he grumbles, like a grizzly and uses his beer bottle to point toward the billiards table.

Down by the table, it seems that Deadpool’s shot had hit its target: another gun. One that had been ready to be used, Peter thinks, from the pissed off face of a man wearing cargo pants and the surprised face of the man by his feet, who has a hand raised to protect his head. The gun in question is now lying on the floor, barrel contorted from the pressure of Deadpool’s bullet.

Deadpool shrugs, waving his gun about in a circle. “Sorry, boys! Couldn’t let that one happen. I have a whopping lump of dinero on Sunny tonight.” He brings the gun up and points to a chalkboard above the bar that Peter hadn’t seen from his vantage point at the barstool.

Peter leans back cautiously to see it better. On it is a list of names and corresponding numbers.

“What?” Sunny barks, beard shaking when he throws his own beer bottle to the ground, aggressively. “Why on me?” He looks like he wants to step forward, but Deadpool twirls his gun around an index finger, like a cowboy. He doesn’t look a bit on guard. Not even a tad frightened by having the bar or Sunny’s attention.

In the back of his head, Peter bitterly jots this down as a possible superpower. No stage fright, no performance anxiety, and not one fuck given when faced with a member of a motorcycle gang that looks like he wants to eat him for breakfast, then wear his skin to lunch.

Deadpool shrugs again, but this time, his shoulders are held high and he widens his stance. He glances back at Peter, who tilts his head in confusion when he gets a conspiring wink from the merc.

Deadpool looks back at Sunny. “No reason, sunshine.”

Sunny looks like he’s revving up for a fight, but his friend, another leatherhead with red hair, nudges him with an elbow. Sunny forcibly inhales before looking rather sullen. His friend nudges him again.

“Yeah, yeah. A’right.” He spits once on the floor, then lets his friend pull him back to the game of darts.

The hush disappears and the place is rowdy again.

Before the shock of the noise can assault Peter’s ears, he hears Sunny’s distinctive voice mumble, “Didn’t even see him first, didn’t. Why’s t’zombie got first dibs on whatever he wants, huh? Dun remember him runnin’ the fuckin’ place.”

Deadpool hums a little and just as he goes to sit down, a scratchy recording of Rihanna sounds.

"Bitch better have my money!
Pay me what you owe me!"

With a curse, Deadpool reaches into the pouch on his utility belt and produces an old-school flip phone from its depths.

“Fuck, I’m sorry, Bambi,” Deadpool says, really sounding apologetic. “I gotta take this call. I’ll buy you that drink next time. We’ll get you a root beer, okay, baby boy? I don’t want to see you with that hard stuff again. The law’s in place for a reason, don’t cha know?”

He throws Peter a jaunty little wave, then flips the phone open to answer it. As he does, he throws the middle finger at Weasel and starts walking toward the exit.

The last thing Peter hears is him shouting into the phone in seeming outrage. “Well, duh, the account number doesn’t fit, you dunderhead! Do you even listen when I talk? I told you I don’t trust the shitastic Bank of America with my money, it’s a fucking Toronto-Dominion account. Not a Bank of fucking America account. Fill out the right form. I want the transfer by tonight. Get it done.”

And thus, ends Peter’s first real encounter with Deadpool.

Chapter Text

When Peter gets back to his studio, it’s three in the morning. The first thing he does is pop a Cup of Noodles into the microwave. As it heats up, he runs into the bathroom to relieve himself, then hustles over to the side table by his bed. He opens the first drawer and pulls out an old spiral notebook.

Half of the notebook is already full of Peter’s data on his web engineering. He prides himself that the lab notebook is so organized. It’s probably the only organized part of Peter’s life. There’s even a table of contents so if he needs a quick reminder on the formula, chemical structure, or past experimental trials, he can reference them without stress.

Peter loves this notebook.

Whatever free time he gets in between Spider-Man and working at Mr. Delmar’s, he spends pouring over it. He takes the notebook to the public library where he trades in sleep hours for hours with his nose stuffed in biochemical engineering books. He takes it with him at least once a month or once every two months when he can persuade Mr. Stark to give him a pass to one of the local community college chemistry labs—Mr. Stark holds some fancy seat on the boards and apparently, one branch of his many companies blocks out lab time for research there. When they have a cancelation, Peter slips in. Because the web polymer is key to his efficiency as Spider-Man, Mr. Stark begrudgingly allows it.

It's also the only half empty notebook he has because this lab book is relatively new. He has older ones with no pages left stored under his bed.

Frowning, he flips to the end of the lab notebook, bringing it with a pen to the crate serving as a coffee table by his beloved pleather sofa.

Peter gets his ramen, settles down on the sofa, and spends the next hour savoring his dinner while writing down every detail he’s learned from this mission so far. Esther and the M.O. of the murders. Sister Margaret’s. Weasel. Deadpool.

When he’s finished, the information looks pitiful.

It’s not much at all.

Might be getting somewhere, but she’s playing hard to get. He sends the text to Mr. Stark.

The answer is immediate. Guess you’ll just have to work on your charm, player.  

Delmar’s Deli-Grocery is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The only reason Peter doesn’t work there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is because the law won’t let him. So, Peter works the morning and afternoon shifts seven days a week, from five in the morning to six thirty at night. He works at the cash register, rings people up, takes their money, and tells them to have a good day.

When it’s slow going, Peter re-stocks shelves and organizes them. And before he ends his shift, he cleans up: sweeping and mopping, washing the windows, wiping down the counters. He also takes it upon himself to feed Murph, not that the cat needs any more food.

It’s not a difficult job. Certainly, not challenging mentally—even when the cash register breaks down and Peter has to fix it because Mr. Delmar’s not wasting any money on buying one from this century.

Peter gets ten dollars and forty cents an hour, so the money’s decent, and a forty percent discount off on any groceries in the shop, not to mention at the end of the day, he usually gets a free sandwich with what bread is left over. Mr. Delmar is a strict boss. He expects Peter to perform his job with a smile and perform it well. There’s no overtime or real benefits because some shifts are under the table, but Peter feels comfortable here. Mr. Delmar has known him since he was twelve and at least once a week, the man gives him some lecture about navigating life, like the father that Peter never had. He also never hesitates to speak to Peter in Spanish, which has taken Peter’s language skills from basic to conversational; it’s something Peter’s very proud of.

Mr. Delmar had been quick to give Peter this job at the age of sixteen when he started out part-time during the summers. When he learned that Peter was saving up for an apartment and college, Mr. Delmar hadn’t even required Peter to fill out an application for full-time when he graduated Midtown High.

Aunt May had come down to thank him, an apple pie in hand, and Mr. Delmar had said no thanks necessary, Peter was a good boy, with a good head on his shoulders. Mr. Delmar had accepted the pie graciously, even though it was lopsided and burnt on one side. Aunt May was a horrible baker.

So, Peter likes it here, even if the long hours make his days blur together. Peter doesn’t feel like he’s wasting his time. When Peter pays the big bills, namely his apartment and utilities which are expensive but necessary because life as Spider-Man can’t exist with a roommate, Peter is able to put away about seven-hundred dollars a month. He puts that money towards his college fund, which is already packing some bucks from his summer job during high school. Peter thinks in another two years, he can at least start taking one or two classes, in addition to work and patrolling, at the local community college. One day, he’ll have enough classes and money to transfer to a four-year program.

It’s Thursday, in that weird time between the coffee rush and the breakfast rush when business is a little slow. Peter’s not horrendously bored, but he’s steadily getting there. He wishes he had a matcha green tea frappuccino. God, he loves those things. Starbucks is an addiction that Peter can’t always afford though. So instead of planning to get one, Peter looks out the window and pretends he can taste its deliciousness.

Peter is at the register, re-filling the receipt paper when he sees red spandex walking toward the shop.

Peter drops the receipt paper and dives into the bathroom behind the deli counter. His muscles freeze over like he’s being shoved in a vat of dry ice. Mr. Delmar’s cry of concern is cut short by the bell on the door dinging, signaling a customer entering.

“Do you guys sell gasoline?”

Peter gasps and presses himself against the bathroom door, hand ironclad around the knob. He knows that spandex. He knows that voice. He’s three seconds away from seeing his Hot n’ Spicy Chicken ramen again.

Mr. Delmar walks over to the cash register. His voice is justifiably vigilant. “No, we do not. This is a grocery and deli. There’s a gas station three blocks east.”

There’s a put-upon sigh, then footsteps, and a sound like a bunch of tin cans clinking together. Unable to stop himself, Peter opens the door just a smidge, peeking out from his hiding spot. There’s Deadpool, in the brightness of day, squatting on aisle one, and collecting the entire stock of Pam Cooking Spray bottles from the shelf.

Deadpool stands up, arms full, and dumps them on the counter by the register. “I’ll take these, please.”

From his position, Peter can only see the back of Mr. Delmar’s head. He can’t see his expression, but damn, Mr. Delmar is a brave man. He nods at Deadpool, politely not staring too long at his unusual outfit, and begins to ring him up.

“Would you like a bag for these, sir?”

Deadpool nods, animatedly. “I totally would, man, if I carry these out like this, I’ll be dropping them like it’s hot and I don’t fancy chasing them around the sidewalk.” Deadpool pauses here, taking a step back and looking around the shop. “You know, I’ve never been in here before. Well, I mean, you probably do know. This ain’t a face people forget, no matter how much Rohypnol they’re slipped. Read about it though, this place has the best subs in Queens! Did you know there are thirty-five delis in Queens, not counting that wannabe poser Wawa’s? That’s a hella accomplishment, my man. Congratulations!”

Mr. Delmar packs the Pam bottles neatly into three plastic bags. “Your total is eighty-five dollars and sixty-two cents,” he says, calmly grabbing the receipt roll Peter dropped when he high tailed it out of there and popping it into place.

Deadpool whistles. “Good deal. You know, Stop and Shop tried to sell these to me for six dollars each? R-I-P off. Rude. Even my savings card didn’t bring the price down per unit. Lame, I don’t know why I even signed up for that card. But the cashier who pitched it to me sounded so passionate. Like a Jehovah’s Witness. Didn’t want to break their heart by telling them no. I’m too much of a heartbreaker in the club, anyway.”

From a pocket near his hip, Deadpool pulls out a hundred-dollar bill. He hands it to Mr. Delmar, who takes it and punches the amount in the register. Just as the cash register pops open and Mr. Delmar tucks the hundred away, Deadpool reaches into the pocket again and pulls out another hundred-dollar bill.

This one he puts on the counter.

He grabs his bags of aerosol cooking oil and tosses Mr. Delmar a salute. “Keep the change, sir! For good customer service.”

The bell dings again and Deadpool is out the door.

Mr. Delmar stares after Deadpool for a moment before turning toward the bathroom. “¿Estás bien, Peter?"

Peter twitches from his spot in the bathroom, hurriedly opening the door, and stepping out into the open. “Uh, fine, Mr. Delmar. I think I ate something bad for breakfast.”

He doesn’t have to hide the nausea written all over his face.

Mr. Delmar winces in sympathy. “Hay una botella de Tums en el escritorio.” He motions with his head to the back office.

Peter groans back in response and Mr. Delmar walks up to him to clasp a hand on his shoulder. He finds Peter's eyes.

“Do you know who that man was?” he asks.

Oh, there it is. Peter shrugs once, then can’t help it: he shrugs again spastically, face heated, and eyes darting to stare at the freezer section. The quart of Cherry Garcia looks despondently back, offering no help whatsoever. “Well, I, uh,” he begins high pitched and squeaky, but Mr. Delmar shakes him by the shoulder gently.

“Next time he comes in here, go into the back office and stay there until he leaves. That’s a dangerous man, Peter.”

-

Running on fumes and far too many meals of ramen noodles, Peter stumbles into Sister Margaret’s on Friday night. He barrels straight through the door and into his seat, greeted by Weasel as soon as he sits.

“Shit, kid,” Weasel says, one hand on his hip and the other tucking his blonde hair behind his ear. “You look like a campaign ad for child labor, a la Walmart. Do you sleep, or do they keep you locked in the factory sewing panties all night?”

The bags under Peter’s eyes have enough baggage to send the TSA into a frenzy.

Weasel goes to fill up a glass, watching Peter blink sluggishly at him.

Whoops. Right, people require responses. Conversations are two-sided. Peter needs to get ahold of himself, ignore the exhaustion. It doesn’t matter if he’s only gotten maybe thirteen hours of sleep the past week. Between working at Mr. Delmar’s, patrolling at night, and having a much-needed long phone call with Aunt May, Peter had tried to learn as much as he could about Esther’s family. He’d cruised the internet, trying to find someone that could be responsible for taking her away or wanting her out of the picture. But a girl that young didn’t have any enemies. Her parents on the other hand? Had lists of them. Too many to narrow down without knowing any other parameters of the reason behind her murder. So, he’d tried to dip into the identities of the other children. The ones that were identified, rather than John and Jane Does, had widely different backgrounds. Some were poor, some were middle class. Some were immigrants, others were citizens. Peter couldn’t make any sense of it.

It was driving him up the wall.

Just as Weasel goes to put the glass in front of him, a black-gloved hand intercepts it rapidly.

Looking up sharply, Peter watches as Deadpool sits next to him, hand pushing the beer back into Weasel’s chest.

“What the fuck are you doing with that?” Deadpool clicks his tongue. “Get this shit away from him. This is a safe zone, get Bambi a root beer, ASAP.”

Weasel pushes his hands in the air, annoyance written all over him. “Wade, this is a bar, not a fucking carnival. What do I look like, a vending machine?”

Deadpool shoves the beer into Weasel’s hand. “Nice try, Weas. I know you have a mini-fridge full of root beer, cream soda, and Orange Crush because you have the soul of a fourteen-year-old girl that masturbates to furry porn.”

Weasel doesn’t even look chastised. He just walks by the computer and bends down to reach into a well-concealed fridge. He deposits an orange can of Mug root beer in front of Peter while rolling his eyes at Deadpool.

“Happy?” Weasel asks. “Feel like you’re preserving the world’s innocence one twink at a time?”

Peter can’t help but sit up at that, frowning. “Hey!” he interjects, because, hello. He has his autonomy. He can order a drink if he wants to. And also, he doesn’t need preserving because he’s not an object. Or a twink.

Weasel shrugs in sympathy. “Sorry, Mouse. Doctor’s orders.”

At that, Peter’s frown intensifies and he’s unable to reign in the residual teenage angst. “Doctor?” he says flatly, finally looking at Deadpool to give him a glare. Peter didn’t want the beer anyway. He’s only had one glass, the two times he’d been here, but it’s enough for a lifetime, he thinks. The taste is putrid. Root beer tastes way better. But it’s the principle of it all.

Deadpool perks up at Peter’s attention then puts his elbow on the bar. He rests his cheek against his fist and turns his body toward Peter, one leg crossing over the other. He runs a foot suggestively up the length of his calf.

“Oh yes, Daddypool’s got a Ph.D. in anatomy, baby boy,” Deadpool purrs. “If you ever need a prostate exam, I’ve been told I have gentle fingers.”

Peter’s face is on fire. Deadpool is the sleaziest creature in existence. Nothing about him is attractive. Not the length of his legs or the size of his biceps or the gravelly rasp of his voice. That clenching Peter feels in his gut? Definitely, a Spidey sense detecting sexual harassment.

“You’re actually vile,” Peter tells him.

Deadpool drops the pose, wilting like a flower left in the dark, and whines. “Ouch, Bambi, tell a man how you really feel. Jesus. What’s with these millennials, anyway? None can take a joke. It’s like society traded in sensitivity training and cultural acceptance for the funny bone.”

Peter has no idea how he’s supposed to get any useful information out of this mercenary. He could just let him talk? Even if the price is that Peter wants to shove the can of Mug into his forehead and hope he can commit soda-assisted suicide.

He really should have napped before coming here.

“You’re a tough flavor to get used to, Wade. Like a mouthful of blue cheese that was left out in the desert, then eaten and shat out by Mama June on a Sunday.”

“Thank you, Weasel,” Deadpool replies. “With a description like that, I’m not sure how Tom is my only friend on MySpace.”

“MySpace?” Peter parrots, dumbfounded. “I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too hard to friend the Blair Witch or Weezer. How old are you again?”

Weasel laughs jovially, smacking Deadpool on the back as the merc sputtered. “Well, I never—you little brat! Here I am looking out for you, protecting you from giving in to the seductive call of alcohol, saving you from amping up that rape-bait vibe, and you’re calling me out as a nineties kid. Which I wasn’t, by the way. Kind of. Technically. What the hell!? I’m only thirty-seven.”

Peter can’t help but smirk a little at Deadpool, who looks greatly offended. “Thirty-seven?” Peter repeats, jaw dropping mockingly. “That basically rounds to forty. Now I get why you’re at the bar alone on a Friday night. It’s just about time for your mid-life crisis, isn’t it? Did you drive here in your hot rod, listening to Rick Astley?”

Weasel sounds like a hyena beside them. Deadpool slaps a hand to his heart, the whites of his eye holes widening dramatically. “Are you trying to Rick Roll me, baby boy? I’m not taking any sass from a doe-eyed sasspot. I think Justin Bieber is older than you. You wanna tell me how old you are again, Ben, I think you got it wrong the first time?”

Peter flinches back at that and Weasel suddenly calms down, hand patting the bar counter between Deadpool and Peter to call a timeout.

“Settle down, ladies,” Weasel says. “Wade, don’t you run Mouse away. He made me a very, very pretty penny from a troublesome client. Boy’s fit to stay under any name and age he wants. Sister Margaret’s would have no business if people here shared their real deats with the class.”

Peter gets the chills when Weasel winks at him. There it is again, the reminder that Weasel knows a lot more than he looks like he would. The man’s extremely aware of what goes on in his business. Peter doesn’t think he ever had him fooled for a second.

Deadpool waves him off flippantly. “Get me a gin and tonic and leave me to grow gray hair in peace.”

Weasel starts moving but throws Deadpool a look. “Don’t think you’re going silver fox anytime soon, cue ball. You could always do the public a service and get a wig. Thought those came free with a serving of cancer.”

“Thin ice, Weas,” Deadpool hisses, like a cat. “You’re skating on it and you‘re no Barbara Ann Scott.”

Weasel gives Deadpool his drink, walking off while mumbling, “Do you have to be Canadian to get that reference? Someone write me a footnote.”

Abandoned by Weasel, Peter fixes his eyes begrudgingly on Deadpool, who’s running a finger over his gin and tonic pensively.

“You’re more loquacious today, Bambi. You listen to an Oprah tape on your way here? It’s never too early to invest in a life coach. You are worth it. Be the ‘you’ you want to be. He gets a car, she gets a car. Everyone gets a car.”

Peter decides he resents this entire mission.

“You look sleepy, baby boy. Did you miss your bedtime?” Deadpool leans a little closer, chin lifting like he’s inspecting Peter’s face for a truth. Against all odds, he sincerely sounds concerned. It’s the most serious Peter’s heard him tonight.

“You know, sleeping’s a lot easier when you’re the little spoon.”

And there goes that.

Deadpool brusquely hands his drink to Peter, who catches it just in time before it falls all over his shirt.

“Hold my beer, baby.”

Peter wrinkles his nose, overwhelmed by a sudden scent akin to pine. “But this isn’t beer? It’s gin and—”

Deadpool’s up and walking away already. Peter’s eyes follow him in bewilderment as he walks up to a couple crowded by the wall behind their stools. In a slick movement, he grabs the man by the back of the neck and delivers a precise knee to the dude’s kidney.

The man screams out raggedly, knees quaking, and hands flying to grasp at where Deadpool’s holding his nape. The man’s hands don’t even jostle Deadpool’s. The mercenary drags the man backward by his neck, red leather and spandex moving with the lines of his body, and then slams the man’s head into the wall.

The man cries out, anger and pain apparent. Peter feels his muscles tighten, a pump of energy flooding his veins. Is he going to have to take Deadpool down?

Deadpool pulls the guy backward for a brief breather, then slams his face twice more into the wall. The last one results in an audible crack and Peter sees the man’s hands move to cover his face. Peter knows the sound of a broken nose when he hears one.

“No means no, fuckboi. Consent is sexy.”

The man coughs wetly. “She didn’t say no!”

“You didn’t let her.” Deadpool fixes his grip to grab the guy by the hair. Then he uses a foot to kick the man’s legs apart and steadies his other hand on the man’s right shoulder. “You want to get a jab into the family jewels, Twiggy?”

Now Peter sees just beyond the man that there’s a woman standing pressed against the wall. She’s tall, lanky, with a boy cut and enough eyeliner piled on that she looks like a raccoon. She sneers, rearing up, and hacks a huge loogie right in the guy’s face. Then she kicks him straight in the crotch with one platform adorned foot.

The guy crumbles to the ground into the fetal position, whimpering like a beaten puppy, blood springing from his nose like a fountain of red.

Deadpool claps excitedly, then holds out a fist to the woman.

She spits at the guy on the floor one last time before fist bumping Deadpool. She nods at him, then walks off toward the pool table.

“Try not to get any blood on the floor. Everyone keeps saying use lemon and salt, but I swear no matter how much you scrub, a bloodstain just doesn’t come out. Not even OxyClean works, which, by the way, I was devastated to find out. We should really just paint the floor red, I-M-H-O. Worked for my suit, after all.” Deadpool talks the entire time he picks the guy up by an arm and drags him, one-handedly, to the entrance of Sister Margaret’s. He throws the guy right out the door, then calmly returns to his stool at the bar.

He takes his drink from Peter’s hand. “Sorry, sweetpea. Where were we?”

Peter flounders, mouth opening, but no sound coming out. What words are there even? Half of Peter is severely confused. The other half is tentatively respectful. Peter hadn’t even heard a peep of discontent or unease brewing around the bar. It’s true, he hadn’t been entirely focused on listening for trouble, like he is when he’s Spider-Man. But Peter has enough super hearing that he should have been able to pick up on a woman being manhandled against her will right behind him. How had Deadpool noticed? Had he been looking that way the entire time? And why did he intervene? It just doesn’t make sense.

Peter makes an aimless noise, looking back over his shoulder where the man had dropped to the ground. “That—she was, I mean, she—”

Deadpool lifts a shoulder, pointing back toward the billiards area. “The girl?” He shrugs. “I don’t know her name, I call her Twiggy. She’s got that anorexic, drug addict tomboy aura. You know? Like she’s about to snort an eight ball of coke then aggressively play rugby? She doesn’t talk. Mute, or whatever.”

Peter cocks his head, still lost. Why did Deadpool save that woman?

“Well, she does talk, in a sense,” Deadpool continues, making a few fists and waves with his fingers, ending with jazz hands. “Sign language, I guess. Dunno. I speak six languages, but mime isn’t one of them. Not really sure what she does, but she’s here at least once a month. Probably make a good merc though, right? Silent, but deadly. Like a killer toot.”

Peter twists as Weasel reappears, crossing his arms and giving Deadpool a look of disapproval.

“Just taking out the trash, Weasel. No need to thank me. I’m fulfilled by the sense of satisfaction, settling warm and syrupy my balls.”

Weasel hums. “Don’t pop a boner next to me. Not cool. Remember the bro-code.”

“Psh, wouldn’t be the first time anyway,” Deadpool sniffs. “Also, I’m pretty sure the bro-code states we don’t talk about the boners, not that we don’t get them.”

“Did you have to throw him out, Wade? Rocky brought in sixty grand from his last deal.”

“Yes, I did, Weasel. I dealt with it politely too, out of the highest respect for you, my bro. There is minimal blood on the floor. Not a tuna can bomb in sight.”

They watch each other for a minute.

“Don’t tell me you’d want to keep a shit stain like him in here, anyway,” Deadpool comments, lowly.

Weasel pops his lips and pulls a card out of his pocket, dropping it in front of Deadpool. This card is white, Peter notices, but it has a phone number written in bold on it and…something that looks like Arabic written below it.

“The fuck is this?”

“New job,” Weasel says, voice even. “Got the submission request yesterday. They want the mark gone by tomorrow morning.” Then Weasel jumps and looks at his wrist. It’s empty. “Oops. I mean, this morning. By five, preferably. They don’t know where he is, by the way. Apparently, in hiding somewhere. You’ll have to find him.”

“You’re a grade A asshole!” Deadpool stands, the stool falling behind him. “Give me a—”

Weasel cuts him off, handing him a phone that’s already on call. Deadpool grabs it and shoves it gracelessly at his ear.

“How much?” He barks after a moment. “No way, twenty grand for a job done in four hours? Not a deal. Do not pass go. Try again. No, I don’t care that you put in the submission request yesterday. It made its way to the front of the line today. You want it done, or nah?”

The voice on the other end of the line is too high pitched and mumbled for Peter to hear over the raucous sounds of the lively bar.

Deadpool makes a rude sound. “Eighty grand. Take it or leave it.”

The man rips the phone from his ear and throws it at Weasel, who catches it with butter fingers. “That’s what I thought. Dónde está la biblioteca.

Hands fluttering again, Deadpool reaches into that side pocket by his hip and throws a crumpled bill at Weasel too, which bounces off the man and onto the bar.

“For me and Bambi.” He turns to Peter. “This is twice now that I’m forced to run on you, baby boy. Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Don’t let this coincidence fool you, Bambi. Next time we meet, you’re not getting out of having a real conversation with me. I’m going to sweet talk you all night long then walk you home like a hopeful nerd on prom night.”

Deadpool makes his way to the door, people parting to let him through without question.

“Seven to eleven hours of sleep a night is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for those within the age bracket of eighteen to twenty-five,” he calls back over his shoulder. “Get those Z’s, sweetheart!”

Then Deadpool is gone and Peter can’t help but turn to Weasel, blinking at the one-hundred-dollar bill in the man’s hand. The tiredness, which had briefly gone, returns back at full force, hitting him like a brick wall.

¿Dónde está la biblioteca?” Peter asks, looking for a clue.

Weasel nods sagely. “Wade doesn’t bargain.”

Peter tries to tail Deadpool, but by the time he was able to slip away from Sister Margaret’s and Weasel’s watchful eye, there’s no trace of him. So, Peter hustles back home and goes to his notebook.

There, he writes and writes, as much as he learned. Under Wade Wilson is a list of attributes, actions, skills—any association he can come up with. Half are from the dossier: cold, murderer, ruthless, swordsman, ex-military (dishonorable discharge), sniper, martial arts expert, dangerous, environmentally triggered mutant, mentally unstable, Canadian by birth, mercenary who does not discriminate on marks.

Half are from Peter’s measly observations: buys Pam cooking oil in bulk, sexually preoccupied, frat boy humor, makes bombs, only pays in one-hundred-dollar bills, cannot understand sign language, does not speak Spanish (correctly), speaks six languages which are not Spanish or sign language, has a MySpace (?), will not stand for underage drinking, hates rapists and will stop sexual harassment without prompting.

Peter fists his own hair for a minute, then grabs his phone.

Nothing yet. Slow, but steady, I think. Working on it.

Mr. Stark’s reply is as quick as ever. Ok, turtle. Slow and steady wins the race.

Peter bites the tip of his pen, chewing on it for a moment. Then he adds to the bottom of the list: up to date on recent literature from the National Sleep Foundation.

He passes out on the couch with his face in the notebook. When he wakes up for his shift, he’s drooled a bit on the page corner and there’s blue ink on his lips.

-

Next Wednesday night, Peter finds himself out to dinner with Aunt May. It’s been over a month since he last saw her and they both agree that it’s completely unacceptable.

Peter’s done a good job at pushing everyone away. Since the fiasco with the Vulture, Liz moving away, and Peter’s realization of what being Spider-Man means, Peter has done his best to keep everyone at arm’s length. Ned, his closest friend, had been the hardest to distance himself from. But he did his duty, and by the end of high school, he and Ned were school friends, meaning they never hung out outside of classes and lunch. He still emails Ned occasionally, and the two are friends on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn. He follows Ned’s Instagram and likes every post when he can stomach looking at the feed.

He couldn’t stop talking to Aunt May though. She’s his only family. The most he could do was move out at eighteen—putting physical distance between them hadn’t been any easier though. The first few months of living alone had brought him to tears. He was so used to her sunny disposition and motherhening that he didn’t realize how much stability she brought to his life. He didn’t realize that she was his rock, despite knowing that he loved her deeply.

The first year he’d moved out, they’d gone out to dinner every week. Those dinners have become more and more spaced as Peter upped his work hours.

Aunt May still calls him every week.

Tonight, they are out for Thai food—an old favorite.

She tells him about the art she’s been working on and that she’s been babysitting the granddaughter of the couple next door. She’s thinking about buying a dog. She tells him that an art show is of a private collector is coming to New York City soon and lights up as she tells him how excited she is to see the rare pieces that will be showcased.

Peter nods, slurping up glass noodles, and trying to force himself to be present, in the moment, so he can enjoy her comforting company.

She asks him about what colleges he’s been looking at and how much money he’s saved. She tells him she’s been looking up scholarships and reading up on financial aid. Peter answers truthfully, he’s thinking community. He’s been reading up too. He’s found a few ways to cut down the cost, but it just isn’t enough to cover it all. He doesn’t like the idea of loans and he feels like he should be doing this himself.

They both know Aunt May doesn’t have the money to help him. She doesn’t bring it up and he doesn’t ask because it is a conversation they had long ago.

They both order two Thai iced teas to go and Aunt May sweeps up the check from the waiter’s hand.

Aunt May hugs him tightly for two solid minutes. When she pulls back, she looks teary-eyed and smiles sadly. Her soft hand cups his cheek, patting him lightly, before pressing a kiss to it.

“I love you,” she says, “Stop being a stranger. A phone call is only one tap away.”

He nods, tells her he loves her back, and escorts her to the taxi waiting on the side of the road. He watches as the taxi drives down the road and turns, out of his range of vision.

Peter stands in the front of the restaurant, feeling only a little bit better. He sips at his iced tea and starts the walk back toward his own apartment. He only takes two steps before he feels a little tickle at his neck like he’s being watched.

“Don’t tell me you’re her sugar baby. I want to be your sugar daddy. It’s not fair, she looks like she’s had a head start on impressing you. I didn’t know you liked Thai food. I just want to point out that I could buy you that Thai restaurant. Do you want it? Just give me the sign, I’m carrying my checkbook and I know a great lawyer in Hell’s Kitchen.”

Peter tenses when black boots fall into step with him.

“Deadpool,” he says. How the hell had he not seen him before? How long had Deadpool been watching him? Had he gotten a good look at Aunt May? Had he said her name out loud? Had Aunt May said his name when the man was within earshot?

Peter looks up (and up, dammit) to where Deadpool has situated himself next to him. Peter stops walking and Deadpool follows suit.

“Bambi,” Deadpool retaliates, backing up to lean against the brick wall of a building. He folds his arms and strikes a casual pose. Like he’s been standing there all night. Has he been?

“What are you doing here?” Peter asks, on edge.

Deadpool tilts his head. “You know, I’m pretty sure I introduced myself as Wade.”

Shaking his head, Peter takes a step towards him. “Deadpool.” Deadpool lifts his chin pugnaciously and Peter deflates just a tiny bit. Dangerous mercenary, right? Handle with caution? “W-wade,” he corrects himself. Deadpool—no, Wade lets out a pleased, approving sound that registers in Peter the same way it feels when someone ghosts their fingertips along an arm. Shivery, but good—a combination eager to be felt again.

Wade. The name feels funny on his tongue. Foreign. Very intimate and very out of place for the type of relationship Peter has with the man as a spy planted to watch him. “What are you doing here?”

The wind picks up around them and Peter shivers a little bit. It’s getting colder outside.

Deadpool—no, no. Wade shrugs. Peter’s eyes unconsciously track the way the movement makes the muscles in Wade’s shoulders and arms flex and release.

The observation doesn’t go unnoticed.

Wade does it again and when Peter’s eyes follow, he chuckles all low and languid. “Like that, sweetheart?” his voice is full of dark promise and no small hint of pride. It’s a whisper, but Peter hears the question like a scream.

Peter goes jaw slacked at that, face hot with blood, and suddenly he feels hot and cold everywhere. The back of his shirt sticking to him with sweat, his fingertips tingling, and there’s a traitorous swell of arousal tugging at places he'd rather it wasn't.

Peter’s eyes widen, and he takes a step backward, like that’ll save him from himself. Oh God, his body is betraying him. This has to be a natural reaction, right? Teenage boys get hard with the wind. Peter’s not a teenager anymore, but he might as well be. He’s never had sex—who has time for sex when you’re spending your evenings paying tribute to Madame Justice rather than chasing girls? Does that mean he still has the trigger of a teenage boy? Is that why his body’s revving up? Or is it just because he hasn’t had the energy to indulge himself lately? That’s probably why something as random and out of place as Deadpool seems sexy. Deadpool isn’t sexy at all. Like a zero on the scale of sex appeal, with zero being "this is all kinds of wrong and Peter’s wayward mind better not even".

Peter is greatly disturbed.

Wade immediately notices Peter’s discomfort. It can’t be difficult to spot. Peter’s positive he looks like he just stepped on a landmine. To his surprise, Wade’s demeanor changes completely. He drops his arms and is quick to keep talking.

“You know, Bambi,” Wade’s voice is back to normal. “You’re very smol.”

That perks Peter right back up. “I’m five foot, eight,” he replies. “That’s average height for a man in the United States.”

Wade snorts. “Is it really? I thought everything was bigger here. Or does that just apply to things made in Texas?”

Peter rests a hand on his hip. “Why, did your parents accidentally make you in Texas?”

“Saskatchewan.”

“Gesundheit,” Peter deadpans, lips thinned.

Wade laughs animatedly, hands on his knees. It’s a full body laugh that loosens his frame like he earnestly takes pleasure in what Peter says. It’s kind of refreshing. Peter doesn’t talk to people much. There’s not really time to make customers laugh when he’s bagging their items. The only time he gets to practice his social skills is when he’s running around the city at night wearing spandex. Karen puts up with his comments and sometimes even replies. The baddies he takes down rarely reply with more than a brandishing of weapons or a thinly veiled threat.

Peter lets one side of his mouth pull upwards in amusement.

Wade catches that too. “Aw, come on,” he cajoles. “Relax a little bit, baby boy. I wanna see you smile so badly. I’ve been looking left and right for ways to make you grin. Bought you a drink with my hard-earned money, threw a turd out of the bar with my manly strength. But you’re hard to impress. Good, golly gosh, I bet you light up like Christmas tree. Or menorah. I refuse to put your shining beauty in a religious box that can’t contain it.”

Peter’s eyebrows furrow at that and he regards Wade with what’s becoming a very familiar sense of confusion. He has this feeling Wade flirts with anything that has two legs. Maybe even some things with four legs or no legs. Is the man ever sincere when he talks? How this man is a mercenary baffles him. He probably talks the ear off all of his victims; marks probably hear him from a mile away as he runs his mouth.

Peter rolls his eyes, shaking his head, and that’s when his nose picks up a weird smell. Inhaling, Peter side steps, angling his body toward the odor, and sure enough, he catches it again.

“Bambi?” Wade calls. “You still with me, here?”

The wind finally dies down and now the smell strengthens. Peter looks around, perplexed. “Do you smell that?” he asks absently, trying to place the odor.

Wade pushes off the wall and takes two short steps back to Peter’s side. “Smell what? The delicious stank of pollution?”

“It smells like,” Peter trails off, biting his lip. “It smells like copper. And, burnt plastic?”

“I don’t smell anything—hey, wait! Wait up, Bambi! Where the fuck are you going?”

Peter stalks forward, down to the end of the block with Wade trailing behind him. He drops his iced tea carelessly on the ground. Huffing in air, Peter uses his nose to guide them right, and then right again, walking in a big square so that they end up directly on the other side of the building that Wade had been leaning on before.

“Excuse me,” Wade cries next to him, stumbling to keep up with Peter’s steps. “Do you come with a pause button? Or a closed caption that explains what the fuck we’re doing?”

Peter ignore him and instead leads them right into the mouth of an alleyway. It’s between two buildings. It’s already dark outside and in the alley is even darker. There’s the smell, wafting from its opening.

Walking forward, Peter steps into the alley, eyes upwards in the air like he’s looking for a cloud of scent hovering inside.

“Oh, shit fuck.”

Then suddenly, Wade hooks a rock-solid arm around his waist and forcefully pulls him back. “Ah, ah, Bambi, you dropped your Thai iced tea. Don’t you want another one? We can go back and get one right now, baby boy. Or do you want a coffee? Hot chocolate with caramel drizzle? We just passed a Starbucks. I’ll buy you two ventis—”

Peter pushes past Wade’s arm, breaking free of it.

“Baby boy,” Wade, now behind him, says and his voice has lost all jokes. “Ben,” he says, firmly and serious.

But Peter walks forward. There’s nothing on the walls, so he looks down.

“Oh my God.” Peter gasps, legs jolting in an aborted step backward.

There, on the ground in front of him in the shadows of the alley, is a child.

No. Not a child.

A corpse.

There’s a body on the ground, left like trash amidst broken liquor bottles and plastic bags.

There’s a child’s body on the ground.

With Peter’s heightened eyesight, he can see every detail. It’s facing downwards, so there’s a mass of matted brown, curly hair. A small, little body dressed in a blue T-shirt and Hawaiian print board shorts. Small water shoes.

There’s a child’s body on the ground and it’s chopped into pieces.

It’s just a torso with limbs spread around it haphazardly. An arm here, a leg there. Fingers dropped around like sprinkles on a scoop of ice cream. All cut off at joints, the hip bones, the knees, the shoulders, the elbows, the knuckles. Congealed and blackened blood and tissue and muscle fibers peeking out from every deliberate opening.

Peter’s going to be sick.

This time, he does stumble backward, right into the arms of Wade, who grabs at him almost desperately.

“Don’t look,” he says, two big hands coming up to grasp Peter’s shoulders, trying to turn him away. But Peter’s already looked.

He’s already looked, and he can’t un-look.

“What the actual fuck?” Wade gasps out.

And Peter’s suddenly aware again. Like he’s just broken the water-air barrier; just swam from the deep end of the pool, up to the surface. Heart beating fast, panting for oxygen, ears, and eyes sharp and alert.

There’s a child on the ground, dead. And next to him, there’s Deadpool. There’s Deadpool, who was trying to divert Peter’s attention from the alley. There’s Deadpool, who grabbed Peter, twice, trying to pull him away from the alley where a dead child is laying and has been laying for a good amount of time if the clotted blood on its limbs is any indication.

There’s a child cut into pieces like a broken toy—like Esther. And there’s Deadpool, who’s been out all night, for all Peter knows, skulking around this very area.

Peter wrenches himself from Deadpool’s grip in a flash, twisting to face him, ready to throw him to the ground, yet as he turns Deadpool slaps a hand to his mouth, bends over a bit, and appears to dry heave.

“Holy fucking shit balls, what the actual fuckity fuck?” Deadpool moans, sounding tortured. “OH GOD. You don’t kill children. You don’t fucking kill kids. Who the fuck—” another heave.

Peter’s fists, which had been in the air, ready to deliver a punch, fall to his side as he watches Deadpool grab at his stomach and mouth, groaning and taking a few steps away.

“Sorry,” Deadpool gasps out between heaves. “Tried to keep it together for you, but I honestly have an easily triggered gag reflex when it comes to,” he tosses a hand out, waving it in the body’s direction generally, “Something like this.”

Peter swallows, scanning Deadpool for a hint of mistruth. He can’t find any hints of lies in the man’s actions. After the tenth dry heave, Deadpool shakily stands up, rubbing his palms on his cheeks as if he’s trying to snap himself out of it.

“We should call the cops,” he says, looking in the opposite direction of the body. Like he can’t stomach looking toward it. “So, they can do the thing. The investigating thing. And find the…parents. Oh God, this city is full of some goddamn sick fucks.”

Deadpool exhales roughly.

And Peter, eyeing Deadpool for a sign of guilt or remorse, can’t find one. He nods, but then remember Deadpool can’t see him. “Okay. Yeah, call the police. Do you have a phone?”

“Yeah, I do, I’ll just. Let me call,” Deadpool says, still facing the alley mouth.

Peter breathes in deeply. As he does, he smells it again. Copper and chemical. He looks back at the body and like he’s compelled, he walks back to its side.

It looks so tiny.

There’s the smell, he notes. It’s strongest here. Like it’s coming from the corpse. At that thought, Peter makes a face. Peter has run into bodies before, though thankfully not many. He takes it as part of the job. But he can usually smell one a mile away and the smell is one he can’t forget. Earthy, iron from the blood. And rancid sweetness, like rotting meat and cheese left to bake. Not like this.

Like he’s bewitched, Peter crouches down and impulsively grabs a pinky finger.

“Okay,” Deadpool’s voice booms loudly around them. “Po-Po should be here in three minutes. Come away from there, seriously, you’re going to give yourself nightmares. I’m not going to sleep for a week.”

Jolting upright, Peter fists his hand around the finger, trying not to blanch like a fish out of water when he feels its rubbery skin and small knuckles dig into his palm.

“You should go,” Peter says, words spitting out like word vomit.

Deadpool steps forward like he’s about to walk to Peter.

“You should go now,” Peter says hastily. “The police are coming and you’re not exactly a man on the right side of the law. If they find you here, they’ll just bring you in, Deadpool. Don’t you think they’d consider you suspicious if you stayed?”

Deadpool stares at him.

The air is charged and weighty. Deadpool’s chin moves a bit like he’s about to say something, but then police sirens are deafeningly sounding from nearby.

“You need to go.”

And Deadpool does as the sirens get closer. Peter waits until Deadpool sprints out of the alley before shoving the finger inside of his coat pocket. He wipes his hands anxiously on his pants, hurrying out of the alleyway as blue and red lights brighten it. Two police officers jump out of a cruiser, one going straight into the alley and the other coming right up to Peter.

It’s a woman. She’s blonde with warm blue eyes that regard Peter concernedly. “You called this in, son?” she says, voice tranquil.

Peter latches onto her calm disposition, trying to quell the nerves inside of him.

The officer frowns, pulling something small and brown out of her pocket. With quick hand movements and crinkles, she unfolds a paper bag and hands it to Peter.

“You said you needed this?”

Peter nods dumbly, taking the bag.

He didn’t say he needed this. Deadpool—no. Wade had said he needed this when he called the police to report a body found. Because Wade had been so genuinely disturbed that he’d nearly threw up in his own mask. He’d had to walk away from the body to regain his composure. He’d had difficulty drawing breaths, cursed the world for being disgusting. Then he’d called the police.

Peter’s not very good at lying, but he is very good about picking out liars. He has good instincts. His gut reactions are rarely wrong. Peter doesn’t think Wade killed that child. Which means that Peter has now had two troubling realizations tonight: there’s another murdered child and Deadpool’s not the murderer.

Oh, shit fuck, indeed.

“Take a second, son.” The officer pats him gently on the back. “Breathe in and out. If you need to, use it. No one here’s going to judge you.”

Peter puts the barf bag to good use.

And there are those glass noodles.

-

Peter’s Pleather Crisis Couch™ has seen more action in the past two weeks than usual. At the moment, Peter is balled up in the corner of it, head tucked into his own knees, trying to get ahold of himself.

There’s a finger in his freezer.

A dead finger.

A dead kid’s finger is in his freezer, right next to a one-dollar box of lemon flavored Italian Ice and a handful of chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs that he bought from 7-11 on sale.

There are a plethora of natural reactions to a situation such as this. As it is, Peter pulls his iPhone out and writes to Mr. Stark.

Can I use the Guttman Community College chemistry lab today? I have a finger in my fridge.

He sends it, lets his fingers hover directionless over the keyboard for a minute, before double texting.

We need to talk.

He doesn’t answer Mr. Starks incoming call. Instead, he gets up and rummages around in a cabinet in his kitchenette. He grabs a lunchbox he never uses and fills it with ice cubes before throwing the finger inside of it. He zips it up without looking. Then he goes downstairs and starts the trek to the college’s science building.

Mr. Stark texts back. I’ll meet you in lab 5B.

Mr. Stark seems displeased to see him. He seems even more displeased when Peter recounts his tale of post-Thai food dinner with Aunt May. The displeasure melts away into disbelief when Peter waves the lunchbox in his direction.

Eyebrows pinched and expression unconvinced, Mr. Stark takes the lunchbox and unzips it. He peeks inside, lifting the fold, then promptly slams it shut, cursing like a sailor.

“You took a finger off of a dead body at a crime scene?” he asks. It’s a rhetorical question, Peter thinks, because Mr. Stark turns a shade of purple and looks prepared to continue.

Peter chooses this time to interrupt because if he doesn’t, he thinks Mr. Stark might explode.

“There’s something wrong with it, Mr. Stark.”

“Of course, there’s something fudging wrong with it!” Mr. Stark crows. “It’s the finger of a butchered kid and it’s in a lunchbox!”

“No, no, Mr. Stark,” Peter defends himself desperately. “I mean—yes. That, what you said, is completely wrong. Very wrong, this entire situation is just wrong, from the killing part to the dismembering part, the alleyway part, and the kid part. And very much the part…where I took a finger and brought it to you.” Peter gulps for air frantically, trying to get his thoughts out.

Mr. Stark gestures at the lunchbox with wide eyes.

“However,” Peter starts again, attempting to sound like the legal adult that he is. “I brought it here for good reason. It smells wrong.”

At that, Mr. Stark brings his free hand up to rub at his temples. “I need a drink.”

Peter pushes forward, resiliently. “I know what dead bodies smell like, Mr. Stark.” This isn’t coming out the way he intended. But when walking through fire, just keep walking, right? “I have enhanced senses, from the spider bite. It’s part of the side effects. As soon as I was bitten in Oscorp, I didn’t need my glasses anymore. I could hear traffic down the street. I can even taste things more intensely. I’ve run into bodies before during patrol, they just don’t smell like this.”

Taking what seems to be a fortifying breath, Mr. Stark rubs at his beard and looks Peter in the eye. “And what does this one smell like, kid?”

Peter holds his hands out. Placatingly or in a plea for understanding, he’s not sure. “Like plastic,” he replies. “Like iron, copper, the same way blood smells. Mixed with burning plastic, like when you accidentally put a toaster strudel with the packaging in the toaster oven.”

Not the best metaphor. But it must be demonstrative enough because Mr. Stark lifts the lid of the lunchbox again and slowly as if under threat, leans his nose inside to draw in a breath.

He pulls back, shaking his head after a moment. “I don’t smell anything like that.”

Peter steps towards him, anxiously. “But I do. I can smell it from here. I could smell it before you opened the lunchbox.”

Mr. Stark looks at him dubiously, but something in his posture seems to melt.

“There’s something wrong about it, Mr. Stark,” Peter tries again, firming his voice out. “I want to run a few tests in the chemistry lab.”

Mr. Stark glances at the lunchbox, then back to Peter.

“Okay, kid,” he relents. “Let’s do this.”

They take samples. Pinches of tissue for the centrifuge, smear fibers on slides, stick it in an x-ray machine, run a PCR on a sliver of skin. They set up organic chemistry equipment, run proton nuclear magnetic resonance and infrared radiation.

At first, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

The blood, skin, and muscle are all organic. It looks exemplary; like all anatomical samples would look on the appropriate tests.

It’s when they get to the finger bone that things get fishy.

Peter doesn’t even run any tests.

With his hands, encased in nitrile gloves, he peels back the muscle and skin from the lowermost section of the finger. Then with a twist, he pops the knuckle and disconnects the lower portion from the rest of the finger. It’s as easy as snapping a toothpick.

He stares at it, ignoring Mr. Stark’s proposal of what they should do next.

Grabbing a pair of forceps, he uses them to hold the pearly white bone, then goes over to an old Bunsen burner hiding in the corner of the lab that looks like it gets no use. Eyes on the bone, he turns the burner on then without hesitation, holds the bone over the open flame.

“Kid, that’s not what that’s used for. I know your generation has no respect for lab protocol, but—”

There’s that smell, releasing into the air unrestrained.

“Look,” Peter insists, eyes watching in realization as the bone starts to melt. The solid white becomes milky and loose, dripping down the sides, and misshaping it.

Behind him, Mr. Stark, who’d shuffled up right over his shoulder to see, clicks his tongue in interest. “Huh.”

“Bone doesn’t melt,” Peter says. “When exposed to fire, bone burns. It turns into bone ash, like what you’re left with after a cremation. This isn’t bone, this is—”

“Plastic,” Mr. Stark finishes, sounding considerably more intrigued than he had been this entire visit.

“You got one hell of a sniffer on you, kid. We should have called you Bloodhound.”

-

Two hours later, Peter and Mr. Stark are sitting in a lounge area that Peter’s never seen in the college before. It’s a faculty lounge on the top floor of the building that Mr. Stark had needed a card to swipe into. Mr. Stark went to the mini fridge and produced a bottle of wine from a place where no bottles of wine should have been. He repeats the magic trick with a wine glass. Peter has a feeling those were left just for him.

“So, the finger isn’t a finger,” Peter begins, tentatively.

Mr. Stark, wine glass in hand, nods. “The epidermis, the tissues, yada. Those were organic. It’s a piece of plastic shaped bone wrapped in real skin.”

Peter’s not sure where that leads them. “So,” he repeats. “How would anyone make that sort of thing?”

The question is asked, but Peter doesn’t need Mr. Stark to answer it. He answers himself. “It would be simple, actually. Labs grow soft tissues regularly, from harvested cells. Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan has a research bridge program with Fordham University’s biology department, culturing stem cells and using them to grow skin for the burn ward. And the plastic? A middle schooler could make a model of a finger if they had the right mold.”

When Peter looks up finally, a reprieve from his racing thoughts, he sees that Mr. Stark is looking at him with an almost fond smile playing on his lips.

“Yeah, kid,” Mr. Stark says, raising his wine glass. “But the pivotal question isn’t how. It’s why?”

“Why would a kid have a plastic finger?” He grimaces at the thought, then shakes his head and backtracks, a strange feeling settling in his chest. “Was the whole skeleton plastic?”

Mr. Stark doesn’t reply right away. He doesn’t have to because Peter knows what they are both thinking. If the skeleton is plastic, then that wasn’t really a child at all, was it? Peter thinks back to Esther, who had a set of parents. Who had a pink dress, purple juice spilled all over her, and a butterfly hair clip. Esther, whose mom and dad were crying for justice over her loss. Esther Goldstein was a real girl—human—right? She existed. Peter found her birth records, her school registration, and even a newspaper clipping of a younger, round-faced her winning a sandcastle contest at the Jersey Shore. Esther Goldstein wasn’t a plastic puppet. She had grown from a baby to an eight-year-old, nurtured by two parents who loved her dearly.

Peter is stumped.

“Where are the bodies now?” Peter asks, chasing thoughts like a dog chasing his tail.

Mr. Stark swirls his wine, the picture of cultured wealth, and shrugs. “I don’t know. I suppose the remains were given to the families after the full autopsy required due to suspicious death. Families could have cremated or buried them.”

“Could you find out somehow?” Peter needles. “Maybe get the police reports?”

Mr. Stark coughs a bit and points up at the ceiling. Peter follows his index finger in confusion, but the man just raises his brows. “FRIDAY?”

Peter jumps, looking around. But Mr. Stark points to his glasses and a Bluetooth in his ear. A portable version of his AI, then. Fascinating.

“FRIDAY’s already working on it.”

“Ah.” Peter nods, vaguely wondering how FRIDAY is programmed to pick up on cues. He would give his soul to spend an hour even seeing the code Mr. Stark used to make it.

In the silence that follows, with FRIDAY working away, Mr. Stark brings the wine back to his mouth for a deep sip.

Peter supposes now’s an opportune moment to get another thing off his chest.

“Deadpool has an easily triggered gag reflex.”

Mr. Stark chokes violently, spitting up wine onto his shirt. And Peter, mortified, flings himself over to the man to pat him on the back in worry.

That was not how he meant to start this conversation.

-

The next time Peter goes to Sister Margaret’s, it’s because he’s not sure what else to do. He doesn’t really have to be there, exactly, because Mr. Stark had listened to his entire speech about why he thought Deadpool wasn’t the prime suspect.

Peter was surprised that Mr. Stark even indulged him in listening, but he had. He then told Peter that his hasty character analysis based off of Deadpool’s dry heaving episode was lacking in critical data. But he’d confessed, reluctantly, that it could be possible: Deadpool might not be murdering children and cutting them to pieces. But he also could be. He was still the most probable suspect, based off of history.

Without more evidence, no conclusions could be drawn.

Mr. Stark had kicked him out after five hours in the community college when it became clear that FRIDAY wouldn’t be able to access the police documents they needed. It was strange. FRIDAY had no trouble accessing the police records that contained the data for the crime scenes—that being the photographs and stats that Mr. Stark had shown Peter that first day with the tablet. But FRIDAY couldn’t access the extended records, including the death investigation paperwork from the city mortuary. Without that, they couldn’t see what the causes of death were and what fate of the bodies was. Apparently, they were stamped for a certain clearance level that Tony Stark wasn’t on the guest list for. Any more prying and it would have looked suspicious. With a stamp like that, it’s blatant that their assumptions had been correct. This was a lot bigger than it seemed. Whoever was behind this had more than one motive and that motive must be backed up by someone else with power.

They weren’t going to find anything that night, so Peter had been sent home.

Peter tries to function like a normal person, he goes to work diligently. But no matter who he rings up or how many shelves he stocks with flour, his mind is on the plastic shaped bit of bone.

When Friday comes, he adorns his Ben Weber costume and strides into the bar, the weight of the world on his mind. For some reason, the bar smells spicy today, like cinnamon, mixed with alcohol and body funk.

This time, it’s not Weasel that is the first to greet him.

Wade’s already sitting next to Peter’s designated seat.

As soon as Peter sits down, Wade is looking at him. “How are you feeling, Bambi?”

The question is a loaded one. He feels anxious and paranoid. He feels obsessed and at a loss of what to do. What he wants to be doing is connecting these puzzle pieces. Their outlandish and garish nature has grabbed Peter right by the throat and is stringing him around teasingly. He wants to know what’s going on and why it’s going on. And why hasn’t anyone else noticed?

Although, that’s not what Wade’s asking about. Peter recognizes the concerned look even through the mask. Wade’s asking how Ben Weber is holding up after stumbling across a gruesome murder scene.

“Fine,” Peter replies, uncertain of what the right answer to such a question is. As soon as he says it, he wants to facepalm. How could anyone be fine after happening across a real-life homicide victim? Especially Ben Weber, who is a thief and not a mercenary or a part-time vigilante. Ben Weber probably doesn’t run into corpses on the regular.

Idiot.

But Wade doesn’t press. He just hums, a sound like a space filler.

It immediately strikes Peter as weird. How peculiar. Wade always seems to be a man of many words. What had the dossier said? A merc with a mouth. It’s the one thing from the dossier that Wade had proven to be true during the first time they had a chat. Wade was a seemingly endless bundle of energy, buzzing nonstop and talking like a cockatoo on speed. He always has anything to say.

Yet, here, he pauses. He and Peter regard each other, Peter fiddling nervously with his web shooter bracelets.

The spell is broken by Weasel pushing an Orange Crush soda in front of him.

Peter grabs it automatically, then peers up at Weasel.

The man glares back gamely. “You’re lucky I’m sharing my stash with you,” he says as if he’s brimming with begrudging generosity. “I could make this moment more demeaning by giving you a Shirley Temple, but I thought this was the least insulting of the two, considering.” At that, he trails off, trading a look with Wade.

Then, he turns and busies himself with his computer.

Peter jumps when Wade clears his throat loudly. “So, how was your week?”

“My week,” Peter echoes lamely.

He can see Wade wince. “Eh, I meant the rest of your week. Because we already know how the other part of your week went. And by we, I mean me. And you. Us. Together, we. Hey, do you like chimichangas?”

 “Um,” Peter tries to catch up. It’s like following a game of dodgeball. “I’ve never had them before.”

“Now, that, baby boy, is something I can fix quicker than you can say Super-Chimi-Changa-Licious-Expialidocious—”

“Why would anyone say that?”

“Wait no longer, fair princess, I’ll ring for our chariot!” With that, Wade pulls out a phone—an Android, Peter notices, not the flip phone he had just a week or so ago, and makes a call.

“Yo, Dopinder, my man! I need a ride for two to that little taco shack in Spanish Harlem. Me and bae are getting a late dinner.”

Peter twitches in protest, shaking the soda can meaningfully in one hand, but Wade ignores him completely.

“Hey!” Weasel cries, scurrying over. “Are you gonna drink that or wave it around like an emergency flare?”

Peter groans, looking away from Wade despite his growing anticipation. This feels a lot like Murphy’s law.

“What?” he asks Weasel, distractedly.

“I said, are you going to drink that?” Weasel points to the can, then conjures a canister of whipped cream from nowhere. “If you are, put some whipped cream on it. That’s the only way I drink it, diabetes or nothing. Go big or die alone.”

To his right, Wade is finishing up the phone call with wildly enthused gestures and body movements that Peter can’t begin to decipher. He tries to handle one thing at a time.

“Why do you have whipped cream?” Peter questions. Why is there whipped cream in a bar full of mercenaries?

Weasel looks at him like he’s the one kid in the class who can’t fit the wooden shapes into the right holes.

“For the body shots,” he sings, slowly annunciating every word like impeccable pronunciation is going to fix Peter’s ailment. “And the blowjobs.”

Before Peter can even process that, Wade is grabbing his arm and guiding him to the door. “Come on, Bambi, it’s time to get gone! The chariot awaits!”

-

Peter is unceremoniously dragged and shoved into the backseat of a yellow taxi cab, with Wade squishing in next to him, taking up all of the space unapologetically.

“Dopinder!” Wade greets, cheerfully. “How’s it going, my golden-hearted man of courage?”

Peter peeks through the divider window to see a young Indian man giving a shy, pleased smile at the compliment.

“Ah, Mr. Pool! Your praise makes my heart fill with pride,” he replies, sounding overjoyed to have Deadpool in his cab.

Peter is worried.

“Dopinder, I want you to meet my baby boy, Bambi,” Wade says, before poking Peter. “Bambi, this is Dopinder, the most badass cab driver in the city. He saved a whole school of children from a pedophile once, single-handedly.”

Dopinder gives a happy laugh, pulling them away from the curb and starting to drive. “Very nice to meet you, Mr. Bambi, it is always an honor to meet more of Mr. Pool’s acquaintances.”

Mr. Bambi? Wait a minute. “It’s just P—” Peter bites back his tongue at the last second. Literally. Like, teeth through the muscle, he can feel the ache and taste the blood pooling in his mouth. He sharply turns to Wade, who had leaned forward so quickly that he’d jostled Peter in his seat.

Peter can feel the man holding his breath, whites of the mask locked on Peter like he’s awaiting the second coming of zombie Jesus.

Peter coughs. “Ben,” he says. “It’s just, Ben. Dopinder, good to meet you too.”

Wade deflates like a whoopie cushion. Then with the swiftness of a fox, presses his mouth, hot through the leather, to Peter’s ear and whispers, “You can keep running, but I’ll catch you soon, baby boy.”

And Peter’s environment reveals itself to him finally. He’s in the back of a taxi cab, knee to knee, thigh to thigh, hip to hip, and arm to arm with Deadpool. It’s hot and cramped, smelling like sweat and cinnamon, but instead of feeling claustrophobic, Peter only feels Wade pressed against him. It’s like being pressed up against granite, except his body puts off more heat than a radiator. At the touch of leather to the vulnerable skin of his ear, Peter jerks. Wade pulls back from his lean and sits up straight. But the effects radiate regardless of the man’s retreat.

Little zaps of electricity starting at Peter’s earlobe and trickling down his spine, following the sensory path of neurons, branching out along to the extremities in his body. He shivers and bites back a whine at the sheer magnitude of want he feels. His skin feels sensitive.

Please, he prays to any deity listening, don’t let him pop a hard one in taxi cab with a mercenary for company.

To make up for his panic-frustration-anxiety (yes, this experience will be revisited later today on the Pleather Crisis Couch™), he elbows Wade in the bicep.

Ow!” Wade jumps, sounding alarmed. “What the fu—"

Dopinder continues, oblivious. “Mr. Bambi, are you in the same kind of business as Mr. Pool? Or are you just a…‘friend?’” The air quotes are audible.

“Neither!” Peter cuts in frantically.

“Ouch, baby boy,” Wade grumbles. “Do you exist to cause me pain? Because I have news for you, little brat, you shoot me down, but I won’t fall. I’m titanium.”

Peter raises his elbow in threat and Wade actually jumps again, rubbing his arm sullenly in response.

“Nevermind that, Dopinder,” Wade picks up the conversation. “I haven’t seen you in a few weeks, how’s life crack-a-lacking?”

Dopinder sighs tiredly. “This week has been a great misfortune, Mr. Pool. The bad karma from Bandhu’s accident mocks me even today. Just Sunday, his brother arrived from Mumbai to stay with my parents and me. It is my curse that Bodhi is twice as wealthy and twice as attractive as Bandhu ever was. I know I have said contract killing is not for me, Mr. Pool. But after seeing Gita swoon at the sight of Bodhi’s Rolex, I fear I might have spoken too soon.”

After making a sharp left turn, Dopinder parks them next to the sidewalk. In a flash, Wade is out the door, motioning for Peter to follow. He quite chivalrously slams the cab door shut behind Peter after Peter crawls out, sucking in a lung-full of cold, revitalizing December air to center himself.

Wade leans into the window of the passenger seat. “I have faith in you, Dopinder. You remember how you took care of Bandhu. Bodhi sounds like he’s just asking for it anyway. Sometimes, you have to eliminate the whole nest if it's rotten.”

Dopinder perks up, all aglow. “Mr. Pool, your confidence in me builds my strength.” He smiles, holding his hand up. “A crisp high five, as usual?”

“Please, my man,” Wade laughs, “You know by now that it’s always a crisp ten.”
 
Peter hovers anxiously on the lookout for foul play, but Wade just gives the man a double high five, like an overgrown toddler in a Halloween costume.

At the last second, Wade leans in and whispers softly, “I have rope, duct tape, and a taser in my Manhattan condo. It’s yours if you remember where I put the key.”

Peter hears it anyway and tries to reign back the fiery disapproval building inside of him as Dopinder drives away with a delighted grin on his face.

Did he just witness the premeditation of a murder?

-

Wade leads him inside a little hole in the wall in a very sketchy neighborhood of Spanish Harlem. The restaurant has no name, but it’s full of people eating, laughing, and singing. It smells absolutely delicious. Peter’s stomach rumbles hopefully, even though his last good meal, Thai food on Thursday with Aunt May, wasn’t all that long ago.

Wade weaves around picnic tables like a man on a mission. No one blinks at him as he saunters up to the front. There’s a huge chalkboard with a vague menu written on it that Wade doesn’t look at. An old woman with dark skin and straight black hair blows a bubble with her chewing gum right in Wade’s face, looking at him expectantly.

“Hey Rosa, good to see you too. I know, it’s been so long. How does this business survive without me?”

Rosa chews her gum harder.

“Right, then. Charming as always, you’re probably beating those guys away with a stick. Okay, can we have twelve chimichangas. Uh, some chicken and some beef, like whatever you got. Those burrito things with the cheese and beans—you know, the special ones. Uh…a couple tacos…steak ones.” Wade trails off here and Peter notices that he’s been making a bunch shapes with his hands like they’re trying to talk for him.

Rosa pops her gum again when a younger girl in an apron pops out from the kitchen. She eyes Wade, then looks back at Rosa.

¿Estamos seguras, Rosa?” the girl calls, an unhappy smirk on her face.

El tragón está pensando.” She waves an imperious hand at Wade, who makes a sound like an offended teapot. “¡Todos a cubierta!”

¿Qué está diciendo?

Rosa shrugs, popping another bubble. “¿Qué se yo?

Before Peter dies of embarrassment, he’s choosing to shut this down. Putting a hand on Wade’s shoulder—because he wants him to shut up, not because Peter’s itching to touch him—Peter catches Rosa’s attention with a polite and apologetic smile.

Disculpe, señora, ¿podemos tener doce chimichangas, una mezcla de res y pollo; cuatro de los burritos especiales con frijoles y queso; y diez tacos de bistec, por favor?” Peter looks at her beseechingly. That wasn’t too bad, he thinks. She should have at least somewhat understood him. He could really use some mercy tonight.  

Rosa blows another bubble and for a second, Peter thinks the universe has met its quota for small miracles. That’s not the case though, because Rosa pulls her gum back into her mouth, chews obnoxiously, then gives Peter a little, happy grin. 

She chuckles in amusement, then returns her eyes to Wade. It’s more of a glare, really. Not even a fake-nice look for the sake of customer service. She looks like she would love nothing more than to shove his face in a tortilla iron. 

Cuarenta pesos,” Rosa declares to Wade, holding her hand out for the cash. 

Yes! Thank you, Mr. Delmar. 

Letting loose a breath of relief, Peter turns to Wade to translate. “Forty dollars.” 

Wade’s already handing four hundred dollars to Rosa, who snatches it up without comment. He’s not looking at her anyway. His eyes are stuck on Peter and this close to him, Peter can see the outline of his mouth shaped into a gawk. Peter recoils. “What?” he asks, self-consciously. 

Wade shakes his head back and forth without letting Peter out of his line of vision. “Nothing!” he squeaks. “Nothing at all. I’m just pretty sure I made you on The Sims 4 and now I’m just wondering how you got out of the game and popped into real life. Even the nose is right.” 

Siétate.” 

They both jump at Rosa’s bark, then Wade leads Peter over to a darkened corner of the restaurant while Peter rubs his nose insecurely. The table they reach is a bit more private than the others in the rest of the room because it’s tucked against the wall with only two chairs. Wade takes the one in the actual corner, leaving Peter to sit in the other. 

Peter’s about to offer to switch chairs with him, because honestly, Wade looks hulkingly large in the corner. It seems kind of uncomfortable with not much leg room between the chair and the table. Then Peter realizes Wade had chosen the seat with the most unobstructed view of the entire restaurant—all its inhabitants, and all its exits. A tactical move then. 

As Peter sits in his chair, he observes as Wade unfolds. His arms rest on the table, he leans back as much as he can and pushes his long legs out until one is on either side of Peter’s chair. It’s like watching a red, leggy Venus fly trap uncoil. 

“So,” Wade does that thing where he drops his voice suggestively again. It usually foreshadows discomfort, so Peter understandably tenses. The air of anticipation puts him on guard. 

Wade runs a gloved finger along the edge of the table. “What’s a pretty thing like you doing in an ugly place like this?” 

And, as usual, Deadpool is not what Peter expects. 

Peter frowns mirthlessly. “You brought me here, Deadpool.” 

Wade guffaws, hiding his face in his hands for a brief moment before holding them out in question. “Oh my god, Bambi. You slay without mercy, you know that? Just take a sword and cut my heart out already, eh?”

Peter doesn’t respond to that. When in doubt regarding what to say, silence is his friend. 

“You’re a little uptight, aren’t you?” Wade continues, tone teasing, but Peter still frowns harder nonetheless. “I would buy you a margarita, but I’ve only broken the law twice tonight and three’s an omen.” 

“I can drink!” Peter bulldozes on because this is so ridiculous. He’s not a teenager. “I’m twenty-one years old.”  

Boom! Nothing like a little fire to get the lies sprouting out smoothly. 

Wade snorts and puts a hand up like he wants Peter to talk to it. “Uh-huh, we’ve definitely been through this before, Bambi. I give you kudos though, you’re getting better. It’s kind of like the Boy Scout Pledge, the more you say it, the more you believe it. And when you believe your own lie, then you’re a master grifter, Bambi.” 

“My name’s not Bambi.” 

“Yes, it is.” 

“No, it’s not.” 

“Sure, it is. It’s a nickname.” 

“Stop nicknaming me, then.” 

“I don’t think so, Bambi. The name fits really well. Do you own a mirror?” 

“Bambi’s not my name.”

“Okay, then what is your name?” 

“P—” Crap! “Ben!” Peter nearly tears his hair out of his scalp while Wade laughs like a lunatic across from him.  

Everything about Peter’s life is horrible, he decides. He told Mr. Stark that none of this was a good idea. Peter knew from the beginning that he didn’t have the skill set necessary to fool any mercenaries. And ‘lo and behold, his hypothesis fails to be rejected. At this point, his identity as Ben Weber is a farce that no one believes, except for maybe that one Slavic guy who’s painting he stole back for him. But that guy stole a miniscule painting from his ex-wife who likes to shoot and castrate people—Peter’s not sure how smart he is. 

“Relax, relax, Bambi,” Wade says as he steadies himself. “There’s no need to freak out. I don’t need to know your name, baby boy. Not yet, at least. Your secret is safe and sound. The important thing is that you know my name, so you know what to moan later tonight when I make you come.” 

Peter didn’t know that blushing could be so painful. His cheeks ache almost as much as his balls. No, no, no. This is all kinds of wrong. Teenage trigger, right? This was all a lie anyway.  

Just then, Rosa walks over with a huge tray of mouthwatering goodies. With admirable balance, she puts the food on the table. Before she walks away, she grabs a basket of steak tacos and pointedly puts them in front of Peter. 

Traga traga.” She rolls her eyes at Wade and huffs before taking her leave.  

Peter’s inappropriate arousal leaves him when faced with the spread of succulent looking Mexican food. He’s so hungry. He’s always so hungry. He never wants to eat ramen noodles again, but Peter can’t cook and they’re always the cheapest thing to buy.  

Going to pick up a taco, Peter pauses, eyes keenly finding Wade.  

“Are you going to eat? Or are you going to watch me, like you always do?” he asks, suddenly extremely curious. 

Wade flounders. “What do you mean, watch you? I haven’t stalked you yet. Much. Really.” 

One thing at a time. “When we’re at Sister Margaret’s you always order a drink. But you never drink it. You just watch me drink mine, then leave yours to Weasel when you have to go.” 

Wade falls in on himself a bit. “Ah, yeah, baby boy. I’m afraid drinking isn’t possible through the mask.” 

“So, why don’t you just take the mask off? You’ve seen my face. If I see yours, I’ve nothing to hold against you.” 

Wade makes a wounded sound. “That’s not the problem, Bambi. I don’t wanna subject you to the horror that is my face. Hence, the mask. Gotta cover that shit up, I don’t want anyone vomiting on my suit, do you know how hard vomit is to clean?” 

Peter drops his taco, thinking a bit. On his dossier, Deadpool was labeled as having advanced healing powers. His body regenerates within an unparalleled timeframe. It’s why he never dies; his body fixes itself too quickly for any lasting damage. Peter can’t imagine what damage happened to Wade’s face that wouldn’t have been healed already by his regeneration.  

But the limits of Peter’s imagination are not the caps on reality. Somehow, there’s something different about Wade’s face that makes him keep his mask on. Possibly, there’s something different about his entire body and that’s why Peter’s never seen him without the suit. Peter wonders what. Whatever it is is clearly a weak spot for Wade because the longer they sit there, the more Wade looks like he wants to curl up and hide.  

Peter’s felt that way a million times over. 

“Maybe you can just pull up the mask a bit? You don’t have to take it off, but just give yourself room to eat?” Peter tries, testing the grounds carefully. 

Wade looks doubtful, and Peter instantly feels his heartache. 

“How about this?” Peter gets up starts to swivel his chair around. “I’ll turn around, so I can’t see.” 

“Fucking perfect. Don’t fuck this up, Wilson.” It’s a whisper that Peter’s definitely not supposed to hear. 

A hand catches Peter’s arm before he can finish turning the chair and Peter looks up at Wade. 

“You don’t have to turn around, Bambi, it’s alright. Get back to the table like your momma taught you.” 

Peter pauses, fixes the chair, and sits to face Wade again, whose hands now flit restlessly at his own neck.  

“Do you want me to keep my eyes down?” Peter asks, willingly. 

Wade shakes his head, negative. “No, it’s fine. Really. I’m not going to make you eat dinner with your eyes downcast like a shamed middle schooler. Just, uh, try not to puke, okay? We’ll do it quick, like a Band-Aid.”  

Fingers gripping the end of his mask near the neck, Wade pulls it up quickly, so the material is bunched under his nose.  

The first thing Peter notices is that Wade’s skin is overlaid with a network of thick scar tissue. It doesn’t seem to have one discernable pattern. Blotches here, slash marks there, some branching out like Lichtenberg figures, while others are less fancy. They are different shades in color. Some are red like they’re new, some are pink, and some are white and silvery. They sit over his skin like a net array that can’t be reproduced with engineering. Then Peter’s eyes focus on a strong jawline and his mind blanks out. 

Because, there, finally, is that mouth. Peter’s never seen it before, but he recalls its unforgettable warmth pressed against his knuckles and his ear. The mere memory of it sends licks of fire down his back.  

He can’t help but think what it might feel like as it is now, sans leather. 

With no barrier, what would Wade’s mouth feel like against his skin? Warm, still, for certain. But rough and bumpy from the textured scars? Soft? If he kissed his hand again, Peter bets it would feel hot like lava and wet if he licks—Stop sign! Big, red, octagonal stop sign here to stop that train wreck of thought. Woah. 

That was not his intended chain of thought. 

Peter lets out a shaky exhale, realizing that he’s been staring at Wade’s mouth without blinking for how long? Too long. The smell of cinnamon invades his senses. 

“Hallucinating, aren’t I?” Peter watches the words form from Wade’s lips and somehow, that makes him shift a little in his seat. His pants are too tight. Mayday, mayday.  

“Definitely.” 

Peter licks his own lips, which feel dry and chapped. “What?” his voice is raspy, and Peter clears his throat aggressively, trying to give himself a wake-up call. Snap out of it, Parker. He forces his eyes to Wade’s.  

Snap back to reality.  

Peter’s gut lurches. He opens his mouth, quick to defend himself. No, he wasn’t staring at Wade’s skin because it’s disgusting because it isn’t disgusting at all. Not puke worthy, why would Wade think that? They’re just scars. 

Wade reaches out to steal a taco from the basket in front of Peter. Then he shoves all of it into his mouth in one go, like a beast. 

“It doesn’t bother you, does it?” Wade mumbles, around a mouthful of taco. His manners are atrocious.  

Peter blinks as Wade grabs another taco and repeats the same movement, stuffing it into his mouth carelessly, like he’s never heard of biting or chewing. He seems to swallow it whole.  

“I’m somehow unsurprised,” Wade says, leaning back a bit to reach the basket of chimichangas. Using his hands, he grabs one and dumps it right onto the taco basket. “You know what Rosa was calling me before?” he continues, casually.  

“Huh?” Peter asks, brain not fully online yet. 

“Dragon? Draga draga?” 

“Oh, that.” Peter’s happy he took AP Spanish and got a five on the AP exam. If not, he wouldn’t know the word by heart and he would have had to actually think right now. “She called you a glutton.” 

Wade roars with laughter. “That fucking bitch! I knew she had it out for me! She always gives me the wrong order when I come alone. So that’s why she gave you a basket of tacos all to yourself. Thought I was gonna let you starve.” 

“I think she doesn’t speaks English, Wade.” 

“She owns the restaurant, baby boy. People come here from all over. Look around you, only a third of the clientele are Hispanic. Of course, she speaks English. She just won’t speak it to me.” Wade shakes the taco basket in Peter’s face. “Eat up, Bambi. Before I guzzle it all down the hatch.” 

Peter ends up eating Wade under the table, in the end, minus the two-taco head start Wade had to begin with. Apparently, mutant healing powers don’t stand a chance against Peter’s broke twenty-year-old guy appetite. Peter would normally be mortified to have eaten that much, but Wade just laughed when Peter choked down four chimichangas, then handed him the rest encouragingly.

It was so worth it.

Peter hasn’t felt this full in a while.

As the pair make their way out of the restaurant, Rosa ignoring Wade but throwing Peter a small salute. Peter feels lackadaisical and sleepy. But he still can’t stop his mind from replaying his recent visit to the college lab. Plastic finger. Dead kids?

Peter stands by what he told Mr. Stark. Deadpool seemed too surprised—his reaction too genuine—to have been involved in it. Still, Peter has no leads. And if Mr. Stark has any, then he’s not sharing them. Deadpool may not be involved, but what could it hurt to ask.

It’s not too out of place, Peter thinks. Ben Weber and Deadpool had stumbled into that alleyway together, after all. Wouldn’t it be in character for anyone in the same position to bring up such a jarring experience one more time?

They step out onto the sidewalk and without even asking, Peter falls into step with Wade.

“Wade,” he begins, trying to keep his voice light. “Do you know anything about that kid we found on Thursday?”

Blunt and to the point.

“Aw shucks,” Wade sighs like he knew this was coming. Peter looks over at him and he’s pleased to see that the mask is still pull up. “I was wondering when you’d ask. Look, Bambi, I honestly don’t have a clue, cross my heart and hope to die—for realz. I didn’t do that. I wasn’t like leading you there or anything, shit this really sounds bad. Would you believe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time? No one ever believes it when it’s true. But really, I didn’t do that. Fuck, I couldn’t do that, I don’t think I’m capable. I know who I am but have some morals. This little boy went to church, okay? Celebrated Kwanzaa and everything.”

Peter stops Wade there. “I know you didn’t do it, Wade.”

Wade halts, body language exasperated. “How do you know I didn’t do it?”

“I just do.”

“You just do? Bambi, you do realize who you’ve just had tacos with, right? I know I introduced myself as Wade, but you had me pinned as Deadpool from the get-go, didn’t ya? It’s probably the suit. Very recognizable.”

Peter crosses his arms and they stand watching each other. “Yes, I know who you are. I know what you do. Your reputation precedes you. Look, Wade, I don’t have a reason. I know you didn’t kill that kid. I just know.”

Wade runs a hand over his head. “You need to be more careful.”

Peter eyes him, keeping his arms crossed. What does that mean? As far as Wade knows, Peter is a thief. He hangs in the same crowd as Deadpool to pick up clients from Weasel. Be careful how? Of what?

“Do I?” Peter says, trying to place what Wade means.

The way Wade hold himself suddenly changes. He goes from harmless-looking—all ridiculous Chatty Kathy, like the man Peter had tacos with—to full of intent, standing there looking for all the world like a panther in the shadows of the Amazon. Peter feels his heart skip a beat.

“You really do.” The words are barely audible, but they reach Peter’s ear like a chime in the dead of the night.

Then it’s gone.

Wade starts walking again and Peter is helpless to do anything but follow. It takes a moment for him to shake himself back to his question.

“So, you don’t know who might have done such a thing?” Peter asks, unwilling to let this go. This is his chance to pull something out of Deadpool if there is anything to learn.

“I know a lot of people who could have done such a thing.” Wade laughs hatefully. “As long as there was money involved, the list of culprits goes worldwide, baby boy. The world's dark as fuck; DC’s got it all right. But I’m not sure why that kid was in the alley or how he got there. Or by whose hand. It’s disturbing, to say the least. Not my flavor of tea. I may not be an X-Person since I failed training, but I don’t like these sorts of incidents happening in my neck of the woods. Call me territorial. It’s all this testosterone, hun. I’ve already asked Weasel to nose around.”

That catches Peter by surprise. So much that he stumbles a bit. “Really?”

“Really,” Wade says, hand striking out to stop Peter’s impending nosedive. “So, don’t you worry, sugarplum. Between Weas and I, we’ll have this sorted out soon. Definitely before pumpkin spice lattes go out of season again. We’ve got a lot of connections out there. Try to put it in the back of your mind.”

Peter finds it in him to be truthful. “I can’t put it in the back of my mind. It’s all I can think about.”

Wade makes an interested noise, then suddenly, the grip on Peter’s arm drags him off into an alcove. “Sounds like you need a good distraction then, Bambi. You know me! Happy to serve.”

-

Peter’s yelp echoes down the alcove ominously. In a fast and precise motion, Wade has him crowded up against a wall, arms caging him in place.

The alcove has no lamps; it’s a space between buildings on the block. Not large enough to be an alleyway—thank the Lord, because neither of them has good luck when it comes to those—but it’s deep and Wade’s pulled Peter at least seven feet from the entrance and into its depths.

Peter feels the wind knock out of him as his back hits the wall. It doesn’t hurt because Wade hadn’t pushed him very hard. It’s more the shock of the suddenness of the situation.

One minute, they’re walking and talking about murder and the next, Wade has him up against a wall. It’s dark, but Peter sees in perfect definition the way Wade licks his lip and slouches a bit to drop himself closer to Peter’s height. It doesn’t work, of course. There are six inches between them. That’s half a foot. Wade would have to be missing a chunk of his legs to reach Peter’s height.

Peter sees their breath coming out in little clouds between them. When had it gotten so cold out? Even with the half a foot of space between them, Wade feels like a miniature sun, putting off flares of heat in Peter’s direction.

Wade drops a hand from the wall to grab Peter’s cheek. The feel of leather gloves is rough against his skin. His hand spans Peter’s head, fingertips brushing into Peter’s hair and palm tucked down to Peter’s jawline.

The air is crackling with all the electricity that Peter only seems to ever feel in Wade’s presence.

Peter sees it in slow motion: the way Wade ducks down on an unerring path straight to his mouth. Peter’s eyes fall shut in a sort of instinctive expectation of a kiss, but he doesn’t get one.

Instead, Wade presses his cheek to Peter’s for a half second, the hand cradling his face readjusting to hook fingers under Peter’s chin. Wade’s thumb finds Peter’s bottom lip, rubbing against it. Wade’s face turns and then his mouth is against Peter’s cheek.

It feels like everything Peter thought of in that little hole of a wall restaurant.

Rough and soft and hot and warm and wet as he talks right into Peter’s skin. “Do you remember what I told you earlier?”

Peter feels dizzy. He inhales shallowly, just realizing that both of his own hands are grabbing Wade’s arm, feeling the movement of tendons as Wade’s thumb pets his lip again.

He can’t even speak. “What?”

Wade asks again, words patient, but firm. He wants Peter to answer. “Do you remember what I told you earlier, about how I don’t need to know your name?”

Earlier seems like a lifetime ago. Peter’s not sure how he’s supposed to recall anything from any moment other than right now when Wade’s strong body is right there in front of him. When Peter can squeeze his hands and feel the power in Wade’s forearm. When Peter feels that mouth against his cheek. Yet Wade’s voice is deep and compelling.

It’s impossible to not remember, isn’t it? Wade’s not worried about knowing Peter’s name as long as Peter knows his.

So you know what to moan later tonight when I make you come.  

The words race through Peter’s brain in neon lights. He can’t help the way he moans brokenly, fingers stabbing into the forearm in their grip. 

Peter feels the dirty smile against his cheek when Wade chuckles. The same laugh that’s been making Peter’s heart quicken every time they meet, an octave deeper than his usual voice, his vocal cords rasping like he’s chugged some battery acid.  

“There you go, baby boy,” Wade murmurs and Peter gets his kiss. 

The thumb moves to his chin and angles Peter’s head up to meet scarred lips. Peter feels it like a tsunami of arousal waving over his body. But Wade keeps the kiss a teasing, little peck.  

Wade presses another soft kiss, light and barely there, to Peter’s lips. Then he pulls back. When he feels Peter’s hands tighten on his arm again, he grins crookedly, leans down, and repeats. A sweet kiss, chaste. Feathery light and playful. Not the type of kiss Peter wants. When Wade pulls away this time, Peter clenches a bit too hard down on his arm and chases Wade’s lips with his own. This time, when Peter kisses Wade, pushing himself up to his toes for leverage, Wade bites down on Peter’s lip and groans like an animal uncaged.  

It’s technically not Peter’s first kiss. There had been that one girl, Gwen, who had only gone to Midtown for a year before leaving for England to pursue a modeling career. She had liked him, but Peter had been unable to reciprocate. By then, the weight of being Spider-Man was constant and he’d been eager to shove her away.  

But Gwen wouldn’t be ignored.

She’d followed him into the locker room one day and with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, kissed him with Chapstick flavored lips. It was innocent, despite the setting. She’d laughed and run away like it was a game. Peter had ignored her more fervently, and then one day, she was waiting for him after school. She’d looked so pretty in the afternoon light, with a tennis skirt and polo on, a racket in one hand. When she’d kissed him again, it was too hard to pull away. It was awkward, and she’d expected him to take the reins. All Peter could think about was what if she asked him out? What if she wanted to date? What if he couldn’t say no and they dated and Peter did something stupid like give her an alien bomb to hold in her backpack? Peter had said sorry and run away to patrol. 

So, this is not Peter’s first kiss. But it might as well be.  

The intensity of it isn’t something he’d expected. Gwen’s kiss had been tentative and searching. Wade’s kiss is like an extension of himself: violent precision. He soothes the bite on Peter’s lip with a lick, then uses his hand to move Peter so that when he licks again, it’s right at the opening of Peter’s mouth. Wade’s tongue dips in teasingly along the inseam of Peter’s top lip like he wants a taste and he’s working his way up to getting it instead of just taking it for Peter’s sake, rather than his own. 

Peter feels his entire body tremble when Wade finally slips inside Peter’s mouth, warm and slick. It’s good. 

Peter whines softly into Wade’s mouth, cock jumping at the way Wade seems to answer him with a soothing growl. He just shivers excitedly when Wade’s tongue touches his own. He wants to respond in kind, but he’s not really sure how. So, he mimics Wade’s motions tentatively. 

A hand runs through Peter’s hair, settling at the nape of his neck where it gently tugs at the roots.

Wade pulls away, and Peter, whose hands have somehow found their way to Wade’s chest and shoulder, respectively, makes a frustrated sound of loss.  

They’re both panting.  

Wade’s fingers tug again at Peter’s hair. And Peter, like a live wire, gasps with the movement.  

“You haven’t done this before.” Wade says it, doesn’t ask it. 

If Peter’s face was red before, which it was, it’s even redder now. He feels embarrassment creep up on him. 

“No,” Peter replies shortly.  

Wade’s thumb finds the hollow behind Peter’s ear and massages it pacifyingly. 

How does he do that? How does he always seem to know when Peter’s about to get uncomfortable and manages to pull him away from the discomfort before it consumes him? Either Peter’s face says it all or Wade’s more perceptive than anyone gives him credit for. All evidence points to not just all brawn, but brains too.  

“Do you want me to stop?” 

Always expect the unexpected. Peter blinks hazily at the question, taking a moment to process it. Consent is sexy. He knows what Wade is asking him. Peter has an out, gift wrapped to him and presented with a bow on top. Somehow, Peter knows that he could say "yes" and they could walk out of here together, forgetting what happened in a snap. Wade wouldn’t even bring it up again, would he? He would stop. Completely. 

Two weeks ago, Peter would have convinced himself to say yes. But like Mr. Stark said, there’s a lack of evidence supporting why that might be the right response.  

Peter’s not good at telling lies, so he’s open with himself and Wade.

“Please, don’t stop.” 

Wade doesn’t question his reply, just captures his mouth in another mind-consuming kiss. 

Time passes abstractly for Peter. He goes from having his first real kiss, hesitantly copying Wade’s soundless directions, trying to learn what to do and when, to having his umpteenth kiss, where he’s flung his arms around Wade’s neck and completely bullied the man into bending down as Peter tastes him. 

Every time Wade makes a sound or his muscles flex, Peter feels a surge of lustful triumph.  

Then Wade’s muscles flex again, and suddenly his body is shifting, pressing Peter firmly back again against the wall. Wade’s weight leans against him and Wade does this maneuver thing where he hooks a foot around Peter’s ankle and drags it apart, stepping in between Peter’s legs.  

Their bodies are pressed together for a breath, but they’re not the same height and they’re aligned awkwardly. Wade rips away from the kiss, reaches down with one big hand and pulls Peter’s left leg up by the thigh, hooking it around his hip. His other hand skims Peter’s other thigh lightly before Peter follows without any more prompting. He hops up.  

Peter’s legs wrap tightly around Wade’s waist. The position doesn’t hurt at all, Peter’s so flexible that it feels easy. He’s definitely not prepared for the way it feels when he realizes that Wade’s erection, hard and big enough that Peter feels it through the suit, is pressing directly into his own. 

Wade’s mouth slides over his cheek and down to his neck where he places a wet open-mouthed kiss right below Peter’s ear. 

Peter whines loudly, hips naturally bucking up and rutting against the body trapped between his thighs. He feels himself rubbing against Wade and the stupid utility belt strapped on his hips. 

Suddenly, Wade’s hands are like iron restraints, grabbing into his hips. Face tucked in Peter’s neck, Wade voice sounds warning. Like he’s on the precipice of something, about to fall down a mountain with one wrong move. 

“Be good,” he mumbles, lifting his face a tad when Peter’s hips fight against his hold. Then he says it more clearly, “I said, be good, baby boy. I’m holding myself back by a fucking thread here. If you rub up against my dick one more time, I’m going to bend you over right here on the concrete and you’re not ready for that.” 

It’s worded like a threat, Peter thinks, but he can’t find anything threatening to be wary of. All he can think of is Wade and the fact that his cock is so, so hard and he just wants a little more. It’s not going to take much, he thinks. He doesn’t want this to stop. 

“Please?” he tries. Wade’s answering moan sounds very promising. “Please, Wade?” Peter’s words are breathy and thin, but he ignores it and turns to press a kiss to Wade’s chin. There’s a scar there that Peter really likes. It’s raised and bumpy and it feels good against his lips. Mindlessly, he kitten licks at it, wanting to feel it against his tongue.  

Wade curses, then he’s shoving Peter’s legs down to the ground, untangling himself from Peter.  

“I knew you were a little brat, Bambi. Called it from day one.”  

Peter’s exclamation is lost in the way Wade manhandles him again, turning him around. Wade’s hands grab Peter’s and plant them against the wall that’s now in front of him. Then with no preamble, he unbuttons Peter’s jeans. Undoes the zip and pushes his jeans and his briefs down in one go to right above his knees.  

One of Wade’s hands begins to reach down, but before it can go any further, Peter catches it quickly, his nails scratching uselessly at the glove. Wade huffs, his breath warm on the top of Peter’s hair. With practiced ease, Wade peels off both of his gloves and tosses them to the ground. 

All the while, he does what Peter learns Wade’s good at. Talking. “Spoiled too, aren’t you? I’ve barely touched you and I’m already spoiling you rotten. You’re going to run me dry.” 

The hand returns, naked this time, and Peter watches it with an almost out-of-body fascination as it cups his balls and rolls them in his palm at the same moment another hand snakes up the bottom of his shirt, appreciatively caressing his abs before a finger finds his nipple and rubs over it lightly. 

The sound that comes out of Peter’s mouth is one he’s never heard before.  

Wade’s monologue continues, voice shaking with restraint. “I kind of like it, you know? It’s never been a kink of mine before. But I love that no one’s ever touched you like this. I love that no one’s ever heard you make all these pretty sounds, baby boy. I love that you look fucking drunk right now, twisting and squirming, trying to get me to touch you.”  

A fingernail runs along Peter’s nipple, just a little hint of pain, then the hand is trailing away to his other nipple, twisting it softly between an index finger and thumb. Peter gasps, breathlessly, and pushes his chest into the soft grip, giving silent permission for it to tighten and twist

“Ah!” Peter pants, eyes squeezed shut as the fingers release, only to tighten again and make him whole body shake like he was struck by lightning.  

“So needy,” Wade murmurs, tugging at Peter’s balls gently. His hand finally, finally wraps around Peter’s cock and for a tremor, Peter thinks he’s going to come. Just from the feel of Wade’s scarred hand holding him, but Wade lets go instead, heedless to Peter’s outraged growl, it settles low on his stomach, by his navel.  

“Shush, little one,” Wade croons in his ear, hand petting in a soothing manner on his abdomen. It just revs Peter up, he feels like he’s going insane. His own hand falls from the wall, unnoticed brick crumbles sticking to it, and he encircles Wade’s wrist. Peter nudges it downward. Doesn’t push it but nudges it. Like a question. 

“I know, baby boy.” Wade’s hand moves, but instead of jerking Peter off, the pad of his middle finger draws a lazy circle on the head of Peter’s cock where it's slapping against his stomach.  

Peter feels himself twitch as a drop of pre-come oozes out the slit, only to be swiped up by Wade’s thumb and spread back over it. Again, and again, and again. Peter’s head falls back onto Wade’s chest and his knees wobble. 

He’s never teased himself like this on his own. Never had to, why bother.

Peter mewls—that’s the only word for it. And Wade eats the sound up hungrily, fingers leaving Peter’s chest to grasp loosely at Peter’s neck. They tighten briefly, before relaxing, and Peter sees it for what it is.  

Asking for permission. 

Instead of talking, Peter peels his remaining palm off the wall and covers Wade’s hand with his own. His own hand dictating the pressure, he pushes Wade’s fingers down securely on his throat. It doesn’t restrict his airways at all; the reason he’s panting has nothing to do with the hands on his neck.  

He’s not sure why either of them is doing it. But it feels so good that Peter can see it becoming an addiction.  

Between Wade’s finger on his cock and their joint hands on his neck, Peter feels a desperate sound wretched from his behind his teeth. “Wade?” 

Wade answers with a whine like a wounded dog into his hairline, mask covered nose brushing Peter’s forehead. “I know, baby boy,” he repeats, this time his voice is almost gone. He sounds absolutely ruined. Why? Peter has no idea because he’s not touching Wade. Not really.  

“Whenever you want, sweetheart,” Wade whispers, that teasing hand wrapping firmly around him and pumping him steadily. “I’ve got you, Bambi. I’m right here, baby. Whenever you’re ready.” 

When Peter comes, it feels religious.  

It’s a full body experience. He feels it in his toes, drenching whirls of pleasure creeping up his legs and chest to his fingers where he holds Wade’s hands in each of his. Peter’s mind is blank but singing with his enhanced senses working on overtime. He can feel Wade everywhere, sharply. Can smell his sweat and feel his ragged breaths, then choked off moan in his hair. All his senses melt into some warped synesthesia, colors fly behind his eyelids; the smell of red and the sound of black. The vibrations of Wade’s murmuring turning into the flavor of cinnamon and the taste of his own sweat dripping from his lip into his mouth sounding like chimes. Everything alight into one big bang. His cock, twitching through orgasm in Wade’s palm almost feels like an afterthought. 

It takes more than five minutes for him to collect himself, but when he does, Peter doesn’t have the energy to feel ashamed because Wade, behind him, seems to be in the same position.  

Peter feels very much like a limp noodle. 

He’s forever grateful that he’s leaning back against Wade, who’s balanced somehow with both hands still gripping Peter. His chest heaves with his breathing.  

Then Wade removes his hand from Peter’s neck, dislodging Peter’s own hand carefully. The hand disappears for a moment and there’s a little zip sound and the hand reappears with a tissue in it.  

Peter watches, catching on just a second too late when Wade’s hand starts to clean Peter off. He is efficient and gentle, as not to overwhelm Peter’s over sensitive skin. Peter feels himself flush at the treatment.  

Wade laughs, all huffs that push Peter’s hair around in a miniature whirlwind. Peter feels a kiss near his hairline, one lip half meeting the skin of his forehead. “Don’t tell me you’re shy now? Let me clean you up.” 

He tosses the tissue to the ground.  

“Litterbug,” Peter mumbles, half-heartedly.  

Peter doesn’t even stop Wade from pulling Peter’s underwear and pants up. He pulls them into place, deft fingers doing up the fly and button on the jeans before adjusting Peter’s shirt and coat properly.  

“Tissues decompose. I think. Don’t judge me, I recycle and I own a composter with worms in it. If I was American, I would vote for the Green Party. I’m very environmentally friendly. Especially because I don’t feel like living in a future where I die every day from a toxic atmosphere and plastic in my water. Oops. Too late for the last one. And by the way, everyone should be as serious as I am when it comes to a proactive position in environmental politics. I’d like to see more rallying about the glaciers that cover pretty much three-quarters of my home country. Everyone’s always prattling about Greenland, but Canada is more worth saving. You know why? We have beavers. And pure, unsullied maple syrup. Greenland doesn’t even have green land.” 

Peter lets the words wash over him and can’t help but snort. The snort turns into a full-blown laugh. His cheeks stretch painfully around a smile, his nose wrinkles, and he laughs giddily from his belly. Wade is so ridiculous Peter’s never met anyone who could babble on and on about anything, everything, and nothing. He doesn’t even need a conversation partner. He’ll go on his own like a broken Timex watch. 

“Holy fuck,” Wade stops his rant. Peter feels him shift. “There it is. Ah, sweet baby Jesus, it is even prettier than the Christmas tree they light up in Rockefeller Center. No menorahs can hold a candle to it.” 

Looking up, Peter drops the smile to peer back at Wade in question.  

“No, no!” Wade whines, “Don’t put the smile away yet, I wasn’t done admiring it!” 

Peter’s face heats up chili pepper red, he’s sure, and he rolls his eyes at the teasing. “You’re unbelievable.”

“Aw, well thank you, baby boy. I thought I did pretty well. You seemed happy enough, but I was going to ask for feedback anyway.” 

Peter sees the grin stretched on Wade’s mouth. It’s breathtaking, actually. Peter thought Wade’s mask had been expressive, but his half un-masked face is a whole new level. Peter’s actually a little stunned at the bone structure he can see, considering Wade is so reluctant to show his face. He has a sharp jawline, very masculine. The mask is bunched up, but Peter can see the bottom half of Wade’s cheeks enough to guess his cheekbones must be high. His teeth are perfect, straight, and pearly white. Like a Crest Extra Strength commercial model. 

If Peter’s not mistaken, there’s a hint of dimple on Wade’s right cheek, by his mouth. It’s very visibly not a scar, just a little dip. 

Wade’s words sink in and Peter stiffens a little bit. “Uhm,” he starts, “Yeah, you were great, really, really great. Did you—” Peter can’t make himself say it. 

But before he can cringe, Wade—who’s strangely in tune to Peter’s unspoken language—suddenly laughs. It’s unmistakably an embarrassed laugh. 

“Yeah, Bambi. You don’t gotta worry about that,” Wade says sheepishly. “I went off like a geyser the minute you put my hand around your neck. I’m surprised you don’t have a hole through your back with how hard I came. Thought I saw sparkles and Siddhartha for a minute there.” 

“Oh!” Peter feels quite pleased and disappointed at that all at once. Happy because Wade had enjoyed that and a bit bereft because he didn’t have the chance to reciprocate.  

“Yes, oh.”  

There’s a honk of a car horn. 

Wade curls the fingers of one hand in Peter’s hair again, pulling his head back and drops a kiss onto his lips. Before Peter can melt into it, Wade pulls back and steadies Peter on his feet, giving him a little push toward alcove entrance. 

“Come on, boo, that’s our ride.” Wade drops to grab his gloves. He pulls them on, then pulls his mask into place.  

Peter’s hand is grabbed, and Wade leads him out to the sidewalk where a taxi is waiting for them. The friendly face of Dopinder smiles at them from behind the glass windows. 

Opening the door, Wade ushers Peter in and then follows behind him.  

“Oh god,” Wade mutters, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, closing the door with a little shimmy. “Wet leather is such a gross feeling. But that was so worth it. Fifty out of ten, would do again, but would not recommend to friends because I’m a greedy ass fuck.” 

Dopinder turns back to them beaming, looking through the divider. “Hello, Mr. Bambi! Might I say, you are looking most relaxed and refreshed.”  

Peter’s spit gets caught in his airway. Wade startles, alarmed, one hand patting Peter on the back. His other hand pats around his suit, lost.  

“Woah, woah, Bambi! Deep breath! You want a cough drop?” Wade’s hand lands on a pocket and slips inside. “Ah, fuck, I don’t have one. I got an Altoid, though. You want that?” 

Swallowing convulsively, Peter shakes his head, holding up a hand in the universal sign for "I’m fine, totally fine, please ignore my social faux-pas and allow me to die quietly on the inside".

“You sure?” Wade asks and, in his fingers, he holds out one single chalky looking pill that smells horrendously like cinnamon.

“What is that?” Peter gasps, sitting up. 

“It is an Altoid, Mr. Bambi. Mr. Pool is fond of the cinnamon ones,” Dopinder says at the same time Wade cries, “Baby boy’s never seen an Altoid before? What abusive home were you raised in?!” 

Peter chooses to ignore that statement. Instead, he looks at the Altoid like an enemy. Its scent is so pungent. He’d been smelling it in waves ever since he got to Saint Margaret’s. “Have you been carrying that in your pocket all day? Loose?” 

Wade looks at the mint. “Yeah, why? I never carry the tin can they come in. It ruins the line of my suit. Also, I only have the one, so I just slipped it in my money pocket this morning.” 

“Just one?” Peter asks. One little mint. Miniature in size, but a gargantuan serving of evil.  

Wade nods. 

“That cinnamon smell has been driving me crazy all night. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.” 

The considering silence that follows that makes Peter bite his loosened tongue. Wade’s watching him with a startling amount of almost tangible concentration.

“What?” he blinks at Wade, lost in the sauce—a usual feeling. Peter doesn’t like it when Wade does the staring thing. It’s not a sexy thing or a creepy thing, it’s a measured stare that makes Peter feel like he’s pinned under a microscope. It reminds Peter eerily of Weasel’s omniscient, beady gaze. 

Peter’s just starting to get uncomfortable when Wade gestures with the Altoid in a way that brings it toward Peter’s face.  

Peter sneezes. 

“Bless you, Mr. Bambi.” 

“OHMYGOD, that was so cute!” 

The car ride may or may not commence after Peter throws the Altoid out the window. Wade only pouts for thirty seconds, before he and Dopinder begin discussing a woman called Gita. Peter tries to keep up, but he feels like he’s missing most of the plot. After they drive a few blocks, Wade knocks his hand on the divider. He tells Dopinder this is his stop and Dopinder pulls over dutifully.  

Peter freezes in his seat, suddenly overcome with a bundle of awkward. 

He doesn’t have time to deliberate what he should do in this social situation of which he’s never encountered because Wade grabs his hand. With a kiss pressed to his knuckles, reminiscent of their first meeting, Wade bids him a goodnight and tells him they’ll talk soon. He thanks Peter for the tacos and chimichangas, which makes no sense because Wade was the one who paid for the meal. 

Then he’s out the door faster than Peter can reply. 

Dopinder cheerfully asks where he’d like to go. Peter, still watching Deadpool run around a building two blocks ahead of him, gives Dopinder an address not too far from where he lives.  

Dopinder is happy to chatter all the way there, with what sounds like Hindi music in the background. He drops Peter off and won’t accept anything but a “crisp high five from Mr. Bambi”.

Peter doesn’t make it to the Pleather Crisis Couch™ for his next emotional epiphany. It happens in Mr. Delmar’s Grocery-Deli while he’s scanning the barcode of five packets of Extra gum and two bottles of hairspray for a guy dressed in a hot pink Elton John shirt. 

Just last night—or was it this morning—Peter Benjamin Parker had sex with Wade Wilson. Peter had sex with Wade, who is very much a man. A cis man, with male genitalia. Through Peter’s mind, the soft faces of Liz and Gwen clash with the hard angles of Wade. 

This could be the moment that Peter has a gay crisis. But the homosexual attraction doesn’t seem that pressing when Peter weighs his thoughts. Hell, even the age difference (is it really seventeen years, because Wade seems a lot younger than thirty-seven) isn’t much of a scandal when Peter remembers: he’s Spider-Man. 

Yeah, he’s skipped a few patrols the past few weeks because he can’t be in the streets and in Sister Margaret’s for Mr. Stark at the same time. Mutant DNA or not, he’s still human. He’d reasoned with himself that he was still spending his time on a worthy cause, doing his best to protect New Yorkers.  

Spider-Man had sex with a mercenary. Spider-Man had sex with a contract killer. A man who if he ever met on patrol, he’d surely web up and leave for the police to lock away in the slammer. 

Uh oh. 

This isn’t a gay crisis, it’s an ethics crisis. 

Peter takes his lunch break early and looks at Mr. Delmar’s Deli-Grocery, hoping for answers. Unbidden, his eyes fall to aisle one and a neat row of freshly stocked Pam cooking oil twinkles at him in the light of the sun. 

Reaching into his backpack, Peter pulls out his lab notebook. Flipping to the back, he reads the Deadpool’s list three times. Taking a pen, he frowns and crosses out cold, ruthless, mentally unstable, and mercenary who does not discriminate on marks. 

Peter doesn’t really need these lists anymore, seeing as Deadpool isn’t the one they’re looking for. It’s pretty much established at this point, no matter how much Mr. Stark lectures about possibility. Peter knows Mr. Stark is a sore loser in the same way he knows Wade is telling him the truth when he said he didn’t do it. But the list is helping him organize his thoughts. 

He crosses those out because he’s sticking to facts. Facts and a dosing of opinions that Peter comes up with, not the dossier. Peter doesn’t think Deadpool has proven himself to be cold, ruthless, or mentally unstable. On the contrary, Wade seems to have a heated opinion with strong feelings about everything. Peter hasn’t seen any ruthlessness. He thinks back to the guy who was assaulting Twiggy by the bar; Wade had beat him up and tossed him out into the road, but he didn’t shoot him point blank. That seemed fair if one has a violent way of handling things, which not just mercs do, Peter reasons, but a lot of people do. How many people wouldn’t have punched a douchebag like that in the face? Although, there was that incident with the tuna bomb…But Peter doesn’t know the particulars of that, so how can he judge? And mentally unstable? Peter’s not a doctor, but if anything, Wade seems more insightful than most people. Sure, he talks endlessly and makes associations at breakneck speed, but the logic of the thought is always there if you can keep up with him. He is a little vulgar, but Peter knows that’s his distasteful bro club humor that he and Weasel throw back and forth like a football. 

A mercenary who does not discriminate on marks? That one's easy to scratch if Wade’s strong disgust toward the child’s body was to be credited. If it affected Deadpool so much that he’d called in Weasel to find the culprit, then Peter at least knows Deadpool doesn’t murder kids, even for contract. 

This is complicated.

Peter adds to the list: likes Mexican food, investigates foul play in his "territory", has a taxi driver friend who adores him (note: find out who Bandhu and Bodhi are), carries cinnamon Altoids, always asks for consent, is a good kisser, has stunning bone str—

Crap.

That was not the type of list this was supposed to be.

The point is that Peter’s well aware he usually has black and white thinking. It’s hard to not see just good or bad when he spends his time seeking to protect the good from the bad. But Wade Winston Wilson seems to only exist in a world of gray.

And Peter’s sure if he was here to listen to Peter’s thought, Wade would say, “Fifty shades, to be exact.” 

-

When Peter climbs into the window of his apartment, he throws himself Spider-Man suit and all into bed. He’s freezing.

It’s freezing outside. The snow started as soon as Peter’s patrol did and didn’t let up the entire time. Peter stayed out dutifully all night, vigilant, but even crime seemed to have taken a break with the first snowfall of the year.

Peter moans miserably, shivering and fidgeting under his quilt. The heat in his apartment is broken and the landlord hasn’t even tried to fix it for a month. Maybe he should have bought some of those hand warmers that Mr. Delmar stocks in the miscellaneous aisle. His fingers and toes are turning numb.

He’s busy curling into a ball of self-pity when he hears his phone vibrate. Expecting Aunt May, he looks at his iPhone. Nothing. Peter unlocks it and double checks his messages, but he doesn’t have one new notification. It’s a familiar pattern, seeing as he really only talks to Aunt May. But once in a while, there’s a message from Mr. Stark, or even Happy for Mr. Stark (even though Happy has graduated to a new position now that isn’t Mr. Stark’s personal assistant).

Another vibration…coming from his side table?

Peter squats on the bed, and mind boggled, digs into his side table’s drawer and until he sees the source. His burner phone. He unlocks it and no, it’s not Mr. Stark. It’s a text message from an unknown number.

You there?

Peter opens the message, eyeing the number curiously. He doesn’t recognize the area code. Wrong number, perhaps?

Who’s this? He replies.

The answer is speedy. Who else, Mouse? A little birdy told me you might be interested in a tidbit of information I’ve drummed up. And by little birdy, I mean a big ass man dressed in a red condom.

Peter’s eyes widen. Weasel? How did you get this number?!

Weasel is very fast at texting, it seems. You’re joking, right? You’ve been sitting in my bar for at least three hours once a week. Right next to my computer. Doesn’t take a genius.

Peter concedes. That was sort of dumb. And that’s why Mr. Stark bought him a burner phone. Sometimes, it does take a genius.

Do you want to hear the news or not? I don’t have all day.

What could Weasel possibly want to tell him that couldn’t wait until he finds the time to get back to the bar. Peter wonders if the bar is closed right now or is Weasel and his merry bunch of mercenaries still drinking themselves under the table during a snowstorm.

*we do rlly have all day, take ur time replying

Peter looks at the text thread, humming at the quick change in writing style and another text rolls in.

We don’t have all day! I have requests to fill and douche-o-million has to take his condom to the dry cleaners to get the splooge out.

Peter cringes at the vulgar humor. It’s like Weasel never left high school. Okay, what’s the news?

Turns out aslxlliaf0-

He’s really not sure what that means. So, he texts back, ‘?’

did u go out 2day???

Jesus Christ on a fucking crusty cracker!
I can’t take it anymore.

Can you please talk to him?
He’s driving me crazy with his mooning over you.

The dickhat’s been here since 7AM
talking about your fucking freckles.
I want to give myself an acid swirly
and hope my eardrums are burned.

Peter has a moment of realization. Wade?

rite on, bambi. u didnt answer my question

Peter scrolls up, re-reading it, then types. I did go out today, I had work.

werk?!? its a snow day, bb
y didnt they give u off?

Wade would think people get off for snow days every time it snows. Has the man ever had real job? Because I go to work, Wade, not middle school. And I don’t work at a school.

so where u werk????

At a del—Peter furiously backspaces, sweating a bit. Nice try, he sends instead.

haha, bb, i kno it almost werked.
U cant fool me.
U home now?
all warm n cozy?

Peter, who still feels like he’s turning into a human snowman, moans miserably again. At home, but not warm at all. He sends, then before he can stop himself, he adds: My heater’s been broken for a month. Landlord won’t fix it. It’s cold :(.

The burner explodes with a flurry of texts.

wtf u fukin serious, bb????
Ur not joking?
is literally -1 degreez outside
u playin pranks on me already?
my old heart cnt take it
have mercy, bambi

Peter sighs sadly, watching his breath wisp in front of him. He wishes it was a joke. No pranks.

im goin 2 fuckin kill him
wats his name?

Peter twitches in alarm on the bed, twisting to get a better hold on the phone. What? Wade, no, you are not killing my landlord.

yez not until u giv me a name
a girl needs a name
valar morghulis

Peter groans, an unwilling smile pulling at his lips when he reads the Game of Thrones reference. It never said anything in the dossier about Deadpool being a big nerd. I’m not giving you a name! You’re not killing my landlord! He hasn’t done anything!

he turnin my bb in2 a popsicle :( :''-(

The situation isn’t funny. Wade’s a contract killer, right? He takes killing seriously. Nothing about Wade is funny.

Peter bursts out in laughter, laughing so hard his sides hurt.

fine. I wont kill him
maybe jus maim or seriozly injure?

“Oh my God, does he ever listen to what he’s saying?” Peter laughs to himself, writing back. Take it easy, Dobby. Behave or I’ll give you a sock.

no avada kedavra
just a lil crucio?
Plz?

No, Wade, you’re not allowed to kill my landlord. I need him. To be my landlord. If he dies, the rent will probably inflate with the next owner. Peter really couldn’t afford that. Most of his money goes into bills, with a huge chunk into paying his rent. Every time Peter completes the monthly online payment, he feels like he’s handing over a piece of his soul. But he really needed a corner studio with two windows and privacy. Or else this Spider-Man gig would be over real fast. All it would take is one nosey neighbor, and New York City’s full of them.

y u no let me jus buy u a condo?
i kno a realtor, can do it rn
probably can close in 5 hrs.
also kno a good lawyer.
can u pack in that time???

Wade!
What!? No, you can’t just go around
buying people condominiums.

Sometimes, Peter has a hard time deciphering whether or not Wade is being serious. It seems like everything he says is a joke, but not a joke. Back again to that limbo of gray. It pervades everything about Deadpool, from what he is to what he does.

Y not???
ur not ‘people’
ur bae
cmon. its below freezn outside
nd u in an aparmnt w/ no heat??
U got a death wish?
Mariott or Hilton?

Peter stares at the text, cursing himself for his shaky chest when he reads it again. Peter isn’t completely incompetent. He missed the high school romance chapter, but he would be clueless to miss that Wade had been like-like interested in him from the first time they spoke at Sister Margaret’s. It’s true, flirting is Wade’s default, but even through the jokes, he had been crystal clear. If Peter had any doubts, they were out the door when Wade lifted his mask and jumping the border to Mexico when Wade pulled him into that alcove. And Peter’s self-aware enough to pick up that he’d been attracted to Wade throughout, even when his attraction was laced with suspicion.

The inconvenient truth is that he doesn’t just like-like Wade back. He actually likes Wade, period. With his locker room humor and all. Crap, with his swords strapped to his back and red suit and all. He likes that everything Wade does seems to shock Peter. In a life of 5 years of monotony—go to school, take down muggers, sleep; then go to work, take down wannabe robbers, sleep—a little surprise goes a long way. Wade’s unexpectedness is intriguing.

The muscles also help.

Is Peter bae? Is this how this works? Handjob in an alcove and wham-bam-we’re going steady-ma’am. But it wasn’t just a handjob in an alcove, was it? Wade had taken Peter out to dinner, introduced him to a friend, revealed vulnerable part of himself, gave him a handjob in an alcove, and then had made sure he had a ride home. Holy crap. Peter had been on a date.

The thought makes him feel five years younger than his age. Because he feels excited in a simple, floaty way he hasn’t since Liz invited Spider-Man to her party.

I’m hijacking this conversation, bitches. Mostly because it’s disgusting and makes me feel like I’ll get a rash just reading it. Look, a friend of mine saw a blue biohazard truck at the location you tits ran into the dead kid, earlier that day. She didn’t catch the name, but she said it had a crab logo. That’s all folks. Get your own fucking text thread. I’m taking a sledgehammer to this phone.

There’s silence. Then a new unknown number pops up with a text message. It just has another phone number attached to it.

Weasel sends another message.

Wade says call the number and say he gave it to you.

??

You should get it in a sec.

A notification from the new number. bb call nd say i sent u. dnt worry, no deetz will b shared. safe n sound, rmmber??? stay inside, kk? :-*

Peter stares at the number with a Manhattan area code. What could that be? He’s just about to look it up on Safari when Weasel texts again.

Will you call the number before he starts cleaning his guns?

Chapter Text

Peter does call the number and he is greeted with an ex-smoker voice that sounds terrifying. When he stutters out that Wade Wilson gave him this number, the voice gives a wild, but happy laugh, and introduces itself as Larry, the HVAC guy. 

Larry told him Wade had said to expect his call. Larry says he heard about the heater problem. He says he’s ready to go as soon as Peter is, and he could come over right now. When Peter hesitates, Larry assures him that his address will be kept confidential—tacking on the words safe and sound—like he’s reading it from a note beside him. 

Peter stares at his frozen toes and a thin blanket. 

Then relents quickly. 

Larry gets there fast enough that Peter’s still pulling on a sweatshirt when a knock on the door sounds. Shoving his suit underneath his mattress, he goes to the door and is greeted by a short, Caucasian man with dreadlocks. 

He smells like menthol cigarettes and his clothes are stained. But, he smiles at Peter and is refreshingly friendly the entire time he putters around the apartment, fixing Peter’s heater. 

“How do you know Wade?” Peter can’t help but ask as Larry begins to pack up his tools. 

Larry sends Peter a secretive smile. “The way we all know Deadpool,” Larry says and before Peter can think on that, he continues with an air of appreciation.  

“Got myself into a bit of a bad situation. Wife had breast cancer, the kind they can fix by chopping them off, if you know what I mean. But we had no money. HVAC is a good business, but not good enough for surgery. No benefits being a private contractor, either. Turned to gambling real fast. Blackjack and ball betting. I had a lucky streak for a while. Got nearly a third of the money we needed to cover some of them medical costs. Then like always, karma hits you in the ass. Kept betting, trying to up my funds, but ended up losing. Over and over again. I lost so much money that I started borrowing money to gamble with.” 

Larry stops here, scratching his stomach, looking distinctly disappointed like he’s reliving his bad decisions. “Tale as old as time. Borrowed money from the wrong people, of course. They wanted payment in any form, even if it wasn’t money.” Larry fixes a knowing look at Peter. “Deadpool remedied the situation. When it was done, he gave paid for my wife’s treatment. Not just the surgery, but the radiation too. The pills, the nurse's aid, everything. She’s doing just fine now, cancer hasn’t come back.” 

Larry looks so grateful. “Anna started working again, too, she feels so great, she says. Like a new woman. Took a job at the Red Cross as an events planner just two months ago. We’re young, you know? Well, I’m forty-three, but Anna’s only thirty-five. She said she wants to try for a baby,” he adds, face proud. 

He finishes packing his tools, stands up and walks to the door, waving Peter off when he raises a hand to stop him.  

“No charge, kid. And don’t look so shocked.” Larry laughs on his way out. “I’m sure we both know by now that angels come in red. S’like war, you know? My dad was a Vietnam vet. Always said, sometimes you gotta fight ugly with ugly to keep the world going for the good.” 

Larry hadn’t even asked his name. 

When Peter tries to get ahold of Mr. Stark, it turns out the man is in Beijing working on that patent. He doesn’t answer Peter’s attempts to talk to him for a few days. After much persuasion, read as: Peter had sent him thirteen text messages in a row and two voicemails saying that they really needed to talk about the thing, Mr. Stark relented to a FaceTime call. At midnight Eastern Standard Time when Mr. Stark was spending his lunch break in a fancy hotel decked out in gold and red. Peter manages to only wince twice when Mr. Stark mentions the Sensitor upgrades and asks Peter what the issue is. 

Sometimes, Peter wonders if Mr. Stark is so busy that he forgot he gave Peter the task of investigating these murders.

“Mr. Stark, sir,” Peter begins only to get cut off. 

“Christ, kid, haven’t I told you to call me Tony by now?”  

“Sorry, sir,” Peter mumbles. “I just wanted to tell you that I have some information that could be helpful.” 

Mr. Stark isn’t even in the frame. He seems to have propped the phone up on something and Peter can see his foot in the corner of one screen. He hears the chinking sounds of china. At Peter’s declaration, Mr. Stark jumps back into the camera’s vision and holds a beer, shaking it at Peter. “What did Deadpool do?” 

Peter shakes his head viciously. “Nothing! That’s not it. It’s not Deadpool. Well. It’s kind of Deadpool…”

“I knew it! What did I say, kid, I’ve been collecting data on these characters for a long time. FRIDAY is programmed to compile criminal histories and propose the most likely culprit for a given area, based on who’s present in the population and the parameters of each crime.” 

“Mr. Stark, would you just listen to me for a moment?” Peter pleads. “That’s not what I mean. Remember how Deadpool and I found the body?”

“It was like a little over a week ago, Peter.” He ignores Mr. Stark’s "duh" face.  

“Apparently, it shook him so much that he asked Weasel to ask around for any information about it. Weasel says a friend saw a biohazard truck at the crime scene that day. A blue one, with a crab logo.” 

Mr. Stark sips his beer thoughtfully. “That’s actually useful.” 

Peter nods fervently in agreement. “Yes, I know!” 

“What company did the truck belong to?” 

“Um, I’m not sure…?”  

“Then why did you call me? I can’t help you if I don’t know what type of truck it is.” Mr. Stark raises one eyebrow in a way that Peter’s always found intimidating.  

“That’s a very, very good point, sir. I just thought you might like to know?” It comes out as a question. 

“Well, now I know. So, you see the next step then. Figure out what company owns the truck and we can start to see if there are any real connections to be made.” 

Before Mr. Stark can hang up, Peter shouts, words coming out of his mouth quicker than he can think. “I want to ask Weasel and Wade to help!” 

Mr. Stark freezes with his index finger hovering over the ‘end call’ button. His face drops tiredly and disapprovingly. “What, kid?” 

“I want to have Weasel and Wa—Deadpool help us out with this.” And before Mr. Stark can get anymore judgmental, Peter breathes in and collects his thoughts.

He only has one chance at this. “Look, Mr. Stark. I had no leads. You had no leads. The best piece of evidence we’ve gotten so far was the chemical composition of the corpse from the alleyway, which I found by pure chance. Now, Weasel was able to drum up what could be an important piece of this puzzle, all without knowing the information that we do. Weasel doesn’t know anything about the other bodies or Esther’s identity. But, Deadpool called Weasel the night we found the body and it took Weasel almost no time to pick up a clue.” 

Mr. Stark is beginning to turn very purple in color. 

“Be honest, Mr. Stark. There’s a reason why you asked me for help. You’re not in the position to help yourself. I know you want to, but like you said you don’t have the anonymity or freedom to cruise your connections like before the Accords. These two are extremely well connected. I think they must have eyes everywhere. And Deadpool! Deadpool is invested in this murder; he went to Weasel himself without me bringing it up. He said he doesn’t like crimes like this in his territory.” 

Maybe that wasn’t the best phrase to add in to further his argument, but Peter bulldozes on Miley Cyrus style—like a wrecking ball. If Mr. Stark doesn’t listen now, he won’t ever. He’ll go back to sipping champagne and send a search party out for Deadpool’s arrest out of spite. Peter’s unsure of the history between them, but there must be one because Mr. Stark really doesn’t seem to like Deadpool. 

“I just. I think they could help, Mr. Stark. Even better, I think they might want to help. Let me tell them the rest of the details we know about the murders. They might be able to find something that we can’t. If they’re as quick as they were with the truck thing, then we might be able to fix this before another child’s body or whatever they are pops up.” In the frame of the phone, Mr. Stark is rubbing his temples and eyes.  

“Please, Mr. Stark,” Peter asks because Aunt May raised him with manners. Being polite can get you a lot of places. 

“Fine.” The word sounds like it was pulled from lava. “Fine. You can show them the rest of the data. But, Peter?” 

“Yes, Mr. Stark?” Peter asks, heart pounding in disbelief.  

Mr. Stark wipes a hand over his face and crouches, face right into the camera, staring Peter’s eyes down with stunning accuracy for a FaceTime call.  

“Do not under any circumstance tell them anything about you. Don’t give them your name, or your address, or your real phone number. Anything identifying? Guard it tightly. I sent you after Deadpool because I had to, not because I wanted to. You were my last resort, Peter. Not because you’re not good at fighting crime, but because these people are dangerous.” 

Peter bites his lip and nods in agreement. 

“I told you when you took the envelope: these people might look like everyday criminals, hell—they might even look like mundane civilians—they aren’t. Do not forget who they are or their business. They’re not harmless because they sat and had a beer with you. And they’re certainly not your friends. If they figured out who you were, I don’t doubt it would only take a minute’s deliberation before they sold your identity to the highest bidder. Spider-Man has made a lot of enemies in the past few years, whether you recognize it or not.” 

Peter feels a creeping sense of fear lick up his spine.  

“If you’re going to do this, then play safe, kid. Keep being Ben Weber and only take what you need.” 

Releasing his lip, Peter sets his face sternly. “I’m not a kid anymore, Mr. Stark.” 

“Then be careful not to act like one, Peter. Kids take things at face value and accept only what they see as truth. Adults know the outside is just the tip of the iceberg because they’ve learned to read between the lines.” 

Peter has no way of knowing if Weasel took a sledgehammer to that phone or not, so he opens his burner phone and sends Wade a text, nerves starting to flutter up in his stomach. 

Do you have any free time today?  

The response has no waiting time. omg bb is this ur 1st booty call?!?  

Coughing at the heart-eyed emoji attached to the text, Peter quickly responds. No, I mean are you and Weasel free sometime today? 

omg bambi plz tell me ur not into weas
im so much more hot even w/ skin thing
will not condone 3sum w/ weas
will only consider 3sums w/ u + twin if u hav
 

“Oh my God!” Peter coughs even more violently, face on fire. “What is wrong with you?” I don’t want any threesomes!

thats wat I thought bambi
seemed vry happy w/ me 
last nite bb boy  

Peter bangs his head on his crate-table. I just want to meet with you and Weasel about something important I need to tell you. And also, I didn’t see you last night? What are you talking about? 

oh kthen, y u didn’t jus say?
u always make me nervous
 

“I make you nervous?” 

sister maggie’s @ 9PM tonite?
weas can bring us upstairs
 

Ok, I’ll see you then.  

Peter sighs in relief. He can do this. He just needs to gather up all of the documents from the envelope, minus the dossiers, and ask Weasel and Wade if they could help him. It would be easy, right? They both know he’s interested in these murders because Ben Weber ran into one. It totally makes sense if Ben Weber wants resolution, right? Like, closure? 

kk bb c u tonite then so excited
btw, wud also consider 3sum w/ ryan reynolds
 

I don’t know who that is, Wade.  

y does every1 h8 canada???  

When Peter walks into Sister Margaret’s he’s met at the door by Weasel. The bar is in full swing, as usual, but a huge, orange traffic cone is sitting on the bar. It has a piece of printer paper taped onto it and in black marker, it reads: BRB. 

“Come on, Mouse, follow me,” Weasel says and leads him to a door that Peter never noticed before. It opens to a staircase that they climb in companionable silence.  

Peter’s hiking boots squish wetly on the stairs and he shivers the entire walk up. His Ben Weber costume isn’t very warm. The coat, which he loves, is one that Aunt May and he got at a good price at the Salvation Army store four years ago. It had been big on him then and it still is now. Over the years though, washing and drying has worn its padding down to the point where it’s starting to become a fashion statement rather than a functional piece of clothing. But, Peter only has two coats: this one and a black parka that is not okayed Ben Weber wardrobe. So, it was this or nothing. 

It’s still snowing outside. The hiking boots are a blessing, but Peter’s jeans and scarf are wet where the snow has fallen on him and melted.  

His hands are so cold, they’re tingling with heat where they are curled around his manila envelope which is too, dotted with snow spots. His cheeks are so cold, he feels like he’s just gotten out of the dentist post-drilling. 

Do spiders die in cold temperatures? Peter thinks he read that somewhere once. Getting bitten by a radioactive spider didn’t make Peter more resilient to the elements. If anything, he can’t stand the cold. And he can’t tolerate heat very well either.  

“Alright,” Weasel says, keys jingling as he opens a series of complicated locks on the door at the top of the stairs. “Get inside, your fangirl is waiting for you. If we’re lucky, he hasn’t made T-shirts or tattooed your name across his forehead when I was gone.” 

Peter walks into what he assumes is Weasel’s apartment. The entire place is a mess of plaid furniture and cluttered tables full of tech equipment. Peter’s eyes bulge, skipping over the computer parts from all generations to the array of devices that look suspiciously like mixes of alien tech and old Stark tech. Nothing looks like a weapon. Actually, every device or part seems to have little keyboards or meters on them.  

“Don’t mind the laboratory, Mouse, just kick something aside and make yourself at home,” Weasel says, carelessly doing as he preaches. He picks a huge monitor off of a chair and puts it carefully on the ground, sitting down in the seat. Peter follows his example. On the chair next to Weasel’s is a small device that is about the size of a graphing calculator. It’s gray and long with a bunch of switches and dials and an old-fashioned scale with a needle at the top.

Peter picks it up with careful hands, one on the panel and one on a tube connected to it and puts it gently on the table. As he does, he sees a little swirly logo in the corner of the device. 

“What’s this?” Peter asks. 

Weasel’s grabbed a beer off the table and takes a swig. “Geiger Counter.”  

“A what?” 

“Ludlum Model 9 survey meters with attached Geiger-Muller tubes,” Weasel elaborates like that’s supposed to clear anything up. Peter lets it go and instead, points at the logo. 

“Is that an Oscorp logo?” 

“Yep,” Weasel pops the ‘p’ with an air of accomplishment about him. 

Just then, footsteps like a stampede of elephants boom behind them and Peter turns to see Wade. Actually Wade. Dressed in a pair of black Nike sweatpants and a green sweatshirt pulled over a black top. His mask is still on, but Peter is remarkably surprised to see that it’s pulled up to the nose showing off his neck, chin, and mouth.  

“Bambi!” he cries with a huge grin and barrels over clunkily. He grabs a seat from behind Weasel, drops the tech on it to the floor carelessly ignoring Weasel’s protest, and parks the chair right in between Weasel and Peter. When he sits, Peter sees that his hands are gloveless. Peter eyes the skin greedily.  

He didn’t get a good look at Wade’s hands the last time they were together, although he did feel them—stop that train of thought immediately, please. Now, in Weasel’s dimly lit apartment, he sees the scars stretching out on both hands, curling up the wrists and out of sight underneath the long sleeves of Wade’s sweatshirt. 

Peter notices, with great interest, that the scars are not symmetrical. Each scar pattern is unique to each hand. Like the ones on Wade’s chin and neck, some are red, some are pink, and some are silvery. They all wrap around his large, boxy hands and strong, thick fingers.  

Curiously, Peter peeks up to Wade’s chin and realizes that the scars he saw there before are not the same ones there are now. They’re different. 

It strikes Peter there that this must be a side effect of his healing gene. Constant regeneration. Rapid regeneration, his skin cell index must be astounding. Peter wonders if the rapid turnover rate means that Wade’s skin overproduces some cells in certain areas and maybe that’s why he has what appears to be scarring. That would explain why they’re all in different stages of healing and why some are gone, while other appear in their wake. Which would mean Wade’s skin isn’t actually scarred at all. But they do look like scars? 

Wade holds his hand out, palm up to Peter and Peter realizes that he’s put the envelope on his lap and instead, has been rubbing his palms together this entire time trying to warm them up. 

Without hesitation, Peter reaches out with both hands and grabs Wade’s in between them. His hand is huge against Peter’s. Rough and soft. And so very warm—like, extra hot. Is his regeneration linked to increased body temperature? As the warmth transfers to his hands, Peter sags in relief and moans contentedly, eyes closing for a moment. 

“Fucking hell, guys,” Weasel whines. “Leave room for Jesus, will you?” 

Jumping a bit, Peter snaps his eyes open and looks past Wade who is chuckling with a shit-eating grin to look sheepishly at Weasel. “It’s like I died and woke up in the Groundhog Day for Pride Week. Can you two get any more gay? Should I be expecting either of you to start shitting rainbows anytime soon or are you going to save that for your debut in Queer as Folk?” 

Wade’s hand curls around Peter’s, squeezing reassuringly and not letting him pull away. “It’s cute when you play no homo, Weas. You used to have pictures of Brian Kinney all over your bathroom wall. I think I read about it in your diary.” 

Peter thinks its another friendly joke, but Weasel sputters and adjusts his glasses needlessly. “You read my diary?” 

“You left it locked in a drawer.” Wade shrugs like that doesn’t sound suspicious at all. 

“This definitely violates bro-code. And my treasured privacy in my own home.” Weasel moans, looking betrayed.  

“Shut up and make Bambi a hot chocolate.” 

“I’m a thirty-nine-year-old man, Wilson, not a Mexican abuela. I have coffee or nothing.” Wade brings his other hand to cup Peter’s, warmth coming with them. Peter tries not to shiver too obviously as he presses his hands into Wade’s, finally starting to feel the tingling sensation of blood running back to his extremities. 

“You have some Swiss K-cups under the sink. Next to the Gushers and Dunkaroos.” 

There’s a quick mumble of “Fuck you, Wade”. Then Weasel is up and diving under the sink where he pulls out a little plastic cup. Grumbling, he walks over to a Keurig and shoves it inside, throwing a mug underneath it, and pressing the brew button. 

“What did you bring for show and tell, baby boy?” Wade murmurs, fingers running over Peter’s. His voice makes Peter feel light-headed. “Color me curious. That’s a mighty big envelope.” 

Peter’s hands clench a little and the nerves, which had been kept at bay during his walk here, are back full force. How did he plan this again? He’d practiced, rehearsing in his head during his shift with Mr. Delmar. He clears his throat a little bit. 

“Uhm,” he begins, but Weasel cuts him off by wandering over and plopping a mug on the table next to Wade and Peter’s intertwined hands. The mug has If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy stamped across it. 

“Give it a second to cool, it comes out like lava.” Weasel falls back into his seat, crosses his legs and arms, then looks expectantly at Peter. “Spit it out, Mouse. You’re among intimate company. I’m pretty sure I gave you your first drink and Wade was your first fuck.” 

Wade hisses dangerously at that, but Weasel just looks at him in question eyes round. “What? Really? You haven’t fucked him yet?” Peter does his tomato impression. Spot on.  

“Shut the fuck up, Weasel.” 

“Ah, you didn’t fuck him yet. He fucked you? You did limp here last night. Thought I saw a little truffle butter on your suit.”  

“You’re one word away from a jingle bomb for Christmas.” 

“You don’t scare me, you big leather Daddy. Threaten all you want, but I know you’re a brony and that takes the scary out of the avocado real fast.” 

Peter just decides that he needs to cut this down before the two of them get into bantering again. It feels like he’s babysitting two tween boys that spent their night reading up on Urban Dictionary. Pulling his hands away from Wade’s, resulting in a wounded whine of abandon, Peter gestures to try to get their attention. It doesn’t work, the two keep bickering incessantly.  

Patience wearing, Peter grabs his hot chocolate and proclaims, “I stole a pinky finger from the corpse we found.”  

Dammit. Ground, please open up and swallow him whole. Peter really needs to work on his introductory lines.  

The dumbfounded faces that regard him send Peter into defense mode. Setting the mug aside, he grabs the envelope and starts pulling papers out.  

“I thought there was something off about the body, so I took a,” he gulps, trying to save himself with professionalism, “Sample. I was right. The bones weren’t bones at all, they were high definition polyethylene. In white, of course, and molded to look like a finger bone. It was a plastic fingerbone overlaid with organic material that seemed to be skin and muscle. I don’t think the body was human at all.” 

“It was a cyborg child?” Wade cuts in, in shock with his mouth gaping and eyes wide and white in the mask. 

Weasel, on the other hand, looks pensive. “Cyborgs are part machine, part human, Wade. Think Cable. No plastic, mostly metal, and silicone.” 

Peter looks down at the pile of papers in his hands. Go big or go home, right?  

“Look, that body wasn’t the first one to be found like that. It’s just the latest one in a string of crimes scenes found over the past ten months.” Peter swallows and holds out a packet of the photos of Esther and the nine other children. 

Wade snatches the pictures up, starting to flip through them energetically. Weasel huddles in close to him, sedate until he takes a good look at them. Then he rears back, white as a sheet. Hands flying to his face he turns away, back to Wade, and groans queasily.  

“Oh God,” he wheezes, “I don’t do well with violence! I mean the blood, and the viscera, and the blood. Oh God. I think the room is spinning.” He crouches, shoving his head between his legs. “This feels a lot like that time Wade convinced me to watch Evil Dead last Halloween.” 

“That movie’s a classic,” Wade murmurs, but his voice has lost all of its usual humor. Everything about his posture has changed. He doesn’t look playful like he normally is around Peter. He looks tense.  

Peter exhales a little, leaning toward him. “They’re disturbing, I know. But, if those photos are of bodies like the one we found in the alley, then I don’t think they’re actually bodies. I don’t think they were ever children at all.” 

Wade doesn’t look up from the photographs, but he answers, “How certain are you that the whole skeleton was plastic, rather than just the finger you took?” 

The olfactory memory of the harsh scent of burnt plastic waves in front of Peter’s nose. It’s what led him to the body in the first place, like a dog following a steak. The scent was so strong to Peter’s enhanced senses that he’s certain the entire skeleton was plastic. If it had just been the finger, the scent wouldn’t have assaulted him at the magnitude it did.  

“I’m extremely certain.” 

“Could it have been an implant or a prosthetic?” 

Peter hesitates. It’s a good question, but it doesn’t fit. “I’m not an expert, but despite advances in biomechanical engineering, I don’t think we’ve invented prosthetics covered with skin and muscle. As for implants, to implant an entire finger out of plastic? I’ve never heard of such a thing before. I don’t think it’s likely.”

Wade nods as Weasel finally picks himself up, breathing fine, but looking a little green. Both of them fix their eyes on Peter.

“Isn’t this good news, then?” Weasel remarks, hand caught in his hair. “We’re happy they’re not children? Yay, no children are being butchered Dahmer style in Queens?”

To Peter’s surprise, it’s Wade that answers Weasel. “If they’re not children, then where are the children that these doppelgangers look like? Who is faking their murders and why?” Perceptive as always.

Peter, drawn by some kind of magnetism, looks at Wade who’s watching him with a solemn frown on his scarred face. The eyes in his mask look thoughtful.

“Exactly.” Peter crinkles the envelope in his hand in a battle against anxious energy. “These children have gone missing and their families think they’re dead because something—no, someone—has gone through a great amount of trouble to convince them so.”

Here’s where things get tricky. Peter swallows again, shifting in his seat. His eyes drop to his hands, then flit back up to Weasel and Wade, unable to make eye contact. “You said a friend saw a blue truck with a crab logo near the alley that day we found the body. Would it be possible for you to ask any other friends of yours if they might have seen something unusual on the dates and locations of where the other bodies were found?”

When Peter finally works up the nerve to look at Weasel in the eye, it feels like it’s the first time he met him. Gone is Weasel’s sickly pale pallor and in place is the Weasel that makes Peter unnerved. There’s a little uptick to his mouth and a shimmer in his eyes that says he’s got Peter’s number.

Peter thinks he’s about to be kicked out. Or worse.

But, Weasel just gives him a shark-like, triumphant grin like he’s caught the coppery scent of blood. “Well, if it’s for the children. I have a few more phone-a-friend cards left to cash in.”

-

While Weasel is off in another room making several phone calls, Peter is left alone with Wade. He watches as Wade puts the papers onto the table, on top of some spare bolts and circuit boards. He scoots his chair closer to the table and in effect, closer to Peter.

Peter shivers, still cold from the walk over. His pants are in the midst of drying off, but his coat seems to have lost its waterproofing along with its insulation. It’s wet. So, Peter peels it off and hangs it neatly on the back of his chair. Now, in nothing but a threadbare, worn blue shirt, Peter still feels cold.

When he goes to reach for the hot chocolate which probably isn’t hot anymore, he turns just in time to catch a green blob.

“What?” Peter asks, eyes fixing on Wade who now is dressed only in a black shirt. It’s a very fitted black shirt, he notices. Not tight, but it clings to his shoulders, pecs, and biceps very nicely.

“It’s a sweatshirt,” Wade says, voice playful again. “A shirt that you wear when you want to sweat.”

Peter nods absently, eyes still on Wade’s chest—or, his shirt. His shirt. “Is that really why it’s called that?”

Wade scoots his chair closer and now he’s saddled up next to Peter, closer than chairs are supposed to be in polite company.

“My eyes are up here, Bambi. Don’t objectify me.”

Peter clutches the sweatshirt to his chest, face heated as he quickly returns his gaze to Wade’s face. “I, I was just…”

Wade laughs, grin sharp and he leans down closer to Peter to whisper, “You didn’t let me finish. Don’t objectify me now. But, please do objectify me later. I’d be very happy if you treated me like a toy when Weasel’s gone.”

Unable to answer that, Peter groans in half-exasperation, half-interest because: teenage trigger.

“Oh, baby you are so red! Don’t explode, Bambi. Well. It’s just a matter of setting, isn’t it? Don’t combust into pieces right now, but definitely fall to pieces in my arms later. I’d like to see you explode, for sure, but from the other head, okay?”

“WADE!” Peter whisper-screams. Because Weasel is right over there in another room and Peter had arranged this visit to jumpstart the investigation of pressing matters. Not for Wade to deliver him dirty talk from the world’s worst adult film.

Wade snickers gleefully but reaches out to cup his hand on Peter’s cheek. It’s familiar, the way his thumb brushes right under Peter’s bottom lip. With it, Peter has flashbacks to the alcove. It makes his mouth feel parched. He licks his lips in default.

The action makes Wade's hand tighten fractionally. And then Wade is leaning closer, voice a subsonic growl as he says, “Ah-ah, don’t do that. Be good.”

I said, be good, baby boy.

Then all Peter can think of is Wade pressed against his back, hands shoving his pants down, pushing Peter up against the wall. Fingers wrapped around his throat. He whines unbiddenly, face pushing into Wade’s hand.

“Fuck,” Wade says, thumb giving in to touch Peter’s lips. Peter realizes that this is the first time Wade has touched his face without gloves. Before, when they’d kissed, he’d had those black leather gloves affixed to his arms. It had felt good. But now with them gone, Wade’s hands feel almost unreal. The textures of the scars are second to the sheer heat of his hands and the way they encompass Peter’s cheek with ease. His thumb on Peter’s lips feels unforgivingly sensual.

“Fuck,” Wade says again, this time to himself. He seems to shake himself once. “Okay. Okay, Bambi, I know. Deep breath, sweetheart, calm down,” he says, his voice that commiserating croon he’d definitely used before on Peter. His thumb retreats to Peter’s cheek, stroking it once. “Now’s not the time, baby boy, I’m sorry. I know I worked you up like that.”

Wade pulls his hand away to tug at the sweatshirt. “Put that on.”

In a daze and cold now that Wade’s hand is gone, Peter puts on the sweatshirt clumsily. It hangs like a robe on his frame. But, it’s soft and it smells good. Peter unconsciously pushes his nose into its collar as he adjusts it to cover his chest.

“And, you look lovely.” He hears a faint wheeze. “There’s another new kink. Oh God, shitfuck. Yes, I deserved that. Bad karma.”

Peter looks up at Wade, who jumps and actually slaps himself a bit on the cheek as if to wake himself up.

Clearing his throat, Wade taps the papers on the table. “Where’d you get these, Bambi?”

Following Wade’s finger, Peter goes cold. The photographs. He doesn’t have an excuse for the photographs or the detailed written on the backs of them. Each photograph has a space for a victim name and date of discovery. In some, the names are filled out, in others they aren’t. On the back of each photograph, there is a list of familial details, demographics, and statistics of the identified children. They’re all the same format, clearly not something written on Microsoft Word from a home-investigation. Why hadn’t he thought of an excuse for having all the photographs?

“I, well,” Peter struggles. “I have a lot of free time on my hands.” He tries, thinking for a moment that he’ll end it there, but deciding that sounds ridiculous. So, he tries to think on his feet. “The files were hacked from the NYPD’s police records database.”

It’s not a lie. But maybe the wording is ambiguous and hopefully, will lead Wade to think Peter hacked into the database. While Peter doesn’t have a lot of time on his hands, he kind of did hack into the police database. Alright, FRIDAY, as directed by Mr. Stark, hacked into the police database to get these partial case records. Peter, as part of the investigative team, then hacked by association. But, that’s not to say that Peter couldn’t hack into the police database if he wanted to.

As Ben Weber benefited from, Peter is actually quite gifted at coding. His tutelage started in school, like everyone else’s, but was nourished for a year by Ned and robotics club. After Peter started dropping out of clubs and keeping Ned at a safe arms distance away, Peter’s interest in coding had been nurtured by his Spider-Man suit, which was a goldmine of computer programming. Peter hit the library regularly to learn more, spending lunches and free periods on the library computers on practice software. He even took AP Computer Science. After graduation, he remained self-taught. Speaking tech was easier than speaking Spanish to Peter. And Peter was starting to speak Spanish pretty well.

So, it’s not really a lie. And that’s probably why Wade seems to buy it.

Instead of giving him an amused look, Wade looks at him and says, “Would you tell me if you were caught up in something dangerous?”

The question catches Peter off guard. Then an image of Larry the HVAC man pops through Peter’s head.

Peter nods naturally, “Yes, Wade.” The answer actually surprises him a bit, but he can feel that as soon as he says it that it’s the unsullied truth. “Yes, I would.”

Weasel enters the room with a fanfare of his own making. “Alright, bitches! The Game of Drones has begun. Got my eyes out, we should hear something in the next few days, I’m guessing.”

He sends a dark look to where Peter and Wade are huddled up by his table just a few inches of air separating them, Peter all cozied up in Wade’s sweatshirt. “Glad to see you two left enough room for the Holy Ghost, at least, while I was gone.”

“Thank you,” Peter says, sincerely, feeling an immense amount of relief.

“Now what?” Wade says, the eternal child.

Weasel shrugs. “I don’t know. You wanna get hig—” He’s interrupted by an alert sound. A small ping sound.

Wade jumps and fishes out his phone from his pocket. It’s an iPhone this time. What happened to that Android, Peter wonders.

“Your dry cleaning finally done?” Ah, perhaps that’s why Wade’s not wearing his suit. It’s being laundered.

“Nah, bro,” Wade says, finger swiping to unlock his phone. “Just SnapChat.”

Peter blinks. “You have a SnapChat?”

“Hellz yeah, baby boy! You want my SnapCode? I always have the best stories, probably because I have an uncanny ability to find all the cutest dogs when I go for my sprints in Central Park.”

“They almost always end up biting him. It’s hilarious. They must think his supersuit is a big chew toy,” Weasel snickers. “Well, who’s it from?”

Peter watches him but can’t really see Wade’s phone because it’s pulled up to his face. He does see the way Wade stiffens though. “Uh, hey guys? Didn’t we say it was a blue biohazard truck we’re looking for?”

“Yes?” Peter says and sees Wade move frantically to take a screenshot. In a half-second, he turns the phone around and holds it out to Peter and Weasel.

“Like this?”

Peter and Weasel crowd forward to see the picture. Peter looks disbelievingly as there, on Wade’s phone, is a picture of an African American girl with a beautiful afro making a funny peace sign into the camera, holding an ice cream cone. In the background, on the road behind her, is an aqua blue truck that reads GANICORE in bold capital letters, with a small font underneath it reading: Medical Waste Specialists.

“Who sent you that?”

Wade points to the girl in the photo. “My friend Domino.”

Weasel curses beside Peter. “Her superpower is real.”

Peter looks between Wade and Weasel. “What’s her superpower?”

“Luck,” Wade says kissing his phone before crossing his forearms in front of his body. “X-Force!”

Peter drinks his hot chocolate as Weasel types furiously. He’d stolen Wade’s phone and uploaded the screenshot one of his computers. The picture was a little blurry, so Weasel decided it would be best if they blow it up in size to see if they could get any more information out of it. Unfortunately, it’s a photo of the middle of the truck, with the back and front cut off. So, they can’t see who’s driving or the license plate, but Peter’s desperate for any information so he encourages Weasel with a nod.

While the photo is blown up in size, loading on a PC, Weasel pulls a Mac out and begins looking up the company. He’s found a whole Ganicore website. There’s nothing suspicious about it. Their entire services, with prices, are listed on their business website. Weasel reads aloud as he flits through pages, About Us, Our Services, Hazardous Waste, Contact Us.

Halfway through the list, Wade mutters, “Boring as hell, Weasel, find something useful.” Then throws his legs up on Weasel’s abandoned chair. He reaches out to grab things from the hoard on Weasel’s table.

“Well, I can tell you their quotes for waste by weight,” Weasel says.

“That’s stupid, we don’t need to know that.” Wade grabs a few bolts and tosses them in the air a few times before dropping throwing them with great aim into the kitchen sink. Right into the drain, Peter thinks.

“What about who they work for?” Peter tries, wracking his mind to come up with some useful connection.

“Themselves. They’re an independent company. No bosses,” Weasel replies but begins to type furiously again.

“That’s so helpful, not,” Wade says, grabbing a keyboard, eying it distastefully and throwing that too to the ground. Like a sullen toddler. He’d tried to play footsie with Peter when Weasel started up his computers, but Peter had kicked him sharply in the chin with a chastising look.

Wade had pouted, and the grouching began.

“Stop throwing my shit, Wilson!”

“Shit goes down the toilet, Weasel.”

“What about if they have any contracts with anyone?” Peter interjects courageously, desperate to keep them on topic.

“I would assume they have contracts with each of their clients,” Weasel tells Peter before yelling, “The only piece of shit here is you, Wilson! Why don’t you go flush yourself in the bathroom?”

Peter pokes Wade, making him moan like he’s been struck by lightning. “Calm down!” Peter says, then lowers his voice so only Wade can hear it. “Can we finish this, please? We’ll play footsie later.”

“You two are not fucking in my house. I don’t have enough Clorox.”

But it’s worth it, Peter thinks because Wade perks up like a toddler given a lollipop. He’s all smiles and instead of throwing something at Weasel’s head, he grabs the meter thing that was occupying Peter’s chair when he got here.

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Wade promises, then busies himself with flicking switches and twisting dials.

The sounds of the printer emerge, and Weasel gets up, walking a few feet before collecting the papers that come out. He hands them to Peter.

“What’s this?”

“Found their monthly schedule, Mouse,” Weasel says, pointing to a few lines on the page. In the background, the device in Wade’s hand starts clicking slowly, but Weasel seems determined to ignore him. “The places they pick waste up from are their clients. It’s the usual that you might expect for biohazard pick up: hospitals, laboratories, universities.”

Wade, seemingly unhappy that Weasel is closer to Peter than he is, scoots his chair forward obnoxiously, finally dropping his legs to the ground, the clicking increasing in tempo as he approaches.

Peter scans the paper, reading quickly but diligently. He sees one name that strikes him oddly. “Isn’t this a little weird?”

“What?” Weasel asks.

Kindika Behavioral Health Services,” Peter reads.

“Why is that weird?” Wade asks, scooting again.

“Because it’s a behavioral health center. You know, like psychiatry and therapy services, probably. Why would that business have any type of biohazardous waste?”

Weasel leans forward closely to see the name of the company better. “You’re right. It wouldn’t."

In silent competition with Weasel, and not to be outdone, Wade pushes himself right into Peter’s space, looking at the paper too. In his hand, the device he’s holding goes wild, suddenly ticking at a high frequency in a way that is unbearably obnoxious. It hurts Peter’s ears, but it must be loud to everyone because all three of them pop apart; Weasel taking a step back, Wade jumping a bit, and Peter almost tipping his chair backward.

When Wade jumps back in his seat, the ticking audibly slows down to a sluggish pattern.

“What did you say this does again?” Wade asks, finally looking up at Weasel for the first time since he started throwing Weasel’s belongings around like pennies into a wishing well.

“It’s a Geiger Counter,” Weasel says and there’s something in his voice that makes Peter turn instantly to look at him. “It measures radioactivity.”

The coldness that washes over Peter is like falling into an abyss. His vision actually blurs for a minute when his heart races, going from a normal beat to clenching with terror. It jackrabbits entirely too fast to be healthy.

Before Peter can hyperventilate, he clutches the papers to his chest and looks at the table. “Must be broken, right? It was on the table with all the other deconstructed pieces of tech?”

“It could be,” Weasel says, and Peter, loathe to do so, but unable to stop himself glances up at him.

Weasel is looking disquietingly sagacious and a quick peek at Wade reveals an identical expression. It shakes Peter to the core.

Abort. Abort. Oh, God, where is help when he needs it?

“Uh,” Peter blinks rapidly. “Is the picture done printing yet?” 

With his lungs burning, Peter flies into his apartment gasping for breath, the envelope of papers hugged to his chest like a lifeline. After grabbing the printout from Weasel, he’s stuttered out something he can’t remember and hightailed it out of there.

He practically ran to his apartment.

As soon as he gets inside, his first instinct is to head to the couch. But Peter smacks himself in the face with the envelope and stops.

“No,” he says aloud like an utter psycho to himself. “No crisis tonight. You have too much work to do. Pull yourself together, Parker.”

So he sits on his bed, grabs his laptop, and starts running another search on Kindika.

Peter’s falling asleep on his laptop, brain filled to the brim with a hundred useless details about Ganicore and Kindika when he feels the phone in his pocket buzz. On reflex, he grabs the phone, unlocks it, and glances at it.

hi bb u left in a rush didnt u

Peter is gifted with feeling a mess of excitement and dread. He’s lighting up like a teenage girl, excited that Wade’s talking to him because for some reason, he always finds himself thinking about Wade when he’s not near him. And then he feels positively dreadful because there’s no way Wade is going to let what happened go.

Peter doesn’t even know what happened. Why had Weasel’s radioactivity detector gone off when it had been shoved into Peter’s space? Peter hasn’t had any medical specialists perform an assessment on him since the spider bite. Only Karen, who runs vitals scans after particularly challenging fights, has a key into his biology.

But, radioactive spider bite plus Peter equals radioactive Peter? It’s not a farfetched idea.

Whatever happened, it wasn’t normal. The device had been sedate next to Wade.

Sorry, I’m really worked up about this whole thing.
I’ve been thinking about it nonstop.
I can’t believe we found the truck.
I just spent 4 hours researching Kindika.
Found nada importante.

its 3AM bambi
y dont u just g2 sleep?
U can research tmrw

Peter is exhausted mentally and physically. And emotionally, too. This entire shebang is a whirlwind in addition to his usual storm of a life. But, he also feels restive and unsettled. He doubts he can do more than doze.

I don’t think I can sleep.

y not?

Don’t know.
Just thinking too much.
Feeling restless.

u need to calm down n relax
u wanna have phone sex?

Thank God for Peter’s reflexes, because he catches the laptop just as it’s about to crash to the floor.

u promised me footsie
ull like it i promise ;)

Then his phone rings and Peter automatically answers before he can think better of it.

“Hi, Bambi! I can’t believe you’re still up. I thought you said you work?”

Peter sets the laptop aside, cringing at the reminder of his morning shift. “I do have work.”

“What time does work start?”

“My shift starts at five in the morning,” Peter sighs.

“Baby,” Wade sounds disapproving and worried once. “You have to be at work in like two hours.”

“Please, don’t remind me.”

“Go to sleep, Bambi, you’re going to be tired as hell,” Wade says.

Peter drops to the bed, making a frustrated sound, phone clutched to his ear. “I can’t.”

“What are you wearing?”

“Are you serious, Wade?” he asks flatly.

“What?!” Wade says indignantly. “It’s an innocent question. I’d really like to know what you are wearing. Especially because you seem to have left something important of yours behind earlier.”

Peter looks down at himself. He’s wearing everything he left the apartment in. Except he traded his coat for Wade’s green sweatshirt. His coat must still be drying on Weasel’s dining room chair. “Crap.”

“Mhm. Forgot your coat, boo,” Wade scolds. “I wasn’t very happy that you left without it considering you came to Weasel’s place looking like Frosty. I don’t want you to disappear and leave me with a hat when the summer comes.”

“Ugh, I’ll just get it next time I go to Sister Margaret’s.” Good thing he has another coat.

“You haven’t even changed, have you? You’re still wearing all of your clothes. Please, tell me you at least took your shoes off.”

“I did take my shoes off. I wasn’t going to track black snow into my apartment. That’s disgusting.” The snow from the city is purely gross, all colored by exhaust. Peter doesn’t want to have to clean more than he needs to. He left his boots by the door.

“You feeling tired yet?” Wade asks, cheekily.

“I’m always tired,” Peter retorts with too much honesty.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that.” Wade’s quiet for a moment. “Take your clothes off.”

“Wade—”

“C’mon, Bambi, are you going to work in those clothes too?”

“Well, no.”

“So, take them off. You have two hours to kill. You could at least get comfy. Go ahead, I can wait.”

Peter knows Wade is right. He’s not going to wear these clothes to work, because he’ll have to change into his uniform of khakis and a Delmar T-shirt. So, he drops the phone on the bed and gets up. He tears off his jeans, kicking them to the floor, peels off Wade’s sweatshirt then tosses his shirt to the floor while toeing off his socks. When he’s in his briefs, he settles back on the bed.

His heater’s all fixed, but it’s still kind of chilly in the room. He grabs Wade’s green sweatshirt and pulls it back on, hissing a little when the coolness of the zipper hits his bare skin before it warms up with his body heat. Throwing himself in bed, he pulls the phone back to his ears, squirming on the bed to try to warm the sheets up.

“In your jammies now?” Wade asks cheerfully.

“Um, yeah, pretty much,” Peter responds, snuggling down into the sweatshirt. It’s soft inside. He hadn’t noticed before because he’d been wearing a shirt.

“What’s that mean?” Wade asks, then tacks on, “Oh God, please tell me you’re naked wearing my hoodie.”

Peter pulls the phone back for a moment, just to check. No, he’s not on FaceTime. “I’m not really…naked.”

“Are you wearing those itsy-bitsy briefs I saw the other day?” Wade sounds mischievous.

“Wade!” he complains but doesn’t deny it.

“Ohmigod, you are!”

“You can’t be naked if you’re wearing a sweatshirt,” Peter grumbles, all sass.

“Grouchy, little know-it-all,” Wade teases, then his voice turns persuasive. “Close your eyes.”

“Why?” he snaps.

“Just do it.”

Grunting, Peter lets his eyes fall closed. His eyelids are so heavy, it’s no great feat.

“My hoodie’s soft, isn’t it?”

“Comfy,” he concedes. Because it is. Peter is keeping this hoodie.

Wade chuckles. “Yeah, I know. It’s fuzzy on the inside, like a fur coat. I thought you might like it. You’re very sensitive. It feels good against your skin, doesn’t it?”

Peter frowns. “How do you know I’m sensitive?”

“Everything about you is sensitive.” Wade makes an evasive sound. “Besides, I would know. I’ve touched you before, remember?”

“Yeah.” How could Peter ever forget? It was the singular hottest experience of his young life. If that’s what first times are always like, then Peter suddenly understands the drama of high school.

“Do you want me to touch you again?”

“Yes…” It comes out as a bare whisper. Like it’s a secret admittance. It’s not a secret. Wade already knows, but Peter feels weird confessing it. He doesn’t think that Wade is going to reject him, but Peter’s very skilled at pushing people away and making them feel like it was their idea. He doesn’t want to do that with Wade. If anything, he wants the opposite. The ferociousness of that desire is jarring.

When Wade responds, his voice takes on that manner that makes Peter’s insides melt. “Here’s what we’re going to do, Bambi. I want you to keep your eyes closed and listen to me. Do you think you can do that?”

“Wade—”

“You don’t have to say anything, baby, just let me do all the talking. Maybe answer me once in a while to make sure I’m on the right path. Not too much effort. What do you think?”

“Okay.” Peter feels unsure. He’s only unsure because he doesn’t want this to be awkward. He wants it to be good. He wants to be good. Not harsh and ill-timed, like his introductory one liners lately. Wade is more experienced than him and he wants to measure up. He wants Wade to get something out of this too.

“You can tell me to stop whenever and I will. You don’t need to worry, sweetheart. Just let me take care of you. I want you to put the phone down and put me on speaker.”

“Okay,” Peter repeats, trying to not sound so lost at sea. There’s that offer to stop again. Wade always gives him an out if he needs it. Peter doesn’t want one. He wants in. He wants Wade to let him in, so he can figure out all of his odds and ends; he wants to solve him as much as he wants to touch him.

“Tell me when you’ve done it.”

Peter shifts again, bringing the phone away from his ear. He taps the speaker icon, then puts the phone down, next to his left ear on the bed. “Alright, I did it.”

“Very good, baby boy.”

Be good, baby boy. Peter can’t stop the memory of Wade’s words from pushing its way to the forefront of his brain. It makes his body shudder.

“Take your right hand and run it through your hair.”

Honestly, not what Peter was expecting. But, he does it anyway. It feels calming. His hair is unruly, as usual, but soft. It’s probably time for a haircut.

“Tug a little bit for me, right at the roots.”

Peter does and lets out a soft hum. It’s cathartic. Like a massage, with his stress being pulled out of his body from the top. It felt good when Wade did it to him too, but different. More shameless.

Wade laughs, softly. “I know, feels nice, doesn’t it? Move your hand down over your cheek. Do you know what the first thing I noticed about you was?”

“That I shouldn’t be drinking a beer?” Peter quips, fingers drifting across his own cheeks. They’re more hollow than they used to be. Peter can’t tell if it’s from maturing or his poor diet.

“Smart-mouth. I’ll take that as a confession, by the way,” Wade chides. “No, you little menace. Your eyes—hook, line, and sinker right then and there, I’m afraid. The freckles were just the sprinkles on the icing. Press your index finger against your lips and trace your mouth.”

His eyes. What had Wade said? Holy fucking doe eyes, Batman. (Who the hell was Batman?) Peter doesn’t know why Wade saw his eyes first. They’re muddy brown, the same color as his hair. Too expressive, he thinks. They get him in trouble. What would Wade have thought if he saw Peter in his old glasses?

“Your mouth was next though. I thought I was going to cry when you finally kissed me. You’re beautiful, you know that?”

Well, that’s just backward. As soon as Peter had seen Wade’s mouth, he’d fantasized about it right in the middle of dinner.

“Wade, no I’m not.” He’s not. He’s just average. It’s Wade that looks like a work of art. Everything from the bone structure to the bulk to the migrating scars on his skin. He doesn’t look real.

“Yes, you are. And so is your mouth. You’re always biting your bottom lip or pressing your lips together, did you notice?”

“I do?”

“You do. Almost as much as you wrinkle your nose.”

“I do not wrinkle my nose.” Peter doesn’t do that. He would have noticed.

“Yes, you do, constantly. It’s your thinking face, often worn when you’re looking out into blank space.”

“Wade, you’re lying!” he protests, a mix of embarrassed and amused by the teasing. Only Wade would joke like this when he’s trying to play phone footsie. Peter doesn’t have any references to compare, but he just knows it.

“I never lie. Run your fingers down your neck, softly. Don’t press down hard, just feel your fingertips brush against your skin.”

Peter keeps his hand light, and shivers, breathing harshly at the sensation. He didn’t know this was a thing. He never had his neck grabbed in this context before Wade. When Wade had done it, waiting for Peter to guide him, it had felt like he was connecting himself to Wade. Peter had felt powerful and powerless simultaneously. Safe, secure, but reckless and vulnerable.

“Like that, don’t you? Put your hand on your neck now. Squeeze, gently.”

The hum he emits sounds more like a moan.

“Yeah, there you go, baby,” Wade croons, “We’re going to keep that hand right there for a bit. Pick your other hand up and scrape your nails against your collarbone.”

His fingernails are torn and bitten. They scratch unforgivingly against the thin skin stretched across his bones.

“Careful, baby, don’t hurt yourself. Not without me there to make it better.”

The sensation is a mix of tickling and pain. He feels like a bundle of nerves. Does it feel like this for everyone? Or is it his heightened senses? He feels so much more now.

“Run your fingers along your nipples. Do you remember how I touched you when I pressed you up against the wall? You made such sweet sounds when I twisted your nipples, baby, I bet you caught the ear of some people walking by. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stayed there to watch the show you put on. It was probably quite a performance, right? Such a pretty thing half-naked, whining for me, cock dripping and hard. Are you hard now, baby?”

The image hits him abruptly. Had he been loud? He hadn’t noticed; it had felt like he and Wade were in their own bubble. The thought of someone watching them during such intimacy is wrong. Peter feels a heady mix of shame and excitement.

“Lick your fingers. Right now, get them nice and wet, then pinch your nipple again and pretend it’s my tongue. Next time I have you, I’m going to suck on these until you squirm.”

Peter brings his hand up and lets his tongue swipe once, conservatively, then again unreserved, following Wade’s directions with his stomach churning. Behind his eyelids, he sees Wade hovering over his chest, mouth open. His tongue would feel like it had on Peter’s when they kissed. Slick and hot, like the rest of him.

Peter moans.

“Are you making pretty noises, sweetheart? Don’t hold your neck too hard, I want to hear you.”

Unconsciously, Peter’s hand relaxes on his throat. He hadn’t even noticed how hard he’d been gripping it—he only realizes when he lets it go and he gasps for oxygen, a whine following his pants.

“That’s a good boy.”

God, why does Wade say that? Does he know that it makes Peter feel like he’s been dipped in hot wax? Why does Peter like it when he says that?

“Move your hand down your chest.” Peter whines in loss. “I know, Bambi, we’ll come back to your nipples, I promise. Do you want to keep your briefs on or take them off?”

Peter doesn’t answer. He’s not sure, so he makes a questioning sound.

“I can think up some fun times with you in or out of them. Believe me, I always want you naked. I can tell you’re sounding a little shy. It’s okay if you want to hide a bit, you can keep them on and feel safe. But you should know, if you choose to keep them on, I’m gonna make you come in them, then give them to me all dirty. And I’m going to keep them and lick at your come when I get horny and want you.”

“Ngh,” Peter’s hips buck up at their own accord, calves tightening as a shot of arousal burns him. It’s scalding. Wade always has something filthy to say. He and Weasel trade jokes in bad taste with all sorts of nasty words and concepts as easy as drinking water. When Wade had him in the alcove, his motor mouth hadn’t stopped there. Or so Peter had thought. Had Wade been holding back on him? For him? What a horrible idea. Wade sounds like all the vulgar captioned porn Peter’s ever watched on incognito tabs. He didn’t know people sounded like this in reality.

Everything about Wade’s words makes him shiver and his body lurch in desire. Even the perceptive comment he dropped, knowing that Peter is still adjusting to this new skin. And especially the fantasy of Wade, who could have anyone he wanted, wanting Peter of all people.

Would Wade really do that? Lick Peter’s come like its candy?

Peter’s hands shift restlessly on his chest. God, yes. He’s not sure what sound he’s making; it’s more broken toy than human.

“Like that too, huh, baby? Do you like it when I talk dirty to you? I can do that real well, you just hang tight.”

Does that mean Wade thinks he hasn’t been doing it well already? It gets better than this?

“You want to keep them on or off? Just one question, sweetheart, deep breath, I know.”

Peter takes a shaky breath in. It’s hard to breathe normally. “I. I’m not sure?”

“Not sure? How about this, pull them down your thighs a bit, like I did when we were in that alcove.”

Peter can do that. He grabs the waistband of his briefs and pushes them, feeling the elastic squeeze at his thighs. He feels trapped. It feels dangerous. His cock pops out, slapping against his stomach and he arches his back. He’s going to come already. Peter’s not going to last this entire conversation, is he? He wants to come already. Peter wants to get his hand on himself, but he also wants to listen.

He loves Wade’s voice. It’s gruff and sonorous.

“You know what I’m going to ask you to do now? Bet you think I want you to jerk yourself. Is that what you do when you’re home alone in the dark at night? You get into bed and skip the foreplay, tug at yourself until you come? I bet you do. I don’t think you give yourself enough attention, sweetheart. I’m going to teach you how to play with yourself. Drag your fingers down your thighs, over the briefs and down to your hips.”

The way he says it makes Peter’s brain shut down. Just something about the way Wade words it makes Peter whine again, higher and needy. He drags his fingers down his thighs quickly, fists clenching at the sockets of his hips. He’s so close to touching himself.

“Now push them apart. Bring your knees up, feet flat against the bed, and spread your legs for me as much as you can.”

The pull of his quilt, rough on the soles of his feet, feels like rug burn as he scoots into place. He spreads his legs; doing so has never felt more right. Peter feels deliciously exposed for someone alone in his own home.

“You still have my hoodie on, don’t ya? Still rubbing against your skin? You must be getting hot by now. Are you sweating a little bit?”

He does. It’s soft, better than his quilt. But, he’s sweating like mad. Rivers of sweat all over his body, falling into pools and soaking into the fuzzy lining. It’s gross, probably. He should take it off. He feels fevered and clammy.

“’M hot,” he whines squirming like he’s baking in the sun.

“Yeah? Keep the hoodie on, I want you to smell like me. I don’t care if it’s hot, I want you to get all hot, sweaty, and teary-eyed for me.”

Peter cries out at that. Wade doesn’t have to wait at all, he’s already starting to feel his eyes water with arousal.

“Finger back in your mouth. You ever think about blowing a man before? Hm? Put your fingers in your mouth and rub them against your tongue. Suck. God, I want your mouth. I think I’m obsessed with it. I want it stretched wide on my dick.”

Peter hadn’t thought about it. Not really. Not more than the usual teenage boy. He assumed he was straight because of Liz and Gwen, but maybe it was easier than it should have been to ignore girls during high school. Maybe his mind was unconsciously guiding him, with his reasoning trying to convince himself he was keeping the girls safe.

Now, he thinks about it. He imagines what it would feel like to be on his knees for Wade—he can’t seem to think of any man other than Wade. The pads of his fingers rub against his tongue. When he sucks, his fingers stick to his tongue like he’s trying to climb a ceiling.

He doesn’t care. It makes it easier to suck them harder and he lets out a happy sound.

“Good thought, then? You like that idea? You want my dick, heavy on your tongue?”

Peter does.

“Are you still sucking?”

“Hmph.” The sound is garbled and muffled by his own hand and it probably sounds incredibly moronic, but he doesn’t stop himself from humming around his fingers. He wants Wade to know that he’s enjoying this. Doesn’t want him to stop.

“Good boy, let me hear it. Ah, fuck. Twist your nipples again, just the way you like, let me hear you whimper for me.”

The praise builds him up until he feels like he’s on a pedestal, turning into something golden.

His other hand darts to his chest, twisting one nipple at a time and whimpering dutifully. The sound isn’t faked. His cock is so hard it hurts.

“You want to touch yourself?”

“Mhm?” It’s a yes and a question.

“Not yet.”

The following sound is neither. It’s completely outraged and frustrated.

“Oh, fine, little brat. We can compromise. Fingers out of your mouth, reach down and cup your balls. Little tug, baby. Now, push your fingers down under them and press hard. You know that spot that feels good when you rub against it? I know you do, right there, rub for me. Slowly, don’t rush.”

Peter pants again with his mouth now that it’s free. He can hear his own pulse beating in his head, feel it ticking like a bomb in his body as he complies. Fingers tucking under his sac, he presses down until he feels a muted sense of pleasure. It builds steadily as he rubs.

“I see the way you look at me, you know? You’re not very subtle. You like that I’m bigger than you, don’t you, Bambi? I can barely sit up straight without you staring at my arms or chest. And you look at me from under all those lashes, so coy, playing with me like that. When I called you out on it today, I was just having a little fun. But, you got all red like you always do. I like that. I like that a lot. I almost popped a boner right there. You’re like some damn after school special, I want to have you bent over anything that looks like a desk.”

Is he that noticeable? He doesn’t mean to tease. Peter can’t not look at Wade. Wade Wilson walks in a room and takes the air straight out of it. His presence compels people to gawk. Even when he’s slouching in a barstool or shooting other people’s guns or confiscating Peter’s alcohol or bantering with Weasel or punching jerks or stalking him outside a Thai restaurant or, or—

“I bet you’re wet. Are you? Is your cock drooling pre-come on your belly yet?"

Peter doesn’t need to look at himself; his eyes remain closed. He can feel the pre-come leaking like a faulty faucet. He’s a mess.

“Yeah? Taste it for me. Take your finger and wipe it off from your stomach, don’t you fucking touch your cock until I say you can.”

At that, Peter’s hips buck again into the air, cock bouncing. His balls are tightening, and he pushes his finger down harder, rubbing that spot needier than before.

He tastes himself with his other hand. It’s salty and primal.

“Tastes good, doesn’t it? I’m jealous. I want to taste you. If I was there, I would have you down my throat already. You want to fuck my mouth, baby? I’d let you. I bet you taste so sweet, hell. I wanna choke on you. I’m fisting my dick right now thinking about it. Press down on your throat for me, Bambi?”

Peter’s not even thinking before he obeys. It’s just happening like Peter’s body is in tune with Wade’s choreography.

He thinks about kissing Wade again. Then he thinks about pushing himself into Wade’s mouth. It’s almost a dark thought. Peter wants to grab Wade by the back of his head and cram his cock down Wade’s throat. He wants to know what it’ll feel like when Wade swallows.

“You ever touch your hole, sweetheart? Ever play with it?”

Peter’s heart skips a beat. “No.” It’s a whisper. A confession.

“No? Good. That’s mine. I’m not going to let you touch it.”

Always, always the unexpected. The sheer possessiveness in Wade’s voice is something that Peter’s never thought could be attractive in a partner. The movies make it sound romantic, but reality rarely holds up its end of the bargain. But this little possessive comment is more than a declaration. It’s a promise.  

“You want to come now, baby boy?”

“Please?” Peter answers immediately. Loudly. Like it was on the tip of his tongue this entire time.

“So polite. I know baby, I want you to come too. You don’t own any lube, do you?”

That’s something that Peter doesn’t have. He thinks at one point he had some lotion, but he can’t remember the last time he needed it. “Um,” Peter squeezes out. “No.”

“I didn’t think so, it’s alright, you don’t need to be embarrassed. I’ll tell you what, I was hoping you didn’t anyway. Lick your hand. Just like you did with your finger, get it all wet for me. I wonder what you look like? Remember when you licked my chin? Like a kitten. Do you look like that now or are you sloppy because you’re desperate? Mhm, fuck.”

The curse at the end swirls in Peter’s ear. If he focuses himself enough, he can hear the slick, unmistakable sound that must be Wade fisting himself with the hand that’s not holding his phone. It’s an addictive sound. Peter tries to focus on it as he licks his hand, washing the sweat away and replacing it with saliva.

“Stop. Pull your hand back. Spit into your palm.”

Peter pulls his hand back and stares at it, cheeks flushing. Does Wade really want him to?

“Don’t be shy, do it.”

He spits and catches it in his hand.

“That sounded so pretty, I bet you’re red from head to toe, huh? How far does that blush go? You feel hot and shivery yet, honey? I wanna make your legs tremble.”

Peter’s whole body is flushed and vibrating like a live wire.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play a little game. I’m going to let you tug all greedy on your cock like I know you need to, but you have to do something for me, okay? I need you to answer honestly when I ask you a question, with your words. Let’s start, put your hand on your cock.”   

Peter’s hand is already on his cock when Wade finishes the last sentence, but he hesitates for a moment. He doesn’t want to come too soon, not until Wade’s done talking. But, Wade may never be finished talking.

“Go ahead, I know you want to. Fist yourself. Use your feet as leverage, put your hips into it. God, that’s a delicious sound.”

That’s all the go-ahead he needs. Peter’s hand wraps tightly around his cock, slick with his own spit and pre-come, and he humps into it wildly, fucking the tight grip. His muscles burn with lactic acid.

“Getting close, Bambi?”

He whines, lightheaded and pushes his free hand into his hair. His tightens into his locks abusively, trying to balance the white, hot pleasure out with some pain.

“What did we agree to? Words.”

“Close.” He’s monosyllabic. How mortifying.

“That’s good. And where’s that other hand of yours, hm?”

“Hair,” Peter grits out.

“Take it out, put it back down at your balls. You know what you’re supposed to be doing. Rub that spot for me.”

It takes a Herculean effort to drop his hand back to that space behind his tight sac. His finger touches it featherlight and he howls but rubs anyway. Like a punishment.

“Do you want me to fuck you, baby boy? Will you let me have that tight little hole of yours? I want to pound you through the damn mattress. I’ll make it good for you, you know I will. You’ll be screaming the entire time. I’ll make sure you come so hard that you’ll never go back to jerking yourself off again. It won’t be enough for you once you’ve learned to have me inside of you.”

Peter sobs and nods, even though Wade can’t see him. “Yes! Yes, Wade, please,” he mewls, “I can’t—"

“Good boy. I know you’re so close. Those mewls of yours are music to my ears.”

Peter's hips are starting to ache. The pleasure is gathering, pooling at the base of his cock which twitches in his grip. He starts to feel the first tendrils of climax being pulled from his bones.

“You wanna come?”

“Yes,” Peter swallows, almost choking. “Yes, Wade, please now?”

He’s waiting, he realizes; he doesn’t want to come yet. Peter wants to hear Wade say it. He wants to hear Wade say that he can, like the last time.

He hears Wade’s own harsh breaths, groans punctuating the end of each of his thoughts as he talks to Peter.

“Not yet, one more question, honey, that’s it. You’re doing so well. I’m so proud of you. Do you want to fuck me, sweetheart?”

A yes comes out but it can’t be in English. It’s not in words. Peter can’t make his tongue work to form the sounds of the alphabet. He can’t, he can’t, he can’t. He feels like he’s bursting, a supernova, gamma ray destructive; like he’s a collapsing star falling in on itself. He wants Wade to catch him; he wants to burn with him.

“Will you let me ride your cock? I’ll be hot around you. I want to tie those hands of yours down and bounce on your cock. I bet you wouldn’t be able to hold back, you’d just fuck up into me as soon as I sat on you. Will you let me?”

He’s not just teary-eyed anymore, the tears are falling down the side of his face gathering messily in his hair. Peter can’t even feel his legs anymore, but he can feel his toes curling and sticking to the sheets. Finger rubbing, hips fucking.

Of course, he wants Wade. Is it really a question anymore at this point?

“Yes, yes, I’ll let you,” Peter’s voice is cracking. “You don’t have to ask, I’ll let you, Wade.”

“Thank you, baby boy. You can come.”

Peter can’t breathe. Orgasm feels like a tidal wave. It’s soft, lapping everywhere on his body. And it’s painful, he comes so hard, so quickly that he has to let go of his cock the second come shoots out of it. He’s already oversensitive, so his hands fly back, twisting into the material of Wade’s hoodie around him as he spills onto his own stomach. It’s the hardest Peter’s ever come.

He feels exhausted.

As the sparks of pleasure ebb and wade, he feels himself fall into a state of quiet tranquility. He’s so calm in comparison to how he felt before Wade had called. Before, he had been anxious, stressed, mind racing and thinking of a million things at once. Now, he feels like he’s escaped. The tranquility pulls him further into sleepiness.

Peter doesn’t want to fight it, he wants to embrace it. But he holds back for just a minute before diving under its spell.

“Wade?”

“It’s okay, Bambi, I’m here. Just sleep.”

(Art Credit: @jg3m)

-

Peter wakes up from a deep sleep at seven-thirty in the morning. To his drowsy surprise, the noise that wakes him up is the vibrations on his iPhone indicating a call. Fighting his way out of viscous sleep to the realm of awareness happens in slow motion. His hand blindly reaches out to his side table, grabs his phone, and he drags his eyes open to see a call from Mr. Delmar, with the soft chimes his alarm playing steadily in the background on low. Cursing, he swipes answering the phone, not even getting out a greeting before Mr. Delmar is talking.

He’s not angry like Peter expects him to be. He sounds worried. Peter manages to croak out that he’s sorry, he’ll be there soon.

Mr. Delmar’s voice stops him. “You’ve never missed a day of work, Peter. I thought something had happened. You haven’t been looking good lately. Don’t come in today, take a day to rest. The deli will be here tomorrow.”

He is insistent, and Peter rasps out his gratitude.

When the call ends, he turns off his soft alarm, blinking against grit in his eyes. And he hears loud snores.

iPhone in one hand, Peter shifts pinpoint the sources of the sound and finds his burner phone, screen blank, next to his head, under the pillow. He reaches out, tapping it to light up the screen and he reads Wade’s number.

The phone call was never disconnected. The call’s been running for three hours and twenty-six minutes.

Wade, presumably asleep on the end of the line, snores hellishly.

Peter has no idea how he slept with that in his ear.

But he leaves the burner phone where it is, dumping his other phone next to it and falls asleep again.

The next time Peter wakes up, the snoring soundtrack is gone. To be fair, it’s three in the afternoon though.

Over a breakfast of dry Cheerios, Peter reviews all the information he managed to find about Kindika Behavioral Health Services. Even with a lot of backside rummaging, he hadn’t found much of anything useful. It seemed to be an ordinary clinic with mundane services. But Peter feels in his heart that this is the clinic that’s involved; it’s too out of place on the Ganicore list to be anything but. The reason why he’s turned up with nothing is that he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. He’s not getting anywhere on Google. All he’s finding is four and five-star reviews and the biographies of the licensed workers on the payroll.

This is going to take more work.

Peter throws his bowl in the sink and runs to take a shower. He very reluctantly sheds the green sweatshirt, but sacrifices must be made for the sake of cleanliness. He showers quickly, trying to not revisit Wade’s phone call, then puts on some clothes.

With his backpack holding his laptop, he puts on his remaining black jacket and grabs both of his phones. He tucks his actual phone into his bag and the burner into his pocket.

Then he runs out the door.

Peter two blocks away from his apartment building, snow and slush swishing under his boots, when it starts to snow again. Almost an entire month, pretty much all of December, without snow. Now, the snow seems nonstop. Tucking his hands into his scarf, he looks around. Kindika is far away. Too far to walk in this weather. But, he doesn’t really have any money to spare for public transportation. He’s used up his money buying beer this week and now that he has missed a shift, he's even further in the ground. He has to save what he can, or he’ll be stuck in this hamster wheel for eternity.

Feeling self-conscious, he takes out the burner and sends a quick text to Wade. He doesn’t want to take advantage, but he could really use a favor.

Do you think Dopinder would mind giving me a ride?

The reply is quick. What does Wade do during the day?

hi bb, thought u had werk?

I had to take off today. Peter answers, then smirks a little. Someone kept me up all night. I slept through my alarm.

wat a horrible person :/
makin u sleep when u need it >:[

I don’t think I slept, actually.
I’m pretty sure I passed out.

i like it when u compliment me :-*
yw bb, happy 2 do it again anytime
call me beep me if u wana reach me
where u need 2 go?

Peter rolls his eyes. Yeah, Wade would take that as a compliment, that Peter came so hard he orgasmed himself to sleep and left Wade on the phone.

Dopinder will drive u
u want me 2 give him ur #
or call him for u?

Could you call him? My fingers are numb. Peter says, feeling his fingertips start to become one with the cold. With a bit of a struggle, he types his location in the nearest cross streets. Five minutes later, Wade texts again.

my man shud b there soon

Thanks, Wade. Peter pushes through the cold. I’m going to Kindika, by the way. I’m going to hack into their medical record system.

?????
??
bb
(…)

Don’t worry, I don’t need to go inside.
There’s a Starbucks two buildings down from the clinic.
Got to go, I think I see Dopinder pulling up.

-

“Hello, Mr. Bambi!” Dopinder chirps when Peter gets inside the cab, grateful to feel the heat soak through his clothes. “It is a pleasure to see you again so soon! Where can I bring you today?”

“Hi, Dopinder,” Peter smiles, unable to face Dopinder’s ever-present, infectious cheer. He pulls out his phone and pulls up a pin on the maps app. He shows Dopinder through the divider and the cab driver hums, starting the car.

“You are traveling a great distance for a coffee, Mr. Bambi,” Dopinder remarks, “Are you certain you would not prefer a closer Starbucks? There is one just a block away.”

“Uh, no, Dopinder, I’m actually not getting coffee.” He coughs, shifting in the squeaky backseat. “I’m uh, going there for business.”

“Business?” Dopinder perks up, giving a furtive, secretive and knowing glance at Peter through the divider over his shoulder, as he pulls into the traffic. “Mr. Pool has told me you are not in the same business as him.”

“No! No, I’m not, uh, I'll be doing some work with…computers,” Peter tries, shrugging a bit.

Dopinder clucks his tongue and shakes his head mournfully. “Ah, the I.T. business. It is booming as we speak. It is a business for the intelligent, certainly. I have a cousin who worked in I.T.” Here, Dopinder pauses, mouth tightening as he tilts his head considering. “But Bandhu was not very intelligent, I think. Bodhi seems much more bright.”

There’re those names again. Peter leans forward with interest. “Who are Bandhu and Bodhi, Dopinder?”

Dopinder nods darkly. “Bandhu, my cousin. He would have been tolerable if he had not been so intent on charming my beloved Gita.”

“Who’s Gita?”

“The love of my life,” Dopinder sighs wistfully, throwing a puppy-eyed look at a photograph of a stunning Indian girl on his dashboard. “But, sadly, I am not the love of her’s. It is just my luck that Bodhi, Bandhu’s brother, is more charming than Bandhu was. Even worse, Bodhi is rich in all ways, including money and status. Gita will not take her eyes off him.”

“I’m sorry, Dopinder,” Peter tries to console when Dopinder’s voice turns high and it seems like he’s going to cry. “I’m sure she’ll come around. Looks aren’t everything. Neither is money.”

“You are truthful, Mr. Bambi,” Dopinder nods with a wet gasp. “It is like Mr. Pool says: I must deal with Bodhi the same as I did with Bandhu. Only then will Gita notice me.”

Before Peter can ask what that means, Dopinder is pulling to the sidewalk and back to chirping happily. “Here you are, Mr. Bambi!” He shuffles around again, then reaches through the divider, a green bill in his hands, offered to Peter. “Mr. Pool has told me to give you this.”

Peter blinks, grabbing it and un-wrinkling it to reveal a hundred-dollar bill. “Woah, what? Dopinder, no,” He tries to hand it back. “I’m supposed to be paying you, not the other way around.”

“The ride is already on Mr. Pool’s tab, Mr. Bambi.”

“I can’t take your money, Dopinder.”

“It is not mine. It is from Mr. Pool to you. I was told if you were reluctant, then I should say,” Dopinder frowns, pulls out a phone, and reads slowly from a message. “‘Take it and be good, baby boy.’” He looks up, proudly relaying the message.

Be good, baby boy.

Cheeks burning, Peter crumbles the bill and shoves it into his pocket. With a hasty, but meaningful thanks to a smiling Dopinder, Peter gets out of the car before he burns it with his embarrassment. He’ll just give the money back to Wade later.

He welcomes the snow against his face as he runs into the Starbucks.

-

Peter sets his laptop up in the corner of the Starbucks. He spent his last five dollars on a tall matcha green tea frappuccino which he parks next to his elbow—he loves these green tea fraps. He doesn’t care if their just milkshakes masquerading as adult drinks. He wishes he could buy one every morning.

The Starbucks isn’t very crowded, save for a few Wall Street looking types, chatting into phones or reading papers.

He’s only there for a half hour, already about to gain access to Kindika’s medical system when someone sits down in the empty seat across from him.

“I swear, it’s like you and Wade think I have nothing better to do with my life.”

Peter jumps, eyes breaking away from the command prompt on his laptop to see Weasel, looking unimpressed. His glasses are wet from the snow and in his hands, he holds a gym bag that smells like rotting socks.

“What are you doing here?” Peter asks, eyes wide.

“Babysitting you, apparently. I would have come with a buddy, but Mr. Kreuger is too busy making himself scarce outside.”

“Don’t call him that.” Peter straightens a little. “Wade is here?” his eyes dart outside, but he can’t see any red and black through the Starbucks window.

“I see you’re about as excited as a cow waiting for slaughter to see me,” Weasel grumbles. He gets up for a second, bringing the chair around the table to sit next to Peter. “Your prince charming is waiting outside, loitering around the block looking like a Class A sexual predator. Dateline might be on us at any moment. I told him not to wear the suit, be too conspicuous. The operation would be blown faster than you probably were last night.”

Peter glares at him.

Weasel raises his eyebrows. “You’re welcome?” He puts the gym bag on his lap, peeking into Peter’s computer screen. “I see you’re in like Flynn.”

Peter looks back at his screen to see that, in fact, he is. Ignoring Weasel, he clicks to enter the system, frowning when a query comes up asking for a username and password. His stare is cut short when Weasel takes the computer from him, hands flying over the keyboard.

“Hey!”

“Not bad, kid,” Weasel observes, reaching into the gym bag and pulling out something that looks like a USB with a little box attached to it. He plus it in the computer, clicks a bit, types, then turns the laptop to face Peter again. The query is gone, and the system’s home page is open. “You did alright, but sometimes, you have to let an expert take the wheel. You just sit there looking hipster with your S-bux and stupid rope bracelets.”

Peter wisely chooses to ignore that comment. Those aren’t bracelets. They are his web shooters. Avoidance over lying. Key tactic. Go back to basics.

Looking at the computer, Peter furrows his eyebrows. “How’d you do that?”

Weasel gives a dry laugh, pointing at the box. “Don’t save your passwords on Chrome, Mouse.”

Peter looks from the box to Weasel. “You’re joking.” Educated health professionals dealing with sensitive, confidential information save their passwords on Chrome?

Weasel shrugs, “Everyone likes convenience.” Well, that’s the truth. “So, what are we looking for?”

On the screen, Peter enters the records system. It’s basic, to say the last, like the software was last updated maybe ten years ago. “I’m not sure,” Peter says and spends ten minutes clicking randomly.

At first, Peter tries to see any evidence as to why they might need biohazardous waste picked up. But, the clinic doesn’t have an on-site pharmacy and all of the blood testing, urine samples, and the like are done in nearby hospitals.

Weasel must have gained access to the admin account because Peter sees a few tabs linking to the workers and a hyperlink that says, ‘All Patient Records.’ Peter doesn’t think that one doctor or therapist would have access to all records, but the admin account does, just in case any bugs prevent an individual from accessing their account. Curious, Peter clicks on the records and starts scrolling.

A familiar name catches his eye.

Goldstein, Esther Jr.

Feeling a spike of energy like he just chugged a Redbull, Peter clicks on the record. It opens in a new box named goldsteine_jr_patienta.latm. And there on the screen is a full psychiatric history of Esther Goldstein, with her age and date of birth the same as it is in the papers from the manila envelope Mr. Stark gave Peter.

Mouth dry, Peter reads. Esther doesn’t have a psychiatric diagnosis, but Peter quickly finds links to her parents’ records. From the archive of session notes, Peter discovers that her whole family attended the clinic for family therapy. Her father was diagnosed as bipolar and his psychiatric history shows several hospital commitments from suicide attempts. Her mother, like Esther, doesn’t have a psychiatric diagnosis, but her chart notes a relative with Down syndrome.

“Oh my God,” Peter murmurs, before clicking back to the list of patient records. On autopilot, he starts searching for the names of the known victims. He finds every, single one of them. He finds the six of the ten children who have now been declared dead. The other four, Peter’s certain, must be there. He just doesn’t know who they are.

Some of them are patients with pre-existing conditions. Some are like Esther, with a family member who also attends the clinic.

As Peter pulls open their files, he notices a pattern in the document names.

goldsteine_jr_patienta.latm

brownp_patientc.latm

lopezga_patientj.latm

bennettt_patientf.latm

jenkinsh_patientb.latm

youngc_patientd.latm

They’re all written in the same fashion, in a way that relative records aren’t. Weasel crowds in by his ear.

“What’s latm?” He asks, then tries again. “L-A-T-M? An acronym for a file organizer code?”

At the bottom of each record reads "LATM #" with a seemingly random bit of letters and numbers.

“I don’t know.”

Peter almost leaves Weasel behind in his effort to get out of the Starbucks. Quick on his feet though, Weasel’s right on his heels as Peter exits the café. As soon as they’re out in the snow, the cacophony of cars and people around them, Peter grabs Weasel by the arm.

“I found them!” He whispers excitedly, tugging at Weasel’s heavy parka sleeve.

“Found who?”

Peter’s too excited to roll his eyes. “The kids,” he says. “I found them. All of their names are records in the database. They were all patients.”

“Oh good,” Weasel sighs in relief. “Does that mean we can go home, now? I have like ten submission requests to approve.”

Peter stops dragging Weasel at the quick reminder of who he’s speaking to. Weasel does make his living as a criminal contractor.

Peter can’t help but feel curious. “How does that work, again? A submission request?”

Weasel snorts. “A phone call, Mouse. I’m not GrubHub, you don’t order online. Too many trails, too many possibilities of a leak. Look at what you just did today. The old school burner phone works just fine. I get a new one every two months. Hasn’t failed me yet.”

There’s the Weasel from the dossier. Sometimes, Peter forgets because Weasel seems so brooding and normal. Peter’s not sure how much money he makes, but if the hundreds that Wade is constantly dolling out are indicative, it must be a lot. Weasel doesn’t look like the man he is. He looks like some dudebro who works at a vape store.

“Oh look,” Weasel points with his chin, shaking his arm in Peter’s grasp. “Your perv-o boyfriend is staring at us. Heatedly. Like Lord Vader stared down Obi-Wan Kenobi at the start of their duel on the Death Star. It looks like a warning? I think he’s pissed you’re touching me. Could you let go before he chops my arm off?”

Dropping his hands quickly, Peter lets Weasel shake him off. He follows Weasel’s eyes, still full of the thrill of discovery. He can’t believe he found this. He can’t wait to tell Wade. And Mr. Stark, of course. Mr. Stark will be pleased to hear the progress, even if he is still drinking himself blue in Beijing.

“Where?” Peter asks, looking up but not seeing anyone staring at them.

“Oh shit, this is going to be awkward, isn’t it? I think I’m just going to go. Uh, yeah.” Weasel inches away from Peter.

Peter looks at him in frustration, eying the crowd, but not seeing Wade anywhere. “Weasel, where is he?”

Weasel’s turning away. “Giant creeper robed in black sweats. Looking real suspicious at your three o’ clock,” he says, starting to walk across the street. “Catch you on the flipside, Mouse! Remember that indecent exposure is a crime! Wouldn’t want an officer of the law to see your angel face and arrest my man for lewd acts with a minor. No one wants a felony offense on their record. It’s bad for business. Hope you brought that fake I.D. with you.”

Peter slaps a hand to his face. But someone needs to give him credit because he really does valiantly try. “It’s not a fake!”

Weasel doesn’t dignify that with a response.

-

Abandoned by Weasel, Peter turns and just in time, sees a figure in black turning the corner. It’s tall enough that he knows it’s Wade even with the baggy attire. Peter starts forward, jogging to catch up and he’s surprised at how swiftly Wade moves. Despite his size, he weaves around people with a grace that seems preternatural. Wade’s moving so fast that Peter might have lost him if he wasn’t twice as swift and fast.

The thought hits him just as he’s coming up right behind Wade, so light on his feet that he doesn’t think Wade even hears him.

He wonders what it would be like to fight with Wade. Not a real fight, with intentions to hurt. But to spar with him, without holding back. Peter’s always holding back, even when he’s cleaning up the streets. He has to pull his punches and measure his strength. The only thing that he doesn’t cap is his flexibility and acrobatics, mostly because they’re ingrained in his reflexes. He needs those to dodge blows.

But Wade is built for battle. What had his dossier said? He was military trained, versed in martial arts. Even with Peter’s speed and agility, Wade’s training would make the match an even one. And not that Peter would ever want to hurt Wade, but any damage from one hard kick would probably be healed before the kick was even over.

Not now. He can’t give Wade any more reason to think he’s anything other than human. So, instead of tackling Wade down like he wants to, he just falls into step behind him.

He reaches out to grasp the back of Wade’s sweatshirt.

Wade’s body jerks and Peter realized that hadn’t been a good idea. What kind of good idea starts with Peter catching a mercenary off guard? He’s quick to try to remedy it, “Wade?"

It’s just for a split second: Wade turns his head back to look over his shoulder before crouching in on himself ducking his chin. It happens so fast that Peter sees the shadow of his profile, then nothing else.

Wade doesn’t have his mask on.

Peter is astonished.

He’s never seen Wade without his mask in public. Scratch that, he’s never seen Wade without his mask at all. Suddenly, Wade’s quick escape makes more sense. He doesn’t want to make Wade uncomfortable. Clearly, Wade doesn’t want to show Peter his face. It’s something that Peter wants to begrudge but can’t. Who is Peter to get pissy about this? Peter hasn’t even told Wade his name, let alone other secrets of his true identity. And Wade even knows he’s lying. He asks once in a while for details about Peter’s life but never presses. He’s always respectful. Almost pathetically accepting what Peter gives him.

What’s wrong with Peter?

He should have listened more carefully to Weasel who said Wade was there without his suit.

He can handle this.

“Wade, Weasel said you were out here,” he says, using the hand twisted in Wade’s sweatshirt to gently guide him over to the side of a building, away from where people are walking on the sidewalk. They step over a bunch of snow that melts into Peter’s jeans.

Wade follows his lead but doesn’t turn around.

“It’s okay,” Peter says. “You can keep facing that way, you don’t have to turn around. Can you stay for a second though? I want to tell you what I found, you’re not going to believe it. Do you have a time?”

Wade’s body loosens like its dipped into hot water.

Peter feels the rumble of his voice from where his hand is pressed to his back.

“Yeah, Bambi, I always have time for you.” He says it somberly. Then his voice picks up lightly. “What did you find with Weasel?”

“It was mostly me!” He whines, “All Weasel did was some hokey pokey to find the database password.”

Wade chuckles at his petulant tone. “Ah, so all Weas did was actually get you into the system? You’re right, baby boy, not a significant contribution at all.”

“Oh fine,” Peter relents. “He was helpful. Thanks for sending him.”

He can hear Wade’s smile in his voice. “You’re welcome, baby. You going to tell me what’s got you all worked up?”

“How do you know I’m worked up?”

“You were worked up enough to touch Weasel willingly,” Wade teases. “With the way you usually look at him, that must have meant something truly super-duper spectacular happened.”

Peter laughs, snow catching in his mouth. “And how do I normally look at him?”

“Like he’s a pint-sized carnivore giving off fumes of deceit.”

Peter’s face hurts from how much he’s laughing, his other hand coming up, fingers wringing in Wade’s sweatshirt together. “Is that not exactly what he is? Like the exact definition of a weasel?”

“And that’s how he got his name,” Wade laughs. “You smiling, baby boy?”

Peter’s grin catches on his face. He tugs the back of Wade’s sweatshirt, not trying to move him, but just in punctuation. “Yes,” he replies, softly. “I’m smiling.”

“Mm, love that smile.” Wade audibly licks his lips. “Good day, then?”

“If the day started with your phone call, then yes, very good day.” Peter’s cheeks light up, the snow doing nothing to cool them down. He thinks he can only say it without stuttering because Wade’s facing away from him. That way, he doesn’t have to worry about bursting all the blood vessels in his face when he’s greeted with Wade’s dirty smile.

“You’re feeding my ego, baby. You better watch out. Any more fuel and I’m gonna turn into Godzilla. Just add water and watch me grow,” Wade comments with pride in his voice. He’s pleased; Peter can tell. “What’d you find? The anticipation is killing me. Don’t leave a man hanging, Bambi.”

“The kids, Wade,” Peter says, still in awe. “I found their names. They were all patients at Kindika. All the identified ones, I found records for each of them.”

“Holy shit, baby, really?” Wade’s bewilderment is genuine. “Fuck, that’s some sketchy ass shit. Remind me to send Domino a fruit basket. You really needed that lead.”

“God,” Peter moans, “I know. I didn’t think I’d find anything. I was starting to think that it was all for no—uh.” Peter freezes. Too much. He’s speaking too much. Shut down, power down. If he could just think for once before he talks, it would be a miracle.

“Calm down, baby, deep breath.” Wade’s voice is soothing. It sounds just like it did last night. Wade always catches when Peter’s about to combust, even through a phone.

“You know I’m not pulling any teeth,” Wade says softly. “But, we both know there’s more to the story than you’re willing to tell me—or Weas. I’ll let sleeping dogs lie. You tell me when you want to. Or when you can.”

Peter gulps, body floating in a cloud of relief.

“Tell me one thing, Bambi,” Wade continues, leaning back into Peter’s grip. “No one’s forcing you to say or not say anything right?”

There’s not a good answer to that question, Peter realizes. No one is forcing him in the sense that there’s no gun to his head. But, if Peter wanted to tell Wade full details of why he got into solving this or how, he couldn’t. Mr. Stark had told him not to. The repercussions of breaking his promise are unclear, but he’s unwilling to fracture Mr. Stark’s trust. He respects Mr. Stark too much. And if Peter wanted to tell Wade all about Peter Parker, well Mr. Stark swayed him against that too, even though it technically isn’t Mr. Stark’s decision to make. Mr. Stark is worried that Wade will find out he’s Spider-Man and do something drastic like sell his identity. Peter is more concerned that something terrible might happen to Wade if he does confess. Or even more painful—he needs to sort out his priorities—what if Wade rejects him?

Finding Peter Parker is one step from finding Spider-Man. Peter’s not-crisis in Mr. Delmar’s had revolved around the ethical dilemma of Spider-Man befriending Deadpool. Well, the dilemma goes both ways. What if Deadpool has a problem with befriending Spider-Man, let alone sleeping with him?

Peter’s not stupid. He’s a vigilante with a strict code. There’s good and there’s bad, and Peter sends the bad people to the police for further processing. This method works for Peter; he deals with local crime, where ‘black and white’ suits his agenda. It’s an appropriate code; Peter’s like a super-powered cop.

Deadpool is gray; nothing about him will sit well with Peter’s strict code. From his visits to Sister Margaret’s, Peter’s learned that there are levels of crime that don’t overlap.

Peter abstractly knows that Wade kills people for a living. Deadpool carries around weapons galore. His kill count isn’t faked. It’s more than just a number on a dossier. It’s unsettling, but Peter remembers—Larry, Dopinder, Twiggy; his Wade on the telephone, at Rosa’s restaurant, before him now. Peter has a lot to learn, but he thinks he’s beginning to see Wade Wilson. And the more he learns, the more he realizes that Deadpool comes from a world that Peter’s not even skimmed the surface of. It’s a world that Spider-Man has yet to tap into.

Peter’s not a part of Deadpool’s world. What if Wade rejects Peter because Spider-Man is a speed bump that will never fit in his universe?

“I’m not in any danger,” he chooses, in the end, stepping forward and pressing his forehead to Wade’s back. He takes a deep breath, reveling in the familiar scent, and feels Wade’s warmth caress his cheek.

Before he can bring up any other difficult questions, Peter reaches into his pocket and slithers a hand around Wade’s torso to press the wrinkled hundred-dollar bill Dopinder gave him into Wade’s chest.

“You left this in the cab,” he says.

Wade’s hand rises, dwarfing Peter’s. “This is for you. You keep it.”

Peter shakes his head against Wade’s back. “No, I can’t keep this. I can’t take your money. I didn’t earn this.”

Wade shrugs. “You need it more than I do.”

“That doesn’t change what I just said.”

“Bambi.” Wade’s voice is tinged with frustration. “Just take it. Don’t play with me, okay? I know why you let me call Dopinder for you. You didn’t have enough money to take a bus or the subway or an Uber. You would have walked, I’m sure, but it’s as cold as fucking planet Hoth outside. It probably killed you to ask me.”

“Wade,” Peter admonishes, not knowing why. “It's not that I didn’t have any money, I’m not poor or homeless…”

Wade makes a sound. “But, you didn’t have enough money today. What did you have, huh, two dollars? That couldn’t even buy you a tampon.”

“Wade!” Peter cringes, wrinkling his nose. “Don’t be an idiot. And I had more than two dollars. I had five.” He admits it, feeling like a failure.

The warm hand on his tightens, squeezing. “What’re you saving up for, baby boy?”

“Hmm?”

“I said, what are you saving your money for? You’re totally not blowing your money on titty bars. Definitely not drinking yourself silly. I thought you were going to vomit every time you took a sip of that beer. Which by the way, is another good reason to not drink before you’re of age.”

“Wade, shut up with the beer already! I won’t order it again. Weasel keeps giving me soda now.” Peter has the urge to bite Wade’s back in retaliation.

Wade must feel Peter’s gut reaction in the air and he squirms, laughing. “Okay, okay, God, don’t fucking kicking me in the shin again. Or elbow me. You have limbs of fucking steel. You pack a lot of force for a pipsqueak, I had a bruise for like a whole hour.”

“You’re ridiculous! Don’t call me pipsqueak.” Peter pinches his chest around the dollar bill, enjoying the whine he gets in response. “You deserved it, every time I hit you.”

“Oh, yes sir, I deserved it!” Wade’s voice drops, sensuous for a moment before he adds in a shaking, high voice. “Please, sir, I want some more?”

Peter blinks into Wade’s sweatshirt. “Oliver Twist?”

“God, you are perfect.”

When they laugh, Peter feels it like an earthquake. His own body trembling and Wade’s body trembling where they’re connected. Peter feels light-hearted and careless. Wade and his stupid references always make him smile. Peter wonders if he keeps a list of them in his pocket and plans each day how to work them into conversation suavely.

“College,” he says when his laughs die off into chuckles, his cheeks tight and abs shaking from use. “I’m saving up for college.” He says it with a swallow. “I had really great test scores, but I don’t have the money. It’s really expensive.”

Wade stills in his arms. His fingers stroke Peter’s, encouragingly. “Yeah, you seem like a nerd,” he says, his voice with underlying curiosity. “You know what you want to study?”

“Biomechanical or biochemical engineering. I’m not sure which, it’s really hard to choose between them. I’ve read just about every textbook—online and in person—from the public library on both of them. I think the librarians got tired of seeing me the second month after graduation, actually. But, I can’t choose. They’re not that different. But, I think. I think I’d be good at them. I’m good at polymer synthesis. I use a friend’s lab in the community college every month; he lets me mess around with my own projects.”

Wade hums, his voice quiet. “You apply to any scholarships?”

“I could, but,” Peter thinks. He could, but scholarships require letters of recommendation and a decorative resume. Peter doesn’t have that ever since he started being Spider-Man. Fighting crime came first. Building relationships with teacher came last. Wasting his time in extracurriculars didn’t even make the list. All he has is a fake Stark internship. What should he do? Get Mr. Stark to write a fake letter of recommendation? It’s so unethical that Peter can’t consider it. “It’s complicated.”

“You’re not good at accepting help.”

Peter pushes the money into Wade's pocket.

Mr. Delmar’s Deli-Grocery has never been more boring.

Sure, Peter’s days are usually lackluster. The merry-go-round of working as a cashier is rather uninspiring. There’s not much to occupy the brain, usually, and Peter had started bringing his lab notebook to work as soon as he began full time. It gave him something to ponder about. To mentally exercise.

But, today, the job is even more dull than usual in comparison to all that Peter’s discovered since sitting in a Starbucks with Weasel.

He can’t focus.

All he can think about is why how Kindika is doing this. He knows Kindika is the ‘kidnapper,’ so to speak. It might as well be wearing disco shoes and a scarlet letter because it’s not fooling anyone. It hadn’t even been a particularly difficult discovery once he’d had enough clues. Kindika took those children and replaced them with fake bodies so no one would come looking. But, why?

What did they see in those children that they needed?

Peter doesn’t think it’s as simple as a sexual predator collecting children. It’s too complex. Too much effort, too many resources needed. Mr. Stark’s concern is the primary flag that this is government related.

Are they using these children to blackmail people for money?

That thought might be plausible, but only for some families. The Goldsteins, for sure. But, Peter had checked up on the families they’d known about. Not all of them were wealthy.

What about blackmail for political power? For votes? Could a politician be paying for this fiasco to keep outspoken liberal families like the Goldsteins out from the public spotlight? Peter doubts it. If that were the case, then the Goldsteins would have never gone to the papers. And there would have never been a need for doppelganger plastic bodies.

Lunch break doesn’t come quickly enough. By the time he sits down with a sandwich, his head is hurting. He huddles in the back office while Mr. Delmar mans the cash register and pulls his notebook out of his backpack. He’d packed the manila envelope too, unable to leave it behind. Now, he stares at the doppelgangers looking for a truth in a galaxy of lies.

Peter flips through them over and over again.

He can’t think of anything.

Frustration bites at him and he pushes the photos to the back of the pile. Absently, he looks at the dossiers Mr. Stark had given him. Weasel’s is surprisingly short; like SHIELD had difficulty finding information on him. Peter barely contains a smirk at that. Weasel is slimier than a slug. Peter thinks if anyone tried to find concrete evidence of his illegal doings, they’d be finding a wad of nothing. That’s how he’s able to keep his bar afloat and his official title as barkeeper alive.

Peter pushes Weasel’s dossier to the back of the pile and looks at Wade’s. It makes him feel sick. He doesn’t like this dossier. Everything about it is wrong. It feels like he’s spying on Wade, which not too long ago—he was. But, that doesn’t ease Peter’s conscience. It’s true that he’d stopped consulting it, but he still has it, doesn’t he? He still hasn’t thrown it away. It feels a bit like betrayal.

But, as Peter lets himself read through it again, he’s once more at the point where he’s having difficulty rationalizing this Deadpool with his Wade. The statistics listed are cold and unforgiving. No context. No mention of Wade’s tendency toward quoting Game of Thrones or his love for cinnamon Altoids. All facts about his height, his weight, his race, his mercenary skills. There’s a whole page devoted to his military history, even though most of it is redacted. Peter flips to Wade’s medical history feeling sour. It too is heavily redacted, the pages blanked out with squares of black.

Peter wonders if Mr. Stark crossed everything out purposely for him. He thinks so.

He’s about to throw the whole thing back into his bag when a small text font catches his eye.

Peter feels himself go cold.

There, under a list of Wade’s enhanced abilities is a string of numbers.

LATM #: 4-p20.1_10

-

Later, Peter is pacing back and forth in his apartment, very purposefully on the other side of the pleather couch. It’s not a crisis. There’s nothing to panic about. It’s just something he needs to figure out.

The number, whatever it means, is clearly an identification.

He’s just not sure for what.

Against his better judgment, he takes his burner phone and writes a message. Can I ask you something silly?

bb u can ask me whatev u want

Does this number mean anything to you?
4-p20.1_10

Peter holds his breath, feeling on the verge of fainting. What does this mean? What does this number or identifier do? It was stupid to ask Wade. When he tells Peter what the number is there will be no hiding where Peter got it from. It clearly isn’t common knowledge. It’s esoteric.

never heard of it bb sry
secret code 4 treasure map?

It’s a weight off his chest and onto his back. He flings his hands up in frustration. He throws the burner down and grabs his real phone, calling Mr. Stark.

He calls eight times. Nothing. Voicemail, voicemail, voicemail.

The twelfth call earns him a text. Stop calling me. I’m in a meeting. I’ll call back later.

No, I need to talk to you now. Peter replies, vibrating with outrage. He needs to talk to Mr. Stark now. He doesn’t care what useless, cavalier meeting he’s in. This is about justice. It takes precedence over Mr. Stark’s Sensitor patenting.

In two hours.

Now. I found the dead children.
Or missing children.
They all went to the same doctor, I found their records.
I hacked the database.

Slow down, kid, what?

Can you please tell me what this is? Each record had one on it. Peter snaps a haphazard picture of Deadpool’s dossier, zooming in on the LATM.

I’m calling you.

Peter picks up and starts talking a mile a minute. “Mr. Stark, what is that number? I need to know. It was on every file, I didn’t know what it was, then today I just noticed it on Deadpool’s dossier that you gave me, it’s not on Wea—.”

“Slow down, kid,” Mr. Stark interjects, voice exasperated.

“Please, tell me you know what the number is. I can’t find it anywhere online. I think it’s important,” Peter huffs and corrects himself. “No! I know it’s important.”

“Peter!” Mr. Stark says firmly, trying to pull Peter out of his agitation. “Stop running your mouth for a second. The number is cytogenetic banding nomenclature. It’s not a number at all, it’s a designation.”

Halting his paces, Peter purses his lips. That sounds familiar. Like he’s read it somewhere, but it was so long ago he can’t remember. Banding nomenclature? Isn’t that something he learned in AP Biology? Or no, maybe one of the biomedical textbooks he’d been reading from the library. “What do you mean?”

“It’s not a calculated number, it’s a location,” Mr. Stark clarifies.

“What kind of location?”

A ragged sigh. “If you would let me finish talking, I would tell you.”

“Mr. Stark,” Peter pleads, urging him to continue.

“Cytogenetic banding nomenclature, Peter. It tells you where a gene is located on a chromosome. So, the one you sent me: 4-p20.1. You would read it as chromosome 4, petit arm region 20.1.” Mr. Stark says it so matter of fact that Peter feels like an idiot that he didn’t notice that straight from the beginning.

But, then again, that’s the feeling he gets whenever Mr. Stark talks. It must be tiring being a genius, always five steps ahead of the crowd. No wonder Mr. Stark always sounds like he needs eight more hours of rest.

“What is LATM?” Peter continues, wanting to get as much information out of him as possible. If he can clear this up now, then he wants to. No more surprises.

“You don’t know?” There’s that pompous tone again. “It stands for latent mutation. All mutants who get genetic testing will see it on their karyotype. Some people have mutant genes that are activated at birth. Some have latent ones which can be triggered into activation.”

Immediately, one man comes to mind, his paperwork sitting on Peter’s bed. “You mean like, Wade?”

“Like Deadpool,” Mr. Stark corrects. “Department K knew he had a latent gene that might be triggered under environmental pressures. He must have had some genetic testing done and that’s how Weapon X knew to recruit him. That’s what the underscore is.”

Peter flops a hand through the air, but Mr. Stark can’t see him, so he asks, “The underscore and the ten?”

“Standard LATM format,” he confirms. “Because genetic testing isn’t mandatory or standardized through one laboratory, all facilities require that the LATM number includes a unique identifier for where the genotype was recorded. Usually, the LATM identifier is specific to a particular lab, not a company. Mostly because multiple companies can use one lab, but the lab facilities themselves house compilations of the data. The underscore just keeps it tidy.”

“So, what is ten?”

“I said Weapon X, kid. X—it’s not a letter. It’s the Roman numeral for ten. The ten was the facility number—some massive laboratory outside of Winnipeg, I think. The ‘X’ was just a spin off of it to give the program a funky name. I’m sure they were real proud of themselves for being witty.” Mr. Stark's laugh says their pride was misplaced.

“And what is the facility designated by the number fourteen?” Peter asks, looking at his laptop, where he has copies of all the patient records of the missing children. Each have LATM number followed by an underscore and a fourteen.

Mr. Stark’s laugh cuts off abruptly. “Where’d you pull that number from?”

“It’s on the files,” Peter says. “What’s facility fourteen?”

“Stark Tower.”

-

Peter turns his phone off, cutting Mr. Stark’s voice out because Mr. Stark is too busy telling him to stay put and Peter knows he’s can’t continue listening to it. If he continues to listen to Mr. Stark talk then he’ll be expected to say that he’s going to obey. He’ll try to remind himself that he respects Mr. Stark and that they’ve had enough history to prove that Mr. Stark’s advice is usually good. But, Peter can’t. Not this time. He can’t listen to Mr. Stark. He won’t sit around and do nothing while Kindika has done something with ten innocent children. Peter won’t sit there and lie to Mr. Stark. He just can’t tell a lie.

Peter’s going to go to Stark Tower to see what the hell is going on.

He knows this could be dangerous, though. Kindika has enough power to take children, drop fake bodies into the open, and not show one ounce of remorse. They’re hiding in plain sight. Making a mockery of what Stark Tower stands for—Peter won’t stand for it.

There are no details as to why they have these children, but the mere fact that each child has a latent mutant gene is telling. It’s enough to assume the worse.

He can’t allow them to continue one second longer.

Peter doesn’t know if these children are dead or alive, but he’s going to find out. He going to find out, right now, regardless of himself.

He’s out the door and down the stairs in a blink of an eye.

You need to be more careful.

Do I?

You really do.

This Kindika, who are they? What are they doing? Studying mutant genes, that’s blatant. And they’re not doing so ethically. What kind of person has the heart to steal a child from their family, then recreate the child just to rip it apart and leave it on the streets for a family to sob after? The families must be going through hell on Earth. Losing something so precious as a life, a loved one, then finding them butchered carelessly like an object. But, the grief, the anguish they must feel pales in comparison to how these children must have felt.

Were they terrified and screaming when they were stolen from the safety of their families and packed up like cattle into a room? Or did they know their kidnapper? Were they comfortable, familiar with them, easily fooled by soft words and then crying later when they discovered themselves to be in the hands of strangers?

What kind of people take children? Peter’s first instinct is to say ‘bad people.’ Horrible, twisted, evil people. The kind that Peter should be able to see from across the parking lot, dressed in ebony and skulls. Yet, when Peter thinks, he finds the real answer.

Adults know the outside is just the tip of the iceberg because they’ve learned to read between the lines.

Not the common criminals. Not the ones that Spider-Man chases after. No. These are the types of people who are so far deep into their own agenda that they hunt the innocent and justify it as work. Go home at the end of the day with a glass of wine and feel content with themselves. These aren’t the street criminals that Spider-Man Peter sees, knowing they’re crimes and embracing their criminality.

These are people who live, breathe, and sleep their crimes so well that to them, they might not even consider them crimes anymore. They probably don’t see themselves as doing anything wrong. That’s the only way someone could do something so malicious, Peter thinks.

These are the otherworldly criminals. This is the world that Spider-Man has yet to tap into. It’s the world that he just hasn’t learned to operate in yet. This is the gray.

If Peter goes to find these people, Spider-Man can’t put them in cuffs for the police. It won’t solve anything. The police don’t care; the police have not been helping. That’s why Peter is in this position in the first place.

How does anyone right a wrong when the system put in place to help the people fails?

Peter doesn’t want to admit it. Spider-Man is a hero of his own creation, growing and building a reputation for five years. He doesn’t want to admit that this is something that Spider-Man can’t save them from. He wants to be able to walk in there and take care of this himself. He wants to go in, web everyone up, and save who he can, if there’s anyone to save. What will it accomplish? The culprits will be free and back on their way in no time.

You’re not good at accepting help.

But, Peter is beginning to understand his and Spider-Man’s limitations.

Turning around, Peter walks back to his apartment. He goes inside, straight to the bedside table, and rips open the first drawer. He grabs the mini black envelope and shoves it in his pocket. Then Peter picks up his burner phone.

Sometimes you gotta fight ugly with ugly to keep the world going for the good.

He thumbs through the contacts. “Okay, Larry, let’s see how right you are.”

Peter selects the contact, presses call, and puts the phone to his ear with a sense of finality. It rings, and rings, and rings. Then he hears it being picked up.

Ah, so the sledgehammer hadn’t been put to use yet.

“Mouse?”

“I have a submission request.”

Chapter Text

 -

Meeting at Sister Margaret’s by now feels normal to Peter. Even though this is only the second time he’s visited Weasel’s apartment, he’s surprised that he feels relaxed enough to walk through the bar, up the stairs, and in through the door without any prompting. Especially considering the context of this visit.

Peter hadn’t called this meeting. Weasel had. When Peter opens the door, Weasel and Wade are both standing in the kitchenette. Weasel in his usual jeans and shirt uniform and Wade in his suit, mask pulled half up to the nose. Contrary to the norm, they look deadly serious.

“Sit the fuck down, Mouse,” Weasel barks, words caustic. In an immediate response, Wade steps forward as quickly as an adder, forcing Weasel back without even raising a hand. Weasel actually stumbles, then wrings his fingers through his hair with exasperation.

“Shit, fuck!” Weasel jerks, “I’m sorry! Fine, let me try again: Mouse, will you please sit the fuck down?”

Peter falls into the empty seat at the table. His Salvation Army coat is still hanging on it. It’s the same seat he was in last time he was here. He looks up at Weasel, where he and Wade are still standing looking somber.

“I see you called Wade,” Peter observes. He’s not mad, not really. If anything, he’s relieved.

“I did. Because whether you believe it or not, I can tell when it’s time for an intervention,” Weasel snarks.

“So, you told him about what I said on the phone?”

“Every last, dripping word. Normally, I would have accepted your request right away if the money was good—”

Peter interrupts him by reaching into his pocket and pulling out the black mini envelope. He hands it wordlessly to Weasel, who grabs it. Weasel stares at it then looks back at Peter blankly. He shakes the envelope in Peter’s face.

“Do you know what’s in here?”

Peter shrugs. “A check.”

“Do you know how much money is in here?”

Peter blushes. He’s actually not sure. He never looked. But Weasel had said it was a very pretty penny, right? Peter doesn’t know how much these things usually cost, but maybe Weasel could give him a payment plan or something? “Hopefully enough that you’ll consider my request? Like, uh, a down payment?”

“Oh, mother of our sweet fictional savior,” Weasel groans to the ceiling, then rips open the envelope savagely. “Read this, Mouse.”

He holds a check in front of Peter’s face. The blood leaves Peter’s face as he reads: the check is for two hundred and sixty thousand dollars and to Peter’s chagrin, the purpose says joyfully: Happy Birthday! Peter has never seen that much money in his life. For a moment, all he can do is think that he could grab that check, run off to the bank, and start college in the winter semester. He could quit his job at Mr. Delmar’s and never have to work for four years. If he combines the check with his own savings from the last two years, he might even have enough to pay Aunt May’s rent for a good chunk of time.

But he doesn’t want this money. This is dirty money, so to speak. Ben Weber made this money committing a crime. Spider-Man, certainly, could not keep this money. And Peter Parker? Peter Parker could never look at this money without thinking that it could have been put to good use. It’s dirty money, right? Peter can’t change where it came from, but he has the ability to dictate where it goes. So, he’s channeling it into a good cause. Into something worthy, like a twisted purification process.

“So, uhm,” Peter swallows with his throat dry. “Is that enough? For this sort of thing?”

Weasel chokes, waving the check around like a flag. “See? And that’s exactly why I’ve staged this intervention. You have no idea what you’re asking for, Mouse.”

Peter frowns, sitting up in his chair, feeling a bright sense of confidence he’s never felt in front of Weasel before. “Yes, I do, Weasel,” he says sharply. “I do know what I’m asking for. This is your job, isn’t it? You take requests that can’t be completed within the formal framework of society, don’t you? I’m sure you’ve had more ridiculous requests in the past, considering the job you gave to me.”

Weasel chokes again, brandishing the check like it can speak for him.

“They’ve been abducting children in the name of mutant gene research. I want these Kindika people dealt with. And if there are children in their facility at Stark Tower, then I want them sent home. Discreetly. Isn’t that a service you provide?” Peter asks, nose wrinkling. “Anything discrete, as long as the price tag fits? How is my request worse than some idiot who wants his ex-wife’s painting?”

Whatever Weasel’s speech will include next gets lost when Wade steps forward. He walks right up to Peter’s chair, looking down thoughtfully at him. Then he kneels at Peter’s feet. It’s not a joking stance or a sexual one. He just seems to do it to get Peter’s attention. It works.

“Bambi?” Peter’s eyes fix on the whites of Wade’s mask. “How do you want them dealt with?”

Peter bites his lip, eyes dropping to Wade’s mouth. It’s neutral. He doesn’t look disapproving or enthusiastic; he simply looks like he’s willing to listen. “I want you to stop them from doing what they’re doing.” He gulps, “Whatever it takes.”

“And what if it takes killing them?” Wade asks.

Peter flinches. He reflects for the umpteenth time what these people have done—what they’re doing right now. It’s not like they’re going to welcome Wade with a smile and a polite grin. People with that much power fight back. And they’ll fight back viciously. Peter has no doubt Kindika would sooner kill them all than try to play this off as a misunderstanding.

“I’d rather there was no killing. I don’t want there to be any death,” Peter says with sincerity. He doesn’t want anyone to die. “But I understand the magnitude of this. They need to be stopped.” He confesses.

“And if the request can’t be fulfilled without bloodshed?” Wade echoes, nodding in confirmation. “If they’d rather put a gun to every child’s head than give up their purpose? Then dealing with them would mean that I would have to stop them. Can’t bring punches to a gun show, Bambi. If they fight back and someone dies, you’re going to be responsible. Is that something you can live with?”

The realization feels like a straightjacket wrapping around his chest. They will fight back. There’s no question. Someone’s going to get hurt. The likelihood of someone dying is even greater. An invisible boa constrictor of realization coils tighter and tighter around lungs: it will be his fault. Five years ago, Peter was so frightened to hurt people that he started disconnecting from everyone he knew. He didn’t want to harm anyone, even Flash, the asshole that he was—that’s what Peter said, wasn’t it? But Peter’s not the same as he was five years ago and this situation is vastly different. Flash had been a teenage bully who mocked Peter relentlessly with words. These people aren’t mocking anyone with words. They’re taking lives, stealing them in what must be, given Mr. Stark’s insistence of an anti-mutant connection, support of something with malicious ideas.

“No matter how much I want to take that responsibility from you, I can’t. If someone dies, then it’s going to be a death that you’ve commissioned. Forever. I pull the trigger, but you give me the gun. Do you understand?”

Peter feels a tear run down the side of his face. Curious, because he hadn’t felt his eyes water at all.

“It’s something that I’m going to have to live with,” Peter responds, words broken and sad.

Wade shakes his head. Not frantically, not like he’s trying to convince Peter one way or the other. He remains steadfast in his ambiguity. He’s making sure Peter understands. He’s not trying to sway Peter’s opinion or coerce him into making a specific decision. He’s laying everything on the line.

“You only have to live with what you choose to do,” Wade replies. “You can choose to submit the request and I'll take out the entire facility, bring back any prisoners stuck inside. Or, you can choose to revoke the request.”

“And I forget about everything, let the prisoners remain, and the facility continues to practice. And I let more children disappear to who even knows where,” Peter finishes.

Wade and he stare at each other for a moment, Weasel silent in the background.

“It’s something I’m going to have to live with,” Peter repeats, then reaches into the pocket of his Salvation Army and pulls out the little, wallet-sized photo of Esther. She smiles back at him with her purple stain and pinned back bangs.

He hands the photo to Wade.

It looks unbelievably insignificant in his huge palm, but Wade cradles it nonetheless. He comprehends the weight it carries. He gets what it means, even without asking who the picture is of or why Peter has it.

Wade nods. And at the moment, Peter can see he understands. There’s not one lick of judgment in the lines of his mouth. Just that same perceptiveness that Peter finds himself repeatedly running into. A knowing intuition.

Wade reaches up with a gloved finger and brushes the tear off of Peter’s cheek before passing the photograph back to him. 

Predictably, it’s Weasel that breaks the moment. “Alright, bitches. I guess we’re about to have a big, gay sleepover, then, aren’t we?”

-

Weasel stops whining and instead, scurries off somewhere with the check in hand.

Wade, still on his knees, brings up his other hand to Peter’s cheek. Cradling Peter’s face, he thumbs along Peter’s cheekbones with a quiet sort of calm. He’s still watching Peter, evaluating. Peter’s emotions must stark on his face: the determination to resolve this, the hope to save the children, the impending guilt for those who will be injured, despite knowing what they’ve done. There are endless emotions storming through Peter’s heart right now. He feels so many things. But none of them are indecision.

And that’s what Wade seeks. Finding none, he nods decisively.

Then he stands and bends down to touch his lips to Peter’s. Hands still cupping Peter’s cheeks, he presses their mouths together firmly. Peter’s eyes fall closed and he breathes out in relief at the warmth where they meet.

Peter likes Wade. A lot. "Like" doesn’t quite encompass the feeling he gets when he’s near the man—like a helium balloon, weightless and floating skyward, leaving all of the things he hates most about his life looking miniscule beneath him—or the feelings he gets when he’s away from him, itchy like he’s missing a phantom limb. He can tell Wade feels the same. It’s apparent in the way he holds himself around Peter, the way he talks to Peter, the way he respects Peter and seems to catch the little details that make Peter himself faster than anyone else ever has. It’s all there, in the way that Wade regards him like he can’t quite believe Peter’s in front of him.

Wade doesn’t go any further. No teasing nips, not a hint of tongue. It’s not a kiss for passion.

It’s a kiss for comfort.

It’s a kiss of acceptance.

He pulls back, letting his hands fall from Peter’s face reluctantly, just as Weasel walks back into the room.

The check is very noticeably gone. Instead, Weasel holds two laptops, one in each hand.

“Well. Let’s get shakin’ bacon.” He shoves a laptop at Peter and Wade, respectively.

Weasel spares not a second more before settling down to research. Reconnaissance, he calls it. He tells Peter that he usually doesn’t get involved in the details of deals: he receives submission requests, then he deals them out, confirms that the requests been completed, then handles the payments. But he admits, with a sort of lamented suffering, that he’s sometimes Deadpool’s handler. To which, Wade snorts loudly and throws the Oscorp Geiger Counter at his face. Helping a friend with background research does not a handler make, Wade crows, but Weasel seems firm in his self-appointed title.

Weasel’s good at handling tech.

Not good, he’s phenomenal. It’s terrifying to watch as he begins printing a flurry of pages—Stark Tower blueprints, security reports, and the like—all with the same ease that one would print a Microsoft Word document. He even prints an extensive analysis on Mr. Stark’s old AI, JARVIS. Not that they need it, Weasel says, it’s just cool shit.

These documents are heavily guarded; Peter knows for sure that to get them requires breaking through layers and layers of encryption. Weasel seems to do it all while stuffing Funyuns in his face and bickering nonstop with Wade.

Weasel prints the documents, but it’s Wade who takes them.

Wade and Weasel go back and forth, practiced and strategically. Weasel supplies all of the vital need-to-knows while Wade’s military training and experience as a mercenary make themselves apparent. Peter feels like an outsider as he watches. Encased in a bubble, they come up with a plan of action.

There’s a bit of arguing, but finally, they both seem to compromise.

By the time they finish, it’s an obnoxious hour of the morning. Peter hasn’t said a word the entire time. The excitement of the situation, the sheer emotion of it all, wears on Peter’s shoulders. All Peter can do is feel bone-deep exhaustion. Every limb feels heavy.

When Wade rounds on him, Peter has to forcibly blink himself back to attention. He doesn’t quite win the battle, because next thing he knows, Wade is pulling him up by the shoulders and putting Peter’s burner into his hand. He pushes Peter mildly towards the door.

“Call your boss. Tell him you need to take tomorrow off.”

Peter can’t even protest. He just walks out the door, ushered into privacy by the gentle lead of Wade’s hand. Wade closes the door behind Peter, leaving him in the small landing at the top of the stairs.

Peter calls Mr. Delmar and it takes him a few tries to get the words out properly. Mr. Delmar tells Peter how concerned he is about him and that he’s been speaking to Aunt May. He won’t stand for overworking Peter, he says sprinkled with Spanish. He orders Peter to take the week off, then tells him that when he gets back, they need to revise his work schedule.

Peter can’t think much more. It takes an immense effort for him to cough out the words "thank you so much, Mr. Delmar, I’m really sorry". But he does, then puts the burner in his pocket. He stands in the landing, eyes staring off into space for who knows how long before Wade’s exiting the door and crowding up behind him.

He doesn’t have the strength to ask any questions. He just lets Wade lead him down the stairs and into a cab. As if underwater, he registers Dopinder’s upbeat conversation with Wade. It passes in a blur. Then Wade drags him out of the car and into a building.

Peter blinks as Wade waves to a doorman, then they’re in the elevator, and suddenly in an apartment with Wade locking the door behind them.

Wade herds him into a bedroom and pushes a bundle of sweats into Peter’s arms.

“Sleep, Bambi,” he says, then disappears into the living room.

Peter doesn’t remember stripping, but then, he has a warm pair of clothes on and his face is smooshed into a pillow. 

Peter wakes up to a soft knocking sound.

Groggy, Peter blinks open crusted eyes to find himself with his head buried underneath a pillow and his body tangled in a heavy blanket.

The knocking continues, “Bambi? You awake yet?”

“Mhm?” Peter jerks his head out from under the pillow, wincing as the light flooding the room assaulting his pupils. Fighting with the blanket, he pushes himself up into a sitting position, looking around the room with confusion. His memories slowly feed into his brain—last night. The facility at Stark Tower. Going to Weasel for help. Leaving with Wade.

Is this Wade’s bedroom?

Peter takes in the Spartan room. It’s very minimalistic, but the furniture is modern. The walls are painted gray. There’s a black dresser with drawers and no mirror. A huge window covered with gauzy white curtains that do nothing to block the sun. Looking down, Peter notes he’s in a huge bed—much bigger than his twin at home—with soft jersey sheet and a puffy duvet.

The sound of a door opens and Wade peeks in. Peter sees he’s dressed in navy sweats, mask firmly in place.

“Sleeping beauty rises! God, look at that nest on your head,” Wade says, voice enthused. Too excited for it to be the morning, Peter thinks. Then looks at the window again where the sun is shining through. Or is it afternoon? “Boy, am I happy to see you up and at ‘em! You’ve been so quiet in here, I thought you might be pushing daisies. I was going to check if you were still breathing, but I didn’t want to seem too Edward Cullen. I don’t sparkle anyway.”

Peter, not a morning person—or afternoon person, whatever—blinks at him and squints his eyes. “Mhm,” he says back. Because really, what is there to say to that?

The mask’s eyes squint in amusement. “I see you need a caffeine battery before I can power you on.” He raises a hand, gloveless Peter notes, to Peter’s right. “There’s an extra toothbrush in the bathroom. Clean towels too. You’re welcome. I’m a fabulous host; my Yelp reviews are shining with praise. Welcome to the DP B'n'B.”

Then he’s gone, slithering back out the door and Peter blinks to his right.

It takes him another fifteen minutes to get up, but he finally stumbles his way into the bathroom.

-

When Peter stumbles out of the bedroom, he notices that the sweatpants he’s wearing are way too long on him. Obnoxiously long, just as the sweatshirt he’s wearing is obnoxiously baggy. He hadn’t noticed while he was swaddled and asleep. These are definitely Wade’s.

He trips his way into the kitchen, guided by the sounds of Wade puttering around and singing Ke$ha. As Wade belts “but the party don’t stop til I walk in”, Peter hops with impeccable timing onto a barstool at the island, right across from where Wade is at the stove making something.

This kitchen is nice, he thinks, brain still on slow. It’s like the bedroom; modern and gray. Granite countertops and fancy subway backsplash. Not exactly the type of place he would have pictured Deadpool living.

“You like pancakes, baby boy?” Wade says, pivoting around like a ballerina with a spatula in his hand. He strikes a pose, a pancake cooking on a pan behind him.

Peter, wet hair dropping beads of water down his face, blinks. Then blinks again. And then nods.

“Ohmigod,” Wade gushes, spatula falling as he puts his hand on his hip. “You’re really adorable, you know that?”

Peter blinks again.

“Aw!” Wade coos and mutters, “If you stay, I promise I’ll water you every day.” Wade turns, flips the pancake-like an Iron Chef, the grabs something that Peter can’t see.

With another pivot, he leans over the island and puts a Starbucks cup in front of Peter. “You’re a very lucky boy, eh? Daddypool’s got eyes and ears everywhere. Like Santa Claus. Except not, cause the ‘see you when you’re sleeping’ thing is pretty fucked up and we’ve already established there will be no Cullen-ing in this house.”

Peter blinks, looking blankly at the drink before he actually sees what it is. Then he perks up, a wave of excitement passing over him and reaches with grabby hands to the drink. He holds it in both of his hands like if he doesn’t, it will disappear. Then he pulls it close to his chest, mouth finding the straw. His eyes flutter in simple happiness: matcha green tea frappuccino. Delicious.

Wade laughs loudly. “Yeah, take it easy, you little beast. You can relax, it’s not going anywhere. At least, not until you guzzle it. But I may or may not have another venti in the fridge…Enter suspenseful pause here.”

Peters eyes snap open and focus on Wade’s mask. Is he serious? Or is this a horrible, cruel joke? Peter doesn’t remember Wade being cruel. But there’s a first time for everything.

Wade’s still laughing like he’s watching a sitcom. He turns away, grabs the pan, and drops a few pancakes into a tall stack to his right. Then he reaches to turn the stove off. Placing the spatula down, Wade walks over to the fridge, opens the door wide, and makes a flourishing gesture like one of those girls on a game show.

“See something you like, Bambi?”

There is another matcha green tea frap. It sits in the fridge sparkling at Peter, whipped cream and all.

Peter makes a very happy sound, muffled by the straw in his mouth as he continues to drink the frap in his hand.

“Uh huh. You’re very welcome, little brat. You can drink with ease knowing another is waiting for you.” Wade’s smile stretches the mask as he watches Peter slurp up the frap in what has to be a profoundly unattractive manner. “Remind me to not feed you after midnight.”

Then he goes and fixes two plates of pancakes before joining Peter at the island, sitting next to him on a stool. He drops one plate and a fork in front of each of them, reaching to a glass bottle shaped like a maple leaf. Wade holds it up in front of Peter’s eyes.

“Behold, Bambi!” Wade says adopting a mystical tone. “True maple syrup! Pure, maple syrup from real maple trees—none of that fructose, corn syrup, Aunt Jemima crap. No syrup imposters. These pancakes,” here he picks up a pancake between a finger and his thumb flapping it in the air, “call for authenticity.”

Peter bets it’s Canadian.

Wade drops the pancake, then raises the bottle skyward with a straight arm, sort of like it’s a sword. “This!” he jerks the bottle of syrup, “Came to us from a distant land, in the pockets of a traveler.”

Harry Potter reference. Peter blinks, still sipping the frap. He thinks he saw a laptop hooked up to a television on his walk to the kitchen. Someone’s been marathoning oldies.

Wade pauses, bringing the syrup back to the counter, opening it easily. “Well, actually, I ordered it from Amazon. But the company is based in Manitoba, so, yeah.” Then he dumps half of it onto the pancakes in his own plate.

It feels good to be right.

Pulling his mask up halfway, Wade digs into the pancakes with all the table manners of a lion falling face-first into a kill. At one point, he abandons the fork and starts rolling pancakes into little taco shapes that go into his mouth whole. Peter watches him eat messily for a few minutes before he’s finally able to pull his mouth away from his Starbucks. When he eats, he finds the pancakes are actually rather delicious. They're perfectly plump and round in shape. Peter wonders how Wade learned to make them so professionally.

It’s like Wade hears his thought because he turns to Peter and says, “I used to work as a sous chef at the Ottawa Marriott Hotel.”

Peter freezes around a pancake, blinking at Wade. Really? Part-time mercenary, part-time chef. That’s strange; Peter doesn’t think Deadpool’s identity is secret. Was there a time when he was sous chef by day, mercenary by night?

“No, no, Bambi, don’t be ridiculous,” Wade answers, in response to nothing, because Peter still hadn’t said anything. How does Wade always know what he’s thinking? Is he really that predictable? “Deadpool wasn’t making any pancakes. This was a long, long time ago, way back when I was a spring chicken. I had like, just turned twenty years old, just a little baby. Could barely tie my shoes.

Swallowing his pancake, Peter narrows his eyes. So rude! Peter’s just turned twenty. He’s not a baby. He can tie his shoes just fine, thank you very much. Peter glares at him.

Wade swallows roughly around the pancake, looking intently at Peter. Then he smiles brightly. “No way! Baby boy, you’re twenty, aren’t you?”

Oops. Well, the whole undercover operation at this point is pretty much in the wrecks, right? What’s the big difference between twenty and twenty-one, right?

“Damn!” Wade’s smile is brilliant like he’s just found a box of chocolates. “I gotta admit, Bambi, I was hoping you’d be twenty. But, you have one hell of a baby face. You don’t know how happy I was to hear that you finished high school. I don’t fancy being put on one of those sex offender registries. Wouldn’t be able to get digs as nice as this one.”

Right, Peter had told Wade he finished high school. Well, that wasn’t not part of the Ben Weber thing anyway.

They finish their pancakes and Wade collects the plates, dropping them into the sink, before pulling Peter to the couch in the next room. “Bring your frap, Bambi.”

The couch in front of the television is not like Peter’s Pleather Crisis Couch™. It’s bright red, for one, and it’s velvety soft. The cushions are comfortable but sturdy, unlike the pleather sofas which do their best to eat Peter alive whenever he’s in fetal position freaking out on them. Wade turns on the television and Peter was right: they jump right into a Harry Potter marathon, somewhere in movie three.

He and Wade should really be talking. There’s a lot for them to discuss. Like the fact that Wade accepted Peter’s submission request to terminate Kindika. That’s definitely something that warrants attention. Almost as much as the fact that Wade apparently thinks he’s going to do it alone, if the plan of action he made with Weasel last night stands true. Peter’s not going to let him go alone, of course. This was Peter’s mission to begin with. While it’s not a mission fit for Spider-Man, it’s one that Peter has to see through. He has to be there to help in any way that he can. These people are dangerous. He’s not letting Wade go in alone. But now isn’t the time to talk. He just doesn’t have the energy. He wants to enjoy a morning-afternoon with Wade. It’s something he’d never done before, but eager to experience.

Peter gazes at the movie absently for a few long minutes.

Then Peter stops watching the movie when he realizes he could be watching Wade.

Wade’s sprawled out on the couch carelessly. Arms flung over the back, reclined with his long legs spread so that one is hooked under the coffee table in front of them and the other is lengthened on the floor next to it. The couch is a good size, but Wade still makes it look like a fun-sized piece of furniture.

Peter pops the straw from his mouth. Pumped up by confidence improved by still being half asleep, Peter puts his empty cup on the coffee table, then turns and swings a leg over Wade’s body.

“Oh, God!” Wade squeals in surprise as Peter straddles him, his hands grabbing Peter’s hips. “Happy Hanukkah!”

Peter sits down on his upper thighs, a little smile pulling at his lips as Wade babbles. “Hello, there. Hi. You come here often? Scratch that. I know the answer: you don’t come here nearly often enough.” Wade’s hands squeeze on Peter’s hips, thumbs tracing his hip bones.

Peter shivers at the feeling. Even though the baggy sweatpants, Wade’s hands feel good and hot on him. Large enough that his fingers spread against Peter’s ass.

Wade leans his head back on the couch, clearly looking down at Peter over his nose. “Whatcha doing, sweetheart?”

Peter’s thighs clench just a little at Wade’s voice; how it sounds melodious around the pet name. Wade’s always calling Peter pet names. Stupid names. Peter likes every one of them. He likes the way they sound when Wade’s being teasing or a smartass, fond. He likes the way they sound when he works Peter up, lustful.

“Mhm,” Peter breathes, softly, hands coming up to play with the strings falling from Wade’s hoodie.

Wade’s grin is one that promises trouble. “That’s the only thing you’ve said to me all morning, did you know that? After all the nice things I’ve done, don’t you think I deserve a prettier sound?”

One hand leaves Peter’s hip to wrap around his neck and Wade tugs. Pulls him forward with his light grip, but instead of kissing Peter, he lets that hand grab at Peter’s hair. He pushes his face into Peter’s neck and licks a hot stripe up Peter’s throat, ending with a bite to the vulnerable skin right under Peter’s ear.

“Hah!” Peter breathes in surprise, a sharp bolt of arousal winding from the point where Wade’s teeth are sinking into his neck, to his toes. Peter’s hands fall from the strings and grip at Wade’s shoulder roughly.

Wade pulls back and grins against Peter’s neck. “That was much better, baby, thank you.”

Peter’s hard already. He might have been hard the moment he sat in Wade’s lap. It’s pathetic that Wade doesn’t even have to try to get Peter riled up. All he has to do is sit there and exist.

Peter pulls Wade’s head out of its hiding place by the bunched up folds of his mask, dragging him into a kiss. It’s a hot kiss, wet and dizzying, with very little finesse. Everything about it is smacking lips, purposeful tongues, and painfully clacking teeth. Wade lets Peter control it, lets Peter guide him for the first few minutes before he retreats back enough to nip at Peter’s lips.

His arms fold around Peter’s waist, then he’s finding Peter’s lips again, and forcing their kisses to remain slow. Every time Peter tries to drag Wade’s tongue back into his mouth, Wade teases him with a little flick behind his teeth or by dragging his tongue along the roof of his mouth quickly before settling back into soft, tender kisses.

It drives Peter crazy.

His body is on fire and he can feel his cock leaking into the soft fabric of his sweatpants. Frustrated, he rips away from Wade’s lips and mirrors what Wade had done just a few minutes before: bites punishingly at Wade’s neck, then hides his face, arms wrapping tightly around it.

Peter pushes himself from the top of Wade’s thighs, shifting forward to settle himself in the cradle of Wade’s hips. It feels so good that it takes his breath away. Unable to stop himself, he grinds down, rubbing himself with his cock pushing into the hardness of Wade’s lower abdomen.

Wade moans. “Always so impatient,” he growls, one hand cupping the back of Peter’s head affectionately and the other dropping down Peter’s back.

Peter whines helplessly when the hands clench down, one tight in his hair, the other digging into his ass. Wade pushes Peter’s ass down encouragingly. “Go ahead, baby,” he croons sympathetically. “You’re allowed to play a bit before I have you.”

Muffling his sounds in Wade’s neck, Peter gasps, hips twitching at Wade’s words. They make him feel drunk. His hips hump down into Wade, graceless and without rhythm. When he grinds down, he can feel the hardness of Wade’s erection distinctly through the material of their clothes. On instinct, he swivels his hips, fidgeting until he gets Wade’s length pressed between his ass cheeks. This time, when he rubs himself against Wade, he can feel Wade’s erection pushing behind his balls. The feeling is muted from their sweats, but the hint of it is enough to make Peter feel desperate.

The vibrations of Wade’s groans shake against his own chest. Peter loves the way they feel. He loves the way Wade sounds unleashed. Like he’s dangerous, but Peter caught him.

Panting, Peter lets himself change his pace. Instead of grinding down senselessly, he starts moving purposefully. He bounces lightly in Wade’s lap, testing. From his spot in the crook of Wade’s neck, he can hear Wade’s pulse thrumming as much as he can feel it. Not a trick of the moment, a fantasy brought on by passion, he can actually hear it thanks to his senses.

It’s already wild, but when Peter bounces, it ticks up a notch and Wade lets out a harsh breath.

Peter knows why.

It looks like Wade’s fucking him; it looks like Peter’s riding his cock.

Peter emerges from Wade’s neck, sitting back, his hands still in place to keep his balance. When his eyes find the mask, he can’t help but feel annoyed. He wants the mask gone. He wants to see what Wade’s eyes look like when Peter’s on top of him like this. But he knows he won’t ask. Peter can’t ask. This is something that Wade has to decide to give him. Peter won’t push. So, he looks at Wade’s mouth instead. The scars are in new places today, new colors. Wade’s mouth is open and gasping.

Peter leans forward and licks Wade’s lips. Once. Not a kiss, just a lick, then pulls back to watch Wade moan, his own tongue darting out like he wants to chase the way Peter tastes.

Wade looks turned on.

It makes Peter smile impishly.

Wade catches the look, of course, and flashes a dark smile in return. “I see how it is, Bambi,” Wade murmurs, then fists a hand on the hem of Peter’s sweatshirt. “Can I take this off?”

It doesn’t occur to Peter to say no. As self-conscious as he is, Wade has had a hand up his shirt before. Nothing there is going to be a surprise. Wade helps Peter pull the sweatshirt over his head, then throws its somewhere over the couch. He doesn’t waste any time before running his hands from the bottom of Peter’s stomach, up his chest, thumbs circling Peter’s nipples lightly.

Peter moans a little, hips stuttering.

Wade just grins, sits up, then suddenly there’s a mouth on one nipple and a finger twisting another. Peter might shriek. It feels like a kiss; Wade’s tongue swiping over his right nipple, mouth sucking before his mouth pulls away to let the rough texture of his lips rubs over it. Peter’s head falls back between his shoulder, pushing into Wade’s mouth.

“Still a brat,” Wade whispers, then bites down gently. When Peter whines, hands grabbing Wade’s biceps to pull him closer, Wade bites down again. It’s harder this time. This time, it hurts. It hurts so very good that Peter sobs when Wade pulls away.

Peter tries to bring him right back, fingers weak on Wade’s hoodie, but Wade just settles back. With confusion, Peter watches as Wade's arms leave Peter’s body to cross behind his head. Like he might recline on a hammock.

Peter stills, cold without Wade holding him. He looks at the man in askance.

Wade just grins, cocky. “What, baby?” he asks, then he spread his legs apart, even more, adjusting himself. Peter’s weight on top of him ignored. “I’m enjoying myself. Keep going, I didn’t say you could stop.”

Peter likes it when Wade says he can, but him saying he can’t is just as heady. Wade knows it too because he wields the words like a weapon. I didn’t say you could. So, Peter tentatively moves his hips again, grinding on Wade. It feels different without Wade guiding him. It feels different half-naked. He can feel himself blush down his chest as Wade’s eyes travel, lingering over the dips and valleys.

Wade licks his lips.

“You know what you look like, don’t you?” Wade asks. “You look like you’re fucking yourself on my dick.”

Peter’s finger clench, grabbing at the stomach of Wade’s sweatshirt. He wants the fucking sweatshirt off, but he won’t ask. He won’t ask, he promises himself. He won’t put Wade in an uncomfortable position. Not when all he does is accommodate Peter.

“You look like a slut.”

The word makes Peter jump from a punch of murky arousal.

“You’re all red, sweetheart,” Wade says, a careful grin on his face like he’s sniffing out blood. “What’s wrong, no one ever call you that word before? Maybe because no one’s seen you like this, getting yourself off on me?”

Peter gulps, eyes fixed on Wade’s grin. In anticipation, he realizes. He wants to hear what Wade says next. Wade had called it when they were on the phone: Peter likes it when Wade talks dirty to him. He thinks it is probably textbook fantasy, a kink that everyone thinks about, biting their pillows at night. Wade’s so good at it, he thinks. Peter would never be able to do the same. But he’s lucky. Wade doesn’t seem to mind. He’s alright with doing the talking. It’s always like this, actually, even when they’re just hanging out. Wade’s content to make conversation; it takes the pressure off of Peter. Makes him feel at ease.

“What, baby boy? You think that because you’re a virgin that you can’t be a slut? I wish I had a mirror for you, so you could see how you look. Your nipples are bruised already. You wanna touch them for me, sweetheart?”

Peter’s hands spasm in a shaky grip.

Wade’s grin never leaves his mouth. “Go ahead,” he coaxes, “Just give them a little pinch for me.”

With shaky hands, Peter looks away unable to face him and runs his fingers tentatively over his chest.

“Ah-ah. Be good, baby boy.” Wade’s voice is admonishing. “Look at me when you do it.”

Teeth tearing at his lips, Peter’s eyes find Wade’s mouth again and he pinches down. It sends sparks of pleasure through his body. He didn’t realize he was so sensitive. The drag of his own skin on skin feels rough and the pinch feels like an electric shock.

“You look so lovely, fucking unreal,” Wade whispers, reaching out finally to touch Peter. His fingers curl lightly around Peter’s throat. “Just like a toy.”

Peter moans, his eyes fluttering at that.

“Yeah, baby boy?” Wade asks, still soft. “Like that, then? You want to be my toy? Let me keep you? I want to wrap you up in diamonds and chain you to my bed.”

Peter grinds down a bit too hard at that, but the dull throb of pain does nothing to stop him from almost coming. It takes a moment of intense concentration—eyes squeezed shut, frozen on Wade’s lap—trembling like a leaf in a tornado, to convince his body not to come. To calm himself down.

He reawakens to the feel of Wade’s fingers leaving his neck and a thumb gently rubbing over his lips.

“Why didn’t you come, baby?” Wade asks, searchingly.

Peter licks his lips, tongue inadvertently flicking against the thumb caressing them. Wade moans.

“You,” Peter has to stop, cough, and try again. His voice sounds like it went through a blender. “I like when you say it.”

“When I say what?” Wade prompts.

Gritting his teeth, Peter admits it. “That I can.”

“And I didn’t give you permission, did I?” Wade’s ever-present grin says it all. Proud. Of Peter? Certainly. But, also clearly proud of himself for nailing all of Peter’s on switches.

“Very good, baby boy. Don’t you think you should have a reward?”

Peter blinks up at that, the white eyes in the mask twinkling at him. What does that mean? A reward like what?

“I think you should. I promised to spoil you, didn’t I?” Wade asks rhetorically, then all of a sudden, Peter is in the air. Wade stands up, one arm under Peter’s bottom to support him, and the other across his back, pressing him to Wade’s chest. It reminds Peter of the first time they’d kissed; his legs wrapped around Wade’s body, held up against him to correct for their height difference.

Then Wade is turning and putting Peter on the couch, right into the warm spot he just abandoned. Smiling down at Peter, Wade drops down to his knees, shoulders shoving Peter’s legs apart to make room for himself. He looks large and cramped in between the couch and the coffee table, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

His hands fly to Peter’s waistband and he snaps it, looking devilish when Peter squeaks, jumping in his seat.

Peter nods dumbly. He watches as Wade’s wonderfully scarred hands deftly tug at the sweatpants, pulling them down Peter’s legs and helping him step out of them. They, like Peter’s sweatshirt, are tossed carelessly to the floor. Wade’s eyes fix on him, his tongue darting out to lick his lips. It feels a little cliché. Peter wasn’t wearing underwear. Not because he’d been planning this or planning to be sexy. But because he’d taken a shower and didn’t want to root around Wade’s belongings. He’s left his briefs in a pile with his own clothes at the foot of Wade’s bed.

Wade’s hands run up his thighs, soothingly. Peter can’t stop looking at Wade’s hands. The contrast makes him excited. The size difference, Wade’s large hands wrapping around his thighs. Peter’s muscular from swinging around the city, but he’s not Wade, who regenerates so quickly that he probably builds inches of muscle in a day. He even loves Wade’s scars. He knows they have a painful backstory, but Peter can only see the intricacy of their designs. They’re not pretty, no. But, they intrigue him. And he’s able to admit to himself that he craves their rough and smooth texture brushing over his sensitive skin. It makes him feel.

“Let’s play a game, Bambi.” Wade hands stroke gently. “We’re good at them. Remember? We played one on the phone and you did so well.”

Peter nods, his cock is already twitching, wet and messy, balls drawn tight from when he almost ended this too soon.

“I’m going to put my mouth on your cock.” When Peter moans, Wade chuckles. “But I’m not going to blow you.”

The questioning sound Peter makes does not go amiss.

“I’m not going to blow you, baby boy. You’re going to fuck my mouth, but when you feel like you’re about to come, you’re going to stop. And I’m going to pull off until you calm down. Then when you’re ready, we’re going to do it again.”

Peter’s not sure if he has the brain cells to comprehend that.

“But I’m good to you, aren’t I?” Wade continues. “I know this is going to be hard for you, baby, so I’m going to help you at first until you learn. Let’s start.”

There’s no wait time. Wade hooks one hand under Peter’s thigh and pulls his leg over Wade’s shoulder. It leaves him spread open in a way he’s never experienced. He can’t dwell though because Wade’s other hand goes straight to his dick, holding it firmly at the base. Then Wade ducks and swallows him down.

All the way down.

Like, Wade’s lips are pressed right to his fingers where he’s gripping Peter.

Peter yowls. His entire body shakes and all he can think is wet. Wet and hot and Wade’s mouth is so soft and God, fuck, fuck, fuck. He’s going to come.

Wade pulls off in an instant, fingers tightening, and then Peter can’t come. His body tries to, but Wade’s fingers forcibly halt it. Peter may or may not be crying. He can’t tell, his face is so hot that his tears are probably evaporating off of it in a cloud of steam, heating the air just that much more.

“See?” Wade says, “That’s why I’m helping you. Let’s give you a minute to calm down, hm?”

The worst part is that he does. Several minutes pass with Peter gasping like fish out of water and Wade murmuring softly to him. He talks nonsense, sweet nothings, his hands soothing Peter’s thighs. When Peter’s breath catches, Wade nods encouragingly.

“Doing well, angel,” he praises. “Let’s try again.”

Peter is only slightly more prepared this time. But Wade’s lips wrap around the head of his cock and he sucks him down slowly, leaving Peter shuddering into the couch. This time, his fingers aren't holding the base of Peter’s erection: no security blanket. When Wade bottoms out, Peter sits there, almost frightened. He doesn’t move one inch.

When Wade pulls off, Peter wants to throw a tantrum. He half-thinks about digging his fingers into the couch and ripping the red material to shreds.

“Did you forget the game already, baby boy?”

Peter trembles.

“What did I say I wouldn’t do?”

With a little pant, Peter squirms, all restless energy. He racks his brain for the answer. “Y-you said you wouldn’t b-blow me.”

“What did I say you’re going to do?”

Peter tears at his own hair, trying to ground himself. “F-fuck your mouth.”

“Bingo. Let’s try one last time. Three’s the charm, right, honey?” Wade says, but he doesn’t sound particularly disappointed. “Don’t tease me, baby, I’ve been wanting to taste you since I saw you.”

Then he presses the sweetest kiss to Peter’s leaking slit, pulling back to lap up the pre-come. He sucks Peter down slowly again, even lets Peter sit there stupidly for another minute, giving him time to adjust. Then he tugs on the thigh thrown over his shoulder. The movement minutely pushes Peter’s cock into his throat.

Chest heaving, Peter tentatively pulls himself back, then thrusts forward, just a centimeter into Wade’s mouth. When Wade moans encouragingly, Peter’s hands scramble, falling from his own hair and flitting in the air by Wade’s shoulders. Surprisingly, Wade reaches up, grabbing Peter’s hands in his own to squeeze them reassuringly. He pulls them and places them on his head, just as he pulls his mouth up along Peter’s cock until it rests on the head.

“You can keep your hands there,” he whispers hotly, breath making Peter oversensitive. “You’re alright, sweetheart, just like fucking your fist. You remember when you did that for me? It’s just like that, baby, you know what to do.”

Then he’s swallowing again and Peter, comforted by Wade’s words, grips the back of Wade’s head. He can feel the mask crinkling in his hands. Then he clenches his teeth and pushes into Wade’s mouth. Once, twice—gentle, and then he whines loudly, pleasure zinging through him. Then, like his body is on autopilot, he thrusts in harder. And again, and again, and then he’s fucking Wade’s mouth.

The slip-slide of Wade’s lips, the heat, the suction. It has Peter’s head thrown back. God, he can feel the tip of his cock pushing into Wade’s throat. It’s almost embarrassingly good. Amongst the wet sounds are the sounds of Wade groaning—noises that Peter wants to bottle up and take home with him. He can feel the vibrations deep in the seat of his hips.

He’s supposed to pull out before he comes.

He knows he’s supposed to. But his body isn’t listening. His foot digs itself into Wade’s muscular back as his hips fuck up into the man’s throat.

He’s close. He so, so, so, so close.

Wade, the fucking magician that he is, sees it coming though. Just as the pleasure is curling in his gut, pooling in his tight sac, Wade manhandles Peter, pushing his leg off of his shoulder and onto the couch. He pulls back, taking his beautiful mouth with him.

“No!” Peter cries, desperate to finish. “Please, no, let me come. Wade, please, let me come, please, I wanna come!”

Wade touches his cheek, wiping at sweat and tears of frustration. He nods. “I know, baby. I’m not trying to tease you. I loved you fucking my mouth, baby, I’m so hard. Can I ask you to do one more thing for me?”

Peter is frantic when he nods. Anything, he’d do anything Wade wanted. There’s nothing that Peter doesn’t want to do for Wade right now—not just now, all the time.

“Will you let me blow you now?”

Peter doesn’t understand.

“I let you fuck my mouth, now you’re going to let me blow you,” Wade says, knowing Peter’s already relented despite not comprehending. “I let you push into my mouth, all needy. But now I get to suck you. So, I want you to sit there. Stay still. Don’t move. You can come whenever you want to, but you don’t get to move.”

He pushes Peter’s legs wider, hands going for the first time in a while to Peter’s hips. He holds them down firmly, then he leans in like he did before, kissing the head of Peter’s cock. Then he tongues over it, licking firmly and lapping at that one spot that makes Peter dizzy and twitchy. Peter had fucked into Wade’s mouth feverishly, fast and rough. Wade sucks slow and steady. Lets his mouth sink down Peter leisurely, then slurps up just as sluggishly. Plays with Peter’s cockhead, then licks at his shaft, nosing into his balls. When he sucks him deep, he moans and swallows.

The desperation Peter felt before doesn’t go away. But somehow, his body is tricked into following Wade’s example.

His orgasm is pulled from the depths of his body, slowly building and building. It feels like it takes forever. It feels like it takes years before he’s shuddering, cresting, back arching with too much flexibility as he releases into Wade’s mouth. He can’t even hear himself babbling, he just feels each pulse of his orgasm one after the other, strong and caught into the comforting heat of Wade’s mouth.

When he finishes, he’s still keening. Still begging with a feeling of incompletion.

He barely registers Wade reaching up to him, petting his hair and forehead.

“Please,” he begs, pleasure still making him feel high. “Please, let me this time?”

Wade frowns, “What is it baby, what do you need?” Always so eager to please him. Peter wants to do the same.

“Please, let me touch you this time.” The words are slurred, but their meaning doesn’t diminish. He feels Wade hesitate, just for the briefest moment, before relaxing. Peter wants to cheer, but instead, he just moans.

“Please, let me,” he repeats. “What do you want? Do you want my mouth?”

Wade’s head falls onto Peter’s shoulder, groaning, but he nods pointed. “Okay, Bambi. Okay.” Then he grabs Peter by the wrist. “Just your hand, sweetheart.”

“Are you sure?” Peter mumbles but reaches eagerly for Wade’s waistband.

Wade laughs, husky with desire and disbelief. “Yeah, baby boy, I’m sure. It’s not going to take much.”

Peter shakes of Wade’s hand and shoves his own into Wade’s pants. Peter doesn’t need to see to know that Wade’s cock is just as scarred as the rest of him. Peter doesn’t care; when his fist closes around him, it feels like an epiphany. His cock is thick and long in Peter’s hand, flesh turgid and warm. And everything Peter’s never known he’s wanted. He pumps him eagerly. It’s probably awkward because he’s not used to the angle, but Wade’s head just falls back, and he moans louder than he did before.

“Sweetheart,” Wade pants, starting to push into Peter’s grip. It makes Peter feel deliciously powerful despite the limpness in his limbs from his orgasm.

He doesn’t know how to talk dirty; can’t do it like Wade. He won’t try. Instead, he licks his lips and looks up at Wade, his face honest.

“Wade,” he croaks, opening himself up selflessly. The awe, lust, and affection he feels for Wade—all up for the taking and etched into his expression.

When Wade comes into his hand, Peter almost feels like he’s coming again with him. Sympathetic tendrils of pleasure build up in him as he feels the wetness spring over his fist and the fabric of Wade’s pants.

Wade catches Peter in a kiss, trapping his hand between them. They sit there making out like two teenagers as they both come off of their highs. Lightheaded and very pleased with himself, Peter pets Wade anywhere he can. Hands all over his face and mask, shoulders, arms, chest, thighs.

He never wants to let Wade go.

“You know,” Peter says into a kiss. “I’m not letting you go alone into Stark Tower. I have to come with you.”

Wade jerks away from him, hands tight of Peter’s face. Peter blinks, licking his lips, at the quick change of scenery.

“What,” Wade says. His tone is flat and dripping with incredulity.

Oops. Peter’s really been working on his delivery. Practice makes perfect though and his practice hasn’t exactly been successful. Peter looks forlornly at Wade’s lips, all pinkened from his attention. So much for making out.

Sighing, Peter pats Wade’s hands where they rest on his cheeks. “I’m not letting you go in alone for Kindika. I’m coming with you.”

Wade frowns, then takes on the most parental tone Peter’s ever heard from his mouth. “Hell, no you’re not, kid.” Well. That disturbingly sounds like Mr. Stark. “You’re not coming with me on mercenary business into the lair of some kidnapping psychos who are probably armed for nuclear warfare. No.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re fucking not.” Wade drops his hands and crosses his arms resolutely. He stands to his full height, towering over a sitting Peter. “I’m Deadpool for a reason. I get sent in because I literally cannot die. You on the other hand? Squishy human. Very much killable. So, no, I’m going to complete the request and you’re going to sit on the sidelines with Weasel many miles away with a little earpiece in your ear pretending this is Mission: Impossible. Got it?”

“I’m not letting you go alone. I’m coming with you, there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” Peter rises to his knees on the couch. This is an awkward time to be naked. “If you leave me with Weasel, I’ll just go to Stark Tower myself. I know where it is.” Peter crosses his arms too.

“I’ll tie you up and handcuff you to Weasel.”

“I’ll just get free and go to Stark Tower.” Peter frowns and raises a hand to cut off any other stupid ideas from Wade’s mouth. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to Stark Tower. I’m telling you that I would rather go with you from the beginning, but if you do something stupid and insulting like tie me up, I will just have to go in after you. Do you really think Weasel is going to stop me?”

Wade groans in dismay and rubs his hands over his face, scratching at his mask. “Jesus fucking Christ, you’re not going to give this up, are you?”

“No. I wasn’t asking. I was telling you.”

“Fuck. Shit fuckity fuck,” Wade moans, rubbing his temples like a headache is coming. “You going to drink that frap? My impending migraine needs caffeine.”

Peter is completely and utterly horrified by the wounded whine that leaves his mouth. Like a first grader told he couldn’t go on a rollercoaster because he had to be this tall for this ride.

Interestingly, Wade’s frown wobbles, then he barks out a laugh like it’s pulled from his gut. “You little brat, I’m trying to be so serious right now,” he says, pearly teeth beginning to show from a reluctant smile. “Yeah, yeah I won’t touch your stinkin’ tea milkshake. I know, I bought it for you.”

Peter looks at him suspiciously.

Wade’s smile is in full force. He tugs Peter’s hair lightly. “Go ahead.” He sighs grandiosely and moves to give Peter some room. “Go get it, trouble. I know you want it, you finished the other one.”

Naked as the day he was born, but covered in significantly more jizz, Peter hops off the couch and races to the fridge to grab the frappuccino.

-

Peter and Wade spent the day together in Wade’s apartment, stuffing their faces and lazing about. But, all too soon, the clock ticks down. Peter resolutely stays at Wade’s side. He can’t bring himself to go back to his own apartment where his real phone is surely going off just as much as his burner with calls from Mr. Stark.  He can’t let Mr. Stark talk to him. He can’t let him change his mind. Instead of answering his burner, he turns it off. As night approaches, Peter washes and dries his clothes using the machines in a little pantry-like closet near Wade’s second bathroom. As Wade is in his room changing into his suit, Peter checks the fluid cartridge of his web shooters.

The portable shooters are on either wrist. He never takes them off. As much as he’d like to boast that he made them, it was actually Mr. Stark who invented them. He gives the genius credit. They look inconspicuous; just like the type of bracelets a fashion-less twenty-year-old man might wear. They look like rather thick woven bracelets, deceptively light. But underneath they are efficiently structured to hold a large volume of Peter’s spidey web fluid. Peter hasn’t refilled them after his last patrol, but there should be enough left. He hopes he won’t have to use them, but he’d be kidding himself. What he hopes is that Wade won’t catch him using them.

He feels a phantom ache for Karen. He misses her. It actually makes him nervous to be walking into something so dangerous without her to guide him. They’ve gone into "battle" together for five years. He’s become reliant on her.

He wonders what she would say about Wade.

When he’s just finishing putting on his dryer warm clothes, Wade walks out of the bedroom, dressed in his full Deadpool uniform.

“Ready to kick it, shawty?” Wade cries, slamming the door behind him dramatically.

“Don’t ever call me that again.”

At Weasel’s apartment, the man pours himself and Wade a shot of tequila while handing Peter a grape soda.

He resents this. Has he mentioned that?

“Alright, Weas,” Wade hisses throwing back the shot, then tossing the glass into Weasel’s kitchen sink. It breaks. He ignores it. “Do the thing where you talk my ear off, so I can go get shit done.”

“So, we can get things done,” Peter corrects.

Weasel blinks at them. “Is this a domestic? Because I really don’t want to get into the middle of that. I’m really not Doctor Phil.”

Peter bristles. “No,” he says firmly. “This is not a domestic. Wade and I are going together into Stark Tower to see this through.”

Weasel looks at Peter like he’s about to say something, but glances at Wade, then shuts up. Weird, because Peter had been preparing himself to defend his choice to both Wade and Weasel. But neither of them voices a complaint. He feels himself relax. It’s his choice, after all. He’s happy they respect his decision.

“This is how it’s going down,” Weasel says matter-of-factly as they huddle around the crowded table. “I can’t get any eyes into the building. Tried popping by and skulking around with my tech, but it’s a no go. You’re going to have to rely on blueprints and hope Life Foundation hasn’t changed the layout too much.”

Peter cuts him off, “The what foundation?”

Life Foundation,” Weasel repeats. “The people who purchased Stark Tower. They own Kindika and several other clinics and research facilities in the area. They snatched up the real estate, but it seemed like they weren’t moving in since the building still looks like the Hulk took a dump on it. Turns out, they are moved in, we know thanks to you who found that facility key from the identifiers.”

Peter blushes. That’s the official explanation for how he knows Kindika is at Stark Tower. That he found a master list of facility numbers after researching the LATM numbers. Not the most creative idea, but plausible. Weasel seems to buy it. But, then again, Weasel seems to take everything Peter says with a grain of salt.

“The point is: no security camera access. I did pick up a Wi-Fi dictated alarm system. Getting inside is as simple as turning the Wi-Fi off. We can shut down the power. The old-fashioned way.”

Peter shakes his head, negative. “No, if it’s a laboratory, they’ll have a generator. A power outage won’t do much.”

“The average generator takes ten to twenty seconds to kick on after a power outage. If we’re lucky, it will be closer to twenty than ten. These security systems only monitor doors and windows that lead to the outside of the building. If you can get inside during that time, you’ll be good.”

Peter nods, unsure of if it will work. The security has to be high tech. Would something so simple break it down?

“I know what you’re thinking, babydoll,” Wade says, putting a comforting arm around his shoulders. “But sometimes, less is more. Weasel knows what he’s talking about. These high-tech systems are armed against every threat except the simplest.”

“Then you have to worry about in-door security. I don’t know jack shit about that. Just like I don’t know jack shit about where in the building they are. That chiz has like a zillion floors, each for every lost soul in America,” Weasel continues.

Weasel points to the papers. There’s a stack of them that’s the blueprints. Peter flips through them. Peter glances through them, roof landing pad, floor A, floor B, floor C, a loading dock and garage on ground level. Pretty standard.

He hasn’t been to Stark Tower ever. When he was just coming into his powers, the building had already been abandoned and Avengers were hosted in the New Avengers Facility. But that doesn’t mean he’s clueless about it. He’s hung around Tony and members of the Avengers enough to hear a few wistful stories. Tony had mentioned that the top ten floors were where he did his technological research.

But that doesn’t fit. If Kindika was conducting research on the top ten floors, they wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. Stark Tower is tall and eye-catching. Made of glass. Every floor has windows. Someone would have seen something, even if blinds were being used. Too noticeable.

There is one room that the blueprints don’t show. The basement. The basement where Dr. Banner would disappear to if he was having a triggering day. That has to be it.

“The basement,” Peter says, interjecting into the conversation Wade and Weasel are having without him.

Weasel looks tiredly at him. “The basement?”

“Yeah,” Peter says, coughing. “It’s the most secure part of the tower.” Too much information. Fix. Now. “Um, probably.” Good fix. Very convincing.

Weasel’s wearing a captivated look that’s betrayed by the knowledge in his eyes. He knows Peter’s lying. Is it really a priority right now? Not in comparison to Kindika. But out of everyone in this room, the one he most doesn’t want to discover Peter Parker or Spider-Man is Weasel. Weasel, he has no doubt, would sell him out in a blink.

“There isn’t a basement,” Weasel states.

Peter shrugs, pushing at the stack of blueprints. “There’s always a basement?” he tries, then keeps digging the hole. “There has to be a basement. I don’t know for sure, it’s an um, it’s a deduction. If they were working anywhere in the tower, someone would have seen light or something.”

Wade’s hand moves from his shoulder to run his fingers calmingly through Peter’s hair. He tugs at the roots gently and Peter lets his eyes fall shut in a wave of tranquility. Cathartic.

“I said,” Weasel whines, “You two are not fucking in my house. Leave fucking room for fucking Jesus. Jesus!”

“If we started fucking here, you’d be jerking off in a second, you perv. I know you have a little voyeuristic kink, Weasel.”

“Can we focus?” Peter asks, still leaning into Wade’s hand.

Weasel looks like he’s going to be sick.

“We’re fucking done.”

“That’s it?” Peter asks in wonder. “That’s all you have to help us?”

“I’m not Dumbledore, I’m more of a Gandalf,” Weasel comments. “I’ll get you past the alarm system, while you execute the Walmart Plan.”

“The Walmart Plan?” Peter parrots dubiously.

“Yeah. Welcome to Stark Tower, get your shit and get out.”

“Dunham. Weasel likes ventriloquism. It’s something about the hands up the asses of puppets, I think,” Wade whispers into Peter’s ear. “It’s a stuffy fetish.”

“Blind Al told me about the unicorn.”

Wade jumps up, hissing. “Blind Al’s blind! She wouldn’t know a unicorn if it kebabbed her up the ass!”

“Who’s Blind Al?”

“No one!” Wade cries at the same time Weasel says, “Wade’s old roommate.”

 Wade waves off Peter’s incredulous look. “We’ll talk about it another time.”

“Look, that’s all I got for you folks.” Weasel gestures grandly. “Take an earpiece. If you tell me what floor you’re on, I might be able to guide you using a blueprint. Otherwise, go do your shit and leave me the fuck alone.”

Peter and Wade each grab a small earpiece from the table. It’s basically a Bluetooth, Peter observes.

“Anything else, kids?”

Wade stands up, yawns, and cracks his back. “Nope. We’re good, Weas. Let me drain the lizard, then let’s drop the bass. Maximum effort.”

It must be the sex hormones. The oxytocin tripled in his body by orgasms. Because it takes twenty-five minutes for Peter to realize that Wade left through the bathroom window. By the time Peter throws himself into the bathroom, it's empty, and there's a note written in red crayon, covered in sketched hearts, taped to the open window.

Sorry, Bambi. 
Dónde está la biblioteca.
Stay w/ Weas

Wade left for Stark Tower. Without him.

Peter must look vaguely murderous because Weasel doesn’t do a damned thing when Peter runs out the door. 

Peter’s not in his Spider-Man costume, but he still has most of his skills. He leaves his shoes in the landing of Weasel’s apartment for safekeeping and then climbs the back of the building where no one is looking. It’s dark enough that no one will notice him webbing on the far above the ground. He pulls up his hood and takes the roofs to Stark Tower. It’s not that far from Sister Margaret’s. Peter’s not sure who was there first, Stark Tower or Sister Margaret’s, but if it was Stark Tower, then Sister Margaret’s close proximity to the Avengers’ home base must have been a big F-YOU. He could see Weasel doing that.

He’s just a block away when the earpiece crackles.

“I’m ready, sound the alarm, Weasel.”

“Power grid’s off. You have somewhere between ten and twenty seconds. Move fast, broski. May the Force be with you,” Weasel’s voice sounds.

Fuck!

Taking a running leap, Peter webs himself on a far-off building and swings, letting the momentum carry him closer to Stark Tower. He can see it. Fuck, he can see Wade, ducking around the building on the east side out of view.

“Eight-second mark, man.”

Peter’s feet hit the ground running for the east side.

“Hm, looks like this is going to be a fifteen second-er. Lucky bastard.”

Peter rounds the building just in time to see Wade ducking down into some Bilco doors that were definitely not on the blueprints. They look new, actually. They don’t match the rest of the architecture and they are pristinely clean. Wade must have used his head start to survey the building before entering. Wade must have been looking for direct access to the basement. It would be the most strategic point of entry and exit.

“Don’t need the extra seconds. Got in here faster than I did your mother, and that’s saying something, Weas.”

Peter’s not so lucky.

“Ten-second mark. Make sure you secure the doors behind you.”

Peter’s not going to make it to the Bilco doors. Desperately, he looks around him and nearly cries when he remembers that the ground floor is the garage, which means people who would have worked here would have parked their cars on this level. Which means they would have had to take stairs or an elevator to the floor where they were employed. Peter runs back around to the front of the building, thanking the universe for his speed. He ducks past an empty gate with no guard and into the garage. It’s spookily empty. But there! Just a few feet to his left are a set of huge glass doors with a scan monitor. They lead to an elevator.

“Twelve-second mark. Did you do it?”

Peter throws himself at them. Finger digging between the doors, sticking to them, Peter rears up and pulls. The doors don’t stand a chance. Peter can stop a moving car. Hell, he’s held two halves of a ferry boat (almost) successfully together even with the combined force of water and gravity pulling them apart. They slide open with medium effort. Peter slips in, rushing to shut them, not wanting to trigger an alarm.

“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. Had a peeper. Jeepers Creepers! All locked up like a Nun’s box.”

“And we’re back on,” Weasel says.

Peter looks around wildly, but there’s no indication that the security system revived. He doesn’t see any cameras. But what had Weasel said? The alarm system was for exterior entrances; windows and doors that led to the outside. Peter’s not outside anymore. He’s technically inside the building.

Nothing rings and he relaxes, just minutely. He has to get into the basement. There’s only one way and it’s not calling the elevator. Peter pulls the elevator doors apart and looks down. It goes far enough that it has to go to the basement. Peter shoots a web out, lets it stick to the wall and hopes for the best as he repels down into the darkness.

There is another elevator door, down in the ground, over sixty feet from where Peter started. Peter’s glad he isn’t afraid of heights.

Peter holds one web tightly in his hand and stares at the doors. It’s airtight. There are no cracks anywhere, so Peter can’t see if there is any light, but Peter’s hit with the realization that there might be people on the other side of the door. If Peter uses his hands to pry them open, people will instantly be alerted to his presence. They’ll see fingers pushing them open and Peter will have no time to respond. They’ll see him first.

But.

If Peter can get the doors to open as if they would when the actual elevator delivers people to the floor, Peter might be at an advantage. They won’t look up immediately if it seems like the doors are sliding open as usual.

So, Peter presses his feet against the wall directly opposite the doors. He balances in a precarious crouch with his hands-free, relying on the stickiness of his feet to keep him adhered to the wall and the strength of his legs to hold him up. Then he webs the doors. One door for each hand, the webs sticking right near where the doors meet. He holds his breath. And he pulls.

They slide open and Peter doesn’t hesitate. He webs himself to the door frame and swings right in.

He’s greeted with silence.

It’s a lobby that happily reads "Welcome to the Life Foundation" on the wall in a cursive decal. Kind of like the ones an average joe might see in a dentist’s office; clean and white, with a waiting area full of chairs and magazines, LED recessed lighting, and what Peter thinks is lemon water off to the side on a table of pamphlets.

In front of him, there is a reception desk. And a man.

A man who is unconscious with his head against the desk at an awkward angle. He’s still breathing, Peter can see his chest rising and falling. But he’s completely conked out with a head wound bleeding sluggishly at his temple.

Peter is confused. And then to the right, he sees why.

Bilco doors.

Yep. Someone got here faster than he did. Peter just has to catch up with him.

“I’m looking around, Weas, I don’t see anyone besides the lightweight guarding the door. He practically fainted when I walked in. Almost didn’t have to pistol whip him.”

Peter hurries to the door behind the desk. It’s the only way to move forward. The only other exits are the elevator and the Bilco doors. Cautiously, he walks through the double doors. The doors are large enough to fit a gurney, he thinks. Right by the Bilco doors? Easy way to transport bodies. Or doppelgangers.

“Hold up, I think I hear someone.”

“Shit,” Weasel starts thoughtfully. “Is this a bad time to tell you that your boyfriend followed you? It’s not my fault you pick the clingy ones.”

“What the f—”

Peter goes through the door, enters a brightly lit hallway, and walks right into Wade’s gun. Wade, with his gun cocked in the air, gives a squeal of alarm and hurriedly points the gun at the floor. His mask undergoes a series of expression: shocked, relieved, then pissed. Then confused. Wade tilts his head, gesturing with his free hand to Peter’s feet.

“Why are you not wearing any socks or shoes?”

Peter blinks from behind his hood. He’s not wearing shoes because he can’t very well stick to the wall through socks and shoes. But he can’t tell Wade that. So, instead, he says, “I forgot them.”

Nailed it.

Wade drops the gun to his side, head tilting the other direction like looking at this from another angle will brings some sense to the situation. “You forgot your shoes,” he repeats it slowly back to Peter as if Peter doesn’t know how dumb he is already.

“I don’t wear shoes when I’m working,” he tries again. That sounds pretty reasonable, actually. If he worked as a lifeguard. Or if he hadn’t already tried to feed Wade one bullshit excuse.

“You forgot your shoes and you don’t wear shoes when you’re working.” Wade does this facepalm thing with a gun in his hand smacking his face. It looks a lot like he’s asking the universe for some patience. “I know I said I wouldn’t pull teeth, but Jesus, Bambi. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I told you, I wasn’t going to let you go alone.”

And like he can’t help it, Wade snorts and pipes back, “But I’m not alone, I brought my shoes to accompany me! You should try it sometime. Socks feel like warm hugs for your feet.”

“Mouse, your house of cards is weeble-wobbling,” Weasel’s voice says through the earpiece.

Wrinkling his nose and sighing, Peter bites back sullenly, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

Wade cracks up with a hysterical edge to his laugh.

And is promptly interrupted by a voice over a loudspeaker.

Test Run S in demonstration. If you have not already done so, please report to Bunker 6, Viewing Room C. Test S in demonstration. If you have not already done so, please report to Bunker 6, Viewing Room C. All unsecured locations must be evacuated. Thank you.”

Peter can already sense what Wade’s going to say.

“I’m not leaving,” Peter mutters quickly, then starts peeking through each door of the hallway, trying to find the reason why they were here.

Wade lets out a string of creative, colorful curses behind him, but seems to settle on, “Watch where you step. Wouldn’t want you to get tetanus.” 

-

The hallway is obnoxiously long.

Peter doesn’t think any of this was here when the Avengers used this as a base. The basement had been for when the Hulk was acting out. That’s what Mr. Stark had said, right? This space is too contained, too small to house the Hulk. He would have smashed it all to pieces.

There are doors are on either side of the hallway and in unspoken agreement, Peter takes the left side while Wade investigates the right.  Each door is the same—white and half glass. All easy to see into. Like transparency is a pillar of this community. The thought is ironic. As Peter continues on, sticking his head out to peek through each window, he registers lowkey frustration emanating from Wade. The man clearly is very unhappy with Peter’s presence. He can feel Wade looking at him every few steps like he doesn’t want to let him out of his sight.

Peter sees nothing but laboratories. He recognizes some biological and chemical testing technology as he moves from door to door. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just like you would see at any research facility.

Peter thinks Wade is probably encountering the same scenery, but when he hears a sharp intake of breath—nearly inaudible—he knows he’s mistaken.

Whipping around, he faces Wade’s back. “What?” he asks, voice low.

Test Run S in demonstration. If you have not already done so, please report to Bunker 6, Viewing Room C. Test S in demonstration. If you have not already done so, please report to Bunker 6, Viewing Room C. All unsecured locations must be evacuated. Final call.”

Peter’s already crossing the hallway to where Wade is looking into a door. As soon as he gets close, Wade throws a hand out, pushing Peter back by the chest none too gently. Automatically, Peter grabs Wade’s wrist tightly. His instinct is to throw a web in Wade’s face and toss him to the ground. But he stops himself halfway to raising his other arm. Wade pushes him backward by the wrist toward the direction they came in.

“Have I told you to leave yet, Bambi?” Wade’s voice is insistent and raspy.

Pushing past Wade’s grip, Peter goes to slip around him, wanting to see what had caused him to react so cryptically. “I told you,” he says as he dances around Wade’s body, “I’m not leaving you—”

Through the window, he can clearly see a gurney and on it? A small body strapped down. So small and tiny on the large metal surface, unnaturally thin and decaying. It’s shrunken and shriveled, with gray ashy skin, like the husk of a mummy. Limbs stiff, unmoving, face frozen and jaw unhinged like it was in the middle of a scream when something sucked it dry. It was a child, but no longer. It’s not a child at all. It’s dead. It’s just a corpse.

Peter’s gut feels like it’s full of knives. He stops breathing.

Wade’s pulling him back by the shirt, but Peter just shakes his head in denial. No. This can’t be happening.

He wrings himself from Wade’s grip—and Wade is talking now, saying something frantic but Peter can’t hear him. He can’t hear him under the devastation buzzing through his head. Peter stumbles to the next door. And the next door, and the next, and the next. All exactly the same. All windows showcasing the same torturous picture: small, petrified little bodies strapped down skin gray and dead.

Dead. Dead. Dead.

They’re not children. They’re dead children.

This isn’t supposed to be happening. This isn’t the way it happens. Peter knows. Spider-Man goes out every night to patrol. He listens for cries of help and answers them; he gives people miracles. He brings people a hero. A masked man in the night who goes to them in their time of need and saves them, so they can go home to reunite with their families. He always saves them.

Door, after door, after door.

Is there anyone left to save here?

Test Run S demonstration proceeding. Trial 10 in progress. Bunker 6, Viewing Room C secured, environment adapted. Subject in position. Klyntar V to be released in T-120 seconds. Observation cameras engaged.”

Yes.

Yes, there is.

Peter cries out when he sees. The door near the end of the hallway—had he really run that far?—is just as identical to the others. There’s a sight just as horrifying that makes Peter’s heartache and his pulse frantic.

It’s not a corpse.

It’s a child. Despite never seeing him before, Peter recognizes him instantly. The doppelganger had been strewn in the alley on its belly, sliced into sections like a bloody marionette. But the hair had been accurate. Gone are the flower printed shirt and board shorts; in their place, a hospital gown. The mass of brown curls is just the same.

There’s a little boy with brown curls and caramel skin curled in the corner of the room, face ruined in terror. Peter can’t hear him, the room must be soundproof, but the harsh lights shine on his reddened face. His eyes are squeezed shut and tears are falling down his chin. His chubby arms are wrapped around his body. He’s crying.

He’s alive.

“Release in T-80 seconds.”

Peter throws himself at the door, hand at the knob grasping it desperately.

Wade is talking behind him, coming up to his shoulder. Peter can’t hear him. He won’t hear him. He needs to get this child. He has to save this child.

Then Wade’s large hands are pulling him away from the door, nodding at Peter’s senseless babbles. “I know, Bambi, I know. I see him. We’ll bring him home. Let’s get him out.”

Wade moves Peter aside, aims his gun at the doorknob and shoots.

The bullet is deafening. The sound of it is loud and echoing in the hall. Shrill, as it knocks off the doorknob and sends it ricocheting to the ground. Wade steps back and delivers a sharp kick to the door.

It doesn’t open.

He does it again, more force behind his kick, evident in the way his muscles bunch in his body.

It doesn’t open.

This place is like a fortress on lockdown.

“Release in T-20 seconds.”

Another kick, a curse, but the door doesn’t budge. The gun reappears, and another bullet is shot into the window. It too ricochets off the side. Another bullet; this one lodges itself into the glass. But the window doesn’t crack. It just holds the bullet in place trapped within the glass.

Peter can stop a car. Peter can hold a collapsing ferry together. This facility might be on lockdown, but they work with strapped down latent mutants—children who would never be able to garner enough strength to even so much as kick the door in. Right?

Peter pushes Wade aside as he goes to send a round into the door. The bullets aren’t weakening it. But Peter can.

“Release in T-15 seconds.”

Inhaling deeply, Peter steadies himself, then kicks at the door. It thumps when his foot connects, jostling. Almost enough force, but it's still shut tight.

Peter steps back and looks at where the bullet is lodged in the glass. Without thinking, he puts his fingers to it and presses, using all of his strength. Suddenly, with a small tinkling sound, the glass has a network of cracks in it, webbing out toward the door frames. Satisfied with the damage, Peter flings his arm backward, then punches it and CRASH. It shatters, sending shards of glass inwards and outwards explosively, tiny bits embedding into Peter’s fist. As it gives way, the whimpering and sobbing of the child on the floor resonate loudly.

He doesn’t register the pain.

Now, the window on the upper half of the door is open, sharpened edges of broken bulletproof glass framing it.

T-6 seconds. Release in 5, 4, 3—”

Peter goes where Wade can’t follow.

He walks backward to gain momentum, then throws himself through the window. It’s a feat of acrobatics and flexibility. The window is small, but Peter makes himself fit through it.

He jumps in and leaves Wade, who’s yelling for him, behind.

“What the fuck is going on?” Weasel’s voice demands in his ear.  

“Cut the power, Weas!” Wade’s voice rings from behind him and in the earpiece.

Peter doesn’t stop to listen.

Then several things happen at once:

The automated voice says, “Release successful,” just as the lights in the facility shut down. In the darkness, he throws himself around the curled-up child, desperate to offer some sort of comfort, murmuring reassurances.

Then a thunderous alarm sounds.

Peter can usually see in the dark, clear and uninhibited. But when he looks up at the sound of the alarm, he can’t see a thing but black. Like a strike of lightning, his Spidey sense, which has been fluctuating nervously this entire time, tingles sharply in the back of his head. A warning.

All of a sudden, a shocking and piercing pain like he’s never felt before encases his body. It feels like being lit on fire like his viscera are being ripped from his stomach, and tattoo needles are hammering away into his bones.

Peter screams.

Then he blacks out.

Peter gasps, eyes looking down at the child sobbing beneath him.

“What the actual fuck, Wade? Mouse? Are you two there?” Weasel chatters, voice anxious in the earpiece. 

“Baby boy?” Wade calls, voice desperate, and there are distinct sounds of Wade breaking down the door. “Bambi! What’s wrong?”

Peter looks up from where his face is tucked into the little boy’s curly hair to the door, watching Wade’s body muscling it down in the darkness. The alarm is ear-splitting, almost shaking the ground around them. Floodlights turn on, illuminating the room in a blue glow.

“Back up generator should be on, sorry, Wade, that’s the best I can do. What the everloving fuck is going on?” Weasel titters.

“Shut up,” Wade growls.

The boy's shivering body trembles under him and Peter tightens his arms around him.

“Don’t worry,” he whispers, his own voice weak, but confident. “We’re going to take you home.”

Then Wade is inside, running over to where the two of them are on the floor. “Bambi,” he rasps out, emotive, his hand dropping his gun and flying to Peter’s head, running over it like he’s checking to see if Peter’s whole. His hands run down Peter’s body like a flame of a candle, dancing and gently skimming the surface, taking in his bleeding hand.

The way Peter knocked down that glass must have terrified him.

Finally, Wade seemed to register the presence of the little boy. The boy’s eyes are still closed, and he huddles against Peter in an instinctive, primitive desire for safety. Wade doesn’t touch him, unwilling to frighten him further

“Hey, little dude. Don’t you worry,” he says, clearly trying for a light tone. His voice is shaky. “We’re gonna get you outta here ASAP. Faster than a Mexican hops the border, eh? Just hold tight."

Peter’s head snaps up at the sound of a door, far off, slamming against a wall. There are footsteps, multiple sets, approaching. Approaching quickly.

“There’s someone coming our way!” he gasps out, eyes fixing to Wade’s mask.

“Up.” Wade stands, gesturing Peter and the boy to follow.

With his nerves still alight, Peter slips one arm under the boy and pulls him up easily, cradling him like a baby into his chest.

“Let’s go,” Wade commands, voice slowly regaining its strength. He leads Peter and the child out the door of the room, making a left and ushering Peter down the hallway in the direction they came—toward the double doors.

Peter, energy swirling like a dying star around him, moves quickly. One foot in front of the other, running as best he can with his package in tow. It’s when he nears the double doors that he notes Wade isn’t by his side.

Skidding to a halt, he turns around and sees Wade, staring into the window of one of the rooms that they had seen before. He just stares. For the first time, his mask seems expressionless. But the tension vibrating through his body speaks loudly.

“Wade?” he asks, not bothering to lower his voice. They already know they’re in the building.

The footsteps are getting closer.

“We need to leave. They’re coming!” he pleads, but Wade doesn’t move. His eyes are fixed into the room.

And Peter, in a moment of sharp intuition, knows why. He’s never asked Wade how his mutant gene was activated. He didn’t need to; Peter had read the dossier. The Weapon X program had somehow recruited Wade and he’d been exposed to various pressures to environmentally trigger his gene. There’s no way to do that without hurting a man.

Wade is staring at the corpse of a child—one of several—that’s strapped to a gurney in a way that Peter can only guess mimics how Weapon X had forced Wade to endure endless hours of stimuli. Torture. Peter can practically see the kinship Wade is feeling, eying the body of a helpless child that went through the same pain.

“Take the kid and go,” Wade says. “Take him home to his parents.”

“Wade, I can hear them, they’re getting closer, they’re almost—"

“Leave,” Wade says, emotionlessly.

“Wade, we have to go.” Peter’s voice is strong with an emotional pain that’s unfamiliar to him. But his pleas are ignored.

Wade reaches up, hands flying to the swords on his back that are always present on his suit, but Peter’s never seen him use. He snaps his head toward Peter and roars.

“Leave!”

At the end of the hallway, a door breaks open and a slew of armed guards wearing high tech protective gear flood the area—all rushing forward, all walking running, guns up and shouting, straight toward Wade.

Wade draws the swords—not swords, a small voice corrects absently in the back of Peter’s head, they’re katanas—and faces the guards with an intensity that Peter’s only had glimpses of in the past.

There are too many guards. He’ll never get them all, will he? He’ll be captured first.

“LEAVE!” This time, the shout is filled with quaking rage.

Peter watches as Wade—no, not Wade. Peter watches as Deadpool advances to meet the guards without a sliver of fear. Peter’s mind watches dumbly as Deadpool wields the katanas with practiced experience, like extensions of his body, and the first line of guards go down with agonized screams.

There’s blood everywhere, red painting the white walls.

Deadpool moves inhumanly.

He moves like a weapon.

Now, Peter sees why Mr. Stark categorized Deadpool as dangerous. Deadpool is dangerous. Wade is dangerous. And Peter feels a dark thrill of power realizing that yes, Deadpool is dangerous, but not to Peter. Right now, Deadpool's danger is a tool being used to serve justice. 

Suddenly, a guard sees Peter behind Wade. He takes aim and without blinking, shoots a round of bullets their way.

Wade jumps right in front of them like a living shield. Bullets pounding right into his chest. He doesn’t hesitate, he chops the man’s arm off with a quick movement.

And Peter, heart in his throat, is unable to do anything but watch with growing shock. Then the bundle in his arms lets out a ragged cry, young and tinged with trepidation. Knowing what he has to do, Peter turns and pushes through the double doors into the lobby.

Let them die, he thinks with a sudden surge of malice from the back of his head. The thought hits him like a punch to the chest. He hadn't wanted anyone to die. Killing is wrong. All killing is murder, isn't it? But, the little boy is whining in his arms and Peter just knows.

Peter can’t save the guards; he’s not certain that he even wants to. Peter can’t save Wade; Deadpool doesn’t need saving. Peter can't save Esther; she was gone before he even knew her.

Peter Parker can save this child. And he will.

He shoves them through the Bilco doors, springing them into the snowy streets of New York City, letting the doors slam behind him just as another army of guards pours in through the elevator, heading toward where Deadpool is creating carnage in the hallway.

Pumping with adrenaline, Peter runs.

He runs five blocks down, twisting and turning in streets, just in case anyone is following them. No one is following, though.

The boy is crying in his arms, shaking from the cold or fear, Peter’s not sure. He’s certain the trauma is catching up with him. The child will be going into shock soon.

Peter pulls the burner phone out of his pocket and dials 9-1-1. He needs an ambulance.

The child needs an ambulance now and Peter can’t be here when the ambulance arrives. Unlocking his arms takes more effort than it should; like he’s breaking steal pipes, his joints stiff and unwilling to let the child go.

But he does. Just as the ambulance rolls into place and EMTs hop out to assess the boy, Peter shoots out, darting out of the way and into an alley. He climbs up the wall, quickly, needing to get out of the way, but wanting to make sure the boy is safe. When Peter reaches the rooftop and the child is being loaded, a roaring boom thunders throughout the air.

Peter falls to his knees, hands flying to cover his ears.

And when he looks up, he sees Stark Tower crumbling to the ground.

“Is no one going to tell me what the fuck is going on? I’m only your handler. It’s not like I really need to know.” Weasel’s voice cuts through the loud sounds of the tower crumbling. “Wade’s earpiece is offline.”

Peter watches in detached awe as the building breaks into pieces and chunks of it are pulled down by gravitational force. It looks like it’s being demolished, but there’s no wrecking ball to blame. It collapses in on itself and piles to the ground.

“The tower…” Peter says, trying to make his words come out.

“Mouse! Holy fuck! You live! Good to hear from you, what the fuck just went down?”

“Stark Tower. It’s collapsing. There was a loud sound and then…it’s just, collapsing…” Peter says.

Peter hears Weasel groan in his ear. “I knew that fucker took my C4. I always hide it in the floorboards under the bathroom sink. Fucking A.”

“What?” Peter asks, still watching the tower go down. “Are you saying, it’s a bomb? Are you saying Wade—”

“That cock-nosed, dickweed, fuck trumpet, twat waffle shitbag! I was gonna fucking sell that C4 for some serious coin! I had a buyer lined up!” Weasel cries, his distress palpable.

“Wade—”

“Is a cumdumpster with sticky jizz fingers that can’t keep themselves off of my explosives.”

“But—” Peter’s throat is aching, his eyes tearing, and pure, unadulterated panic shudders throughout his chest.

“Oh, Mouse. You don’t have to worry about that asshole. He’s fine. If I had a penny for every time he blew himself up, I’d be swimming in Brad Pitt’s pool of Angelinas. Really, he’s Deadpool, you do realize that? He doesn’t die. I’ve seen him blown up, spine snapped, decapitated, ripped in half by the damn Juggernaut, shot, you name it. He walks it off each time. Just regrows his body and boom! Undead. Fucking disturbing. Also cool as fuck. He might actually be Jesus., but don't tell him that.”

“I need to go,” Peter says, shaking his head. “I need to go get him.”

Weasel hums, “I wouldn’t do that, Mouse. Emergency response team is making their way over now.”

Sure enough, as if on cue, sirens well up in the distance. Red and white lights flashing and a fleet of emergency response vehicles—police, firefighters, hazmat—all fly down the roads leading to Stark Tower.

“I can’t leave him, I need to go—”

“No, Mouse. Pull yourself together. If you go there, you’ll be snatched up in a second by the Po-Po. You need to trust me: Wade’s gonna walk this off in a few hours. Scout’s honor.”

“I...” Peter says listlessly, watching the vehicles crowd the tower. Even if he wanted to go, there’d be no way for him to get in. They’re closing the scene now, securing the perimeters.

“Get your ass over here to Casa del Weasel. I’ll give you a drink. Non-alcoholic, mind you, I’d rather not be damned to hell by Wilson when he is risen.”

At a loss of what to do, Peter listens. 

-

Five hours later, Peter is sitting at his seat in Weasel’s kitchen table with a cup of cold hot chocolate in front of him. He’s had a panic attack maybe eight individual times. This is probably a moment for the Pleather Crisis Couch™ but he isn’t at his apartment. He doesn’t have his couch to comfort him, he only has Weasel.

Weasel, who comforts him by regaling Peter will all of the bloody, gory tales of all of the life-threatening wounds that Wade has lived through.

“And God, you should have seen him when the Juggernaut ripped him in half,” Weasel says conversationally, sipping at a longneck. “I mean, I wasn’t there while it happened. At the time, I was, uh-indisposed. But, Domino told me she carried his torso—like bleeding buckets of blood and organs, intestines falling out dropping like Snoop—fucking disgusting. The fucker talked the entire way back to his house. Blind Al sat with him as he regrew his legs. Didn’t take more than a few hours, T-B-H, but fuck, even twenty minutes of a full man chest with baby legs and a baby dick was revolting. Revolting, Mouse.”

It’s two more hours of horror stories before there’s a crash, steps up the stairs, and the door is being thrown open.

Peter jumps to his feet just as Wade steps inside.

He’s all in one piece, but blackened at the edges, like a steak left in the grill too long. His Deadpool suit is making a valiant effort to cling to his body, but it’s littered with rips and holes that look like they were burnt away. Pieces of scarred skin, red and sooty, peek from behind the ruined leather.

Miraculously, half of his mask is still on. Maybe glued to his head. Part of it has been eaten away by what Peter can only guess was fire. The side of his head, bald, an ear, the cheekbone under his right eye, and down his nose, chin, and neck all open to the air. The mask is gone from those parts. It’s more of Wade’s face than he’s ever seen. Scarred, just like the rest of him, and healing in front of them. Peter’s never seen anything more beautiful.

Then Wade’s running right at him and in a swift movement, he picks Peter up like a teddy bear, smooshing him to his chest. Gasping, but not displeased with it, Peter scrambles to wrap his limbs around him to balance himself.

One of Wade’s hands rubs down Peter’s back, the other finding Peter’s face and touching it reverently.

“Holy fuck,” Wade gasps out. “That was intense. Remind me to never light up a can of C4 under my nose.”

Peter’s hands, without his consent, find Wade’s cheeks, running over the rough texture, soothing himself and his firing heart with Wade’s presence. Wade is here. Wade is not dead. Wade is real and solid in front of him.

“Are you serious? Another can?” Weasel grumbles around his beer. “Where do you store these things?”

Peter blinks, unwilling to take his eyes off of Wade’s face. His legs squeezing around Wade’s wait to make sure he’s all there and Peter isn’t hallucinating.

“Who doesn’t carry a can of StarKist Chunk Light tuna with them? It’s a very healthy snack, you know. Lean and protein,” Wade replies, but he’s still touching Peter just as desperately.

“Yeah, mercury. Yum, it’s great for the bones,” Weasel bites back. “So that’s what you keep in the pouch, eh? Thought maybe you’d keep ammo, but I forget you’re not a superhero, you’re a dumbass.”

Peter has no idea what Weasel is talking about. Wade—no, Deadpool—just saved Peter and a traumatized little boy from a basement full of armed guards that would have probably shot them down in cold blood. That tried to shoot them down in cold blood.

If that’s not a hero, then Peter’s not sure what is.

“Baby,” Wade murmurs, voice choking with restrained emotion. “Are you okay?” His hands flit down Peter’s chest, petting around his throat, moving his face from side to side, checking him over for injuries. “What happened? Are you hurt? I almost shit myself when you jumped through that door and the lights went out. Where did you get hurt?”

Peter shakes his head. “I’m not hurt. I’m fine. I was so worried,” he gulps, “When I saw the building collapse.”

He can’t express himself further than that, so he follows the lead of every corny movie in existence and presses a kiss to Wade’s lips. Wade responds eagerly, pulling him forward too strongly so that their teeth click. It feels wonderful. Peter feels relief coursing through him like he needed this, the hot and wet feel of Wade’s tongue pushing into his mouth, to solidify that it’s real.

“I said it twice, and I’ll keep saying it. You two are so not fucking in my house! How many times do I have to say no? Do I need a squirt bottle?” Weasel throws his beer to the floor. “And is no one going to mention the obvious?”

Peter pulls back from Wade, who whines in dismay, and turns to Weasel.

“Absolutely none of that job was fucking discrete.”

As if waiting for that moment, Peter’s burner vibrates furiously in his pocket, as it has been doing for the past two and a half days. Peter’s tempted to ignore it just like he’s been doing. But being pressed up against Wade means that Wade feels it too.

Wade looks down at Peter’s pocket.

“That feels real nice,” Wade says, stupid grin on his face.

The call ends, only to ring again, vibrating wildly. Wade pecks at his lips, then reluctantly he puts Peter down on the ground.

“You gonna pick that up, baby boy?” Wade asks. “You know, your phone’s been ringing for like a day.”

Of course, Wade picked that up. Wade picks everything up like the perceptive asshole that he is. Peter’s hands cling to Wade’s shoulders, not wanting to let him go.

“Go ahead, baby boy, I’m not going anywhere,” Wade says knowingly. “Sounds like someone is missing you.”

Peter peeks at the phone, pressured by Wade’s expectant gaze. He promptly whitens, as pale as a sheet, hugging the phone to his chest to hide the caller.

“Um, I have to take this,” he squeaks out, then darts out the door, into the landing.

When he answers the call with a tentative greeting, he’s met with a loud:

“WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, PARKER?”

Mr. Stark sounds very deeply unimpressed. As usual. But, this time, Peter thinks he has a good reason.

-

The phone call with Mr. Stark is loud, full of lectures, and disbelieving when he finally lets Peter stutter out what happened. Peter tells Mr. Stark all about the Life Foundation, the laboratories, the dead children, and the little boy he was able to save.

He doesn’t mention Deadpool.

If Mr. Stark thinks any of the story is fishy, he doesn’t mention it because he’s too busy sounding like he’s having a heart attack. At one point, his words stop being words and turn into rather emotive sounds. Loud sounds.

Thankfully, the call is cut short though because Mr. Stark is on a plane back to New York City. He tells Peter a few strongly worded admonishments, then promises (threatens?) that they will talk about this later when he lands.

Peter tries not to bang his head too loudly on the wall of the landing as Mr. Stark unloads on him.

He does manage to make Mr. Stark look into the identity and progress of the little boy he sent to the hospital. Mr. Stark agrees, tells Peter to stay put for once in his life, and goes to hang up the phone.

Before he does, his voice drops. Less angry, more concerned and defeated. “Please, tell me you’re alright, Peter.”

“I’m fine. Not a scratch.” Peter smiles a little. “Well, maybe my hand’s a bit messed up from punching through that window, but it’s nothing that a little iodine couldn’t take care of.”

“You’re luckier than a four-leaf clover, kid, you know that?”

Peter thinks back to Wade, who’s no doubt waiting for him in Weasel’s apartment.

“Yeah.” He nods, “I think I do.”

Wade is waiting for him.

Well. He’s also bickering with Weasel, telling him all about how his legs got blown off of his body and did Weasel know that if he holds him detached limbs together while they’re still warm, his regeneration heals him whole again? Weasel looks one breath away from vomiting when Wade reaches for a knife and seemingly goes to demonstrate, aiming it at his finger.

“Hey,” Peter says, cutting him off. No pun intended.

It’s been a really long day. Peter feels tired, just as he had last night. Except, now it’s worse.  Wade reads it on Peter’s face and stands.

“You want to come to my place, Bambi?” he asks, already walking to the door.

Peter nods gratefully. “I could really use a shower.”

“Aw, baby, but Daddy likes you all dirty!” Wade says it with a sleazy leer that even in Peter’s exhaustion causes him to blush, red and hot in his cheeks and down his neck.

“Get the fuck out.”

It might be the only time they both actually listen to Weasel.

-

The ride to Wade’s apartment is full of Wade regaling Dopinder with a detailed, fanciful, and utterly fake story about how Wade had just saved a foreign Princess from sex trafficking. When they get out and go into the building, Peter is surprised that the doorman doesn’t blink at Wade’s hectic state of dress.

He wonders how much Wade really pays for this apartment.

Upstairs, Wade graciously allows Peter to shower first while handing him a new pair of sweats that won’t fit him at all. Peter jumps on the opportunity and the hot water sluicing over his aching muscles feels like a benediction. He stays in the shower, head under the spray until his fingers are pruned.

When he finally emerges, Wade just laughs at him and tells him to make himself at home as he slips into the bathroom himself.

Peter does exactly that by falling face first, just as he did yesterday, into Wade’s warm bed. It’s soft and squishy and cozy. He nests into it, nosing into the pillow, and falls asleep to the sound of the water running in the bathroom.

He sleeps deeply.

One minute in REM, then the next, he’s waking slowly like being pulled from honey. His face still pushed into the pillow, blankets wrapped around him, and the weight of a big, warm hand rubbing over his back. Peter feels so safe and content that it seems unreal. He doesn’t open his eyes, just lets the emotions wash over him and basks in waking lazily.

His soft purr of pleasure is met with a chuckle.

“Fucking long day, huh, Bambi?” Wade says, voice soft like he’s disinclined to fracture the warm, calm atmosphere.

Peter hums in confirmation and lies there pressing into Wade’s hand, encouraging the petting.

He hears Wade give a breathy laugh before asking seriously. “You’re really alright? You sounded terrified when you jumped in to grab that boy.”

Peter frowns, reliving the memory, eye still closed. Wade’s hands soothe him. “I was terrified. I don’t know what they were going to do to him. I just knew that I couldn’t let him end up like the other…children. He was so frightened, he’ll never be the same after this.”

Wade makes a sound of agreement. There’s a moment of hesitation, where it feels like Wade’s going to say something. Peter hears his mouth open, then shut. Then he swallows. “You know, baby boy. You were pretty badass. You punched right through bulletproof glass,” he says, curious and prompting. Cautious, like he’s checking to see if Peter wants to take the bait. There’s a definite choice in his words that he makes available to Peter.

Peter’s brow furrows and he squeezes his eyes. Wade’s hand instantly cups his shoulder, squeezing gently in reassurance, before petting again. Same, steady, soothing tempo as before.

“It might have been bulletproofed, but your shot was lodged into it. Its integrity was weakened at that point,” Peter murmurs.

He doesn’t want to take the bait.

Wade lets him evade it easily. Just as easily as he does everything else: let Peter into his life, into his apartment, into his circle of friends. Into his heart? Peter certainly believes so. Wade is endlessly generous.

“It definitely was, baby. I shot it right at its weak point,” Wade adds for Peter’s benefit. “I know how to handle my guns.”

Peter breathes in relief.

“All of my guns,” Wade continues, his smirk evident. “That’s why I gotta wear long sleeves, sweetheart. If it was sun’s out guns out for me, people would be dropping like flies every time I walked by. They’re just so big, if you know what I mean.”

Peter snorts. “Right.”

“Hey! I can hear the sass. I’ll have you know, I’m a red-hot commodity. A prime specimen of man. People would pay big money for a hunk of this. You better watch your back, ‘cause someone might try to steal me!”

Peter bites his smile back. “I’ll let them keep you.”

Wade squawks. “Why?!” Then playfully, “’Cause you’d just steal me back?”

“I don’t steal things.” Oops. Right. Ben Weber. He almost forgot that he way still playing the thief. “You know, I mean,” he fixes lazily. Carelessly, if he’s being honest. “I don’t steal things often.”

“I don’t know ‘bout that, baby boy.” Wade playful voice rings with earnestness. “You stole my heart just fine."

Peter wrinkles his nose.

Pure, stupid fluff. That’s what that one-liner was. But the truth that Wade integrates into the phrase is unmistakable. He says it so effortlessly that it makes Peter’s heart swell with giddy childlike excitement.“Yeah?”

“Yeah, baby boy. Without a doubt. Stole it the moment I spoke to you and I can tell I’m never going to get it back.”

Face breaking into a huge grin, Peter opens his eyes because he can’t keep them closed for this. He has to see Wade and throw himself at the man.

Blinking at the light, Peter opens his eyes to see Wade’s chest. He’s laying on his side, facing Peter, one arm slung around Peter’s back moving as his hand caresses his spine. Peter looks up expecting to see the lips he’s come to crave adorned with a sappy, but shit-eating grin like they usually are. And Peter’s jaw goes slack. Not because the expected grin is gone—no, that grin is still there just as Peter had imagined it. But because Wade’s face is staring back at him.

No mask.

Wade doesn’t have his mask on.

There’s not a hint of red leather anywhere. It’s just Wade, looking back at him with almond-shaped bright blue eyes glimmering with affection. He’s just as Peter imagined, but more. No hair, bald, with the miasma of scars continuing all over his face and head, similar to the ones Peter is accustomed to seeing on his chin. But Peter can see beyond them. He can see the high cheekbones, the straight nose, his expressive lips, and the strong cut of his jaw that makes Peter’s mouth water. Here is Wade. Finally. In front of him, vulnerable and open, for the taking; it’s a gift Peter honestly didn’t expect to have been given.

He cherishes the moment, committing it to memory. He never wants to forget this. It’s too imperative. Too significant. Peter’s never felt this blessed.

As Peter gasps, taking his visage in, he sees a hint of uncertainty—of insecurity start to color Wade’s features.

Before Wade can hide, Peter lets his happiness write genuinely in his own face. His grin is bright and ridiculous, he’s certain.

He reaches up to touch Wade’s cheek with his fingers, admiring the cheekbone beneath it.

“Wade,” he says. So much emotion contained into one name that Peter can’t even list what he’s feeling. He’s so grateful, thankful, pleased, honored, happy, happy, happy.

He laughs joyfully.

The sound of his laughter pulls a disbelieving shake of the head from Wade.

“They really don’t bother you,” Wade says, awestruck. “You don’t mind at all, do you?”

Peter shakes his own head in response, getting up on his knees to shuffle closer. He puts his hands on Wade’s chest and, brimming with excitement, he shoves Wade down into the bed. Ignoring Wade’s oomph, Peter climbs right on top of him, grabs Wade’s face in his hands, and crouches over him, pressing their lips together in a kiss.

He tries to put all of the things he’s feeling into it.

Peter lets himself kiss Wade’s mouth tenderly. Bites ardently at his lips, then uses soft, lingering strokes of his tongue to write how amazed he is that Wade’s allowed him in. How amazed he is to be with Wade, that he’s even here, cradled in Wade’s arms. How amazed he is that Wade spent chose him out of all of the people in the world. That Wade chose him, pursued him, trusted him with Wade’s biggest vulnerability. That Wade put himself in danger to fight for something that Peter believed in. That Wade helped Peter find justice in a time when Peter nearly thought none could be served.

He can’t even talk. He just moans into Wade’s mouth, hands and lips reluctant to ever leave Wade’s body. When he’s finally forced to pull away for a breath, Wade’s looking at him with the same hefty amazement.

“Bambi,” he says, eyes gazing into Peter’s like some damn dewy-eyed heroine in a Harlequin romance novel.

Peter laughs, smiling, then shakes his head "no". He feels nothing but right when he pulls back, grins unfaltering.

“Peter,” he says, softly. Sincerely. An unworthy, copper token that will never match the gold Wade’s just showered him with. But he offers it up nonetheless, in a shit attempt at reciprocity.

Wade blinks owlishly.

“Peter,” Peter repeats, grinning crookedly. “My name isn’t Bambi. It’s Peter.”

A laugh jumps out of Wade’s mouth and a smile grows to match Peter’s. “Peter,” he echoes, dumbfoundedly.

He copies Peter and reaches out to touch Peter’s cheek.

The smirk returns. “Yeah,” he says, “You look like a Petey-pie.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End Part 1

 

If you dare, carry on to Part 2.

 

Jaw-dropping fanart for Peter's first foray into Sister Margaret's found here. Go support this author and creep on all of their pieces O_O, very worth it 300/10, would recommend.

 

The biggest kudos go to Pineau_noir for signing up to beta this train wreck.